Saturday, 27 March 2010

Holman Climax Choir

The place to be last night was Camborne School where hundreds of people packed the main assembly room for a night of nostalgia and entertainment put on by the Holman Climax male voice choir.

It followed the highly successful Holmans reunion which took place earlier this year and featured the recently discovered treasure of old footage and photos from the iconic engineering firm that was once at the heart of life in Camborne and exported world beating air compressors across the globe.

I found the old photos fascinating. I can remember the last days of Holmans at the main works along Wesley Street and also the old Maxam building at Pool.

The Holman Climax Choir, now coached by leading musical director Angela Renshaw, treated their audience to an impressive and often poignant performance and there was plenty of audience participation too. We all took part in old favourites like Camborne Hill and finished the evening with Trelawney, Cornwall's anthem. Singled out for praise was Agnes, who has played the piano for the choir for half its 70 year life. What a commitment.

This part of Cornwall has struggled to regain its footing since the loss of firms like Holmans and it is why I have championed initiatives to bring new industries and new prosperity to our area - such as wave power which would need support industries that play to our engineering heritage and strengths.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Redruth North Partnership

I had arranged to meet Kevin Hawkes and some of the residents of the Redruth North Partnership at their base,the Kabin on Strawberry Lane. As I arrived they were in the process of sorting out some strimmers for the volunteers working on their Green Fingers project - where volunteers look after the grounds locally and learn a skill.

The first person I met was Jack Clemens, one of the residents who has been involved in the Redruth North Partnership from the start. "What relation are you to Skipper?" he asked. Its a long time since I have heard that one. "Skipper" was the nickname given by people locally to my great grandfather and Jack had worked with him at Bezurrel Farm around the time of the war.

The Redruth North Partnership was formed by the merger of several local residents associations and in the few years since it was founded has achieved some fantastic results - ranging from the voluntary curfew to help reinforce the authority of parents, to homework clubs, to their Green Fingers Project. They even saved Close Hill Post Office. They have recently been celebrating their success in securing lottery funding to help support their work for the next three years.

The voluntary curfew at Redruth was a great success. Sometimes it is misunderstood. This was not like all those headline grabbing "crackdowns" or "initiatives" which Tony Blair used to announce all the time and then forget. It did not require government to do anything and it did not require any new laws.

It was a simple case of the police and the community setting clear boundaries which helped to reinforce the authority of parents. It is not always easy for parents with teenage children. Peer pressure starts to take hold and making sure their children get back home in good time at night is easier said than done in some cases. But what if everyone's children had to be back home at a particular hour and the police made sure it happened? You soon deal with the problem of peer pressure and strengthen the authority of parents. Once you establish new social norms and give new authority to local communities and parents, then it lasts. So the voluntary curfew was run during the summer of 2008 but has not been needed since.

The Redruth North Partnership is about to evolve into a fully fledged social enterprise and aims to take over grounds maintenance contracts and other services from the local authority so that it becomes self funding and can return even more benefit to the community.

This is one small example of a process that needs to take place across our whole society.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Lobbied by the Lib Dem lobbyists

Guidance issued by the Lib Dem Party to local activists orders them to "Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly...don't be afraid to exaggerate...positive campaigning will not be enough to win."

It's advice that has been practiced with zeal by Lib Dems here in Camborne and Redruth and has undermined their credibility locally. Last year, Julia Goldsworthy's office sanctioned a bitter and twisted leaflet which described the Mebyon Kernow candidate as a "greasy haired tw*t."

Earlier this year, local Lib Dems attacked me for having a real job in the private sector with Portland Communications - and even attempted to claim that I had been "parachuted in" from London. This week while canvassing I came across one former Liberal voter who said she was so disgusted at this negative campaigning that she emailed Julia Goldsworthy to complain. Julia's response was to blame her agent, saying that she had not seen the leaflet before it went out.

This week local Lib Dems have returned to the same old theme. Terrye Teverson, wife of the failed MEP, has claimed that I did not disclose the fact that I had worked for Portland. Her allegation is completely false. The day that I joined the firm at the end of March 2009, a press release was issued and there was widespread media coverage at the time and since.

Portland is one of the UKs leading communications agencies and it supports the industry's voluntary code of practice so is transparent about its clients. They range from firms like Coca Cola, Vodafone and Apple to leading charities, particularly in Africa, such as Kofi Annan, the Tutu Foundation, the Africa Progress Panel and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation - which works for better governance in African countries.

I make no apology for having done real jobs in the real world. I think one of the weaknesses of our current Lib Dem MP is that she has only ever worked in politics and has no life experience. The jobs I have done range from back breaking work on the farm in the worst weather Cornwall can throw at you, to working on a nursery in Worcester that raised trees and roses, to being Press Secretary to David Cameron and, yes, working in the commercial world helping firms with issues like Corporate Social Responsibility.

It is easy to forget that most candidates in this contest are unpaid volunteers and the majority also have to work for a living - Nick Clegg worked for a lobby firm while a candidate. Of course, this is not a problem that Julia Goldsworthy herself has because she claims over £159,000 a year from the tax payer in so called "expenses." The real scandal is not that volunteer candidates have real jobs in the real world. It is why the Lib Dem MP thinks it is OK to claim £400 a month from the taxpayer for extra food without even submitting receipts.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Canvassing in Redruth and Hayle

I have spent much of this week canvassing in Redruth. We now have teams out every day. The reaction has been good - a strong mood for change with both life long Labour voters and former Lib Dem voters saying they are going to unite behind the Conservatives this time to give the country the change it needs.

We have the next wave of Question Time meetings coming up - where we invite local residents to come along and throw any question they like at me. I really enjoy them and always learn something new myself.

Next up is Hayle with Camborne and Redruth following soon afterwards. On Saturday we switched our canvassing efforts to Hayle with a team of eight working hard across the eastern end of town. My family have deep roots here and we came across a number of people who had links with Trevaskis Farm or knew the family for other reasons. "What relation are you to...?" was a question that came up several times.

Hayle has previously voted strongly for Andrew George - but people understood that he had now decided to leave the town and go to Penzance due to new boundaries and were looking for someone else from Hayle to stand up for them. The issue of expenses being abused by local Lib Dem MPs was also front of mind for many.

We have decided to hold our Redruth Question Time meeting in the heart of the community in the Redruth North ward and I spent all day today delivering invitations around Murdoch Close, Montague Avenue and Close Hill. This is an area that has its share of deprivation and needs a helping hand. The current Labour government have had good intentions when it comes to tackling poverty, but have made very little impact. It is not enough to treat the symptoms of poverty. I believe we need to tackle the causes of poverty: educational disadvantage, family and social breakdown. Today it is the Conservative Party that has the answers to helping the least well off in our society and it's why I regard this part of the constituency as an important priority.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Who said apathy?

Today myself, Julia and Jude are all taking part in a hustings as part of a cultural diversity week being organised by Cornwall College.

Chris Price had asked us all to meet him outside the main reception at 2.15. At just after 2.15, I got a call as I was getting out of my car to check I was on the way. Anyone who has ever organised a political meeting knows that feeling - 15 minutes to go - where are they?!

We waited another ten minutes for the other two candidates who had actually gone straight to the lecture theatre - and there were concerns too about how many students would actually turn up. But concerns that there might be apathy among the students proved completely wrong.

The lecture theatre was packed with standing room only. Sometimes people say that young people don't care about politics but this group certainly did. There were searching questions too - on everything from immigration policy to the Educational Maintenance Allowance, MPs expenses and the Human Rights Act. Julia Goldsworthy was there for the first half an hour but the event kept going for almost another hour after she left.

The issue of cultural diversity and commumnity cohesion is an important but sensitive area. I think we can gain strength from diversity and we can learn from other cultures but it is also crucial that we celebrate the values that unite us all as a British nation: tolerance and freedom under the rule of law.

One of the last jobs I did for the Conservative Party involved building stronger links with the muslim community. That year, I probably had more Christmas cards from muslims than I did from christians. The vast majority of muslims take their own religion seriously and respect other religions too. But we cannot ignore the threat to community cohesion posed by political Islamism - a distorted and extreme strand of Islam which does not respect the rule of law or our democratic institutions. Striking a balance that faces down those extremists without alienating other muslims is an important task in which we all have a role: politicians, the media and the public.