Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Jody's a blogger too

The over reaction to Jody's blog entry has highlighted one of the problems with web logs. I had originally planned to start producing a web log at the beginning of September but paused to reflect when I saw the over-reaction and the way in which an off the cuff comment was manipulated by the Labour Party.

Does this mean that politicians will be forced into producing a very narrow style of blog which is devoid of humour in any form - lest it offends? I've enjoyed reading Jody's campaign diary because I have felt that I have had a glimpse of the real person. How many other politicians will be able to produce web logs in similar vein remains to be seen.

Whipped on the train

Surprise phone call on the way to Blackpool from Andrew Stunell, our chief whip. Couldn't avoid saying the immortal words "I am on the train" but had to let Andrew down gently by telling him that I was travelling to Blackpool and not Hartlepool.
In my defence - I was one of the first MPs to visit the by-election campaign and probably the first to meet Jody Dunn as I had met her before she was selected for the seat. She had come to the notice of the Gender Balance Task Force -which I used to chair and is an organisation to help get more women elected. I thought she was very impressive then and she has certainly made a big impact on the people of Hartlepool.

As a former by-election winner I have more than an inkling of what she is going through although the media interest in Hartlepool seems to have been greater than in Romsey. The difference in Romsey was that no one really took seriously the fact that the Lib Dems were trying to win a Tory seat during a Labour Government. The context of fighting a traditional Labour seat under a tired Prime Minister and a somewhat jaded Labour party is a completely different one.

I hope Jody makes it because she will be an asset to the parliamentary party and some of those young Turks had better mind their backs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

And introducing the team..............

It has been remiss of me not to introduce my team. I will doubtless be referring to them all in days to come so it might help of you know who they all are..

In the constituency office in Romsey we have
Sally - who has overall responsibility for the constituency office and for making sure I get to the right place at the right time. She does all that is humanly possible with the diary but the rest oif it is up to me and MPs always commit to too much.

Liz - who does a lot of the constituency casework - particularly phoning all of those agencies which are difficult to deal with - such as the Child Dupport Agency

Tony - Caseworker, press officer come Mr Fixit. He is not nicknamed "The Alton Rottweiler" for nothing!

Marion - her main aim in life is to wear out keyboards as she steams through all the letters that go out from the office

In the Westminster Office Liza has worked for me for a year but she is leaving me for another MP. I can't blame her as I can only afford her for four days a week and he has offered her more money. I have told her she won't like it though.
There is an able replacement in Nick who has previously been an intern for Norman Lamb.

Off to Blackpool

Maybe this will be a more illuminating experience than my last one. Invitations to speak at conferences always seem attractive until you are then faced with the reality of thinking about how to fill thirty minutes with information about whether "use of telecare can help achieve Government targets". There is the added pain of having to travel by public transport from Southampton to Blackpool. It's not too bad if you can get on a train and stay on it as it is then relatively easy to get your head down and work but most options seem to involve a couple of changes and hanging around cold and dreary stations.

Challenge - Is there any station that isn't cold and dreary?

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Red Coats

No - I am not referring to Butlins but rather more to those people who like to ride horses and chase foxes around the countryside. According to The Times today I am to be targetted at the next election. This is because I am an anti hunt MP, represent a rural constituency and have a small majority.

Their arguments are flawed on a number of counts.

1. Eighty percent of my constituents live in an urban or suburban environment.
2. My political opponent has not made her views on hunting with hounds (or much else) public
3. Over ninety percent of my post bag has been in favour of a ban. The hunting fraternity say that they will be able to muster 300 activists per constituency. I wonder waht makes them fail to realise that I might be able to muster 2,700 people who have a contrary view?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Launching into Cyberspace

It is with a certain amount of trepidation that I embark on this web log and I hope I haven't disappointed anyone who thinks they might be on a fast track to Charlie Dimmock. I will freely admit that the good people at Gidleywatch have a lot to do with the decision - which hasn't been an easy one.

My office staff didn't want me to do it because they like Gidleywatch and can't wait for updates.

My Constituency Organiser didn't want me to do it because he couldn't see the point.

But it has been a strange experience being cyberstalked even though Gidleywatch is friendly so I have decided that my own voice will be added to the many who already whisper on the world wide web.

I have thought long and hard about the purpose of this blog and I suppose I want to do two things.
Firstly - give a bit of an insight into all of those local things an MP does but does not necessarily press release or put on the web site.

Secondly - a female MPs perspective of Parliament.

I would also add that I have no intention of making this a sort of cyper-pseuds corner. There is no point in producing a blog if it is not honest and open but politicians are wary beasts because we are all hostages to fortune and we don't want to give our opponents ammunition.

So here goes............