Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Camborne Colts of ‘63 are reunited

Today Trevaskis Farm is hosting a sponsor’s day at Camborne Rugby Club. My father played rugby for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle but regards Camborne as his home club and today our family sponsor the great work that they are doing in the community – providing opportunities for boys to get involved in the sport.

For this event, my father has been on something of a mission to reunite as many players as possible from the 1963 Camborne Colts team of which he was a part and which achieved great things.

He got eleven of them to make the journey. Those now living in places like New Zealand were excused!

The weather for the game was excellent. Our family had a slight conflict of interest. Two cousins from the Newquay branch of the Eustice family were on the pitch – for Newquay. But it was a comfortable Camborne win in the end. They are having a good season.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Question Time

Tonight we held one of our Question Time events at Mawnan Smith. We had a good turnout of around 30 people.

Questions ranged from Trident to energy security, Afghanistan, the budget deficit, why do you want to be an MP?, Cadbury’s, Home Information Packs, education, health, bureaucracy, infrastructure in Cornwall and many others. It is amazing how much ground you can cover in an hour and a quarter!

We have a dozen or so such events coming up in the next month. Tomorrow is Trevaskis Farm with a similar audience expected from the surrounding villages.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Canvassing in Angarrack

The big drive on canvassing continues. Today I started in Angarrack – a village just outside Hayle. The first door I knocked on had an old VW camper van parked outside. I asked whether I could count on their support. “No” was the reply, “that didn’t take long did it?” he added. Indeed it didn’t. Maybe the camper van was called Daisy?

The next door I knocked on, before I could say anything the gentleman said, “I knew your father AND your grandfather.” There was a pause as I waited to find out whether he regarded that as a good thing or bad thing. Luckily it was good news.

A few doors down and I had a discussion with someone who looked familiar but who I couldn’t place. On reading my leaflet, the penny dropped and she ran back out to congratulate me on the marathon run. We had both been members at Cornwall Athletic Club years ago.

The last but one house was answered by Nicola – someone I remember very well from my Young Farmers days twenty years ago. She was a Nancledra member but today has two children and we discussed at length plans for supermarkets in Hayle.

Further down by the river, we got into the James family territory. Geoffrey and Barbara are life long friends of my parents and I grew up with Jonathan, Christopher and Andrew who also all live in the area now. Riverside is also the place where my first girlfriend lived way back in 1987.

Tomorrow we start on Connor Downs...another village close to home!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Hayle Town Council meeting

I always try to occasionally get along to the Town Council meetings. I think it is really important that we reinvigorate the most local building blocks in our democracy. The Conservatives have led the way when it comes to driving forward the agenda for “localism” which means doing more to empower local communities. All too often people feel fobbed off by sham “consultations” when what is really needed is genuine accountability: the ability to throw people out if they fail.

Tonight I went along to the Hayle Town Council meeting. It was encouraging to see that one of the other parliamentary candidates had also taken the time to attend – Derek Elliott from UKIP.

John Coombe, our illustrious town Mayor, was chairing discussions about a number of supermarket applications for the Hayle area. There does seem to be something of a rush from many different quarters to build a supermarket around the town at the moment. There is also local concern around aspects of the Hayle Harbour project.

I support the idea of regeneration in Hayle but have set three criteria that I would apply to the detail of any development. First we must safeguard local wildlife; second, the plans need to fit together as a coherent whole and third, the project must be something that future generations will be proud of. In the current financial environment, we also need to take a very serious look at how we get things off the drawing board and in to reality. Hayle residents will be following the issue closely in the months ahead.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Canvassing in Mawnan Smith

With New Year and the bad weather behind us, it is time to really up the pace and start knocking on doors. Last week I was canvassing in Budock Water. Today I was in Mawnan Smith and will be coming back again for the next three days solid to get around as many houses as possible.

We have a “meet the candidate” event coming up here on Friday week. Last Saturday, James (one of our hard working volunteers) and I came down and delivered most of the invites. We have a dozen or so such events in the next four weeks so it’s going to be a busy time.

The first door I knocked, the gentleman invited me in for a cup of tea. He actually said he was a lifelong Liberal Democrat, probably wouldn’t change but wouldn’t mind if I won and said it was good to see local candidates standing down here. Then I met another resident who said he wouldn’t usually vote Conservative but asked whether I was related to the late Eustice Benney. Eustice was a second cousin of mine and the Benneys have been a well known family in Mawnan Smith for generations.

I have been getting a good reaction here today. There is an overwhelming mood for change. Quite a few people pointed out that the local Lib Dems had just put out a leaflet claiming that they were going to scrap tuition fees on the very day that Nick Clegg abandoned the pledge – there was a strong feeling that the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

But we have a lot more work ahead. I have worked out that I can cover about 700 houses a week if I organise my diary the right way. As the evenings get lighter we will be increasing that to cover as much of the constituency as possible.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

We should not take democracy for granted

At the end of last year, we ran a survey of local residents in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle on trust in politics and accountability. While not a scientific poll, the survey did give a good insight into how strongly people feel about some issues.

85 percent agreed with David Cameron’s commitment to immediately abolish the £10,000‘Communications Allowance’ which allows sitting MPs to use taxpayer’s money to print promotional literature about themselves.

82 percent agreed with the proposal by David Cameron to cut the number of MPs sitting in parliament to reduce the cost of politics.

84 percent of people thought it was a good idea for parliament to be required to approve any plans to commit British troops to combat.

91 percent agreed with the Conservative policy of returning employment and social laws from the EU to Britain, requiring automatic referendums before the transfer of any powers to the EU and having far more scrutiny of EU laws in parliament. The same proportion of people supported David Cameron’s policy of replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

As a new candidate, the message that I took away from this survey is that we all have a role to play in restoring trust in politics. After the next election, a new generation of MPs will have to work hard to sort out the legacy of the expenses scandal left by those before them. Government will have a role: it must make sure that parliament is able to scrutinise legislation properly and make the final decision on our laws.

But voters have a role too. Many people feel disillusioned with politicians today and I can understand why. But we must never, ever take our democracy for granted. Many countries in the world do not have the ability we have to throw governments and MPs out of office when we get tired of them. People gave their lives to safeguard our right to do so. But democracy is a two way process. It is not just about the political parties. It is first and foremost about the public. They must engage, vote, campaign on issues they care about and stand as candidates if they don't think anyone else offers what they want.

A few days ago I was emailed by a local resident who boasted that in the last three elections, he had spoiled his ballot paper because none of the candidates were "worthy" of his vote and that he intended to do the same again this time even though he didn't know all the candidates that might yet stand. I don't agree with that attidude. It is taking our democracy for granted. So I challenged his view and said that if he didn't like any of the candidates standing, then he should stand himself.

His reponse was interesting. The first thing he did was email the other candidates (who he had just said were worthless and didn't deserve his vote) to complain that I had challenged his attitide and ask them what they might do to help him. Then he said his daughter was in charge of the Lib Dems in Camborne and he was going to complain to her and see what she could do for him. So perhaps all us five (so far) candidates in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are not so worthless after all. He knew who to turn to when he wanted help.

I think its fair to say that this particular voter is unlikely to support me at the next election. But if I have managed to jolt him out of his complacency, understand the value our democracy and perhaps even vote for one of the candidates in this election, I suppose that is better than him just spoiling his ballot paper again!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Pulling together to give Britain the change it needs

Today brought the news that Richard Copus, a leading Lib Dem activist in the Westcountry has decided to join the Conservatives. He had been a very active Lib Dem activist for twenty five years. His move reflects the feelings of many former Lib Dem voters here in Camborne and Redruth too.

Today, it is the Conservatives that are the party of the NHS and it is the Conservatives who are leading the campaign to return more powers to local communities - through legislation like the Sustainable Communities Act which Conservative MPs Oliver Letwin and Nick Hurd initiated.

A lot of people feel that this time round, it is time to vote for a change of government rather than just register a protest vote.

Today also saw a blast from the past. Paddy Ashdown gave an interview in the Western Morning News. He has been asked to come back out of retirement and try to knock the Cornish Lib Dem MPs into shape after years of failure. His interview was slumbering - full of old fashioned rhetoric about "the Tories in the 80's", but nothing of interest to say about the world post 1990. It's as if he is still in the 1992 election campaign.

Paddy Ashdown is not the only one with a problem. Just before Christmas, Nick Clegg (who is the current leader of the Liberal Democrat Party) wrote to residents in Redruth telling them that Cornwall was getting a raw deal and needed political change. As one Redruth resident put it to me, "Doesn't he know that Cornwall has had Lib Dem MPs for the last twelve years? What have they being doing all this time?"