Dignity in defeat..
Posted Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 12:30
Ok, just one last blog.
I was in a car yesterday with my very Conservative daughter, who at the age of fifteen, stood with her hand on her hip tut tutting at George Osborne because he took too long on each doorstep canvassing.
She bullied him in a good humoured relentless way, which George reported back to the team meeting on Monday morning - much to my embarrassment.
At one point I hissed in her ear “do you know who he is madam”? She grinned back, “yeah, my mate George and he’s too flaming slow aren’t you George”. They both walked off laughing.
I recount this to show how the party runs through my daughter’s veins.
We were listening to the radio in the car and it was all Glasgow East.
She then said something which shocked me. “God, everyone’s so horrible to him it just makes you not want to join in doesn’t it”?
She then went on to say how the style of reporting used by some journalists was a turn off and actually made you want to ‘protect’ Gordon Brown in some way because it was all too distasteful and gloating.
“There should be some dignity in defeat” she concluded.
There’s a message for all of us Conservatives in there somewhere.
Posted Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 12:04
Click on the picture and drag Heartbeats to the white space whilst you listen and read!
It’s time to pack in blogging for the summer. At a recent meeting with my staff, I put forward the idea that maybe, now that we were receiving 700,000 hits per month, that just maybe I should carry on.
They all, in unison, shouted NO!
They are of course absolutely right, for reasons detailed below. I apologise to those who may have read the following blog which I wrote whilst on holiday last year; but as we were only getting 100,000 hits a month at the time, there are a lot of readers who haven’t read it.
I am taking away a shed load of books with me , the boxed sets of West Wing, Lost, 24, Desperate Housewives; and I shall now be spending a few weeks toasting, reading and watching all the telly I miss throughout the year.
Have a great summer everyone……
Deciding whether or not to blog, in my capacity as an MP, was a huge decision. I almost gave the, "Shall I,? Shan’t I" process much more consideration than I had even given to my decision to stand for election!
After all, there is many a slip betwixt cup and lip, or in the case of blogging, betwixt keyboard, journalist and the entire planet.
Every MP guards carefully – especially in the era of 24/7 news coverage - every public word we utter, in a manner that could almost be described as manic. We have all watched, in open mouthed horror, the pain endured by colleagues after a careless whisper flitted from tongue to international newswires in a space of nano seconds.
Surely, only an MP wishing to commit professional suicide would put spontaneous thoughts or ideas into the public arena - on a blog?
Blogging is a medium, which by its very ease of unforgiving transmission, does not provide the opportunity for second thought editing.
One can easily visualise the dramatic downfall scenario, brought about via an unguarded sentence blogged and posted late at night; it would manifest in the form of an off the cuff remark or a throw away comment, intended to humanise a paragraph. Such a comment would be a mere sideline to the main content of the message I would be attempting to deliver in my two finger typing non Pitman or Gregg college graduate way.
Think; type; click; and save - done. A 'ten years taken to get here' career taken out by a blog Exocet in just three easy moves.
What would be my excuse when the journalist gleefully nabbed me? After all, journalists hate bloggers – it is this which makes blogging such a dangerous pastime for MPs.
Blogging waters are infested with rare basking shorthand enabled career munching Piranha, equipped with notepad, pencil and a scalp hungry editor
What would be my defence?
Well M'laud, (or a very scary Chief whip, as has so often been the case). It was late there was wine and music; I was in a particularly happy carefree frame of mind; I got carried away with the passion of the observation? Unfortunately, I would, very sadly, be talking to myself; no doubt addressing my remarks to the wooden studded panels of the Chief Whips door, so recently slammed in my face, with the words "you‘re finished" ringing in my ears.
As we know, all political careers end in failure; however, blogging provides new MPs with an opportunity to reverse this trend, why not begin in failure?
Whether or not to begin each day playing Russian roulette with words as bullets, did indeed take some thought.
To be fair, it wasn't just the danger that blogging can present to an MP which made me think twice - it was the other bloggers. Did I want to become a member of this group - could I cut to the chase with the rest of them? Did I want to?
I am sure there are millions of bloggers, but there are only a handful of really good ones.
You can divide political bloggers into two categories;
Egotistical rubbish - they are many and use the internet as a means of extending their already overly large personalities and opinions.
To opine? Is that what blogging is all about? The transference of opinion from one otherwise insignificant individual to the indifferent masses?
There are limits, as to what technology can achieve. Blogging can take the horse to water, but it can't make it read. The egotist is largely unaware of this, having dumped his thoughts into cyber space, he or she will naturally assume that the world's computer owning population will have both read, digested, and allowed their words to influence the daily lives of others.
You can spot them a mile off – they are usually the ones talking to me at the death by canapé fundraiser.
The second category is one of unassuming excellence - I mean that in the most literal way; unlike the egotists they are wordsmiths with serious attitude.
Whether it's an incredible brain with deep political sensitivity, or a penchant for bright ties and yet another list, they have no master, their thoughts are transferred to the screen with no audience profile to please.
Intellectual thought runs riot across the keyboard and is as good as, if not better than, anything written by any mainstream political editor or commentator. Brain to screen to reader in seconds. Cue the reason why political journalists hate political bloggers.
Where are the Emperor clothes anyway?
I eventually succumbed, I found my blog niche; after all, what is the point in doing something that everyone else is already doing?
My niche is the de-mystification of Westminster. I like to think that I some small way I take Westminster with all it's strange ways, into the homes of ordinary people like me, through the prism of an MPs ever so unremarkable way of life.
And here I am, at it again - sat with my laptop on the balcony of my rented holiday villa in Spain. Far away from the cautious Westminster atmosphere; nothing to anchor me to the usual second thoughts, which I do occasionally have whilst walking through the corridors of power, pondering on what metaphor I can employ to illustrate an observation I have witnessed - which will never leave my brain until exorcised by a blog.
No danger of sighting an eminent role model to make me think "one day I want to be like you - so I had better re-phrase that comment". No Whip to shout down the corridor after me "Great blog yesterday" to make me think "you are happy with me today, which makes life so much easier - so what exactly was I going to write, which could spoil today?"
No telephone calls from my Association Chairman; no political emails to deal with.
I am in a very serious blogging danger zone.
If I were to slip up, it would more than likely happen on a night like tonight.
When the hot sun has gone to bed and the underwater lights in the aquamarine pool twinkle and beckon; the jug of Sangria on the table next to me screams, "More ice"; the heady scent of Bougainvillaea fills the air; and Jose Gonzales plays seductively in the background, wooing me, egging me on.
There is a beautiful Batik print on the balcony wall of the Madonna and child, it's looking down on me; the warm sea breeze is causing the candles on the table to flicker, playing tricks with my eyes.
Every time I look up, the Madonna tut tut's at me and shakes her head in mild reproval.
Unfortunately, I don't think even the Holy Mother can help me once I have blogged on. It's between me, the circling shoal of out to get me Piranhas; a loaded gun; an Exocet missile; a suicide wish; the Chief Whip; and the save button.
I wonder why more MPs don't blog?
My last radio interview : ) Listen to the Broadcast here
Sorry - forgot to mention - Iain Dale is running a Top Ten blogs thing, "Iain and his lists, honestly" we all say but are all addicted and look to see where we are. If you rate this blog, along with others, could you email your list to firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in September.
Losing it live
Posted Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 16:40
This file is being loaded under pressure from the staff in my office. Not having heard the interview yesterday they rang BBC 3 Counties to see if they could have a listen, whereby they were informed the interview had been clipped and re played throughout the day. 3C had also added an amusing backing track. They edited out the sound of the dropped cup of coffee!
So, from the back room staff - Peter, Pippa, and the interns - here's me 'losing it' on the Radio!!
I will be posting my final blog before the holiday tomorrow.
Listen to the Broadcast here
You Do Ron Ron
Yesterday, whilst catching a late breakfast, I agreed to a radio interview with my local BBC Radio Station - 3 Counties Radio - http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties/ <http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties/> regarding the impending parliamentary recess.
After a year of seven days a week, I make no apologies for hitting the sunlounger in August with a book in my hand that has absolutely nothing to do with politics.
However, in September it's back to work and the long recess myth I am afraid is just that, a myth.
The interview was with Ronnie Barbour http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties/content/image_galleries/local_radio_presenters_gallery.shtml?3 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties/content/image_galleries/local_radio_presenters_gallery.shtml?3> and I had a full cup of coffee in my hand at the time.
Ronnie said something outrageous and completely unexpected , I laughed so much that I couldn’t sustain the weight of my mug and it crashed onto the plate, spilling coffee everywhere!
After the interview was over the producer Paul came quickly onto the line - I could hear him holding his breath as he said, “I’m sorry about that Nadine” but it was fine.
I was in holiday about to begin mode, and anyway, any woman who says she doesn’t like flattery, is not speaking the truth??
Action Needed On Sexual Health
Posted Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 10:49
Click here to read an article I have written today for ConservativeHome.
Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 12:48
There has been much joy over the last few days as Sam Coates from Conservative Home - the surrogate son I borrow from his real Mum and Dad, Pam and Dave - has become the new deputy speech writer for David Cameron.
I hope the local Liverpool papers cover the story as there will be a lot of very proud people in Crosby. But no one - and he will probably kill me for saying this - is as proud as Tim Montgomerie.
It was Tim who originally spotted and nurtured Sam's talent and has invested two and a half patient, tolerant and kind years, in someone he knew would one day become a great asset to the Conservative Party.
I suppose the good thing is, there is now a vacancy for a new protégé. It will take some doing to find another Sam though, who really is an incredibly special and gifted young man.
Deep, clever and wise far beyond his years, with an amazing sense of humour, that you only really tap into when he knows you well - he will be an absolute asset to David's team.
Sunday morning ....
Posted Sunday, 13 July 2008 at 12:54
I’ve just had the second text message asking am I one of the female Tory MPs in the Mail on Sunday story/
No, I absolutely am not. If there is a female Tory MP (and I have serious doubts) creating such a story in the national press, I’m not sure who they would be hurting the most.
Caroline, by dragging into the spotlight an issue which hurts her children terribly before her enquiry has been completed, or Eric - who is just a great man and deserves no bad press.
Following the establishment of the A list, the huge number of top female candidates about to storm into Westminster and David’s commitment to more women at the top, it would be crazy to suggest that one unique case represents an indication of how any future cabinet or front bench would look.
David will do what is best for the party, as any leader would – period.
Beverley & Holderness
Posted Friday, 11 July 2008 at 13:45
A slightly different Friday. As soon as my last appointment is over I am off up the motorway to Beverley and Holderness which is the constituency of Graham Stuart MP.
Graham led the tremendous campaign against the closure of cottage hospitals. I have known Graham for quite some years now. After being selected for Mid Bedfordshire late on a Saturday night, I didn’t sleep again until the early hours of the Monday morning.
I drove around every inch of the constituency on the Sunday. An official tour with Ashley, the Chairman of my association, and then on my own.
Graham was one of the phone calls plugged into my earphones and chatted to me whilst I drove. He was genuinely thrilled for me. He is a true friend, one of those rare MPs who gives good advice with no self interest attached; and therefore it will be a total selfless pleasure to make the ten hour drive, there and back!!!
Posted Thursday, 10 July 2008 at 16:56
It appears the Government may have learnt a lesson from the Crewe and Nantwich by election – that being, best not push through and whip stuff the general public, a) don’t agree with, or b) know is wrong, or c) could imprison innocent people.
Glasgow East has a large Catholic population, which would be appalled at some of the amendments which have been laid down to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and would be voted through with Government assistance.
For example, one amendment which would have had almost full Government support, would have permitted home abortions.
This would have resulted in girls as young as 13 being left to take a pill whilst probably in their bedroom, alone. Many wouldn’t have told their parents. They would experience pain like they didn’t know was possible, bleed like they could never have imagined and then be expected to flush their baby down the toilet.
Would the residents of Glasgow East be appalled at this? You bet, as would be the rest of the country.
With the kind of coverage and scrutiny the Bill on Monday would create, the Government are now back pedalling like crazy – what was a plan to schedule the really un-popular gory legislation until the very end of Parliament - just before the House rises for recess - has now backfired and is once again slap bang in the middle of the public eye - or it was until it was pulled today.
A serious indication of how scared they are of losing Glasgow East and the public backlash the Bill would incur.
Too late . Everyone knows where the Government stands on this legislation and they don’t like it. Too late.
Deal or no deal?
Posted Thursday, 10 July 2008 at 12:47
Yesterday was another day, and another public meeting. This time at Marston Moretaine, regarding the proposed eco town.
Over 200 people attended, many stood outside the doors in the car park.
As always it is good to see a community come together, albeit drawn by a single issue which presents an awful threat to that particular community's way of life.
A new issue to have arisen since the last public meeting is the news that one of the developers has withdrawn from the project.
This is the third developer on a national level to have withdrawn from an eco town.
Earlier this week Chase Holdings in Birmingham, a huge developer largely responsible for rebuilding the city, called in the administrators - times are not good for developers, and they are probably going to get much worse.
If you are a developer investing in a government backed and proposed project, you will be selling the very fact - that it's backed by the government - very hard indeed to your potential investors.
Each developer is facing two years of working up the project which will come at a fairly substantial cost.
There may be a change of government in 2010 and if it’s the Conservatives that take power we have said very clearly – if local people don’t want it, it won't happen.
The single most important assets owned by developers are their land banks and they depend very heavily on external investors. Those investors need certain assurances, such as, when is my exit and how much do I make?
They also like to see a nice clean project without too many glitches or problems to hold the project up and delay their exit strategy.
The problem is, investors are beginning to see through the hype and hear the protestors, they are getting cold feet and who can blame them? In light of the protests and weak proposals set on the table, as an investor you would look for reassuring ‘noises off’ from government , something to calm your nerves.
What you hear is Caroline Flint annunciating very clearly and slowly on the television when interviewed, “This is not a done deal”.
She has said it over and over again, very deliberately, at every meeting , in the Chamber and each time she has been on television.
Is she commercially naïve? Does she not realise it is a disastrous thing to say for those developers, who she expects to make this project happen?
Or is this her way of making a project that her heart is very plainly and clearly not in, fall and collapse?
Maybe she will tell us soon - deal, or no deal.
Thanks to Hugh and everyone who organised and attended last night's meeting, great to meet you all.
Thank you to the local bobby on the beat who came along too, Marston Moretaine is very lucky to have such a knowledgeable and committed officer.
See you all on the march!
Posted Wednesday, 9 July 2008 at 12:10
It doesn't matter where I go, or who I speak to, everyone has an opinion regarding the demise of the Labour Government.
They need Milliband, or Straw, or Balls people say, they will get Harman, darling of the Labour Unions thinks I.
To be fair, that has been the rumour wafting around the Westminster corridors for some time, like the ghost of a lonely ball of tumble weed.
A rumour which didn't really catch on, because it was too incredulous for anyone to believe.
I believed it.
I have faced this woman close up - I watched her in action during the abortion vote. Simon Walters in the Mail On Sunday described her as Harriet Hardwoman, and he was right, she was.
She whipped that vote in a way which delivered victory for the pro-abortion New Labour women and terrified Labour men.
She did it for the girls, so that's that box ticked then. 97 votes in the bag.
She is of course the wife of Jack Dromey, Deputy General secretary of the TGWU - an old boiler of a union girl herself, there's another box ticked and another shed load of votes to her name.
Harriet is without doubt leadership posturing, she could now be leaking, ready for a summer of conjecture and media speculation - if this is the case, she will have tacit approval from her MP peers and comrades. It will all be part of a plan organised with military precision.
Get the idea out there over the summer. There's nothing the media love more when Parliament is in recess than speculation of a leadership bid to fill up the column inches.
Will there be a leadership bid?
If Labour lose the Glasgow East by-election with a fair degree of shame and let's face it, with a leaderless Scottish Labour party and delays in selecting their candidate, it's highly likely, then it's also fair to speculate that Gordon's days may be over.
It's too soon and too risky for the Lochinvars to mount their chargers. There is a bride to be rescued, but not yet.
Milliband knows his time is yet to come, somewhere in the distant future.
I'm sure that in his private moments he sees himself as the saviour of the Labour party, the new Blair facing the same challenges, history repeating itself. He will one day charge in and lift up his party rescuing it from a dreadful fate, but not yet. For now, he will circle his steed at the church door and bide his time.
Its the hardwomans turn, her day has come, and God help anyone who stands In her way.
The only likely opponent would be Straw, a nice man, but frankly you have to take your hat off to Harriet, she has way out manoeuvred him.
Harman will become our Howard, a caretaker leader who will take Labour into defeat but at least it will be an interesting defeat, we won't all be bored into the ground.
There will be left wing arguments of principle and tactics reminiscent of days gone by, when Parliament buzzed and was interesting.
And what do I think of all this? Well an old Labour lag said to me yesterday "It's all your bloody fault" I was genuinely shocked, however, he reckons the abortion vote gave her the vehicle and the platform she needed to move her case up within the party and secure her the vote of the Labour women.
It ignited the media and the public. BBC Parliament viewing figures rose to 1.5million during the debate, the highest recorded. My blog took 70,000 hits that day alone and almost 700,000 during the month. The country was in suspense awaiting the outcome.
She won, by foul means not fair but she won. It was a victory whatever.
Today she is taking PMQs, I'm quite sure the thought 'what if' will be floating around the Chamber.
The photo above is of Harriet watching me deliver my abortion speech in the chamber. It was the only time she came in and she stood behind the speakers chair to watch, something to do with fingerprints I think!
Posted Tuesday, 8 July 2008 at 16:11
The Daily Telegraph has run on the front page today with a story regarding the deluge of liberalising abortion amendments which have been laid down by Evan Harris MP and John Bercow MP.
Despite the shocking rise in the number of abortions which take place each year, against the backdrop of statistics which show that we now have children aborting, Harris and Bercow both think that the answer, is to send out the message that abortion is no big deal and let's have more.
I think the amendments tabled by both men amount to a form of legislative abuse of women. They display no care or attention to the effects of abortion on women and a complete disregard towards any moral direction of our young people.
Both are clever men. Both know that societal behaviour is affected by the legislative framework within which society operates.
Imagine if we passed a law to de-criminalise knife carrying?
You could argue that only people who need to carry a knife will, but of course we all know that's not the case - as a result of the message we would have sent out, knife carrying would increase - the same will be true if their amendments are successful - the number of abortions will increase.
I would have thought that it would be hard to beat Evan Harris in his evangelical pursuit of gynaecological blood sports.
Bercows amendment seeks to criminalise any doctor of conscience who provides counselling or guidance to any woman seeking an abortion, with two years imprisonment. In fact, it goes even further than that, as picked up by Simon Chapman on Conservative Home http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/07/bercow-speak-th.html
Wether these amendments are selected or not, one has to ask the question why?
Posted Sunday, 6 July 2008 at 17:06
If you have ever wondered why people join a political party, I am about to tell you.
Each year Canfield branch in my constituency hold a summer party. The ladies of Canfield work like busy bees for days before.
The village hums with the sound of baked ham and poached salmon simmering away. Everything is prepared from first principle and they lay on something which can only be compared to a feast.
Mention the word Costco and it will illicit the same reaction you would get if you told someone you had a fungal fingernail infection, after you shook hands.
The Coronation Chicken is like no other I have ever tasted and is infused with fresh shredded Mango.
The cakes, oh my goodness the cakes, you have no idea. Each one is the size of an average 22” television and the chocolate cake is made with just that, masses of chocolate. Masses of it, with chocolate clotted cream. The Vicar of Dibley would love to have been a guest.
I’ve only ever seen catering Lasagne in the tins they bake the Crème Brulee.
80 people turn up and everyone just relaxes and has a great time. I imposed myself on everyone’s table, and then I found a stool by a lovely warm Aga in the gorgeous farmhouse kitchen, and everyone found me.
There was something so traditional and enjoyable about the whole thing and of course the best bit is that I get to talk to everyone for hours in a relaxed and happy atmosphere.
So, if you want to eat some seriously good nosh and get to spend some time bending your MPs ear, I suggest you join your local association. It costs £15 per year, there are lots of functions to put in your social diary and if you are from Mid Beds email my office from the web page and we will put you in touch with the right person.
To the ladies of Cranfield, who I am not going to name for fear I will miss a name out, you seriously need to enter yourselves for Master Chef!
Right now, I have to go for a very stiff walk!
Posted Friday, 4 July 2008 at 15:33
I've just completed one of the those surveys for the new Total Politics website.
Is this one of those things that may come back to haunt me? It already has!! I missed Guido off the list of favourite blogs... that's me.. doomed for sure!
Click here to see the survey.
Posted Friday, 4 July 2008 at 11:57
I arrived at a Center Parcs meeting at the Rufus Centre in Flitwick last night, in time to pin down Directors on matters such as recruitment, particularly for local construction workers.
Earlier this week I met with Mid Beds light hauliers who attended a protest at the House of Commons - many are beginning to find it difficult as the credit crunch begins to bite and the housing market slows down.
One particular family who came to see me, run a small light haulage business in Mid Beds, of which 7 members of 3 families are employed.
The government's proposals on Vehicle Excise Duty and rising taxation have all but sent this family to the wall financially - it is a common story.
I am going to work with Center Parcs whilst they are drawing up their recruitment plan, to ensure that as many local tradesman and businesses, particularly small family firms, benefit.
If you are a constituent and run a business which you think could provide a service to Center Parcs during the establishment and construction phase, or when it is up and running, and you wish to register an interest, shortly we will be posting the details as to where to apply.
Or alternatively, please feel free to email my office and we will hand your details over personally.
Posted Thursday, 3 July 2008 at 13:32
Honestly, I don’t know what everyone is going on about – you only have to pop into Keith Vaz’s office to see the ‘appropriate reward’ that Geoff Hoon was referring to.
Well, actually, the thing is you can't get into Keith Vaz’s office, because it’s gone.
My suspicions were aroused last week when I noticed the decorators arrive.
Blimey was my first thought, that’s quick, you would have thought they would let the fuss die down first. This was obviously a 42 day deal in action.
My second thought was how this was a deal Gordon wouldn’t have flinched at.
DUP members £30 million each, Keith Vaz a coat of eggshell and a quick gloss over .
So this was the reward, use your Home office select committee report and your persuasive powers as Chairman of said select committee standing to persuade Labour MPs to vote for 42 days, and we will make sure your sitting pretty, literally.
However, it appears Keith Vaz may have driven a harder bargain because it appears he has moved to a ‘new office’ as his name has just been taken off the door. The decorators are making it nice for someone new.
So there you go, use your persuasive powers and position to help Gordon and you will get a nice new office. Now, where is his new office? In the Lord's maybe?
At this point I have to declare an interest;
a) I really like Keith Vaz.
b) I really need a new office.
Posted Tuesday, 1 July 2008 at 12:33
Yesterday was a day of noisy protest as those opposed to the ‘eco-scam’ or ‘eco-sham’ descended upon London to make their voices heard.
Grant Shapps MP gave a tremendous rallying, inspiring and informed speech to those who could fit into Committee Room 14 under the watchful eye of Gladstone.
The fight continues as we attack this weak government, which in its disarray continues to impose top down diktats.
If I have achieved anything as a blogger, it has been my ability to unite left wing bloggers, who are by nature a divided and argumentative group (as one recently told me).
Their poor writing, viscious invective, bad language and inter-group warfare fades into nothing whenever my name is mentioned or written about, as they all dive in for the attack. I am apparently the absolute hate figure of the left wing bloggers.
Now, why would that be I wonder?
If anyone is interested by the way, May was a record month with 674,000 hits - June was down a bit to 547,000.
I can't actually believe those figures - what's going on?