Saturday, 28 June 2008

Planning issues and green space

My local village is on the side of a hill. At the top of the hill there are plans submitted for a windfarm, at the bottom of the hill are plans for an new "eco" town, but circling round above the hill are plans for a giant new aircraft stack. Which of these protects our green hills for the next generation? No wonder local people are confused.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Helping Zimbabwe

I've been asked to promote this website, the by a friend who writes

"I don't normally ask those I know to support a cause, but I cannot let
what is going on in Zimbabwe pass without doing something. I am saddened
and angered by the way people who just want the right to vote are being
attacked and intimidated. They shouldn't be ignored. That is why I have
gone to the website and made a donation. If you could
too then that would make a world of difference to people who have the
courage to fight for a better life. Will you give them your support too?"

I have made a donation, Iain Dale has more information about the website verifying its legitimacy. Only 3 years ago my local UK supermarket regularly stocked produce from Zimbabwe. I remember questioning this at the time... but today the country is decimated without enough food to feed themselves let alone export.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Three Cheers to Ireland

Thank you to the voters of Ireland

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What price has Gordon Brown paid?

Yesterday I met one of my heroes. Michael Gallagher was one of the founders of the Omagh victim support group. 10 years ago the Omagh bomb killed 29 people. It remains the largest single act of terror in the UK. Michael and others have made sure that this incident is not forgotten. He has travelled the world raising awareness and making contact with other similar groups. Yesterday Michael was one of a number of international speakers at conference arranged by Geoffrey Van Orden MEP to highlight the issues faced by victims of terrorism. We had lunch.

Whilst I was talking to Michael, Gordon Brown was back in Westminster (reportedly) cutting a deal with the DUP to save his back on the 42 day detention bill. Even though I was born and spent my childhood in Omagh I still find the nuances of Northern Irish politics difficult to gague from "across the water". However, this "deal" worries me. Since the 2005 election Northern Irish politics has been dominated by the parties on the more extreme ends of the Protestant/ Catholic divide. The tensions are still very high. I, along with many others, had hoped that the next election might bring the return of more moderate views. I suspect that any deal Gordon may have made yesterday this will be much more difficult.

Friday, 6 June 2008

How will the Irish vote?

Lots of people have asked me recently how I think the Irish will vote in their referendum on the Lisbon treaty. I have always said that I think a "yes" vote is not a done deal in Ireland. Latest polling data shows the "no" campaign is edging ahead.

Since I was a child I have regularly visited the remote west of Ireland for my summer holiday - I remember when this part of the country was so, so poor, shoeless children pouring out of tumble down cottages, donkeys being used to carry turf and ancient tractors etc etc. It has changed so much and a lot of that has been due to EU investment. However I also remember the anger of local residents at the post-Euro inflation they suffered in everyday prices and last year hearing great concern about the pace of recent change. I will not be surprised if they vote "no".

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Understanding the East of England

It is now 12 months away from the European Elections. I want to know that, if elected, I can try to hit the ground running and be, if possible, a useful Member of the European Parliament. How would you prepare?

Over the next few weeks I am going to join meetings or speak to Conservative and other groups in Letchworth, Swaffham, Newmarket, Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds, Dunstable, London Colney, Ely, Epping Forset and Ipswich. I find these sorts of meetings extremely useful, helping me to understand local concerns - issues like our creaking overcrowded roads and housing growth keep coming up. We clearly need long term investment in infrastructure.

I'm also going out to Brussels for a couple of days to sit in the back of meetings and understand better how the system currently "operates". I will take the train. My business experience is that time spent in due diligence is rarely wasted... I hope the same will be true about this trip.

This Thursday I'm looking forward to meeting over 100 farmers from across the region and hearing their views. I'm keen to meet more of our larger employers and business groups and also keep up with my old financial friends from banking to understand what they are seeing at the cutting edge of pan-European business negotiations.

Any further ideas are welcome ... I want to use the year well.