Friday, May 29, 2009

Cameron in Keswick

David Cameron came to the new Copeland constituency today as part of a tour of Cumbria. During a visit to Keswick DC spoke to a number of the people involved in running Pubwatch, a scheme to ensure that licenes premises can support one another, particuarly by ensuring that someone who gets barred from one pub for getting drunk and behaving unacceptably is banned from all pubs in the area. He then went to Keswick police station and heard more about the scheme from a police perspective and about the other policing issues in the area.

Pubwatch is a great Cumbrian success story which has delivered a huge reduction in alcolhol related crime, and indeed in total violent crime in the area.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DC calls for radical redistribution of power

The expenses scandal is still the number one topic of conversation across the country. In offices, on buses, at home, the strength of anger being voiced is like nothing we've heard for a long time. But I don't think that anger begins and ends with expenses. I believe it stems from a long, deep dissatisfaction with the way that politics and power work in our country.

The fact is that people feel they have very little control over the world around them - and they're right. While some areas of our lives offer us choice and control as never before - in media, travel, shopping, entertainment - when it comes to the things we ask from politics and the state, there's a sense that someone else is always pulling the strings, always pulling power away from people.

Today, in a speech to the Open University, I set out our plans for a radical redistribution of power back to the people: from the state to citizens; from Whitehall to communities; from bureaucracy to democracy. This is a massive, radical change. But I believe that through decentralisation, accountability and transparency we can take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street. You can watch the speech - and look at the live Q&A blog I did afterwards - by clicking here.

Britain needs a General Election now

At the launch of our European Election Manifesto, David Cameron announced that he was turning "the campaign we had planned for these elections into the campaign Britain now needs: a campaign for a General Election."

He said the scale of the problems facing Britain - the recession, the debt crisis and the political crisis caused by the abuse of MPs' expenses - "all point in one direction".

And he stressed, "There is now only one way of sorting out the mess, and that is for Parliament to be dissolved and for a General Election to be held right away."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gurkhas win right to settle in UK

I was pleased to see that, at long last, it has been agreed that Gurhka veterans with four or more years service should have the right to settle in the UK.

People who are good enough to risk their lives for a country are good enough to be allowed to live in that country.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shadow Cabinet expenses claims now online

The past few weeks have been extremely embarrassing for everyone involved in politics. Some MPs and MEPs of all parties have brought politics into disrepute.

David Cameron has shown leadership in addressing this issue. On Tuesday, he announced a series of immediate measures to start to rebuild trust in politics and take action on the issue of expenses.

He banned Conservative MPs from claiming for furniture, other household goods and food shopping; put an end to the practice of 'flipping'; and set up a Scrutiny Panel to review all excessive claims and arrange repayments where appropriate.

In addition, the Shadow Cabinet are publishing online all the expense claims they make to the House of Commons - and you can view all the claims made since Tuesday here.

You can also view this week's Conservative election broadcast, in which David Cameron addressed the issue of MP's expenses and described the action he is taking about them, here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

County Council candidates for the June 2009 elections

This post records the full list of candidates of all parties who stood for Cumbria County Council in the council and European elections on 4th June 2009.

I wrote in the original post on 13th May 2009 that only the Conservatives were standing a full slate of 84 candidates for 84 seats on Cumbria County council. That was correct at the time nominations closed.

Numbers of candidates put up by other parties were:

Labour 81

Liberal Democrats 50

BNP 42

Greens 15

Socialist People’s Party 6 (all in Barrow)


There were also 18 Independent candidates.

The full list of candidates is:

Aspatria & Wharrels: Jim Buchanan (Con)*; Martin Pugmire (Lib Dem); Rob Rimmer (Lab).

Bowness, Thursby & Caldbeck: Duncan Fairbairn (Con)*; Bill Goldsmith (Lab); Margrit Scott (Lib Dem).

Cockermouth East: Mark Hayhurst (Lab); Juliet Henderson (Lib Dem); Eric Nicholson (Con)*.

Cockermouth West: Bill Bacon (Lab); Alan Kennon (Con); Dianne Standen (Green).

Dearham & Broughton: Alan Clark (Lab)*; Eddie Martin (Con); Geoff Smith (Green).

Harrington Clifton & Stainburn: Allan Caine, (Lib Dem)*; Robert Hardon (Con); Marjorie Rae (Lab); Vincent Richardson (BNP).

Keswick & Derwent: Elizabeth Barraclough (Lib Dem)*; Calum Grant (Green); Denstone Kemp (Lab): Ron Munby (Con).

Maryport East: Keith Little (Lab)*; John Stanyer (Con); Tina Wingfield (BNP).

Maryport West: Bill Cameron (Lab)*; Carl Edgar (BNP); Jacqueline Mounsey (Con); John Peel (Ind); John Rivers (Lib Dem).

Moorclose: Glen Brew (BNP); Gerald Humes (Lab)*; Denis Robertson (Ind); Eddie Woodthorpe (Con).

Moss Bay: John Bracken (Ind); Barbara Cannon (Lab)*; Ian Francis (Lib Dem); Judy Prest (Con); Martin Wingfield (BNP).

Seaton: Trevor Fee (Ind)*; Alistair Grey (Green); Philip Tibble (Lab); Alan Tyson (Con).

Solway Coast: Carl Holding, Carl (Lab); Tony Markley (Con)*; John Merritt (Lib Dem).

St John’s: Michael Davidson (Con); Joe Holliday (Lab)*; Stephen Stoddart (BNP).

St Michael’s: Alan Barry, (Lab)*; James Lister (Con). Wigton: Joe Cowell (Con); John Crouch (Lab)*; Paul Stafford (BNP).

Belah: Paul Im Thurn (Lab); Wayne Newton (BNP); Alan Toole (Con)*.

Belle Vue: George Bain (Con); Stephen Bingham (BNP); Kevin Reynolds (Con); Ian Stockdale (Lab).

Botcherby: Robert Betton (Ind); Karl Chappell (BNP); Colin Farmer (Lib Dem); Anne Glendinning, Anne (Lab)*; Charmain McCutcheon (Green); Paul Nedved (Con).

Brampton and Gilsland: Michael Elliott (BNP); Lawrence Fisher (Con)*; Joseph Hendry (Lab); Olwyn Luckley (Lib Dem).

Castle: Steven Bowditch (Lab); Barbara Eden (Con); Thomas Hellberg (Green); James Tootle (Lib Dem); Benjamin Whittingham (BNP).

Currock: Alistair Barbour (BNP); Heather Bradley (Lab)*; Gareth Ellis (Con).

Dalston and Cummersdale: Trevor Allison (Lib Dem); John Collier (Con)*; Glen Gardner (BNP); Sandra Warwick (Lab).

Denton Holme: Shaidat Danmole-Ellis (Con); Gillian Forrester (BNP); Stephen Graham (Green); John Harrison (Lib Dem); Hugh McDevitt (Lab)*.

Harraby: Anthony Carvell (BNP); Deborah Clode (Lib Dem); Allan Stevenson (Con); Cyril Weber (Lab).

Longtown and Bewcastle: Christopher Davidson (BNP); Robert Dodds (Lab); Amanda Long (Con).

Morton: John Bell (Lab)*; Terri Cartner (Con); Hannah Farmer (Lib Dem); David Fraser (BNP).

St Aidan’s: James Bainbridge (Con); Martyn Dyer-Smith (Lib Dem); Arthur Paynter (Green); Marc Scott (BNP); Reginald Watson (Lab)*.

Stanwix and Irthington: John Mallinson (Con)*; Robert Round (BNP); George Stothard (Lab); Carol Weaver (UKIP).

Stanwix Urban: Dallas Brewis (Green); Liz Mallinson (Con)*; William Round (BNP); William Whalen (Lab).

Upperby: Georgina Clarke (Con); James Osler (Lib Dem); Ronald Rome (BNP); Stewart Young (Lab)*.

Wetheral: Roger Horne (Lab); Nicholas Marriner (Con); Michael Owen (UKIP); Susan Parker (BNP).

Yewdale: Ian Brewis (Green); John Farmer (Lib Dem); Helen Horne (Lab)*; Fiona Robson (Con); Robert Walker (BNP).

Bransty: Bernard Kirk (Lab)*; Graham Roberts (Con); Malcolm Southward (BNP).

Cleator Moor North & Frizington: Clive Jefferson (BNP); Timothy Knowles (Lab)*; Kenneth Simpson (Con).

Cleator Moor South & Egremont: Kevin Hurst (BNP); Jean Lewthwaite (Con); Mike Minogue (Lib Dem); Frank Morgan (Lab).

Distington & Moresby: Frank Hollowell (Lib Dem); Cam Ross (Lab)*; Helen Stevenson (BNP); Dorothy Wonnacott (Con).

Gosforth & Ennerdale: Norman Clarkson (Con)*; Lynne Hicks (BNP); Peter Watson (Lab).

Hensingham & Arlecdon: Mike Hawkins (Lab); Shaun Hornby (BNP); Marie Simpson (Con).

Hillcrest: Steve Gibbons (Lab); Bill Pugh (BNP); Andrew Wonnacott (Con).

Kells & Sandwith: Edward Caley-Knowles (UKIP); Simon Nicholson (BNP); Wendy Skillicorn (Lab)*; Brigid Whiteside (Con).

Millom: Ray Cole (Con)*; Craig Eaton (BNP); Robin Pitt (Lab).

Mirehouse: Craig Burns (BNP); Glenn Gray (Con); John Woolley (Lab)*.

Seascale & Whicham: Sue Brown (Con)*; Carl Carter (Lab); Nigel Gilligan (Green); Russ Mclean (BNP).

St Bees & Egremont: Brian Allan (BNP); Sam Meteer (Ind); Jane Micklethwaite (Con); David Southward (Lab)* (A second BNP candidate was nominated in this ward but has withdrawn).

Alston and East Fellside: Andrew Bell (Lib Dem); Kristina Blenkharn (Lab); Sheila Orchard (Con); Mary Robinson (Ind).

Appleby: Andrew Connell (Lib Dem); Janice Harrison (Lab); Martin Stephenson (Con).

Eden Lakes: Neil Hughes, (Lib Dem); Thomas Lowther (Con); David Wilson (Lab).

Greystoke and Hesket: Lynn Bates (Green); Victoria Darrall (Lib Dem); Albert Richardson (Con)*; Christopher Southward (Lab).

Kirkby Stephen: Rachel Bates (Green); Kevin Lischke (UKIP); Joan Southward (Lab); Timothy Stoddard (Con)*; Peter Thornton (Lib Dem).

Penrith East: Graham Bartlett (Lab); Patricia Bell (Lib Dem)*; John Lynch (Con).

Penrith North: Hilary Carrick (Con); Anthony O’Malley (BNP); Geoffrey Rockliffe-King (Lab); John Tompkins (Lib Dem).

Penrith Rural: Roger Burgin (Lib Dem); James Hendry (Lab); Gary Strong (Con)*.

Penrith West: Charles Bickerstaffe (BNP); Sheelagh Delaney (Lab); Michael Eyles (Lib Dem); Helen Fearon (Con); Colin Nineham (Ind)*.


(BNP), British National Party; (Con), Conservative; (Ind), Independent; (Lab), Labour; (Lib Dem), Liberal Democrat; (UKIP), UK Independence Party. A * denotes a sitting councillor for the same ward - a couple of councillors are attempting a "chicken run" to another seat.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Government plan to limit DNA database "doesn't go far enough"

Chris Grayling has attacked Labour for failing to take “real action” to remove innocent people from the DNA database.

The Shadow Home Secretary warned that Labour’s latest plan to trim the DNA database “doesn’t go far enough”, and accused the Government of “trying very hard to do as little as it can as slowly as it can”.

Under the current system, details of individuals who are cleared of crimes - or not even charged in the first place - are held for six years, or 12 in cases involving serious violent or sexual offences.

Chris stressed the importance of remembering that people are innocent until proven guilty and of achieving the "right balance" – and he said:

“I can see no reason to be storing the DNA of people who have not been convicted of any offence.”

Chris promised that a Conservative Government would implement the Scottish system, where a DNA sample is taken on arrest but then deleted if the person is cleared, or kept for a maximum of five years if they are cleared of serious sexual or violent offence.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

David Cameron: Vote for Change on 4th June

This is the text of the speech David Cameron gave in North Tyneside to launch the 2009 Conservative local election campaign.

On June 4th, people across Britain will go to the polls and decide who runs their councils.

This isn't just any local election - it really matters. It really matters because you can make a difference.

And you can make a difference because it's your best chance to save money and improve your quality of life, your only chance to transform North Tyneside with a dynamic new era of civic leadership and your last chance, until the General Election, to tell Gordon Brown exactly what you think of him and his tired, incompetent and failing Government.

But this will only happen if you vote for change.


Increasingly, that's what people are doing.

Last year, the Conservatives won control of fourteen new councils.

We won over two hundred and fifty new councillors - meaning we now have more in England than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined. And we won in new areas - proving that for the modern Conservative Party, there really are no no-go areas.

There's a simple reason for all this.

Just as the world has changed, with Labour's decade of debt giving way to the age of austerity, people have changed with it, counting every penny they earn and making it go as far as possible. And they expect the same thrift from their political leaders.

Today, it's Conservative councils that are living up to that expectation. Offering value for money. They are delivering more of the safe, clean and green streets that are so vital to everyone's quality of life for the less tax that is so important for everyone struggling in Labour's Debt Crisis.

More for less.

This goes to the heart of what Conservatives believe. It's the kind of change people really want. And it's what we will be offering Britain in the local elections next month. Let me explain in more detail.

Let me start where people want us to start - with the less.

When every family is tightening their budget, there's nothing worse than a council that is loosening the purse strings. Giving the green light to some pointless scheme. Pursuing a vanity project. Pocketing massive pay deals. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

And I'm proud that it's Conservatives that are putting it right.

We're the ones that are standing by the pensioner who cannot heat their home, the mother that cannot put food on the table, the family who risk losing the house they love in their hour of need.

It's Conservatives in Westminster City Council that found £500,000 worth of efficiency savings last year. It's Conservative councillors in Essex that will be giving 30,000 £100 council tax rebates to every family with young children and pensioner over the age of eighty. And nationally, on average, it's Conservative-run councils that charge the lowest council taxes.

In the weeks to come, as I travel up and down the country, meeting our candidates and talking to Conservative groups on local councils, my message will be simple:

Whether you're re-elected or new to the job, if you win next June, go through the books, page by page, line by line, see what savings you can make, and do everything you can to get council tax down and help people in Labour's Debt Crisis.

But as well doing everything we can to get council tax down today, we're going to do everything we can to keep it down in the future. That's why the next Conservative Government will freeze council tax for two years by cutting the government advertising budget.

We will give local people the power to stop massive council tax rises with referendums.

We will scrap all those regulations, inspections and red tape which do so much to force councils to increase taxes.

And with our 'Right to Know' plan, we will make sure every item of local spending is published online. There'll be no hiding place for wasteful spending. It will be out there in the open for residents to see and councils to be judged. And it's a vital part of changing the culture of local government so it asks for less from the wallets of families and individuals.


But in addition to asking for less from their constituents, councils have got to ask more of themselves. Is there more that we can be doing with the money we've got? Are there more services we can provide and help we can give? And all the evidence shows that Conservatives are doing more.

Of the councils with the top twenty highest 'overall satisfaction' ratings by residents, sixteen are Conservative and none are Labour or Liberal Democrat controlled. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

Conservative councils are greener, helping improve the local environment and protect green spaces in our neighbourhoods. Like Norfolk County Council, which has brought the countryside to the town, by building more footpaths into rural areas.

Conservative councils are cleaner, with lower levels of the graffiti, fly-posting and fly-tipping that scars so many neighbourhoods. Last year, Peterborough City Council's Spring Clean cleared nearly 240 tonnes of litter and cleaned graffiti from over 800 locations.

And Conservative councils are safer, with lower levels of the crime, anti-social behaviour and vandalism which strikes fear into so many people. It's Conservatives in Cambridgeshire that have introduced a registered traders scheme to stop criminals from conning vulnerable people.

Greener, cleaner, safer.

There's one other vital area where local councils can do more: by giving families and businesses the help and advice they need to fight this recession. Again, Conservatives are leading the way.

Both Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire County Councils have created one-stop-shop websites with recession support services. These range from how to deal with problem debt to getting a new job.

East Sussex County Council has teamed up with Business Link Sussex to develop an intensive program aimed at supporting three hundred local businesses. And Essex County Council has created a Bank of Essex - getting to the heart of the credit crunch by making £30 million of loans available to local businesses.

The practical, the obvious, the ingenious - this is precisely the sort of help people need. And it's precisely the sort of thing I want to see more of.

So as I go up and down the country, telling Conservative candidates to do all they can to keep council tax down, I'm also going to tell them to do all they can to give their families and businesses the support they need to lift themselves up and out of this recession.

That's what I mean when I say Conservatives deliver more for less.

So for those already with a Conservative council, expect more of this value for money. And for those without a Conservative council, use your vote next month to vote for change.


Your second chance for change on June 4th comes right here in North Tyneside. It's one of three places - the others being Hartlepool and Doncaster - where there will be a critical Mayoral election.

We have seen in London, with Boris Johnson, what committed Conservative civic leadership can give our towns and cities.

Economic hope by standing up for local businesses and getting transport moving.

Social strength by fighting back against violence and crime.

And cultural vibrancy by championing the best in local creative talent.

This June, we can give that same leadership - bring that same hope, strength and vibrancy - to North Tyneside.

Our candidate here is Linda Arkley. She's lived in North Tyneside for most of her life. And she's the only person who can bring the change that the families and businesses of North Tyneside are crying out for. Beating a sitting Mayor is a massive ask. But if anyone can, I know Linda can.


In this Party, we believe in localism.

So our local and mayoral election campaigns are being fought exactly where they should be: on every pavement of every city, town and village that will go out and vote next month.

But these elections also have a national importance. With every day that passes, this Government is running our country into the ground.

Borrowing eye-watering amounts of money.
Presiding over social decline.
Letting our politics descend into the quagmire.

I promise you this.

They cannot go one forever. Change in our country will come.

And we can make that great day of change arrive all the sooner, if on June 4th you give this weak, useless and spineless Government a message it won't forget.

With every Conservative vote, that message will be simple: Enough is enough. You're the past.

It's time to go and make way for the only party that has faith in Britain and the British people, that believes our best days lie ahead of us, and has the ideas, plans and policies to deliver them.

The party that will build the NHS and improve it for everyone.

The party that will radically reform our schools and welfare system and strengthen our families so we fix our broken society.

The party that will create a modern, dynamic economy with the industries and jobs of the future.

That party is the Conservative Party - and that's the change we will bring to our country.


So our message this local election is simple: Vote for Change.

For change in local communities without Conservative councils - so we help families and businesses through this recession.

For change in North Tyneside, Doncaster and Hartlepool - so we bring real civic leadership to their people.

And change for our country - so we build a better future.

On June 4th, vote for change.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

We cannot afford ID cards

Such is the mess Labour have made of our finances that whoever wins the next election will have to make painful and very unpopular decisions.

There have already been cuts in Labour spending plans even before the election, and there will be more after the election even if they win.

It is extremely important that as much as possible of the pain is diverted away from front line services such as schools and hospitals. There are no easy answers. But if we are to avoid cutting nurses, doctors, dentists, teachers and policemen we will have to find less essential things to cut instead.

Now let's make a simple thought experiment. Lets suppose you put a choice of two options to the British people in a poll or referendum

Option one - sack thousands of doctors and nurses

Option two - save billions by scrapping the ID cards plan instead.

Does anyone in their right mind imagine that option one would get more than a tiny handful of votes, mainly those of Gordon Brown, Jacqui Smith, and those people who are actually dependent for their personal livelihoods on the ID cards project?

Make it teachers, policemen, dentists, soldiers, or firemen in place of doctors and nurses and you would get the same result - the public would vote that ID cards are the lower priority.

I agree with Chris Grayling, who has stressed the nation “cannot afford” Labour's ID card scheme and promised that a Conservative Government would “scrap it as quickly as we can”.

The Shadow Home Secretary said he did not think ID cards were “necessary”, especially at a time when “the public finances are in a mess”

He condemned Jacqui Smith’s decision to launch a voluntary, single city scheme in Manchester, stressing:

“Piloting the scheme in one city is nonsensical and will only serve as a tax on the people of Manchester.”

Chris explained that databases for passports and driving licenses already exist, so spending billions on another scheme “just doesn’t seem to make any sense”.

And he promised that under a Conservative Government “the ID card scheme will go. I don’t think it is the right thing to do. We don’t think the nation can afford it and it won't happen."

You can sign an online Conservative petition against ID cards here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Time to toughen up on Postal Voting fraud

When I was a young man, British elections were among the cleanest in the world. They are still reasonably clean. But there have been a certain number of cases - with a minority of candidates from all the main political parties responsible - where people have been caught attempting to rig the ballot. In a recent case in Reading a candidate, agent and several people who assisted them in a bad case of postal voting fraud have been sentenced to a total of fourteen years in jail.

Postal voting fraud and all other attempts to rig elections are totally unacceptable whoever does it, and should be severely punished. It is also unacceptable that the concerns expressed by the presiding judges in previous voting fraud cases over the past few years have not been acted on.

The next government must implement individual voter registration as a matter of urgency, and we need a Speaker's conference, to get cross-party agreement if at all possible, on measures to tighten the integrity of the ballot. It may be necessary to return to the previous system where people had to give a reason why they wanted a postal vote.

And the next government should take concerns raised by the Electoral Commission more seriously than the present government sometimes has.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Reflections on the end of an era

Thirty years ago today, I remember sitting in my place in the choir stalls in St Albans Cathedral during the regular Friday morning service for the school at which I was then a sixth former. The BBC Parliament channel retrospective today of the election night special has strengthened the memory (though of course I have been a little too busy with this year's elections to spend all day watching a result from one three decades ago).

A few months before the 1979 election, my father had been telephoned on the morning he was due to go into Guys for heart surgery, and told that, because the shops stewards who were taking industrial action against the Labour government's NHS cuts had ruled that heart valve replacements were "not an emergency" - apparently NUPE and COHSE shop stewards thought they knew better than doctors about this. I had joined the Conservative party when this happened and for the past few weeks had been campaigning hard for the election of a Conservative government.

By the grace of God and the skill of NHS doctors and nurses, but no thanks whatever to Labour or the NHS unions, my father survived to have his operation under a Conservative government, which took office thirty years ago today.

And the lesson at the service that morning, the first day of a new government, was Revelations, Chapter 21, Verses 1 to 7

That passage of scripture begins

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth"

and continues, depending on which edition of the bible you are reading, with lines like

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes" and

"For the old order has passed away, and the new order has come."

(I should perhaps add that the school chaplain, the Reverend Andy Daynes, had chosen that reading some weeks earlier, before we knew for certain that there would be a change of government on that day.)

People who were able to see both of us during the reading of this lesson told me subsequently that it was hard to decide whether it was I or the Headmaster who was having the most obvious difficulty restraining the urge to roar with laughter.

I would never suggest that either the new order which Mrs Thatcher was elected to bring in 1979, or that which I hope David Cameron will be elected to bring when we finally get a general election at some time in the next year, should be compared to the new order which God will bring and which was foretold in that passage of Revelations.

But I sense now, as I sensed in 1979 (and less happily for my party, in 1997) that there is a strong desire in the country for change.

May that change come soon.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

DC: The Prime Minister has run out of moral and political authority

Last week we had the Budget - when Gordon Brown ran out of money.

This week we've had the votes on the Gurkhas and MPs' expenses - and now the Prime Minister has run out of moral and political authority too.

Take the Gurkhas. They are the bravest of they brave. In WWI, in WWII, in the Falklands and today in the dust and heat of Afghanistan, they have fought and died for this country in some of its toughest battles.

We owe them a huge debt. We need to treat them properly in return. That's why I believe there should be a presumption that Gurkha veterans who want to live in this country should be able to do so.

This week the House of Commons stood up for the Gurkhas, by defeating the Government, and voting decisively in favour of allowing them to come to Britain. It was a tremendous victory for Joanna Lumley, who had campaigned so hard on their behalf. And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg deserved great credit for calling the debate.

And yet only hours earlier at Prime Minister's Questions, Gordon Brown had insisted to me that it was impossible for Britain to show more generosity to the Gurkhas. It showed how out of touch he has become.

On Thursday it was the issue of MPs' expenses, which the House of Commons debated and voted on. And again, another master-class from the Prime Minister in how to make a complete mess of an important issue.

Several weeks ago I demanded a meeting with Gordon Brown, together with Nick Clegg, to sit down, get a grip and clean things up.

Instead, Gordon Brown popped up on YouTube last week to announce his own brilliant idea: pay MPs to turn up and do their job - they would get a daily allowance for doing so, no receipts required. Within minutes the phone rang in my office - it was a message from the PM saying he would like a meeting to discuss his idea.

Unsurprisingly his scheme got panned, and by the time of the vote yesterday he had to abandon it. Another humiliating defeat for a Prime Minister who just won't listen.

It's been an important fortnight in British politics. Everywhere I go, people tell me they want change - change to a Government that focuses not on tomorrow's headlines, but on the long-term good of the country. They want a Government that treats them like adults.

Over the next few weeks, I will be out on the road campaigning in the local and European elections, which take place on 4th June. That's your chance to send Gordon Brown a message, and Vote for Change.

That's a month away. In the meantime, I hope you have a great Bank Holiday weekend.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

An article anyone interested in politics should read.

A number of articles by some of Britain's most thoughtful journalists this weekend make grim reading for the government.

Doutless the dwindling band of labour loyalists will ignore what Matthew Parris had to say because he is a former Tory MP who has long been a sharp critic of Gordon Brown. Though in my opinion his criticisms both of the Prime Minister and of a cabinet which has failed to stand up to him ring true.

They will have much more difficulty in ignoring Polly Toynbee in the Guardian who was originally one of Gordon Brown's cheerleaders. Her piece this weekend flays the Prime Minister as having

"no ideas and no regrets," says that

"Under his leadership Labour has become a rotten, defeatist rabble"

and begins

"In free fall without a parachute, unassisted suicide, accelerating the wrong way down a motorway – the death metaphors are flowing in a dark torrent of despair from Labour MPs. What made Gordon Brown hurl himself on that row of Gurkha kukri knives? Drowning at 19% behind in the latest polls, few think the party will come up for air a third time."

But probably the most damning of the lot, especially as it comes from perhaps the most intelligent and honest of Britain's left wing media commentators, is a forensic dissection of the rottenness at the heart of Brown's leadership from Nick Cohen in Standpoint magazine, called

"Fear and Filth at Brown's number ten."

This article should be read by anyone interested in politics and especially anyone, whether they are on the right or left, who aspires to hold political office because it demonstrates one of the ways that the leadership of a political movement can fall into moral collapse.

The article lists evidence of how Gordon Brown descended from a conviction that he was in the right through the consequent belief that his opponents inside and outside the Labour party must be bad or mad, to the conclusion that "Any tactic is justified in the campaign against them" until you reach a point which

"makes Britain sound as if it is a police state. The servants of an unscrupulous leader concoct vile libels about opposition politicians and their wives. They plot against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, spreading smears about them almost for the hell it. Journalists on the left-wing press who speak out know that they may risk their careers."

He adds that Britain is not a police state, and the fact that so few people did speak out does not put the media in a good light.

I don't always agree with Nick Cohen, but he's usually interesting and often devastating, and this article could have been written to illustrate the famous saying by Edmund Burke:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

After the phoney war, Campaign 2009 begins

After weeks of putting out what politicians call "peacetime" literature (e.g. when you are not in an actual election campaign) and preparing the ground for the 2009 County and Euro elections, Campaign 2009 started in earnest today. With the majority of our candidates in Copeland validly nominated we now begin a long five-week campaign. I started campaigning today at 8 am and finished at 7pm.

This will be an opportunity to vote for constructive change in Cumbria and for representatives in the European parliament who will stand up for British interests on issues like the working time directive, which threatens to do great damage to our NHS and fire services.

I always regard the primary purpose of any election to be for the voters to choose the best people to run the authority which is being elected. But we could hardly blame voters if they also use this election to pass a verdict on an incompetent, sleazy, confused, dishonest, failed government, whose conduct over the past few weeks has made even former Labour cabinet members like Charles Clarke "ashamed to be a Labour member of parliament."

This is an important election for Cumbria and for Britain. It will be a tough fight. Bring it on!