Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Calm before the Storm

My company is running the bookshop at the Conservative Conference next week so it's a bit of a busy time. However, even this doesn't stop your ever hardworking candidate from doing a spot of political telephoning. I've been calling a random selection of people who have returned my local residents survey. Almost always they seem to find it difficult to believe that a politician would actually bother to find out what they think. I've never actually phoned someone and then thought it was a waste of time. Had a fascinating conversation with a home carer. She had written me a really heart wrenching letter about her life as a carer. The woman deserves a medal. What she actually gets is £6.08 an hour.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Is the LibDem Council doing a good job?

The excellent North Norfolk Radio are carrying an online poll this week on whether the Liberal Democrat controlled North Norfolk Council is doing a good job. I hear on the grapevine that all council staff have been asked to vote to say how good the council is!

To register your vote

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is the first anniversary of my selection as Conservative Candidate in North Norfolk. It's been quite a year one way or another.

The EDP carries an article today about the likely runners and riders to succeed Gillian Shephard in South West Norfolk. They name David Prior, Marion Rix, Andrew French and Jonathan Morgan as likely applicants. I suspect there will be about 400 people applying and the roads of the constituency will be rather busy this weekend with wannabe MPs researching the area. It's a relief I don't have to take part!

Monday, September 27, 2004

King Size Nanny State

Is New Labour's attempt to turn us into a Nanny State now complete? I ask this because I read today that the Government has persuaded the makers of Kit Kat and Mars bars to discontinue their King Size versions. Dear oh dear. Are we really not capable of deciding for ourselves what we should eat? I shall go out tomorrow and devour three King Size Kit Kats as a protest. Just kidding. I think.
Today I published details of a ward closure at Benjamin Court Hospital in Cromer and commented on the clsoure of the Rebecca House Hospital in North Walsham. Both of these moves are deeply worrying. My releases are too long to add to the Blog but you can read the Banjamin Court one by CLICKING HERE and the one of Rebecca House by CLICKING HERE. I am growing very concerned at the number of residential and daycare units in North Norfolk which are being either closed down or run down in some way by the relevant healthcare or social services authority. On each occasion the explanation always given is that it is important that care be provided in the patient’s home where possible. In theory there is nothing wrong with this aim, but I worry that this policy is being driven by financial necessity rather than clinical or medical reason. The situation at Rebecca House Dementia Care Unit in North Walsham is a classic example. The closure of the day unit at Kelling for motor neurone patients and a Day Centre in Holt for people with learning difficulties are others.

My day was lightened when I was told by North Norfolk Radio that the Council's refuse collectors were refusing to empty wheelie bins at some houses where the owners were known to be gay. I thought this was a wind-up first of all, but it seems not. The Council have now promised to discipline those responsible. And quite right too.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Dirty War

Just watched the Dirty War drama on BBC1 about a dirty bomb going off in London. Frightening stuff.

Yesterday I spent the day out on the stump in Stalham and Mundesley. Today I have been preparing a speech on the European Constitution and catching up with correspondence and phone calls.

Amazing stuff in the papers about Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. I can't help thinking that their relationship is going the same way as that of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson.

Very funny clip on the BBC Politics Show at lunchtime. They showed Norman Lamb at an Eastern Region fringe meeting at the LibDem conference trying to do his pantomime audience whipping up. "We're going to win lots of seats of Labour, aren't we?" he shrieked. "I think so" came a rather pathetic voice from the back. Hilarious.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Cheers Charles!

It's not often I open the Eastern Daily Press and am left open-mouthed. But today it happened. Their political editor Chris Fisher interviewed Charles Clarke (Labour MP for Norwich South and Secretary of State for Education) in advance of the Labour conference. This is what he said in response to a question about Norman Lamb's boasting about the LibDems winning Norwich South at the next election...

"Norman Lamb should concentrate on trying to keep his own seat. There is a very good Tory candidate standing against him"

Chris Fisher continued... "Not for the first time I concluded that there will be no tears from Mr Clarke if Iain Dale regains North Norfolk for the Conservatives."

I always liked Charles Clarke!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Pass the sickbag...

This is positively the last anti LibDem posting for a while, but you have to forgive me. Their conference has been so smug and nauseating I keep having to reach for the sick bag. Here's Norman Lamb's comments to the Guardian on Charles Kennedy's oration (if you can call it that - it was one of the most appallingly delivered leader's speeches I have ever heard)...

"Charles has come of age. There's a self-confidence about the man which is just growing every day. It all goes back to the budget [which he missed]. Yes, that was a wake-up call but ever since then he's just been superb and played a blinder ... I thought the most impressive thing about the speech was that he didn't spend any time slagging off Blair or Howard. It was entirely positive"

I know it's the role of a PPS to grease up to his leader, but I must have been listening to a different speech. Kennedy did little else but slag off Blair and Howard. Yet another example of LibDem hypocrisy.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

In a vain attempt to be kewl

Having exposed myself to shame and humiliation last week on Radio 5 Live when I made the startling confession to owning every CD Jason Donovan has ever released, I now wish to demonstrate that I am seriously 'kewl' as I have just bought a fantastic CD by a popular music beat combo called Maroon 5. Highly recommended.

Go on My Sun

I'm going to make an admission now. Are you sitting down? I buy The Sun every day. Shock horror. Admittedly it's mainly because it has the best sports gossip. Oops, I meant sports coverage. But it's also read by 5 million people and I reckon that if you're serious about politics you need to know what 5 million people are reading. CLICK HERE to see what Sun readers were treated to yesterday. Readers of a nervous disposition should click away now.

Arf Arf

This is hilarious. In my constituency survey we ask people who they would vote for, and then if they say 'don't know', which two parties are they choosing between. Congratulations to to Mr G of Weybourne who answered: An Xmas Party and Blair's leaving do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Boris, Burnt Feet and Boring LibDems

Terribly excited about getting a link from Boris Johnson's new blog which you can view by CLICKING HERE. Coincidentally I finished a review of Boris's new novel SEVENTY TWO VIRGINS today for the EDP. I think it's going in on Saturday so I'll post it to the website when it appears.

A hectic day at work today preparing for our bookstand at the Conservative Party Conference. Had a long conversation with a lady from Stibbard about the playschool there which needs to raise money for a new building. Stibbard is getting a brand spanking new primary school building but the play school might be left homeless so I'm going to see what I can do to help. I was asked if I might like to do a skydive. I'm up for most things but as a friend of mine was killed doing that this year I declined with thanks. A few days ago a North Norfolk charity suggested I might like to walk over hot coals for them. I've heard of getting my fingers burnt but I draw the line at my feet! Anyone would think I was desperate for publicity... talking of which, the EDP printed a very truncated version of my letter (see below) today...Replete with picture of Norman Lamb. The Eastern Evening News quoted me talking about more Police for Norfolk and paying Special Constables.

Tomorrow I have a day in London. It starts with a meeting at POLICY EXCHANGE. This is a centre right think tank and I'm a trustee. I'm then going to listen to a Michael Howard speech on asylum and immigration and then by way of contrast going to talk to my theatrical agent (don't laugh) about getting more dates for my theatre show with Ann Widdecombe.

I could bore you to death about how boring the LibDem conference is, but I suspect if I'm bored with it dear reader, then so are you. And so to bed.

PS I just did a spellcheck (yes, I do sometimes!) and LibDem came up as an unrecognised word. The suggestion for its replacement was "lividness".

Monday, September 20, 2004

Delusions Delusions

Here's a letter I sent to the EDP today. Their political editor Chris Fisher wrote a very revealing article on the LibDems and Norman Lamb's plans to conquer the rest of Norfolk. I'm told that Norman Lamb believes the LibDems "won" the Easton by-election in South Norfolk last week even though we won it with a 4% swing to us! Quite astonishing. I think even the EDP are getting rather weary of their daily 'Lambograms'.

Chris Fisher's article (20 Sept) on the LibDems' plans to conquer Norfolk highlights their main weakness - which is that no one quite knows what they stand for, apart from wishing to be all things to all people. For instance, all their rural MPs voted against the Hunting Bill, yet their urban MPs voted in favour. Are they in favour of privatising the Post Office, as their Treasury spokesman says, or are they not? The truth is that their are promising the earth without having the faintest idea of how to pay for their ever growing wishlist.

The LibDems are proving to be the wheelie bins of British politics - receptacles filled with protest votes.

It is interesting that Norman Lamb thinks the LibDems are going to sweep Norfolk at the next election. He would do better worrying about retaining his own seat in North Norfolk. Rather than harp on about how well the LibDems are doing why doesn't he tell us what they actually stand for? Maybe he has forgotten that last week the LibDems were trounced by the Conservatives in a local government by-election in South Norfolk (Easton) at which they threw everything bar the kitchen sink. We won with a 4% swing from the LibDems to us.

Nowhere in his interview with Chris Fisher did he tell us about a single LibDem policy. Perhaps this is because he knows that a Local Income Tax will mean that a working couple in North Walsham will pay £650 more tax, that his fence sitting on Europe is no longer sustainable, that his Party's policy on legalising soft drugs and reclassifying hard drugs will be an electoral disaster and his Party's policy of imposing 40 new taxes on a population which is heartily sick of tax rises under Tony Blair, will guarantee that the LibDems remain the third party of British Politics. It is a sad reflection on the state of politics that Mr Lamb has refused to debate any of these issues with me in advance of a General Election campaign - a campaign in which I shall not only explain how a Conservative government will benefit North Norfolk but will also expose the hypocrisy underlying Liberal Democrat policies.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Gillian Shephard

I was very sad to learn last night that my friend Gillian Shephard has decided not to contest the next election. She has been a superb MP for South West Norfolk and the House of Commons will be a poorer place without her.

Yesterday we had a literary lunch at Fakenham Racecourse, which was addressed by Sir Bernard Ingham and Jo-Anne Nadler, author of Too Nice to be a Tory. In the evening I went to Kelling Parish Council and then drove down to Barnham Broom to do a bit of last minute knocking up in a local council by-election. I'm delighted to say we trounced the LibDems.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

LibDem Utopia

Today's Daily Telegraph editorial is headlined LibDem Utopia. I think any comment from me is superfluous...

Oh, what an earthly paradise this land will be when the Liberal Democrats sweep to power after the next general election! There will be free personal care for everyone who needs it, young and old. For students, there will no more tuition fees (never mind top-up fees).

More investment will be made in the very young. The over-75s will be given an extra £25 a week, and a million pensioners will be relieved of the indignity of means-testing.

To restore and preserve law and order, there will be 10,000 extra police on the streets. Pollution and congestion will be cut, while more and more of our needs will be met by renewable energy. There will be free off-peak travel for pensioners and the disabled.

And never again will anybody have to sell a house to pay for long-term nursing.

The great thing about all this is that absolutely nobody will have to pay for it. All right, almost nobody. For the great majority of British families, taxes will be cut. Council tax will be abolished altogether, and replaced by a "fair and affordable" local income tax.

Only the "very rich" will have to pay extra, and even they will be asked for just "a little" more.

This was the glorious vision of a Lib Dem Utopia, described yesterday in the party's draft manifesto. All that was missing was a promise that under Charles Kennedy's benign rule, chocolate truffles would sprout from every tree, and elves and fairies would bring us our breakfast in bed.

It is all fantasy, of course, but it is clever fantasy, and not to be dismissed lightly by the other parties. The Lib Dems, with their flair for electioneering, have identified the aggrieved and disaffected groups most likely to tip the balance in their most winnable seats, and have lavished their most tempting bribes upon them.

Meanwhile, they hope to go on cashing in on their old reputation as the cuddly party in the middle - a harmless refuge for disillusioned supporters of Labour and the Tories.

The trouble is that the new-look Lib Dems are not in the least bit harmless. Nor are they in the middle. The policies outlined by Mr Kennedy yesterday amount to nothing less than the old socialist recipe for national economic failure, tested to destruction by every Labour government of the last century.

It is beyond belief that only the very rich would have to pay more for Mr Kennedy's over-regulated, redistributive, Brussels-led Britain. For every middle-income taxpayer in the land, a protest vote for the Lib Dems next time will be very dangerous indeed.

But, as always when economies go wrong, it will be the poor, the old and the vulnerable who suffer most.

Monday, September 13, 2004

If there was one thing you could do...

One of the questions in my constituency wide survey is "What single thing would you suggest to improve the quality of life in your area?"

Here are a random selection of some we received today...

"A rethink on traffic management in Cromer. It was very badly thought out and does not make sense"

"Provide more activities for children to do instead of hanging around the streets."

"Environmental payment to farmers replacing present CAP payments"

"Less wastage of public funds to improve all public services. Bring in Common Sense please!"

"More social housing"

"Better weather" (!)"The same amount of investment for Norfolk as is being invsted in the North East and Yorkshire."

And my own personal favourite...

"A Tory Government and a Tory MP in North Norfolk!" Boom boom!

Go to sleep with my dulcet tones....

I'll be on Radio 5 Live for three hours on Tuesday night from 10pm till 1am. 909 or 693 MW, on digital radio and online. It's a mixture of political chat and light hearted sport and celebrity gossip. Join me!

Catching up

It's been a busy few days. On Friday I took Rosalie Monbiot, the County Council Cabinet Member for Education to four primary/infants schools. We went to Suffield park, North Walsham, Worstead and Horning - all very different but also impressive. North Walsham has just come out of special measures so it was good to see the enthusiasm among the teachers and kids. In the evening I went to see someone to talk about pensions before attending a Conservative Policy Forum meeting in Cromer on how to encourage people to save. On Saturday I spent the day in Fakenham and Briston with a great group of people delivering our surveys and knocking on people's doors. Again, a great reaction. I drove to Kent on Saturday night to attend my partner's parents' golden wedding anniversary. Today I had to go to London to a book fair and to talk about a new book idea I have. There, that's caught up!

LibDems need to get a grip

Here's a press release I issued today in the continuing North Norfolk wheelie bin shambles...

The North Norfolk Wheelie Bin saga has yet again descended in to farce after the Council admitted to North Norfolk Conservative Candidate Iain Dale that it is discouraging residents from recycling garden waste.

After a complaint from a local Cromer resident Iain Dale wrote to the Council to seek clarification on the Council’s policy. He accused the Council of doubling the price of garden waste refuse sacks to £1.50 a bag pending the introduction of the garden waste wheelie bins in March 2005 – 6 months later than originally promised.

In a letter to Iain Dale, Nick Baker, Head of Enviromental Health wrote: “You are quite correct to say that the service will not be available for some time. The reason why the price [of the garden refuse sacks] was increased was to ensure we did not receive large amounts of trade waste in the sacks for garden waste and the garden waste sacks were increased to the same price as trade waste. I ACCEPT THE CRITICISM THAT IN THE SHORT TERM WE HAVE TO A CERTAIN EXTENT DISCOURAGED PEOPLE TO USE THE GARDEN WASTE SERVICE… We will not be reducing the price of the sacks as the Council has made a policy decision on this and we know full well that there would be an enormous amount of trade waste issues arising from such a reduction.”

Iain says: “If the LibDems on the Council are serious about recycling and meeting the government imposed targets, why are they putting a barrier in the way of local people who want to recycle garden waste? They are fleecing local residents by doubling the charge of the garden refuse sacks. I am calling on them to cut the price back to where it was before they admitted they wouldn’t be able to introduce the garden waste scheme on time. The time to put the price of the sacks up is when the Garden Waste bins are ready to be delivered and NOT before.

“It is becoming clear that the introduction of the whole wheelie bin scheme has been a disaster. It has lacked proper planning and local people are completely fed up with it. Council officers have been highhanded and insensitive to the feelings of local people and it’s about time the ruling LibDem group got to grips with the mounting chaos that this scheme has brought.

Cromer resident Mr Maurice Snelson of Compit Hills, who originally brought the issue to Iain Dale’s attention says: “I am furious that I am paying Council tax for my rubbish to be collected and yet the Council want to rob me of another £1.50 per bag for garden waste. I want it to be recycled but people in this area cannot afford this ridiculous price. I hope the Council will listen to what Iain Dale is saying.”

Friday, September 10, 2004

Back to School

Tomorrow I am visiting four - yes four - primary schools with the Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Education, Rosalie Monbiot.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

All Change

The Boundary Commission announced its findings today on the future shape ofthe Norfolk Parliamentary constituencies. Because of the population growth we get an extra seat. North Norfolk now has 83,000 voters, whereas it should have around 68,000. As a consequence, after the election we lose a slice off the western end which means that the Fakenham and Walsingham areas become part of one of the new seats. I have to say I rather regret that in many ways, but in the end something had to give. I doubt whether there will many champagne corks popping in Norman Lamb's office tonight as the LibDems wanted the other end of the constituency to go.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Managing a Crisis

Went to lunch in Burnham Market. Superb journey. Roof down. Sun blazing. What a day. Spent this evening catching up on yet more correspondence and watching an interactive crisis management programme on BBC2. It concerned a plague outbreak in Liverpool. They had people pretending to be Ministers deciding on how to react. On screen you could make decisions on how to handle the crisis. Glad to say I got 4 out 5 right. So the good people of North Norfolk can sleep easy in their beds tonight!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Having a quiet evening in...

What a wonderful day. It's days like this I feel I am the luckiest candidate in the Conservative Party. There's no better place to be in the country than North Norfolk when the sun's out, the birds are singing and combines are in the fields. Had a slight change of plan and spent the morning in the Erpingham area and the afternoon in Tunstead and Weybourne. I've always liked Weybourne, and not just because John Major lives there. Having a quiet evening in watching England v Austria and catching up on emails. 1-0 at half time. Not a very good game. Tomorrow off to lunch in Burnham Market with Keith & Pepi Simpson and others.

Friday, September 03, 2004

From Erpingham to Exit

Tomorrow morning I'm out and about around Erpingham, Aldborough and Alby and will then spend the afternoon on the doorknocker in North Walsham. It's been a great week weather-wise, and it's not often I could have said that in recent times. It's also been quite a good week for George W Bush. Having watched a lot of the Republican Convention on the BBC Parliament Channel I have to say some of it left me slightly queasy. I thought Guiliani and Schwarzenegger were good, but Elizabeth Dole was terrible - and to think, I supported her for the Presidency once! Her constant religious moralising really grated. I think it's very dangerous when politicians start acting as if they were quasi-priests. Equally, I don't particularly like it when sermons become political speeches. I remember sitting through a sermon once debating whether to walk out of the church. In the end I decided not to but of course afterwards wished I had. Not quite sure how I got from Erpingham to a religious walkout, but that's the beauty of blogging!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

You Know You're a Conservative When...

I spent yesterday night watching some of the Republican Convention in New York. I can't say it inspired me very much. I am fascinated by American politics but it seems to me that any speaker only had to say "I love America" and they were guaranteed a standing ovation. Not a sign of any real policy anywhere. Now I never thought I'd say this, but it was only when Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke that the event came to life. It was still quite schmalzy, but there was one passage which I thought was excellent. Just delete the word Republican and insert Conservative...

My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans how do you know if you are a Republican? I'll tell you how. If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government...then you are a Republican! If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group... then you are a Republican! If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does... then you are a Republican! If you believe our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children ... then you are a Republican! If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy in the world then you are a Republican! And, ladies and gentlemen ...if you believe we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism ... then you are a Republican!

If you want to read Arnie's entire speech CLICK HERE