Sunday, 28 February 2010

A night at the Penventon

As I finsihed last Friday meeting shop keepers in Redrtuh, I stumbled across Father Peter Fellowes - the inspiration behind Searchlight, a fabulous voluntary group linked to the church which provides activities for local children in Redruth. Some of the Searchlight team were putting together a disco dancing performance at a Variety Show event at the Penventon Hotel and they were meeting early at the Regal Cinema.

The event is in aid of the Handstand Appeal - a local charity set up to help baby Marshall, a local boy who lost both his hands and his legs after being struck by a particulalry severe strain of meningitis.

Katy and I decided to go along. There was an incredible turnout - probably over 250 people. Father Peter was the compere for the night and the other performances ranged from Mark Kaczmarek doing a stand up routine to the Charity Singers local male voice choir, the bell ringers from St Euny Church several dance groups and a finale provided by Redruth Town Band.

We ended up bidding (successfully) on a child's bike which has been riding around in the car with me for the past two days!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Regenerating our towns

This morning we put the finishing touches to our latest direct mail campaign. Last Saturday, local volunteers stuffed around 5,500 envelopes. Our key focus at the moment is on persuading people who might have previously supported the Lib Dems to weigh things up carefully this time. Because unless the Conservates win seats like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle then Gordon Brown will cling to power an no one will be able to stop him.

Later this morning I got back out on the road. We have our town centre regeneration summit in less than two weeks and I want to try to engage as many local shop keepers as possible, so my aim is to get around every shop in the constituency. Whether or not they are able to take the time away from the business to attend the summit we are holding, I want to get their views.

I covered most of Camborne today. Issues raised ranged from business rates to pavements to anti-social behaviour, parking and the one way traffic system. These are all points that I will take to the summit on their behalf.

Hayle and Redruth tomorrow....

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Drama at the Seven Stars

I caught the sleeper train last night but hadn't had time to book a bed. Unusually for a Monday, there were none available tonight which meant patchy sleep on the journey down...

We are running a town centre regeneration summit on Monday the 8th March and Caroline Spelman is coming down. Today I have put a lot of work into developing the programme for the event.

Ten days ago I visited the Redruth Information Exchange where hundreds of local people came in to share their views about the future of the town. I think that getting behind economic regeneration is one of the areas where a local MP can make a difference if they are prepared to apply themselves. To be fair Candy Atherton, the former Labour MP for this area, did her best - but there has been no political weight behind regeneration work since 2005 and I think its time that changed.

Later in the day, my meetings took me to Mabe in the south of the constituency. Afterwards, I popped in to the Seven Stars pub in Penryn. The Soundfm -a student radio station based at Tremough were running a public meeting on an idea they are working on to create a local soap which will run for six weeks during May and June. It was great to see the university engaging the local community in their ideas.

While there I bumped in to Jason Squibb - we used to run together in Cornwall Athletic Club and have kept in touch. He is now a successful director of a local theatre group in West Cornwall and had turned out to offer his support.

The back road journey from Trevaskis to Penryn over Black Rock is a familiar one. Between 1996 and 1999 my main focus in the family business was running the Gabbons Nursery site at Penryn which we rented from the Gambier family. It was the largest glass house nursery in Cornwall with over two acres of heated greenhouses where we used to grow strawberrries hydroponically. It also had a geothermal bore hole - one of the test holes from the old hot rocks project which helped provide heating for the nursery and contributed to ensuring that Cornish strawberries always launched the national strawberry season, filling the supermarket shelves nationally on the weekend before Easter.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A warm welcome in Illogan on a cold day

I have been spending the last two days canvassing in Illogan. We have our next Question Time meeting here tonight and the response to our invitation has been very good.

I came across a lot of familiar people from my past here. The first door that I knocked on was answered by Shirley who used to be the manager of the Trevaskis Farm shop about fifteen years ago when I was working in the business. A few doors down and I came across someone who said that his mother used to live next door to Trevaskis. Then there were friends of my parents and party members too.

I got invited in by a lot of people today and offered many cups of tea. It is one of the things that happens regularly when you are canvassing in Cornwall. We know how to offer hospitality down here. It also fell suddenly cold at around 4pm so it may be that they felt a bit of sympathy for me too!

But most encouraging of all is the response I am getting. I am regularly coming across life-long Labour voters who say they will vote Conservative this time and lots of former Lib Dems who just can’t face another five years of Gordon Brown and say they will probably back me for this election.

We had a good attendance for the meeting and it was one of our liveliest yet with questions on everything from social care to pensions, prison reform, housing, water rates and whether or not Cornwall should enter its own national team in sporting events.

We also took delivery today of our latest piece of literature. We are gearing up for another campaign day this Saturday to kick start the delivery and tackle another round of envelope stuffing for the latest direct mail campaign....

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Progress in Portreath

Julia Goldsworthy, the current Lib Dem MP, has one of her numerous homes along Penberthy Road in Portreath and Joyce Duffin, a Lib Dem Councillor, is just a few doors down.

We didn’t manage to take this ward in the local elections last summer. Portreath and Mount Hawke was one of only two wards in the whole constituency to elect a Lib Dem councillor. That is why driving hard in this area is such a priority because we need those people who voted Lib Dem last year to weigh up carefully whether they want David Cameron as Prime Minister or another five years of Gordon Brown. The Lib Dem candidate has positioned herself as the road block to change - the only candidate who can keep Gordon Brown in power. The battle lines are drawn.

Tomorrow night we have another of our Question Time meetings in the village and I am spending the day with a few other volunteers knocking on as many doors as possible. We started in Forthvean Crescent at the top of the hill. We got a good reception here. I came across one life-long Labour voter who said he would be backing me this time round. Another informed me that he was coming to Trevaskis for a meal at the weekend and said he thought it was great to have a local candidate they could support.

Down on Penberthy Road and the surrounding terraces and streets and the reception was still positive – although admittedly I decided not to knock on either Julia’s or Joyce Duffin’s door! Mount Hawke tomorrow – a village which, due to boundary changes, has no incumbent MP.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A good education

My meetings this morning took me over towards Four Lanes. I decided to go back the Countryman for lunch.

The Countryman at Piece is a famous pub in the area and Nick Lake has been its landlord for many years. I was a regular back in the 90’s. After training sessions on the athletics track at Carn Brea, every week we used to head up to the Countryman for a drink, a bite to eat and a go at their well attended quiz. The Cornwall Athletic Club team (abbreviated on our quiz sheet to CAC) rarely won but we always thought we might and, trying became a weekly ritual!

I had a good lunch there today before heading down to Trewirgie School for a meeting with head teacher Dave Symons. I have known Dave for over twenty years – again because we were both runners in Cornwall AC. He has been an incredibly successful head teacher at Trewirgie and is hugely respected in Redruth for what he has achieved but he has decided to retire at the end of this year citing the burden of paperwork and bureaucracy as one of the reasons.

I wanted to learn more. I am instinctively opposed to the way trite managerialism, targets and tick box routines have displaced genuine responsibility and accountability in so many areas of our lives today. The primary purpose of testing in schools should be to understand the needs of the individual child so they get the support they need. Once it just becomes a bureaucratic process – where people try to jump through arbitrary hoops so they “look good on paper”, then it’s time for change.

People with a sense of vocation for teaching are motivated first and foremost by the satisfaction they gain from passing on knowledge to the next generation and developing the pupils in their charge. These human values cannot always be measured by some score on a piece of paper. I learnt a lot today – even being taken through various SATS tests today and seeing comparisons with work done twenty years previously.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Back to Lanner

We have the next in our series of Question Time events in Lanner tonight. Mary Anson, her children and some other volunteers in the village have worked very hard getting out invitations to everyone in the village and the response has been good.

Lanner is a bit of a weathervane for the political battle being fought across the new Camborne,Redruth and Hayle Constituency. It has a strong three way mix when it comes to voting intentions. Those in the village who took part in the 2005 election and follow these things say that Lanner voted Lib Dem last time.

I have been here between the showers of rain since Tuesday but today it is fine and so I have the opportunity to really make headway and knock on as many doors as possible ahead of our meeting this evening - stopping only for a fantastic lunch at the Fox and Hounds.

Early on, I came across a wonderful lady who invited me in out of the cold. When I showed her a leaflet, she said “Eustice? Well, you must be from Gwinear then.” She then asked if I knew Ashley, her nephew. We were in young farmers together and I still see him around because he now lives near Trevaskis. It’s a small world.

Further along, I came across a life-long Labour voter who was in her seventies. Could I count on her support? “Nothing personal” she said with a friendly smile, “but I have only ever voted Labour.” I thanked her for her time and turned on my way. “But I will take one of your leaflets” she added. “I have an open mind.”

I have been getting a good reaction here. There is a strong mood for change and many people who said they usually support the Lib Dems previously said that this time they would be voting Conservative to change the government. The latest revelations in the ongoing saga of the current Lib Dem MP’s expenses claims was also front of mind for many people here.

Lanner is the home of the sporty Buzza family. I have known Dave Buzza for years through Cornwall Athletic Club. He was more successful than me and ran for England in the Commonweath Games. His brother, Alan, was a well know rugby player. As I finished the day canvassing, Michelle, Dave's partner, raced past in her car waving -no doubt on the way to work!