The Budget and Mid-Bedfordshire
Posted Monday, 31 March 2014 at 11:15
There has been so much written in response to the Budget that I was going to confine my supportive remarks to the shorter medium of twitter. Needless to say, I am incredibly happy that from April 2015 in Mid-Bedfordshire 43,063 people will receive a significant tax cut while 441 people will be taken out of income tax altogether.
But I am perhaps most pleased about the changes to pension rules, which will reward and trust older people who have saved throughout their working lives. It is an extension of the Conservative principle that people are better placed to decide how to spend their own money than the government. In my opinion there is no such thing as a government that spends our money well.
Annuities will remain a staple of retirement provision for many, but not necessarily for everyone and there is no reason that people should be mandated to buy one. It was very sad, therefore, to see the few opponents of the reforms actually saying that ‘people cannot be trusted to spend their own money’.
This reminded me of a similar debate we had earlier in the parliament when a colleague introduced a Private Members Bill that would provide benefit payments on special cards that could not be used to buy alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or gambling.
I felt then, as now, that this would be an outrageous restriction on the freedom of people who, just because they may be unemployed, are not automatically declared irresponsible and worthy of condescension by government.
I think all political parties should try to demonstrate consistency with their principles. You cannot declare that benefit recipients are being patronised when they are told how to spend their money but support the view that retirees cannot be trusted with their own savings.
Politicians of any party either believe that government telling people how to spend their money is patronising, inefficient and unnecessary or they don’t. They cannot change their position on a whim when different groups are affected.
The amounts are different but the principle is the same, we must trust people with their own money to provide for themselves in retirement according to personal wishes and circumstances.
I have been touched to weekend to speak to a widowed constituent with a terminal illness who believes she may have two years at the most to live. She was thrilled at the news that she will be able to access her pension fund and provide herself with some short term comfort and a few treats, other than the measly £74 per month annuity her pension pot will provide. She wants to visit her father’s grave in Normandy and has a genuine bucket list that, prior to this budget, would not have been achievable. And for that I am both grateful and proud.
Reform of the License Fee
Posted Thursday, 27 March 2014 at 09:30
I was pleased to add my name to the successful amendment in the Deregulation Bill to decriminalise non-payment of the television license fee and to add support to my colleague, Andrew Bridgen, who has led the campaign in Parliament.
In this day and age, a tax on the ownership of a television is a completely outdated concept that totally fails to take into account changes in the media environment over the past fifty years. Added to this are the enormous changes in how media is consumed that have taken place in just the last decade.
The BBC as an organisation has become too big, too badly designed and consistently badly managed. Over-promoted television producers, it turns out, cannot run a large organisation efficiently or effectively. Who would have guessed?
The BBC is an organisation that suppressed women by promoting only men and nurtured a climate of bullying in the workplace, as revealed by Select Committee reports. BBC managers deliberately concealed the antics of a paedophile and sex offender, practice blatant political bias and I have lost count of the number of times their journalists have misrepresented events.
Fresh revelations have highlighted all that is wrong about this bloated organisation. On the one hand they are persecuting single parents and the elderly who have found themselves unable to pay the license fee, while on the other hand BBC executives conspire to cover up a culture of sexual abuse.
While I think the BBC’s ‘national treasure’ status has been overblown (not least by their own spinning), I do enjoy a great deal of their output and I know the same is true for almost all my constituents. I do not see that this needs to change.
The non-payment of utility bills is a civil matter and nobody claims that water, electricity or gas will fail to be delivered because of the minority of people who will not or cannot pay their bills. The BBC is attempting to justify enforcement procedures using this excuse to hound people through the courts and all the way to jail.
The model of the BBC, which is in effect state run television, is outdated in this modern world of media and communication. Such a structure of payment and aggressive persecution would be more in keeping in a soviet style country.
It would appear that there is no politician in any party brave enough to take on the BBC for fear of retribution and punishment via its political reporting - in the same way as is practiced by newspapers against individual politicians who dare to challenge or criticise them.
Therefore, what has been achieved means the people can now take charge. When it comes to the BBC, it is time for people to take power where politicians have consistently failed.
Introducing my debut novel, The Four Streets
Posted Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 21:49
My take on the Eton Mess
Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 10:33
There has been an unfortunate emphasis over the last few days regarding the pervasive dominance of Eton educated men in Parliament. This, unfortunately, detracts from the main issue. The problem is in the numbers public/privately educated from all schools that dominate at all levels in society, particularly amongst the high-earning professions.
I find depressing the reports that Michael Gove has been 'given a new one' for speaking out. If MPs in Parliament cannot speak out in fear of losing their whip or having a strip torn off by the party leadership, what is the point of being an MP?
To speak out against the dominance of public/private school educated people at all levels in society, and for the return of equality and fairness for all, is exactly what we MPs should be doing. This dominance has to stop and yet in all political parties, and especially as a result of the introduction of a body like IPSA, the situation can only get worse as Parliament becomes a place for the rich and favoured.
Recently I gave a speech at a public school on this issue, one I have used a number of times since. You might think that following my posh boys comment, a public school would not be the most obvious place for me to deliver this speech. It was in fact absolutely the place to take a message of the importance of diversity and equality of opportunity in the global race.
Here is a copy of the speech:
I’d like to begin by saying thank you for having me here this afternoon. I was a parent of two daughters at Ampleforth and I know the school very well. I have a deep admiration for the work done here and for the ethos that is instilled in the young people that pass through this school. I always think, wherever you are in the world, you can always tell when you meet someone who has been to Ampleforth. The manners of the young people who have been to this school set them apart from any other school but most especially the other public schools. I shall come back to that a bit later.
Given what I have just said about Ampleforth, I understand that my comments early last year about the behaviour of certain ‘arrogant posh boys’ may have dismayed people at the school who felt I was painting with too broad a brush. I therefore want to explain why I said those things and what made me use the language that I did. Those remarks have since been portrayed as an off-the-cuff response to passing events. Various people found it useful to suggest that I did not really mean what I said. Well, let me tell you here today, I was talking about a very troubling and significant trend present in the higher strata at many levels in this country that is working against social mobility, stifling meritocracy and reducing the effectiveness of our ability to compete on the world stage.
I was, therefore, not merely expressing a mild irritation, as some would have you believe, but voicing my analysis of a fault at the heart of all political parties in Westminster and the ability of those politicians to represent citizens in the Global Race. If we are facing competition from a growing number of active, aggressive foreign economies we need to have our society and economy working at their peak of effectiveness, yet we are crippling them by stifling internal competition in our workforce to ensure that we always have the best possible person for the job.
Public schools are at their best when they are helping children compete. Competition of all kinds is healthy for an individual’s body and mind. Learning to take loss on the chin with no reduction of enthusiasm is one of the great lessons in life that needs to be taken in as early as possible. Competition within a marketplace is the best way to generate wealth, employment and stimulate innovation. Yet this is not the situation currently in the UK. Competition has given way to an iniquitous form of inefficiency we would decry in the developing world as corruption. I am talking about the suppression of the advancement of state education children who are dominated at all levels where earnings are high, by the public/private sector.
We have a situation in this country whereby all three of the main party leaders owe their positions, to a greater or lesser degree, to their family connections. Ed Miliband is the son of a Marxist intellectual whose name propelled both his children into influential positions within the socialist movement, culminating in their appointment as Special Advisers to Blair and Brown. Nick Clegg’s father secured for him an internship at an investment bank that allowed him to make his personal fortune before deciding to turn his hand to politics. My own party leader, David Cameron, was granted his first opportunity in the Conservative Research Department following a mysterious phone call from a senior adviser at Buckingham Palace. A similar story can be told about many MPs throughout Parliament in all parties, the city banks and journalism, including the bastions of the leftist establishment the Guardian and the BBC. Both the previous and new Chair of the BBC trust, both privately educated and over fifty percent of the new BBC intake each year, ditto. This is not the result of healthy competition but of its quiet removal from British life in the past twenty years.
When I was first elected to Parliament my party was toying with the idea of using all-women shortlist to boost the number of women at Westminster. I was always appalled at this idea. The Labour Party uses this technique often and I wonder how the women elected this way can cope with not knowing that they were not the best person for the job, only the best woman. The implicit suggestion, that women are incapable of competing with men for the position I now hold, Member of Parliament, is abhorrent. Why should it be any different in any other walk of life? Why should anybody want a position knowing that they could only obtain it by keeping other competitors out of the race? This is the situation that we now face in our most important industries and it is a situation that is actively encouraged by some schools that have adopted a short-term view of what education should mean.
The lack of diversity has not only reduced the ability of our economy to compete, but by unfairly promoting those not worthy while restraining those who are it creates conflict in society. The old divisions we thought we had removed for good in the meritocratic post-war years when the class system seemed to be breaking down are in fact still with us. We once again have a situation with them and us, a stark division between the rulers and the ruled.
Would the same opportunity for a grocer’s daughter from Grantham rise to become Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister exist today? Looking at the party leaders we have I am not sure she would. She simply did not have the friends in high places, required to progress today.
Here, there is a saying for those of you who move up to Newcastle and become university students, as did my own. SHAC. Senior House Ampleforth College.
In fact, parliament is very much the same. One remove from the old public school model. The fags, the organisation of supporting teams, the friends of friends from the main schools and Oxford.
In 2013, that’s depressing, isn’t it?
It was all very well for Tony Blair’s government to pretend that we live in a classless society when an economic boom meant that living standards were rising for all. When they were talking about ‘sharing the proceeds of growth’ in those heady days before 2008, nobody minded that George Osborne and David Cameron came from immensely privileged backgrounds. However the Brown crash and subsequent recession, followed by dramatic reductions in government spending, meant that the public began to look askance at the two millionaires imposing cuts. Cuts, no matter how necessary, have to be carried out in a way that is fair and sensitive to the people they affect the most. Empathy and understanding of situations less fortunate than your own are the vital characteristics for successfully carrying through such a difficult task. This is what I felt was lacking in government policy at the time and that is why I felt I had to speak out.
I doubt he was aware of the irony when the multi-millionaire Miliband used my comments to attack David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The perception of privilege was real and needed challenging. That was what I sought to address and I believe we have seen real change since then as a gradual realisation has come over the leadership that they simply could not govern with the same metropolitan social liberalism as before. I firmly believe that social liberalism is primarily an indulgence of the wealthy. The people who can afford to enjoy liberalism whilst protecting their own children from the societal influences of such by sending them to the most expensive schools. In addition to the majority of the British public being far from social liberals, they also aren’t stupid. They know that each family struggles financially whilst we send a billion of our hard earned cash to Europe each year.
I shall give an example of how this change in the Coalition has emerged, demonstrating a policy shift showing how the presentation of policy has switched to demonstrate their positive effect on so called ‘ordinary working people’. Even that phrase, which I think has terribly patronising undertones, has become part of the standard political lexicon.
So let’s examine the political about turn on fuel duty. For decades now fuel duty has been seen as a way of reducing the distance people drive, punishing car users for their damage of the environment and attempting to push people onto forms of public transport. This has been based on the standard assumption held by people who live almost their entire lives in big cities that the use of a car is a luxury, not a necessity and that public transport can easily take the strain. In my constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire, like in many others across the country, both of these assumptions are so obviously, jaw-droppingly wrong that it would take only a few seconds to understand that for many people a car is vital if you want to get to work, pick up the children or access any form of public services such as healthcare.
Public transport is virtually non-existent for many of my constituents who live in small villages spread out across a large rural area. Buses do run, but perhaps once a day into the nearest town. Year on year the fuel duty escalator, used most enthusiastically by Gordon Brown as Chancellor, has added an ever heavier financial burden to people who had no other option by to pay and pay and pay. Even after the coalition took power it was over a year and after enormous political pressure from his own backbenchers before George Osborne scrapped the escalator and froze the duty. He still maintained that the pressure of the deficit meant that he couldn’t actually cut fuel duty. The move was still a victory for MPs like me who could go back to our constituents and point to a solid achievement that meant they had more money in their wallets at the end of the month because of something we had done in Westminster.
In a small way and as part of a wider collective effort by MPs and others dismayed by the direction of the early part of the Coalition government, my comments about ‘arrogant posh boys’ have served as part of an education that David Cameron at Eton and George Osborne at St Pauls missed the first time around.
I believe that the roots of those missteps in the first two years of the coalition, culminating in the omnishambles budget, can be traced back directly to public schools that focus not on what makes a pupil a good and able person, but rather on who they are, who their parents are and who they know. I find it particularly interesting that my party leadership, with their educational backgrounds, are so adamantly opposed to the return of selective grammar schools. The slide back to rule by a privileged elite comes after almost fifty years of the post-war era in which working class children from poor backgrounds were to be found throughout the commanding heights of industry, politics and almost every field of life. The famous ‘northern chemist’ driving forward British innovation was a fantastic asset to the country that has been lost in the appalling drop in social mobility that followed from the abandonment of Grammar Schools in favour of comprehensives. I am in no doubt that if the grammar school system had remained and if Labour had not scrapped the assisted places scheme, there would be state educated children from poor backgrounds at all layers within society, rather than what we have today, which is almost extinction. Within the unfortunate educational framework left by the blinkered removal of the most effective driver of social mobility, grammar schools, Ampleforth stands out.
There is an important difference that I see in Ampleforth pupils I meet at the school or elsewhere in life. Let’s not pretend that pupils here are not privileged, but crucially they are not just privileged. They are blessed with an understanding of others that comes from following the teachings of St Benedict. Kindness and empathy mean that you are able to listen to and understand other points of view rather than riding roughshod over anything or anybody that happens to stand in your way. It is the moral aspect of education that has long been absent from many state schools and has possibly never existed in most of the country’s top private schools.
This blessing that has bestowed upon you and those that have gone to the school before you creates a responsibility. You must strive to succeed, to compete harder and better than your peers in whatever field you choose to enter, yet that success must not come at the expense of society but in cooperation with it.
Ampleforth pupils are not simply privileged but blessed Key difference between Ampleforth and many other public schools: who they are makes them, rather than what they are e.g. kind, empathetic, able to listen to other points of view.
This creates a responsibility. Success must not come at the expense of society but in cooperation with it. Uphold the values of Ampleforth long after you leave school because you will be the ambassadors.
[Check against delivery]
How they try to skewer an MP!
Posted Monday, 17 March 2014 at 14:59
If you want to know how a political journalist tries to skewer an MP, read on through the email chain below.
Observe the snake-like twists and turns, the jumping from one accusation to the next hoping to catch you out.
The fact is, when you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear...
The journalist is from the Daily Telegraph, his emails are in red, my responses in black and the final email from the constituency agent is in green.
I understand that you spoke last week at a fund-raising event for the Conservative association at Hampstead & Kilburn in a private house and that a local journalist was in attendance.
We understand that you were asked if you still advocated a deal with Ukip and that you replied: "Too late."
Any comment at all that you would care to make on this would be appreciated. We plan to run a story about it in the paper tomorrow.
Best and thanks, Tim
Sure, I was one of the first MPs to advocate that we should try to find seats where MPs and UKIP could stand together on a joint ticket which would have been particular beneficial to Eurosceptic MPs in marginal seats. This was well documented both on television and in the national press. The idea was rejected by the party and it is now too late as such an arrangement would take time and discussion as well as agreement on behalf of both parties. We are only just over a year from the general election. It is indeed too late.
Thanks Nadine. 'Too late' was understood to mean by the lady who told us about it that it was 'too late' to turn around the Conservatives' fortunes too...
Can you clarify that you do believe the party will win the general election?
Oh, sorry, yes,of course! I very clearly stated that it was too late to make a pact with UKIP, that the time and moment had been a year ago and that it had now gone. There was no chance now, weeks before the Euros and once they were over we were into the general election campaign. I then went on to explain how to neutralise the UKIP threat in that constituency, by making sure everyone knew that the only way to guarantee a say on our entry to the EU was to emphasise that we were the only party offering a guarantee of a referendum in 2017.
I spoke on the day Ed Miliband ruled out Labour offering a referendum and told them he had given us a great gift and they should make sure every house in every street knew that he didn't trust people with a referendum.
If anything, I told them that we had all to play for - highest employment ever since records began, economic recovery etc. I'm not sure we will win with a massive majority now that boundary changes didn't go through, but it think we could certainly push through on the basis that people cannot trust labour with the economy.
Our informant took the view the talk you gave was generally quite downbeat - I take on board that your 'too late' was a reference to the moment passing with Ukip, but I gather you went on to talk about Stewart Jackson's unhappy relationship with his local councillors.
Well that was in direct response to a question about Peterborough and how I thought that even an MP who didn't have a massive majority and not the most conservative of councils could win easily with a handsome majority
Do you think you were 'downbeat'? I gather you also said you joined Weight Watchers in order to find out what women in your constituency were thinking.
Blimey! Is nothing sacred in the Conservative family anymore!!
No, I was very upbeat and have asked the Agent, David, who organised the event to email you and confirm that, which he has said he is doing.
We had a good laugh, it was the very opposite of downbeat.
I am joining weight watchers because I need to lose weight and I said that I had joined one which was held in a constituents house on a new housing estate and as well as losing weight, it was a great way of keeping grounded and hearing what the women in my patch had to say.
Again, it was in the 'How to beat Labour and connect with voters' part of my speech.
Blimey, if you need to lose weight, then we all do!
Best and thanks, Tim
Tim, I am emailing you as I am the Agent to Hampstead & Kilburn Conservatives who organised Nadine Dorries visit to our constituency.
As the guests all left feeling upbeat after Nadine had spoken I was suprised to hear that the Ham & High journalist has told you that Nadine said that we could not win the next General Election.
She came and delivered an upbeat speech about how we could win the next General Election. The references to being 'too late' was in regards to the now historical suggestion that UKIP be approached to form a electoral coalition with us.
In regards to references about Peterborough Nadine stressed that Stuart Jackson was confident about his chances as he has a great incumbency record and will be returned with an increased majority.
I hope that this clarifies the situation.
Talking about why I wrote The Four Streets
Posted Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 11:34
Fairer Funding for Mid-Beds' Schools
Posted Thursday, 13 March 2014 at 15:34
The government has today announced action to tackle the unfair funding formula that affects many of Bedfordshire’s schools. At the moment, schools only a few miles away in Luton can receive substantially more per pupil simply because of local authority boundaries.
Central Bedfordshire Council will now receive £4,253 per child enrolled in their school, which is 2.6% more than previously, an increase of £109 over the course of an academic year.
This is money that has been made available by savings elsewhere in government and will not be taken away from schools that still need the money due to the needs of their catchment, often in deprived areas.
But the announcement goes some way to levelling the playing field that has previously seen urban areas benefit because of their complex needs at the expense of rural areas. That situation persisted for far too long and today’s announcement is a great step forward for fairness and equality in education for our children.
The Care Bill
Posted Tuesday, 11 March 2014 at 12:38
Last night and again today Parliament has been debating the government’s Care Bill and I have received a very large number of campaign emails on the subject. Most of the attention is focused on Clause 119 and Paul Burstow’s amendment to replace it.
The form emails I have received all say ‘the NHS is very important to me’, which is entirely understandable and a sentiment I completely agree with. But I cannot see why, if we agree that the NHS is a vital natural resource, so many people believe that it would be managed best by binding the hands of doctors and administrators.
We have a national health service made up of interdependent hospitals and it just doesn’t make sense that officials are currently only able to look at single failing providers in isolation. In the long term this will reduce the standard of care available to patients and not increase it, as we all want.
Having worked in the NHS, used the NHS and spoken to hundreds of constituents over the years about their feelings and experiences, I would never vote for a measure that had anything like the consequences the campaign emails suggest.
I know opposition parties must oppose and campaign groups must campaign but there is a thin line between that and scaremongering among vulnerable people on the basis of what you know to be untruths.
'The Four Streets' now available for pre-order
Posted Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 14:29
to pre-order my debut novel, The Four Streets
, released on 10 April 2014.
Talking about the personal elements of The Four Streets
Posted Monday, 3 March 2014 at 21:31
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