Showing posts from May, 2005

Save the La'al Ratty !

For anyone reading this who is not familiar with the name, La'al Ratty is the nickname of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Even before we moved to West Cumbria this charming and very well run miniature steam railway was one of our favourite places to take the twins. As I understand it "La'al Ratty" means "little narrow way" in the local dialect, but the railway also has some charming promotional material which presents "La'al Ratty" as a kind of Beatrix Potter rodent stationmaster. There has been a suggestion in the local press that the nickame might be dropped on the basis that it is hard for people from outside Cumbria to follow. As incomers ourselves, who are regular visitors and travellers on the railway, my family would very much regret any such move. We think the nickname adds to the character of the railway. There was certainly no lack of vistors when we came to the railway either this weekend or last. Let's hope the idea of a na

A595 Inquiry concludes

This week saw the final session of the A595 public inquiry - held over from before the election. The main sessions a couple of weeks ago were largely taken up with the battle between the Highways Agency (the national roads organisation, who are promoting the barmy idea of de-trunking the A595), and the statutory objectors (which means Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council. The inquiry over-ran the originally allocated time and most of the "other objectors" - such as the Neighbourhood Forum, Copeland Conservatives, the local Lib/Dems, and several other local bodies - had to come back a few weeks later. I was speaking at the inquiry as a witness for Copeland Conservatives. Like all the other local parties and organisations involved, we want to keep the A595 south of Calder Bridge, and the A5092 through to Greenodd, as trunk roads maintained by the national Highways Agency. I was very impressed by the degree of cross-party co-operation among the people who were giv

On inclusivity

This post was provoked by the Simon Heffer piece in the Mail but has a much wider currency. There is a lot of nonsense talked from diametrically opposite directions about the very real efforts the Conservative party has made to select a wider range of able candidates. This comes from two groups of people with mirror-image agendas. The first group, most of whom are inclined towards New Labour and therefore have a vested interest in finding a stick to beat the Conservatives with, claim that there has been no significant change in the diversity of the Conservative candidate list. The second group, of which Simon Heffer is the arch example, criticise the attempt to promote women, gay, and ethnic minority candidates and all too frequently make the inaccurate charge that this is being done in a politically correct way regardless of the ability of the candidates concerned. Obviously as someone who fought a seat for the Conservatives this time I cannot pretend to be entirely objective about th

The grass finally gets it ...

The grass in both my gardens has this in common with Robert Kilroy Silk - all three finally got it after the election. Winning elections is always more fun than losing them, but one consequence of losing an election is that you get a bit more time to sort your life out. The has been lawnmowing week. I was down in St Albans for a few days, during which time I set the mower to the level with the blades as far as possible off the ground and removed a vast amopunt of vegetation from the lawn. Then I came back to Cumbria, bringing the mower with me, and gave a similar nasty shock to the grass and weeds here. Now I have a lot of thank you letters to write: if anyone who helped my campaign is reading this, thanks for everything you did and the letter is on its way ! I have received many very kind messages about the 2005 election campaign, all of which were most appreciated. However, it is now time to move on. I cannot make any assumptions at all about whether the party will want me to be a ca

The fat lady sings ...

Well, the campaign is over and Labour have held the Copeland seat. As I suspected was the case, the majority of polls were understating the Conservative share of the national vote and overstating Labour's. However, the result in Copeland was much more disappointing than I expected. As I wrote in previous posts, I allowed when canvassing for the possibility that many people were too polite to tell me they were not voting for me. Comparing what I was told on the doorstep with what happened on the night, I wonder if this was true to an even greater extent than I had allowed. Alternatively the people I managed to speak to and who expressed an opinion may not have been entirely representative of the constituency. However, I would like to thank all those - more than ten thousand people - who did vote for me, and all those who worked on my campaign.


At last the General and County council elections are finally coming to a close and it is time for everyone - except the 20% who have already voted by post - to make their cross. I hope everyone will use their vote, and use it positively for a better future. Once in five years we are all equal, and we all have a chance to say where this country should be going. For me, and for many people, this is an opportunity. For others it seems to be a threat. We can campaign for a positive agenda for tomorrow, or we can resort to childish scare tactics. I have lost count of the number of times the Labour campaign in Copeland have warned that a vote cast for anyone but themselves might result in my winning, and this is presented as the end of civilisation as we know it. Usually this is based on gross misrepresentation of Tory policies, sometimes it is downright silly, as when the Prime minister appeared to suggest that the Conservatives would sack every teacher, nurse, and policeman in the country.

And on a lighter note ...

I had just arrived back from canvassing in Ennerdale Bridge today with the local Conservative councillor. Still transferring leaflets back from his car to mine when his phone rang. He came out of the house with the cordless handset, said "Just a moment, I have someone here who will be able to help you" and handed it to me. I annnounced my name and heard "Hello, this is the Conservative Party, can we count on your support in the election on Thursday ?" "Yes, I will be voting for myself." I replied, and explained to the lady from the Conservative national call centre (known as Geneva) that her computer system had dialled a Conservative councillor who had handed the phone to the local Conservative parliamentary candidate. I doubt if the script on her machine covered that one but it gave us all a good laugh.

Three days to go

Well, it has certainly been a busy few weeks, and will continue to be hectic for another three days. I have been enjoying the election immensely but whichever way the result goes it will be a relief in the early hours of Friday morning when the returning officer announces who has won and we all know where we stand. I have particularly enjoyed the debates. BBC Radio Cumbria last Monday with all six candidates: Whitehaven School last Wedneday afternoon with everyone except Independent candidate Brian Early: Churches in Whitehaven the same evening with all six: and St Bees School this afternoon with myself, the Lib/Dem and a county councillor standing in for the Labour candidate. (They also had a Green party speaker - there is no Green candidate in Copeland this time, but there may have been some green candidates in the school mock elections.) I felt that all these opportunities for people to see and hear the people who are putting themselves up for election in an unscripted environment w