Posted in Govt and agencies, Politics

Hey rotten, nationalizing Labour government, leave c2c alone

The news today about the East Coast Mainline was perhaps not unexpected.   Although many of us will have hoped that another method of solving National Express’s problems could have been found  –  sale to other transport companies who had shown interest, for example  –  rather than nationalization.

The beautiful Lord Adonis says that he will offer the franchise for tender again.   Hopefully he will.   I would deplore any move to keep it in the public sector.   We fought for years to turn back the clock on Socialism’s previous nationalizations.   Don’t let it happen again.

But whatever happens to the East Coast Mainline, there was a nasty little threat in what the Lovely Peer had to say.

He said it was possible he would remove the company’s two other franchises.  This is seen as punishment for making a mess of the East Coast Mainline, but lawyers (and the almighty Robert Peston) believe he may not be able to do that as the East Coast franchise is controlled by a separate specially set up company. 

One of those other franchises is c2c which runs the Essex line out of Fenchurch Street to Southend-on-Sea, via Upminster and West Horndon, or around the Loop taking in Dagenham, Rainham and Purfleet, or Ockendon and Chafford Hundred, to Grays, Tilbury and Pitsea and then on to the seaside.

It’s a small operation  –  only fifty or so miles from London to Southend  –  but it’s a great little railway.   It always comes near the top of the league tables.   Its trains are very rarely cancelled.   They are punctual and clean.   There are always workers clearing litter from platforms and trains.   The staff are friendly, polite and helpful.   Inspectors patrol the trains regularly checking on tickets in addition to the automated barriers at the stations.

So, here’s one passenger, not a commuter but a fairly regular traveller, who says to His Lordship and his government colleagues, “Keep your hands off c2c”!

Posted in Parliament, Politics

It’s been great being away, but good to be back blogging again, and I’ll start with James

I see it’s just over a month since I last posted.   But it’s been a good one.

I’ve had two short holidays, both great, but it doubles the pressure before and after.   Trying to clear everything up before going, then in the week in between, as well as doing the special job I came back for, trying to catch up on what had arrived while I was away and clear again before going for my second break.   During that second break I didn’t even read the newspapers.   Then when I finally returned, lots of meetings and catching up in between.

At last, a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and I have to confess that I’ve spent a good few hours today reading up on all my favourite blogs.

There’s a lot I would have liked to comment on at the time, but probably a bit out of date now.

Still, here goes, and I’ll start by saying how great it was to see that my good friend, James Brokenshire, has been selected as PPC for Old Bexley & Sidcup.   James was an outstanding candidate at Hornchurch.   I’ve never seen anyone work harder, and he absolutely deserved to gain the seat back from Labour.   He was heavily involved in the constituency, and was a fine MP.   It was a tragedy that the boundary changes fractured Hornchurch into three pieces, each tagged on to an existing constituency, leaving nothing for the incumbent Hornchurch MP.   Those constituencies which did not select James, as he began the round of trying to find another seat, have lost an excellent constituency member, but Old Bexley and Sidcup have gained one, (dv).

Amusing to think that a constituency which once had the grumpy and rather inarticulate former Prime Minister as its MP, will now have the delightful family which is James, Kathrine and the children!

Posted in England and the English, Politics

Work out what is best for each country, but don’t bother about England

Have just heard James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, on Question Time.

The panel was answering a question about Scotland  –  Referendum  –  wee Wendy, and a member of the audience talked about Scottish members voting on English matters, but not the other way round;  no prescription charges in Wales;  and so on.

So little James bravely speaks up about the virtues of preserving the United Kingdom, and then says that with devolution they have tried other forms of government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so they can “work out what is best for each country”.

There’s something missing here isn’t there?   What about England?   It seems we are not old enough or responsible enough to have the self-government the other three countries of the United Kingdom have.  Labour doesn’t have to bother to “work out what is best” for England.   We just have to put up with having Brown’s scottish comrades make the rules for us.

Just how blinkered are these people that they can’t see the unfairness of having a completely different constitutional framework for England than for the other three countries?

A Parliament for England now!

Posted in London, News, Politics

Congratulations, Mayor Boris

Well, we’ve waited all day for the London result, and it was sure worth waiting for.

A high turnout, one of the highest ever in London;  over a million first preference votes for Boris;  and a majority of almost 150,000 on the first preference votes, and 140,000 on the combined first and second.   53% of the vote for Boris and 47% for Ken.

The London Mayoral election is quite unlike any other.   The media attention and the pressure are enormous.   I was there for the first ever Mayoral election in 2000.   We had a basement headquarters office for our inner team, and every time we stuck our noses outside there were a couple of TV crews there.   I know how hard Boris’s team has worked this time.  If it was anything like us it was 18 hours a day, seven days a week.   So congratulations to Boris’s team, and to all the London Conservative Associations for their hard work.

I have to be a bit biased and say that Steve Norris was a strong and popular candidate on two occasions.   I believe that if he had stood again, in the current political climate, he would have won.   But that takes nothing from what Boris has done.

The first Conservative Mayor of London  –  congratulations and we’re expecting great things from you.

Posted in News, Politics

Don’t tar all MPs staff with the same brush

I’m not going to comment on the Derek Conway matter, other than to say I would have thought he had more sense.

But I will say again, as I have before, that we must not generalize and let individual cases tar the whole system.

In fact, the House of Commons authorities have strict rules about Members’ staff, will only include them on the payroll if there is a proper contract of employment, and these days there are also scales of appropriate payment for particular jobs.

Most of the wives, sons and daughters, and a few husbands, who work for their spouse or parent are doing a fairly thankless job, working hard, and putting in long hours to do all in their power to make sure the MP is providing a good service to his/her constituents.

Part of the time that I worked in the Commons, I had the privilege to be located around the other side of the horseshoe that was the Lower Ministerial Corridor from the office of Neil Hamilton, where the doughty Christine presided.   I can say with absolute certainty, not least because of the volume of her voice, that here was one MP’s wife who was in the office and working hard all day. 

Posted in News, Politics

Locked in the lavatory, no hairdresser, but she still triumphed!

What little gems come out of the National Archives each year when the release date for a particular story is reached.

It is wonderful to imagine Mother Thatcher being locked in the lavatory  –  albeit at a posh hotel in Houston  –  and poor old Denis got stuck there as well.   And then the information that she, Leader of the Opposition at the time, was not provided with a hairdresser or someone to press her dress.   A secretary had to take Mother’s clothes home to wash as there were no laundry facilities.   Apparently the visit was considered to be very successful.

Interesting, too, to learn that in 1977 the Labour Government prepared a briefing paper about her speeches and said……..

“the dominant characteristics of Mrs Thatcher’s speeches is that they say very little.   She never goes into details of Conservative policy on particular topics…………  This is clearly a considered approach…………  Nevertheless she is putting together a programme which will enable her to enter the next election with very few specific commitments.”

If that sounds like criticisms made in the last year or so about David Cameron, just remember Mrs T went on to a massive victory two years later!

Posted in News, Politics

More BBC bias around today’s PMQs

Sometimes I think my television has totally different programmes beamed to it from those seen by the TV commentators.

I’ve just watched Prime Minister’s Questions.   It was real exciting stuff.   At times the background noise from the backbenchers almost drowned out the speakers, and when it ended poor Michael Martin simply could not control the uproar as Members rushed to leave the Chamber. 

David Cameron chose to ask his permitted questions on the disgraceful news about the 25 million personal records lost by HMRC.   That was absolutely the right decision.

I thought he did outstandingly well.   Each of his questions was sharp and to the point, and contained good soundbites, which people will remember.   In particular the comment that  Broon tries to control everything but actually can’t run anything.   I thought he riled Broon, especially with the later questions.

He asked if the Prime Minister would accept any responsibility as he had been in charge of the overseeing Department until very recently, and during the time when a number of previous lapses in data security had occurred.   (Of course, they promised then that measures had been taken to see such a thing could not occur again!)   Broon completely ignored the question and went on about reviews again.   No way he was accepting any responsibility.   And he keeps on about the reviews looking at the security of data in the private and public sectors.   It’s the public sector we’re concerned about.   If we don’t like what the private sector is doing we can go elsewhere. 

But that Red Petticoat was showing again at the BBC.   I’m disappointed with Andrew Neill in The Daily Politics today.   He’s not usually as pro government, anti opposition, but this morning he started the bias.   He declared that Broon had done well;  Cameron’s shafts had not hit home;  by apologising and announcing reviews Broon had taken the sting out of anything that Cameron threw at him.   Margaret Jay naturally snatched at this, and maintained that Broon had done well, had not been at all damaged, and that Cameron was just an opportunist.   The Conservative present was Chris Grayling.   Now Chris Grayling has been one of the stars of recent months.   He is like a tiger in his pursuit of the government, holding them to account, and is a good performer.   But he was given very little chance to speak.   Then comes BBC Political Editor, Nick Robinson, hotfoot from the Press Gallery  –  because of a power failure the programme was being conducted outside in the cold on Abingdon Green  –  and he was just so partial.   He maintained Broon had done well, and that Labour backbenchers were pleased with him, and certainly didn’t have any unease about the PM’s performance.   Cameron had certainly not won the encounter today.

Next, Stephen Dorrell appeared.   Andrew Neill drew a comparison between the Broon government now and the later years of the John Major government, and asked Stephen to comment as a senior minister in the Major government.   Now, I have to declare that I am and always have been a Major fan, so I’m glad that Stephen drew a distinction between the two governments, pointing out that Major always backed his ministers.

But then two things proved that my television had not been showing a sanitized version of PMQs just to please me.

Co-presenter, Jenny Scott, read out a selection of e-mails from viewers.   Without exception they condemned what has happened at HMRC and condemned the government.   That’s what ordinary people think, who are not part of the BBC leftie political hothouse.

And then reporter, Ann Alexander, arrived.   She had been talking to Labour backbenchers as they left the Chamber.   She said that they were all very worried about what has happened, about the consequences for their constituents, not at all convinced by what Broon had to say, and that there was a feeling of very deep unease on the Labour back benches.

So, what about Broon’s reviews?   He really is obsessed with them.   Anything that comes up, he sets up a review.   Well that means he doesn’t actually have to do anything, he just announces another review.   How ever many must there now be that have been set up by Broon?

So he sets up reviews rather than doing anything, and then he had the cheek to accuse Cameron of being all talk and no action.   It’s obviously escaped Broon’s notice that it’s supposed to be the government that takes the action;  the opposition are somewhat hampered in that it’s not their job, they can’t take action.

On a different subject, there was also a piece on hospital superbugs.  Cheryl Baker, formerly of Buck’s Fizz, had a short film about Maidstone Hospital where her mother-in-law had died as a result of contracting C.Difficile.   Naturally she feels strongly on the subject, particularly as her father-in-law is now in the same hospital.   Co-presenter Jenny Scott then questioned her about the case, and, would you believe, felt bound to list for us all the things which the Labour government has done to try to put things right!   Shame they haven’t worked!   More bias!