The mysterious relocation of Luton Town Football Club… and other stories
Posted Monday, 30 April 2007 at 17:45
Twelve months ago I convened a public meeting in the Church rooms in Toddington to discuss the relocation of Luton Town FC.
The meeting was packed. There was very little conclusion which could be reached at the meeting - no plans had been submitted. No authority contacted. No preliminary discussions held. Nothing. I even received a written answer from the DCLG (Dept for Communities and Local Government) confirming that they also had not been in discussion with anyone on this matter, and would not comment further should the matter be subject to an appeal at some point in the future.
On Friday night, a further meeting was called by Toddington Residents’ Association. I have no idea how many people attended, however, given that I am becoming fairly used to these large public meetings, I would imagine around 350+
I had a slight feeling of ‘deja vu.’ We were still in the same position: no plans submitted, no discussions held, just further posturing on behalf of individuals within the Club.
I had been told that the Club’s board had held meetings with ministers. I asked the ministers was this true? As I referred to above, DCLG stated, in writing, that no discussions had been held.
Could the Club be using the rumour mongering as a stalking horse?
Is their intention really to relocate to another, more appropriate, junction on the M1, such as junction 10, but are using the junction 12 story as a way of flushing out the opposition and preparing the ground to present the case for junction 10?
Whatever the Club is up to, this is no way to treat your fans and local residents. I have many letters and queries from both groups of people wanting to know what is going on.
We all want to know just what is going on.
A residents’ action group was formed at the end of the meeting to mirror the group already formed in Harlington. People at the meeting were very angry. Come on Luton Town, get your act together, put your cards on the table.
The BBC and Wet Canvassing
Posted Friday, 27 April 2007 at 10:38
Did you see Question Time last night? Did you notice the bias? I know that every time a Conservative MP complains about the BBC people groan, however, if you didn’t catch the week before the local election edition, it was like this.
In the Lib Dem corner, the 40 something David Laws: young, personable, and just about attractive. This is the opposite image of the ageing Lib Dem leader who, on a Radio 5 Live phone-in yesterday, was mercilessly eaten alive by the presenter and viewers.
In the Labour corner, Health Minister Caroline Flint: 40 something, attractive, and smiley for the benefit of the programme. The embodiment of all New Labour represents.
And for the Conservatives, the 70 something, white haired (I suppose at least he still has some!) Douglas Hurd. He projects the completely opposite image of the young, attractive, energetic, give him something to jump over quick, Conservative Party leader David Cameron.
Now I have nothing against Douglas, or age. In fact I like Douglas very much. It is however, so long since he was a minister I can’t actually remember him very well. His son Nick is an MP in my intake and a mate.
If they wanted a Hurd, why didn’t they ask Nick Hurd MP? They could have followed the pattern of the night, 40 something and attractive (not as attractive as his wife though who is gorgeous), or in fact anyone (except me, because I would be so scared I wouldn’t be able to speak) who is functioning within the Conservative Party today?
It’s because the image that the BBC wanted to project of the Conservative Party, before the local elections, was one which was elderly, stale and tired.
Well it backfired, because Douglas was brilliant. Being on Question Time was obviously a breeze. You can’t trip up a man of such deep intellect and wisdom, and he in fact, made the Lib Dem and Labour MPs look vacuous. The audience was, by the applause, grateful for his sensible spin free replies.
Who will it be next week? Now let me see - who is there from somewhere in the past that is nothing like the Conservative Party today? Maybe Norman Tebbit? No, they keep him for the Today programme.
I was out canvassing in the rain last night. I began to feel sorry for Vic the local candidate. Who was going to agree to vote for him when a wet MP knocks on the door wearing a silly hat?
Well, lots apparently. The thing that surprises me about the Lib Dems being up 1% in the polls today is this – whenever you knock on the door of a known Lib Dem voter, and I do it just for fun sometimes, they try that Lib Dem trick they teach them at conference of keeping you chatting on the doorstep about lots of issues so that they slow you down in your canvassing. It’s about as transparent as the other one they teach them about the leaflets. You know, we have all had them, the block graph showing that only the Lib Dems can win here!
Anyway, the surprising thing about last night was that known Lib Dem voters were saying things like “well, actually, I have voted Lib Dem the last few times but I am going to vote Conservative this time.”
I got eighteen pledges and a cup of tea in a row, which has never, ever happened before!
I won’t be blogging over the weekend, but if you are local I will be in Waitrose car park tomorrow morning, so if you live in Ampthill and you do your shopping on a Saturday morning, come and say hello.
And there’s more…..Junior Dr’s
Posted Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 11:04
As though they hadn’t messed up enough...
I am just going to say this as it is, because, frankly, it is so unbelievable. It is such a display of incompetence, arrogance, and, mismanagement that I simply don’t understand how Patricia Hewitt can get out of bed in the morning and turn up for work. It must take some cheek.
But hang on, is she turning up? If we hadn’t called for the debate on junior Dr’s training and used our Opposition Day on the subject, just when would we have seen any of the health front bench team again? It is obvious that the government has been keeping Patricia Hewitt out of the spotlight for some time. It was Andrew Lansley’s motion which forced her out. Parliamentary protocol demands that she had to leave her dark cave, stand in the spotlight, grip the dispatch box and be accountable, with the rest of the sycophants sat around her.
Yesterday, the government computer system, MATS, displayed all the personal details of junior doctors in the public domain for the entire world to see.
Channel 4 news has it covered on their home page, but apparently Patricia Hewitt won’t be interviewed.
I gave an interview for ‘Week in Westminster’ yesterday, to be broadcast this coming Saturday at 11am on BBC Radio 4. I think they were struggling to get a backbencher to come into the studio, and then, they finally got John Mann MP. He said that the solution for ten years of incompetent mismanagement of the NHS was for the health front bench team to attend a training course at Henley Management College. Excuse me? Did I hear that right?
He walked into the studio and sat down. I was already there. I had bent over backwards to fit in with his time demands, he was late. He refused to make eye contact or small talk with either myself or the presenter and then said “I have to go, can we get on with it”, and proceeded to lash forth with five minutes of Fleet Street Union’s, management college, it’s not our fault let’s talk about the last 50 years drivel.
I kept trying to interrupt, and the presenter kept stopping me. She looked quite amazed and let him carry on. Maybe she was giving him enough rope to hang himself on? I feel quite bad and think I may not have been able to do enough to help the Dr’s put their case over because as soon as he had finished ranting he stood up and walked out.
Zero charm, zero personality, zero accountability, zero manners.
The person who surprises me most in all of this, in terms of how MPs behave, is Mary Creagh MP for Wakefield.
Mary and I became MPs on the same day. I was a sponsor for her Ten Minute Rule Bill. I had her down as a person of integrity, and although we are both on the opposite sides of a political divide, she was someone I thought could be relied upon to do the right thing.
She is Dr Mary Creagh, an academic and PPS to Andy Burnham, a health Minister for delivery & quality. She sat behind Patricia Hewitt and the Black Widow (as described by the Labour MPs) Caroline Flint during the debate. I have watched Mary long enough to know that she was uncomfortable. Her face was drained of colour and set. When the public gallery erupted into applause she looked sick.
Resign Mary, do yourself a favour. You are better than that and have more about you than any of the people you were sat with. This is the point in your career when you have to make this decision: am I in this for the glory, or the people? Only you know the answer to that.
Modernising Medical Careers
Posted Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 10:35
You never really know how you have performed when you speak in the House of Commons. Everyone always comes up to you and says “well done”, “great speech” etc, but actually, I don’t make my speeches for those on the inside. I make my speeches for those who don’t have the opportunity to stand where I do. Take yesterday and the debate regarding modernising medical careers and the horrendous, awful, position in which junior doctors now find themselves.
I tried to imagine: if I were a junior doctor and could sit on this bench, what would I want to say? As an MP, I know I am privileged to be here, and I could feel the frustration of all the doctors sat in the public gallery, wishing they could come onto our side and say it as it is.
Up to 10,000 junior doctors will find themselves without a job from the 1st August this year. The situation is so bad that the Department of Health is in discussion with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) trying to get placements for doctors abroad!
The problem has arisen because two cohorts of doctors have come onto the training/job market in one year due to the basic training programme being reduced by a year.
It’s like reducing the school leaving age to 17 and then in the year the change takes effect having two cohorts of students fighting over the same number of university places.
The worst thing about this fiasco is that absolutely no planning or preparation for this ‘train crash in slow motion’ was put into place.
I talked about how doctors have mortgages, and some don’t even know if they will be able to make the August payment. Married doctors have children in schools and whereas they realise they can’t always stay in one hospital, their expectations can hardly be described as unrealistic wishing to stay in one region.
They have trained for up to seven years, and some are looking for casual work as back up in the Summer.
To be a doctor isn’t something you fancy doing in your thirties, that’s left to MPs. It’s something you plan from childhood, because if you don’t get three A’s at A level you aren’t really going to make it. I don’t know many MPs who have three A’s at A level.
Being a doctor is a passion, a vocation, it’s a commitment and it’s something you enter to help benefit mankind, you become a doctor because you have a heart.
I once knew a doctor well. I remember a night he came home from his Senior House Officer job on Casualty, sat in the chair and began to cry. A thee year old little boy had come into the unit in the middle of a severe asthma attack and went into shock. Before he could get a line up the child had gone into peripheral shut down. It was all horrifically fast and over in minutes. The little boy died, and the parents had to be told that their little boy, their only child was gone.
How many MPs have had to do that? How many civil servants know how that feels? And yet they sit behind their desks and in meetings making decisions which disregard both the integrity and commitment of some of the most valuable people in the UK workforce.
Patricia Hewitt flaunted House of Commons protocol and as soon as she had finished speaking left the chamber. She should have stayed and listened to at least the following two speeches.
Maybe she couldn’t look the junior doctors in the face. Maybe the spontaneous round of applause which erupted from the gallery when Peter Bottomley MP made a point was more humiliating than she could bear. I have never seen that happen before. The old hands told me it has been many, many years since the entire gallery applauded.
Apparently she had adjourned to the tea room, and according to one of her own MPs was tucking into tea and buns!
I think it was more to do with being de-mob happy. She will be gone within weeks.
She will surely go down in history as the most damaging and unpopular Secretary of State in British history.
I began by saying that you never quite know how your speech has gone down. It was a relief to see it reported here. Maybe trying to put the point of view of those affected rather than making political points isn’t such a bad strategy after all.
The government are reaping the rewards of their total mismanagement. 43% of junior doctors surveyed have said that they will vote Conservative at the next election, 7% Labour, and, 15% Liberal Democrat.
Let’s hope that if we win the next general election we can learn from the government’s mistakes. I am sure David Cameron has the ability to put himself in the shoes of others and evaluate the human impact of any decision he will take when Prime Minister. As a man who has spent many a night on a hospital floor, a man who knows the importance of well trained doctors, I really do think the NHS will be safe in his hands.
Lady Penelope…and the Air Ambulance
Posted Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 11:43
(Dictated by Nadine from the train)
Bedfordshire has no Air Ambulance service, whereas Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire do. Something is being done about this and this morning there was an appeal at Millbrook Proving Ground to highlight the problem and for people like myself to look at what services the Air Ambulance provides and the benefits it can bring to our rural communities.
This afternoon I am speaking in the Chamber and giving interviews for Anglia TV, and Chiltern Radio, as well as meeting with constituents in London, and 1001 other things which I have to do! However, I thought this is so important I have to fit it in and go.
I left my home office and dashed into my battered up old car this morning. Driving my car is an acute embarrassment as one of the exhaust brackets is loose and it makes the most horrendous noise.
As I drove into the proving ground I noticed it was Aston Martin day. I played with the idea of making some kind of joke about the Aston Martin guys fixing my exhaust, but thought better of it.
As I drove through the gate, a chauffeur driven car pulled up behind me. Chauffeur driven cars are important, they don’t have to pull into the car park and park like I and every other pleb has to, they are allowed to wait on the main drive.
Who was this? My curiosity got the better of me, especially when the mini bus driver who was taking us all to the next point, told me that the name of the chauffeur was Parker!!
Moments later a gentleman in a very heavy and ostentatious chain sat next to me and introduced himself as the “Deputy Mayor of Bedford Borough Council.” The driver of our mini bus then said “Your chauffeur is called Parker, isn’t he?” “Yes” said the gentleman, with more than a trifle embarrassment; you could tell he really wished the mini bus driver hadn’t said that.
So, I’m no Lady Penelope, but the Deputy Mayor of Bedford Borough Council is. Yes, there are no strings on me, but there are…ok, sorry, I’ll quit whilst I’m ahead!
Ordinary...A definition...Born Yesterday
Posted Monday, 23 April 2007 at 23:13
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love -
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you're a lucky girl.
But if it shouldn't, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Catching of happiness is called. Philip Larkin
Doors to manual… and Toads
Posted Monday, 23 April 2007 at 10:30
Just about everyone and his dog has had his or her say regarding the Wills, Kate and Mrs Middleton fiasco, so I am sure you don’t mind if I pile in.
It really is all pretty straight forward. Did William’s friends behave in an appalling manner? Did they think Kate just wasn’t quite top drawer enough? Did they think her parents too middle class and therefore common? Did they whisper “doors to manual” when Kate arrived in the room because her mother had been an air stewardess? Of course they did; without doubt, because that unfortunately is the way some privileged, aristocratic, rich boys behave.
My eldest daughter wanted to board for sixth form. She was desperate to attend a particular, very top drawer boarding school. It was a school which hadn’t taken girls up until that point. She was accepted, and was amongst the first girls’ intake.
This infuriated the boys. To say that they took the arrival of girls at the school badly would be an understatement. In her first week, when walking up a flight of stairs, a boy came down the other side and spat at her. He was the son of a Northern European Prince. He was a living breathing specimen of a warped aristocrat, totally out of touch with the real world and over privileged.
Class division is as bad in this country now as it has ever been. I would even go as far as to say it has become considerably worse during the last ten years.
When Labour took control in ’97 and then proceeded to ban Foxhunting, it had a galvanizing effect. The toffs stirred from their slumber and thought that they had better do something to protect their privileged way of life.
Quite right too. To ban fox hunting was the most ridiculous mis-guided attack on privilege. Any attack on privilege is misguided, as would be an attack on the poor, and besides, as we all know, foxhunting is the sport of many lovers of country fields sports from all backgrounds.
Doing something, however, included making sure that Wills didn’t dilute the Royal blood line with a no mark middle classer, simply not on, what?
It’s not just some of the boys, the girls are as bad.
Michael Howard had a really unfortunate particularly rude specimen working for him during his time as party leader. She was especially good at organising stag hunting weekends, but not very much else, sadly. Conversing with someone who hadn’t attended public school presented her with a real challenge, one she never quite mastered, along with make up, clothes that fitted, and how to use a hairbrush.
Very unlike Michael who is such a genuinely modest kind person.
Iain Duncan-Smith had one also; she turned out to be a witch in disguise. I kid you not!
The reign of the Conservative party Cruella de-Villes appears to be over.
Thank goodness David Cameron seems to have broken the party leaders curse and has made a point of employing nice ordinary people in his office.
Influenced I have no doubt by the likes of his wife Sam and Ed Vaizey, who is as normal and ‘in touch’ as you can get, despite his privileged background. He is influenced no doubt by his very attractive and ordinary wife who strikes me as someone who would tolerate toff nonsense for about a nano second.
Privilege comes with responsibilities, a little bit like freedom. The majority carry it well with dignity, style and character. They use their privilege to good effect, often in a philanthropic manner; Nicholas Soames instantly springs to mind. You will meet no-one nicer than someone who recognises and acknowledges fully that they have been born to privilege and all that entails.
The boys at my daughter’s school became different people after two years of being subjected to girls. The boy, who originally spat, began to open doors for her.
When she became house tea towel and plant monitor, the boys, (many of whom were a joy to know and good manners personified) sneaked into the house in the middle of the night and stole all the tea towels and moved the plants to a different part of the school. My eldest is small and dainty, with long blonde hair and big blue eyes; a very dippy academic. She spent hours pondering, what had happened? What had happened was, apparently, a sign of acceptance.
The boys began to wear deodorant (I must admit it came as a shock to me to discover that there were still males in this day and age who thought it acceptable to NOT wear deodorant!) and the school began to smell better, in more ways than one.
When the privileged mix and breed, only with the privileged, something very nasty occurs. What happened with Wills and his friends was a manifestation of insecurity, of knowing nothing about anything other than what exists within their own inner circle. When presented with the world at large, i.e. the other 97% of the population, their reaction tends to be, to spit. Literally, or with words – enter doors to manual.
The saddest part of the whole Kate/Wills fiasco is that Kate ever thought it could come to anything. Was she so naive? Did no-one think to say to her it’s never going to happen?
The doors to manual story doesn’t have the high impact devastation factor that not flying the flag at Buckingham Palace had when Diana died, however, I think the ultimate effect will be worse. The realisation that some of the privileged 3% hold the rest of us in such contempt and disdain will slowly sink in and erode what residual goodwill is left for the Royal family following Diana’s death.
Speaking as a monarchist, the Royal family are suddenly beginning to look very old fashioned and over privileged in an unacceptable way. When the Queen and Charles are gone what are we left with. It would appear a Prince who hangs out with Brazilian tarts in a night club and shouts I’m free, let’s drink the menu.
I have no problem with a Prince going through the rites of passage any twenty something boy has to go through. This one could do with picking his friends slightly more carefully , and learn a little humility. I don’t think his mother, the woman who could talk to and empathise with anyone, would have been very proud of him last week.
I suppose the moral of the story is never kiss a Prince, because you never know, he may turn into a complete toad.
Posted Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 21:19
I have spent six hours canvassing today – my feet are killing me!
Finished up in Ampthill this evening. One of the Candidates, Paul, runs the Queens Head pub, needless to say, that’s where we all ended up. A good local pub serving some of the best beer in Bedfordshire.
I was a bit shocked to discover that the Labour candidate has bailed out in Ampthill and is standing as an independent; apparently I believe he thinks he can’t win under a Labour banner.
If he has genuinely changed his politics, fair enough, however, I remember standing as the Conservative candidate for a council election in a sink Labour ward in the North West. I had no chance of winning, but I still worked my socks off and achieved a 31% swing to the Conservatives. This game should be about what and who you believe in, about principles and beliefs, not what you want to achieve for yourself.
The response on the doorstep was excellent, Paul from the Queens Head and Carol Gibson have been out every single day. They are as about as enthusiastic as you can get. They are both mad, as in cross, about the bins, the traffic and the escalating rate of local crime.
Good local people championing the issues which everyone needs sorted on a day to day basis, what local politics is all about.
Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 12:54
No time to blog yet. For those of you who have emailed with the deliberate mistake - we know, but there isn't anything we can do about ti, that is how it was broadcast.
For those who don't know what I am on about - the podcast of my tourism debate is on the right hand side of my home page, you need windows media player to watch - big mistake on the part of the parliamentary filming unit!! You have to watch about two minutes in...
Shaun Woodward and Big Yellow Buses
Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 11:29
Recently I blogged about the advantages of having a national school bus service in the way that they do in America.
Today Chris Grayling, Shadow Transport Minister, announced it was now Conservative policy!
That’s all it takes, a blog here and it’s in. Anything else you want while I’m at it?
(I am only joking by the way. Policy has probably been in the oven for over a year!)
Last night the Tourism Minister Shaun Woodward responded to my tourism debate – he was good. I have never come across him before, but of course I knew all about him.
Famous for defection and butlers, I wondered quite how it would go; the council house MP meets the king of St Helens and butlers. St Helens, famous for Pilkington’s glass, Clock Face pit and the YMCA. Butler, famous for canvassing for the minister during the elections.
He knew his stuff, and, in a very generous way was very complimentary about the work that I had done so far on the issue.
Tourism accounts for almost 10,000 jobs in Bedfordshire and brings in £445 million per year. The number of visitors is slightly up, but the amount of money they are spending, in comparison to the rest of the region and the rest of the country, is actually down.
Bedfordshire needs to raise its tourism game.
That includes the County and District Councils putting more money into the tourism pot. Why? This is because the net benefit to the UK from the 2012 Games is over £2 billion. Inward investment in preparation for the games will mean investment in roads and infrastructure which is something we desperately need.
The Olympic Games are a once in a lifetime opportunity and as the minister said, those who have their act together will be the ones to benefit. Bedfordshire, given our ideal location must benefit.
Whether we like it or not, and as hard as we fight it, we will not be able to resist all the house building targets the government has set for Bedfordshire. Five thousand homes are being built in the new Wixhams village alone.
Jobs in Bedfordshire means a sustainable-community-orientated Bedfordshire. A Bedfordshire where people can work, live and play, without having to spend half of their lives commuting.
There is also a misconception that tourism means cleaning, it doesn’t. It means HR, accounting, medical provision, childcare, managerial, marketing, PR, catering, and a whole host of other professions.
To see the opportunities the 2012 games presents, the ideal position we are in and the long term benefits such an opportunity can bring to Beds takes a big breath, but just look at the opportunities.
One of my driving beliefs is that as a country we need to get back to the position whereby neighbours care about each other. This doesn’t happen in commuter communities.
Let’s open our eyes. Let’s smell the coffee. Let’s see all the benefits of home growing our own tourism industry; of capitalising unashamedly from all we can take of the inward investment coming from the 2012 games.
Let’s put Bedfordshire on the map, a five star county.
Click here to see the debate in Hansard
The Thought Police
Posted Monday, 16 April 2007 at 10:57
Iain Dale of Iain Dale’s diary fame, linked to my site on the day of my last post regarding gypsies and travellers.
It was interesting to compare the comments left on Iain’s site, with regard to what I had written, to the comments left here.
A few weeks ago you may remember that I mentioned that a very senior Labour MP had warned me to “be careful” because Labour HQ were monitoring Conservative MP's blog sites. It appears the blogs infuriate the Labour party because they have no control whatsoever over what is written or who reads it.
They piled in on Iain after he provided the link to my site. At one point Iain commented back with a “Blimey the thought police are out today”.
More like wound up saboteurs I would say, trying to defend the newly implemented Labour government policy to force councils to provide new sites for travellers.
The difference between my blog and Iain’s, in addition of course to the fact that Iain’s is superb, is that sometimes Iain leaves his comment moderator off. I have mine on always, and I or someone else will read every comment before it is posted. Therefore, they can sneakily dive in on Iain's site and ambush him. I would love to know the comments that Iain had to delete!
I have an adjournment debate at the end of business today, with regard to tourism in Bedfordshire, and I have been put onto a delegated committee at four pm. So there goes the time I was going to use to rehearse my speech.
I also have to have some new photographs taken. My long blonde hair is now short and darkish.
Something which always makes me laugh is how many MPs, of all partys, especially the boys, use photographs that were obviously taken years ago – when they still had hair! Not I, where’s the flash!
She was born in the wagon of a travellin' show
Posted Friday, 13 April 2007 at 09:36
I sang the well know song by Cher all the way home from a meeting tonight. I know all the words, I bet you do too.
I spent the night in Flitton Village Hall in the company of over 500 residents.
I was a bit taken aback by the number of people present. I drove up at 8pm, and if I hadn’t known where the hall was, I would have spotted it easily by the droves of people walking towards it.
As I got to the main gate, I was met by a lady who passed me through the crowd to another, and then another, until they got me into the hall where I went straight up onto the stage. There was no room anywhere else for me to stand, people were sitting all over the floor and the chairs had been full for some time. People were standing in the car park listening through the open windows.
I commented as I passed through the crowd how surprised I was that there were so many people there. Some joked and said, we’ve all come to see you Nadine – but I know that wasn’t the case, the meeting was about Gypsies and travellers.
As a little girl I spent idyllic Irish holidays on my Uncle Tom and aunty Mollie's farm in Bangor Erris, Co Mayo. My Uncle Eammon and Aunty Bridget owned the local village shop, they still do, My cousin Moira and I often used to serve in the shop.
When the tinkers called with their big horse drawn wagons, Aunty Bridget used to fly behind the counter and shoo us into the back room. The fear was that because I had Blonde hair, a rare thing in Eire, the tinkers might steal me.
One brave day when Aunty Bridget was feeding the baby, I served the tinkers, and lived to tell the tale.
The tinker was a statuesque woman, dressed in black and brown, accessorised with eyes and teeth the same colour. Her hair was long, wild and wind blown and had obviously never seen a comb or been washed in weeks. She probably had been born in the wagon of a travellin’ show.
She sat on the board at the front of the wagon and didn’t move. Moira wouldn’t come out of the shop and I couldn’t tell what the woman sat high up on the wagon was asking for. Moira translated from behind the door, and then threw the tobacco and barley twists out to me.
The tinker threw the money down to me for the goods, and then I threw them up. Moira wouldn’t let me give them to her unless I got the money first.
Moira was hissing at me from behind the door in her scared ‘Holy Mary mother of God will ye get ye’sel back in here now, Jesus ye are too close,. She’ll have ye before ye know it ”
The tinker smiled at me, which I remember shocked me, and I think I jumped a bit, she then cracked the whip on the two big horses, shouted something in Gaelic, spat her chewed tobacco at my feet, and rode off
I picnicked out on that for months.
When I got back inside, Aunty Bridget made me wash the money, and scrub my hands under the brown, peaty, icy water of the outside tap. The water pumped straight from the Owen More river which ran by less than 50 yds away.
I remember Moira and I laughing so much around the tap, I think we were relieved to have survived the scary ordeal!
In 1994 the then Conservative government removed from Local Authorities the obligation to provide Gypsy sites.
The Labour Government have just re instated this obligation and my constituency has to provide 40 pitches by 2021, 20 immediately. All are to be designated in local rural villages. Feeling are running high.
The councils have no option, they have to do it. When I saw Richard and Tricia, local councillors, putting forward their position to the audience I realised what a tough job it can be, being a local councillor. It is a vocation, it does take long hours, and you get very little thanks. Appologies to all those standing in local elections for the first time!
My position on this subject is very hard line. If you want to live in Flitton village, get yourself an education, a good job, save up and buy yourself a house. Big round of applause. Not deserved though, because my hard line position is not an answer to what the residents of Flitton are facing.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the only option available to us is hope. Hope that feelings will run equally high everywhere and the government, as they do on so many things, will back down.
My job now is to become a flea in the ear of the ministers and those who are trying to impose this on Flitton, and I will apply for a Westminster Hall debate on the subject first thing on Monday.
For all the bleeding hearts that are about to blog me and tell me that gypsies and travellers are now classed as an ethnic group because of their culture and beliefs I say this - I have no problem with that. You can believe and follow whatever culture you like – but if you want to live in England you do it living in a house, send your children to school and conform to the societal framework that the rest of us have to, because that’s how it is in Britain. That’s how we live; it’s a British culture thing.
If you want to show me traveller sites where there is harmony within the community, I will point out to you that on those sites the children probably attend the local school, and the families largely conform and are law abiding.
I will then take you to see some of my farmers fields, three acres in Brogbrough is where we will start, where travellers have created mayhem.
There should be no such thing as a right to reside unless that residence is to take place within an appropriate home subect toall the usual planning laws and constraints the rest of us who pay tax and council tax have to abide by.
As one lady in the audience, sat on a hard floor, pointed out last night - if the new laws are about equality then surley that is equality for all. Travellers and Gypsies should have to live by the laws which make us all equal. Exactly.
My solution to the traveller problem is this; In Britain the culture is to live in a static home, work, pay taxes and save for the things you want in life. Live here by all means, have your own culture, as many do, however, you have to live in within the framework of the values this society operates within.
‘Every night all the men would gather round…’
Not in Flitton they won’t Cher!
Trouble and strife
Posted Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 10:10
Times2 ran a feature yesterday 'Trouble and Strife' posing this question: has being the perfect parent killed the good wife? Women today are apparently focusing their attention more and more on the children at the cost of the relationship.
I loved the article because it spoke some home truths. About how the most difficult aspect of many relationships today is dealing with equality within the relationship.
Anita Jackson, a psychotherapist and the author of the website www.rekindlethemagic.com, talks about how it is possible, within a marriage of equality, to allow the natural roles to develop.
She says 'There is still something about being in a relationship with a man/woman role, so that the man is in charge, without being controlling, and the woman may have her bag full of stuff, be forgetful and change her mind, because that is how we are and what we are supposed to do'.
I couldn’t agree more. That paragraph contains more common sense with regard to relationships than I have read in a long time.
The article didn’t mention the UNICEF report published last month which informed us that in a table of the world's top 21 economically developed countries, we were bottom in terms of children’s wellbeing and happiness.
In this country we have the unhappiest children.
So maybe the problem is not the fact that women are investing their emotional energy into their children (apparently the reason the relationship bears the cost of this is because as the baby comes in through the door, sex goes out of the window) but that too much is expected from women within the context of equality. Can a woman who works full time, and is a mother, claim to have an equal relationship?
Maybe it isn’t possible to hold down a full time job, be a parent and a have a good relationship with your husband because you are so completely knackered from trying to be all things to all people. There just isn’t any emotional energy left for anything other than switching off the light.
I feel a change in mood. Some are looking at the women who stay at home, those who reject the so called equality, and wondering, maybe it is possible to have it all. Could the ‘all’ be a successful marriage which lasts for life with happy children, time for everything, and for everything, a time?
The smack police
Posted Wednesday, 11 April 2007 at 11:28
What a mess. On Tuesday the government announced that they are going to allow parents to know how many paedophiles live near their home, nursery or children’s school – today they say, well, actually, that’s not the case.
Talk about a government in chaos. From captured sailors to vulnerable children, they just can’t get it right. What does that say about both the integrity and the competence of this government?
Yesterday, twice in one day, two politically correct children’s charities did themselves immense harm. Barnardos, for not supporting the moves towards introducing a Megan’s Law, and the NSPCC. That is not an easy thing for me to say. I wholeheartedly applaud the work of the NSPCC and I am a supporter of the full stop campaign, but yesterday’s announcement was misguided and smacked of someone trying to justify a job.
The NSPCC want shop assistants to be trained to intervene in mother and child disputes in shops. In other words, they want shop assistants to become experts in how to spot a slap happy mother and shop her to the NSPCC.
Apparently, one way of shop assistants ‘intervening’ would be to hand the mother a leaflet.
OK, stop laughing, here we go, picture the scene.
Once I was in Tescos with my two year old, who decided that she wanted something she couldn’t have. Her entirely reasonable reaction to this (reasonable in the context of being two) was to throw herself onto her back and to scream as loud as she could, whilst flailing around, and emptying the contents of the shelves onto the shop floor.
My reaction was to check my mobile for messages.
I could have stopped her. It would have involved slapping her legs, which would have made her scream louder. Or frogmarching her out of the shop by the hood of her snow suit, another option. However, then we all would have gone hungry that night because there was nothing edible in the house.
No, it was much easier to let her burn herself out, and then, when she sat there, frightened by the extent of her own rage, and realising that she had actually achieved nothing, pick her up and give her a big cuddle.
Like most mums, I demonstrated to her that tantrums don’t get you what you want, and if you frighten yourself by being so mad and too little to understand where all that anger came from, mummy still loves you. So it’s all ok and the worlds still a safe place, despite the fact that you have just discovered that a monster lives somewhere inside you... and his name is Temper.
What the NSPCC wants shops to do is to provide an area where another adult could sit with the angry child.
I would have thought that the NSPCC, of all the erstwhile organisations in this country, would have realised that children absolutely hate shopping. Should you happen to have a spare adult lying around the house, you don’t take them with you to sit in a sterile area of a shop with your aggrieved child, you leave them at home, in comfort, with a box of toys for the toddler, a comfy chair and a cup of tea!
The other option is that the shop assistant hands you a leaflet.
I’m not saying anything – especially not what I would tell a shop assistant to do with a leaflet telling me how to handle my toddler's tantrum because I am far too polite.
This is big brother. This is a politically correct children’s charity demonstrating one of New Labour's most insidious achievements - that has appeared without anyone possibly even noticing and what many organisations have imbued - how to talk in spin and riddles and tell others what to do and how to live their lives.
What is interesting is, that the press release on the NSPCC web site, is no where near as draconian as the representative from the NSPCC last night on the PM programme. She sounded like an officer from the smack police. Do they exist? Well, they don’t yet, but if we don’t get rid of this government soon they may well do.
Posted Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 11:18
At last. John Reid has announced today that the government will launch three pilot schemes, modelled on, but which fall well short of, the law in the USA known as ‘Megan’s Law’.
Not one to flaunt the Data Protection Act, Mr Reid has stated that parents will be able to demand to know if convicted paedophiles are living near their home, their child’s nursery or en route to school.
Parents do, in fact, have access to certain information: they can ask how many paedophiles live in their area. However, up until now, the police have been less than obliging. That is all about to change.
Martin Neary, who was CEO of the National Offender Management Service, another useless expensive agency, now of Barnardos, rushed breathlessly onto the Today programme this morning to condemn the move, stating that he had telephoned the Today programme himself to warn everyone of the dangers of this law!
Well thank goodness for that. What would we do without Mr Neary being on the ball and telephoning Radio 4? For one moment we could all have been in danger of thinking that this hadn’t been thought through. That Sara Payne, mother of murdered little Sarah, had been campaigning all these years in total ignorance of the facts.
That all the parents who campaigned for and brought into existence Megan’s Law had actually done so because they didn’t know what they were talking about.
Mr Neary stated the blinding obvious, something I have heard him do with monotonous frequency, that all the paedophiles living in the pilot area will move away.
Maybe so, and to be fair, that is where the pilot falls down. So let’s chip and electronically monitor the paedophiles in the pilot area, so that if they do move, their movements are monitored and the police will know exactly where they are. In fact, why don’t we do this to every convicted paedophile?
If successful, the pilots, one would hope, will be rolled out across the UK and then the campaign to smarten up this rather lilly livered appeasement to the campaigners can begin in earnest so that hopefully, in time, parents will have the law they want in place.
A tough robust law which will provide children with the protection they need, and parents with the peace of mind they deserve. Then who knows, one day, we may see our children come back out onto the streets to play and do the things that kids do. Share and socialise, laugh and fight and learn how to live together.
There is no such thing as a cured paedophile. Personally, I believe in chipping, castrating and incarcerating. But then, what would I know? I am just a mother of three daughters, a woman who knows something about paedophilia, and an MP.
Sorry, I missed out throwing away the key there.
Governments are there to serve the people. If parents want a Megan’s Law, and if that law prevents or reduces incidents of attacks or abuse on children, they should have it. Sometimes I think politicians forget why we are here in this privileged position, it’s to serve the people, stupid!
Posted Monday, 9 April 2007 at 22:08
You can’t blame the marketing person who described Easter as a time of birth can you, not really.
Walking through the fields early this morning new life is everywhere. From the May flower, or Hawthorne blossom which is at its peak in Bedfordshire this morning, to the baby lambs, who’s springing frightens my Labrador half to death!
If you’re not a Christian, it’s hard to relate to death when the countryside is waking up all around you, despite how ever hard you are trying to get people to buy your Easter Eggs.
Death can also mean change, a new direction, or a new beginning.
In 2001 I remember hearing the word ‘new green shoots’ every time a Conservative politician gave a speech to a group of activists.
Commentators in the press used it when they wrote about a new Conservative initiative. “You can begin to see the new green shoots” they wrote, and we yawned, because not one of us believed it.
Eleven points ahead in the polls today and you never hear it now. It’s a redundant bit of phraseology.
There is no need to talk about new green shoots anymore; the Conservative party is a lush vibrant meadow, full of new ideas, hope and expectation. It’s woken up from a very long barren winter, a bit like the fields in Bedfordshire today, basking in the sunshine.
I have had a video made of a day in my life as an MP. It wasn’t my idea. A cameraman putting a project together for an interview asked if he could use me, and I said yes. What he has produced is better than good and he should very definitely get the job.
I am posting it on my web site this week, however, what’s the betting I will get lots of complaints. The complaints will come in one form or another, but will really be about the fact that many people don’t like my basic philosophy - which is that Parliament belongs to the people and the people should have better access to and a greater knowledge of how Parliament operates.
I will blog every complaint here. I hope you all had a great Easter, appologies for the break.
Special Blog Announcement!
Posted Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 11:36
During the Easter break Nadine will be taking a well earned rest and will not be blogging - even if she sends any entries to me, I will refuse to post them!!
For those who still need their daily fix, why not visit Conservative Home instead.
Researcher To Nadine Dorries MP
Posted Monday, 2 April 2007 at 21:46
Ok, you know that I describe my blog as a five minute brain to finger dump – and that is exactly what it is, no thought, no prep, just a quick type and click of the save button.
That sentence alone would be enough to put the chief whip in CCU, thank goodness he doesn’t read this!
Anyway, what follows once again isn’t thought through, but it’s just one of those thoughts that I am plagued by.
Tony Blair came to power, and Gordon Brown raided the pension funds at about the same time as the bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) began to realise their potential and grow.
Those four countries are growing at such a massively rapid rate that they are importing both raw materials and commodities from all over the world. They must be importing from us, surely?
Even if they aren’t importing much from us, but are from other countries, are our exports to those countries up because the brics are sucking in all they can produce, which I know is the case in some countries, such as South Africa?
Our economy is only growing at just over 2%.
If the bric countries weren’t growing and we weren’t exporting to them and their supplier countries, that’s on the assumed basis that we are, what would our growth be?
If the bric countries hadn’t done so well over the last decade, would we in fact be in a very serious recession?
Does our 2% growth actually have nothing to do with Gordon Brown but more to do with the successful leadership of other countries?
I have laid down parliamentary questions today with regard to the amount of exports to each of those countries on a year by year basis over the last ten years, and their supplier countries, this is bugging me!
Shine Jesus shine
Posted Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 19:25
And he did, on Penny’s civic service in Ampthill this afternoon at 3pm.
As is the case in ABC (Ampthill Baptist Church) there was much laughter and worship through song.
I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work, a civic service in a Baptist church, but I got the subliminal message that we toned it down a bit for those who normally attend the Anglican and Methodist churches.
Steve made everyone laugh by realising, whilst at the lectern, that he wasn’t wearing a jacket - in fact, he didn’t even know where it was! The rector of Ampthill called him a scruff bag, and also said he had attended two services today, one with a Donkey and one with a mayor!
Penny, Tony and her three lovely boys who did the collection like true professionals really enjoyed themselves. Penny said it was like getting married again, but not as expensive for her mum!
Only a few people know, and now I am going to tell the world, that I actually turned up for the service at 11am, at the wrong church. When I got to the church doors and saw ‘Joint service at the Methodist church at 10.30’ I wanted to throw up!!! I was giving the reading and was convinced I had missed it.
I drove the two hundred yards to the Methodist church saying…. no screaming, at my daughter “it’s no good, I can’t be an MP and a mum, you have got to go”
It was a god sent intervention that as I sneaked into the back of the Methodist Church, the first person I saw was one of the congregation from ABC who put me right - that it was the Baptist church, but at three o’clock!
I went outside and smothered my daughter in hugs and sloppy kisses whilst she squirmed and screamed ”this is going to cost you”.
A perfect Sunday, church, walking the dogs, a family row and lunch. Bliss.
Posted Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 00:28
Brussels, what an eye opener. I went with four other cross party MPs who also have rural constituencies similar to mine. My farmers didn’t ask me to go, they hardly ever complain. Given what Bedfordshire farmers have had to put up with over the last two years with the complete and utter debacle regarding the single farm payment subsidies, I would have taken any amount of grief from them willingly, however, Bedfordshire farmers have been stoic.
Just let me give you a few facts about dairy farmers; there are only twelve herds left in Mid Beds. In fact, Bedfordshire has had a dramatic decrease in dairy herds compared to other UK counties. If you are reading this and from Mid Beds, have you ever wondered where all the cows have gone?
British dairy farmers receive the lowest price per litre for milk in Europe. There is a 37% gap in the table between what the UK receives, which is at the bottom of the table, and Italy. The milk price per litre in Italy is 35.8 pence compared to the UK at 25.9.
In the UK the supermarkets are king, especially the big three. They take a large profit margin from milk, squeezing and holding the price paid at the farm gate.
The purpose of the trip to Brussels was to find out how the British farmer, dairy and arable, could get a better crack at the euro whip.
We met with Commissioner Fischer Boles. Impressive lady, her grandfather made the first Danish Blue. She understood all the complaints and points we put to her. Now this is a blog, not a paper, and I know I am in danger of becoming boring to those of you who like to read my blog for a peep into the workings of Westminster, but just bear with me a minute. Let me give you a long quote from my minutes.
Q “Commissioner, how can British farmers become more profitable given the farm gate price they receive for their milk and what can be done to at least bring their income in line with farmers in the rest of Europe. How can we break the hold the supermarkets in the UK have on our farmers”
A” You farmers need to withhold their milk from the supermarkets. At the moment half the milk produced within the UK stays as liquid milk (48% actually) and the other half is converted into value added products, yoghurt, cheese etc. If all your dairy farmers withheld their milk from the supermarkets, and put more into value added, the drop in the availability of milk would drive up the price”
Me..” No it won’t. The supermarkets will import milk from Europe which will mean that the farmer in Europe will get an even better price and British farmer’s will still miss out”
Commissioner “Ah yes, but in the meantime they will have penetrated the value added market.”
Me “The chillier shelves in the UK are full of imported value added products from France and other countries. Each one of those producers will have established contracts with supermarkets, it would be incredibly difficult for the processors to penetrate that market, and besides, what happens in the time it takes to achieve penetration, the British farmer will simply wither on the vine - and given that the UK is the only country in Europe which doesn’t have a farming assistance programme (thanks Nick) for entry into farming that will leave farming in the UK all but dead”
Silence, a smile from the commissioner. When we had our photograph taken she said “very good, we women need to be strong yes?”
Yes, we do, but not as strong as British farmers need to be to survive.
The commissioner mentioned the internal market. This in Europe is how they think - that Europe is one big shopping mall and everything is the same price and everyone makes the same profit.
Then internal market is a distorted con. I will believe in the value of the internal market when the EU has its accounts audited.
We are being absolutely done. We pour vast millions into the EU everyday which, in terms of agriculture, appears to find its way to the farmers in Europe in order they do well whilst ours become bankrupt. Let’s not even mention the suicide rate amongst British farmers.
The UK is about to be fined by the EU, I think the figure is £380 million. Millions, billions, trillions, it means nothing in the EU, it’s just numbers.
The reason? Margaret Beckett made such a hash and a mess of administering the single farm payment subsidy in the UK that it is being fined by Europe. What is happening to that fine? Given that the people who suffered as a result of the botched mess were the British farmers wouldn’t it be fair if it was distributed amongst them?
Well it would, but it’s not. The commissioner answered very clearly “the money will go into the central EU budget – would you like me to come and give your farmers a pep talk?”
I noticed in the taxis I got into in Brussels that not a single seat belt worked in any of them. An excellent example of how we gold plate rules - whilst the rest of Europe completely ignores them.
My overwhelming feeling as I left the EU was similar to one I get when you have eaten too much, or spent twice as much as I should have on a pair of shoes. Not helped by the large packing boxes which sit outside each office of every member of the EU Parliament. The boxes are because one week in every month everyone moves to Strasbourg. That’s everyone and everything, a huge office move once a month.
That kind of waste does make me feel ill. I would love to know how much that all costs, however, the EU hasn’t had its accounts audited in seven years.
I am off to the Indian in Woburn Sands now with my brood – have a good rest of the weekend!
I haven't spell checked or read back because I am being shouted at so forgive me!!!