Friday, 29 May 2009

Rochester Extends Warm Welcome For Dickens Festival

This weekend from Friday 29th through to Sunday 31st May is Dickens weekend in Rochester.

As a resident of Rochester High Street I will be in the thick of the festival but we will have thousands of visitors from further afield.

Many who come are Dickens enthusiasts, including a number who make the trip from America every year. Others, from near and afar, are here for the stalls and the funfair and the general merrymaking.

We hope that it will be a great weekend for local traders. Rochester is now unusual in having so many independent shops and traders. That adds to the draw of the Dickens festival, as well as encouraging festival goers to come again to see Rochester when it is not so hectic.

I have fond memories of leading the Dickens parade a few years ago when I had the honour of escorting our then Mayor, Councillor Sue Haydock. It was not quite so hot that year as expected this weekend, so I hope readers will forgive me for not being in Victorian outfit again but join me in sending appreciation to those who do dress up.

Welcome all and enjoy the weekend.


Labour's Mortgage Rescue Scheme Failing To Help Homeowners

Message from Grant Shapps MP

Grant Shapps warned Labour's Mortgage Rescue Scheme "is failing" after it was revealed only two families have been helped in the first four months.

The £285 million scheme, intended to help 6,000 of 'the most vulnerable families avoid repossession', has provided assistance to just two families. At this rate, it will benefit only 12 homeowners over its two-year lifespan.

This lack of help comes despite the fact that, in the last month alone, more than 1,000 homeowners approached local authorities with difficulties paying their mortgage.

Grant, the Shadow Housing Minister, said, "This is typical of the Labour Government's approach: they promise big and deliver very little. They should spend less time making up headlines and more time helping hard-pressed families through the recession."

And he stressed, "Ministers promised (the Mortgage Rescue Scheme) would offer 'real help now' to homeowners living with the threat of repossession. Gordon Brown should now try telling that to the thousands of families being frozen out of this scheme and losing their homes as a result."


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Restoring Authority To Parliament

Congratulations to my friend Douglas Carswell for proposing the motion that Speaker Martin step down.

Douglas has taken no pleasure in leading this necessary, but far from sufficient, step to restore authority to Parliament.

He was criticised by some for not respecting traditional convention.

Douglas though comes from a tradition, perhaps more radical than whig, that demands necessary change. It is that tradition and the demand for Direct Democracy which it inspires which will be key if my party is to make politics work again.

The radicals demanded economy and accountability, expecting the latter to drive the former. We are in the same position today.

The first step to ensuring that public services are value for money must be to ensure that those who control them are accountable to those who pay for them.

Douglas has led Parliament in making the first step in this direction but there remains a very long way to go.

Photo Credit: Archbishop Cranmer

Monday, 18 May 2009

Britain Needs A General Election

A message from David Cameron

I've been up in Lancashire today launching our campaign for the European elections. These elections matter and only by voting Conservative will we get the changes we all want to see in Europe.

Our candidates are the kind of people Brussels needs more of. And they've all signed our pledge to stand up for the kind of things Brussels needs more of: delivering more for less, cleaning up the political system and, of course, giving us the referendum that we were promised.

So I hope you will give them your full support. But the big election, the election we really need, is still to come - and it can't come soon enough.

I've wanted a General Election for some time but now the sheer scale of the problems facing Britain today - the recession, the debt crisis, and now the political crisis - has changed everything.

They've made having an election not just a "nice to have", but an absolute "must have". Some MPs are calling for a new Speaker, but that alone doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

This political crisis has been caused by the politicians, so I don't think the politicians alone can solve it. The public have got to be involved. They have to be given a chance to voice their anger and approve of a new way forward.

That's why I'm announcing today that we are turning the campaign we had planned for these elections into the campaign Britain now needs: a campaign for a General Election to be held as soon as possible.

Conservative candidates and activists right across the country will be collecting signatures for a petition demanding that Gordon Brown calls a General Election.

You can help kick-start this campaign right now - just
click here to sign the petition online, and then send the link to your friends and colleagues.

If we all Sign for Change we can send a message that the government can't ignore.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Campaign Succeeds - Congratulations To Southeastern

Southeastern Trains have published their new draft timetable for services from 13 December 2009.

The proposed service represents a victory for Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Cllr Mark Reckless, and local campaigners.

For years only one Cannon Street service has stopped in Rochester and the fast services to Victoria have only stopped at Rochester off-peak, leaving commuters from Rochester to London having to either get a slow train, drive or have a long walk to Chatham, or get a connecting train via Chatham.

This will now change as Southeastern acted on feedback received following the Commuter Feedback Survey organised by Mark Reckless and Fares Fair campaigner, Chris Irvine, in March this year.

Mark met with Southeastern on 8th April to explain that a key element of feedback received was for fast Victoria and Cannon Street trains to serve commuters from Rochester. He first reported on on 25th April that Southeastern might agree to do this.

Southeastern have now confirmed they will run 07.10, 08.11 and 08.32 fast services from Rochester to Cannon Street in addition to the current 06.46 (changing to 06.41) service.

All will take about 45 minutes to Cannon Street. There will now be five, rather than one, fast, direct evening services returning from Cannon Street to Rochester.

There will also be new fast, direct services from Rochester to Victoria at 08.22 and 08.52 and commuter evening return services will stop in Rochester.

Reacting to the news Mark Reckless said:

"This is the culmination of a long campaign which I have led with the support of Cllr Phil Filmer on behalf of Rochester commuters. Many will gain up to an extra half an hour a day, whether at work, in bed, or with the family, because of this excellent decision by Southeastern, who I congratulate on having listened and responded to local people."

Others, who don't commute by train from Rochester, may also benefit from reduced congestion as many commuters who currently drive to Chatham can walk to Rochester instead.

The timetable is in draft form and, although it goes most of the way to deliver the campaign goals, Mark will be asking Southeastern if they would consider having at least one further fast train stop at Rochester for Cannon Street between 07.10 and 08.11 and for Victoria between 06.41 and 08.22, since this would allow us to promote Rochester as having a full commuter fast service to London.


Professional Responsibility Is The Key To A Better NHS

David Cameron promised to make sure nurses and NHS workers can "exercise real professional responsibility" in his speech to the Royal College of Nursing Conference.

He attacked the targets and bureaucracy that hold nurses back - and said, "The right way to a better health service is by getting the best out of the people who work in it".

He told delegates that a Conservative Government would give them "the professional responsibility to get on with the job they signed up for"

"We're going to scrap all those top-down, centralising, interfering targets that undermine your professional responsibility."

He outlined three areas which are crucial to ensuring nurses can exercise real responsibility:

- Improving training, by making it more accessible and more practical
- Providing more time for care, by slashing the bureaucracy on which nurses spend a million hours a week, according to the Royal College of Nursing
- Creating an improved atmosphere of respect, with "zero tolerance" on violence and a "clear right" for nurses to have their voice heard

David made clear, "It is the patience and care of nurses that nurses patients back to health - and if we're in government, you have my word that we will do everything we can to support you in that."

Read David's speech to the Royal College of Nursing Conference

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Canvassing On The Esplanade

Today (Sunday 10th May) Mark and a group of 15 local supporters hit the Esplanade to canvas voters ahead of the European Elections which are being held on 4th June. We were also joined by Therese Coffey who is standing as one of the Conservative South East candidates and it was great to have her with us on such a sunny day.

Canvassing on a Sunday is always a risky venture as a lot of people are either not at home, or simply have other things to be getting on with, and given today's wonderful weather we would not have been surprised if we managed to find only a handful of people willing to spend some of their valuable time answering questions on how they're planning to vote in the forthcoming elections.

But find them we did, and we were really glad to have come away with such a positive response. In the space of a couple of hours we managed to cover the entire Esplanade and found little or no support for Labour, but plenty for the Conservatives. For a lot of people, this election will not just be about selecting the party they want representing their interests in Europe, it will also be their first opportunity to deliver a verdict on Gordon Brown and the inept government he is imposing on this country. And we can tell you, judging by some of the comments we got today there are a LOT of angry people out there who are planning on wiping that grin off his face.

One gentleman we spoke to really didn't pull his punches. He runs a small business and is finding it really difficult in the current economic circumstances to keep things ticking over. The thing he was most angry about was the fact that, despite Gordon Brown's rhetoric about helping small businesses through the recession and the endless rhetoric on making the right decisions, the help that Labour say is being provided just doesn't exist. It's all just paper talk.

We've had policy announcement after policy announcement, promise after promise but the plain fact of the matter is that on the ground the help that this business needs like many others all over the country simply isn't there. It's all just empty promises and bluster from a failed government with a failed leader. Needless to say, he is planning on voting Conservative on June 4th.

We sincerely hope this business does manage to survive through the recession. The Conservative party have been calling for real help for small businesses like this man's from day one of the recession, but our calls for help have fallen on deaf ears and if this business does make it through the downturn then it will be in spite of Labour, not because of it.

This country needs real change, and on June 4th you can help deliver that change by getting out and voting Conservative.