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 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....