Friday, December 31, 2004

As I think it is excellent (rather obviously), I thought that I would re-print Michael Howard's New Year Message in full:

New Year is a time of hope.
But this year, as every day brings more news of the disaster unfolding across Asia, our hopes for the future are overshadowed by the tragedy that has engulfed hundreds of thousands of lives.
We watched the scenes of destruction with a sense of disbelief. The scale, the speed, the ferocity of what happened on Boxing Day is difficult to grasp.
Yet Britain's response has shone a light on our nation's character. The last week has shown that the warm, caring heart of Britain beats as strong as ever.
At the start of a year which will almost certainly see a General Election, it is worth thinking about what unites us rather than what divides us.
What is it that we, as a great nation, believe?
People in genuine need - the sick, the aged, the vulnerable, the persecuted - should be helped.
People should be judged on their ability and their potential, not their background, religion or the colour of their skin.
People's property should respected.
People who take responsibility for themselves and their families should be rewarded.
People who work hard, risk their money by starting new firms, and invest to create more jobs, should be encouraged.
People who break the law, who have no respect for other people's freedom or property, should be properly punished.
People should have the opportunity to live their dreams.
These are values that I believe most Britons hold dear.
In the weeks ahead, I will be setting out how the Conservatives can turn these beliefs into reality - reaching out to the millions of people who these share these values.
Of course, some of the things I have to say will be controversial. I do not believe in sweeping the truth - however painful it may be - under the carpet.
I will outline the choices facing Britain at the election. How much tax do people want to pay?
Who will give taxpayers value for money - the clean hospitals and good, disciplined schools they want? Who can be trusted to get a grip on the disorder on our streets and the chaos in our immigration system?
Mr Blair has had his chance to tackle these problems. His approach has failed. Britain is heading in the wrong direction for a simple reason: Mr. Blair has the wrong solution to the problems we face.
His government is a bossy, interfering government that takes decisions that should be made by individuals.
That requires a bigger state and more bureaucrats - which has to be paid for in taxes.
The result is big government and higher taxes eroding incentives, undermining enterprise and denying people choice.
Worst of all, it is a government that has wasted people's money and failed to tackle the problems families face today.
This is the record that Mr Blair will have to defend in the months ahead. It is time to hold him to account.
The question is simple: why should we trust him now and think he would be any different next time, when he has let us down so many times in the past?
Britain is a first class country. Our country and its people brim with ambition, drive and creativity. We can overcome the challenges we face.
We can cut crime. We can improve public services without asking people to pay more in taxes. We can have progress without losing what makes Britain great - its tolerance, the respect for the rule of law, the ability of everyone to fulfil their potential. We simply need to change direction.
The election will give Britain the chance to change. The debate will soon begin on how we can create a Britain in which everyone, no matter his or her background, has the chance to build a better life. I hope you join in it.
I wish you a very happy, peaceful New Year.
The news from Asia really has put everything into perspective this Christmas. With the news that a lady from Colney - in Norwich South - is amongst those killed, I issued the following press release urging people to donate:

Parliamentary spokesman Antony Little has encouraged Norwich to take up Conservative leader Michael Howard’s challenge to the British public to match the £15 million of Government aid to help the victims of the tsunami disaster.

Antony, and his wife Louise, have donated via the special telephone hotline 0870 60 60 900.

Mr Howard said something could be done "at all levels". He said he has himself donated £250 to the appeal fund. He said the British public had always responded generously in the past to disaster appeals and he was confident they would dig deep now. "It would be really good if we could match, as individuals, the £15 million which the Government has pledged," he said. "It would be really terrific if the British people could match the £15 million, doubling the money available for relief."

Speaking at a reception in Norwich, Mr Little said in the areas affected many people survived on as little as a dollar a day, so small sums of money could make a significant impact.

Echoing the words of Michael Howard, Antony said: "The really important thing is that everything that can be done now to get help to the people who need it now should be done. As we speak there are people sitting on rooftops, sitting on hills, without any clean water, at risk of death from disease. And if disease is allowed to get a grip in these areas we face another calamity possibly as big in scale as the one we have just seen from the earthquake and the tsunami."

”Individuals want to help, individuals want to take some responsibility for themselves and I think that is to be encouraged."

“I know how Louise and I felt watching the appeal being made on the BBC and how we feel each time the death toll goes up. Our donation is hopefully one small step to turning somebody’s life around. I urge everybody in Norwich to donate.”

Friday, December 24, 2004

As it's Christmas Eve and we're away for a few days now visiting friends and family, I'd like to wish everybody a very "Merry Christmas" - looking forward to 2005!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

On another point, the Budd inquiry will have no doubt shocked the government, as Blair’s inquiries are there for the sole purpose of finding him innocent of all charges. I am surprised by this morning’s Guardian poll about 67% of the public wanting Blunkett back at some point. Michael Howard did an excellent job pointing out that he lied in all this. Am I the only one left in electoral politics that believes that ministers (and, for that matter, Prime Ministers) should quit if they are found to have lied? Tomorrow I am also at our print company to look at the new design for our “Matters” series of newsletters. Whilst Westminster may fetter over a new catholic education secretary or the PMs Christmas cards, the real stuff of politics still goes on locally!
It’s day two in the Big Christmas House. Antony is getting increasingly frustrated that he can’t find a mass that finishes at a sensible time. Louise is attempting to make mincemeat in record speed and without letting it stand at any point. Despite trips to Diss, Bowthorpe and Costessey, they still don’t have the shopping they need, despite only entertaining for one day over the festive period. Tomorrow the farce continues, as Antony has the glass in his car replaced and attempts to mark some ‘A’ Level essays. Who says there isn’t anything fun about Christmas?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Just back from St. John’s Cathedral, have been to a celebration service. Really good time. Feels a bit weird now that school has finished. Unfortunately the only celebration I get is going to the design company to look at the new layout for our “Matters” newsletters. There is going to be a really big change for next year!

Everybody is asking me how my chances have changed with Clarke’s promotion to Home Secretary. One is tempted to say that the bigger they are, the harder they fall! I actually think this improves my chances. Firstly is that Clarke is still saddled with his tenure at Education. I know 10,000 students at UEA (and countless more over the last seven years) who won’t forget which party and which person ushered in fees. But now Clarke is responsible for the area of biggest failure under Labour. He’s dumped with bringing down crime, waging a war against knives and tackling our immigration crisis. Michael Howard cut crime, now we’ll see if Clarke is made of the same stuff. I really think that gives a second edge to the fight in Norwich South, because now crime and education will be at the fore. And with the Tories currently 19% ahead on law & order issues, this could be the final nail in Clarke’s political coffin.

To paraphrase Dr Reid, on accepting the Health portfolio, “***k, not the Home Office.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I think Blunkett has made the right decision here, see below for my press release about Mr Clarke's appointment as Home Secretary:

Charles Clarke’s Conservative Opponent at the next election has wished the new Home Secretary good luck in his post and has urged the Norwich MP to start “a real fight back against crime” before the next election.

Mr Clarke – the cabinet minister who as Education Secretary introduced top up fees - takes up the job at a time of rising violent crime in Britain.

Mr Little, a 25 year old teacher from Notre Dame High School in Norwich, sent his congratulations to Mr Clarke but also a tough warning of the task ahead.

Speaking to a meeting of the Norwich Conservatives’ Campaign Group at the time of the announcement, Antony said:

”Charles Clarke is now one of the last Blairites in this failing New Labour government. I wish him well in his new job, but he must now get a grip on the crime and anti-social behaviour that is ruining lives in cities like Norwich.”

“I hope Mr Clarke brings a new broom to the job and commits himself to increasing police numbers, like the Conservatives have done, commits to getting more drug addicts into rehab, like the Conservatives have done and commits to scrapping unnecessary police bureaucracy, like the Conservatives have done.”

“Mr Clarke holding his seat after the next election is no certainty, with the Conservatives breathing down his neck in Norwich South. He may not have long to make his mark, so I wish Mr Clarke luck for however long he has as Home Secretary. A few months is more than enough time to start a real fight back against crime.”

“Within a week of being in power the Conservatives will have scrapped Labour’s early release programme, which will stop criminals getting out of prison early and will reduce crime. Let’s see what Charles Clarke can achieve in a week to help reduce crime.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Christmas week is the normal mayhem in school at the moment. Have GCSE mock re-takes tomorrow and Thursday and it always seems to take such an effort to organise anything. Plus I have the photographers in for the Yearbook photos tomorrow as well. Lunchtime is a coursework catch up club – aaarrrggghhh! “Free period” seems to be a euphemism for “working even harder that I would do if actually teaching”. Tomorrow I am also on (joy of joys) Formal School Detention duty. Can’t wait.

Today I attended the funeral of Colin Barker, a very good friend of mine. It was a moving service and there was a really sincere tribute by his sister. It makes you think that you never truly know people half as well as you should. I have found out so much about Colin today, and yet I’ll never be able to share any of it with him. Rest in peace, Colin.

This evening I have been doing more general election planning. However, as somebody said today, it all rather pales into insignificance really.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Despite the festive season coming thick and fast nothing seems to be slowing down! Following last week’s dental disaster I was back at school on Friday to “enjoy” the Sixth Form Panto, which seems to have become an excuse for smut and sexual innuendo – quite good, really! Even got a mention or two in the play – apparently you can’t mention the s-word around future Tory MPs!

Saturday morning I was out with my team in Town Close and we got a really good reception. I have to say that the last time I canvassed that particular area it was 2001 and I was the County Council candidate. Then we were struggling but today people had so much more time for us. In fact it took ages to canvass just two roads because of the number of people who wanted to talk. Sadly the Labour vote seems to be up, but more at the expense of the LibDems. A couple of Labour switchers to us, but far more LibDems saying that they are ready to vote Conservative again. A rather charming gentleman, ex-RAF, told me about his fears for the future of the armed forces if Labour wins again. Ironically he voted for Blair in ’97, then didn’t vote in ’01 but will now vote Conservative. I was recognised (hurrah!) – a grandmother of one of my year group, saying I’ll definitely have her vote. However I spent most time with a lady who works for the N&N, filling me in on some of the ways in which the NHS works at the highest levels that would scare the public if they knew. I said I wouldn’t give out details, so I won’t, but they certainly match experiences that my wife told me about from her time in the NHS.

Following canvassing I fought my way through Norwich, spent enough money to start a small inflationary boom and then came home for Christmas card writing and the X Factor final. Does that make me a nerd? Yes. Clearly. But I did make up for it for going to see Phantom at the UCI Riverside last night. Fantastic, fantastic fantastic! Highly recommended night out. Tomorrow I am leafleting in Bowthorpe then off to the in-laws for Sunday Lunch.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Today has been proof that despite our cynical attitude towards public services they really can come together. I’ve been getting pains in my teeth for a while now and a Christmas party in Norwich really set them off. All night I was up with the pain and no amount of pain killers worked. Both Louise and I had a really bad time (me in pain, her having to listen to me in pain.)

This morning I phoned a dentist ho advertises in the EDP – no appointment for another 2 weeks. No good with me still on the verge of exploding with pain. So I call NHS Direct who put me onto emergency walk-in dentists found on the old West Norwich hospital site on the Bowthorpe Road. Sure enough, an appointment was made for 10o’clock this morning. Even better I was in the dentist’s chair by 10.05. I needed to have one tooth out, one cleaned up and a filling. It took all in all no more than half an hour. The cost? Just £27 – a really acceptable price to pay for the work and stopping my agony.

Still being in some discomfort I wasn’t looking forward to the journey home, but I stepped out of the dentists, crossed the road, and caught the No.21 straight away, which dropped me back outside my home in Bowthorpe. Fantastic service.

Politicians don’t say it enough, but when push comes to shove our public services can and do work. They worked for me today and I’m sure they work for thousands of people everyday. The thought going through my mind on the way was why such services can have problems. It isn’t the professionals who work in them – they were top quality the whole way through. It must be the politicians.

Labour had better take note (and the Tories for that matter) – public services run better without us. Freedom and choice make the public services better not Whitehall led “reform”.

So let me say this loud and clear: Thank You, NHS.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

It has been a week of mixed emotions around here. On Wednesday we were told that Colin Barker, a good friend of mine and a very active member, passed away at his home in Norwich. Our thoughts and prayer go to his wife Judy at this time – very sad news for us all. Colin was a hard working, dedicated and thoroughly human friend to us. Colin had that very Norwich-outlook on life. Never to be rushed, he believed in plain speaking and was always popular for those reasons. Colin had an affable presence on the doorstep and I believe one of the very few people who could pinpoint how to make the Conservatives popular in Norwich. He’ll be greatly missed by all.