Tuesday, March 30, 2004


The leader of the Conservative Party began a two-day tour of Norfolk yesterday with a keen eye on the next general election. After visiting Cromer he faced questions from the Eastern Daily Press and took in a whistlestop tour of Norwich Market. ADAM GRETTON and KEIRON PIM report. Tory leader Michael Howard yesterday declared North Norfolk as a "must win" seat at the next general election as he embarked on the first leg of his county tour. Mr Howard went on a charm offensive on his first ever trip to Cromer, meeting patients and staff at Cromer hospital and greeting shoppers and traders in the town centre.
The Conservative leader highlighted the importance of his party's plans for the National Health Service in regaining the traditionally core Tory seat of North Norfolk. He also pledged his full support behind Iain Dale, who has been charged with overturning Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb's slight majority of 483. "It is a very important area and it is a seat we need to win," he said. "We have an excellent candidate in Iain Dale but we must not take anything for granted. I am confident that if people want to get rid of a failing and discredited government then there is only one party to put in place." Mr Howard began the day at Cromer Hospital where he toured the wards and brightened up the day for some patients. "When are you taking over?" asked Alan Baxter, from North Walsham, who has a fortnightly blood transfusion at the hospital. "Very soon," replied Mr Howard. Dennis Reinman, 77, who was waiting to have his appendix removed, said he was impressed by the Tory leader and the North Norfolk prospective parliamentary candidate. "They have an uphill battle but I hope they give Tony Blair a good beating," he said. He than meet local GPs, surgeons, hospital officials and members of North Norfolk Primary Care Trust to discuss health provision in the area and the plans for a new Cromer Hospital. Speaking later in Norwich, Mr Howard later said he was impressed by the work of the area's voluntary ambulance drivers. "Something that I was very impressed by in Cromer this morning was the voluntary drivers for the regional ambulance service. "They work five days a week for modest mileage and I don't think we celebrate these volunteers enough." The Conservatives plan to give patients health passports, slash red tape and bureaucracy and commit an extra 9pc increase in the NHS in their first two years of government, if they win the next general election. Mr Howard said plans to give hospitals more independence would have prevented continued delays over the proposed £17m hospital for North Norfolk, which goes before regional health chiefs in May. "I think Cromer has an excellent hospital doing a great job for North Norfolk but it does have a great cloud of uncertainty, I find it difficult to find why the decision has taken so long to make," he said. Sue Tuck, hospital matron, said the MP was "delightful" and was "interested in the patients foremost." He later received a whistlestop tour of Cromer high street, seeing the regeneration works of the Pavilion Theatre and pier and talking to Tory supporters.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


I'll post a full report on Michael's visit to Cromer sometime tomorrow!


Here's a press release I put out on Friday...

Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for North Norfolk Iain Dale has
learned that two key bus services from Norwich to Cromer, the Runtons
and Sheringham are being cut at the end of next week. The X50 service to
Sheringham via Aylsham will not run on weekdays after 7.15pm. This means
that the North Norfolk Coast is effectively being cut off from Norwich
in the evenings. The 9.15pm and 11.15pm services will in future stop at
Aylsham. The 11.15pm service will only run through to Sheringham on
Saturdays. Iain uncovered the plans following representations from

Iain comments:-

"I have had several letters and emails from residents in Sheringham and
Cromer who work in Norwich and often have to work late. After next week
they won't be able to use the bus to get home. I appreciate that Norfolk
County Council are picking up the tab for loss making services and
haven't got an endless pot of money, but I am concerned that Sheringham
and Cromer are being treated as peripheral areas in Norfolk. The Council
rightly point out that the Bittern line rail service is receiving large
public subsidies and is being used by more people, but if you are on a
low wage, the extra cost of a rail ticket (£4 single as opposed to £2.40
on a bus) will cost a commuter from Sheringham an extra £800 a year. I
am today asking all users of the 9.15pm and 11.15pm X50 services to
contact me on 01692 538180 or iain@iaindale.com. I have already spoken
to Adrian Gunson, Cabinet Member for Transportation and will be writing
to him asking him if he will reconsider the level of subsidy on these
routes. It is important that links into Norwich from the North Norfolk
coast are enhanced rather than reduced and I shall make every effort to
see if there is a way through this."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Tonight I'm chairing a public meeting in Hoveton on policing issues and then tomorrow morning we have Michael Howard coming to Cromer. I'm taking him round the hospital, then for a walkabout in the town centre. Should be an interesting day!


Sorry if you have had emails to me bounce back. I've been switching to new email software so anything you have sent me over the last 48 hours will not have got through.

Monday, March 22, 2004


Now far be in from me to intrude into the LibDem leader's problems - and he has plenty of them - but I was most interested to see a piece in today's Guardian by Sarah Hall in which she takes Norman Lamb to task for not fulfilling his proper role as the leader's PPS. Read on...

Some senior figures also believe Mr Kennedy should appoint a political secretary who could be wholly dedicated to his welfare and stop him making political misjudgments - such as choosing to watch the euro statement in his office last June. This role was partly filled by the former party chairman Mark Oaten, but since the October reshuffle he has had to concentrate on his new brief as home affairs spokesman. Norman Lamb, his parliamentary private secretary, who has been working hard to improve relations between the leader and his parliamentary party, is also unable to fulfil this role, since his North Norfolk seat is being closely targeted by the Tories.

It seems I am keeping Mr Lamb from his leader's side. I hate to revel in another party's leadership woes, but it does make a pleasant change from crises in our own Party. Thankfully those days are well and truly behind us.

Saturday, March 20, 2004


Press Release issued yesterday...

North Norfolk Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman Iain Dale has hit out at the "breathtaking hypocrisy" of Local LibDem MP Norman Lamb after he criticised Gordon Brown's £100 award to pensioners to help pay Council Tax. Dale pointed out that only a year ago North Norfolk LibDem councillors were elected on exactly that pledge - a pledge they have since ignored.

In a press release posted on his website Norman Lamb says: "Giving pensioners over 70 an extra £100 this year to help pay their Council Tax is merely a sticking-plaster operation."

"Only twelve months ago it was LibDem policy to cut £100 off Council tax. That was the pledge they made to the electorate before the district council elections. Did Mr Lamb refer to that as a sticking plaster operation? Of course not. Upon taking power he and his LibDem councillors conveniently forgot all about it. For Norman Lamb to criticise Gordon Brown for implementing a LibDem pledge is the sort of comment that gives politics a bad name."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Had a great two hours this lunchtime on the Sandi Toksvig show on LBC. But then my day took a turn for the worse on my way back to Westminster... Here's a press release I've just issued...

Iain Dale, Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for North Norfolk was at the centre of a dramatic road rage incident this afternoon (Wednesday), which culminated in Dale chasing after a man who had attacked his car and smashed his car window with a D-Lock metal bar window. With the help of a passer-by Dale apprehended the culprit and the Police were called. The man was arrested and charged with causing criminal damage. The attack caused a car window to be shattered and several dents were left in Dale's car. He estimates that the repair bill will be more than £1000. There were three witnesses to the attack and Dale spent nearly three hours at the Police Station making a statement. It just wasn't his day - while making the statement he received a parking ticket. The Police promised to help get it cancelled!

Iain Dale commented:

"On reflection it was a horrifying incident, but at the time you don't think - you just react to being attacked. I had tooted my horn to warn a cyclist that I was behind him. He had two supermarket bags on his handlebars and was swerving all over the road. At the next junction he caught up with me and slapped the roof of my car with his hand. I thought about stopping to remonstrate with him but decided not to and carried on with my journey. About a mile later I had stopped at some traffic lights and he appeared again beside my window. He was screaming abuse at me and wanted me to wind down my window. I declined. I was about to move off as the lights turned green when he produced a metal D-Lock and proceeded to hit my wing mirror with it. He then tried to smash the driver's side window and also hit the paintwork on the door frame and door. The window didn't smash. If it had done so I would have been badly injured. He then turned his attention to the rear window, which after two blows did indeed shatter. The man then proceeded to cycle off. I immediately leapt out of my car and gave chase. As I began to catch up with him I shouted to a passer by to help me stop him, which he did. We both grabbed his handlebars and prevented him from moving away. He continued to shout and scream while the Police were called. The Police arrived after only three minutes and immediately arrested the man, handcuffed him and put him in a police van. There were three witnesses to the incident, one of whom had followed me all the way and had himself noticed how erratically the cyclist was riding his bicycle. I am indebted to all three for coming forward and in particular to the man who put himself at risk to assist in apprehending the cyclist.

"Only four weeks ago I was the victim of another crime - in the same car - when my mobile phone was stolen. I just hope these things don't come in threes!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Quite how I managed to talk about poor Clare Barnes on News 24 last night I don't know. I was given a tip by a North Norfolk friend to think of pleasant things, then you get through it. The press coverage of Clare's death has been astonishing. It's interesting that the media concentrate on the fact that she's Carol's daughter, rather than Denis's. More evidence of the media's interest in celebrity over politics? I can't help pondering over the fact that had she been the daughter of Mr & Mrs Average from Cleethorpes she would have barely rated a mention.

Today I have been at Politico's all day packing things up for our move. Last night was spent at a Conservative History Group meeting (I'm its director, before you make any snide comments....) on the Macmillan Years. We had the editor of the Macmillan Diaries Peter Catterall and Sir Peter Tapsell MP as the speakers. Peter Tapsell is a great speaker and full of hilarious anecdotes.

Tomorrow I am on LBC with Sandi Toksvig for a couple of hours. Hugely enjoy her show. It's totally spontaneous and you end up talking about the oddest subjects. Right up my street reaaly.

Great opinion polls today. I really feel we are on the verge of a major breakthrough both nationally and locally. There's an optimism in the Party I haven't experienced since the late 1980s.

Monday, March 15, 2004


Maybe this isn't the appropriate place to write about this, but I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face having learnt that one of my former employees has been killed in a sky-diving accident in Australia. Clare Barnes was the daughter of my friend Denis MacShane (Labour MP and Minister for Europe) and the former ITN newsreader Carol Barnes. BBC Online are carrying the details.

About four years ago Denis MacShane asked me if I would give some work experience to his daughter, Clare. He felt she was drifting in her life. What was meant to be a three week stint working in our bookshop turned into a year. She worked as a publicist for our publishing company and was really learning the job well when she decided that she wanted to go travelling again. She was a girl with a tremendous wanderlust. Clare had a terrifically bubbly personality and everyone liked her. Even when she had done something wrong it was impossible to tell her off without feeling guilty yourself. We were very sorry to see her go as she had taken to the work very well but it was clear that travelling was her first love. I am devastated for Denis & Carol and can hardly imagine the pain they must be feeling. The world has lost a smiling face and at Politico's we all grieve for her.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


On Friday Norwich South selected Anthony Little to fight Charles Clarke at the next election. Anthony is a 25v year old teacher and is a great campaigner. A few weeks ago Norwich North selected another 25 year old, James Tumbridge to fight Norwich North. God, I feel old.

Saturday, March 13, 2004


Now there's a sentence you never thought you'd read. Tonight I am at the Little Theatre in Sheringham hosting A Night with Ann Widdecombe. Apparently they've sold all the tickets and could have sold another 100. I wonder which one of us they're coming to see! Typically the LibDems tried to get the show cancelled because they didn't think a Conservative politician should be appearing in the Little Theatre. The local populace seems to disagree. The hypocrisy stinks. They didn't say the same thing when former Liberal politician Clement Freud appeared there recently. What a surprise. Right, off out now onto the streets of North Walsham to do a day on the doorstep.

Friday, March 12, 2004


Last night's Eastern Evening News has predicted that I will win North Norfolk. I'm told that the East Anglian Daily Times has done the same this week. Obviously very discerning newspapers. Perhaps the Easter Daily Lamb (oops, Eastern Daily Press) will follow suit. Mind you, after the last week perhaps we should rename it the EDB, the Eastern Daily Bell. There was half a page today promoting the sainted Mr Bell. Apparently he has been endorsed by David Soul, who you may remember was Hutch in Starsky & Hutch. On the face of it a good endorsement, but not if you remember reading recently of Mr Soul's squalid living conditions. If I were Mr Bell I might choose my friends more carefully.


Nice to see that the EEN is a reader of this blog - thanks for the mention in last night's paper go to Alex Gore. I never realised my interest in Footballers' Wives (should I rephrase that?!) was so interesting!

Sunday, March 07, 2004


I've been at the Conservative Spring Forum in Harrogate all weekend. A very positive conference and Michael Howard's speech sent us all off in good heart. Took 4 hours to get back. Just about to catch up on the latest episode of Footballers Wives...Well, you've got to keep in touch with popular culture haven't you?

Saturday, March 06, 2004


It's 1am and I'm downloading 24 hours worth of email, so I thought I'd type this in the foyer of the Moat House Hotel in Harrogate. This hotel typifies what's wrong with British hotels. It's a specialist conference centre hotel yet you can't even access the internet from your bedroom. And all for £106 a night. Scandalous. It took me 4 hours to drive up here this morning from Swanton Abbott. It was 111 miles from SA to the A1. The A17 is a road that seems to have no end. And it was very foggy, so not a very pleasant drive. Went out for dinner with two Sunday newspaper journalists and Guy Black, Michael Howard's press secretary. Also did a piece for Radio 4's World Tonight in which I said that we have to go into the next election showing a clear difference between us and Labour - and that means promising responsible tax cuts. I'm very clear about this. We have accused Labour of increasing taxes sixty times so we have to promise to reverse these increases over the term of a Conservative Government. Someone once said "The Conservative Party is a tax cutting Party or it is nothing". Anyone know who? Cutting tax does not mean cutting public services.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Had a day in the office (yesterday, Wednesday)arranging meetings and writing letters, followed by a spot of doorknocking in Cromer. A great reaction. People really seem to be fired up by Michael Howard at the moment. This evening drove over to Holkham to go to their Parish Council meeting. Also popped into the wonderful Victoria Hotel, which is part of the Holkham estate. Met the owners, Tom and Polly Coke. Tom is the son of the Earl of Leicester. They have turned it into a truly magnificent place and I can't wait to go back to sample the food. CLICK HERE to visit their website. Tomorrow (Thursday) I have to go to speak at the Stalham Conservatives AGM. They're becoming a very strong branch with some very go-ahead people.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Just got back from a meeting of Holt NFU who were discussing sugarbeet. My background is in arable farming so I haven't needed to be an expert on sugarbeet beyond knowing that we're being threatened by cheap Brazilian sugarbeet and that the government is threatening the industry's future by opting for huge price cuts in the price of sugarbeet when the EU changes the system in 2006. However, sugarbeet is a core part of the Norfolk farming scene, which is why I went tonight. There were about 25 local farmers there. Spent more than 5 hours in the car today. Unbelievably it took two and a half hours to get to London from Kent and then a further three and a half up to Norfolk. Tomorrow I'm visiting Holkham Parish Council.