Posted Sunday, 31 May 2009 at 22:44
I love Sunday night. It's the whole end of the weekend, cheese and biscuits, bottle of red and a chill out movie thing.
Tonight the movie was, The Holiday.
Up until now I thought that movie contained all my favourite things.
Jude Law, and cute little girls like mine once were. Shakespeare, (journeys end with lovers meeting) pretty cottages, cabbage roses, great music, America, a happy ending.
Tonight was spoilt. Iris, (Kate Winslet) a journalist, ran into her office to finish her copy. Jasper, the love rat reporter walked in. She clicked the mouse and ping, up came the name of her employer on the screen - The Daily Telegraph.
Weekend over, film spoilt. Fast forward to Monday morning and Westminster, just like that!
Posted Sunday, 31 May 2009 at 14:01
Posted Saturday, 30 May 2009 at 23:28
A perma tanned man in a suit, with a PR company and a film crew flew in and out of Woburn yesterday.
The film crew rang me later and gave me a low down on the proceedings. I think they may have found the funniest moment when the suit told the camera that it had always been interested in politics. At this point a very cheeky young girl (I have no idea who she was!) was hovering around and making one or two inappropriate but extremely funny comments, however, the suit was not impressed. Sounds like a very badly brought up young lady to me.
Since expense gate (when will we stop adding the word ‘gate’ onto the end of every Westminster crisis?) I haven’t been out locally.
It doesn’t matter how much you explain things, there is a fear that some people will only make a connection between the DT and your name to assume you are guilty. Hence my point of the danger in conflating the serious fraudsters with the administrative errors. All are judged equally guilty.
My neighbour was getting fed up with my hermit existence and dragged me down to the pub. We got to the door of the local but I didn’t want to go in, so we went down the road to a pub where I thought they didn’t know me as well. Wrong, but ok. Nice people.
This gave me the courage to move back up the road to the local. Although Andy the manager will probably never read this blog, I just wanted to say thank you. I was just so incredibly touched by the welcome I got when I walked in.
I was given so many hugs that I thought my ribs were going to break. And so many drinks I had to leave them behind. Apparently, a very badly behaved young lady drank them all after I left.
Waiting up tonight for paper review. Somehting I used to enjoy.
Three into two wont go...
Posted Friday, 29 May 2009 at 00:35
I have been contacted by many parents and teachers on both sides of the three tier two tier argument and asked to take a position and head up a campaign.
Readers of the blog will know that the last time this debate arose, I took up the three tier position. I think our finest hour came during the debate at Harlington upper School, when I addressed a packed meeting and we managed by fair means (and sneaky!) to convince the councillors that three was what parents wanted.
That was during our days as a County Authority. Things are once again under review as we step into the new age of Unitary and I have decided that this time my position is going to be slightly different.
I think parents and teachers should be given a referendum on what it is they want to see in terms of educational provision across Bedfordshire.
The switch from three to two will cause a huge amount of upheaval and there is no doubt that the transitional phase will affect the educational outcomes of those children caught in the transition.
Last time I held an online poll and asked parent to vote on my web site stating their preferred choice.
I’m going to do the same again and use the result as a platform for a wider referendum.
David Cameron is committed to handing the power for local decisions back to local people. If you would like to become involved in the campaign we are putting some information together to send out so please email my office and we will get back to you.
It is right and fair that if such a huge decision is to be taken about something which affects every parent, child, teacher and school that those people affected directly should have the final say.
Each child only gets one chance at an education. If there are going to be structural changes which cannot take place overnight, we had better be sure that it’s what the majority want and are prepared to back.
Office email; email@example.com
Please forward this blogpost onto other parents who may be interested.
And now for something completely different.....My Hawk Flight
Posted Thursday, 28 May 2009 at 10:28
Before I write this blog I should clarify that not a penny of tax payer’s money was used during the Hawk flight. I literally ‘hitched’ a ride on a training flight.
On a daily basis I find myself more interested in defence and the status of our military. I think it began on my first visit to an air base in my constituency and realised that the families of serving personnel did not receive the same access to dental or health care as the serving member of the military, despite the fact that families had to go through upheaval and leave their existing healthcare arrangements each and every tour.
The price our forces pay for our freedom, sometimes with a life, is the highest possible price and I do not believe that nearly enough respect or appreciation is shown.
I am also as concerned as everyone else that our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were expected to fight with sub standard equipment and I feel that this level of inferior care and attention to detail is one which is reflected in the British attitude towards our hero’s.
On Friday a WREN asked me was I a Conservative, and then followed with “great, the Conservatives are always good to the Military”. In the midst of a turbulent week, that made me proud.
My visit to RAF Boscombe Down was one that many MPs with an interest in defence undertake and the trip in the Hawk was a way of demonstrating the level of expertise and training which our pilots undergo in order to be ready for combat.
The Hawk is used to train pilots who then fly the Typhoon/Eurofighter.
My pre-flight briefing took a while. If I was told once “we want you to have a positive experience”, I was told it a hundred times. Which made me very suspicious!
The ejector seat briefing was quite long and included a detailed step by step video. I wanted to tell them half way in that they had completely lost me. I made the decision there and then that if I ejected, I would just pray pretty hard.
The big pack behind me in the photo is the ejector seat pack. It has so far saved the lives of around 120 pilots.
The word eject is never mentioned in the cockpit, ever. I was relieved to hear this as my biggest worry had been hearing the word eject, and not being sure. When you first enter the cockpit, just before take off the conversation is – “don’t forget if you hear the word we don’t mention to close your eyes”. This is because once you have pulled the lever; the cockpit explodes to let you out.
The squiggly lines on the picture I took in flight are in fact the explosives.
On my trip we pulled 4.5 G and flew at 480 miles per hour.
I was amazed that the whole time the pilot flew with the map in his left hand and was constantly looking out of his window for other planes. The entire flight is on visual.
When we saw a flight above us to the east, Gaz, my pilot wiggled the wings to make sure we had been seen and the other plane wiggled his back to let us know he had spotted us.
I can not describe in words how pulling G feels. Gaz, took me up in incremental stages. 1.5, then up and up. The feeling starts inside your skull, it’s like your brain is collapsing in on itself and your cheekbones are being forced down.
When we got to about +2 the anti-G suit began to kick in. A very weird experience. That starts in your legs and works its way up. At 3.5 it was almost full on, the pressure of the suit pushing the blood back up from my legs back to the vital organs.
You can see by the post flight picture how pale my pallor is. It does do weird things to you for a little while afterwards.
I was told I would take the day to recover and be wobbly afterwards. I wasn’t wobbly and didn’t feel any different at all when we landed.
In terms of the fun stuff, we did two loop the loops. Gaz did the first one and then I did the second, (or so he let me believe!). We did some very hard turns and then a half Cuban
It is a very weird experience looking up from the glass bubble and seeing rooftops!
The hour flew by. I still can’t believe that at 300mph we banked right, and low over a lake, so low, I could see sticks floating on the top as I looked straight down into the water. I found it hard not to suppress a giggle into the O2 mask at this point.
I did not vomit. A badge of honour apparently. David Davis, as in ex SAS, did vomit when he took his a few years ago. Even though I say it myself a grin of begrudging respect did cross his face when he heard this information.
I also ate a full lunch, including a chocolate muffin, half an hour before we were airborne.
I was in awe of Gaz. His knowledge, skill, expertise, bravery, commitment, intelligence, experience. How lucky we are to have such people serving in our forces.
As far as I am concerned, defence is possibly one of our most important budgets. One of my three and comes under the heading, ‘keeping people safe’.
Thanks guys for a fantastic time. Thanks Colin for coming in especially for me. Thanks to the G suit fitters who SO, so, so obviously thought I was never even going to make it as far as the tarmac, and was in fact wasting their time J
And finally, thanks to the Air Commodore for arranging the flight, it was a truly amazing experience.
All's Fair in War and Politics
Posted Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 15:16
The local press are picking this up now, I will leave it up to them.
Anyone who reads this blog will understand that I have the hugest regard for all serving military personnel, TA, Army, Navy and Air Force and consider myself very lucky indeed to have two bases in my constituency. RAF Henlow, Chicksands and a TA training base.
I talk to many soldiers, regular and TA before they leave to serve, and as detailed in my blog, 'A Soldiers Tale', when they arrive home. I know and understand well exactly the danger and the operations they engage in.
However, the one thing I have learnt over the last few weeks is that in the battlefield of politics, one needs to be absolutely honest AND precise. Nothing less will do.
Posted Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 10:32
Mike Smithson, of the utterly brilliant http://politicalbetting.com/
has called me Nad, thanks Mi J
Thank you also for you projection regarding the Mid Beds constituency. As you are known as the God of all political projections, I take comfort.
Why I Did What I Did
Posted Monday, 25 May 2009 at 14:00
I have spent the last 48 hrs in bed. I told everyone it was a bad tummy, it wasn't, I had reached the point of stress induced physical exhaustion.
The nausea had soared to the point of physically debilitating me, and so I gave in.
Lying down was a mistake. Once I had done that, lifting my head from the pillow became a physical impossibility, for almost 24 hrs.
I felt as though Smeargate, my run in with the Daily Telegraph (DT), after I published their letter to me on my blog, the last few days along with all the usual MP and mother work, had morphed into a physical being and were collectively leaning over my bed, rubbing their hands together in glee and squealing "that's it, she's down!”
As always, I will qualify what I am about to say with the acknowledgment that I was as shocked and appalled as everyone else at the revelations of fraud and wrong-doing. Like everyone else, I am still reeling from the knowledge, that a sovereign system had allowed, enabled, and encouraged non-existent mortgages to be claimed for. The process of house flipping was as much news to me as everyone else. Frankly, even if I had used the ACA to buy a house, it is not something which would ever even occur to me to do, not in a million years.
My surgeries are full of people at their wits end. The redundant, the broken and the poor. I meet, see and talk to these people almost every single day.
I have been, at sometime or other, all of those people.
That is why I took their anger as read. I felt it too.
I believe it is right of the DT to bring this issue out into the open. I praise their exposure of fraud and mis-appropriation.
However, it is wrong to conflate the deadly serious with the mildly embarrassing and genuine administrative errors. By doing that you deem the truly innocent, wholly guilty, make it impossible for the public to understand where to direct their anger, create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity, which in turn, threatens democracy itself.
Does the DT have an agenda other than the desire to perform a public service?
Why would they expose this fiasco at the start of an election campaign if the priority was not to de stabilise the main political parties and to drive votes towards the minority parties?
I cleave to my original substantive point. If it's in the name of the public good, do it all in one day. Get it all out there. One big explosive edition. Let the guilty be found, the mistakes be rectified and the innocent go about their lives free from the potential impending ducking stool.
Is there not something slightly hypocritical about the DT increasing its revenue by an estimated £1 million per day in the name of public good?
Whilst democracy teeters on the brink of collapse, the DT is laughing all the way to the bank.
You would never allow a business to freefall in the way we were allowing the mother of all Parliaments to spin out of control.
My colleagues, my innocent colleagues, were literally being made physically ill by the bullying process deployed by the DT, as part of the drip, profit, drip, profit technique.
If I had to use one word to describe any personal quality I possess, it is loyalty.
I would never betray a friend and I always instinctively, fiercely, protect those I care for. Seeing the innocent amongst my colleagues, from all political parties, on all sides of the house, suffer in this way and threading together what I saw with what I have explained above seriously worried me. When I heard two MPs discussing how very concerned everyone was about an MP who was ill and was being persued by the DT for an admin error, I worried too.
I had no idea that the few words on my blog, written from a perspective of concern and care, would result in another 24 hrs of frenetic media or be quoted as the second item on the Today programme. I had only stated what was blindingly obvious to anyone and everyone who had been in Westminster that week.
I should mention at this point that I was 100% behind David Cameron's strong position of punishing the fraudsters. It has to be done. But the innocent needed to be cared for and protected too. David Cameron faces a huge challenge, to be the man who brings forward proposals which will bring about a new sense of security. the country needs to know it's safe in his hands. Only when people begin to feel secure again will calm be restored.
I didn't sleep at all on Friday night.
I knew that the following morning there was a chance I could be slaughtered in the papers.
That people may misinterpret my concern as an excuse for those who had committed serious fraud. Or that I was in some way excusing the ridiculous behaviour of someone who thought a second home for ducks was an appropriate use of tax payer’s money.
I was much relieved at first light that the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk leader had agreed with me, using the headline 'the witch hunt has to stop'.
The Archbishop of Canterbury had also written an article in the Times calling for 'the end of the ritual humiliation', and two of my favourite journalists Matthew Paris in the Times for whom I have the hugest admiration and respect and Danny Finkelstein, ditto, had written supporting my position in Matthew’s case, and me personally in Danny's. Thank you so much Danny ( I had read the book too!).
As well as waiting during the night on Friday to see if my career was in tatters, I also had to deal with the minor problem of the Barclay Brother’s use of global lawyers and the removal of my blog site on behalf of the Telegraph Group.
At 1am I felt as though I was in a very surreal place. This was just little me, and two of the richest men in the world who own a newspaper empire and can pretty much say what they want, when they want, to who they want, had, using their wealth and muscle, shut me down.
It was shortly after reading the Saturday morning press when realising that with the Archbishops comments, that at least I had God on my side, I began to vomit.
My whole-hearted apologies to Cara at Sky, who got the first audio clip.
My phone rang an hour ago. A very tearful, upset female MP, wrongly targeted by the DT. Her husband's company had received hate emails. The press were camped outside her house in a pack. Her very young son, unknowingly holding telephone conversations with journalists, even though he had told them mummy wasn't in. Her life and her family in bits, and in her case the DT have got it completely wrong. Decent people do not like to see the innocent victimised. I suspect this wont stop until June 5th, the day following the election. By which time much more harm than good may have been done.
She, one of the many good, is suffering as a result of the rotten minority.
I knew on Friday morning that I had walked into the eye of a storm. I also knew that in voicing concern for all but the immoral, corrupt fraudsters and the totally ridiculous, I would become a conduit for the anger which had yet to be earthed.
Never again must democracy be threatened or the innocent be victimised. A system is required which rewards in a fair way and is totally beyond corruption.
I finish on my initial point. If the Telegraph are doing this not for the advantage of minority parties, not to destabilise democracy, not to make themselves even wealthier, then handle it better. Leave the innocent alone and publish the guilty all on one day. Because if democracy is damaged as a result of a minority of fraudsters and crooks, we will all, in the long term, be much worse off than we are today.
We may even see a return to the dark days when only the rich can afford to stand as an MP and as someone from a council estate, that for me would be the saddest day.
Posted Friday, 22 May 2009 at 11:40
I'm taking them off for the Bank Holiday weekend. Sorry!
What Stephan said and Martin Bell knew
Posted Friday, 22 May 2009 at 10:22
During an interview on the R4 Today programme (and about a dozen times since) I said the following - ish:
" No Prime Minister has ever had the political courage to award MPs an appropriate level of pay commensurate with their experience, qualifications and position; as recommended by the SSRB, year after year.
Prior to my intake in 2005, MPs were sat down by the establishment and told that the ACA was an allowance, not an expense, it was the MP's property, in lieu of pay; and the job of the fees office was to help them claim it."
Whatever opinion you may have about that, and I have my own, you cannot ignore the fact that this was the system put into place, because no Prime Minister ever, including my heroine, has had the political courage to address the issue. Everyone in the political and media world knew it.
At a drinks party the other evening, I had a conversation with Stephan Shakespeare the owner of YouGov. I put to him that MPs prior to my intake had been told for many years that the ACA was in lieu of pay.
"Yes, we have all known that" said Stephan. "Everyone knows that, the question is how do you move forward, what will be put in its place?"
When Stephan said "we all" what he meant of course, was the political and media establishment.
The BBC knew it. Every single journalist knew it. The interviewer on the Today programme this morning, who interviewed me, knew it; and Martin Bell probably knew it because he was given the same rule book as everyone else, when he became an MP 12 years ago. He was also, allegedly, the best friend of the Labour party as detailed in Alastair Campbell's diaries.
The system was a disgrace, an appalling disgrace; but it was the system and everyone knew it.
If MPs prior to 2005 were sat down and told "this is your pot of money with your name on it, and our job is to make sure you have it as it's really part of your salary," what difference does it make what it was spent on? They had been told it was their money - their salary. It was the wrong way to do things; but it was how it was done, and been done for a long, long time - MPs knew no different.
The technique deployed by the Telegraph, picking off a few MPs each day, emailing at 12 giving five hours notice to reply, recording the conversation, not allowing them to speak, shouting over them when they try to explain, telling them they are going to publish anyway, at day 15, is amounting to a form of torture and may have serious consequences.
MPs are human beings like everyone else. They have families too. McCarthyite witch hunts belong to the past, not the present. As do archaic, cowardly, methods of pay.
If MPs are guilty, so are those who knew the system was in place, including the Telegraph journalists who have now decided for their own political reasons to expose the system, in a way which profits the Telegraph, for their own reasons.
Posted Thursday, 21 May 2009 at 11:12
I've finished going through all my receipts and thought I had better make some things crystal clear:
I do NOT own a home in South Africa.
I do NOT own a home from which I receive a rental income.
I do rent a home/office in my constituency which is paid for by the ACA. The Green Book rules state ' if an MPs designated main home is not in either London or the constituency the ACA can be used to buy or rent in either'.
There is no stipulation on nights to be spent in either location.
I chose to rent in the constituency and not buy.
I do, from my own money, pay for a rental property I have designated as my main home. It is near the former marital home where my children were born and went to school; and where my youngest lived permanently, and attended school until September 2008.
I will buy again when the market settles down.
I have not used the ACA to buy furniture, sofas, plasma screen TVs, gardening, decorating, home repairs or any luxury items.
I did use it to buy a cooker, table dryer, desk, computer table and storage boxes from Ikea as one off relocation costs in the first year.
I furnished the house with items from my main home, a couple of donations from my mother, and beds that I paid for myself from John Lewis.
I have not claimed the £400 per month food allowance.
I have not claimed the £250 petty cash each month.
I have purchased and lost two digital cameras at two garden fetes and broken a Sat Nav.
We have ordered chocolate biscuits and tea bags with our stationary rather than using petty cash.
I used a chartered accountant to make sure that HMRC received my correct tax payments.
The atmosphere in Westminster is unbearable. People are constantly checking to see if others are ok. Everyone fears a suicide. If someone isn't seen, offices are called and checked.
All because this country has never had a Prime Minister with the political courage to stand up to the British media, and award MPs the pay rise proposed year after year, by the Senior Salary Review Board.
Year after year the salary stayed the same; but the allowances were increased, were called allowances, not expenses, and MPs were told to use them.
I wonder how many people are aware, that if you are an MP and divorce, the courts base your maintenance payments to your husband/wife/children on a combination of your ACA and your salary.
This is because the ACA is classed as an allowance, not an expense account, and is considered by the court as the property of the MP.
An interesting legal point. One of the confusing facts, which has got us into this mess.
No MP must ever, ever have to vote for his or her salary again; and no Prime Minister should ever have the power to use MPs' pay as a political pawn.
Hopefully the good which will come from this will be radical reform, which will prevent such a disaster ever occurring again.
Posted Wednesday, 20 May 2009 at 17:56
A very senior member of the Labour party has told me that the party, almost en masse, will be voting for Bercow.
It means they can do the honourable thing and vote for a Conservative and not be seen to be partisan, "because Bercow's not really a Conservative anyway".
He said that the reason Michael Martin had failed was because he had become isolated, he had no friends. The reason Labour wont vote for Frank is because, he reckons, Frank is already isolationist and has no friends and therefore is already out of touch with the House.
I asked him how that logic worked as John Bercow could be described as isolationist also. "Ah, yes, but that doesn't matter because he's a Tory"?
Posted Wednesday, 20 May 2009 at 17:36
I met Esther Rantzen when I took part in Question Time in Birkenhead. She had just left the jungle. It appears that she may miss it as she wants to jump back into another.
Not being familiar with the lovey dovey actorish world, I made a huge faux pas with Esther.
My first mistake was to assume that she was as nice a person in real life as she appeared to be on the telly.
Sitting in the make-up chair, having arrived early, she burst into the make-up room, having arrived late (actorish trait No1).
She stood menacingly next to the chair, almost demanding to be made up. I was on the verge of ripping off the gown and hot footing it out of the chair; however, the firm but gentle hand of the make-up lady pushed me back down as she sweetly told Esther to take a chair, and wait her turn. She then whispered in my ear, she's a pro, don’t let her bully you. (Actorish trait No2, the star of the show gets her make-up done first and is almost always a bully).
Esther obviously thought she was the star.
Her grasp of issues was scant; however, she had obviously decided that a good way to get a cheer was to use every question as an opportunity to attack MPs. (Actorish trait No3 they blag it well).
I almost let her have it on the show when she made a huge mistake, and then looked confused. She spoke about an issue and then said, “like here in Liverpool”. David Dimbleby made a very cutting comment as she was obviously looking at the crowd waiting for the applause that never came. I wanted to say, “we aren’t in Liverpool Esther, it’s Birkenhead”, a big deal if you live on either side of the Mersey. I thought better of it and didn’t.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I am afraid that Esther’s bid at politics is a rather transparent attempt to eject herself into the public eye once again, and probably to get some work on the back of it.
Jeremy Brier the Conservative candidate has been working his backside off to unseat the highly unpopular Margaret Moran; and given the feed back on the street, he could well have done it.
Esther’s arrival on the scene will split the vote and guarantee Margaret Moran a return back to Westminster.
Listen to Jeremy’s explanation of this on the Victoria Derbyshire show.
Esther's answer on Newsnight when asked if she was going to stand was: “It depends on whether the people of Luton want me?”
No Esther, that’s what the people decide at a General Election – you have to decide whether you are going to stand.
Politics isn’t showbiz, it’s life; and if Esther thought the celebrity jungle was tough, she ain't seen nothing yet.
Posted Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 16:35
I got to know Frank well during the abortion debate. I am also the person who persuaded him to blog :)
He is a man of huge integrity, decency and compassion. He is also well liked and respected by everyone. He may be a Labour MP, however, I am sure he is going to be my choice.
Posted Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 14:52
I was sat close to him. I hated it. Totally hated it. The election for a new Speaker will now kick off in earnest and will dominate this place for weeks to come.
It just doesn't feel appropriate to blog about Boscombe Down today. I will leave it as something for the weekend.
Posted Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 13:45
For the sake of Parliament, I hope that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will walk in front of the cameras, and announce that whatever recommendations, which Sir Christopher Kelly may propose, will be abided by, to the letter.
And that when the time comes, whatever the reaction of the media, that they show strength, unity and leadership and keep to their word.
One of the causes of this mess is that every time the Senior Salary Review Board makes a proposal, every Prime Minister ducks it, including my heroine, Margaret Thatcher.
What is happening today is the Swiss cheese effect. It's not simply the performance of the Speaker that has brought us to where we are, or successive Prime Ministers, or MPs; it's a combination of circumstances, a multitude of holes and tunnels, which have all led to the same place.
I was shocked at the Speaker's performance yesterday. He is obviously a man in distress.
I hope my readers will forgive me for not rushing in to enjoy or relish the downfall of an otherwise good and kind man. Sometimes I am appalled at the lack of human kindness displayed in Westminster.
For his own sake and that of his health, he needs to do what he is about to do.
I don't think there is anyone in Westminster who doesn't feel shocked at the position in which we find ourselves.
The Speaker as the sacrificial lamb is not enough.
The three party leaders need to map a way through to a moral, honest, accountable high ground together, and fast.
Posted Monday, 18 May 2009 at 16:44
Nadine has landed safely and enjoyed it immensely (if a little shaken)!!
Message from Nadine
Posted Monday, 18 May 2009 at 12:46
Nadine will not be blogging now until tomorrow as she is at RAF Boscombe Down – weather is apparently windy!
Will the Queen be next?
Posted Monday, 18 May 2009 at 11:36
I'm afraid that I really don't support the motion to remove the Speaker.
I've said before that the Speaker's position and authority should be un-challenged. Over hundreds of years we have had good and bad Speakers, nice and nasty, competent and useless.
It is the only position, along with that of the Monarch, which I believe should remain un-challenged in order to carry the authority needed to execute the role with dignity whilst commanding respect.
It has been over 300 years since a Speaker was last challenged.
The speaker's chair holds the line in Parliament. We MPs dare not defy a speaker's ruling: that may all change now. The Speaker holds us in check, not always an easy task.
Speaker Martin, on behalf of all Speakers to come after him, must defy this motion and fight to retain the chair, whilst treading the fine line of deciding when would be the best time for him to go, and letting the House be aware.
If this motion succeeds where will it stop?
Will there ever again be any respect for tradition and heritage? For the procedures enshrined in stone, brought about by Cromwell and abided by since?
Will the Queen be next?
RAF Boscombe Down and operation Hawk
Posted Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 16:40
An early start tomorrow as I head for RAF Boscombe Down to meet my Air Commodore.
Tomorrow is operation Hawk day.
On Friday morning I had the official medical (including the undignified pot!) and was measured up for the ejector seat. I only just made it within normal ranges. If my arms had been a fraction shorter we would have had to abort this very important mission. And I would have been happy to. Being able to reach the ejector seat button is something I have to be able to do.
I was also told I couldn’t lose any weight this weekend as again, I just made it into normal ranges. If I do lose any weight and did have to press the ejector button, the seat would tumble over and over. I have to be weighed again just before we go up. So, I’m sat here eating a packet of Club biscuits.
I will be sat in the front seat and flying at up to 600 miles per hour and during the low level sortie, at only 2000 feet. That is going to be something.
I will also be wearing an anti G suit. For anyone who doesn’t get that, sat here, I am at G1.
When we turn we will go up to G4 – 5 which means my body weight will increase by 4- 5 times and my blood will drain from all my vital organs down into my boots.
The anti G suit will inflate at this point applying pressure balloons against my legs and stomach and will push the blood back up. I only have a low blood pressure anyway and so I reckon there could be a chance I will black out at this point. Good job the test pilot will be in the rear and in control!
When you are in space you are at negative G which is why you are weightless.
Can you imagine what it was like for our WW2 pilots who had to use the Valsalver movement when breathing to push the blood back up?
This is a picture of me with American pilot, Derek, who normally flies a T38 in the US.
We are stood in front of a framed picture which contains a folded American flag. That’s pride for you. Something we need to work hard at getting back in this country. Cleaning up the MP allowance system would be a good start.
We will blog a few naff pictures from the blackberry early, as once again, I’ve lost my camera. Budge, an ex pilot is taking me down in the morning with his camera and so we will post the better pictures later. We also hope to put a video on You Tube, if allowed.
I am taking an anti emetic before I go up and apparently it will take all day for me to recover.
I really can’t believe I’m doing this and so hope I don’t bottle out before take off.
Mail On Sunday
Posted Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 00:16
Have an article on me today which is just a joke. I haven't owned a holiday home in South Africa or owned a home in the Cotswolds since marriage split. As I have said over and over, I rent two homes. They probably got that information from the register which I probably havent up-dated but they really should have just asked me, they phone often enough!
They have written a dis-jointed article which I found difficult to understand, goodness knows how anyone else would be able to.
In one para they state, 'she rents a property in the Cotswolds just 100 miles from her constituency in Bedfordshire'. Meaning what exactly?
Posted Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 23:16
Have deliberately mis-led people today.
Which is a shame. Until today it was the only news channel I trusted, not anymore.
During their news round up they had a full screen picture of me with the words ‘claimed £18,000 for second home whilst only owning one’.
All day I telephoned to tell them that since my status became single I don’t in fact own any homes, I rent two. The second of which is paid for by the ACA and the other by me.
It made no difference. The truth did not make good television.
Contact with the enemy is certain...
Posted Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 22:28
The Classical Brits was more amazing than I can say.
I sat next to Fergal Sharkey, remember him? He's now the CEO of UK Music and spending some of his time working with councils to open music and recording studios for kids who have a passion for music and who want to get into the industry but are trapped within the prison of poverty and seemingly un-attainable aspiration.
The photo is of Fergal and I and, at our feet paying homage to Fergal and my new shoes is John Wittingdale MP, Chairman of the Culture media and Sport Select Committee.
How can I explain what its like to be sat only feet from Placido Domingo and Katherine Jenkins as they sing the wonderful duet, A Mother's Wonderment?
Jose Carreras, Jonas Kaufmann, Alison Balsom, The Priests, Faryl Smith, they were all there.
The high spot of the night was something a bit special.
A distant memory from my childhood is of my Nana playing a Liberace LP and a particular tune.
Last night I watched Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock play Rhapsody In Blue on back to back pianos. It was incredible, I'm at a loss for words to describe how wonderful it was, and suffused with nostalgia. Whist watching in both awe and rapture, my memory brought a little extra to the performance. The smell of a Battenberg Cake.
Iain ,despite being slightly in awe of Jonathan Ansell who was also on our table, behaved himself. Well that was until I told Jonathan that Iain had all his 'records' (Iain's words, not mine) and could Iain have his photo taken with him?
Iain went all flirty and silly at this point. Can't imagine why.
Jonathan had been nominated for the album of the year award which was won by the Scots Dragoon Guards.
A young Sergeant, a drummer and a piper came onto the stage and played the spine tingling Amazing Grace.
When they finished the young Sergeant began his speech of thanks.
Rather than the usual list of people to thank, he chose to spend his moment on the stage encapsulating in just a few words the importance of public support for all our serving personnel.
He spoke of the message they receive when serving abroad just before leaving the base on an assignment.
The message may say 'contact with the enemy un-likely' or 'probable'. However the dreaded message is 'contact with the enemy is certain'
He then told us what it is that makes it possible for a soldier to carry on when he has received that message.
"It’s not the training or professionalism, or commitment. It’s knowing that they have the support of the people back at home, willing them on and supporting them."
Amongst all the glitter and glitz of the evening what none of us sat there knew was that at that moment a young man, having possibly received that message and having lost his life in combat, was being flown back to RAF Lynham and to people waiting at the gates to bring him home.
I had a lovely night out, rapidly followed by 24 hideous hours. It was only tonight whilst thinking on all the good wishes I have been sent from people today and all of the support that I have had from friends and neighbours, my local party and association, my Chairman, staff and colleagues, that I realised what I have had to put up with is as nothing to what those boys do week after week after week.
I suppose in my job contact with the enemy is certain on a daily basis, but at least, armed with just the facts, I live to fight another day.
Blogging on upcoming trip to RAF Boscombe Down tomorrow.
Jonathan Ansell, moi, and a dippy Iain :)
The Other Place
Posted Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 08:29
I had hoped that I could retain some of my private life and keep it just that, private. It appears that this is now impossible.
The Telegraph has every right to ask questions and to hold politicians to account for the way they spend public money. But their reaction when I told them I would publish my response to their allegations on my blog was revealing. It appears that the general public is only entitled to hear the Telegraph’s version of the truth if they pay for a copy of the Telegraph. They also felt it necessary to phone CCHQ with veiled threats about what they could do to me in the future if I dared to post the letter they sent to me on my blog before they published their own article in today’s newspaper. I am afraid that the Telegraph doesn’t appear to get the ‘new media’. If anyone is going to publish anything about me, I will do it myself, first.
Yes I do claim for my second home in Bedfordshire using my ACA. I rent it. I never felt comfortable buying using tax payers money.
I felt it very necessary that I should commute from my constituency to London on work days with the rest of my constituents, in the cattle truck trains, in the jams and delays even though I leave early in the morning and don’t arrive home most days until gone midnight, long after my fellow morning commuters are in bed.
But, yes, I do have another home. It was where I went to after I had finished my Parliamentary and constituency work and changed into a mother and looked after my girls. I lived in my main family Cotswold home until my marriage broke down in 2007. The family home was then sold. I then rented a home in the Cotswolds where my daughter went to school and where my ex husband looked after her from Monday to Thursday during school and Parliamentary term time. He then moved out before I arrived back and spent his time with a significant other and I stayed in the home, which I paid for from my own money. Sometimes, on the very late week nights I stay in London, at my own expense.
During Parliamentary recesses, when I am not in the constituency or the Cotswolds, I take my girls abroad. The rest of the time during weekends I finished work and spent my time in the Cotswolds preparing the week’s meals for my daughter, washing and ironing school uniforms, changing sheets, checking homework, and leaving to drive back to Bedfordshire when she was in bed late on a Sunday night when I had finished packing her school and PE bag and hanging the week’s uniforms on her wardrobe door, just before my ex husband came back to take over.
I never wanted my constituents to think that I had another prime responsibility other than Bedfordshire and Parliament; maybe I should have been more open.
My daughter was due to start boarding school in September but instead she started at a school in Bedford. At the weekends we go back to the Cotswolds together, or, if I have to work such as this weekend, we stay in Bedfordshire.
During the Parliamentary term time, it is unusual for me not to have a constituency engagement.
I spend more nights away from my constituency home than I spend in it and I use it for the purpose of my work. I do, however, retain the right to have my daughter, or daughter’s with me depending on who is with me at the time. It may only be a second home, however, it is a home.
So, to my constituents and no one else, I am sorry. My crime is that I haven’t owned up to you that I don’t always live here – that I have a private life, which has not always run smoothly. I couldn’t work harder for Bedfordshire than I already do - I have given it almost every day of my life since you elected me. In politics, my constituency always comes first, but in my private life my family does. I can’t apologise for that. What sort of person would I be if I did?
By trying to protect my girls and keeping the circumstances of my marriage break up private and the arrangements for looking after my youngest daughter in the family, I realise that I am in fact arousing suspicion.
I don’t have much more to say other than the posting of this blog will humiliate my daughters, but what else can I do? I have to make sure people understand that not everyone has a life which runs to plan. It really isn’t always a wonderful life and as a mother you just have to do what you have to do.
The Daily Telegraph
Posted Friday, 15 May 2009 at 16:02
Here is my letter from the Telegraph and my reply.
There is one thing I know about me better than anyone else. I never do anything I know to be wrong and I have common sense by the bucketful.
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Dear Nadine Dorries,
The Daily Telegraph is investigating the expense claims made by MPs under the Parliamentary additional costs allowance system since the 2004/05 financial year.
We are considering publishing an article in tomorrow’s newspaper (16th May 2009) which will contain details of your expense claims.
We are aware of the provisions of the statutory instrument passed by Parliament last July and will therefore not be publishing members’ addresses or any other details which could compromise security.
However, as a matter of legitimate public interest and concern, we intend to publish the following details about your expense claims under the Additional Costs Allowance. We would invite you to respond to the following points.
1. In 2006 you claimed for the cost of a hotel stay on New Year's Eve and another just a few days before Christmas, when the House was not sitting. Please can you explain why you felt this was an appropriate use of public funds.
I have never spent a New Years Eve away from my daughters and I have never spent it in a hotel, ever. In fact, New Years Eve 2006 is when I held a party and cooked a 12 bird roast and I blogged the entire evening. Anyone reading this can check it out.
The Telegraph has an invoice charged to MR N Dorries, which was submitted, but never paid. I don’t actually submit the invoices, my PA does, and that one may have been submitted in error, In error - because I never stayed at any hotel on New Years Eve ever if it had ever been paid it would have been refunded IMMEDIATLEY. What may have happened is that someone who is not a member of the Carlton Club may have booked a room in my name, friends do, however; my other point is that I am not even sure the Carlton Club is open over Xmas and New Year?
The fact is though that an invoice was submitted from my office, for a room I didn’t stay in, which is obviously an error and no money was paid to me for that invoice.
2. You also put in several hotel bills that included minibar drinks. Please can you explain why you felt this was an appropriate use of public funds.
Oh that the Carlton Club had mini bars in the rooms, it does not. If I ever bought a drink in the Carlton I paid cash. For some reason they are still listed on the invoice, however, they were not paid. I have not, to my knowledge ever received public funds to buy alcohol for either myself or visiting guests and constituents and do not think it would be an appropriate use of public funds. If that is the case and I am very happy to be proved wrong then I will not hesitate to refund. To think that that you could accuse me of behaving like a journalist shocks me.
3. When you moved out of your flat in Westminster, the fees office demanded repeatedly that you repay the £2,190 deposit but you did not and eventually they docked your rent claims in order to recoup the money. Please explain why you did not repay the deposit when asked.
Because the landlord was seriously dodgy and refused to pay back any of the deposit. The flat was left in an immaculate and pristine condition. Despite my threats of legal action which would have cost even more, I eventually gave up. I lost the £2,190 as a result of renting a flat in order to carry out my job. a months salary. The fees office should not have taken the money from me they should have chased the landlord for it. In fact, I want that money back! I will also ask my PA to post first thing on Monday morning the correspondence between myself and said dodgy landlord who doesn’t return deposits at the end of tenure.
4. Your file shows that you twice demanded that the fees office make "urgent" payments of several thousand pounds to your bank account and when one did not arrive immediately, a member of your staff rang and told them to "sort it out". Please explain why you felt this was appropriate.
5. Your file also complains of a "lack of co-operation" in completing the ACA forms correctly and complying with their requests for information about your addresses. Please explain why you did not co-operate with the fees office.
Answer to both above questions I am afraid result as a total lack of frustration towards a department which is frequently overworked and understaffed. The fees office continuously loses invoices, leases and payments. Sometimes I am thousands of pounds out whilst waiting to be paid. When I am told I can’t be paid because they have yet again, lost the invoice, I sometimes lose my rag. I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t, it’s just that I have other more important things to do and few hours to do them in.
I emailed the fees office with my change of house details at the same time as I told them to my whip in 2008.
6. Land Registry records show that your former family home in *************was sold in 2007. You have announced publicly that you have separated from your husband. Since then the only address on any of your files is your rented house in Bedford, on which you are claiming ACA. On this basis, we have reason to believe that you only live in one home and are therefore ineligible to claim an allowance for running a second home. While you have our assurance that we will not print your address, please state exactly where you consider your main home to be and in what way you are eligible to claim the second home allowance.
I have no intention of exposing every detail of my private existence, what little I have, on this blog. However, needs must. I rent a house/office/ surgery in my constituency. This house is used in connection with my duties as an MP. For example – this weekend I have had meetings all day Friday. I am presenting to a patients group in Barton-Le-Clay surgery on changes in the NHS tonight. I am canvassing Saturday and attending a church service on Sunday and then after the church service writing a speech for the Police and Crime Bill to be delivered next week.
On the weekends I have free, and during the recess, I go somewhere else. I am not publishing the address. I gave it to my whip and emailed it to the fees office in 2008. I spend most of the holidays abroad, all of which can be confirmed. My children stay with me when I am in the constituency, where I go my girls go, however, one also lives in London and one is at Uni. This has not always been the case. I now spend my late nights in London. At my own expense.
I keep the dogs at the constituency address as I am often there on my own and it confuses them being moved around. When I am not in the constituency, especially during the long summer break, we have a house sitter, at my expense. Again, this can be confirmed.
During term time I spend the majority of weekends in the constituency as my job tends to be seven days a week, as detailed above. My youngest daughter has attended a school in Bedford since last September. Up until September she attended a school ‘somewhere else’. My eldest daughter had a term time job during the last year in the constituency before commencing work in London in a PR firm.
My doctor, dentist and recent hospital treatment have all recently been undertaken ‘somewhere else’.
We do not presently see the justification for all of these claims under the rules or spirit of the rules set out in the Parliamentary Green Book. These stipulate that enhancing property is not allowed and that purchases which are "extravagant or luxurious" should be avoided.
What on earth are you talking about? Enhancing property?? Extravagant luxurious expenditure???
Please could we receive your comments by 5pm today so that they can be given due weight in our inquiries and properly reflected in any article we decide to publish. Please could you also inform us if you do not wish to comment.
You have my comments now. I will refute any accusations you wish to make against me, myself. Given that we all know the so called ‘chandelier; was in fact a paper lamp shade with glass beads hanging from the bottom you will excuse my not trusting you to give me a fair shout.
Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you shortly. I can be contacted on ******or ***********@telegraph.co.uk
You are very welcome, anytime.
Powder and Paint
Posted Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 14:13
Waiting for a meeting to start with David Cameron, George et al, and thought I would quickly powder my nose.
David came into the room behind me, and I just clocked him in the mirror before he leaned over my shoulder, and asked: "Is that Gordon's make-up you're using?"
As if! His shade is much darker than mine.
Posted Thursday, 14 May 2009 at 12:45
Within what or where you may ask? I’m not sure, but maybe this is what Hell feels like. It is so, so, awful, so depressing, so shocking. I just want to put my head under a duvet and come out when it’s all over.
I have my accounts ready to be examined by the scrutiny committee David has set up. I can’t wait. I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach for days.
I am watching people, that I have come to respect and like over the years, on the edge of tears and distraught; and there is nothing I can do to help.
I thought that the whole business of Sky flying over Stewart Jackson’s house (MP for Peterborough) was really awful.
Of course, what the paper didn’t say was that the house is an absolutely normal three bed detached house in an urban road that just happened to have a big garden, which obviously prompted the previous owners to install a swimming pool. The paper also didn’t mention that the house has been used for ten different community fundraising activities, including the local children's hospice; or that when the swimming pool cover is taken off, Stewart invited the local children and neighbours to use it.
They didn’t mention how Stewart spent ten years fighting to win the Peterborough seat, working part time and renting one room in a house. His daughter slept in a Moses basket on the floor. Or how much money both he and his wife raise for local charities.
One after another, people I know to be compassionate and hard working are falling like flies. I should have been on a visit to the National Grid with Elliott Morley this morning.
I will not judge or condemn: each person will have to face their own demons, family and constituents. I am thankful for the committee that David has set up. It represents the equivalent of an audit and I will be so relieved to be given 'officially’ a bill of clean health. I feel as though my word is no longer enough. I hope Sir Christopher Kelly takes note and recommends a yearly expenses audit, as a key part of whatever process he proposes in his report. And to anyone who wonders why I didn't speak out about flipping etc, I had no idea!! It never crossed my mind that such a thing was possible; and if you had told me people were doing it, I would have had trouble believing you.
The damage which has been caused to Parliament is immense. If the BNP come out of the local or European elections a happy party, it will be a desperately bad day for democracy.
Today is the first day that if someone asked me what I did for a living, I would be ashamed to say that I was an MP. That’s a big deal for me. It feels as though a baying mob is out there ready to tear us apart: guilty or not.
On a lighter note, I'm off to the Classical Brits tonight. I am taking Iain Dale with me. I'm not sure what Iain thinks of classical music. When chatting to him just now you would have thought he was being taken to the dentist!
We had a lovely letter in the constituency office today. It was a donation of £100 for our fighting fund. I don’t know who the donor is as I have an arrangement with the office that I don’t think I should and therefore they don’t tell me and I don’t ask – however, this particular donor sent me a personal message. He asked the office to tell me to take a fiver out of the £100 and buy some chocolate biscuits!
I also know that he reads the blog. Thank you so much. You made me smile this morning, which takes some doing at the moment, believe me.
We had a very important debate yesterday. I will blog a simpler description of the case soon.
Posted Wednesday, 13 May 2009 at 15:19
Every MP has been issued with a letter from Andrew Walker, Director General of Resources.
As I blogged only the other day, it confirmed my worst fears. The letter states that the person or persons who sold the disc to the Telegraph for a reported £200,000 may still have it and re sell for further gain.
The letter also states that almost every personal detail relevant to me, including the bank account details of my staff was included on the disc have been sold, and may be again.
We have been given the number of someone who can provide help re financial security but basically, it means all change.
After late votes last night, on my way home, a lady walked up to me and shouted whilst jabbing her finger at me “you are disgusting”. I felt very scared and vulnerable. She had obviously been drinking. I understand the public concern and anger, however, I am afraid that too many people are too keen to see bad behaviour where there isn’t any and have almost whipped up the public anxiety.
It’s time for a little calm I think and well done to Anne Widdecombe, on the Today programme this morning. She was absolutely bang on with a big dollop of common sense.
A special case...
Posted Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 17:53
Great meeting with David Cameron today at 2pm. Totally abated my fuming anger.
Not so very long ago I was having lunch with a journalist. When it came to time to order drinks I asked for sparkling water. The journo looked surprised, ordered the water and then ordered a bottle of £48 wine from the menu, and then asked the waiter not to take the cork out.
I realised that he was taking the wine home, on expenses. I feebly muttered “I hope your editor doesn’t think I have expensive taste in wine?” To which he replied, “the editor never sees the receipts”.
This same journalist has been heaping scorn on MPs over the last few days!
I will say what I have always said; there are 650 of us here. Most who have given up half of our lives to get here and appreciate what an absolute honour and privilege it is.
Most of us live a normal, frugal existence and struggle to pay the bills, just like everyone else. The majority are honest. The majority do not deserve to be treated with the scorn and anger which is being heaped upon us. But we are.
David demonstrated fantastic leadership today. He has taken the issue by the horns and laid down ground rules which every honest MP was screaming out for.
It would never in a million years cross my mind to buy a house with tax payers money, do it up and then sell for a profit and buy another. Not only would it never cross my mind, but I had no idea anyone else was doing it! Hazel Blears may not have broken any rules, however, to operate a property development company on the side using the allowances system was outrageous and totally different in both intent and purpose from someone who had made a genuine mistake. Just for the record, I have not bought any property with my allowances, despite being innundated with 100% mortgage offers the first month I became an MP. It just never felt very comfortable to me.
My day has been spent with Barristers, for one reason and another. Tomorrow I have a very complicated constituency case which I am presenting to the Ministry of Justice in Westminster Hall, and therefore have no time to blog until after it is over. I will post the speech once delivered. I don’t often take constituency work into the chamber; however, this is a very special case.
Posted Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 09:38
I don’t have time to do it now; however, I absolutely will be blogging in defence of hard working MPs. Hard working but wimpish.
The media are inciting the public to behave like a baying mob – much of the time on mis-information.
There is a MASSIVE difference between the minority of MPs who have used public money to personally profit and the majority who haven’t.
The Best Speeches...
Posted Monday, 11 May 2009 at 21:10
Are the ones which are never given.
I thought my speech which laid into the Equality Bill (or Harriet’s leadership bid) was pretty good, even though I say so myself, however, although written on Sunday, my day off, it has not seen the light of day.
I plonked myself down in the chamber for a seven hour stint with good intention, but then the doorman slipped me a note to inform me that I had constituents in the gallery and could I go and see them.
I asked Mr Speaker, who it has to be said was not in the best of moods, could I go, lets just say he preferred me not to.
I weighed it up. Constituents who had travelled all the way from Bedfordshire, or a speech. No prizes for who won.
I then had another note to say that eight MPs were visiting from the Kenyan Government and could I slip out to have a chat about the war in Iraq, the Kenyan Judicial service, Somalian Pirates and Obama – obvious why they chose me then.
Two hours later, I suppose I can understand why I wasn’t flavour of the chamber.
Putting my speech in the nearest bin, I decided to look to where I was needed most. Having been a qualified nurse I chose to spend my time removing razor blades form clenched fingers, mopping brows, buying G and Ts for the tearful and joined in the general rant about how disgraceful it was that the Telegraph are not accepting explanations or the MPs side of the story.
Like they say in the media, why let the truth…..
They have problems? Not one of them bombed on Question Time? In normal circumstances they would have been looking after me, not the other way around.
Anyway. I am very concerned. I think my staff may have bought chocolate biscuits with the petty cash. I swear to God that not one has passed my lips; however, I have seen the wrappers in the bin. I know I’m next.
I should worry. I could be a Lib Dem. They are nowhere to be seen. Rumours are flying around here that they are very worried indeed. Apparently, and I repeat that I believe this is just a rumour, they pay their associations 3k a kick to deliver leaflets from their office allowance. No wonder most of them are never here!!!!
Give me a chocolate digestive to defend any day!
At the end of the day...
Posted Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 21:34
Back in Bedfordshire. Early start in the morning.
I thought I would reflect on the start of the day and just how beautiful some things are.
This morning I went for an early walk, at 6.30am. It’s hard to stay in bed on a sunny morning when less than 60 seconds from the bedroom door the foals were already playing.
This little curious foal came closer to say hello. Her mum popped her head protectively over her back and I’m sure I hear her whisper “careful darling, I think she’s an MP”.
Posted Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 13:40
I know it’s all about expenses, but forgive me.
What if David Cameron called for a vote of no confidence in Brown during the Post Office vote? Would the Lib Dem’s and other minority parties vote with us? Would the 56 Labour rebels? Would the Blairites? Would that mean we would win and force a general election?
If the Blairites and Labour rebels didn’t vote with us and voted for Brown this would mean that they would in effect be voting to keep Brown for the duration.
Seems like that’s a win win for us.
Is that what David really means when he says he’s “pulling the plug on Brown”?
Stolen Goods II
Posted Saturday, 9 May 2009 at 17:53
My concern with regard to the stolen disc has nothing to do with the issue of expenses – it’s one of privacy.
My personal details, including credit card numbers, bank account details, home address, signatures, family details and IDs have all been sold to the Daily Telegraph, and who else? Terrorists, pro-abortion extreme groups, Al Queda, BNP?
My home has already been 'flagged' by Bedfordshire Police , as a result of threats to my personal safety and that of my staff. Both the House of Commons Police, Met and Bedfordshire have had to deal with a variety of problems, including people turning up at the House, because that's where they know they can make contact with me.
That’s why I think it is an offence. I feel vulnerable and as though my privacy has been totally invaded. Anyone who wanted them could have had my expenses in July, I have nothing to hide. I just want the basic right to keep my personal details private. That and not wanting to have to move house, which I now feel I will have to do.
Posted Saturday, 9 May 2009 at 13:07
I’m in the Cotswolds. Removed from the stench of Westminster and the pleasurable distractions of my constituency. I’m breathing in air which is free from political pollution, other than the odd whiff of horse manure.
I may be free from the distractions, but not from the work as I sit here and write a speech to be delivered on Monday during the reading of the Equality Bill.
Smart move by Harriet. The Bill could have been written by a union shop steward. I would imagine it’s fairly easy for her to announce that she has no eye on Gordon Brown’s job when she has that Bill tucked under her arm.
Drawing together nine major laws, the Bill is as loud and as comprehensive an appeal to the unions and Labour party members for the top job as you could possibly imagine. The only way in which Harriet could make her intentions clearer, would be to stand on the step of No 10 whilst stamping her foot and clenching her fists shouting at Gordon “I want your job!”
The most controversial element of the Bill will allow employers to take ‘positive action’ in order to guarantee that they hire more women and ethnic minority employees. Music to the ears of the left.
You have to hand it to the woman, she is one smart behind the scenes operator.
Business leaders have said that the Bill will be an unwelcome burden. Oh come on business, what’s up with you? Anyone would think you were in the midst of a recession and fighting to keep the jobs of the employees you already have. You should welcome this massive tome of bureaucracy, impending legislation and red tape. It’s just what you need from the Government during these difficult times. Isn’t it?
I cannot believe that as the Bank of England announce they are to pour another 50 billion into the economy in order help us through the third wave of financial crisis, as Iran moves another week nearer to being nuclear ready; in a week when more of my constituents lost their jobs than any other since I became the MP, that I have to sit here and write a speech about equality in the workplace.
This in itself highlights how out of touch the Labour party is with the events faced by people day to day, and by the close of business on Monday, when Harriet becomes the princess of the unions, Harriet’s true leadership intentions.
Posted Friday, 8 May 2009 at 13:17
I’m still in the Commons. Sleep would be good after my overnight trip on the Caledonian Sleeper, which is a misnomer, it doesn’t sleep.
It jerks and jolts and squeals and stops what appears to be every few hundred yards, sleep it does not.
I have just said goodbye to Alameda school from Ampthill, in my constituency. They have been on a commons visit. The education department offered to find another MP to stand in for me, but I said no.
Apparently the education dept lady watched question time last night and was more than a little alarmed to realise I was still in Dunfermline at 11pm and meeting a school in Westminster this morning. The Caledonian sleeper may not sleep, but it is reliable and does get you into Euston for 7am.
Talk here is obviously the Telegraph and cabinet expenses story, however, I can’t help making one small observation – surely the Telegraph is in possession of stolen goods?
Posted Friday, 8 May 2009 at 11:53
The former Postman, Alan Johnson MP, criticised me, the former nurse, during the Swine Flu statement in the chamber yesterday.
Johnson, who if he had his way would have us all walking round wearing face masks and anti viral suits, omitted some very important information from his statement.
He didn’t mention that the epidemiology, which has been used to judge the possible fatalities from Swine Flu, has been derived from Mexico.
Or that that the statistics conclude that you have a 2% greater chance of dying from this flu, as opposed to any other. You may think that this is good reason to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds delivering a leaflet to every home telling people how to handle a sneeze ,and closing down schools and nurseries, creating an air of mild panic. I don’t.
We could all do with bearing in mind that Mexico City is a city of 20 million. That half of those people live in poverty and have no access to medical care or drugs, not even a GP. Given those circumstances, it is a miracle that the figure is only 2%; and if anything demonstrates just how mild this virus is, and how able we are to deal with it.
People die from flu every year in this country, period. It happens.
Maybe the Government are hoping that creating an environment of panic will detract from the very serious issue of Government meltdown. If they are, the papers are falling for it.
Time for a few journalists to toughen up, and start injecting a bit of common sense into their writing.
This is not a national panic or a state of emergency. A Prime Minister who has lost the respect of his own party is.
I don’t think there was a single Conservative in the Question Time audience last night! After I had a round of applause, the Liberal, Lord Steele, thought he had better remind the audience that I was a Conservative; and despite the fact that he knows me very well indeed, referred to me as the ‘Conservative representative’- just to remind the audience!
When I referred to King’s Cross I was obviously talking about 7/7, a day I will remember as I was on the platform that morning. And I did want to emphasise that we aren’t going to use Trident as a weapon of mass destruction but as a weapon of deterrent – but it didn’t quite come out like that because you just don’t get the time!!
Posted Thursday, 7 May 2009 at 14:00
On the train to Edinburgh for Question Time. Apparently, the Scottish audience are really tough. No one can remember the last time a Conservative got so much as a ripple from the audience. Great - Really looking forward to this!
Posted Wednesday, 6 May 2009 at 21:37
Every now and then, MPs are invited to a posh ‘one off’ occasion. On May 14th I am attending the Classic FM Brit awards, and I cannot wait!
Tonight I overheard a very prestigious MP tell a lovely story.
A few weeks ago he was invited to a film premier. Never having been invited to anything like this before he accepted, and took his wife.
This is how he told the story; “we were invited to the after show party. The room was bursting at the seams with beautiful young ladies all in their 20’s and early 30’s – all obviously used to this kind of lifestyle, and do you know, I turned and looked at my wife who is 50 and thought to myself, that without any question whatsoever, she was by far the most beautiful woman in the room”.
So who says politicians aren’t nice? What a lucky lady J
Question Time and Swine Flu …Again
Posted Wednesday, 6 May 2009 at 12:12
There was an interesting article on the Times Online , which was written by the science editor. He wrote about the effectiveness of closing schools as a method of controlling a pandemic; and he referred to two recent studies to support his article. He also made the point that controlling and limiting the pandemic provided the time required to produce a vaccine.
I would imagine it's quite obvious that closing schools would be a good way of limiting the transfer of infection. However, as the Mexican ambassador will confirm, the real danger to the public has been the hysterical over-reaction of the media.
In the last few years, we have seen a couple of serious virus’ hit universities and schools in the guise of meningitis and mumps. Neither the universities nor schools were closed. The symptoms and effects of both are at best unpleasant and at worst fatal.
The symptoms of swine flu don’t appear to be worse than those of the common cold. We can still produce a vaccine, especially for the more vulnerable; however, the best prophylaxis against future strains of the virus is for people to build up their own immunities, naturally, and now.
Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from the flu, usually as a result of secondary infection. It really is time to calm down. I stick to my position yesterday. The best thing we can do for our kids is not to close down their schools and disrupt their lives, but to carry on. They will surely be stronger and healthier for it in the long run.
I'm on Question Time with Bruce Anderson tomorrow night. Remember this ? Flip !!
May 6th Public Meeting - Cancellation
Posted Tuesday, 5 May 2009 at 16:59
Due to unforeseen circumstances related to compulsory Parliamentary attendance for business which will run all night, the 6 May meeting will have to be postponed.
I realise that this is short notice and attendees have taken time out of their busy schedules; however, I am committed to the issue of preserving the heritage of Mid Bedfordshire and we need to establish the three committees.
I intend to rearrange the meeting during a Parliamentary recess to avoid any further clashes with Westminster business.
My office has been trying to contact everyone who kindly RSVP’d; once again, my apologies
Question Time and Swine Flu
Posted Tuesday, 5 May 2009 at 16:51
Oh my!!! I think it’s fair to say that I have been well and truly slaughtered by the comments on my last blog with regard to twitterers.
Maybe I should just give up and go with the twitter flow J
I’m on Question Time this Thursday; I hope a question comes up with regard to swine flu.
I cannot believe that we have schools and nurseries closing – it is madness.
The Minister for public health should stop schools from closing. Far better everyone catches the virus now, and builds up their own anti-bodies whilst it’s still relatively weak, and presents as nothing worse than a cold.
Viruses are much cleverer than we are. Smack this one with Tamiflu and it will mutate and re-group itself, just in time for a nice winter outbreak when it will be far stronger, more resistant, and really cause us problems.
It will hit business with a huge cost in terms of lost days; and of course the cost to the NHS and Government will be incalculable. Is there no common sense anywhere within this Government?
Or is Gordon hoping enough schools will close in order to declare a state of emergency and cancel the Euro elections?! I wonder.
Posted Monday, 4 May 2009 at 19:59
There are new tweeters joining the list of, err, twitters by the day.
In discussion over lunch today the conclusion was reached that twitters use twittering, by and large, to moan and complain. It’s a virtual gnashing of the teeth, or beating of the chest. A cyberspace ‘well I never’.
When it’s not even that interesting the majority of twittering is mundane to the point of ‘ who in the name of Bill Shankley cares’?
I exclude from this observation those who use twitter to enhance their existing online presence and do restrain my comments to the individual twitterer. I suppose I should exclude people like Sarah Palin from this observation also. We all know that it is highly un-likely she writes her own twitters, gaffes being totally impermissible even when the race for the White House is four years off.
A friend showed me his twitter ‘feed’ this weekend. A cure for insomnia if I ever saw one. Did I really want to know what three hundred followers made of the film ‘In The Loop’. One opinion would do. I have absolutely no interest in knowing that someone had to take a roast dinner around to her grandmother’s house on behalf of her parents whilst visiting on Sunday. A lovely, personal family thing to do. But share it with five hundred people? I think not.
Twittering has to be a symptom of a dysfunctional society. You know the one I’m talking about; when people don’t talk to, care about, help, consider or even interact with each other anymore. A survey last week found that the average Briton has three good friends. That’s the dysfunctional society I’m talking about. The one where it seems to me people are creating their own online virtual communities and friends.
Three good friends will be down to one in ten years as a whole generation of children who should have been kicking a ball around and building dens, take to the streets and discover that they don’t know how to cope, lacking the ability to share or socially interact. Largely due to spending their childhood on an X box or a lap top. Maybe twitter is where they will turn to for comfort.
At my daughters birthday party this week 60 good and close friends turned up. People she has known since nappies, playgroup, school and university. She doesn’t twitter to any of them. She may spend hours running up her phone bill, but at least she and her friends still know how to talk to, care for and laugh with each other. She was disappointed only 60 could make it as another 20 or so are in various far flung places travelling.
Whilst psycho analysing twitter over lunch, we came up with some things you just wouldn’t dare twitter, ever, ever. Especially if you were an MP.
Unfortunately, although hysterically funny and almost necessitated the assistance of a Para Medic, due to an inhaled strand of spaghetti, I just can’t repeat any of them
Anyway, safe to say, I shan’t be joining the legions of twitters any day soon. I'll just stick to blogging and bore you all to death with that :)
Posted Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 17:53
I have just arrived home from the dedication of a stained glass window at Harlington church.
The window is in memory of the late Rev Ivor Clemitson MP, the former Labour MP for Luton East, and depicted, amongst other things, the church of St Margaret’s in Westminster, Westminster Palace and Big Ben.
I will scan a picture of the window in on Tuesday.
I read one of Ivor’s favourite New Testament readings.
Most of us use the NIV bible these days, however, Ivor’s favourite was the King James, and I have to say that I felt as though I was reading poetry.
I read from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4 1-9.
Here is a small excerpt to show you what I mean.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Isn’t that beautiful?
Today was the first time I had to stand in front of a large audience since Smeargate. I had no idea how much of an ordeal it would be. I almost felt unworthy to be stood in church reading at such an occasion even though every word which had been written about me in the email was a pure lie from beginning to end. I felt as though everyone was thinking the old ‘no smoke without fire thought’.
Some of the ladies were lovely when I went into the Parish Hall afterwards for tea, but I even found that tough and pathetically, couldn’t go in without Kelvin (Hopkins MP) to hold onto.
I realised today that I may feel tainted for some considerable time and whilst stood in church, I thought hateful thoughts about the people who made me feel this way.
Posted Saturday, 2 May 2009 at 11:44
I have just watched last nights Newsnight whilst waiting to go and open a church window (note to self; take screwdriver) it suddenly occurred to me that both Patrick Mercer and Nicholas Soames were using a rhetoric which was in the style of men who were truly preparing to govern.
In fact, if you didn't know they were in opposition, you could be forgiven for thinking they were indeed already in government, so seriously are they contemplating the task ahead.
I'm sure all these men commenting on Trident are absolutely right, and what would I know? I'm just a girl on the backbenches who relies too much on instinct, however, I think I must be the only person who doesn't want the Trident programme to be cut.
The major spend, 15billion, isn't going to kick in for another 15 years. Who knows where we will be by then?
Could we have predicted 9.11 or Kings Cross 15 years ago? Could we have foreseen that we would have been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan?
How can we possibly predict today what threat the future may hold? Has anyone listened to the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the leader of Iran just lately?
We frequently witness the zealous rise in Islamist fundamentalism in this country and abroad, to the dismay of all who are not, including the vast majority of the peaceful Muslim community.
It must be obvious to all that there will be little common ground between a faction which wants to see anyone who is not an Islamist wiped of the face of the earth, and just about every other religion in the world, including Christianity.
I am sure there are other ways, and I wait to be educated, however, it seems to me that a priority of any government is to keep its people safe - not be aggressive or war like - just keep people safe.
I can't think of any better way of doing that other than with the threat of deployment of Trident missiles, which cannot be intercepted once launched.
I'm not being hawkish here, I just want to know that one day when I die, a nuclear sub will be prowling silently under the water, to the knowledge of all, keeping both my kids safe in their beds and the beliefs of billions intact.
I don’t think 15 billion is too much to ask for that when we have a government today wasting trillions!
I also believe we ask too much of our troops in terms of what we expect from them in situations of conflict. Evidenced from the condition of the boots to vehichles and tanks in Iraq.
If we cut back on Trident was does that say to our very own heroes?
Anyway, what do I know? I am definitley on safer ground talking about hospitals than nuclear subs!
The great Roy Orbison
Posted Friday, 1 May 2009 at 17:41
I am about to move away from the desk and start preparing for my eldest daughters birthday and so blogging will be light over the weekend. I have a busy week coming up next week and so I am going to spend my weekend relaxing, visiting places like this http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-snowshillmanor/ and generally chillin’ out in the Cotswolds. That is after I have finished the rest of my constituency duties which will be on Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the week I entitled a blog, the touch of your hand. It was obviously from the Roy Orbison song, Crying, which I haven’t been able to get out of my head since it popped in when thinking of a blog title.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Liverpool and grew up with the Beatles as my background music, and had to sit on the steps and watch my mum and her friend Anita screaming as the Beatles flew into Speke Airport - I’m not sure, however, I do have a passion for music from that era, especially the American Crooners. I also, for some weird reason, have Roy Orbison and the Beatles enmeshed as one in my memory – as though they were a band of five.
Anyway, someone has just text me the You Tube link to the original Roy Orbison recording of Crying and other Roy greats. Does anyone sing with that much passion anymore? The same friend has told me that Roy Orbison’s mother’s name was Nadine.
Well I never. Reckon I might pick up a Roy CD over the weekend.
Have a good one everyone.
Posted Friday, 1 May 2009 at 14:42
Ive just been sent my stats for April. I really couldn't be less interested. However, total hits - 539,724.
I suppose it was a busy month.
A dead weight..
Posted Friday, 1 May 2009 at 14:08
I’m between appointments in the constituency, looking out at the sunshine and feeling down.
I've just said goodbye to a lovely constituent. He cannot bear to be on benefits and has a job. It’s paying him £11,000 pa. He manages to pay rent, council tax, bills and maintain his car. If he didn’t have the car he couldn’t work. However, there isn’t any money left over for food. He buys his food on a credit card and each week the debt is mounting up. He has now begun to have panic attacks when he enters a supermarket as he cannot bear the guilt he experiences at buying his food on a credit card. He told me to blog his story. Very soon he may have to turn to benefits as the car won’t carry on for much longer and he can’t afford a new one. As we all know, that’s the point at which he will fall into the poverty trap.
One after the other I hear a different story. A year ago people used to come to me to complain about issues which really weren’t worth complaining about. Now each story has an element of absolute desperation.
I hope a general election comes soon.
I hope we scrap the NHS data base, the ID card scheme and regional assemblies within days. I hope we take a scythe to every penny spent on public services which has nothing to do with keeping people well, educated and safe and I really hope that the people of this country are ready and have the stomach to take that which must be done in order to restore prosperity. I hope we clamp down on immigration and operate a ruthless point’s based system based on the skill need of the country. I hope we radically amend our relationship with the EU and claw back some of the massive subsidies we hand over and use that money to benefit people like my very unwell and unhappy constituent.
People need to start adopting a war time mentality. The cause is no less important. The prize is the restoration of our country, its viability, our pride and position, our status and worth.
It’s going to be really very hard indeed. I just hope people are ready.
To cheer myself up I have remembered an exchange I had with a colleague yesterday.
A Minister with whom I get along very well and I, often meet behind the computers in the member’s library and have a chat.
Yesterday we were discussing the boxes of expense forms which each MP has to verify before publication.
Exchange went like this. N is me obviously.
N “Have you had any other MPs expense slips in your boxes”?
M “Loads, some have had the slips of a few different MPs in their boxes”
N “X had the receipts of five other MPs in his box which quite clearly displayed credit card numbers, his home and constituency address and telephone numbers”
M “I had a dead MP in mine”
N “Gosh, your box must be big. How did you get it upstairs”?
N was then splattered with a mouthful of tea M had just attempted to drink.
Julian Lewis MP
Posted Friday, 1 May 2009 at 12:39
Julian Lewis has to be one of the nicest MPs in Parliament.
Well respected by MPs in all parties - he is incredibly hard working, diligent, kind, articulate, intelligent, thoughtful - I can’t think he has a single enemy in the House.
Smearing isn’t always confined to high office. Julian has been through the most horrific time with a Liberal Democrat opponent in his constituency and things have got so bad that last week, Julian secured an end of day debate in the chamber in order to highlight the smear campaign he has been subjected to.
It is a tribute to Julian that many MPs, having already worked a 15 hour day, stayed behind for the debate.
The details are here.
Lets hope that someone in the local party realises the damage this man is doing to the political process and has him replaced.
Politicians and potential politicians will never earn the respect of the public until they behave in a way which earns that respect.
It is time for a new austerity in many things, expenses, the economy and even behaviour.