Sunday, 20 December 2009

Richard Trevithick

While doing some research into science and innovation this week, I came across a great extract from a letter sent by Richard Trevithick, Cornwall's greatest inventor:

"I have been branded with folly and madness for attempting what the world calls impossibilities, and even from the great engineer, the late Mr. James Watt, who said to an eminent scientific character still living, that I deserved hanging for bringing into use the high-pressure engine. This so far has been my reward from the public; but should this be all, I shall be satisfied by the great secret pleasure and laudable pride that I feel in my own breast from having been the instrument of bringing forward and maturing new principles and new arrangements of boundless value to my country. However much I may be straitened in pecunary circumstances, the great honour of being a useful subject can never be taken from me, which to me far exceeds riches".

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Gwinear Church

This afternoon, Gwinear Church had their carol service. I promised Margaret Stapleton that I would make this one having been unable to make the Harvest Festival in the autumn.

My family have lived in Gwinear for many generations. It is the church where I was christened and my grandfather once helped raise the money to replace the church bells. Today, a cousin of mine is a bell ringer there.

The turnout for the carol service was good this year. There was a packed programme of readings and all the favourite carols were there.

I also had the chance before the service started to have a chat with George Ansell about some of the work he has been leading to encourage the uptake of the Cornish language. George has lived in the parish for as long as I can remember and has long championed the Cornish language through his work on the Cornish Language Board.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

David Willetts visit

I always recommend the sleeper train to Shadow Cabinet members visiting Cornwall. Today we had David Willetts with a very busy schedule and we also needed to get him back to London for a speech tonight.

We kicked off with a briefing at the Knowledge Spa in Truro with a group of staff involved in delivering the development of further and higher education provision in Cornwall and a more detailed look at some of the plans for the medical school and Truro College.

Cornwall has developed some very innovative ideas in further and higher education. The Combined Universties for Cornwall is a partnership that includes Exeter University, the Falmouth School of Arts and Plymouth University. It has been successful at increasing higher education provision in Cornwall and is a model that might be worth replicating elsewhere in the country. David Willetts was keen to learn more about it today.

Next up was a visit to the Tremough Campus for a briefing on the research work being done into marine energy and a tour of the design facilities at the Falmouth School of Arts. We held a marine energy summit at Tremough earlier in the summer and so it was useful to get an update on progress with the Wave Hub project.

We finished the morning with a visit to Cornwall College Camborne where David was able to sit in on a seminar for students on a renewable energy course. They were receiving presentations from and the chance to ask questions of recent graduates who were now in the world of work. Top of their concern was whether they too would be able to get jobs after completing their studies and so sessions like this are incredibly important.

The challenge in the last decade has been getting more people into further and higher education. The challenge now is going to be getting people from study into work and Cornwall College has pioneered a number of new ideas to bring their work closer to the world of business.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Music at Treleigh

The last time I was at Treleigh Church was for the wedding of my cousin. His wife, Debbie, was a teacher at Treleigh School.

I have kept in touch with the work of Searchlight since I met them in Redruth earlier this year and receive their weekly update. Tonight the Searchlight team were giving a performance at Treleigh Church in Redruth along with many others.

The inspiration behind tonight’s event is Kirsty Rowe, a local music tutor who has taught many of those performing. She is raising money for Cornwall Hospice Care. I recognised a couple of the Searchlight team who kicked off the performance. Aaron had been at the first meeting I attended and tonight gave a very impressive performance of “I dreamed a dream” from Les Miserables. Also singing as part of the group tonight was Deanne who, last time I visited, was teaching the younger children in Searchlight about ballet.
There were many performances and all the local schools were involved. Two boys from Hayle School took on the task of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” – a tough challenge but excellently delivered! And there were others, like Sarah, with less natural confidence but who had grown considerably in ability since first approaching Kirsty for singing lessons.

This is one of many Christmas musical events...and tomorrow we have the Christmas lights at Camborne.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Clearing road barriers

Later today I had another meeting with the team at CPR Regeneration. The regeneration work being carried out by CPR is going to have a crucial impact on our area and, in my view, it is exactly the sort of situation where local politicians should be prepared to roll up their sleeves and try to solve problems - however hard they might be.

To give credit where credit is due, Candy Atherton, the last Labour MP for this area, did actually try her best to support the early work of CPR in the time she was there.

Conservatives pioneered the concept of Urban Regeneration Companies and Enterprise Zones twenty years ago and we need to make the most of opportunities now. Today we discussed issues around the Highways Agency and County Highways and how a future government might be able to make coordination between the two better so that regeneration work is not obstructed.

It is so important to get basic issues like this right.

Supporting families affected by disability

I started the day with a meeting with Janice Jenner and Liz Farmer for a briefing on the work (and some of the frustrations) encountered by 'Contact a Family' – a social enterprise that supports and provides advice to families with disabled children.

When I worked for the Conservative Party as the Head of External Relations, one of the groups that I worked closely with was the Conservative Disability Group which developed thinking to help support disabled people in our community. It was Margaret Thatcher who introduced the first Disability Services Act in 1986 which required local authorities to think more about the responsibility they had to help ensure people with impairments could take their place in society and we can be proud of what has been achieved.

Today, one of the issues that needs to be looked at is how we help those who care for others. There are often issues with child carers who have to look after parents suffering from illness or disability. More often, families with disabled children need emotional and often financial support to help them care for their children and siblings can be affected too.

Many parents in this situation find themselves confronted with a barrage of bureaucratic processes - with seemingly endless, spirit crushing forms to fill out to get anywhere. I have always been quite attracted to some of the ideas practiced in countries like Sweden and actually piloted in some local authorities in Britain, where you simplify the process, have a single assessment of need and then give more power to families to determine how their budget is spent.

The thing about disability is that each and every situation is unique and so the system needs to have plenty of flexibility to respond to differing needs. All too often it fails to do that. There is no shortage of government guidance piled layer on layer from above but the system just doesn’t respond adequately to the unique needs of the individual case.

That is why I think there is a lot of potential for social enterprises in this field – because they can offer support which is more personalised.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday

Today I attended the Remembrance Sunday parade and service at Camborne. The attendance was higher this year than for many years previously - almost certainly linked to the fact that the difficulties and the casualties our forces are suffering in the current mission in Afghanistan has had an impact on the whole country.

The parade started at 10.30 from Camborne Community Centre. There had been concerns about the weather. It was breezy to say the least but the rain held off which was what mattered. As well as many local forces veterans, there was a strong turn out from the cadets, the Scout movement and the Brownies. Following behind the veterans were representatives from local politics and business: the chambers of commerce, councillors and the candidates from the three political parties.

The mission in Afghanistan would be the gravest responsibility of any future government and Prime Minster. I travelled with David Cameron to visit British forces in Afghanistan in July 2006 when I was his Press Secretary. I saw first-hand the work that our troops were doing in Kandahar, Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gah. The fighting was intense even in 2006 and then, as now, there were issues around equipment and support – particularly helicopters.

Our armed forces have a “can do” attitude and get the job done without complaining. But I feel very strongly that government has a duty to do its bit to ensure that, if we ask our forces to put their lives at risk, then we must do all we can to ensure they are properly equipped and that their families are supported and that if they should be wounded they are properly looked after. It is because they don’t complain that we should all take extra care to make sure they are not taken for granted.

After that visit to Afghanistan in 2006, David Cameron set up a commission to look again at the “Military Covenant” – the unwritten agreement between society and the forces which says that, in return for taking extraordinary risks on our behalf, we will do our bit to see they are looked after. The Commission took a detailed look at conditions for our forces today and it came up with a raft of proposals to improve the way they and their families are treated. It would be an important step forward.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Let local communities make decisions on housing

You can judge politicians by the consistency of the position they take on contentious issues. One of the things that irritates people about some MPs today is the sense that some of them change their tune on difficult issues depending on who they are talking to and so it is difficult to work out where they stand and whether they can be trusted.

One such issue is housing. In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, we have a local need for some additional housing. A report by the former Kerrier Council suggested that there was a need for perhaps an additional 2000 homes in the Camborne and Redruth area over the next ten years or so. The problem is real. There are many families where young couples are unable to leave their parents’ home to have a place of their own. “Sofa surfing” is the term used to describe those who have to rough it at the homes of friends and family and it affects many in our community.

But what should have been a straight forward response at the local level to this problem has been turned into chaos by a crazy plan from the Labour government started by John Prescott. Rather than allowing local communities to decide what their local needs were and build what was required, instead they created a national “target” and set up a so called “Regional Assembly” that dictated from the centre that Camborne and Redruth must build 11,000 new homes, irrespective of local need. We only have 18,000 homes in Camborne and Redruth now, and so a two thirds increase of 11,000 homes is clearly barking.

There are three things I believe and I have been consistent from the start. Firstly, decisions should be taken locally and so I am absolutely opposed to the crackpot, centrally imposed government targets that have been forced on us. A future Conservative government would abolish the Regional Planning Bodies and the Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision making to local communities. Secondly, we do have a local need for some new housing in our area but the figure is way, way below what has been set out in the government target. Finally, I believe that we have a number of brown field sites in Camborne and Redruth and that should be where any new developments are built so that we protect our green spaces.

I have been saying the same three things to everyone, whether they are struggling to find a home or whether they are worried about over-development. In Cornwall we are fortunate in having the Trelawney Alliance to coordinate the campaign against mass house building targets and I supported their rally in the spring. The two strengths of the Trelawney Alliance are that they are not party political so are open to people of all political persuasions but they also take a balanced view and accept that there is a need for some new housing for local needs.

I don’t usually use this diary to comment on my opponents, but the twists and turns of the local Lib Dem MP on this issue have been truly bizarre. She says one thing in London and another thing in Cornwall.

First she said in parliament that she “fully supported” plans for mass housing in Camborne and Redruth and that her only worry was whether there was enough capacity in the building industry to lay the concrete fast enough. Then, in the face of local opposition, she claimed she had changed her mind and was going to oppose the central targets after all. Then, just weeks after pledging to support the Conservative policy on abolishing targets, she attacked the same Conservative policy in the Daily Mirror and said that Conservatives were “in denial” by opposing central targets. Now the Lib Dems have put out a leaflet stating precisely the reverse – and falsely claiming that the Conservative policy of sharing the benefits of new housing development would mean mass house building. The Lib Dems are all over the place.

I have always felt that one of the problems with our planning system is that there are too many win-lose scenarios. If a developer gets his plans through, he makes a good profit but the community can often feel that it is worse off and is paying the price with additional pressures on services. That is why the Conservatives have been looking at ways to make the planning system fairer and less confrontational and to share the benefits of small scale new developments. This means giving financial help to those communities who decide that they do need more housing to help cope with the requirement for additional services that comes with new developments.
It is an approach that is based on carrots rather than sticks and it makes a lot of sense. Local communities will have the final say but they will be supported and the financial benefits shared. Anyone who actually believed in liberal values and sustainable communities would support it.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Cornwall Animal Hospital

Tommy Bray has been a real trooper supporting local charities in the Redruth area over many years. So when he called me last week to invite me in to see the work of the Cornwall Animal Hospital, I had no hesitation at all.

The Cornwall Animal Ambulance and Hospital (to use its full name) supports local people with the veterinary needs of their pets. They now have around 10,500 customers and typically have about 40 dogs a day coming through the small centre at Treleigh. They have some exciting plans for a major expansion in capacity with plans for a new extension within the next few years.

They offer highly competitive rates to help raise funds from the public but also heavily subsidised rates for those who cannot afford veterinary costs. They have a network of charity shops in the area to raise the funds to allow them to run the centre.

Today I met Vicky and other staff from the hospital. Among the animals at the centre today were a cat which was recovering after being hit by a car and a young ferret they have named Francesca who was found wondering free in Tehidy woods last week.

For many people, particularly older people living on their own, their pets provide really important companionship and the work of charities like the Cornwall Animal Hospital is an important life line.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Finding new homes

Today I visited the National Animal Welfare Trust based on Wheal Alfred Road near Hayle. The NAWT have had a branch on Wheal Alfred Road for many years but the site underwent a major refurbishment last year with completely new kennels.

Louise Barker manages the centre and explained to me how they re-home over 500 dogs and around 100 cats every year. A really impressive record. Today I met a number of the current residents. Across the country there is a real problem at the moment with Staffordshire Terriers being abandoned or given up and Cornwall is no exception. They are victims of a fashion for the breed among young men in particular, and a misguided perception that it is possible to make money from breeding them.

The NAWT has many volunteer dog walkers to make sure their dogs get good exercise and a change of scenery. They also have an agility course to keep them entertained and engaged.

Fifteen years ago I took on a rescue dog from the RSPCA. Mono was an amazingly intelligent and loving Border Collie but, like many collies, also suffered from a few issues - most notably bells and ringing phones which led to the interior of more than one of my cars being a bit torn up unexpectedly.

That we are a nation of animal lovers is proved by the fact that there are so many vibrant charities like the NAWT out there doing this sort of work with so many volunteers willing to support them.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Campaign day

We have been on a tough timetable this last 10 days. First we drove from london to Inverness, I ran a marathon, then Inverness to Manchester for four days at the party conference and then Manchester to Camborne on Thursday in time for the campaign day today.

There will be a General Election within the next seven months. We have a lot to do between now and Christmas. Today we had another 50 volunteers out campaigning - delivering leaflets in Camborne and preparing a major direct mail operation.

The issue of MPs expenses has also returned as an issue. The current sitting Lib Dem MP has launched a fresh attack on MPs from other parties from other parts of the country but she has still refused to adjust her own behaviour and has refused to curtail her use of public money on perks like extra food and promotional literature about herself. The debate is going to run and run.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The big speech

I have spent the last four days at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. There is an enthusiastic mood - but also a strong sense of caution and a focus on what is needed to win the election. Nothing is being taken for granted. The truth is that we go in to this election with fewer MPs than Michael Foot had in 1983 - and although there is now widespread disillusion with Gordon Brown, there is still a big task ahead.

I worked for David Cameron as his Press Secretary until the end of 2007. Party conference was always a demanding time. The diary would be a nightmare, there were so many media interviews to try to fit in and it was tough keeping things to time.

I supported David Cameron from the very start because I think he has the judgement and character to become a great Prime Minister. It is an important mark of a leader that they are able to rise to meet new challenges and David Cameron always has. His speech today was no exception.

I think what people saw today was someone who is ready to lead the country, not just the party. And there is no doubt that Britain needs change and leadership.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The marathon

We set off on Thursday for Edinburgh to break the drive to Inverness in time for the marathon on Sunday.

It was a long drive with a lot of road works. But the scenery on the drive yesterday to Loch Ness was stunning.

I got up early at 6.30 today. I needed to get on the bus to be transported to the start line. There was a bit of a hitch with the buses - three didn't turn up, which meant the departure to the start was delayed by almost an hour and the start of the race was also delayed until 10.50.

I had hoped that the Loch Ness marathon would be fairly flat - and since much of it runs along the side of the Loch it seemed a reasonable hope. It started well, beautiful scenery and, if anything, a little bit down hill for the first 5 miles.

But six miles in I started to get a bad blister and the course was actually quite undulating. Everything was fine for the first half. I went through thirteen miles in just over an hour and a half and well on course for my target time of 3 hours 30 minutes.

But it got tough at 17 miles. There was a long haul uphill to Inverness once we left the banks of the Loch. Three miles in fact. So, at just the moment when I was starting to flag, I had to start climbing a three mile hill. Four miles in to the marathon I had overtaken a man in his 50's who was suffering. "He won't make it" I thought. But amazingly he came past me on this hill - still sounding like he was suffering. That will teach me!

But I managed to keep things on course and, although the second half was obviously slower than the first half, I crossed the finishing line in 3 hours twenty nine minutes and 34 seconds. It was a reasonable time but I don't think I will be in a hurry to do another!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Delivering the message

It has been a weekend of walking. Last Saturday we had another campaign day to prepare the next major direct mail operation and to deliver our latest piece of literature – a newspaper. We managed to make a big impact in the first week, especially in Hayle, but there is more to do.

On Thursday I spent time in St Day, on Friday I joined the team in Stithians and the surrounding hamlets where we made very good progress before making a start in Mount Hawke in the afternoon. I finished today by joining the Illogan campaign team and helping them make inroads into Pool.

It left me enough time to pop in to Camborne town square to meet Sue Winter and the other volunteers from the Trevu campaign. They have worked tirelessly to keep the children’s centre going and were collecting signatures today.

I have been closely following this case. Last November, the previous Lib Dem council decided to shut down the centre at Trevu without any consultation. Time is very tight, but the new administration at Cornwall Council has re-opened the decision and started a genuine consultation process. There has been a lot of media speculation about what might or might not happen. Conservative councillors have been working very hard on the case. In the next few weeks we will see whether they have managed to reverse the decision of the old regime at the 11th hour.

I have also been trying to keep up the training. It is now just three weeks until my marathon. Last Sunday I ran 18 miles which went surprisingly well and I managed to get around in 2 hours 25 minutes and felt that I could have done further. This week has not been so good. I have been suffering from a cold since Wednesday and when I tried to get another 16 miles under the belt on Thursday, the combination of a bad cold and the heat of an unusually fine day took its toll.

But tomorrow I have my first race - a dry run. A 10k race along the banks of the Thames back in Kew in aid of the local church. I am hoping the cold will have eased enough for me to get around in a half reasonable time. But we will see.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Devoran to Portreath...in the rain

The weather forecast was so bad for today that we had a call from John, our instructor at the HRCST, last night to say that there would be no sailing today. It was breezy enough yesterday. We made a start and got to grips with the basics but it was not really beginners weather!

So today I decided to get in a long run instead as part of my marathon training. There have been a lot of ups and downs to my training in the last few months. The local elections campaign limited the time that I had to train. In June I twisted my right ankle and then in August I twisted my left ankle for good measure.

But I have made steady progress. I am now in the middle of the hardest phase of my training - for the last four weeks I have been increasing the length of my longest runs. On Saturday I ran 16 miles. Today I needed to run 14 miles.

Bike Barn is a relatively new but successful business founded by Roger Knight and his wife at Cambrose near Portreath. They hire bikes but also put a lot of energy into promoting the mineral tramway cycle route that runs coast to coast from Portreath to Devoran, down near Mylor through some stunning scenery including the Bissoe valley nature reserve. It is relatively flat and runs for twelve miles in total.

When I visted Roger a month or two ago he was in the middle of preparations for a fundraising event that takes place this month to raise money for a project to make cycling more accessible to people with disabilities. It is a great idea and the mineral tramway is a fantastic route to run such a project from. David Cameron had signed a bottle of Whisky for me which I dropped down to him as an auction prize.

I also told him I would come back to run the full length of it when I was fit enough and today was the day. I was dropped off at Devoran. It seemed a long way there by car and there was heavy rain as I started - which continued throughout the whole run. But it helped keep me cool.

In the end I went all the way to Portreath and then the two miles extra back up to Bike Barn which made a total of 14.3 miles...in a time of 1 hour 56 minutes which was ok given the weather. But I need to do 18 miles this weekend which I am not looking forward to.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Ready to set sail

Tomorrow I start the sailing course down on the Helford organised by the HRCST along with my girlfriend, Katy. I visited the charity a couple of weeks ago and said I wanted to return to run the course myself.

We are really looking forward to it. We have just got back from a few days break in North Wales near Snowdonia. While there we got in a bit of practice by trying our hand at wind surfing (in my case for the first time in over 20 years)on Lake Vyrnwy. A shaky start to say the least but I did make some progress, although I am not sure how much it will help me tomorrow!

It is also time to start planning the campaign for the next few months. We have had a busy time with the local elections and then the Camborne Town Council by -elections. It was great to see Stuart Odgers elected in Camborne South, he will make a fantastic councillor.

Realistically, we are now in the final 8 months before a General Election and the time will fly. We have made a strong start in the last 8 months but there is more to do. One of the things we need to do is work out what the main themes in the local campaign are likely to be. Cost of living? housing? social breakdown? economy? unemployment?

The issue of MPs expenses dominated the summer and has been getting less attention lately. But the local Lib Dem MP has just appointed a new Campaign Agent and he has apparently decided to re-ignite the issue and make attacks on other politician's expenses a central plank of her campaign. A curious decision given her own record.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Camborne Town Council

Last night I went along to the boat party for Camborne Town Council. It was organised by the Mayor, Bill Jenkin, but it was a real cross party affair with many of the councillors present from all parties and others who have been involved in helping their work. There was a bit of drizzle but not enough to dampen spirits and we finished the evening by watching the fantastic fire work display to mark the end of Falmouth Week.

We have by-elections in Camborne next Thursday for the Town Council. Two Lib Dem councillors who were unsuccessful at the Council elections in June have now chucked the towel in and walked away from their responsibilities to the town causing costly by-elections. But it also provides an opportunity to get some fresh blood on the Town Council with fresh ideas. We have two great candidates in Stuart Odgers and Vince Young who both have deep roots in Camborne and have a love and commitment to the town. I have been helping them both this week and they are getting a good reception.

With the row over MP's expenses, it is easy for people to forget that town and parish councillors are not paid and receive no expenses. They give up their time for free and the reason they do it is for the town they care about. That counts for something and the candidates in this election, whatever party they are standing for, deserve a bit of respect for putting themselves forward.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Waste not, want not....

I was running a little late for my visit to the SOFA project off Dudnance Lane at Pool. Before leaving I snatched a look at their website and, from the photos, worked out that they were in one of the old units opposite the bridge that heads up to Piece near the leisure centre. Better get going. But on arrival it was clear they had moved so it was time to roam around some of the other units nearby until I found the right place.

The SOFA project is a charity that tries to kill two birds with one stone. They recycle bulky furniture and white goods to reduce the amount of waste we chuck into landfill and at the same time give furniture to people who are in need and trying to set up a new home. Daphne is the Chair of the charity and David is the manager. They are both fizzing with ideas when I meet them. They have recently relocated to a new unit that gives them much more space and far better facilities.

SOFA is a charity but also has a commercial arm to their operation. There is evidence that they have reduced the amount of bulky waste going to landfill where they have been used by up to 37 percent and they help 500 families a year to set up home.

We need more of this sort of solution but it requires some imagination. You need people who know what they are looking for to run the waste disposal operations of the council so that goods which have a value to someone else are recognised and salvaged in time.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Gaining confidence through sailing

John Green founded the Helford River Childrens Sailing Trust about ten years ago and could never have imagined how successful it would become.

I met John a few months ago and he told me about the work of this ground breaking charity which aims to build individual confidence in children by teaching them to sail on the Helford. There are now around 15 local primary schools involved and around 350 children a year go through training there. In total, the charity has benefited some 3500 children and the heartening thing is that some of the 150 or so volunteers helping now went through the programme themselves in the early years and so know the benefits and are doing their bit to put something back.

I met Alison Collins, the current director of the charity, at the Ferryboat Inn near Mawnan Smith. I wasn't sure whether we were going out on the river today or not so must have looked hopelessly ill-prepared to her when we first met! But I had boots and a jacket in the car and was soon ship shape and ready to jump in the boat to go out to see their training work.

They aim to have two volunteers for every six children in training. Today I met Sarah, Adrian, John and Lee who were supporting Ailsa, the head coach, who works on the scheme four days a week during the summer months. You could tell that there was a great chemistry between Ailsa and the children she was teaching to sail.

The significant thing about this project is that is focuses on developing the individual confidence of children and a lot of effort is made to make sure that the charity reaches children from disadvantaged backgrounds and that they are given the opportunity to take part. They never ever charge for their lessons.

The children are given their own boat and must make their own decisions. Early learners are required to sail a boat from the south bank of the Helford to the north bank on their own, keeping concentration and making their own decisions. If they get it wrong, they fall in the water. There is no one else in the boat to help them (although volunteers are nearby to advise and to help those who fall in).

I think developing individual confidence in children is vital. Sometimes people can over emphasise "team work" as an attribute in working life. It is, of course, important. But the truth is that individual ability and the confidence to exercise judgement is more important and it is best learnt young.

I never learnt to sail, despite being brought up in Cornwall. But I am told they have a course for adults in September so might just give it a go.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Carnival time

Last night was Hayle Carnival. It has been a few years since I last attended. When I was younger we used to lend the farm lorry to be used in a “cowboys and indians” themed float which was organised every year by John Eddy and always went along to watch.

Although the weather has been unsettled in recent days, this year it stayed fine for the carnival. I knew quite a few of the local farmers driving the tractors that pulled the floats. Martin and Andrew Richards and Chris Eddy had all been called on to do their bit.

Probably the most energetic (and certainly the noisiest) float was the Hayle Rugby Club team who wore green and black wigs and danced to loud music - stopping at every pub to make an impact. Not far behind were the Hayle Samba team. There were a lot of entries. Several scout groups, many other community groups and charities and my old friends at Praze YFC who dressed up as nurses and pushed a giant cot through town in aid of the Precious Lives Appeal.

It is the time of year for outdoor events and this weekend there have been a lot of other celebrations. I enjoyed a cream tea at Penponds yesterday and today have spent the afternoon at the Redruth Fun Day in Victoria Park and later on at Portreath Harbour for their own celebrations. But at Portreath there was some concern that one of the lads taking part in a greasy pole competition had been banged on the head and had to be taken to hospital.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Trevu Road

The sleeper service is by far the best way to travel to Cornwall, but I generally try to get a good night's sleep the following night to make up for the tiredness from travelling.

But tonight that's not going to happen. My brother Giles needs help calving a cow at 12.30 am. It is all a bit difficult and complicated but ends well with a healthy South Devon calf born shortly before 2am. I have been out of farming for the best part of ten years now, but don't think I did too bad considering that!

Today is also the launch day for the new Camborne market. It has been organised by Ivor from CPR Regerneration and he has done really well. There are numerous stalls ranging from fresh fish to sweets, crafts, T shirts and jams. I bought some sweets and some outstanding pink grapefruit marmalade from a local producer who grows much of her own fruit.

I then move on to do some canvassing around Mount Pleasant Road with Stuart Odgers, our candidate for the Town Council by election in Camborne South. We have a lot of by elections on the Town Councils this summer as Lib Dem councillors defeated in June retire from politics altogether. Stuart is the perfect candidate for this area. He has lived in Camborne all his life, has been a governor of the local primary school and is very well known and a good listener. But the election date is set for the 20 August and getting people out to vote will be the challenge.

While there we bump in to Sue Winter, who has been running a very successful campaign to keep the children's centre at Trevu Road open. I met Sue and some of her colleagues last week to discuss the issues around the children's centre and it was good to have an update.

Late last year, under the old Lib Dem administration, the County Council took a decision to close the children's centre at Trevu Road without adequate consultation. It is clear that the decision needs to be revisited and some common sense injected. Dave Biggs, the Conservative councillor for Camborne West, has been on the case and organised a meeting with Kevin Lavery last week where assurances were given that no rash decisions would be taken.

The old grammar school on Trevu Road is a beautiful building and the sort of place that should be kept as a community resource in my view. A consultation is promised and I think it is very important that such a consultation is genuine and looks at all options that would enable the children's centre and other facilities to continue to be offered from the existing building. The terms of reference of any consultation must be correctly drawn.

Just time to do another run...in the rain again - before heading to the Camborne RFC barbecue held here at Trevaskis. The weather has been awful but the club enjoyed the night out and we had put up some cover just in case. The team are getting geared up ready for the next season. Their first friendly match is in about three weeks time and the season starts again properly in little more than a month. Doesn't seem long since the end if season party at the Lowenac...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

a long day

I arrived in Camborne on the sleeper train at 7.30 am. My father has a meeting in London today and so we arranged to meet at 7.45 at the station and then I would drive the car back. It has been pretty miserable weather the last couple of days. It is still raining this morning but I had time for a coffee in the new cafe that has recently re-opened on the station.

George Le Hunte has lived in Cornwall most of his life and worked for Holmans for many years. Today he is the Chairman of Camborne Chamber of Commerce and it is my first meeting of the day. Tomorrow Camborne is launching a new fortnightly market in the town square which is supported by the Chamber. We also discuss the regeneration of the area and the steps needed to try to get some new retailers in Camborne to help draw in more people.

I spend the afternoon in Stithians knocking on doors to discuss local concerns with residents. We did well in Stithians in the local elections. Although an independent councillor won in the end, Mary Sheppard pulled in a lot of votes and put us on a solid footing for the General Election. When out canvassing it is not often you get invited inside for a chat but today it happened twice. I think we could do well here.

Later today, it was time to get my running kit on again. The RNLI have organised a fundraising 10k race on the sand down at Hayle. Ted Williams thought it was about time to start some races in preparation for the marathon and where better to start than Hayle beach. After a strong start, I languished for a couple of miles in the middle before getting it together again and crossing the finishing line in 43 minutes which is not bad for 10k on wet sand but much slower than I used to manage!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Increasing the pace

I started the day with another training session at Treslothan with Ted Williams at 9am. I have made some progress in the last two weeks. Last time my times for each lap were averaging 7 minutes 20 and today I had got them down to 6.30 which is a good step forward. I am now running six times a week and the training seems to be back on track. But I only really have two months until the marathon.

Next up, was a Cornish Fayre at Camborne Church organised by Mike Firbank. Mike has been heavily involved with the Camborne Street Pastors idea and I met him earlier this year at the launch of that project. It was good to have the chance to discuss progress with him. They have now trained more street pastors and have continued to go out every Friday and are getting more young people involved.

Later that afternoon, it was time for a trip down to the south of the constituency to Trebah Gardens where Clare Vickers is head of marketing. I have known Clare for a number of years and her husband Johnny even longer. A few weeks ago I bumped into them both at Truro and said I would make a visit before the summer was out.

Cornwall’s gardens are now an important visitor attraction and the best of them are in the Camborne and Redruth constituency. Trebah attracts around 100,000 visitors a year. While there I met Nigel Burnett, the Director at Trebah. The bad weather last year was a blow to the tourism industry in Cornwall but this year visitor numbers are up a bit and the weather, while unsettled recently, has generally been a bit better, especially in the spring and early summer. The famous hydrangea gardens were spectacular today. No surprise that people keep coming back here!

We finish the day with a dinner at Illogan. Mary Grigg has been a strong supporter of the association for many years and organises an annual supper for both supporters and people interested to hear more. Last year she had around 50 people attending but this year that had climbed to 80. As we move into a general election year, people are starting to think about politics more and there is a growing appetite for change.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Getting to grips with the issues that matter

The last couple of days have been a busy time dealing with constituency case work. There has been a steady rise in the number of people coming to me with problems that they need help with ranging from housing and pensions to the application process for technology development grants and the controversy over the future of the Children’s Centre at Trevu Road in Camborne.

Trying to help people sort out problems is the bread and butter work of an MP. I have always thought that candidates should try to do their bit too. In some cases people come to me because the current MP has been unable to help them. In a small minority of cases they don’t even get a reply. But the story is familiar. They write with a problem. The MP goes through the motions of sending a letter to someone else. They then receive a fob-off reply which is forwarded back to the constituent with a note saying “I hope this answers your query”, although it seldom does.

I see one of the most important roles of an MP as trying to cut through the bureaucratic nonsense that plagues so much of life today. There are now far too many laws and regulations and each one brings with it a whole set of procedures and tick box routines that public bodies go through but which increasingly lose touch with reality and people’s day to day problems. In the end, people feel it is impossible to be heard and it is one of the reasons for disillusion in the government and politics.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Training in Treslothan

Today I met Ted Williams again for a training session. I remembered saying we would meet some time in the morning and so phoned him at 10 am to see what time he wanted to start. He actually though we had agreed to meet at 10 and was ready and waiting. Better get my skates on!

The weather was bad - a lot of drizzle but at least it was cool.

My marathon training has been going better this week. The injured ankle is now completely healed.

We marked out a circuit of 1900 metres in the woods at Treslothan just outside Camborne and I did three circuits. We finished with some hill sprints to try to increase strength. The pace was about right - 6 minute miling - and Ted reckons I might make it yet...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Making Camborne and Redruth an international centre of excellence

Today we hosted a national marine energy summit at the Tremough Campus in Penryn with our front bench energy and climate change team travelling to Cornwall to see what we can achieve.

I had been pushing for the party nationally to hold such an event in Cornwall since the spring. This part of Cornwall has a great track record in invention and pioneering new ideas. The steam locomotive was invented here. One of the biggest challenges facing our generation is how to keep the lights on when the oil runs out and I believe wave and tidal power can be part of the solution. Cornwall, with its huge coastline, is uniquely placed to become a world leader in developing these new technologies.

I first visited Tremough back in January soon after being selected as the candidate. I think it has real potential to become an international centre of excellence. It is already doing some leading work on the design of moorings for wave devices which is an important challenge that must be overcome. Some of the academics leading the work at Tremough were at the conference today to brief the Conservative front bench on their work.

I picked up Greg Clark (Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), Greg Barker (Shadow Minister for Climate Change) and Baroness Wilcox (House of Lords front bench) at 7.30am from Truro. They had travelled down on the sleeper train.

The day started with a visit to A&P in Falmouth Docks to meet Mike Reynolds and his head of operations, Jez, to discuss the role that they will play in maintaining and possibly manufacturing some of the wave devices.

Over 60 people attended the summit held at Tremough. We had the country's leading experts in marine energy technology and people had travelled from across the country - and from as far afield as Scotland to come to the hub of marine energy innovation in Cornwall to help inform Conservative policy in this area.

We had presentations from Luke Myers from the University of Southampton, Merlin Hyman from Regen SW, Nick Harrington, who works for the RDA and has been leading on the Wave Hub project and Ken Street from Bodmin based Orecon who are manufacturers of wave devices.

It was great to get so many industry experts in the same place at the same time- and for such an event to be taking place in the Camborne and Redruth constituency. Greg Clark explained that a future Conservative Government would be aiming to develop marine energy parks as centres of excellence for these new technologies - and that Cornwall was well placed to become the first. Now is the time to take the initiative.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Getting back on track

I said I would meet Ted Williams at Camborne Rugby Club. This Thursday afternoon is when the Cornish Rugby Sage group meets - an informal grouping of former rugby players from Cornwall.

As I approached the club I was dragged inside by Ted. They were singing old Cornish songs. Singing is not my strong point but I did my best on the last few, including "Trelawney", the Cornish anthem.

Ted agreed to become my marathon coach at the start of the year. I am running the Loch Ness marathon in October in aid of Cornwall Hospice Care. The hospice helps hundreds of families every year.

I made a strong start training earlier this year but during the hectic days of the local elections campaign in April and May, my training slipped. On top of that, while on a short break in Jersey in June, I twisted my ankle out on a long run which set me back by another two weeks.

So after the singing, we discussed how to get my training back on track. We agreed that time was short. I will need to build the mileage back up by running more frequently - and running twice some days so that the risk of injury is reduced but the work to build stamina for a marathon is done. It starts tomorrow....

Friday, 26 June 2009

All change for Hayle

Tonight we had a meeting at the White Hart in Hayle to establish a new campaign branch in the town. We made strong progress in Hayle during the local elections, although sadly not quite enough to win either of the seats which went to candidates standing for the Independent Group. Tonight we had a strong turnout and there is a lot of enthusiasm.

Hayle was previously in the St Ives constituency. Following the last round of Boundary Commission changes, Hayle has been put together with Camborne and Redruth for the next General Election. The current MP for the area, Andrew George, decided not to stay with Hayle but instead to focus on Penzance next time. So there is no incumbent MP for the town.

These are exciting times for Hayle. After years of dithering, plans to redevelop the harbour have now finally been approved which could transform the prospects for the area. Hayle has the longest and the best beach in Cornwall and it is second only to Newquay in terms of the numbers who go there to surf or take a family holiday. The estuary is also an important centre for bird species - but this will not be affected by the plans for the Harbour.

Alongside the plans to develop the harbour area into a marina there will also be small 'incubator' industrial units to support new businesses and create new jobs in marine energy technology linked to the Wave Hub project. In a couple of weeks, the Conservative Party is hosting a national Marine Energy Summit in the consituency - recognition of the fact that the advent of Wave Hub at Hayle has the potential to make this part of Cornwall THE international centre of excellence in these new technologies.

I have many memories of the White Hart in Hayle and have known Mike Bows, the proprietor, for about fifteen years. I often stayed there on visits back to Cornwall and when I was younger it was a watering hole we would visit after the Smugglers Inn at St Erth Praze on the way to the night Club at Penmare (now knocked down and turned into houses)or 'the Bluff' on Riviera Towans for a night out.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Royal Cornwall Show

I wasn't able to make it to Royal Cornwall on Thursday or Friday due to the elections but it was good to have a few hours this afternoon to get up there to meet old friends - even though the weather was not great.

My father was a council member and volunteer steward at Royal Cornwall when we were growing up and my grandfather was the Director of the Showyard. So it was always a show the family attended. My father managed one of the gates which meant an early start. I can remember sometimes having to get up at 5 am to get a lift up and then spending three hours early in the morning wondering around the show when there were few others about and nothing was open!

This year my brother, Giles, has been showing some of our pigs. The family have kept British Lop Pigs(which are native to Cornwall) at Gwinear since the 1800's and we keep the herd to this day and sell the pork through the Farm Shop at Trevaskis. It is the oldest herd of Lop Eared Pigs in the country and they are a rare breed these days.

This year we have done well - with many awards at both the Devon County Show and the Royal Cornwall. But Giles had a bit of trouble persuading the pigs to get back into the trailer for the journey home this afternoon!

I finished the day with a visit to the Young Farmers pavillion. I was a member of Praze YFC for many years. While there I bumped into Beatrice Dyer who taught me how to do public speaking for a Young Farmers debating competition way back in 1987 when I was sixteen years old.

Today she is Chairman of the Friends of the Royal Cornwall Hospital and was raising money for our health services by selling calendars in a joint project with the YFC movement. I bought one...and now I must make sure I don't lose it before next year!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Progress, but more to do

It is always tense at the count after elections. So many people pledged their support but will it actually happen on the day? No candidate ever really knows. The count is the moment of truth.

The results of the local elections are now in. We have made some very solid progress in Camborne and Redruth making gains in Camborne West, Camborne Central, Camborne North, Troon and Beacon, Gwinear and Gwithian, Carn Brea North, Illogan, Redruth Central, Constantine and Mabe. Meanwhile the Lib Dems were reduced to just two seats in the whole constituency.

We did well. But all elections hold disappointments for every party. We had two fantastic candidates in Hayle who worked hard but didn't quite overcome the independents they were up against. Barbara Ellenbroek, the Mayor of Redruth, would have worked so hard for Redruth South, but it was not to be. Camborne South should have been won by John Herd who would have given his all - but a last minute gaffe by the Lib Dems, who issued a leaflet smearing the MK candidate, had the reverse effect of putting MK just ahead where they would otherwise have lost to the Conservatives. We lost by a handful of votes in Gweek too.

We mounted serious challenges in Stithians, Mount Hawke and Portreath and even Redruth North. And even though we didn't win, we polled substantial votes and made major progress on which we can build between now and the General Election.

It was a good result for the Conservatives in the South West. We took control of Devon and Somerset, removed the Lib Dems from power in Cornwall establishing the Conservatives as the largest group with 50 seats. All eyes now are on what happens next...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Lib Dem smear campaign backfires

Election campaigns always have unexpected twists and surprises. The news in Cornwall today is that the Lib Dems have been putting out leaflets which smear an opponent and describe him as "a greasy haired t***." Not very positive.

The leaflet was sanctioned and promoted by Joe Taylor who works for Julia Goldsworthy, courtesy of the taxpayer, of course.

As someone who has seen a few political campaigns over the years, it has always struck me as odd that the "Lib Dem" party are seen by some people as being less "political" and even more "positive" than others. I suppose it just stems from the fact that they have long been seen as the "in-between" lot. But anyone who has experienced political campaigns knows different.

Campaign guidance issued to Lib Dem activists by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors sets out clearly their approach. The published document called "Effective Opposition" orders Lib Dem members to, "Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly."

It goes on to say, "Don't be afraid to exaggerate...Positive campaigning will NOT be enough to win control of the council."

And finally it says "you can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and similarly in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory."

So there you have it.

I remember when I was helping in the Crewe and Nantwich by election last year, there was an issue over vandalism and theft of party election signs. At one point, we were having 30 a night damaged. There will always be some damage to signs for all parties, but this seemed to be happening on an orchestrated scale. At first we suspected the Labour Party - but then it emerged that they, too, were suffering heavy losses of their own signs. The only party that wasn't seeing its signs disappear were the Liberal Democrats. Funny that.

I have always found this sort of "anorak tendency" in politics a bit sad. Those who really believe in liberal democracy would surely value freedom of speech and tolerate alternative view points.

Someone once explained to me that you should not be surprised by the sharp practice of the Lib Dems and that you only needed to look at those rather arrogant "winning here!" orange diamonds to see that they really exist only for the campaign - and have few real convictions beyond that. At times like this, it shows...

Friday, 29 May 2009

Racing the train....

I am a regular user of the sleeper train between Camborne and London Paddington and, when I heard that Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, was going to make a visit to Cornwall at short notice, I told the events team that the sleeper was the best possible way to get to Cornwall in the time she had.

The main line to Penzance goes right through the middle of Trevaskis Farm and so I grew up with trains regularly passing through. Today, Derek Thomas, the Conservative PPC for St Ives, and I had agreed to meet Theresa at Penzance station for the first visit at 8am. It is a twenty minute drive to Penzance but, just as I was finishing my coffee, I saw the Night Riviera go through Trevaskis soon after 7.30. She was running ahead of time. Better get my skates on.

I finally caught up with the sleeper on the approach to Penzance. Theresa had had a good night's sleep and commented that it was a relaxing way to travel. We went on to Manna's diner for breakfast - a local charity that employs people with disabilities before visiting Penzance Harbour, the campaign to improve the A30 and finally a visit to the Helston Railway Preservation Company which is based at Trevarno near Crowntown.

The old Helston branch line had closed long before my time but my father remembers it well. Gwinear Road Station, where it started, is just next door to Trevaskis Farm and you can still see many of the old bridges and tracks through which the line used to run and can make out the remnants of the platforms at Gwinear Road station.

The project aims to re-open a section of the line to passengers again - possibly starting before the end of this year. Twenty volunteers work - usually on Thursdays and Sundays - to clear the line, lay ballast, sleepers and track. They have even bought a shunter train and small passenger train ready for action.

One of the volunteers, Daniel Farr, is one of our most active leaflet deliverers too. So I heard a lot about the challenges encountered getting down the ballast (which surprisingly is the most difficult and time consuming part of the operation).

Today we were met by Richard Cox of Trevarno Estate together with Ken Wood and some of the volunteers on the project. They had some fantastic old photographs of Gwinear Road Station and told me that they had rescued the old station sign.

It was time to head for Redruth to get Theresa back on the train to London - but not before buying a book on the history of the line for my father...complete with pictures of the old station at Gwinear Road.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Cornwall's Fire Brigade show the way

Last week I attended the Camborne Town Council Annual meeting which included a fantastic awards ceremony for outstanding achievements from local residents during the year which proved that community spirit is alive and kicking in Camborne.

Among those honoured were Roy Kelynack who has served Camborne Town Band and the local Scouts for decades; Tom and Jackie Gray for their working with the local judo club; Debbie Stokes for her outstanding work with the girls at the T14ers dance group (and she received very audible support from the T14ers present at the meeting as she collected her award!) and Lani Anthoney, aged six, who had helped rescue a friend from a swimming pool.

After the awards we were given an inspiring presentation from Tim and Dillon from the Phoenix project being run by Cornwall Fire Brigade in conjunction with local schools. Phoenix is a fantastic project that aims to instill discipline, team work and confidence in boys from local schools.

Tim relayed a touching anecdote about a boy who was mute and had been sent on the course in the hope it might build his confidence and get him talking again. At the start of the week he would say nothing at all. By the end of the week, he was ready to give a small public speech to the parents gathered at the awards ceremony. What an achievement. I spoke to Tim aftwerwards and said I would love to come along to see their work.

I had been told to make sure I wasn't late. I remembered it was 2 O'clock today and so arrived at Redruth Fire Station 5 minutes early - but I must have got my timings wrong because most of the parents were already there. Tim was talking about how they were also running courses for parents and other people who would benefit from a bit of hose drill (he looked my way at this point - yes, I was defintely late after all!).

However, I was in good time for the main demonstration from the team at Camborne school. Tim takes no prisoners and expects parents to set a good example too - we were all told to get our hands out our pockets before the demonstration started. Quite right too.

It was really impressive. Today the exercise was to put out three fires: one in a car and to rescue a casualty from it, second to put out a fire in a building and thirdly, to rescue and provide first aid to another casualty inside the building (wearing respiratory gear).

The aim behind the project is simple: to offer routine, structure and discipline and, in the process, develop confidence and a sense of responsibility. The boys from Camborne school clearly benefited from it and were given awards at the end. So congratulations to Tommy, Darren, Liam, Jack, Jordan, Michael, Joseph, Jamie, Scott and Thomas.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Time for signs...

It is never easy finding the time to fit everything in. But I really wanted to make sure that we got up some signs in these local elections. I benefit from the fact that my father knows just about every farmer who owns any stretch of land along any road - and he has worked incredibly hard this week to phone around dozens of people and ask them to agree to help.

It was a stormy day yesterday. I arrived at Ernie Boden's late yesterday morning to pick up some of the equipment I would need. He had some really good self tapping screws which could be driven home with an electric drill. It made the execise much easier.

We made steady progress. About 40 signs up in total around Redruth, Hayle, Camborne and Helston. And some very good coverage in and around Wendron - an area where we are getting quite a lot of support.

But there is still much more to do in the weeks ahead.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Steep hills in Hayle North

I promised Jeremy Joslin I would give him a helping hand in Hayle North. Jeremy is the Chairman of Hayle Chamber of Commerce and is a great candidate to represent the people in this area.

He is a supporter of the Hayle harbour project but wants to stand up for local people to make sure that local concerns are heard by both the planners and developers and that we end up achieving the best possible outcome which could transform the future prospects of Hayle.

I first met Jeremy Joslin about 15 years ago when he used to do some design work for Trevaskis Farm. He has since become a leading figure in Hayle and has championed change. The sitting candidate, someone called Rob Lello, is widely seen by local people as having failed Hayle and only gets in by default. That is why he must be challenged properly.

In the morning we focus on Phillack - where there are a lot of steep hills. And in the afternoon we switch to the Copperhouse area and Ventonleague Road. There are a lot of hills in Hayle! But we were getting a good reception too.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Campaigning in Illogan

After David left, I headed back down to Illogan to lend a hand to our candidate there, Terry Wilkins.

Illogan is the type of place where we could do better than in the past and Terry is the right candidate for the job. Paul Holmes, the Liberal candidate, is not rated very highly by local people. There were lots of comments on the doorstep about how he has been there too long and become complacent and doesn't bother to help anyone locally.

I always remember Kevin Keen who lived at Illogan Churchtown. I used to work with him on the family farm and we spent many days working together weathering hail storms out in the cabbage fields during the winter or the dust in the summer on the cauliflower planter machine. I remember that he was a big Jaguar car enthusiast. When I was old enough to drive, I would sometimes drop him home but he would never let anyone near his Jaguar.

I was wondering whether he was still there when, as I came back down to a garden gate I caught him walking along the pavement. We had a good chat about the old times and I was able to update him on the whereabouts of Alan Cook and John Eddy - both also formerly part of the team at Trevaskis Farm and who I bumped into recently.

Terry Wilkins, our candidate, used to be a policeman and has a no nonsense approach. I first came across him as the row over centralised housing targets started to gather pace. Although retired, he decided to take a stand personally and mobilise oppostition to the crackpot targets that were being imposed by the Labour Government on Illogan. He is the sort of person who takes his responsibilities seriously and would be a real trooper for Illogan, but we have a lot of work to do.

UPDATE

I stand corrected.

A leading Labour Party activist in Camborne has been in touch to point out a mistake in my original post which might offend both the Liberal Party and the Lib Dem Party. To his credit it doesn't bother the Labour Party either way but in the interests of fairness he is right to raise it and so I have corrected it.

Paul Holmes is, of course, a Liberal Party candidate, not a Lib Dem. I should have remembered this because I once shared a platform with him in the late 90's during a euro debate.

For those who don't know the history, during the 80's there was the "SDP Liberal Alliance" which was a joint ticket of the Liberal Party under David Steel and the SDP under David Owen. After the 1987 General Election when the Alliance performed badly, they fractured into three separate pieces. Some merged under the cumbersome "Liberal Democrat" banner, some went off with David Owen and continued as the SDP for a few years - and in some cases went back to support New Labour after that. And the third faction kept the original Liberal Party going and decided against a merger with some of the old SDP people.

So while Paul Holmes might not have made much impression on the people of Illogan as a councillor, it does show some tenacity that the original Liberal Party is still going after all these years and they are fielding quite a few candidates in these elections against the other surviving faction of the old SDP Liberal Alliance, the "Lib Dems".

David Cameron visits Cornwall

David Cameron was in Cornwall today to make an announcement about geothermal energy and how we need to encourage its development. But, of course, the continuing row over MPs expenses was inevitably going to be the only thing people would be interested in.

Like everyone else, I have been shocked by the claims that some MPs have made and urgent action is needed to restore confidence. I think David Cameron was absolutely right earlier this week to grab the bull by the horns and set out some concrete steps he was taking - right now. These include requiring MPs who have made excessive claims to repay them, making clear that, in future, items like furniture and food should not be claimed for and setting up a new scrutiny process within the party to assess claims submitted.

There has been a sense of drift from the government. People don't want to hear any more that something was "within the rules" or that there is going to be some new comittee to "look" at how things are done. You need some firm leadership instead and it is good to see David Cameron rising to the meet the challenge and leading the way again.

But back to geothermal energy. This part of Cornwall was famous for the Hot Rocks project in the 80's which developed much of the international expertise in the field. I remember hearing about their work as a teenager. Although that project was discontinued, many of the scientists who worked on it are still around.

Richard Freeborn is one of them. He has developed a very successful business, Kensa Heat Pumps, at the site of the old mine in Mount Wellington near St Day to set up a new business which manufactures ground source heat pumps - essentially pumping water deep into the rocks below and bringing it back up at temperatures sufficient for heating properties.

Also about to set up at the site on Mount Wellington is a new venture to test model versions of wave power devices - which, if successful, could then go on to be tested on a commercial scale at the new Wave Hub facility in Hayle. Finally we had a revolutionary manufacturer of LED lighting technology who gave a presentation on their new energy saving light bulbs.

It is great that David Cameron decided to make another visit to Cornwall. I have argued from the start that technologies such as this, not only provide the answer to our energy needs, but can also lead to a prosperous future for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Jean's last fling

I finish the weekend at the charity bash being held by Jean Charman, the outgoing Mayor of Camborne.

I used to go to school with Jean's son. She has been a very energetic and committed Mayor. Last Thursday she was still working hard for the local community by holding a public meeting to air local concerns over the New Connection project in Bassett Street and also to deal with anti-social behaviour in Pengegon. I went along and learnt a lot.

Tonight she was raising money for local charities. We were treated to some fantastic Jazz by the John Austin Big Band. The event was held at the Corn Exchange in the centre of Camborne. The building that is now the Corn Exchange has always been a central feauture of the town. I remember going there roller skating in the late seventies. By the early eighties, roller skates were out and it was converted into an artificial ice skating rink. By the late eighties it had become a night club, the Berkeley centre, and I spent many a night there. And a few years ago it was revamnped into the Corn Exchange.

Unfortunately, I had to rush off at 9.30 in order to catch the sleeper train back to London for a meeting first thing tomorrow morning, just as the party was getting going. I hadn't booked a bed in advance and so must take pot luck. The sleeper service is by far the best way to travel between Cornwall and London - but only if you have a bed...last week I was out of luck - but I am in luck tonight.

An ice cream in Porthtowan

Have just got back from Porthtowan with Katy. The sun was out early this afternoon and a lot of people were heading down to the beach. We had delicious ice creams from the shop down by the sea front.

I used to have cousins who lived in Porthtowan and, when I was growing up, would sometimes visit and spend the day on the beach with one of those old polystyrene surf boards you used to see a lot of in those days. I remember it was a long walk back up Rose Hill at the end of the day with the surf boards in tow.

But our main task in Porthtowan today was delivering leaflets for the local election campaign. Yesterday we had our second campaign day. It is a busier time of year for most people and I had expected us to be down on the 63 who turned out at the end of February. But there were a lot of new faces this time and we had well over 70 people out in total. By the end of the day we had got out some 19,000 pieces of literature in many different parts of constituency including major progress in the three towns of Camborne, Redruth and Hayle but also significant inroads in other areas like Portreath, Stithians, Gwinear and Illogan.

We have a very strong set of candidates this time and we are the only party in Cornwall fielding candidates in every ward. We are picking up support from former independent councillors too, most notably Barbara Ellenbroek, the Mayor of Redruth and Mike Eddowes, the former Chairman of Kerrier District Council. Many independents feel that the formation of a large, centralised council covering the whole of Cornwall has changed things and that a strong Conservative group is essential to restore some accountability.

Morale is very high among the local team here and our candidates are getting a good reception on the doorstep. There is a feeling out there that the Lib Dems have just been in power in Cornwall for far too long and have become tired, complacent and out of touch.

But we have a lot of work to do in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Gwinear Show still going strong

Gwinear Show was an important date when I was growing up. We used to attend every year. My father was on the show committee and was President of the show for a few years.

The first one I remember was held in the field at the top of Station Road just outside Carnhell Green. That must have been in about 1979 or 1980. It was in the same field again yesterday.

In those days we had a pet donkey on the farm called Prince and I entered him in the donkey section that year. He won. The next year we were in a different field with a different judge who obviously had different views and poor old Prince, much to my disappointment, was relegated to fourth place.

When I got older I used to help my father and the many other local volunteers take everything down the Sunday after. Shows like this rely on local volunteers to make them happen and it is a great reminder that villages around here are close knit communities and know how to get things done.

This year there were concerns about the weather - particularly at Gwinear School who were demonstrating art work from the children. We had some rain on Friday so it was a little wet under foot. One or two cars got stuck. But the weather on Saturday was fine. Attendance was good and higher than previous years although the number of entrants in the gymkhana was down slightly.

It was good to catch up with so many old friends. Gwinear Farmers had a stand this year for the first time and inside was a section devoted to old photos from Praze Young Farmers Club - including one of me from 21 years ago selling the benefits of South Devon cattle during a marketing competition.

Gwinear Show is the first of the local shows. We have more to follow. Camborne Show had even been discussing the idea of doing a 'Question Time' style debate at the show for all the candidates in the Camborne and Redruth constituency. I thought it was a great idea and would have helped engage people in politics again. But the news came back today that Julia Goldsworthy has refused to take part.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Just because I say I don't want to dance....

Last night I had a clash. I had committed to going along to Camborne Rugby Club's end of season dinner at the Lowenac Hotel in Camborne, but also the next meeting of the Trelawney Alliance which was scheduled for the same day and time. Luckily the Trelawney Alliance were just down Basset Road road at the Town Council offices so I could do both - just.

Jean Charman, our energetic Town Mayor, and the committee at the Trelawney Alliance have made some fantastic progress over the last few months and managed to get a new cross party campaign up in the news and recognised. But they are not complacent. The next step is to improve coordination between other groups campaiging against the centralised government targets and they are working hard.

I had told Camborne RFC I would be there by 8.30 but a speech at the end of the meeting by our local MP went on a little longer than expected. Still, I made it there by 8.45 which was in time for the main course and speeches.

My father used to play rugby for Camborne and the family business at Trevaskis Farm sponsor the club today. As an amateur club, they are really able to develop talent and give younger players a chance to play in big matches where they learn fast. There is a strong team spirit because the players quickly progress through the Colts and into the Chiefs and get used to playing rugby together. They also have a really important commitment to junior and mini rugby teams.

I think amateur clubs like this have a crucial role to play in our society. I also think we could see a revival of amateur sport as the commerical clubs which rely on lucrative media contracts find that they have less clout than they once did.

My first memory of the Lowenac Hotel is attending a Young Farmers disco there in the late eighties. I have never been a great dancer but last night, as the disco was about to pack up, a couple of the Camborne team members decided to drag me and my brother, Giles, onto the dance floor to sit down in a line and 'row' away to "Oops up side your head" by The Gap Band. It could have been 1988 all over again.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Camborne defies the weather to celebrate Trevithick

Today was Trevithick day in Camborne and it was an early start to set up our stand on time. Exhibitors are expected to be in place by 8 am.

For many years the sun has shone on Trevithick Day but this year they predicted bad weather. Late last night the rough weather arrived early had caused a false burglar alarm at Trevaskis Farm. As I went out at 1 am to check all the doors on the restaurant, I hoped it might at least mean that the storm would clear by morning. But it was not to be. We had blustery weather with showers throughout the day and it was all we could do to keep our stand from taking off!

But the turnout was still impressive. The people of Camborne were not going to let a bit of rain get in the way of their day. The dance processions went ahead as planned. The streets were buzzing.

Among the other performances were the Carnkie Cloggers, whose dance routine was probably the best way to stay warm on such a day; the Holman Climax Choir were also singing perfectly in the Town Square, albeit under umbrellas. Meanwhile, towards the other end of Trelowarren Street we were entertained by the Golowan Band and an energetic performance by Drumba with their drum routine.

I had a few goes at a 'lucky key' game being run for local charity by the local Lion's Club and a Tombola being run for CD Kids, a Camborne based dance and theatre group. However, today was not my lucky day.

The star turn was provided by the replica 'Puffing Devil' steam carriage - famously invented by Richard Trevithick. It led the procession of steam engines down Basset Road and Church Street and then up Camborne Hill. Once they got going the Puffing Devil would move along at quite a pace and leave the rest standing. But this year there was a mishap on Camborne Hill. Another steam engine had stalled in the road ahead and, much to their frustration, the driving team were forced to grind to a halt...but it wasn't long before the pressure had built back up and they were able to zoom off again.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A Sunday morning run

What better way to spend a bright Easter Sunday morning than on a long run. I am now about 7 weeks into my training and today ran for an hour and a half non-stop. Not bad. I reckon it was about twelve miles in total.

But I have a nagging ankle problem and I am going to need to be careful in the weeks ahead. Last year I had a problem with a mild achilles heel injury. I need to make sure it doesn't return so it will have to be a few days off now.

I have an old friend from my Cornwall AC days who has said he will sponsor me - but only if I break 3 hours 15 minutes. A second one said that if I break 3.30 then he will vote for me....but no promise of sponsorship. You can always rely on old team mates in the running club to turn the screw and make things harder!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Visit Cornwall

Today, we held a county wide summit on tourism at Kingsley Village. Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Tourism was in Cornwall. It was a good opportunity to get a group of leading Cornish businesses from the sector together to share their concerns and discuss policy ideas for the future.

There are many leading tourist attractions in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. Hayle is second only to Newquay in terms of total visitor numbers in the summer. We also have the National Seal Sanctuary, Paradise Park, Poldark Mine and some famous old gardens including Trebah and Glendurgan.

There was a strong view at the summit that we needed to do more to promote Cornwall as a destination. At the moment, much of the funding is allocated along the lines arbitrary regional quangos rather than being allocated to genuine tourist destinations that people recognise. So money is spent promoting "the South West of England" rather than Cornwall. Meanwhile overseas, rather than having a single organisation promoting Britain, there are sometimes 10 regional offices competing with one another. It doesn't take much nous to work out the shortcomings of such an approach. Administrative 'regions' simply don't have an identity that can be marketed. We should reform the way tourism is promoted so that there is more emphasis on genuine destinations like Cornwall.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Ever thought of sport?

About twenty years ago there was a very successful campaign that encouraged people to take up sport to keep fit. I think its message is as important today as it was then.

Yesterday was sponsors' day at Camborne Rugby Club. They had a big match against Tiverton which they won 21-14 but it was a tense game. This weekend also saw Hayle RFC host a mini-Rugby tournament for the South West.

My family's business, Trevaskis Farm at Connor Downs, sponsor Camborne Rugby Club. My father played rugby for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle but regards Camborne as his home club. So I was delighted to have the chance join them on a day when they did so well.

In some ways they have lost out to other clubs as a result of the commercialisation of rugby but they are an absolute rock when it comes to their work in the community. They have teams for every year age group from the youngest mini rugby right up to colts and still play three senior teams. They have also been fantastic at playing younger players in their main team so that they get some experience.

I think that amateur sports clubs like this have a crucial role to play in our community. We need to have the club structures there to support and encourage children into the sport they love. As a boy, I was a runner and will always remember the time that volunteers gave up to coach me and drive the mini bus away to races at the weekend.

Groups like this are the bedrock of our society and we need to help them more.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

People power

Today I joined a march with several hundred other local people from the Camborne area to protest against plans to impose crackpot house building targets from central government on our community.

The event was organised by Jean Charman, the energetic town mayor for Camborne, and the non-party Trelawney Alliance group.

On Friday evening we had a bit of rain and I worried that this might carry over to the following day and affect the march. But all was fine. It was breezy but we had a strong turnout and made our point well. Three political parties supported the event: the Conservatives, Mebyon Kernow and the UK Independence Party. But more important than that were the hundreds of local people who wanted to make their views known.

There are currently around 18,000 homes in the Camborne, Pool and Redruth area. Some studies suggest that there is a need for around 2,000 new homes to be built to satisfy local need. But these crazy targets have nothing to do with local need and would force the building of some 11,000 new homes - a two thirds increase in housing stock which is simply unsustainable.

There are some important plans to regenerate Camborne Pool and Redruth. But when it comes to the number of new houses that should be built,I believe this should be determined by what is needed locally to go alongside that economic regeneration. It should not be based on some crackpot policy from central government.

The political parties supporting the protest had a chance to set out their views. I wanted to get across the importance of the cross party nature of campaigns like this and why the Trelawney Alliance was doing so well. But I also wanted people to realise that things can change if they are willing to take a stand. A future Conservative government would abolish these housing targets and give local councils the chance to revise their local area plan. There are elections coming up for Cornwall Council this June and it matters who is in charge. Everyone should challenge the candidates seeking their vote on their views.

Mebyon Kernow and UKIP also expressed their views. There were a couple of Lib Dem activists skulking in the background as observers who declined the opportunity to explain their position when offered the chance to speak. I hope they work out what they stand for before the elections this June.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The future of farming

This morning we had a breakfast meeting at Trevaskis Farm for a group of 20 farmers in the constituency. Richard Benyon, a member of our DEFRA team, is in Cornwall and it was a good opportunity for him to hear some of the challenges facing the farming industry down here so that he can go back with ideas for change. Our discussion covered everything from the Agicultural Wages Board to TB, supermarkets, labour availability and the bureaucracy of DEFRA.

It was good to see so many old friends again. Until nine years ago, I was a farmer in this part of Cornwall. Some of the challenges farmers face are the same now as they were then. But there have been major changes too.

Dairy farming here has contracted sharply over the last decade or so with a handful of large producers left where once there would have been dozens of family farms. The veg industry has been transformed too. Ten years ago a farmer with 100 acres of winter cauliflowers (or broccoli as we call them down here)would have been considered a large player. Now most of the industry is controlled by two big producers each growing 3000-4000 acres.

Camborne, Redruth and Hayle is the home of much of Cornwall's field scale horticultural industry: vegetables, daffodils and potatoes. The first two are very labour intensive and rely heavily on student Labour from Eastern Europe.

There is a real need to reform the benefits system in this country so that the long term unemployed who are currently trapped on benefits can be helped back into work. It has to start somewhere. Doing part time work or taking short term jobs is the first step back in to working life. And getting people off benefits and into work is crucial, not only for our economy, but for our society which benefits from an ethos of endeavor. Children do better when they have parents who are working role models. As we head into another recession with rising unemployment, helping people back into work will be more important than ever.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Liam Fox visits Cornwall

Yesterday we had a visit from Liam Fox. I have known Liam for many years. He has extensive knowledge on defence and foreign policy issues so I was pleased when he confirmed he would be able to pay us a visit this week.

RNAS Culdrose, which is in the St Ives constituency, is of huge importance to the whole of West Cornwall and is an important defence facility for the country - contributing to efforts in Afghanistan and the Gulf. The visit was confirmed at short notice but Captain Graeme Mackay and his team at Culdrose pulled out the stops and provided Liam with a very impressive programme and comprehensive briefing on their work.

But we started the day in Truro with a meeting at Cornwall and Devon Media. This is the home of many familiar newspaper titles in the westcountry including, of course, the Cornishman and West Briton. Across the country, local newspapers are suffering from a sharp fall in advertising revenue which has put the whole industry under pressure and forced many to close. The West Briton and Cornishman are faring better than most but no one is escaping the trend.

I think independent local papers have a crucial role to play within our communities and also in making local democracy work but they face a changing environment. We need to look at how they can be helped and that is why the Conservatives have outlined ideas this week to relax some of the outdated laws that are preventing local papers from consolidating and diversifying into new media platforms such as local TV.

At a recent debate I attended at Tremough, Terrye Teverson, the Lib Dem candidate in Truro and Falmouth, was fiercely critical of Cornwall's local papers and argued that the County Council's promotional leaflet, Your Cornwall, was better for local people. But I totally disagree with her. We need an independent local media that is free of political influence, not partisan publications paid for at council tax payers' expense.

We finished the day with our annual constituency dinner. Liam is a strong speaker and attracted a lot of interest with around 120 guests joining us at the Penventon Hotel.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Local accountability

It has been a busy few weeks. The remainder of our last batch of leaflets have now been delivered and it is also the time of year for AGMs.

The local branches in the constituency are really starting to gear up for the unitary elections on the 4th of June. In the last couple of weeks I have been to meet party members in Hayle, Mawnan Smith, Constantine, Stithians, Redruth, Budoch Water and Camborne. Morale is good and we have just about indentified candidates for every ward in the new unitary election in the Camborne and Redruth constituency.

We all know that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But accountability in politics is important and is only made possible with the help of volunteers.

The track record of the Lib Dem dominated council at County Hall is not a pretty sight. The independent Audit Commission rates it as one of the worst performing councils in the country and there have been some breathtaking examples of incompetence such as the failure to keep Newquay Airport open. It remains to be seen whether this failure will translate into a mood for change. As Conservatives, we can only play our part by holding them to account and putting up candidates to provide local people with an alternative.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

World records set at Duchy marathon

Today was the Duchy marathon at Redruth. As someone who is running a marathon myself later this year I was delighted to be asked along to watch the finish and help with the presentation of prizes.

This morning I went for my own training run on Hayle beach. Just before 10.30, when the Duchy marathon was about to start and I was about to start my training run, we had an icy shower of rain. As I waited in the car for the shower to clear, I spared a thought for those who were about to get on the start line for a full 26 miles.

When the shower passed I made a start and was about two thirds of the way through, on the open beach, when we had one of Cornwall's finest hail storms. Those who know Hayle beach will also know that it is not the best place to be in a hail storm. The marathon runners too, by this point, were half an hour into their marathon and just starting the leg of the race along the north cliffs so it would have been hard work for them too!

The Duchy marathon is one of the oldest marathons in the country. Today they had a very strong turnout with some 450 runners. Despite the inclement weather, two new world records were set - both by students at Exeter University's officer training corps. The first was a student who, in his first ever marathon, smashed more than an hour of the world record for running a marathon in full army gear - crossing the line in 4.04. The second was the record for the largest number of runners to complete a marathon while attached together. 28 runners, all tied together as a single block crossed the line in just under 4.29 - that takes some team work.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

People power

Last night I attended a second public meeting for people in Camborne and Illogan who are concerned about government plans to force the building of some 11,000 new homes in the area. The meeting took place at Camborne Town Hall and it was standing room only with over 150 in attendance.

The crackpot scheme to undermine local democracy and impose house building "targets" from central government via unelected regional planning bodies epitomises much of what has gone wrong with our politics over the last ten years or so.

If we want people to take an interest in their community and get involved in local government then they need to know that their efforts will make a difference. If they feel that all the decisions are being taken somewhere else anyway and that so called "consultations" are nothing more than a sham to tick a box at some bureaucracy or other, then they soon become very disillusioned.

Both at the meeting last night and the earlier one last month, there was dismay from local people that something so obviously badly thought through and unpopular appeared to be rolling ahead anyway regardless of the views of local people. But the fact that they turned out in such large numbers was also proof that people around here are not prepared to be pushed about any longer.

So I think these plans will end up being being overturned. If we are successful at the next election, then a future Conservative government would abolish regional planning bodies and give local councils the opportunity to revise any "local area plan" forced on Camborne and Redruth in the meantime. And public pressure will see to it that those seeking office in the forthcoming local elections will need to make their position on this issue clear.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Many hands make light work

Yesterday we had our first "campaign day" of the year. The plan was to get out our second piece of literature. You always feel a bit apprehensive in the days before such big projects. They rely entirely on the generous donation of time by volunteers and supporters. And everyone has a lot of competiton for their time: family, work and their other commitments in the community.

People often have a cynical view of political parties but it is important to remember that, fundamentally, they are voluntary organisations and they rely on hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across the country giving up their time for free and paying their membership subscriptions to make democracy in this country possible.

As a candidate, if you don't persuade volunteers to lend a hand, you don't get your message across. But yesterday was an extraordinary start that surpassed all my expectations. Sixty three people turned up in a single day of action and between them got out almost 25,000 pieces of literature. And there were other volunteers who couldn't make it on Saturday but wanted to play their part and have offered to pick up some of the remaining delivery rounds to do in their own time over the next couple of weeks. When it is all done we will have delivered more than 90 percent of the homes in the constituency.

So a huge thank you to all those volunteers who were willing to lend a hand this weekend - and play their part in making our democracy work.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The training starts

It was a beautiful morning for a run along Hayle beach. We have had our share of rain down here during the last couple of months but today it feels as though spring has arrived.

Last week I decided to run a marathon to raise money for St Julia's Hospice in Hayle. I met Paul Brinsley, the Chief Executive of Cornwall Hospice Care, for a briefing on their work. What is striking is just how many people St Julia's and Mount Edgcumbe support in any given year - around 500. I was also surpised to learn that the average stay is actually quite short at around two weeks. They aim to help people suffering from terminal illnesses have as normal a life as possible and so much of the emphasis is on short stays to work out the most effective treatments that then allows patients to return home to their families.

I used to run a lot when I was younger and have always kept running a day or two a week and done the occasional race. But I have a bit of work to do to get in shape for a marathon in October. I had wanted to run the Duchy marathon - but that is in March which is too soon for me to get fit.

About 12 years ago, I used to run a lot on Hayle beach with my old training partner -a pet border collie called Mono who came from the RSPCA rescue centre at Perranporth. Mono loved the beach, had a lot of energy and would charge ahead and then back again to bark at me impatiently for being so slow. Everything you would expect from a collie really.

I have to confess that I needed to stop to walk once or twice during my run today. If he were still around, Mono would not have been happy.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bringing people into politics

Yesterday was political awareness day at the Combined University of Cornwall at Tremough. Six parties had stands at the event and took part in a debate afterwards. The aim was to engage the next generation in political ideas.

The Conservative Party has a strong student branch at Tremough led by Matthew Brown -but, sadly, the Conservatives are the only party to have a student branch at all. The audience for the debate at the end of the day was a little thin. It is why probably the most important question was put to me at the very end of the session by a journalism student: how do you overcome voter apathy and engage young people in politics?

Some people, when asked that question, slip too easily into platitudes about the internet and Obama. But the internet is merely a medium. I think the real answer is more fundamental. We need to create the space for more conviction in politics and that requires a culture change.

We do need to have a party system in parliament so that there is a government of the day that can actually implement an agenda and an opposition that can hold it to account. But I think there is now a strong case to allow more free votes in parliament on more issues - where the parties step back and allow individual MPs to reach their own conclusions. It is increasingly accepted that issues strongly associated with personal conscience should be left to a free vote and I think that principle could be extended further.

My first job in politics was working for the anti euro 'no' campaign. It was a coalition of business leaders, trade unionists, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem MPs as well as green campaigners and Scottish and Welsh nationalists. They were all united in their opposition to the euro - even though they had very different views on other issues. There was something very refreshing about people from so many different backgrounds working together in a coalition on a single issue. And, working with people like Labour MP Jon Cruddas (who incidentally is also a Cornishman), taught me to understand other political parties - even though I disagreed with him on many other issues.

My experience of running a cross party campaign led me to the view that referendums can have an important role in rekindling confidence and trust in our politics because it is healthy for the public to occasionally see politicians from all sorts of different parties working together on a single issue where they have a shared conviction. It should happen more often.