Sunday, 31 May 2009

The last weekend!


We had another excellent team out yesterday for the last Saturday session before the local and European elections on Thursday. We split into two groups and half went canvassing and the other half put up posters before we all met up for lunch at the Robin Hood. I really like the new posters - the message is clear and you can notice them from some distance. It was a superb day for it and was very difficult to leave the comfort of the beer garden after lunch! However, the poster team did just that and merrily went on with their hard but extremely valuable work for the rest of the afternoon.
Since I was not going to be much use in the poster team due to my lack of arm muscles or ability to hit things with a sledge hammer, I went to see my family instead but I made my excuses early so that I could get back in time to watch the Britain's Got Talent Final, which I did with a few minutes to spare! What a fabulous final it was too and a great end to the last Saturday before Thursday's elections.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Children and Britain's Got Talent

I have a confession - I am a closet Britain's Got Talent addict! It is affirming, inspiring and sometimes just hilarious. Twice this week, I have left evening engagements early in order to get home in time to watch at least the second part of the semi-finals and I am already very excited about tomorrow's final. But I have to say tonight I began to feel really uncomfortable about the number of children left in the competition especially after 10 year old Holly Steel burst into tears during her song.

I have absolutely no doubt that she was exhausted (she didn't come on until 9pm and at 10 that is a late night) plus standing in front of that huge audience it must have been very daunting, but to be reduced to tears not once or twice but a number of times just made me think that this is wrong/borderline cruel. When young Aidan won tonight he cried tears, albeit of joy, but earlier this week another young girl was reduced to tears when she didn't win the judges vote. Nobody likes to see other people cry, especially children, and therefore I am beginning to think that some of these kids need better protection from the producers of the programme: it feels that the duty of care towards children that you'd expect from such a high profile programme has been totally forgotten.

I am sure there will be plenty of tears tomorrow but I just hope they are caused by the emotion of the event not the agony of the young performers, as was demonstrated so publicly tonight.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Congratulations Gillingham FC

Congratulations to Gillingham FC for their promotion to League One after winning the play-off final at Wembley today. I am not a Gills fan but their presence across Medway and Kent is huge and their contribution to grassroot schemes is often understated so I am delighted that they have been promoted back into League One after last year's relegation.
Having heard the funniest interview between the breakfast and sport presenters of BBC Radio Kent and BBC Radio Shropshire on Friday morning, I am now looking forward to the follow up interviews, especially since the Shropshire lot were being so cheeky to the Kent guys: I guess they'll be eating humble pie now!

KCC electioneering

A good team turned up today to deliver Peter Homewood's election address for the forthcoming County Council elections. It was a lovely day for it and loads of people were out in their gardens making the most of the bank holiday sunshine. I popped into the Brassey Centre's garden plants sale and tried to persuade the lady who grows them all to do some voluntary work in my garden! We stopped at the Chequers for lunch on the terrace overlooking the River Medway before heading off to deliver a few more leaflets. It was such a nice day that it didn't feel like hard work getting everything done.

No wonder we are losing faith in our justice system

Last night I nearly wrote a very angry post about the sentencing of those who viciously abused and eventually murdered Baby P, but I decided to reflect and see if I calmed down...but I haven't. Reading the story on the BBC I was incensed at the pathetic sentence that Baby P's mother's boyfriend received for his death. The report read as follows:
"The boyfriend was given 12 years over Peter's death and life for raping a
two-year-old girl. He must serve a minimum of 10 years".

What?!?! He gets 12 years for systematically abusing a helpless toddler who eventually died as a consequence, and he gets life for raping a girl of two, but after ten years he may be considered for parole! This is an absolute disgrace. No wonder people have lost faith in our justice system.

The Chief Executive of the NSPCC got it absolutely spot on when he said: "We are disappointed that the minimum tariff was so low. It raises the question of how bad the abuse has to be before offenders get a longer minimum time in prison. Baby Peter suffered sustained abuse leaving him with horrendous injuries. Two of his abusers could walk free at a time when Peter should be a schoolboy with a new world in front of him. Despicable cruelty has denied him that opportunity.
These three caused or allowed the torture and death of a defenceless baby."

I spoke to David Davis this afternoon and he is going to wrote to the Attorney General in disgust. Good on him. I think we should all write!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Friday activity

I took another day off work today in order to have two fantastic and extremely interesting meetings with the local council and then the KM. This was followed by an afternoon of canvassing in Larkfield for the local and European elections. The message about having an early election is definitely resonating with the public - I think they want to see the expenses scandal sorted out as soon as possible so that politicians at all levels can get back to dealing with the economic crisis as well as issues relating to crime, immigration, health and education.

Justice for Gurkha Veterans...Finally!

Finally the Government did a massive u-turn and Gurkhas who have served for at least 4 years will now be able to settle in the UK. It was the right decision by the Government but it is just such a shame that they were dragged into it kicking and screaming.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Champions!

Well done to the Kent Schools Football Association Under 14 Girls who last night became South East England's champions after beating Suffolk Schools FA 4-2 in extra time.

Gaining Traction

Was out delivering for the local and European elections last night. There was genuine recognition of what a momentous day it had been in Parliament with the Speaker's resignation and announcement on expenses reform. Interestingly, David Cameron's petition for a general election got some unprompted comment and I heard a BBC journalist say that the initiative was getting "traction" on the radio this morning. Could it really happen...?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Sign for Change

David Cameron has today launched a petition calling for an early General Election. It is clear from what people are saying to me on the doorsteps that there is a real desire to have an election now, not least to clear up the mess in Westminster and start again with a fresh new Parliament.

You can sign the petition HERE - who knows, it might be the first time Gordon Brown listens to what we the Great British public is saying!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Canvassing this week

I was out in Snodland on Wednesday and Walderslade last night. Conservative support is definitely begin to strengthen. Curiously only one person mentioned expenses to me on Wednesday and two people simply spoke about a "general mess" last night. Interestingly most people have been very sympathetic saying it must be difficult trying to get into politics at this point when Parliament is in disrepute, the economy is such a shambles, and public support for politicians is at its lowest point for some considerable time. My response thus far has been that it may be difficult but the current crisis actually makes me more determined to get elected and sort things out. And with today's opinion polls showing that the public want an election now lets hope I get the opportunity sooner rather than later.

Monday, 11 May 2009

English Wine Week

I have just been sent the following press release. With a new Chapel Down vineyard in Aylesford, and as a huge fan of English wine, this is definitely a week I will be supporting!

PRESS RELEASE
23rd April 2009
CELEBRATING ENGLISH WINES – ENGLISH WINE WEEK

English Wine Week 2009 (Saturday 23rd – Sunday 31st May) is officially launched today (St George’s Day) at the English Wine Producers Annual Trade & Press Tasting.

This countrywide campaign to promote English wines and vineyards is organised by English Wine Producers (EWP) and supported by the United Kingdom Vineyards Association. Over the course of the Week vineyards across the country will be opening their doors to welcome visitors and offer a variety of activities, including tours, tastings and sales or hosting special events. English Wine Week will also be supported by wine merchants, farm shops, delicatessens, hotels, pubs and restaurants with their own promotions of English wines. “This week-long campaign enables outlets to highlight the English wines that they stock, or provides the opportunity to work with vineyards,” comments Julia Trustram Eve, Marketing Director of English Wine Producers. “We want to show everyone that English wines are much more available than they might presume. And there are some great activities taking place this year, which provide the wine enthusiast every opportunity to get to know their local wines better.” Alongside English Wine Week, there is now Welsh Wine Week and Devon Wine Week which highlight specific regional activities.

All events and participating outlets are listed by region and date on http://www.englishwineweek.co.uk/, which is constantly updated along with news items that are relevant to the week.

Enthusiasm for and interest in English wines continues to grow within all sectors of the trade, and with wine buying consumers. Retailers in particular continue to respond positively, with listings in major chains as well as independent wine merchants and more English wines are available through the on trade from top London restaurants to local eateries in the wine regions.

With the summer season just around the corner, English Wine Week provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the wines that are produced on our doorstep.

Ends

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The end of the season

The under 11s finished their season today with two games against top-of-the-table Crystal Palace after the away game was postponed earlier on in the year. They lost both but their form has improved so much throughout the season that we were all really proud of the fact that they weren't thrashed in the same way other teams were!

Next season they go up from 7-a-side to 11-a-side and start to play more regular rules - eg offside and 3 subs. I am looking forward to the new challenge of both coaching and managing them next season but the only ambition I have is that they still enjoy the game at the end of the day. At their age, the whole point is about having fun, doing a bit of exercise and being part of a team. They can win, lose or draw for all I care but as long as they come off with a smile then I'll be happy.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Feedback from Walderslade

I was really interested by the results of our canvassing today. We were out in Walderslade seeking support for Peter Homewood in his campaign to become the County Councillor for Malling Rural North East and today two particular things happened.

Firstly, the MP expenses story has now penetrated the mind of the average person on the street. People who are more politically interested have mentioned MP expenses to me before - but I must say, not for some time. Whereas today one in every 3 people spoke about it, which is hardly a surprise since this has now been a headline/front page story for 2 days and it clearly has some way to run. It is not a single party issue and the voters are genuinely angry about what is being revealed. The net impact seems to have pushed people into the "won't vote" category which will be devastating for politics if that sentiment is transferred into reality at the next General Election.

The second thing that happened today, which is obviously more satisfying, is that previous Labour voters are now making a definite decision to switch their vote to the Conservatives. Over the past 2 and half years I have spoken to previous Labour voters who were not going to vote Labour again but were undecided about who they were going to vote for, or if they had decided it was to one of the more extreme parties rather than the mainstream. Whilst I had personally engaged support from previous Labour voters by sitting down and talking to them about their concerns, I was quite taken aback by the strength of people's dislike towards Gordon Brown on the doorstep this morning. In fact, whilst this is not new, I do think that the loathing is getting even stronger than before - and that there is no way they would vote for "that man" or "his party" and so will "definitely be voting Conservative to get him out". I was also surprised with how well David Cameron's call for an election now had resonated - it did not go unnoticed how many people repeated the message back to me.

When we stopped at lunchtime, we felt quite positive about this morning's canvass results. I just hope that the continuous stories about current sitting politicians don't drive people away from the polling stations and into their armchairs. We all have a responsibility to clear up politics, rebuild confidence and trust in the system and get people out voting again.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Comment moderation!

After my post on Friday about Shadow Minister Maria Miller MP visiting the excellent Sure Start Centre in Chatham I received the following comment which although at first I rejected but then decided to post the comment here as an example of how Labour have totally lost the plot. Which ever activist (or even politician) wrote this - sadly they were too scared to publish it in their own name - has not only lost the plot but clearly hasn't done their homework!

Their comment is in italics and my response is in blue:

What porkies tracey. You only invited Labour councillors at the last minute (they invited themselves and I saw no reason why they couldn't come so rang Cllr Maple and said they would be very welcome) after you were rumbled (Maria is under obligation to tell the local (Labour) MP so it was hardly a secret) using council premises for party political purposes during an election period (it was a Shadow Cabinet visit and there are no local elections in Medway). And unlike you they also have real jobs during the day (do your homework - I work full-time and took a day's annual leave to be in the constituency for Maria's visit; being a candidate is not something you get paid for unlike being a local councillor).

Exhausted

I was too exhausted to write my blog yesterday evening! Yesterday 21 people turned up to help launch Peter Homewood's campaign for election to Kent County Council and as a result we managed to deliver over 6000 leaflets. In fact we covered almost all over Aylesford, Burham, Eccles, Wouldham, Blue Bell Hill and Walderslade. The weather was lovely and the reception from those out in their gardens was equally as warm. Having walked goodness knows how many miles at the end of the day I was ready for a cold beer and a hot bath - time for the new fitness regime to start methinks!!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Shadow Minister visits Chatham

I have had another fabulous Friday visiting various people and projects in Chatham. The day started off with a visit to the Hanover Association sheltered accommodation scheme in Dornden Gardens. I was invited to their regular coffee morning and it was great to meet some of the residents and listen to their concerns. They had been worried about crime but following an email communication from the estate manager to me, the local police have now been in touch. It is great when you feel you've been able to help - it may feel like a small thing to do but for the residents it has made a huge difference.

After leaving Dornden Gardens, Cllr David Wildey and I went to meet Shadow Families Minister Maria Miller MP for a tour of the All Saints Sure Start Centre in Magpie Hall Road, Chatham. Although Labour have been spreading malicious rumours that a Conservative Government would cut funding for Sure Start, the local Labour councillors asked if they could accompany us on the visit, which of course I agreed, but then sadly failed to turn up. It was a shame because the All Saints Sure Start Centre is, in my opinion, one of the best in the country and Maria very firmly reassured the manager of the Centre that Sure Start is safe under the Conservatives. She said “Sure Start is at the heart of how Conservatives will help strengthen family life and rebuild our broken society. Under a Conservative government Sure Start will develop further with Sure Start health visitors offering every family support throughout pregnancy and those important early years. Labour are guilty of spreading scare stories. We have no plans to cut services at all. It is shameful that parents and Sure Start staff are being worried and misled in this way."

Personally I was delighted that Maria took the time to visit the All Saints Sure Start Centre which without doubt provides an invaluable service for local parents. It is outrageous that Labour politicians are trying to claim a Conservative Government would not long support Sure Start when we are actually proposing to develop them further. But one thing is for certain Sure Start would be safe under a future Conservative Government.

After our visit to All Saints Sure Start, we headed up to the purpose built Place2Be centre in the grounds of Lordswood Infant and Junior School. The Place2Be is an innovative award-winning charity that works inside schools to improve the emotional wellbeing of children, their families and the whole school community. We met counsellors, parents and children involved in Place2Be and Place2Talk and were both extremely impressed by the impact of the project which for many is simply life changing. I was deeply affected by what I saw and heard at the Place2Be in Lordswood and hope that schemes like this continue to get the full support they deserve both nationally and locally.