Another good 90 minute debate at Westminster today about the much discussed Swansea Tidal Lagoon. The debate was led by Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Presceli Pembrokeshire, who was supported by almost all opposition parties in the House of Commons. It was a very one-sided debate. The cost hardly mentioned. I'd like to have spoken in the debate myself, but because of my close working relationship with Welsh Office ministers felt it unwise to do so. But on my blog, A View from Rural Wales, I reckon I can get away with it. If I choose my words carefully, I don't seem to land myself in any trouble. And anyway, despite being entirely positive about the proposal, I fear my contribution would have seemed negative - much like that of the only Conservative backbencher to speak, Antoinette Sandbach. Same goes for Minister, Jesse Norman who was responding on behalf of the Govt.
Everyone wants to see the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon going ahead. It's an exciting new technology. The proposal itself is comparative.y small, but can be looked at as a pilot for much bigger schemes around the coast of Britain. Like everyone else, I hope we can find a way of using tidal energy to produce power, and Swansea Bay could be the key.
But it cannot be at any price. Govts cannot do that, and the current Govt has commissioned a report on the potential of UK tidal power from formed respected DECC minister, Charles Hendry. None of us have seen it yet. Despite rumours circulating around Westminster, I have no idea what this report says. The report is into tidal power, rather than just the Swansea Bay project. It will inform Govt's thinking. But as Antoinette and Jesse Norman both said today, (and I would have said if I'd spoken) it has to be financially viable. It falls to Government to always balance benefits against cost, and make a decision based on value for money. I'm looking forward to knowing what it is - in due course.

One hundred years ago today David Lloyd George became Prime Minister. He was Britain’s greatest radical leader. His liberal radicalism was unchecked by any vestiges of class background and little dimmed by religion. He is, so far, the only Welshman to lead our country (though Cromwell was of Welsh descent) and was the first from humble origins. He stormed the heights from outside the political establishment, without any of the advantages of family background, schooling, wealth or military accomplishment. His ascendancy a hundred years ago, when Britain was at the height of its imperial power, looks all the more remarkable when you look at the backgrounds of most 21st century leaders.

He is remembered for his achievements in both peace and war, unlike his colleague and friend Churchill who has eclipsed him in popular memory but is celebrated solely for his wartime leadership. In peacetime as Chancellor he worked in partnership with Asquith to give us old age pensions and payments for sickness and unemployment, financed by the scheme of national insurance that endures today. As Prime Minister of a war time coalition he delivered votes for all men over 21 and women over 30. He built the first council houses and wanted all new homes to be “fit for heroes”. As a Liberal coalition housing minister myself I visited the Building Research Establishment that he founded.

As Prime Minister during a war crisis he was the most powerful man in the land. The establishment needed his dynamism and leadership, yet he had nothing but contempt for most of them. He paid little heed to their rules of etiquette, having an active sex life outside an otherwise loving and long lasting marriage to Margaret. He railed against the House of Lords when it blocked his 1909 “People’s Budget”, using language about the men “drawn at random from the unemployed” that outraged polite society. Later he would sell peerages and honours to raise money for political funds. A parallel may be drawn with King James I, a ruler from the Celtic fringe who also had little time for English manners.

Lloyd George spent 55 years unbroken service in the House of Commons and was a minister in continuous office from 1905 to 1922. He was ousted at the height of his abilities, with so much more to give but never again given the chance to lead. He was kept out of office as the non-Conservative forces fragmented around Asquith’s pride and stubborn refusal to stand aside and MacDonald’s determination for Labour to supplant the Liberals, at all costs. The 1920s echo nine decades later.

It is a shame that the most significant years of Lloyd George’s career were before the age of film and sound recording. He was a great political showman, taking a pride in his appearance as well as care with his words. His oratory, read today off a printed page and imagining the cadence and style of delivery, is stunning. His ability to deploy words as a political weapon probably owed much to childhood listening to chapel sermons (many from the uncle who brought him up in Llanystumdwy) and close study of fellow political orators. His verbal dexterity may also stem from his bilingualism, with his famous words delivered in his second language.

As a liberal politician from a Welsh background I have always revered Lloyd George. The history books have not always been kind to him, highlighting his sex life, cavalier attitude to money and a tendency for political shiftiness. But which great political career did not feature elements of betrayal and vice? When his nation needed him, with 1916 being as critical a time as 1940, he did not flinch from the task.

There is a song “Lloyd George knew my father” but in my case they certainly never met. But I did have the pleasure of meeting one of his daughters (by his first wife) Lady Olwen Carey Evans. Thirty years ago she was the guest of honour at a Welsh Liberal SDP Alliance conference. She was the oldest attendee and I was the youngest and we were photographed together. Unfortunately I never got a copy. Lloyd George himself, a great moderniser, would have been a star in our current age of social media.

A century after he became Prime Minister David Lloyd George deserves to be remembered as one of the great holders of that office. As a war leader he is up there with Pitt the Younger and Churchill. As a radical reformer he matches Gladstone and surpasses Attlee. Much of what he achieved endures today and all modern liberals, radicals and progressives should celebrate his life and legacy.


After discussions with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association has announced a flood cover scheme for commercial premises and let properties at risk of flooding. Many small and medium businesses in flood risk areas have had difficulty in obtaining cover and this scheme may help to provide a solution. You can read more about this on the link below:

New insurance scheme from British Insurance Brokers’ Association offers hope to businesses at risk of flood

For residents in flood risk areas who have difficulty in obtaining affordable cover. Flood Re may be helpful. Launched earlier this year, the Flood Re scheme is the result of the Government working closely with the insurance industry to make affordable flood insurance available to households across the UK. You can learn more about this on the link below:

Homeowner

I need the flu jab because I had my spleen kicked to bits in a racing fall at Stratford 10 years ago - I liked the horse so much that I tried to catch it as it fell on top of me at the second last fence at Stratford races; the combination of the fall and the horse landing on me crushed my left side, broke over ten ribs, displaced some vertebrae, gave me a pneumothorax (Rib through the lung) and perforated my spleen; this damaged and perforated spleen was then taken out by a great surgeon called Mr. Mike Stellakis, at Warwick General Hospital, leaving me with a scar down my tummy, and the loss of a key element of the body's protective system. As a result I am immuno compromised. Without the operation I would have died. I did keep racing as a jockey, after a long recovery, and even raced again at Stratford, but I owe a massive debt to the NHS.
The loss of my spleen puts me in a group that includes pensioners, the pregnant, and other at risk groups who need the flu jab. It is a scandal that some people who are entitled to a free flu jab are failing to take up the jab, which could save their life.

Please make sure you ask your elderly relatives, or those like me who are in an at risk group, to get the jab. Some people will die or get very sick this winter because of the lack of this and it is totally wrong, and totally avoidable. The jab is free and available at all GPs. Not only is this a potential tragedy, but if people get sick through failing to have the flu jab they can occupy much needed hospital beds, with everything that this entails for both the hospital and the wider community.

3 years ago I had my jab done in less than 3 minutes by Sarah at the Haltwhistle GP Clinic. It does not hurt [much!] and will save your life!! Please make sure you check your parents, elderly relatives and neighbours have done the same thing.

Matteo Renzi has become the latest prime minister to quit after losing a referendum. The vote was on constitutional reform, but it could herald another referendum on Italy's membership of the euro. That has been a long time coming.

The economies of southern Europe have been in crisis for almost a decade. Italy's economy has contracted by 10% since 2007. Youth unemployment is 39% - and even higher in Spain and Greece. Banks across the Mediterranean are overexposed to their own governments' debts.

Much of this is directly attributable to the single currency.

First, the euro enabled southern European countries to borrow too cheaply. Currency parity with Germany made imported goods cheaper than they should have been. The result was debt-fuelled consumption – which couldn't be sustained.

Having created the debt bubble, the euro then prevented the correction southern Europe needed to overcome it. If Italy, Spain, and Greece hadn't joined the euro, the value of their currencies would have dropped when the downturn hit. That would have made their exports more attractive, stimulated tourism, and made many of their debts cheaper to repay.

Instead, they had no way to devalue, while the ECB – which had made monetary policy too loose for southern Europe before the sovereign debt crisis hit – kept it too tight afterwards.

Economically speaking, the main beneficiary of the single currency has always been Germany. With southern Europe dragging its value down, the euro is cheaper relative to other major currencies than the deutschmark would have been. That makes German exports more competitive.

But, even for Germany, the costs of maintaining the single currency now outweigh the benefits. If Italy goes down, it will take German banks – like Deutsche – with it. German taxpayers have already had to fork out to keep Greece (and her German creditors) solvent. Doing so again for Italy – a much bigger economy – will provoke huge public resentment.

Yet amidst all this, the EU maintains the fiction that the euro is a roaring success. According to the European Commission, the benefits of the single currency include "improved economic stability and growth" and "greater security" – along with "a tangible sign of a European identity".

The Commission's blissful ignorance of reality could be its downfall. No one would bet against a political backlash against the euro across the Continent. The "tangible sign of European identity" may soon pull the entire European project apart. For southern Europe's sake, let's hope it does.

Karen Lumley, MP for Redditch County, hosted the latest in her Business Leaders meetings on Friday (2 December 2016).

Friday's meeting saw some 40 top managers representing businesses in and around Redditch, meet to hear items on the agenda including a talk from Saqib Bhatti from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership about how they are helping local businesses, and from Ken Pollock, Worcestershire County Council cabinet member, about exciting plans for the ongoing Redditch Bike Race.

Participants also heard Karen's Parliamentary update and an appraisal of the current situation at the Alexandra Hospital.

Karen invites the leaders of Redditch businesses to a meeting in the town four times a year, and the meeting on Friday, held at the Abbey Hotel and Spa in Bordesley, saw the fifth-year anniversary of the initiative as the first meeting was held in November 2011.

Karen said: "I find these meetings extremely beneficial so that I know what business leaders are thinking, and I know they do too as they get direct access to their MP and to other like-minded managers.

"We have had some excellent speakers over the years and I expect the forum to go from strength to strength."

Karen has a database of over 200 business contacts within her Redditch constituency, but any business which wants to be invited to future meetings should e-mail Karen on karen.lumley.mp@parliament.uk.

Picture: Karen meets with Saqib Bhatti from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at the meeting on Friday.

- NHS faces a total funding gap of £67.7 billion over the next five years - Intensive care required through an immediate 1p increase in National Insurance which is supported by the public -...
The CWU has launched a campaign to save the Post Office. Our members working in the Post Office have already taken 2 days industrial action, as a result the government has now launched a consultation into the future of the Post Office Network. As part of the campaign we need thousands of postcards to be signed across the UK. Our target is to have 500,000 postcards signed by 12th December.

December 1st 2016

 

Today I raised the important issue of organ donation in Westminster and paid tribute to a young constituent who sadly passed away in 2012 due to the lack of organ donors.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-12-01/debates/9C4D5666-5827-4249-AC9B-CEC0B0409CAA/BusinessOfTheHouse


Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab)
A 20-year-old constituent of mine made an indelible and unforgettable impression on my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and me with the tragic story of his half a dozen abortive attempts to get the organ transplant that he desperately needed. Six months later, I attended his funeral. He died because of a lack of donors. Yesterday, the Welsh Government announced that, as a result of their pioneering and courageous legislation on the new law of presumed consent, 39 patients in Wales had had organ transplants. When can we get the Government to accelerate in this House a law that will allow the same process and the same advantage to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr Lidington
I will certainly make sure that that point, which the hon. Gentleman and others have made, is considered by the Health Secretary and his team. Very many of us, myself included, know friends or family members who have literally been given a new lease of life through a successful transplant. All healthy adults need to consider whether they should make arrangements to make clear their wishes in advance of their death. It is also important that our medical professionals are trained in how to make an approach to families at a critically emotional moment when a relative is at the point of death, to ask them sensitively to consider whether to give consent for a transplant to take place.


The links below contain further information on the moving story of the constituent I spoke of today, Matthew Lammas.

http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/09/tragedy-of-failing-system.html

http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/11/in-a-debate-on-organ-donation-and-transplantation-in-the-house-of-commons-today-iintend-to-raise-the-heart-wrenching-account-1.html

September 23rd 2012

 

Tragedy of failing system

Shocked and upset to hear the news that a constituent passed away yesterday. I gave an account of his situation in a parliamentary debate last November. I received the sad news on Facebook today. His death is a reminder of the need for an urgent reform of the organ donor system that imposed additional suffering on the seriously ill and their relatives. 

6a00d8346d963f69e20153926f5673970b-800wi

Paul Flynn:  We must get away from what we are hearing from prattling prelates and procrastinating politicians and look at the real issue. We cannot talk about a system that is working well, as was suggested this morning, when 1,000 families were bereaved last year in the UK and 50 families were bereaved in Wales. I will not talk about one family in my constituency where a young woman died waiting for an organ transplant because it is too heartbreaking a story, but I want to say something about the reality. Despite all the fine theories and words ahead, what is happening to real people in our constituencies?

6a00d8346d963f69e20154364358d5970c-800wi

Some of us listened to the testimony of Matt Lammas and his mother when they came to Parliament a month ago. It was a dreadful story of suffering that moved us all. Matt and his brother were born with congenital heart defects and they both had pacemakers. Matt was suddenly getting a great deal of pain and discomfort and was taken to the hospital, where the diagnosis was a sombre one. His heart was growing and he would eventually die. He was told that on a scale of one to 10 his chance of surviving was at 9.9, and the family prepared for his death. They were told that a heart transplant was a possibility, so they arranged for him to go to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, where he had a series of assessments. When the doctor told them that he would have to have a transplant, his mother said:

“Matt and I stared at each other it was so surreal. Had we both heard the same thing? We didn’t talk. Matt may have wept, I can’t be sure. I felt numb and could only think about my son who I had just been told was dying.

The sister came back in. ‘Had you been expecting to hear that?’ she asked gently. ‘No!’ we said together. It was the first thing we had said since hearing the awful news. ‘I thought he would need a new pacemaker.’ I said.”

Matt
Jessica Morden, Matt Lammas, PF (October 2011)

She told the story—which some hon. Members will have heard—of the dreadful things that happened from then on. There were false alarms; a call from Birmingham came at 2 o’clock in the morning. They prepared themselves and started to drive up the motorway, only to be told when they were halfway there that the heart was not suitable. There were many other false alarms along the way. Eventually the transplant did occur—I find it difficult to read the whole story so I will cut it short. The family went through agony as the young man approached death. He was fitted with a device that would keep him alive for 28 days, but death was a certainty at the end. By good fortune—not from the wisdom of politicians or prelates—he survived. He is at home now and has a life expectancy of five years.

Another constituent of mine, a young woman the same age as Matt, died last year because there was no heart available. I believe we must say—because the overwhelming evidence is there in spite of what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said this morning—that the weight of the medical evidence shows the best way forward, and that is the decision that the Welsh Assembly is about to take. For goodness sake, instead of going along as we are—particularly today—serving the few rather than the many and talking about our various political differences, let us realise that this is an area in which we politicians can save lives and lift the burden of anxiety from families waiting for organs. We know that all of the evidence—the fair evidence, not the procrastinating evidence we have heard this morning—shows that there will be more organs available. For goodness sake, let us allow the Welsh Assembly a free run to get on with it and lead the country as it has in the past with other reforms. We hope that England and the rest of the United Kingdom will follow suit when the reforms produced by the Welsh Assembly are proved to be a great success.

Southwark_News.png 

As we sit and talk in her office, it’s hard not to be distracted by the view behind her: Big Ben and Parliament Square, with the Thames flanking Portcullis House.

Little about this view has changed since the 66-year-old was elected in a 1982 by-election, the year before Margaret Thatcher won her second general election. But needless to say, she has been through plenty, so too has her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, and more recently, so has her party.

To open, I ask Harriet to reflect on the defining moments of 2016, a year that will deserve a rather large number of pages for its chapter in the history books – not least for Brexit.

She defends what Leave campaigners labelled as the Remainers’ “project fear” campaigning. “Ending our trade relationship with Europe and going into no man’s land, having a situation where things cost more because of imports against the value of the pound,” those things, she says, were not fearmongering, but “sensible concerns”.

“I’m very disappointed that having played my part and campaigned – even [after] going out on a bus with the Conservative prime minister – that we lost.”

And for his gamble, Harriet claims that David Cameron will “go down in history as a PM who has done a terrible disservice to the country” for that referendum, which rather than being characterised by sovereignty and economics, became “just about immigration”.

 Harriet-Harman-with-David-Cameron.jpg

Then she turns on Trump. The property mogul’s shock victory in the US Presidential election has “legitimised the idea that you can be nasty, bigoted, selfish, xenophobic, tax-dodging, misogynistic”.

“It’s celebrating prejudice, and the sort of prejudice that has consequences,” she says.

“The reason we used to protest against homophobia was because it produced gay bashing: violence against lesbian and gay people. And misogyny is used as part of a culture of domestic violence. There is a relationship between what people think and what they say.

“So things have not gone well,” she says with an ironic laugh, “it’s been getting worse”.

And what about the vote in Parliament, that will authorise the government to trigger Article 50, and officially commence our departure from the EU?

As the News reported last week, Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle has vowed to vote against it. And Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes will do the same, unless the government presents a “detailed Brexit proposal” or has held a general election.

But Harriet is reluctant to commit while “the nature” of the Brexit proposal is still unknown. “We just have no idea,” she tells me. “I’ll have to tell you closer to the time. I don’t know what ‘it’ is at the moment, or what the government is going to put forward.”

Unlike many of her counterparts, as well as the Liberal Democrats, Harriet doesn’t expect the prime minister to call an early general election.

“I think Theresa May will be spooked by what happened in America,” Harriet says. “She will be being spooked by what is happening in France… I think she would be afraid to have a general election in the current climate.”

Even despite the Tories’ mammoth thirteen per cent lead in the recent YouGov opinion polls?

“But I think… she has a majority – albeit only ten – but she has got the office of PM and I think she is the kind of person who wants to avoid uncertainty. To plunge the country into an election with all that uncertainty… people would think ‘she’s got the job, why doesn’t she get on with it?’.

“She could find herself being blamed for all sorts of things and out on her ear. Cameron thought he was sitting pretty, he made a stupid decision on a referendum, and he was out. [Theresa] will think, ‘I’m sitting in No. 10, I’ll stay here.’”

What has also defined her year has been the unprecedented transformation of the Labour party, with Jeremy Corbyn increasing his majority in September with a second leadership election.

Harriet stated her support for leadership candidate Owen Smith MP, but refrained from criticising Corbyn anywhere near as harshly as her colleagues.

Owen_Smith.jpg 

How does she reconcile Labour’s new identity as the expressly left-wing party, when for the last 21 years, the party for which she was deputy leader, and twice interim leader, had been centrist?

At first she describes the left-to-right scale of politics as too reductive, an “unhelpful construct”.

“If you look at [French presidential candidate] Marine Le Pen, she is xenophobic… but she wants a high minimum wage and plenty of regulation to protect people at work. Does that make her left or right wing?

“Certainly, in order to get elected you’ve got to get a majority… the question at any given time is how you can win enough support to get into government.

“For us in the 1990s, we had tonnes of support in Scotland, Wales, the north, but we had to win [Tory safe seats] in Hastings, Crawley, Gloucester…  and we did.

“You have got to think about what can inspire people to believe you have a better solution that than other side. It will be different things at different times. You cannot stick with any particular formula.”

Somewhat knocking the thunder out of Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonell’s socialism, Harriet says the economic policies they are putting forward have “not much changed from when Ed Miliband was leader, or from Gordon Brown”. Their rule of thumb being: “You borrow to invest, but you don’t borrow for current expenditure.”

And rather than focus on internal struggles and “indoctrinal correctness” (be that Blairite or Socialist) she says Labour’s politics has “got to relate to the outside world” and “focus on issues we hear on the doorstep”.

“The important thing is, if people are asked the question: ‘what is Labour most focused on, internal power struggles or my problems?’ the answer has got to be that if we want people’s votes, people have got to believe that they are our priority, not our own struggles.”

Does Corbyn bear any other similarities with his New Labour predecessors?

Tony Blair’s former cabinet members have commented that he would scarcely discuss policy with them in detail, instead keeping the big decisions to his “inner sanctum” of advisors, Alastair Campbell, his wife, and for a time, not even Gordon Brown.

 Blair_Aylesbury.jpg

Corbyn’s inner sanctum, meanwhile, could be said to include loyalists Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, McDonnell, and his head of communications, Seamus Milne. And it was allegedly Corbyn’s lack of communication skills that led his rebelling shadow cabinet earlier this year to say he wasn’t fit to lead.

“But I think that is what is said about all leaders, in all parties,” Harriet counters, “that they don’t listen enough.

“It is the case, that the best way to get your leadership right is to listen to as wide a group as possible. It actually helps you make the right decisions.

“One of the difficulties of being the PM is that you have to make so many decisions all the time. But it’s less the case in opposition because you’re not actually doing anything.”

And does Harriet speak very often with the party leader? The answer is a swift “no”.

“I’m not in the shadow cabinet,” she says. “I am a backbencher now so I am getting on with my work in the constituency and I am chairing the Joint Committee on Human Rights.”

However, a stark contrast between Corbyn’s Labour and that of Blair’s is their engagement with the media, or the “days of spin” as the leader puts it.

The Labour Party has always been disadvantaged by a mostly right-wing press. But Blair succeeded in courting The Sun, once he could convince the tabloid they would be backing the sure winner. Ed Miliband also tried to engage with the Daily Mail, Telegraph and others.

But Corbyn seems defeatist in trying to engage with the press. So what should Labour do to get its side of the story heard?

“I think the media landscape is very different now to how it was in 1995 and ’96,” she says.

“But I still think because the media and the broadsheets are influential, it’s important to try to win the argument with them, however [intake of breath] in vain that might seem. It’s still important to try, because we feel we have an argument: that Labour is good for the whole of Britain. So we shouldn’t be too selective about who we say it to. We should have the courage of our convictions.”

Harriet flatly refuses to answer when I ask who might make for a strong Labour leader in future, because you “can’t go into the next election if we’re not set on winning”.

“So what about in ten years?” I ask.

Though she avoids naming names, she does say: “I know of people who look at [MPs] and say ‘they’ve got leadership qualities’. [But] I think it’s idle speculation in a way. A week can be a long time in politics, let alone a year.

“But having said it’s idle speculation… I have got the names in my head, but I’m not going to mention them. Everybody has got to work as hard as they can, and people like me have got to be as supportive as they can to everybody else, and then you need the right person at the right time.”

That “right person” – it has been suggested many a time – could well have been Harriet herself. So I ask her, why didn’t she run for leader?

 Jeremy-Corbyn-by-Garry-Knight.jpg

“Because [in 2007] I had become deputy leader, and that was… quite a big thing. And I was interim-leader twice… I just felt like I had done my bit.

“I have added it up and I think I was on the front bench for 28 years. If you look at other older people in politics they are usually people who have not spent a lot of time on the front bench. It’s not just age, it’s your political lifespan. I’ve been having my political lifespan since the early 1980s.

“People did say it to me [that I should have run for leader]. Sometimes… I feel like they’re being supportive and complimentary, but I do wonder whether they mean it. But people do still say that. But… I had done my bit. That was my definite thought.”

The burning question now then, when does Harriet plan to stand down, like so many of her former Blair and Brown cabinet members (only nine of whom are still MPs)?

It’s a question that Harriet has clearly been asked before, but nonetheless, she says it’s “far too early to say”.

“I never answer that question, and I never have done. We have a process, and no one says anything until that process starts. That’s just the way we do it. I have made a commitment to the people who voted for me in 2015 that I will be their MP and that’s what I’m doing, and I’m getting on with it.”

To cIose, I ask what have been her highs and lows of working for Camberwell and Peckham.

The answer is emotional, but again, she’s nailing down an argument that has been central to the internal debates within Labour: that without power, you can’t help anyone.

One was the alarming waiting lists for surgery at local hospitals. She recalls a cardiologist at Guy’s Hospital in the early ‘90s estimating the number of people who would die needing heart surgery, because they couldn’t be treated quickly enough.

“The highs, I think, was when we started to open children’s centres in every neighbourhood. When I first started as an MP, literally you could only get a nursery place if your child was at risk or if they were at risk of abuse at home.

“Being able to see kids playing and learning, and seeing mums going out to work. The whole spread out of children’s centres was a brilliant thing to see. And it’s heart breaking now to see [the government] cutting back.”

You can view the article in Southwark News here


There is nothing like Christmas to bring our communities together and this week, Camborne and Redruth have both been getting into the festive spirit with both towns turning on their Christmas lights last Saturday. 

It is also the time of year when we start to think about sending Christmas cards. As in previous years, I ran a competition with local primary schools to design my Christmas card. We had over sixteen schools enter, which is a record, and local children really rose to the challenge with some fabulous artwork.  The panel of judges had a difficult task as always.

This is also a good time of year to acknowledge some good news.  Earlier this week I had the chance to catch up with the team at the Cornwall Air Ambulance who were attending an event at Westminster. They have just been awarded £1 million from the Libor banking fund which is a major boost to their fundraising for a new helicopter.

I can remember when the Cornwall Air Ambulance began in 1987. It was a great example of Cornwall's "one and all" approach because people in Cornwall really rallied behind the idea.  It was the first air ambulance in the UK and now many other parts of the country have followed Cornwall's lead.   Since 1987, it has completed more than 26,000 missions and saved many lives.  It is a great initiative and I wish them every success in raising the funds that are still required to hit their target.

Last week I also had the chance to visit a new housing project run by the Addington Fund at Ruthvoes. Addington does excellent work providing homes for farmers who have had to leave their farm either due to hardship, retirement or ill health. They now have over eighty homes. For many farmers, leaving the farm and having to sell their herd or flock is an emotional wrench and they often find it hard to get alternative housing too.  Having a specialist housing provider with people who really understand farmers is a life line for many.
Iraq - enough said. Europe - he agreed to the widening of the EU without any attempt to limit economic migration from the poorer areas of the EU to the richer areas. This failure to think about the impact on the living conditions of skilled workers is the main cause of the Brexit vote. Forced Adoption - this was another of his failures. This may not have been fully recognised yet, but I expect
This weekend, we relaunch the expanded European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs, which I chair. I am proud that ERG Vice Chair Suella Fernandes MP has taken the lead. For the Telegraph,  Suella writes ‘Britain must untie itself from EU shackles by using Brexit to leave the customs union’. Sixty Conservatives, plus colleagues from the DUP, Labour and UKIP have united behind her, agreeing on the statement, “The UK must leave the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Customs Union”, the […]
Ed Balls, James Howat, and Anna Stansbury 2016 Abstract In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, countries around the world have dramatically expanded the objectives and powers of central banks beyond their traditional inflation targets and policy rates. But as these unelected, technocratic, institutions become increasingly powerful, the pre-crisis academic consensus around central bank […]

My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought a ‘giant talking shop.’ […]

The post The Public Point of View appeared first on Rory Stewart.

I have been told by South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group that the current contract holders at Studley Health Centre have given their 6 month notice to terminate their contract. SWCCG are now considering two options, either the GP services will continue with a new provider, or patients will be asked to register with another local practice. All patients at Studely Health Centre should have been contacted for their opinion, you can do this online by completing this survey. Alternatively you can contact them by email at contactus@southwarwickshireccg.nhs.uk or by post at the following address:  NHS South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Market Street, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 4DE There will also be a drop in session at Studley Village Hall, High Street, Studley, Warwickshire, B80 7HJ on Thursday 11th August between 4pm and 6pm The deadline for all comments is 5pm on Monday 22nd August 2016. Please take these opportunities to let SWCCG know your thoughts on what the future of this GP practice should be.  ...

Sir Tony Baldry is to receive a new Award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Langton Award for Community Service.

The Award is named after Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was Archbishop at the time of the signing of Magna Carta.

The Award made from Fairtrade silver will be conferred on Sir Tony Baldry by the Archbishop of Canterbury during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 31st March.

For further information click here.

This morning, first thing, I dropped by the Esher and Molesey Royal Mail delivery office. It's an opportunity to see first hand just how busy our local postmen and women get at this time of year.

Mark Peters, the office manager, showed me round, how the systems work, and the kinds of challenges they have to grapple with - from rotweilers to bad handwriting on envelopes. I met a few of his team in the process. Good luck to all our postmen and women at this festive but hectic time!


Quietly and surreptitiously Osborne is marking out his pitch for the leadership,   The trouble is, it’s thoroughly bad pitch.   By denigrating opponents of privatisation he has set his face against the 70% of the population who earnestly want rail re-nationalised, a proportion so large that it must include nearly half who’re Tories.   … Continue reading Osborne stirs up more shit in which to bury himself in
With regards to today’s news from the High Court, my solicitors, Clifford Chance, have prepared this statement on my behalf: "This petition was part of Mr Ireland's continued campaign of harassment against our client. Our client believes that the p...
Between 2010 and 2015 I was the Minister of State for Pensions and continue to take an interest in pensions issues.  I tweet regularly (@stevewebb1) but occasionally 140 characters doesn't quite do justice to the wonderful world of pensions.   I have therefore relaunched this blog site as an occasional location for pensions thoughts.
Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

Make sure you stay up to date with all of James’s news by liking his Facebook page!

jamestwitter2-e1403712392869

So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”

 

Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.

 

“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”

 

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".

But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.

The toll of death will continue to rise.