Thursday, July 09, 2009

Outside "earnings" update

Following my declaration of the strawberries I must complete the record by stating that I received the following reply from the registrar

The Registrar advises that the charity event does not come into the category of employment. You might only have to register this if anyone sponsored you for more than £650 to take part in the event. I assume this was not the case but please let me know if I am wrong.

I claimed in the first place to clarify the position because some of us had been told that anything we received "payment" for (in spondulicks or in kind) had to be declared. Obviously we don't want to unwittingly fall foul of the rules so these things have to be tested out. So, it does seem sensible to me that charity events are exempt. I have yet to declare the first small token thank you for a constituency related speech but shall keep you posted.

The problem is not the declaration in itself but the fact that unsolicited gifts to the value of £649 do not have to be declared. Surely it is time to lower the limit for this part of the register of interests.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Declarations of interest

Under the rules introduced on 1st July (aiming to provide greater transparency about "outside" work) we have been told that payment in kind also has to be registered - including for when we make speeches etc in the constituency. Some of us thought that such events were not part of the job and not really outside interests but what it has meant is that today I declared the following.

Also am unclear under the new rules whether the following is regarded as “payment in kind” but declaring it does appear to be in the spirit of the new rules.

I was asked to spend some time on the “wencher drencher” for charity. The event – on 5th July - was organised by the Rotary Club of Romsey Test and total work time was approximately 25 minutes. This consisted of 5 minutes to get changed. 15 minutes sitting on the device, waiting for people to hit a target and then getting tipped into water a number of times and 10 minutes drying off and getting changed afterwards. A gentleman presented me with a punnet of strawberries (value £1.50) for my efforts but I am afraid it would have seemed rather rude to ask his full name and address so I didn’t.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The next Speaker

Choosing the next Speaker is always a great responsibility but, in the current climate of hatred and suspicion of MPs, it is particularly important that we get the right person this time.

Current favourite, according to the Bookies, is John Bercow and he is the person I am publicly backing. In less tumultuous times I would probably have supported Sir Alan Beith or even Sir George Young as both would be capable of doing the job and performing their duties with a certain amount of distinction.

Sadly, we live in troubled times. The stock of Parliament is at an all time low and MPs are not held in high esteem. The Public is, quite rightly, angry and it will be a long time until trust is restored.

Unfortunately, some of the candidates who would normally have been favourites have very much been part of the establishment. They have had an opportunity to demonstrate their reforming zeal but so far have not made the best of it. I am not convinced that these parliamentary leopards can change their spots overnight.

I firmly believe that we need someone with drive, energy and passion for change and that is why I am supporting John Bercow. He has made no secret of the right wing views of yesteryear but there are any number of politicians whose views have changed with time. It has been interesting to witness his metamorphosis and see his views shift and I realised just how much he had changed when he resigned his front bench position over a matter of principle. His tendency to take up neglected causes from time to time has not always made him the flavour of the month with some of his Conservative colleagues but this is exactly why I think he is a good choice and it is noticeable that some of the 2005 intake are supporting him.

Make no mistake, the old guard do not want him because they know that he will do his utmost to drag parliament kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and he will work hard to connect Parliament with the people. There are still too many MPs who think that change should be measured, that the real problem is the public who don't understand and who want to preserve Westminster as some sort of elite closed shop.

JOhn gets the public anger and understands the need to connect with the public. He also understands the need for Parliament to have greater ability to hold the Government to account and has been the only candidate to proactively deal with the gender issues.

As a woman I would have loved to have felt able to vote for Margaret Beckett who has always been competent in her Ministerial roles. But, a reformer she is not. She voted against the Robin Cook reforms and has no recorded appetite for reforming Parliament for the better. She is almost seamlessly woven into the fabric of the place and this is why she has been gathering support from some of the Senior Labour Whips and the Tory old guard.

John also has a deep knowledge of parliamentary procedure because he has been one of its most effective performers. I just hope that there are enough MPs who realise the need to put the past behind us, be bold and make John Bercow our next Speaker.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Public meeting to save the Romsey bus rail link

Public meetings are an occupational hazard and sometimes generate more heat than light - but a politician ignores them at her peril.
Was relieved to find that it was standing room only at the public meeting tonight - after all no one wants to be trying to save something that people are completely indifferent about. Much of the credit needs to go to Matt and Nadine (mentioned in an earlier blog) for a sterling job in publicising the problem.

Things are slowly moving on though. In the last 48 hours SWT have agreed to fund some early morning and late evening buses until next June/July. This gives everyone a breathing space even though the future service is slower and less convenient than what we currently have.

I was quite shocked by the lack of grass roots knowledge displayed by some of those from Stagecoach and South West Trains. There was no clear consensus on what proportion of bus usage was linked with a rail journey, no one from SWT knew that if you type in Romsey to London on their own web site then the bus link is not shown as an option and no one appeared to know that many of the buses were running without the appropriate ticket machine so people could not buy a rail ticket on the bus.

Hopefully something positive will emerge from all the angst - an action group is going to be set up and hopefully something positive will come out of this.

Bizarrely - it appears that usage has increased over the last couple of weeks. Could it possibly be that now people are aware of this service (which has been poorly advertised in the past) they realise what a good thing it is?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Darzi review

Lord Darzi has been a busy man. In three months he apparently visited and spoke to 1500 NHS staff in 17 organisations (it is not clear whether they had to listen or got to talk to him). Among other achievements he apparently met with 250 stakeholder groups.

I decided to table a parliamentary question to ask which groups he met. The answer was fascinating. Unsurprisingly the number of groups listed doesn't quitte add up to 250 and there appears to be some double and triple counting. For example - the Royal College of Midwives are a luckly lot as they apparently have met him three times.

Many organisations were relatively obscure disease specific bodies which I had never heard of. Worthy stuff but my imagination was captured by the fact that he had met the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering.

But I also wondered, at another level, whether somebody at the Department was having a little joke because apparently the noble lord also met the Adult Dyselxia Organisation (sic).

Rail link bus - Romsey to WInchester

Gremlins are trying to prevent me from advertising the meeting to discuss the axing of this bus. Apologies if this info appears twice.

There is a meeting on Thursday 1st November at the Abbey United Reformed Church Hall - starting at 8 30pm.

The campaign has taken on an interesting turn as a regular user of this bus service is Matt O'Connor (of Fathers for Justice fame) when he visits his partner Nadine.

Look at the website for more info.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Royal Wee

Romsey made the news today!

I am still struggling to understand why the Queen has to have a new toilet wherever she goes but even more mind boggling (no pun intended) is the cost of the refurb!

I only hope that the Town Council demanded some money for the story in order to restock the town coffers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sexing up Tory Health policy

An oasis of calm in the middle of the day; hosted the reception for Pharmaceutucal wholesalers. In the absence of a Minister I was asked to say a few words and I thought it was a good idea if we balanced things out and asked Mark Simmonds (newly appointed to the Conservative Health Team) to say a few words.
We all occasionally stumble over our words (it makes us endearingly human) and I was amused when Mark referred to "mating health policy". Suddenly, Conservative health policy looks interesting. Andrew Lansley - watch out!!

So, who next?

I supported Chris Huhne last time and hope that he will stand again. It has been an interesting 24 hours though. I still have to return Steve Webb's pager message and get back to Ed Davey (are they thinking about standing or are they a front for someone else?). John Hemming has e mailed his colleagues and some people have heard from Susan Kramer.
Hmmmm. I am left to wonder why I haven't heard from Nick Clegg. He seems to be a bit slow off the blocks and I hope that this is not a sign of indecision or lack of organisation. Time will tell but it is going to be fascinating

But the day job goes on

Weightwatchers showed that I have lost two pounds! I am sure all this was worked off today in the constant dashing to and fro between Millbank, Westminster and the Green.

The leadership was one cause but two other issues have been high on my agenda. The first is that a number of post offices have been fingered for closure by the media and this is a real concern to communities such as Chilworth, Leckford, Lockerley and West Tytherley. I am encouraging everyone to make their feelings known.

The other issue that is a real concern is the axeing of the Rail link bus between Romsey and Winchester. South West Trains claim that this is not profitable but I am in the process of checking whether they are able to ax this link or whether it is an integral part of the franchise agreement. Watch this space!

Thoughts prompted by Ming

Shock doesn't begin to describe it. The first inkling we all had was at 6:15 yesterday when a pager message told me that there would be a speech by the party president. I'm usually quick to see connections but on this occasion I was not very quick on the uptake and pondered aloud on what this could mean.
The penny soon dropped but we could still hardly believe it. The initial reaction was that Ming had done a very honourable thing. It is never easy to give up power of any kind (even being Leader of the Lib Dems has some attractions) and it is a measure of Ming's character that he put the interests of the party first (or what he saw as such).

Sure there had been a few mutterings and mumblings but what leader is not discussed by his or her party at some stage? There had certainly been no concerted plot or campaign and although it is looking as if some people had spoken to Ming over the past week or so it is not clear who or what. I am pretty damn certain that there was nothing co-ordinated.

My personal hope was that Ming would come out fighting, ride the storm and fulfil his conference pledge to make age an issue - because with age comes experience. The polls are volatile at the moment and I thought that with a concerted effort we could recover.

So, I was furious when I finally caught up with some of the headlines and read that this was all apparently a plot. There were no "men in grey sandals" - there was no cabal .
What this was really about was the media not wishing to take any of the blame for what had happened.

The reality is that ever since Ming was elected there has been a media obsession with his age. This reached such a pitch that the messages were starting to be played back on the doorstep. I for one wish that Ming had stayed so that, as a party, we could have fought age discrimination in all its many and ugly forms.

Ot strikes me that some of the journalists who were so keen to make a story about age just might be feeling a little guilty tonight.

But we are where we are. Ming's quick, clean decision means that we choose a new leader. That leader owes a huge debt of thanks to Ming because under his leadership the party now has a much stronger financial and campaigning base. All in all an ideal springboard for Ming's successor.