I Spy Strangers
Posted Friday, 27 February 2009 at 11:59
I made the mistake last night of recording the BBC2 Margaret Thatcher drama on Sky + to watch over the weekend but then watched it when I got home. That makes me very bleary eyed after a 6am start this morning.
However, I have no regrets. There are lots of us here today for the very important Autism Private Members Bill (more on that later if the Government don’t play ball) and it has been fascinating to listen to more experienced members re-living their memories of that time.
For instance, one very important fact the TV programme didn’t show, was that the last person to see Margaret Thatcher in the fateful line of cabinet interviews was in fact Frank Field MP, the Labour member for Birkenhead.
Frank walked to Downing Street, past the gatekeeper on the door, Norman Tebbit, and gave it to Margaret as it was. It was that final interview which influenced the Prime Minister and set the course.
Nick Hurd is sat next to me in the library as I write this, son of Douglas who featured rather woodenly in the programme, and who was with the PM during the night in Paris. We have been chatting about the Paris banquet thrown by Mitterrand and the ‘over and above’ courtesy, respect and care extended to Margaret at the banquet by George Bush Snr and all the other world leaders. A stark contrast to what was happening back home.
I have asked many this morning why they didn’t get their act together? Why was there no campaign? How was it all allowed to happen?
I couldn’t possibly blog the answers without betraying confidences however; the one thing of which I am sure is that in the midst of where good meets evil, right defies wrong and where justice strides down the corridors in which petty corruption hides in dark corners - the treatment metered out to people like Margaret Thatcher, Iain Duncan Smith and Tony Blair, those at the forefront in all moral and legislative battles, will always take place.
Much of what happens will remain secret and possibly no one other than those immediately involved will ever really know the real truth, despite the best efforts of the BBC.
Posted Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 13:34
Everyone is so deeply saddened by the news of Ivan’s death.
The atmosphere in the chamber for what should have been PMQs was sombre and still.
As the Speaker suspended the sitting MPs filed out in silence. The majority parents, all thinking there but for the grace of god go we all.
There is a profound moment following the birth of every child born to whichever parents from all backgrounds and in all circumstances.
The child born to a homeless drug addict or a wealthy mother is equal in the love it brings into the world during that moment. It’s when all things material, physical and practical are put to one side as a new pair of eyes open and shine.
The moment is hope. Hope for an untold, unknown future. Everything external beyond the walls of the delivery room is suspended for that short whilst everyone present in the room feels the love and joy of new life and hope.
As with all parents, at Ivan’s birth, David and Samantha would have wanted the very best the world had to offer for their precious little boy.
He got it. Devoted loving parents and a loving supportive family.
It is impossible to imagine how sad they all must be today.
Posted Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 10:28
I am sat in the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) Select Committee.
We are taking evidence from Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State.
I am very excited about the answers he has just given me to my questions.
This will not interest most of you however, if you had to sit in front of elderly couples week after week who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately and if you wanted to bang your head against the wall in frustration with the sheer inefficiency and inadequacy of the Warm Front scheme you would understand my moment of pleasure.
Ed has just hinted very strongly in his answers to my questions that a) the Warm Front grant is about to be re-negotiated and may go up very shortly b) that the issues of who fits the hardware as in boilers and radiators and how much they charge is to be looked at and c) that there will be both policy and service provision improvements in place well before next winter.
I watch this space nervously and hope he can deliver on his word!
Posted Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 13:50
Nadine has blogged for the Blue Blog today on police escorts for nurses.
Posted Monday, 23 February 2009 at 14:34
I loved Peter Whittle’s article on the Culture Forum yesterday.
Only the insecure twitter.
I have been giving the idea of Twittering some thought; however, it took Peter’s article yesterday to give me serious reason to reflect.
That, and someone proudly showing me a twitter from Jonathan Ross on his mobile phone. Jonathan Ross was apparently away for half term. The entire message was almost illegible and badly spelt so one must assume he is writing it himself.
What makes me uncomfortable is the voyeurism involved. When I read twitters that are by any other description messages between two people, it makes me feel uncomfortable, like I'm eavesdropping on a telephone conversation, or opening someone else's mail. It's akin to seeing two people being overtly intimate in the street, the get-a-room scenario; only with twittering it’s like, make a phone call or text why can't you?
Twitterers have followers. I'm struggling to see the difference between following and stalking, but I am sure someone will enlighten me. Others have observed that it is all about ego feeding, a kind of drug that feeds an ever constant need to validate one's existence.
Andy Pemberton covered the phenomenon well in yesterday's Sunday Times Style magazine, when he quoted the clinical physiologist Oliver James, who said "Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, where you are, what you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity". I get that, the phone beeps, the email pings therefore I am. I am alive, wanted, listened to , someone is interested in me.
I would like to resist the urge. I'd rather have people contact me because they are more interested in what passes between us as interaction, or because they want to know how I am, or to share something with me. I don’t really want to be ‘virtually contacted by someone because the yoghurt in their fridge is past its sell by date or because they feel a desperate need to fill their time with inanity.'
Is Twittering a manifestation of modern loneliness? Outside of the political campaigning advantages one can exploit, I'm having trouble understanding why, if you don't have a public profile to pump up or market, you would do it? The rule of conformity must be playing a part in the massive increase in people Twittering. Or am I totally missing the point?
I suppose I can't miss out the political advantages that twittering offers, especially during a general election campaign; and so like all good lemmings, I will probably sign up this week.
So, watch out, you're about to know when the dog's sick, there's mould on the bread, and what I had for supper. See what I mean? How inane can it get, and how repetitive will it become; and more importantly, how long will it last?
The Air Commodore and I
Posted Saturday, 21 February 2009 at 13:26
This morning, before I had even opened my eyes, I was aware that something had happened last night that I deeply regretted.
It took 30 seconds or so of half asleep deep panic for the realisation to sink in and even then, even though I knew it to be true, I couldn't quite believe what I had done.
I am very lucky to have two bases in my constituency, Army and Air Force.
Last night I attended a private dinner party at the RAF Henlow Station Commander’s Residence.
The guests seemed nice enough. The Station Commander and his wife, the Bedfordshire Chief Fire Officer and his wife, the head of RAF Airlift and his wife, the Wing Commander and his wife, the base doctor and of course the Air Commodore and his wife.
The last time I met the Air Commodore was few years ago as a brand new MP.
I wasn't really aware of who he was, or indeed how important he was - so he put me in a de-compression chamber.
Actually, the de-compression chamber was all part of knowledge gathering as to what happens on the base and the facilities available to serving personnel, who are, whilst at the base, constituents.
Last night, minutes before I left the party, the Air Commodore, somehow, and I really don't know how it happened, convinced me that taking a ride in a Hawk Jet at 500miles per hour, feeling the G and doing the turns would be a good idea. I agreed.
It’s a trip many MPs have taken and survived, apparently. I've never heard anyone mention it?
Someone joked about filing a noise complaint when I flew over their house in Yorkshire and everyone laughed. So did I, as I thought how ridiculous such a comment was as Yorkshire is miles away..
It’s just sunk in. I'll be there in about ten minutes.
I hope she puts the kettle on.
I am actually keen to break some of the stereo types of the political world.
Men having the monopoly on defence in Parliament is one of them. This will be a true test of my conviction.
Photos, not the ones of me being ill obviously, will be posted on the blog. Isn't a Hawk the jet Jeremy Clarkson threw up in? I hope I don’t get his!
The nasty rule and having a laugh
Posted Thursday, 19 February 2009 at 14:59
I have a nasty rule.
I will only be nasty to someone if they:
Attack the Conservative family;
Attack my religion;
Are a threat to world peace;
Are pro abortion and have no respect for human life; and,
Attack my children or my staff.
In light of the above, my conscience is entirely clear when posting this link to Guido, and the two videos which have made me laugh so, so, so much that it is interfering with my work, as I keep clicking down and reviewing! Scroll down past the Alastair Campbell videos (bad enough!) to the two which have been made about Derek Draper. Both are priceless!
Is Britain Already Full?
Posted Thursday, 19 February 2009 at 13:38
In today’s Daily Mail, David Cameron MP has pledged to cut immigration by 50,000 per year.
On ConservativeHome , Nicholas Soames MP asks the question: what are we going to do to stop the population figures reaching 70 million by 2028?
I strongly recommend reading both articles. Of the 10 million increase by 2028, 7 million will be due to immigration; the equivalent in size to a further seven cities the size of Birmingham.
We live in difficult times. We live on an island. The NFU estimate that we are capable of supplying/growing 60% of what we need to eat, today.
If immigration continues to grow at this rate, we will need to build more homes; and that means concreting over more green fields, many of which are arable and supply us with crops today.
Dairy herds are disappearing from this country at a rapid rate. We are down to twelve in Mid Bedfordshire. The average age of a farmer is 60.
World peace does not exist. Peace in the Middle East at best estimates is some way off. What would happen if each country had some form of import restrictions for whatever reason, and needed to become ‘food secure’?
If we are only food sufficient to the point of 60% today, where would we be once immigration has grown by a further 10 million?
We are the most densely populated country in Europe; and as I said, we are an island.
Is Britain already full?
Posted Tuesday, 17 February 2009 at 14:59
David Cameron has made an announcement regarding decentralisation, see here on ConservativeHome.
And in an uncanny coincidence, today I have written on the Blue Blog about something very similar :)
Posted Monday, 16 February 2009 at 12:47
I’m photographed here with Alex Sydney Project manager at Wrest Park in my constituency and the location for the number one Lilly Allen video which is sitting at the top of the charts at the moment!
Wrest Park is undergoing a painstaking refurbishment and facility enhancement which is a delight to see.
If you want somewhere to go for a day out in Mid-Bedfordshire in beautiful gardens with a picnic, then you couldn’t go anywhere nicer.
Check out opening times etc on the Wrest Park.
Posted Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 12:17
Last night, I arrived at Channel 4 looking like mad Mary from the mission (a Liverpool expression).
Having been up since six, I didn’t even have time to brush my hair before my bag was taken from me and deposited in a cloakroom. I was escorted to my seat, which was next to the totally glamorous and groomed Arleen Phillips,the Strictly Come Dancing judge, and on the other side Vince Cable MP.
I was short listed with Ken Clarke, David Cameron and Vince Cable for the Opposition Parliamentarian of the Year Award.
Frankly, having made it onto that list was an achievement and a big win in itself as far as I was concerned.
Vince won a couple of awards and because Arleen was presenting Peter Mandelson's the cameras were around a great deal. I think the programme, which goes out on Saturday night, may contain a certain amount of footage of a dishevelled make-up less me – so be warned, don’t watch!
It was a very showbiz glamorous evening. When the awards were over, John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and I had a drink, and were joined by a very nice man, who asked me what I had thought of the evening. I launched into how every award had been won by a left wing MP, book or blog, and how even the presenters had a left wing bias; and considering Channel 4 was asking the Government for money, I don’t suppose we could be surprised. I said there should have been more balance. Not in a sour grapes way because frankly, never in a million years did I expect or want to win; however, the bias was just so blatant.
For example, on the blogging table was Derek Draper, former Brown advisor, whose new blog is an unmitigated disaster, and already considered a joke amongst bloggers, with John Prescott leaving him in the shade. Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie, the true blogging celebrities, hadn’t even been invited!
The nice man drank up and took his leave and someone else almost immediately took his place.
John said to the second visitor, "Hi yes, come and join us. Nadine has just been giving the Chief Executive of Channel 4 an appraisal of the show."
I had NO idea he was the Chief Executive, now I feel really bad!
A big thank you for the lovely things journalist Amanda Platell said about me during the show and Claire Ward MP the Labour whip; and to Eric Pickles MP, I’m looking for you. There is nowhere for a man of your size to hide in the voting lobby!
Disloyalty and the C4 awards
Posted Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 17:15
I have had little time to blog over the last couple of days!
It was interesting in the Chamber today. Prior to PMQs, a Conservative MP shouted to the withered and tired-looking Labour benches, "I bet you wish you had Tony Blair back!" To the complete shock of my colleague, the Labour Minister looked at him, smiled wearily and nodded his head - as did other Labour MPs! It is fairly obvious that the majority of Labour MPs have realised the game could be up. However, the good ones, Ministers like the Housing Minister Iain Wright, are still battling on, and putting up a sterling performance at the Dispatch Box.
It's the Channel 4 Awards tonight. I have been short-listed/nominated, not sure which one, for Opposition Politician of the Year. I think, although not sure as no time to check, I'm with Vince Cable and Ken Clarke, so , I’ll be going home early then!
Posted Monday, 9 February 2009 at 14:02
As someone who swears by free trade for all it is worth, I fear I may be developing hues of protectionism in my approach.
This was brought home to me today as I made a food subsidy, whilst pondering on my new passion for food security.
Let me explain.
My daughter attends university in a seaside town. There is no possible way she could live on the £1,000 per term student loan and pay her own rent.
So, I subsidise her living by paying her rent.
After a weekend at home, she never leaves on a Monday morning, to join the rest of the student population migrating back via National Express (all with bags of clean washing), without what spare cash I have at the time, which I make her take.
The food subsidy comes in the form of the clever way she raids my freezer, fridge and larder and gleefully explains that she has a whole week’s food in her bag.
She has tried to get a job; however, every bar, café, hotel and shop is well staffed with Eastern European labour.
As I write this she, I hope, is sitting at a computer writing her dissertation, aware that as soon as she graduates the subsidies will stop. She doesn’t expect them.
She will be well-trained, a graduate, and able to go out into the world and compete.
Subsidy will continue in the form of a roof over her head and food on the table, whilst she gets herself started; however, once she’s fit, she’s on her own.
Although most of the people that I speak to are opposed to protectionism, maybe it’s the broad brush with which protectionist policies tend to be applied that make them such a disaster for trading partners.
Would protectionist principles work if applied in a sensible, minimal, clearly defined way with an absolute exit strategy? Is that possible? Can a government have its finger close enough to the pulse to know just how much and when?
Just a thought, because it kind of butts onto my new passion for food security, which I’ll blog about tomorrow, or Iain Dale will whinge that my blog's too long!
Posted Friday, 6 February 2009 at 14:38
The Eco Town developers have today announced that they are withdrawing from the game.
The press release is posted below.
The decision confirms that the Eco Town proposal is a sham process designed to fast track development in Bedfordshire; was both unrealistic and unattainable; and was always dependant upon the fact that we didn't notice or care.
We did, we do. We have beaten off the developers. The final straw has to have been the number of people who registered their dissatisfaction as part of the consultation process via the email plea last week.
Round two begins now, which is to ensure that local people are fully engaged in any plans to develop the vale and Bedfordshire.
Power to the people !!
6 February 2009
O&H SETS LONG-TERM PLANNING STRATEGY FOR MARSTON VALE
O&H Properties Ltd has announced that it is to pursue planning permission for a sustainable new settlement in the Marston Vale, Bedfordshire, through its inclusion in the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the East of England, and the relevant Local Development Frameworks.
The resulting planning applications will follow the established, plan-led route for obtaining consent, rather than the current Eco-Town evaluation process
O&H is a major land owner in the Marston Vale, and remains resolutely committed to sustainable, mixed-use development in the area. In seeking to deliver this, it will continue to balance social and environmental responsibility with innovative design and a thriving community. The core themes set out in the Eco-Town concept will become embedded in national planning policy, and will ultimately determine what any Eco-Town development should be.
David Reavell, Director, O&H Properties Ltd said: “After a searching review, we have made the decision to withdraw from the current Eco-Town evaluation process. It is clear to me that sustainable development in Marston Vale will be best achieved through the plan-led system. Despite our withdrawal, it is important to note that all planning policy will before long be informed by the Government’s planning policy statement on Eco-Towns, upon which it is currently consulting.”
“Despite this, it is the case that the master plan, which we will take forward for planning permission, is likely to be different to the vision plan that formed the basis of our Eco-Town bid to DCLG. Sustainability will remain a central focus, but we want to have an open mind on the shape of the settlement we propose. In doing so, we want to be free to develop our plans with the community without the time constraint of the current Eco-Town process.”
“O&H Properties Ltd remains a keen supporter of the rationale behind the Eco-Town concept, but after significant consultation, we feel that timely delivery of the development, and best use of investment, lie in adopting an alternative planning strategy.”
“Once decisions by national, regional and local government are made in mid-2009, and sufficient clarity around growth plans for the region emerges, O&H Properties Ltd will begin the detailed preparation of its planning application.”
“The preparation of the application will be a matter for public comment and debate, and we will continue to ensure that meaningful dialogue is held with local residents and stakeholders.”
The Weather Outside is Frightful
Posted Thursday, 5 February 2009 at 11:34
Silently and without fuss, 6 inches of snow dropped on Bedfordshire last night.
I discovered this at 5.45 am as I opened my front door to leave for the train and have a good start on the day.
Apparently, the snow came earlier than the gritters had anticipated.
Trains are cancelled, schools closed, a lorry has crashed, and as I write this a snow plough has just passed by my window. I'm impressed - we have a snow plough?!
And the good news is? More on the way.
Well, no use complaining!
Let it snow.....
Condemned by faint legislation.
Posted Wednesday, 4 February 2009 at 12:23
Many affected or who have an interest in part 2 of the Police and Crime Bill, which addresses prostitution, met last night.
Many fail to realise that one reason behind the new closure orders could be the ability under the recent Proceeds of Crime Act for the police to keep 25 per cent of the proceeds from a raid. The Crown Prosecution Service keeps 25 per cent and the Inland Revenue the other half.
Yesterday, I spoke to a working girl who had kept all her savings, for the sunny day when she could move away from prostitution. She kept the money in a box in a cupboard in her room along with her jewellery. The box was seized during a police raid, which was made under the wrong premise of a 'suspicion of drugs'.
She had a three year old and was left with nothing.
It's hard to believe the by- product of the legislation, which will turn these girls out onto the streets, wasteland and into cars, risking their lives, will be a boost to the government's coffers.
The Priest from Soho spoke last night.
He spoke about the girls' abusers as those in the wider political debate using for political means. Wonder who he meant by that?
He asked how long until he had to officiate at a funeral and point a finger at the government and say, "that was your fault".
He spoke of care and compassion, and how every girl is someone's daughter, mother, grandmother, sister. Not a scourge on society, not a ' hooker', but human beings, deserving of the same dignity as us all.
He made us all laugh saying he didn't agree totally will all the girls choices; but he did enjoy getting whistled at every now and then, and at his age that was a privilege.
I was delighted to meet Jean from Hampshire WI.
The WI passed a resolution at their conference to support safe indoor working environments for 'working girls'.
Andrea was there from the RCN. A trained nurse from Liverpool who works closely within the sector with ‘working girls’.
All knowledgeable well-informed people.
But it was the words of the man who knew the most, which I thought about as I walked back to my committee room.
The man who walked up to the prostitute thrown, lying in the dirt; the man who gave hope, compassion and dignity, the man who said:
"where are those who condemn you?"
I opened the door to the Public Bill committee meeting and thought, that's easy Lord, they're here, in Room 11.
Bedfordshire in the snow
Posted Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 13:30
This is now, 5 mins from my front door. Country Life just haven't been to Bedfordshire, that's all I can say!
Bad Girls or Bad Laws?
Posted Monday, 2 February 2009 at 13:03
Tomorrow is the first sitting of the committee stage of the Police and Crime Bill.
Part two of the Bill deals with prostitution.
The Government's intention in drafting this section of the Bill is laudable; however, what we are being presented with will not achieve the stated objectives in any way, and will subject many needy and vulnerable women, to a greater level of danger than that which they already face, every day.
I would like to table an amendment to remove much of part two clause by clause; however, that's known as a wrecking amendment and given the overall intention I don't feel such an action would be within the spirit of the Bill.
There is much however which is deeply flawed. I hope that as a result of the evidence sessions we heard last week, and the arguments which will be put forward at committee stage, the Minister may take much of part two back to the drawing board.
One provision I will speaking against is clause 20, a closure order.
This clause will give Police the power to close down a brothel for three months.
I'm sure the first reaction of many may be 'good', however it doesn't take too much thought to realise the consequence of this.
The girls will still work. They will move from the contained safety of numbers indoors, out onto the danger of the streets.
Prostitution has been with us since time began. The attitude of many members of the public I have spoken to has been one of concern regarding health issues, public order and safety. No one wants to see another Ipswich.
Legislation needs to focus on the controlled, pimped and trafficked girls, who are in a life of prostitution against their will; and it's these girls, and boys, that our legislation and efforts should be targeted towards assisting. There is an attempt in the Bill to do this; however, the wording 'controlled for gain' is ambiguous. The maid and diary keeper would fall into this category. There is a reluctance within the Bill to acknowledge the role of the voluntary sector, the church, nurses and doctors who work within this sector - and a lack of imagination born as a result of mistrust in anything, or anyone other than the State, to deal with a problem as morally and socially tricky as that of prostitution.
Clause 16 makes provision for a prostitute to attend three official meeting with an as yet unnamed undefined person for vague reasons. If they do not attend they will be fined/imprisoned. It's the first time I have seen such loose wording in Bill
All the evidence we have heard is that to coerce the girls to forcibly attend such meetings simply won't work and therefore they will face criminalisation as a result.
Those who could have been helped out of a life of prostitution and into regular employment will find it difficult as they will have a criminal record which will last a lifetime.
A fine will mean more time on the streets and more punters in order to pay the fine.
Much of part two is nonsense, but actually, it's worse than that.
There are very few jobs whereby death is an occupational hazard. Prostitutes deal with the consequence of disease every day.
I can't think anyone believes we should have prostitutes on the streets in preference to indoors.
For those on the streets the danger of disease is secondary to that of personal safety.
The Ipswich murders were shocking and something we should learn from and not want to see repeated. I cannot support any clause which exposes or puts the life of a prostitute in further danger, or prevents any who wish to move away from one life to another, by hanging the label of criminal around her neck.
If this is a problem we need to deal with, particularly with regard to trafficking, then it seems to me the people we should be talking to are the prostitutes themselves.
I have been doing just that in order to inform my argument. If this Bill goes through in its present form, and I ever hear about the murder or otherwise of a prostitute at some stage following its inclusion on the statute book, I need to know that I did all I could do to keep girls safe, and indoors, and did nothing to support pushing them back out onto the streets.
I will blog again on this Bill later in the week as there is so much to refute!