Monday, 29 September 2008

Day 2 at Party Conference

I spoke out at the Conservative Party Conference today in Birmingham against the Government’s plans for Heathrow expansion.

I was delighted with the announcement made by Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, who told the conference that the Conservative Party were against all plans for a third runway and instead proposed the development of a high speed rail link.

This will make a tremendous difference to those who live locally. We have listened to local residents and their concerns about noise, pollution and congestion. The quality of life of local people is more important.

This also creates clear blue water between Labour and the Conservatives. We will stop any plans for a third runway, whereas the Labour government are determined to expand Heathrow whatever the cost. Labour has ignored the impact of a third runway on people who live in local communities and has fudged an economic argument that does not stack up.

We need a change of government now!

Day 1 at Party Conference

I arrived at the 2008 Conservative Party Conference today in Birmingham.

George Osborne (Shadow Chancellor) held a session on ways to ease the pain of the economic downturn, Liam Fox (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence) spoke about the need to honour our Armed Forces, and David Cameron promised to use the week to show how we will take Britain forward.

This evening I went to a dinner hosted by Cancer Research UK. 285,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer this year. At least 2m people have been cured or are living with cancer but 1 in 4 people will die from the disease. Cancer continues to touch many people's lives.

We therefore need to:
a) provide access to world-class cancer services and treatment - 11 out of 12 European countries fund new cancer drugs and it would only cost £400m per year to get the UK up to the European average.
b) detect cancer earlier
c) prevent more cancers
d) tackle the unfairness of cancer inequalities
e) protect the UK's position at the forefront of international research

The priorities are to find ways to :
1. reduce smoking (1/4 of the population still smoke and 450 children start smoking every day)
2. diagnose cancer earlier so that people have a better chance of survival

We also need to address the issue of the postcode lottery.

Cancer will affect us or someone we care about one day... so it is incredibly important to continue making improvements in screening and available treatments.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Gordon gloom could spell end for Keen

...this is the headline in The Hounslow Chronicle this week...

Channel 4 News' survey of voters in 60 marginal Labour constituencies found there was a swing of 12% in favour of the Conservatives. The YouGov poll, which did not include seats where Labour's main opposition is the Liberal Democrats, found only 1% of those questioned said they rated the Prime Minister's performance as excellent. A further 59% believe Mr Brown's performance to be poor, bad or dreadful.

Here, we need a 4% swing - so about 3600 additional votes, taking into account some small boundary changes. However, a week is a long time in politics! Anything can happen between now and the General Election and although I find the opinion polls encouraging, I do not take winning for granted. My priority right now is to meet as many local residents as possible, listen to concerns and issues and communicate clearly what the Conservative Party will do for people who live here. It is important that everyone knows what I believe in, what I stand for and what I will do for them.

As I go round the doorsteps meeting people in Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow, they are saying the same things to me - "it is time for a change...and a change for the better".

1. They feel we need strong leadership in these difficult times and Gordon Brown is not providing it. He is indecisive, as was seen this time last year, when he decided not to call a General Election. The country cannot afford another eighteen months of a divided Labour Party, a weak Prime Minister, and a Government driven by self-interest rather than the national interest. We need an election to get the strong leadership and change the country needs.

2. They are fed up with a cabinet and Labour Party that seems to be divided and that has no vision. What we need right now is a clear sense of direction and a Government able to lead us through these difficult economic times.

3. They feel Labour has failed them in not improving education, not improving healthcare and in not taking control of crime. Since the start of the year, 26 teenageers have been murdered in London alone. They have lost the personal details of almost half the population. As taxpayers, we constantly seem to be paying for more and achieving nothing.

4. The more people look at the arguments we are making, the policies we are developing and the vision of the future we are offering, the more they understand the scale of change we will bring. We are setting the political agenda across the board: from our long-term plan to fix the country's finances to our proposals to tackle the causes of poverty and extend opportunity to all school-children. We will
- give people more opportunity and power over their lives
- make families stronger and society more responsible
- make Britain safer and greener

But there is absolutely no room for complacency. I will fight for every vote until polling day, to deliver the change Brentford & Isleworth really needs.

Monday, 15 September 2008

My responses to the Guardian

1. Perception: Do you consider yourself to be a progressive?
Yes, I am progressive. 'Progressive' is about supporting new ideas and social change. I will always listen to new ideas as we often have to look for new solutions to issues as society changes over time. We do, though, have to learn from the past and use history and experience to help make decisions for the future.
Two of the most progressive ideals are social justice and equal opportunities. I believe in social justice. It is wrong to turn a blind eye to a society which is broken by the injustices of family breakdown, drug and alcohol addiction, failed education and serious personal debt.
These are the new 'five giants' of our age. I am a progressive because I will work to harness the power of the state, voluntary organisations and social enterprises to work with the people to fight this multiple deprivation which is plaguing our country. Labour believes society's problems can only be solved by the state. That has failed. Society's problems can only be solved by people in local communities.
I have also campaigned for many years for the Conservative party to get more women in parliament but strongly believe it should be done so based on merit. I believe in creating opportunities for all - no matter who they are or where they come from. I believe in rehabilitation of offenders and working with them to change their behaviour and supporting them on their release so that they do not reoffend. I want to see additional help for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds to get the best education possible, so that they can aspire and achieve their dreams.

2. Tax: Should David Cameron offer more tax cuts than he has outlined already?
The Conservative party has always been a party of low tax and always will be. I want people to keep more of the money their hard work has earned them. However, with an extremely tough economy ahead of us for the next year, I do not think David Cameron can promise any unfunded tax cuts right now. No-one knows, not even the MPC, how bad the economy will get in the months ahead and therefore it would not be right for David to promise something he cannot deliver. We need to set an example of living within our means. Stability has to be the key right now. The aim will be to cut taxes when the time is right.

3. Tax: If yes to the above, do you think they should be funded by (a) cuts in public spending, or (b) increases in other taxes
I will always believe in low taxation! We will find money when the time is right to do so, by tackling the current waste of public spending that takes place in government.

4. Tax: Should so-called "green" taxes increase?
As a party we will try and rebalance taxation - shift the burden of taxation away from 'good' things like families and on to 'bad' things like pollution and carbon emissions, so that overall taxes do not increase. Also, I want to live in a community with a good quality of life. In my constituency that means fighting to stop the expansion of Heathrow, and the pollution, noise and congestion that goes along with it.

5. Tax: As a share of GDP tax is currently around 37%. After four years of a Conservative government would you expect it to be:(a) substantially lower – at least 2 percentage points(b) slightly lower(c) much the same as it is now(d) higher
It is difficult to say right now as the economic outlook is uncertain. It is uncertain because of the global impact and the credit crunch but also due to the mess that Gordon Brown has made of the public finances. Looking forward, we cannot write the 2014 budget now. What I am concerned about is how to ease the tax burden on hard-working families who are feeling the pinch now. We have already announced some policies which help hard-pressed families, eg cutting stamp duty for first-time buyers on purchases up to £250k, raising the inheritance tax threshold to £1m and ending the couple penalty in the tax credits system. This is a real difference to what Labour have done. Some of their tax rises have been extremely regressive, eg abolition of the 10p tax band and the increases to road tax.

6. Europe: On balance has Britain lost out or gained from its membership of the EU? If it has lost out, should it withdraw?
The EU has succeeded in bringing the countries of Europe together to ensure peace and prosperity in a once-troubled continent. The single market and the enlargement of the EU were promoted by Margaret Thatcher. We now have free movement of services, people, workers and goods. But the EU should not have pretensions to intervene in every part of our lives. It should concentrate on doing less, but doing it better. I would want to repatriate some powers back to the UK so that we are more in control of what we do. I would like the EU to do more on free trade with the third world so that we can support countries like Mozambique to be economically self-sufficient. The EU should concentrate on making a difference where they can: global warming, global competitiveness and global poverty.

7. Family: Which of the following statements most reflects your view:(a) The tax system should be reformed to recognise and promote marriage(b) The tax system should help parents regardless of their marital status We will aim to help all parents - but we need to address any current issues, eg it is not right that in our benefits system couples receive more money if they live apart. In this way, we will be recognising and promoting marriage.

8. Abortion: The House of Commons recently voted to maintain the upper limit of 24 weeks on abortion. Do you believe it should be reduced? If yes, by how many weeks?
Yes, it should be reduced to 18 weeks. A baby can be born and survive from about 20 weeks.

Interview by Alexandra Topping

Friday, 12 September 2008

A Good Woman makes all the Difference

I think John McCain would definitely agree with this!

The polls have changed in his favour since Sarah Palin became his running mate. They are a real threat now to Barack Obama becoming President.

Not long to go now...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The crowds gathered in Boston Manor Park

It was a lovely day at the Brentford Festival this weekend in Boston Manor Park. The weather forecast did not look great...but thankfully it turned out fine (although in the photo my hair looks rather windswept!).

The organisation of the event was impressive and everything seemed to go like clockwork. There was something for everyone including our colourful Conservative stand. There was face painting for children, a dog show, live music, good food, funfair, arts, crafts and a range of stalls. Thanks to Jim for an excellent cup of tea and homemade cakes (I had more than one)!

I really enjoyed the Festival. These events are excellent to be able to meet and talk to local people - not just from the constituency, but also from the surrounding area. It is a day, where the community can come together, have fun, meet others and enjoy a day together.

The day for me finished with the Linden Gardens street party in Chiswick. Another fabulous evening, where everyone in the street had pulled together and organised food, drink, a slide show of years gone by and ending with a superb fireworks display. Well done to Ollie and the other residents in Linden Gardens. I hope it is the first of many!

Photo: Mary with Nowell Anderson, Cllr Barbara Reid, Cllr Lin Davies and John Davies at the Brentford Festival

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Worst economic crisis in 60 years

In the UK, house prices are now falling at double digit rates, and over the weekend the Chancellor fired a stark warning shot about the severity of the downturn. Alistair Darling told the Guardian, that the UK faces its worst economic crisis in 60 years and said the downturn would be more "profound and long-lasting" than most had feared.

According to Nationwide, UK house prices fell for the tenth consecutive month in August, down almost 2% since July. The annual rate of decline accelerated to 10.5%. This is the fastest (and only double digit) decline since Nationwide started collecting monthly data in 1991. With mortgage approvals continuing to slide in July (to 33k), it looks like further price falls are on their way.

House prices are falling at their fastest rate in 18 years, leading to fears of a wave of repossessions. Mortgage lending has slowed dramatically due to the credit crunch while key indicators have suggested that the economy could be poised to go into recession. A member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has said that radical action was needed to ensure the crisis did not get worse and warned of a sharp rise in unemployment. There is no growth at all right now, which technically means we are close to a recession. Inflation is rising, unemployment is rising, the cost of living is going up and people are nervous about jobs. Britain is ill prepared due to money not being put aside for a rainy day. Gordon Brown has borrowed far too much. It will be many months ...and probably another year... until there is good news on this front.

So what should we do now?

1. We need strong, clear leadership from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. They need to speak with one voice instead of the Chancellor saying it is the worst economic crisis in 60 years and Gordon Brown saying it is not as bad as we think. We don't need a disfunctional government right now. It does not bode well for economic recovery. They need to tell us how they are going to get us out of this mess.

2. We need a vision for the future on how we resolve this economic downturn. George Osborne is proposing to:
a) Help people with current economic problems e.g put fuel duty down when the oil price goes up
b) Take first time buyers who need a mortgage out of stamp duty so that they can get on the housing ladder
c) Help low income families to get direct debit rates for gas and electricity bills
d) Reorganise public finances so that we never again borrow recklessly in a boom and are more prepared for a slow down in the economy.

In summary, what we need is a new government that does have a vision and speaks with one voice. We need a change for the better ... a Conservative government.