New Years Eve
Posted Sunday, 31 December 2006 at 11:06
Next year I will be abroad for New Years Eve. This year the house will be full of people drinking and eating far too much.
I am going to post my serious New Years message at 00.15. That gives me fifteen minutes to work my way through from the dining room, lounge. TV room, into the sanctuary of my study.
And just in case you think that’s very boring of me – I will have kissed every good looking man on the way – that’s why it’s going to take me fifteen minutes!
So what if I’m an MP – its New Years Eve for goodness sake – even I am allowed to go mad once a year!
Posted Saturday, 30 December 2006 at 19:48
What do you do with a turkey, chicken, pheasant, wild duck, pigeon, woodcock, quail, grouse, partridge and a goose? Well, in Mid Bedfordshire it’s called a ten bird roast and you bone the lot, lay them flat, roll them up and stuff the gaps with sausage meat and prunes. That’s what I am cooking for New Years. It takes twenty four hours in the Aga and will feed Flitwick when it’s done.
Apparently, so those more expert at removing the shot and feathers than I tell me, as you slice through you should produce a perfect rainbow slice of meat as the knife cuts through the different birds. A bit like the glass Lighthouse filled with layers of different coloured sands you used to buy on holiday as a child.
That’s just not going to happen is it?
And there's more
Posted Saturday, 30 December 2006 at 11:48
Following on from yesterday, I have discovered that Hazel Blears hasn’t even formally raised the issue of the hospital unit closing in her constituency with Patricia Hewitt the Secretary of State for health!!! As an MP, if you are serious and are doing your job properly, that’s your first base – speak to the minister who has the authority to say stop!
Alistair Burt and I have certainly raised the issues regarding Bedford hospital with Patricia Hewitt in her own office; face to face in what could be described as a robust manner (click on reverse arrow on calendar and see blog entry Nov 29 and 30)
Alistair and I have a different agenda from Hazel Blears. We are fighting to save Bedford Hospital, she is simply going through the cosmetic exercise of making the right noises and issuing the right press releases at the right time to make it look as though she wants to save her hospital - whilst all along supporting the government’s policy of cuts and closures.
I wonder how many other health ministers issued press releases to their local papers protesting about what was happening to their local hospital without ever having raised the issue on the floor of the House of Commons, in a committee, Westminster Hall, an adjournment debate or with the Secretary of State for health? My guess…. every single one of them.
In the style of Jo Moore
Posted Friday, 29 December 2006 at 11:21
If you want to witness political cynicism look no further than Hazel Blears opposing the hospital closure in her Salford constituency. If you want to see first hand how the BBC pedals political bias listen to or read the headline – ‘Minister opposing hospital closure embarrasses government’ – no it doesn’t, who are they kidding? The BBC wants us to believe a minister is being bold.
Hazel Blears chose to oppose the government the day after Boxing Day, when Parliament is in recess and when MPs and mainstream journalists like the rest of the country, are on holiday. It was an ‘expose bad news day’ as opposed to ‘bury bad news day’, whatever the principle is the same - do it on a day when something else dominates the headlines, or when no one is around to notice, or everyone is busy doing normal things like celebrating Christmas. The impact is the same, minimal.
When the hospital does close, and when Hazel Blears is being considered for re selection due to boundary changes, she will wax lyrical about how in the face of Patricia Hewitt she stood out against the governments policy of hospital cuts and closures because she put her constituents and Salford first. Yeah right Hazel, of course you did – if it’s so important why didn’t you stand up and protest during the adjournment debate in Parliament on the last day of the sitting when all MPs have the chance to speak and have it recorded in Hansard, televised on the Parliament channel and watched and recorded by journalists? I would call her a coward, however, having seen the way Patrick Hall, MP for Bedford, with a very small majority, has ducked the issue with regard to Bedford hospital - he takes that title hands down. It’s about saving political necks, that’s what comes first. The good people of Salford when it comes to election or re selection day will muse on the fact that the hospital may have closed, but Hazel did try her best. Did she?
Posted Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 17:20
The researcher who text the researcher who text me got it wrong – I was not compared to Lady Bracknell (slight disappointment!) However, I have to say, very impressed with the speed of the parliamentary jungle mobiles - even if they got it wrong!
The Importance of Being Earnest
Posted Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 00:30
My researcher has just sent a text message to say that someone has compared me to Lady Bracknell on a web site. He is coming for lunch today with his mum so will find out more then. If my memory serves me right Lady Bracknell was a character in ‘The Importance of being Earnest’. She was a formidable character with a strong personality and very, very funny. Whether Oscar Wilde intended it or not, she always upstaged everyone else and stole the show.
Whoever has made the comment obviously doesn’t know me then!
Politics for adults..... or is that addicts?
Posted Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 11:28
Now that the Christmas festivities are almost over most of us will slip lethargically into the no mans land between Christmas and New Year, waiting for the next round of overeating and drinking. For those of you who like me are political anoraks, here are a few suggestions to ease you through those few days;
Put 18 Doughty Street into Google. It’s a newish internet based talk TV station which runs for four hours a night and bills itself as politics for adults. Actually it was almost impossible for me to watch before this week, I used to have it playing in the background if I was working in the office at night, but it’s something you have to listen to and follow. It specialises in deep political interviews with leading politicians, without the sound bites. The reason why I can watch it now is because the clever people who run the station have archived the interviews and you can dip in and out as you wish – which means I can now watch the interviews I want, when I want, for as long as I want.
Buy a boxed set of West Wing. I am becoming a wing nut and have set myself the challenge of watching series six and seven over the holiday week.
Read political blogs. If you are reading this then look up a few others, Iain Dale is excellent, astute and amusing, as is Guido Fawkes. If you want to read other MPs try Ed Vaizey Con or Lynn Featherstone LD, both seasoned bloggers. If you are a Conservative, or not even, go to Conservativehome.com - it’s a web site for the grass root members of the Conservative party and frankly is a headache to the party most of the time - must be the best political/blog website there is.
Why am I doing this? Well my daughters are aged between 15 and 21, they are all home for Christmas. They have friends they have known, and who have known me since birth. There are never less than nine, quite often as many as twenty young adults, sometimes at , who want feeding. I don’t mind this – in fact I love it – I love young people, however, if it all gets too noisy I sit in front of a computer with a cup of tea, a turkey sandwich and a pair of headphones and claim to be working! Easy peasy!!
Posted Thursday, 21 December 2006 at 11:16
To everyone in Mid Beds....... I have signed off now - I am up to my knees in holly, wrapping paper and squabbling teenagers!
I wish you all a very merry christmas!
After twenty three years....
Posted Tuesday, 19 December 2006 at 11:08
I have just heard the most beautiful haunting piece of music. I last heard it, only once, twenty three years ago. I recognised it straight away, within the first few notes; it was though I had been waiting all this time to hear it again.
As I sat in the car and switched on the radio, there was silence for the first few seconds, then the first note began, as though it had been waiting for me…....
I rang Classic FM, I don’t want to wait another twenty three years! The composer is John Barry, it’s called ‘somewhere in time’, the pianist was Maksim with the Royal Philharmonic, it’s on EMI classics and I think the composer and arranger was John Kershaw, I was on a mobile and the signal wasn’t good!
So that’s my Christmas present sorted…. Family, staff, friends, casual acquaintances……… anyone?
Iraq, Afghanistan - Jesus, Love
Posted Monday, 18 December 2006 at 00:20
Iraq, Afghanistan – Jesus, Love
I went to evensong at my church on Sunday, there were about ten of us in attendance. I suppose trying to get people to attend church against a backdrop of religious wars is a tough call for any vicar. It must be hard to explain what God is up to when it comes to wars, drought and Tsunamis.
Christmas is a time to remind ourselves, in this world of angst and religious extremism, that Christianity is based on forgiveness, peace, truth, kindness and love - and yet we only have to look to Northern Ireland and the city of my birth, Liverpool, to see how such a pure message of hope and salvation can become distorted and result in bloodshed.
What hope is there for Iraq and Afghanistan? Countries at war whose fundamental complex religious principles can and are grossly misinterpreted for the benefit of self-interested groups and individuals.
God has a lot on his plate at the moment, and I do not suppose he’s worrying about how many people attend a cold village church on a dark Sunday evening - but I can’t help thinking, if our churches were full of people in united prayer for a peaceful world, he might at least feel he had a bit of support.
I have just realised that someone may think what is she doing posting at 00.30. Well, it's because I am a mum as well as an MP and I am waiting for the mince pies and cakes to finish in the oven for my daughter to take into school in the morning. Yes, I do, I make my own cakes and I will be in London for a 9am meeting - nauseating aren't I !
My day in Ampthill
Posted Friday, 15 December 2006 at 22:54
The best bit of which was spent at Alameda Middle School! I was due to visit a few weeks ago, however, as I pulled away in my drive the wheel clunked and clunked - when I got out of the car I saw that my tyre was completely flat. By the time the AA arrived and discovered that the spare was flat...... oh you don't want to know the rest... anyway I was desperate to make sure I got to see the children before Christmas, and I have. Ellie and Toby, thank you for being such excellent guides, Liam, you are a very special little boy, and teachers... it's not often I get to meet so many teachers in one school who are all as enthusiastic and inspirational as you are. Hardly any wonder the school is top of the league tables! Thank you so much for my present and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
Termination of Pregnancy Bill
Posted Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 14:39
My Bill is going live again on Monday! I will be presenting the Bill from behind the Chair to the Speaker on Monday afternoon and will give him a date much later in the year for the second reading.
This means that from now until the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 my new Bill, calling for a reduction in the upper time limit of abortion from 24 to 20 weeks will feature as pending future business on the parliamentary order paper. This will be a daily statement, not everyone is happy with 24 weeks - change in a modern, morally responsible, compassionate society is way, way overdue!
Today's PM's QT
Posted Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 13:53
A bit flat today. The highlight was when the Speaker called Dennis McShane MP to speak as a supplementary – the question he asked was so puerile and party political that the Speaker jumped up and told him he had made a mistake in calling him, meaning it as an insult, Dennis took it as one, he looked furious!
Chatham House Rules Apply
Posted Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 09:20
I went for a cup of tea with Brooks Newmark, MP for Braintree, and Adam Afriyie, MP Windsor, between votes yesterday; each vote lasts eight minutes, so if you make sure you are first in the lobby for the vote and then run into the tea room you can just get served, grab a cup of tea and then walk last into the lobby for the second vote – this gives you 14 minutes if you run. However, it can be a risky strategy, because they lock the doors of the lobby whether or not you are in the middle of them and they don’t care if you are trapped, so timing is essential.
Brookes, Adam and I deployed this tactic today – it’s a riot in here - you never know what we are going to get up to next!
Whilst gulping his tea, Adam said that women live longer than men because they have more to say and need to get it all out before they die; Given what Brooks said on Monday - are they winding me up?
Whilst I was waiting in the queue for the tea, Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, said something absolutely outrageous to Tony McNulty, a fellow Labour MP and Home Office Minister. It was so shocking that everyone was stunned into silence – I broke the tension by saying “I’m going to put that on my blog!” Stephen replied, in a very loud voice, “don’t you dare Miss!”
OK Stephen, I won’t – in the tea room, Chatham House rules apply, but gosh, I wish Chatham House didn’t exist because it was so juicy!!
The "A La Carte" Society
Posted Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 09:28
We all know that in order to raise a child with any level of success you need to establish boundaries. Children need to know just how far they can go in all aspects of their life. If they don’t know what and where the limits are they become insecure – having no boundaries to a child is very scary.
This is because children know there is possibly no limit to their strength or wilfulness. They don’t know how far they can go until they get there, and anyway, pushing the boundaries is a natural part of development. If there aren’t any boundaries there how do we learn to compromise and accept what is established and appropriate behaviour?
Unfortunately, one can draw parallels between society today and a toddler. There are no moral markers anymore, no acceptable boundaries - Drugs, alcohol, sex, lack of respect for the older generation. Explicit advertising, TV, computer games, bad language, probity in public life – whatever it is – we have removed the boundaries which used to keep our society secure. The limit to where it was both morally and socially acceptable to step up to as an adult has all but gone.
We now pick whatever it is we want from the menu of life, anything goes.
This is the reason why I so welcomed the report from Iain Duncan Smith yesterday which talks about the importance of family life and the effect that marital breakdown can have on young children.
Children must come first. Even if marital breakdown is unavoidable, parents should consider how best to maintain a framework of family life and plan a future, which puts the emotional as well as the physical needs of the children concerned at the forefront.
Do I sound like I am preaching? Well, maybe I am. Isn’t that one of the problems with modern society, that we are all reticient of venturing forth an opinion for fear of condemnation? Don’t we all now close our doors and keep opinions to ourselves - and is society better off for it? A strong society is self policing. It doesn’t depend on legislators alone; it thrives on a strong voluntary sector, good neighbours, active churches and brave individuals like Iain - who are not afraid to say it as it is.
Posted Monday, 11 December 2006 at 09:32
Brooks Newmark MP for Braintree has told me that women have to physically discharge more words in a day than men - maybe that's why my blogs have been getting longer?
The NHS & A Cab To The Station.
Posted Friday, 8 December 2006 at 17:51
I don’t know whether it is because I trained as a nurse, but I very much share the upset and distress many in the nursing profession feel at the moment. Since the NHS began nurses have always worked over-time, without pay, and it’s always been more important for the job to be done, than to leave on time; this is called goodwill and is the invisible cohesive glue that binds the NHS. It is not an over statement to say that the NHS has survived on this goodwill. What we are seeing now, is that as a result of redundancies, nursing staff morale on the wards is at rock bottom. Whereas once staff would offer to stay, ward managers now have to beg staff to stay, without success, which is having a real impact on patient care.
Yesterday I asked the leader of the House of Commons if we could have a debate in the Chamber. Nurses should have direct access to their MPs to lobby them, prior to a debate, so that nurses can have a voice from the floor of the Chamber, something they have never had before. Unfortunately the Leader of the House response was that nursing morale was not an issue. Is the government in denial? Is there anyone in who understands or is even interested in or cares about what is happening in the NHS?
A funny thing happened to me on the way home last night. I hailed a cab to take me to the station and as the cab pulled over a man’s voice behind me said, "It’s OK you take it." I was a bit startled as I had not realised there was anyone standing behind me! I asked the man where he was going, it was to the same station as myself, so I asked if he would like to share the cab - It was pouring down and I did feel bad!
On the way to the station, he asked if we could stop by his hotel so that he could pick up his bags. When he got back into the cab he presented with a flourish, a crisp white business card. I knew I had some of my business cards with me too, somewhere in a broken plastic pouch and spent the next 10 minutes trying to find them. At the bottom of my handbag (which is the size of your average suitcase), hidden amongst a banana, a packet of polo’s, half a bagel, a dog lead, umbrella etc I finally found the pouch and gave him one of my cards, even though it was a bit battered and bruised. He didn’t seem to mind and I watched in amazement as he placed the card I gave him in a beautiful little red leather wallet which looked distinctly Prada; which he then placed into an exquisite black velvet bag with a draw string; which he then put into a 'just so shabby' chic Italian leather briefcase.
And the moral of the story is?..... You can tell a lot about a man – and indeed sadly a woman - by the business cards they keep!
Posted Thursday, 7 December 2006 at 13:46
On the 26th October (click the reverse button on the calendar) I wrote about Greg Barker and the dreadful time he was having with the press as a result of his marriage breakdown.
Greg ands his wife Celeste are an absolute testament as to how the breakdown of a marriage does not necessarily mean the breakdown of family life. Both continue to co-parent their children in harmony and remain the closest of friends and the most loving of parents.
This Christmas they are having a huge family Christmas party, Celeste has invited ninety people and is converting the dining room into a dance floor and Greg is complaining about how much furniture he has to move!
When sending out the invitations Celeste commented that they had invited ninety people so they should expect about fifty to turn up. No Celeste – wrong - This year all ninety will turn up I can guarantee it!
Private Eye Again
Posted Wednesday, 6 December 2006 at 11:24
It’s a quiet week in Parliament - I’m in Private Eye again, how fantastic! There were over 44,772 hits on this blog site in November and now thanks to Private eye that number may be considerably up in December - this is great for me as this is such an effective way for me to communicate with my constituents.
Private Eye are obviously being fed information by someone who is obsessed with the center parcs proposal for Mid Beds in a rather unhealthy way.
Thankfully, most people know that it is a decision taken by and voted on by local councillors of all political parties. Whether Centre parcs ends up in Mid Beds or not has absolutely nothing to do with me! In fact, the decision has gone to an appeal and it is a government inspector who will make the final decision.
What is Private Eye's circulation anyway? Is it more than 44,772? Hope so or it’s no use to me!
PM: Just read the Private Eye article in which it states that I am being sued! Err, no I'm not, I am very sure I would know if I was. The article also refers to an organisation known as the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitat...mmm... now I may be wrong, but I thought that in order to call yourself a National Institue you had to have government permission and be registered as such?
Just Another Manic Monday.
Posted Tuesday, 5 December 2006 at 12:21
The Bangles lyrics were swimming around in my head yesterday as I tried to make sense of all that was going on! There was a highlight to the day – Alameda Middle School from Ampthill in my constituency was in Parliament for a visit. I have lots of schools which visit, but these children were exceptional. Not in the way they conducted themselves, which was exemplary, but in the way they probed and questioned me. I have never enjoyed a question and answer session with school children so much. They asked intelligent questions about legislation, Iraq and the education inspections bill, usually I am asked about Big Ben and have I been up it!
One of the big decisions I have had to make since becoming an MP was whether or not to oppose my own council when they attempted to alter the three tier education system in Bedfordshire to two tier. I did oppose it and made myself lots of enemies on the way. I opposed the proposal because I took the decision that I was elected to back parents and children and not politics.
When Alameda left I felt a huge sense of satisfaction. They were fantastic children who were obviously well taught and thriving in a small community environment – it was worth making the enemies.
Posted Friday, 1 December 2006 at 14:53
I like Jack Straw, he is a really nice, decent man. He is always up for a chat, always has a smile on his face and is incredibly kind. This is a huge problem during Business Questions, which as the leader of the House it is his duty to take. I like to ask gritty questions, questions that make the Leader of the House look at me with a ‘you cheeky madam’ look on his face. I wouldn’t like to be Theresa May who has to hold him to account each week. I would be minded to say “never mind Jack, I am sure it’s not your fault”, liking members of the opposition is not a good thing for democracy !
The other night I asked John Hutton the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was it true that he had said the Chancellor would make a bleeping awful prime minister, I asked him this whilst the Chancellor was sat next to him – now that is cheeky – and by the look the Chancellor gave me in the corridor afterwards, possibly risky! I said bleeping because when George Osborne brought it up in the Chamber he used the correct quotation and was brought to book by the Speaker - it was George who very usefully tipped me off before we went into the Chamber! Thanks George!