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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bristol North West - My Reality Library! (There's no magic wand...)

Funny what grabs attention. An interview I did with a former Labour MP, Chris Mullin, prompted me to write an article for Conservative Home on why it IS important for MPs to get stuck into local campaigns and local activities.

The talented editor of the Conservative Home site called it "The Importance of Being a Fairy Godmother." The title then prompted an hilarious, if slightly spooky Bristol Post mock up of me, with my face planted on a fairy with 6ft long legs, sitting on a chilly looking piece of bark.

I wasn't going to argue, especially since I would very much like 6ft long legs and a nice pair of wings, but the reason why constituency work, and getting involved in getting stuff done with and for the local community is so important is precisely because it can't be done by waving a magic wand. 

If it could, it might be nice , but you wouldn't learn anything - and although it's tough, and tiring and frequently stomach-clenchingly frustrating doing it 'the long way' ( no wand),  its all that which makes you understand how policy and politics really work in reality, once it leaves that magic bubble of Westminster, where so often people really do think words are the same as actions, and a speech in the House of Commons is the same as a magic wand...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Lamplighters Victory at last!

Celebrating Lamplighters with Champers!
Oh, there were doubters. "It won't happen" people said as we persistently, and possibly rather obsessively campaigned to get the wonderful "Lamplighters Pub" re-opened once again.

It's been a saga.

Back in 2009, it was shut under Enterprise Inns ( one of the big pub companies who are notoriously bad landlords, tie their tenants to buying their beer at hugely inflated prices, charge above market rent and generally seem to see their role as a property manager to pay off their debts, rather than a pub company.)

Hearts sank. It is seldom a pub that shuts ever has a pint poured again.I set up a petition - to try to show a potential buyer that this place was a little gold-mine. ( After a bit of investment)

Then hope arose as Churchill Properties bought the pub and claimed they were adamant it should stay as a pub. But residents had heard that kind of stuff before and took some convincing. However, as a beacon of light ( no pun intended) Churchill Properties were every bit as good as their word - and set about looking for someone to run it as a pub.

Meanwhile, our dear old Lamplighters was being decimated by weather and vandals, and was becoming a far cry from the beautiful historical building we all knew, and turning into a sad disheveled relic. It was soon apparent that the only way it would be a viable venture was if some of its extensive pub garden was granted planning permission for some houses to fund its significant renovation.

That was the next battle. I remember at the 11th hour, just a day or so before the deadline, working with Planning at the Council to try to get it all sorted. And at the 11th hour it was.

But still no buyers...  and now it was 2013.  Four long years had passed.

So if Mohamed couldn't go to the mountain, as the saying goes, the mountain would come to Mohamed. ( In a sort of way) and we decided to see if we could run the pub as a community. I put together a survey for residents to try and find supporters, skills and everything we might need to set about turning it into a community pub. The prospect was somewhat daunting, but it felt like we had no choice, if we weren't to give up.

Then came the shining knights on their metaphorical stallions: Dominic Gundry-White and his wife Kathie. Dominic is business partner with the amazing Norman Routledge, who is currently transforming our beautiful Kings Weston House. They stepped in to buy the pub to turn it into their home, and a successful food-serving family pub.

The only thing to do was to open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate! But there's still a lot of work. If you want to get involved, get in touch with me, and I'll pass your name on to the owners. They will need all the help they can get.

A bottle of bubbly outside a new venture is one thing, we'll all really be celebrating when its a pint from behind the bar of our newly resurrected, much loved Lamplighters Pub. Beacon pub of Bristol. Cheers!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Er, slight gap in blogging over the festive period and that horrid damp start to January.... ahem. Talk amongst yourselves...