Wednesday, 30 April 2008

What is on your doorstep?

What an awful story about Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who is accused of keeping his daughter captive in a windowless cellar for 24 years, with three of her children. He has admitted imprisoning and raping his daughter and fathering her seven children. He has also admitted to disposing of the body of the one of the children in an incinerator shortly after the birth.

This seems so evil, it is hardly believable... but a living nightmare for Elizabeth and her children, who had to live through it. It is impossible to imagine how they must now feel. They are starting out on a new, better life ...but one which will not be easy for them, to deal with the past.

Neighbours must be stunned at the horror of this and the fact that this has happened on their doorstep. How fortunate we are - if we have a warm, loving family, or if we have encouraging and supportive parents, or if we have freedom to make our own decisions and live our life as we choose. Priceless gifts.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

A Healthy Day in Hounslow

I was delighted that Andrew Lansley MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, was able to visit the constituency last Thursday.

We started the day by visiting the West Middlesex University Hospital (WMUH), to be briefed on current issues, challenges and progress. We visited several departments in the hospital, including Maternity, A&E and the recently opened West London Day Surgery Centre. The WMUH does not always get the credit it deserves .. but actually, it has become an award-winning, community hospital. Yes, it still has historical financial challenges and yes, there are still improvements to be made, but the staff have made real efforts to improve patient care, MRSA rates and financial management over the last year.

We then visited The Mulberry Centre, a local cancer support charity, which we are currently raising money for in our Healthy Hounslow Campaign. The Mulberry Centre recently won the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) local health award in recognition of excellence in community healthcare. They do fantastic work, as a drop-in centre for those who are affected by cancer. Since one in three people are likely to be diagnosed with cancer, it is so important that patients get the support, advice and treatment they need.

The final stop was GSK, to talk to Simon Jose, Head of GSK UK, and his team, about community involvement, the importance of research and development, and building science skills in schools. GSK is making huge investments in researching both medicines and vaccines for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, the World Health Organisation’s three priority diseases. They are also developing new treatments for cancer. It is great to have the headquarters of an organisation like GSK in Brentford, a company who not only made total community investments of £282m last year, but have also made a hands-on difference locally.

In healthcare, a lot has been achieved...but so much more still to do.

All in all ....a healthy day!

Photo (from left to right): Cllr Pam Fisher (Hounslow Lead Member for Adult Social Services and Health), Tara Donnelly (Chief Executive, West Middlesex University Hospital), Andrew Lansley MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Health), Janet Henry (Matron of the West London Day Surgery Centre), Mary Macleod (Conservative Parliamentary Candidate), Sue Ellen(Chairman of the Trust Board) and Sally Stephens (Campaign Co-ordinator)

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Labour is hitting those who can least afford it

This Governement just goes from bad to worse.

The latest scandal, is that the 10p tax rise will hit the lowest paid in our country, including nurses, soldiers, some pensioners and receptionists. Despite Gordon Brown's claim that no-one will lose out, the Treasury has confirmed that 5.3 million families - an average of 8,000 people in Brentford & Isleworth - will pay more tax and be worse off.

George Osborne MP and his team will push hard on this one and call on the Chancellor to re-open the tax con package from the 2007 Budget and help those who are hit. The Government claims that this would cost £8 billion, but according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, helping the 5.3 million people who lose out here, would only cost £700 million - which is a relatively small sum compared to the £20 billion of tax changes in the total package.

I am strongly opposed to tax rises which are uniquely targeted at the poorest. These are the people we should be helping the most.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The diet has started ...

We launched our Healthy Hounslow Campaign on Saturday ... so the diet has started!

Alli Godbold, our nutritional therapist, measured and weighed us and gave us all ideas on what we should now eat. She was brilliant and very supportive for what we are trying to do. We set our individual goals - so as a team, we will aim to lose 40kg.

I keep thinking only 10 weeks to go... but actually, this is meant to be changing my eating habits for a life time!

You are welcome to join in too!

Photo (from left): Cllr Pam Fisher, Cllr Lin Davies, Cllr Paul Lynch, Mary Macleod, Cllr Barbara Reid and Alli Godbold (Christine Quick was taking the photo but is part of the Healthy Campaign Team too)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Join our Healthy Hounslow Campaign ...

We are launching ‘A Healthier Hounslow’ community initiative this week. The aim is to raise awareness and show the importance of healthy eating and nutrition for improving personal health and wellbeing.

It will involve a ten week Healthy Eating Challenge for charity, where local volunteers will try and lose weight as a team, including me. Each person will set their own goal and weekly weigh-in sessions will take place in Chiswick. The group weight loss goal will be announced at the launch event on Saturday 19th April and sponsorship will be raised for the total group weight loss.

This is non-political and anyone can participate…. if you want to support The Mulberry Centre, or you need to lose weight or you just want to support a Healthy Eating Campaign.

The local charity benefiting from this campaign is The Mulberry Centre, which supports people affected by cancer and won the GSK local health award last year for excellence in community health care. I will be visiting them this week with Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

Also involved is Alli Godbold, a local nutritional therapist. She uses diet and nutritional supplements to help individuals achieve their optimal level of health and advises on many areas of health including coping with stress, fatigue, digestive disorders and weight problems. She will be giving the Healthy Eating Challengers weekly advice and cooking tips!

Do contact me if you would like to join with me and lose weight for a good cause! You can get in touch on 020 8994 1406 or or just come along to the launch on Saturday 19th April at 2pm at Carvosso’s, 210 Chiswick High Road. Before starting the 10 week challenge, do check with your doctor first.

Donations to our Healthy Hounslow Campaign, can be made on this blog - just look to the right!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Domestic violence - a local issue

I was at a conference last week with David Cameron and Michael Gove, on 'How to Mend a Broken Society'... and 'Strengthening Families'.

The floor opened to questions after the first half of the session and Sandra Horley (CEO of Refuge) asked a question about domestic violence - "was it right for women (typically) to stay with a partner or husband if he was abusing her?". Michael answered very clearly, that it was healthy relationships that the Party were encouraging to stay together, not abusive ones.

This reminded me of a situation, when I was campaiging in Hounslow Heath a few months ago and some teenage boys, who were hanging around a street corner, asked me what I was doing. I stopped and spoke to them and asked them what they felt the most important local issues were. They looked at me, straight in the eyes and immediately said without hesitation - domestic violence.

Domestic violence kills two women per week in England and Wales. It is an issue that we must address and give those who are abused as much support as possible. Violence in a relationship is completely unacceptable. The difficulty is that many people do not report it as they are afraid of what might happen to them or their partner. It takes immense courage to walk away from that type of abusive relationship....but important to do so, especially when there are children involved.

Chiswick was the first location in Europe (and even perhaps the world) to have a women's refuge. I intend to speak loudly against domestic violence, not just because I hope to be the next MP for Chiswick, but because I believe it is a major issue in our communities and I believe it is wrong.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

My first Terminal 5 experience

The last time I visited Scotland, I took the train. I was at my destination in about 5 hours - relaxed and refreshed.

This weekend I took a flight as I wanted to be in Edinburgh for a family dinner on Friday night and needed to work during the day. I flew from City Airport - what a pleasant experience! There were no traffic jams getting to the airport, there were no queues checking in, we did not have to walk for miles to get to our gate and although it was busy since it was a Friday night, we got through security really quickly.

The return journey did not go well! I flew from Edinburgh to Heathrow Terminal 5. My first experience of the new terminal. The plane was over two hours late leaving... not a good start. When we arrived at Heathrow, we had to wait for a plane to vacate our stand. When we got parked at our stand, the bridge wouldn't work. We then had to wait until steps and buses were found. When steps and buses arrived, we then had a bus driver who did not know what driving smoothly and carefully meant. We then tried to enter a door at terminal 5 which was not the right one. Eventually we were there waiting for luggage...and hurrah, it did arrive. The journey had taken seven hours! Both BA and BAA had played their part in making this a truely bad customer experience. This is proof enough that what we should be concentrating on is in making Heathrow better ...not bigger. BA and BAA cannot even manage current capacity, so how on earth are they going to deliver a service to almost twice the number of customers.

Also, why don't we invest more in our trains to make them better, quicker and more reliable and then people would much more readily take trains for domestic travelling. The Eurostar is a perfect example of this. When travelling to Paris or Brussels now, I always take the Eurostar. It is quick. It is reliable. It is an enjoyable experience.

Tonight, however, we did get a fabulous view of London at night...from Canary Wharf, over Westminster, Chelsea, Chiswick and Hounslow. Every time I see these landmarks, it reminds me how much I love this city. Like Dr Johnson, I will never get tired of London. It is home.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

MPC try and stimulate the economy

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today has lowered the Bank Rate by 25bps to 5%.

The tensions in the UK money markets combined with evidence of a sharper deceleration in the housing market has spurred the MPC into action. Still, compared to the US who have had several interest rate cuts, 5% is not being overly accommodative. I think there will be another cut or two before the year is out to encourage and support the economy.

We are heading for a difficult year ahead in the economy and people are right to feel nervous. Anything that the Government can do to relieve us of any additional taxation would be good. Thank goodness the London Borough of Hounslow have tightened up for yet another year to give residents value for money and unlike many other Councils, have not increased the Council Tax.

Snow in April!

Amazing - snow in April!

I woke up at the weekend to find it snowing outside. It looked really beautiful and peaceful... so thought I would go and visit Chiswick House. A few more people had the same idea.

Great English breakfast in the cafe too!

Global warming is certainly affecting our weather patterns.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Monarchy at the Rotary Club

I had a lovely evening tonight with the Heston & Isleworth Rotary Club. They were very all very welcoming to an aspiring politician ... although I did try not to mention politics! Instead, I talked about the monarchy and my experiences in Buckingham Palace when I was The Queen's policy advisor.

I did not realise how much fundraising the Rotary Club do. Fantastic work by them in raising money to help some really worthwhile causes, including The Mulberry Centre in Isleworth, which I am supporting too in my Healthy Hounslow Campaign. Well done to all those at the Heston & Isleworth Rotary Club who probably stand for hours outside Tesco's asking people for some money! If you pass by, please do give them something....

Monday, 7 April 2008

Bringing Trust back to Politics

There was another article in the papers this weekend about the current Brentford & Isleworth MP's parliamentary expenses.

Members of Parliament in the past, as well as having a budget for managing their offices and parliamentary work, have also been able to claim an ‘Additional Cost Allowance’. This is meant to help MPs meet the cost of maintaining a second home.

No-one would question expenses required for staying in London when an MP is on Parliamentary business at Westminster and when their constituency is not within London. But these expenses have to be open and transparent. This is money coming from the public purse and therefore must be accounted for.

In business, we are required to give receipts for any amount we are claiming… and this should apply, even more so, for Members of Parliament, when their expenses are being paid for by the tax payer. I welcome the changes made last week, so that receipts are now needed for anything over £25. But why £25? Surely receipts should be needed for every cost that is being charged. Also, I do not believe that two MPs should be able to charge accommodation costs for the same house, if they are living there as a married couple. Surely this is a shared second home, so the allowance should be shared.

If we want the public to trust politicians again, then we must act in a trustworthy way. An open and transparent system and an immediate stop to any abuse of expenses, will help make this happen.