Friday, February 20, 2009

Meeting Vince Cable MP

In preparation of my FOCUS, a friend suggested to me (thanks, Adam) that I contact Vince Cable MP.

You don’t need to be a political fan to know that Vince Cable’s star has risen sharply over the last few years. The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman correctly forewarned us about the recession, is one of the best parliamentarians in the UK, and is also well known from his spells as acting leader of the party.

It is a sad fact of our party political and electoral systems that next year the Chancellor grappling with the worst recession for decades is likely to be Alastair Darling or George Osbourne (doesn’t fill you with much confidence, does it?) while talented people in other parties have to stay on the fringes. Whoever becomes PM, inviting Vince Cable into Number 11 would be a wise policy. But I digress.

As I work just down the road from Westminster, I emailed Mr Cable to ask if he would agree to our photograph to be taken – while hoping I wouldn’t be kicked out of the party for impertinence. To my surprise, ten minutes after pressing the Send button, a call from his office arrived inviting me over the next day.

Vince Cable’s outer office is what you imagine a real political office to look like – small, warm, shelves full of papers and box files, documents pinned on walls, and four young assistants busy on preparing papers, speeches and presentations. Then Mr Cable himself appeared, we shook hands, and went next door into a larger office. Despite problems with the camera flash, he and his team were very patient and I got a couple of good pictures. I thanked him for his time and then left. All very quick but then they are busy people.

So here’s one of the pics with my thanks again to Vince Cable and his team.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Smile please

Today I had my photo taken for the preparation of a leaflet. This was a surprisingly difficult task. After all, an unfortunate picture could cause problems - just ask David Miliband. One minute he's a candidate for Prime Minister, then a banana and a grin later, and that's the end of that.

I guess it is always human nature to be unsure about one's own image but I aimed to look authoritative and casual at the same time - but standing for a photo, you never know how to hold your arms!

For the location, I chose Milton Regis High Street next to the Old Court Hall, a fine local attraction from the 15th century. It was either that or the Three Hats, an excellent old local pub - but this perhaps would not give the right impression (although I might have got a free pint for the advertising).

Anyway, if you were in the High Street this afternoon and saw us take several pictures, that is what were doing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

UKIP's true colours?

One interesting thing about the Geert Wilders episode is the involvement of the UK Independence Party, as it was Lord Pearson, a UKIP peer, who invited Mr Wilders to the Lords.

The UKIP were formed with the intention of withdrawing Britain from the European Union. I don't agree with this policy, but I can respect those who hold this view. However, inviting someone accused of inciting racial hatred is the sort of thing the British National Party might do.

Could UKIP be encroaching on BNP territory? There is much common ground and there were rumours of an electoral pact between the two parties.

Of course, you can't blame a party for the actions of a Lord (as I am sure the Labour party will agree) so we can look forward to Nigel Farage distancing the UKIP from the whole episode.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Letter - Councillor's Allowances

Here's my letter published in the East Kent Gazette on 4 February 2009. The background is the vote by Swale's Councillors (24 to 7) to increase their allowances despite a suggestion by the Lib Dems that this would send out the wrong message during hard times.

'At a time when public trust of politicians is at an all-time low it is noteworthy that Swale’s Conservative and Labour Councillors didn’t miss the opportunity to increase their allowances. Had they agreed to the Lib Dems’ suggestion to retain existing allowances, they would have set a fine example and restored some public respect – but sadly, like their big brothers in Westminster, they are only too quick to take the cash.'

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Litter & Anti-social behaviour

I have received an email asking me what would I do about graffiti, litter and anti-social behaviour.

To be honest, litter and graffiti are not great problems in Sittingbourne. There are a few certain areas which could do with a bit of tidying – such as the areas around Sittingbourne and Kemsley stations – but the cleansing services seem to be doing a good job at present. The key would be to ensure they retain the resources required to do this duty and don’t fall to the general reduction in cuts and services we see across local government. The overall appearance of the streets is good for image and morale. If you come across an issue give them a call on 01795 417850.

Anti-social behaviour is a general problem of society, but of course Sittingbourne has its share. Just this week my wife was attacked by kids throwing snowballs, and we’ve had eggs thrown at the house in the past, We are fortunate in that these are minor and rare occurrences – and a lot of people get this far worse. An example was on the front page of last week's East Kent Gazette referring to Ypres Drive.

This is something which Councils have to work on in partnership with the police, housing associations and other bodies and again it is a question of ensuring that the responsible teams have the resources and ability to carry out this role. For information I would refer you to or

As a candidate for County Councillor, I would be happy to take forward any of these issues. So if you experience anything specific in the Swale Central area, please email me.