Friday, February 25, 2005


It has been noticed by some that I have recently pressed the button that stops allowing comments. I am in bit of a dilemma over this and I will explain why. Recently a lot more people have been reading this blog (as we mentioned it in a recent leaflet it is probably not surprising). Sceptics please note that many places I go someone now mentions "Romsey redhead" but the stats also show an increase in hits on the blog. People have been coming up to me and commenting that they enjoy reading what I have to say but get frustrated by the comments (some people I know to be Lib Dem loyalists but a lot are pretty apolitical). I do not want to censor so I am currently looking at ways that people can comment as long as they are not anonymous. Apparently Iain Dale has just done this on the Politico 2005 web site. This synergy worries me a little but as we approach the election it is abundantly clear that a lot of mischief is being made. In the mean time people are still more than welcome to e-mail me.


Yet another speech - three in one day on totally different subjects is quite a challenge! This was to the Winchester branch of Soroptomists and I had been asked to speak on the subject of stem cell research. All very well but I had also been asked to speak on the subject for approximately 45 minutes. Although a scientist by training I felt it was challenging to come up with 45 minutes of material that was accessible to a broad spectrum audience so devoted some of the time to talking about other issues that the group had been involved with and how - as a parliamentarian - I had been involved in the same issue.

Southampton Pensioners Rally

Marched off from the Bargate at 1.30 and headed for the Civic Centre where there were speeches (seven - probably too many) followed by questions. One of the speakers was Joe Harris from the National Pensioners Convention and in the break he was telling us that he had seen one unfortunate marcher fall over. It is not clear whether the standard of pavement was a contributory factor but what is clear was that as the gentleman fell his words were "Bugger Blair!" I hope he is OK.

What was becoming apparent as everyone spoke was that the Lib Dems are closer to the NPC way of thinking than any other party. This is interesting because research by Age Concern shows that we are not the main party of choice for pensioners (even when looking at a range of pensioners). As a party we clearly have to do more to connect and one of the challenges in the next few months is finding ways to make sure that we get our message across.

There was also some debate about how to refer to older people.

OAP is a definite "no-no"
Pensioner - acceptable by some
Senior Citizen - seemed to attract some support but as someone who believes in equality I struggle with this one as the word "senior" somehow implies "better"

My ultimate conclusion was that whatever you say you can't win but my personal preference is to dirch the concept of the "grey" vote (drab, boring imagery) and start talking about "silver" (precious). Semantics? Maybe but the bottom line is that we should stop being so obsessed by language and concentrate on the issues.

Young Carers

Gave a brief speech about this at an event in Romsey today. Social Services in Hampshire seem to be really trying to get things moving in this field. The good thing about these events is always meeting the people who are trying to make things happen and it was particularly nice to meet some of the young people involved.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Took a pile of signing home so that I could watch this programme. It was a drama dealing with the subject of elder abuse and was part of the programmes connected with this year's Comic Relief. I am really pleased that this subject is receiving more profile as it is one that is all too often ignored. The Health Select Committee produced a very useful report and the Government is - at long last - undertaking some research but the results will not be known for some time.

To find out more on the subject click here. It will make you wonder why we can call ourself a civilised society but the good news is that there are people who are trying to do something about the problem.

Problems problems

All the forthcoming surgeries are fully booked and am trying to fit in extra ones but there were a number of urgent cases so Sally decided that I could see them all this afternoon. They were all real and urgent problems though so the people had to be seen but I had to wonder what has prompted the sudden increase in demand over the last couple of weeks. There are an extraordinary number of housing problems but lots of other problems as well. Strangely, thereis always a peak in February but I have never noticed anything quite this bad before.

Small business

But very important.

Spent the morning with the Wessex small business Forum - visiting a number of small businesses in the constituency. They had gone to some effort to make sure I visited places outside of Romsey itself so it was a double bonus.
Issues raised included red tape, impact of money laundering legislation, Government support for healthy lifestyles and the pressures on local authority planning departments - to name but a few.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Students not Scarecrows

No scarecrows awaited me in Central Lobby but did meet two pleasant young men from the Student's Union (which I think is still the only one that has disassociated itself from the NUS). They were asking me to sign an Early Day Motion on charges for renewal of student visas. I agreed.

Worzel comes to Westminster

It is Wednesday so time for a mass lobby - of Scarecrows!
Serious point is that it is FOE lobbying on GM crops.

Have just been paged by the Doorkeepers so am off to meet my lobby caller. I do hope it will be a scarecrow as that will be a first!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Breathless at Health Questions

It was always going to be a close run thing. I was number 2 on the list for Health Questions (starts 11:30) and had been asked to be at Millbank for 11.30.

Tried the pragmatic approach first and asked the Speaker if I could swop the order of questions with Tom Brake who was number 4 on the list. This is simply not done as it does not appear to be the natural order of things.

Next approach was to talk nicely to ITN. They invited me in for 11:15 instead. This sounds good but I was kept waiting until almost 11:30 and was sitting in the studio panicking about whether I would get to health questions on time.

Dashed out of the studio and headed for Westminster - frantic call from Whips Office at approx 11:39 - "Where are you!"

Explained that I was on my way and was told to "keep running" - pointed out that I had to have enough breath to get the question out when I reached the Chamber!

Arrived to find an anxious Brian Cotter waiting at the door to the chamber (he told me he hed been prepared to pretend to be taken ill to delay things but I am pretty sure he was joking). I dumped my coat and pashmina and dived for the bench. Just in time and I managed not to be too breathless when I asked the question - so those sessions in the gym must have had some benefit.

Launch of Women's manifesto

All went smoothly and there was rather more interest than I had anticipated - particularly as the subject of the day was House Arrest and terrorist threat. It will be interesting to see what press coverage there is tomorrow but I did a couple of interviews for ITN today, plus some local media and there was an interview lined up for The World Tonight but this had to be dropped to make way for a story on Iraq - such is life.

Monday, February 21, 2005

It pains me to say this

I thought the Conservative hopeful had declared that there would be no personal attacks? This is to be welcomed but it is a shame that there was not a similar commitment to being honest and not misrepresenting the Lib Dem policies. No such luck as there has been some very scurrilous literature produced recently. If you have received something from the Tories that you find hard to believe then it probably isn't true so get in touch with us and we will tell you the truth!

As the old saying goes, "If they continue to lie about us we will continue to tell the truth about them"

Oh - and is there a definition of a personal attack? In a recent leaflet there is a silly statement "What has Sandra Gidley done about MRSA?" - implying that I have not done anything. Strange thing is that I have taken up a lot of individual cases, been into the local general hospital to discuss the matter with infection control team and spent the morning going round making suggestions (informal feedback from people who actually work in the hospital tells me that this had a positive effect). On top of that I'm a founder officer of the new All Party Patient Safety Group. I will admit that I have not been in, donned my marigolds and scrubbed the hospital from top to bottom but that is not really the best use of an MPs time.

Is it too much to ask that the Conservatives clarify this in their next leaflet?

I had expected better but people always tell me that I am too willing to see the good in people....

What's a weekend?

Have just looked at my diary and note that I have not been given a single day off between now and the supposed day of the election - not even my birthday.
In some ways this is nothing new because the trick over the past four years has been to try and have Sundays to myself (doesn't work as that's when people invite you to church and sometimes to appear on political programmes etc as well as any number of other worthy things) and to book one weekend a month as a complete weekend off (occasionally works!).

Although I have been knocking on doors over the past four years the pace has increased recently and this inevitably leads to an increase in the amount of letters to be written etc. It is all very positive stuff though.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Seeking Sikhs

Interesting meeting with local Sikh community. What, in leafy Hampshire? I hear you say. I was surprised to discover a couple of years ago that there is a very active Sikh community centred around a particular part of my patch. Over the years I have got to know them and made a point of attending some of the Sikh events at the House of Commons so that I can learn more about their culture.
I think this is one of the many things that can be added to the list "Things I never expected to be taking an interest in when I first became a Member of Parliament"

All part of life's rich tapestry.

Winchester Visitors Group

Interesting meeting with this group who deal with the problems of asylum seekers - the interest initiated when they agreed to visit people in prisons and detention centres.

They were highlighting the problems that had emerged with the group of people who are not allowed to work and are not allowed access to public funds. Some were taken in by extreme religious groups (there will no doubt be a pay back) or had to resort to crime and for some women the only answer is prostitution.
Is this really what we are trying to achieve?

Care Homes

Visited a local care home this afternoon. I visited all the homes in Romsey in 97/8 when I was Town Mayor and as I have done the rounds in the last couple of years it is apparent that the residents of Care Homes are now much frailer than they were in 97 and there is more evidence of early signs of dementia. Some problems never change though. I was greeted by a cheery nurse who told me that she was overworked and underpaid. It turned out that she had been at the home for over 20 years so it can't be all bad but I think the moral of this story is that not all people are motivated by money. It helps of course but it is really heartening when I come across people who are really keen to provide a service to others. It would be all too easy to take advantage of the people who work in the care sector but when I look at the pay scales I can't help thinking that, as a society, we do that already.

Carers lunch

Popped into the Appletree Centre to meet a few carers and others who are trying to provide a support service to carers. Quite lively discussion with a lady called Betty who wanted to invite Tony Blair to land his helicopter in the field next to her house so that she could tell him what she thought of him. She also claimed that "Tony always went north and never south" but I have not had a chance to find out whether this statement is remotely true.

Biggest problem raised apart form Tony Blair was the problem with finding adequate respite care and the difficulties in finding a route through what is a very complex system.

Holocaust exhibition

This is currently on at Romsey library so popped along to have a look and chat. It is almost impossible to get your head around the sheer numbers that were involved and the fact that so many people unthinkingly complied with what was going on.
It occured to me that it would be all too easy to go along that road again. The far right is largely ignored at the moment but some of the current rhetoric in certain sections of the media is very worrying.
I really do not like the current rhetoric on asylum seekers and have lost count of the numbers of people in the last few weeks who have come out with statements such as "I would get more money/ a house/ have an NHS dentist if I was an asylum seeker". None of it is true but a lot of people seem to have missed the fact that there is a European dimension to this problem because I do feel that the Eu could act as a whole and insist that the place of first contact within the EU was the country which would have to deal with the asylum seeker but those who shout loudest about the problem are often the ones who are most anti Europe so it is hardly surprising that they do not want to look in that direction to find a solution.

Meals on Wheels

Out with the one of the many good people who provide this invaluable service. First stop was Charlie and Eileen Mead and I am sure that they will not mind me saying this because they were photographed.
The service also needs more drivers. Although it is arranged by the Woman's RoyalVoluntary Service the majority of the drivers appeared to be men so don't think that the job is restricted to women.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Romsey's burning

Well - hopefully not as we have a wonderful bunch of retained firefighters and I visited them this evening. Watched a drill and then had a long chat with them and was surprised that they wanted to ask some party political questions as this was not the original intention of the visit. Very often visits to organisations can turn into a bit of a whinge session but this was certainly not the case tonight even though a couple of issues were raised.

Was interested to note that there were only two women there out of a total of twentyish but of more concern was the fact that local employers seem reluctant to release people for duty. There seems to be a case for incentivising the scheme and it is certainly something that I am going to pursue further.

Nursling, Rownhams and District Retired Men's Fellowship

They invited me back because apparently they had enjoyed my talk last year. Problem is that I used a lot of my humorous stuff last year and didn't want to insult them by rehashing old anecdotes so spent some time talking about elections from an electioneering point of view and explaining why we knock on doors and phone em up. After that there was an hour of questions and I reckon they could have kept going for another hour at least.

They were all very nice and friendly and a number of them came up to wish me good luck in May but, unsurprisingly, the gentleman who asked me the question about fox hunting wasn't among thier number.


According to the Telegraph my opponent has sent out 4000 Valentine cards. Have to give her credit for a wacky idea and also give her some thanks for providing us with more help and deliverers as some people didn't seem to be very amused by the stunt.


Dash to the Museum of Army Flying for the launch of Testway Housing's charity Transform. Testway Housing succeeded in gaining charitable status some time ago but, to their credit, decided that they wanted to take the charitable aspects of their work seriously. After a while it became clear that it would be useful to "brand" the charitable works so Transform was born.

A very pleasant event culminating in the launch of a host of red balloons.


Went into meet some of the local staff yesterday and had a long chat about some of the problems with the job.
The staff have the unenviable role of providing a report to the courts whenever there is a dispute involving contact or residence of a child. I have to say that I would not want to do their job for all the tea in China. I know they try to be professional, objective and fair but if you are a parent who feels that a decision has gone against you and the report has not been fair then it may not always seem like that.

The positive thing was that they did stress that they only deal with the difficult cases and about 90% are resolved without their help but ultimately it is a frustration to many of us that children are so often used as pawns in the games played during a marital break up.

Monday, February 14, 2005



Make of this what you will

On the stump

Out in Bassett on Saturday - the part we were in was a bit bluer than I would have liked but there was generally a good welcome and I came across my first constituent ever who raised the thorny old issue of "site value rating" on the doorstep!!

Also picked up an interesting local issue but the thing that really intrigued me was a conversation I had with a "true blue lady". She did not like the fact that Labour (and Lib Dems) wanted to spend too high a proportion of tax payers money and seemed to think that people should look after themselves.

All very well if you are one of the "haves" but not so good if you come from a poor family and cannot afford good education (a chance to better yourself) or healthcare. We didn't get on to the subject of crime so I don't know if she thought that the police were another thing worth spending money on.

Talking to people like that reminds me of why I came into politics in the first place - to make sure that the world was a fairer place and to ensure that things such as education and access to health services were regarded as a basic right.

Some people simply have no compassion or inclination to try and see the world from the viewpoint of others as they are quite happy in their own little world. Whilst I would not go so far as to say that all Tories are selfish I have to ask why it is that such selfish people are invariably Conservative voters.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Charlie Mead - Mr Romsey

Not many people outside of Romsey will have heard of Charlie (unless they were on the receiving end of one of his Man from the Pru visits) but it was a special pleasure tonight to be at the ceremony where he was awarded an Honourary Burgess.

He is 92 and over the years has been involved in nearly every aspect of town life and it clearly meant a lot to him to be honoured in this way. His wife Eileen, always cheerfully at his side, told me that she too was overwhelmed.

He was the Mayor before me and gained a reputation for appreciating female company (in the nicest possible way) and I recall one event I attended when I had to hand out certificates. As I was leaving I overheard a conversation between two senior ladies.

"That was over nice and quick"

"Yeeesss --- I guess it's cos we didn't all have to kiss the Mayor this year!"

But beyond all of this most people will remember Charlie for his kindness and his willingness to lend a hand wherever it was needed.
My first real experience of him (apart from canvassing) was on the day I was first elected to the Borough Council. My son had accompanied husband to pollin station - fairly last minute as usual. They arrived home (which was being used as a committee room) and Nick was in a terrible state as he had fallen off his bike and into a heap of stinging nettles). My patent remedies did not work and Charlie despatched Cllr Buckmaster to go and find some dock leaves. The dock leaves worked where modern medicine failed but Charlies words to me were "We Liberal Democrats look after each other"
He was right of course but ultimately Charlied aim in life was to look after everyone as best he could.

A lovely evening.

ID cards

I fail to understand the Tories on this (mind you - if I had ever understood the Tories I would have joined them).
So what do you think of a party which starts off by opposing ID cards.
The Leader then makes a strong case that his party will support ID cards (strangely at odds with his Shadow Home Secretary).
Finally - when it comes to the crunch - they abstain!

Three different positions in almost as many months - and they wonder why people have so little faith in them as a party.

Charles and Camilla

Was rung up by a journo asking what I thought about all of this but what is there to say? I really do hope they will be very happy but even if I did think otherwise I am hardly likely to say that!

If the election is going to be on May 5th and the wedding is in early April then at least it will give the public a respite from wall to wall politics. Much as I like wall to wall politics I am well aware that there are many people who don't.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Not much time to blog earlier as this was how the day went after lunch

3pm - meeting with EOC
4pm - meeting at party HQ to discuss a forthcoming press event
5.15 - popped in to POlice Federation meeting to say hi to the guy from Hampshire and find out hot issues
5.30 - Parliamentary party meeting (shortest on record)
6.00 - meeting with Hampshire person on independent police complaints commission
6.40 - tried to find River room for fpa event in House of Lords - gave up
6.50 - Quick trip to House of commons gift shop
7.00 - a string of votes
7.45 - eat (Portcullis house had very nice chinese food tonight in aid of Chinese New Year. It is the year of Rooster - I was born in a year of the Rooster so wondered whether this was a good sign!
8.15 Back to office and now signing off for the night

Parliamentary & Scientific Committee

Today was the annual lunch and Guest of Honour was Princess Anne. I wasn't sure how much she knows about science but was aware that she is involved with WISE (Women into Science and Engineering).

Clearly Lord Soulsby, when introducing her, was also struggling to pad out the scientific CV and mentioned how well qualified she was etc and mentioned some role that the Princess has in The Society of Farriers - or some such organisation.

The Princess stood up and commented that she was involved with that organisation but it hardly qualified her to speak on matters scientific. She also commented that her A level in geography was about as qualified as she got!
I found her really refreshing and down to earth and she clearly has no time for bull - I suspect she also likes to cut pompous people down to size but her candour was refreshing.

Her speech was also very entertaining and she clearly feels passionately about encouraging women into science. She also spoke about how she felt her A level choices had been limited and had liked the idea of going off "to the local polytechnic and studying some form of engineering but she hadn't been brave enough".

An event I enjoyed far more than I had anticipated

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Westminster Day

This is an annual event which is actually organised by Lib Dem Youth and Students but aims to be non party partisan and attracts politicians from all parties.

Was talking about women (again! but it is my job) along with Eleanor Laing (Con) and Meg Munn (Lab). One of the audience mentioned that it was nice to attend a session where the politicians spent some of the time agreeing with each other. Can't disagree really.

Nice to see a group of young people from Stanbridge Earls school in the constituency (a school I have a bit of a soft spot for as there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the area) and nice to be approached by some women afterwards who told me they had found my comments inspiring. It's really nice when people go out of their way to say something nice and positive because it is not the general way of the world.


Have a long standing interest in this subject following an early piece of casework as the MP so decided to catch up with the new Chief Exec - Claire Severigni - now that she has had a chance to really get stuck into the role.
Things are beginning to look up and targets are consistently being met - but what was really refreshing was the new spirit of openness. In the past I have been promised figures but they have not been forthcoming so it was a welcome change to have everything printed off immediately and discussed openly.
I won't pretend that all is perfect and I am particularly worried that one month's poor figures were a direct result of poor performance by the out of hours set up but it must be good for staff morale to see the huge improvement that has been made.

On the stump

I love knocking on people's doors because you never know what people will come up with but I wasn't prepared for getting told off on Saturday! The subject of Robert Kilroy Silk came up and I seem to recall groaning (as you do when it comes to RKS).
Sharp retort from constituent, "You should be nice about him. God sends these people to test us"
I am clearly being tested.
OK, wrist duly slapped but how on earth do you record that conversation on the canvass record?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sure start

Managed to catch the end of the Surestart centre launch at Hardmoor School. Surestart has had a bit of a mixed press but there have been some good projects in Southampton and it was heartening that all of the health professionals seemed very positive about the joint working that is such a feature of the school.
It seemed odd to recall that when I was first elected Hardmoor was under threat of closure (it too had been through a difficult spell) but it was given a reprieve and seems to be thriving today. Recalling this made me feel a little more cheerful about the future of Ampfield School.

Ampfield School

Had asked to address the meeting of the Schools Organisation Committee who were voting on the future of Ampfield School today. I was mindful of the fact that Alan Dowden is in Australia and felt there ought to be a political representative there. In fact Martin Hatley (COnservative councillor) also spoke and we were both at pains not to make party political points.

It was an extremely frustrating meeting and it felt odd to be on the public side of things - especially when you have no means of challenging inappropriate statements. When considering the future of rural schools cost is not supposed to be a factor but all of the arguments made (particularly by most councillors) centred on the cost arguments.

It was not looking good but the Church of England supported the school and this meant that the final decision is now in the hands of an adjudicator. This did not seem like particularly good news to me but when I spoke to my guru on these things he thought it was a good sign as adjudicators don't often oppose the church if it is a church school that is being considered. So, fingers crossed - it seems to be in the lap of the Gods.

Woken with a start at 6

Was supposed to be in the BBC studios at 7 in Southampton this morning so flew into a complete panic when I was awoken by my pager (even on vibrate they make a horrid noise when left on wooden furniture). Naturally assumed that I had overslept but it was an alert from Solent that there had been new stories overnight so were moving me to another day. That's politics for you.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Patient/public forums

To Winchester for the meeting of the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare Trust forum's open meeting. Not hugely well attended but very interesting nonetheless although I am not convinced that the Trust has got the hang of this public consultation lark. Quite a lot of issues to pursue so signing off to start drafting letters.

A license to ?

Interesting meeting with licensing chap from Test Valley Borough Council talking about the implications of the new changes.

I wasn't heavily involved with the bill but did take up a large number of queries/concerns etc with ministers at the time so it was interesting to learn what the perceived problems were from another angle. The view seemed to be that the law was badly drafted and the likelihood that precedents would be set by referring to early legal rulings.

The way it will work is that all licences have to be renewed by a date in August and if they are merely replacements then there will be a "rubber stamping". If there are any changes then these will have to be considered by the council but theoretically pubs will be able to apply for a range of extended licensing hours. The snag is that each organisation will be applying separately and it will be difficult to get an overall picture of what the effect will be in August - shame that there is no way of co-ordinating all of this.

South West Trains

I was not amused.
Just missed intended train back to Parkway (12.05) - my fault.
12.35 train announced "this train is not stopping until SouthamptonCentral"

Approached poor lady who deals with enquiries who informed me that 12.35 train would not reach Waterloo until 12.40something and the changes had been made so that the train "could make up time"

Asked her how I could get to Parkway and all she could suggest was travel to S central and then travel back!!

Was not a happy bunny and had to refrain from a "Muttley" impression - particularly when a second SOuthampton train flashed up - stopping everywhere except Parkway. Was trying to decide whether there was any mileage in throwing a mega wobbly somewhere (not my usual style) when the screen changed - parkway was now an option - and I managed to get back to the constituency on time.

Andrew Haines (boss of SW trains) does not know how lucky he is - I am just grateful that I don't have to do this sort of thing every day......

A bit of discipline....

A pre-record for Meridian's Sunday politics show. Subjects were school discipline and electioneering.

The school discipline issue is a very interesting one ( as well as an important one) and it seems to me that there is not a qick fix simple solution. I say this as someone who from the day I started school wanted to be a teacher. The ambition remained until I attended a forces boarding school and I realised that I was not sure that I would be able to teach those who did not want to learn (although I wasn't bad at enforcing discipline in my role as a school and house prefect).
I also spent quite a bit of time in the local primary school when my kids were young - helping with science which was new to the national curriculum at that time. I particularly got to know the kids of my daughters era and they were a great bunch but (even in leafy hampshire) there were early signs that there could be problems with a couple of children. I now know what has happened to many of them. There seem to be few real casualties but those that I know of could have been predicted but in the grand scale of things the children/families did not qualify for much in the way of help or support.

I therefore feel very strongly that the problems can be identified in primary school and we need to invest in some proactive work with these children and families.

Part of the problem though is that teachers do not receive the back up they deserve from some parents. Gone are the days when a child got into trouble at school and the misdemeanour was also punished at home. A more likely scenario in 2005 is that angry parent can't believe that little Johnny or Joanna is anything short of perfect and marches into school in a state of high dudgeon. Some schools have introduced pupil/parent/teacher agreements and whilst these are a step in the right direction there is still the problem of getting parents to completely buy in. Yet, it happens in the schools where there is strong leadership so I have come to the conclusion that these leadership skills are somethingwe should invest in.

OFSTED shows that 10% of schools have a discipline problem. That is 10% too many so we need to work with those schools to turn them round. It has been done before and is possible. It sounds hard (and this is not party policy) but failing Head teachers need to be pensioned off in the same way as failing chief executives of hospital trusts. We simply cannot afford to do otherwise and gambol with our children's lives.

I will also admit that the above will not help in 100% of cases. In those cases I do not see why children should have their chances spoilt by a disruptive influence and I do think there is a case for removing the child and working with child and family to attempt re-integration in the long term. The nub of the problem is that it is not helpful to remove problem children from society indefinitely because as adults they need to be able to integrate.

Not an easy subject and I do not believe there are easy one size fits all solutions but we have to try.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Tales from the tearoom

Apparently our representative (MP) on the election monitoring team refused to wear a flak jacket - apparently he insinuated that these were for wimps and he needed to be able to move freely if he was to get himself out of trouble.
We were trying to establish whether he was brave or mad...

The art of asking a question

Decided that I would go along to the statement on incapacity benefit and try and ask a question. Snag is that not everyone who wants to ask will be lucky but the chances of success are greater if you have been bobbing up and down on previous occasions (this indicates that you want to speak) without success.

Unfortunately there were also a couple of questions I was keen to put to Hilary Benn during International Development questions - including one on the problems of vulnerable children post tsunami. It was a bit of a dilemma - being called in International Development questions would reduce my chances of being called during the ministerial statement. So, as always with these things I had to chance it. I realised that my chance of a DfID question was limited when the Speaker called Jenny Tonge but I did manage to get in on the statement and ask about people who had variable health conditions (eg mental health) and the lack of understanding of employers so was the Minister going to provide some sort of incentive to encourage employers to take on someone with a known health problem. Minister was surprisingly sympathetic and seemed to fully understand the problem but am not sure that they are doing enough to resolve it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Busy busy busy

No time to blog - day disappearing fast in a round of meetings re manifesto process and trying to catch up on back log of e-mails. Am considering auto-reply but I am still trying to keep the personal touch for those who e-mail me as they all get a personalised reply at the mo but e-mail has really taken off over the last year.