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Monday, 30 June 2008

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian blog on Henley HERE

The story that got squeezed out of the national headlines is that even with Labour leaking votes at an astounding rate, in the southern seats they set their sights on so hard, the Liberal Democrats are getting squeezed - not only out of the headlines, but increasingly out of the ballot box.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The British Raj in Westbury on Trym

If I'm glowing slightly in the photo, and have chronic red-eye, it's possibly because I've just enjoyed a good hot Madras, full of flavour.

I went into The British Raj ( Passage Road, W-o-T) after an evening out canvassing in particularly miserable weather. (It's hard to look 'parliamentary' through a fine drizzle/steady rain, when your hair's adhered itself in a wet heap to the side of your head, and your hands are too slopping wet to shake on greeting...)

So there was only one thing for it, a nice hot curry. The British Raj provided a gloriously warm welcome, very comfortable seating, friendly staff and lovely food- good rich sauce which although hot still retained all its depth of flavours. It is obviously best appreciated after a hard evening's canvassing (preferably with me of course) - so what are you waiting for?!

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian blog 'Welcome to the Quangocracy' HERE

They cost each household in the UK over £2,500. They employ almost 700,000 people. They cost the nation £64bn. But the government refuses to publish a list of them, and refuses to provide a breakdown of where this money is going.

But research by the Taxpayers' Alliance) has revealed that since New Labour came to power, the cost of this unseen branch of government has risen by 50%. They are the quangos.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Good news for Southmead Health Centre

I met with Richard Stroud ( pictured, left) who showed me round the new improvements he's helping to make at Southmead Health Centre.

The centre has needed some improvements - the roof suffers from perpetual damp in places, the staff showed me how hot and cramped it can get in summer and the interior needs a bit of face lift- but hopefully those improvements will be on the way.

It was so good to see the vision and dynamism that Southmead deserves, and a real vision for the future. Carry on the great work!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

My discovery: First Bus's £125k bill to Terror Police

You probably, like me, gaped when you found out: That First Bus has charged Avon and Somerset Police £125,000 - yes, £125 GRAND, for CCTV footage to help investigate the case of Andrew Ibrahim.

I used a Freedom of Information Act to find out how much the police have been charged.

First Bus say that they have charged so much because equiptment needed to be removed to help the police in their investigations. But given that the entire purpose of a CCTV camera is ultimately to help police with their investigations, I find it extraordinary that it should cost so much.

I have written to Justin Davies, Director of First Bus, demanding an explanation for the obscenely high bill they sent to First Bus. I will keep you posted.

See how HTV West reported the story here
BBC News Website here
The Evening Post here

Monday, 16 June 2008

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian Blog HERE

The Irish "no" vote should be a death knell to the Lisbon treaty. But moreover, Gordon Brown's determined defiance to support it is a sign that the Government has forgotten its remit, and its mandate. It is time for it to retire.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dragon Boat Sunday

Lots of things seem a good idea at the time, then lose their allure fast as the day of their fulfillment dawns. Some things however regain their allure, and you end up not regretting that enthusiastic moment when you said 'yes'.

Taking part in the fundraising Dragon Boat Race , for the Life Education Centre was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. The atmosphere was brilliant, with teams from all over Bristol competing and raising money for charity.

Well done to all the organisers who worked so hard - and to Captain Hilary who kept our boat ship shape and Bristol Fashion. No mean feat.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Vassall Centre celebrations

The Vassall Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary today, putting on a show with nationally renowned comedian Mat Fraser, and lots of other attractions.

The centre provides a real example of how every work place and community facility can , with a bit of imagination and effort, be made completely accessible to all with disability.

It was fantastic to see the progress that has been made from the days when the centre was run down, and had little real accessibility to the disabled to boast of.

Since then, they have undergone a huge refurbishment and redevelopment which makes it an icon of a barrier-free zone - and really sets the standard - and the challenge - to future barrier-free development.

Monday, 9 June 2008

a Grand effort from Upper Horfield Community Trust

Upper Horfield Community Trust should have festivals more often. I have never known one of their festival weekends to be held in anything other than glorious sunshine.

And this year, they raised in the region of £1000 for the area. Not only that, but they bring a whole community together with a mix of fun for the family, children's activities - and informative stalls and advice points. Everything under one roof - or, er, blue sky.

I entered the prize draw, got caught up in drama as the boards behind me fell over and almost crushed the lady in red hair filling in the prize draw form - and in all the excitement I managed to leave my wallet at the stall. Within fifteen minutes, I'd had a phone call from one of the organisers telling me not to panic, (which I was. Heartily.) He had my wallet. That really said it all - even amongst all the activity, the organisers had time to spot a stray wallet and take the time to return it to its rightful owner. Thank you and well done to Ray Hulbert MBE, and Maria who put so much effort into what was a fantastic weekend.

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my new Guardian Blog post HERE

You know the feeling. You're staring at the notice board for the platform to come up for your train. When instead of a platform announcement - the departure time flickers on the screen from 08.45 to 08.48. Your heart sinks.

Why? Not because you suspect you are going to be three minutes late, but because you suspect that someone, somewhere, knows you are going to be an hour and a half late, but just hasn't got the guts to tell you yet.

That's how we felt when budget growth forecasts began to inch downwards. From Gordon Brown's last budget, to Alistair Darling's debut budget - and then on and on ever since.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Post Offices want a hand up, not a hand out...

Today, Charles Hendry MP ( Shadow Minister for Postal Affairs) came to Bristol to talk about the closure of Wellington Hill West Post Office and 28 others across the city.

(Photo shows Mani Ghuman, from the Federation of Sub Postmasters, me, the Sub Postmaster of Wellington Hill West- David Mothersdill, Charles Hendry MP, and Adrian Mothersdill, assistant sub postmaster.)

True to form, Labour only seem to be able to talk money and subsidies when it come to the saving the post office network. We have pledged to match subsidy on the network to keep it alive, but what Labour cannot seem to understand, is that simply loading money into something is not the answer.

The tragic and infuriating thing about the closure of post offices is that if you actually speak to the sub-postmasters involved, they are itching with ideas as to how to make their post office outlet competitive. Sub-Postmasters don't want to exist on Government subsidy, but on business success.
Sub-Postmasters don't want to exist on Government subsidy, but on business success.

Many sub-post masters wanted to offer all sorts of services - mobile top ups, council counters but were prevented from doing so by Post Office ltd. When Post Office ltd. finally caught onto the fact that these were good things, the post masters had missed the boat and other stores had cornered the market. Even now, sub-post masters have been constrained in their drive to make their business a going venture instead of a subsidy dependent appendage of the state.

Labour MPs who voted for the closure of post office branches ( including all Bristol Labour MPs, except Kerry McCarthy who, I understand , was not present for the vote ) whitter on pathetically about Tories and subsidies. The point is, that whilst we have pledged to match the subsidies, the Post Office network shouldn't NEED the subsidies. It is full of bright entrepreneurs who want to inject vitality and health into the network to make it more self-sustaining.

Before we start closing down our valuable and irreplaceable community network of Post Offices, let's liberate the Post Masters to really make a go of it, as so many are itching to do. Only then, when we have liberated Post Offices to compete in the modern world, reassessed the amount of subsidy that the post office needs in that light, should we even begin to think about closing any down. Closures before that point are little less than the unnecessary decimation of hundreds of communities.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

For England and St. George!

If there is one thing that unites all three mainstream political parties, it is concern over the grip that the BNP is gaining over the country, and sadly, in some parts of Bristol. But on the other hand, how encouraging to see our great national identity celebrated so strongly by our local City and County of Bristol branch of The Royal Society of St.George.

Attending their AGM, ( and enjoying a very good dinner afterwards, as you can see.) I realised what a valuable force The Royal Society of St. George can be against the dangerous rise of organisations like the BNP. The BNP often gain a foot-hold because people want a way to express the kind of national pride that political correctness has forced out. People are concerned that England's triumphs are being written out of the school history curriculum, to be replaced by the encouragement of a national guilt complex. People want to celebrate things that are English, and the values that have held our country together: tolerance, determination and discipline.

The Royal Society of St.George provides an opportunity and an outlet for people to celebrate Englishness in a completely positive way. And it does not celebrate English values in words alone: The chairman, Dennis Stinchcombe MBE has been instrumental in instilling the English values of tolerance, discipline and respect into countless young people through his Riverside Youth Project and boxing club. It is organisations like the Royal Society of St.George that are our best weapon against the dangerous and prejudiced so-called nationalism of parties like the BNP.

I had a wonderful and uplifting evening at the society's AGM - and I encourage anyone proud of their country to join this vibrant society. You can join up by emailing the secretary, Jonathan Price, on . It's time to reclaim the Union Jack and St.George's cross from the dangerous prejudice of parties like the BNP, and prove that national pride is not racist.