Newsletter Edition 54
Lest We Forget
Remembrance Day is a special time for all of us and I am always reminded of the European dimension to our memories. My Grandfather was a sniper on the Western Front, at Passchendael and Ypres, and I will never forget his views on that dreadful war and the one that followed, a view that he expressed to me when I first stood for Parliament in 1974. “You must be one of those who makes sure that Europe never goes to war again - do whatever you can to achieve that aim.“ I think that he would be reasonably satisfied with what the EU has managed to do on that front, if no other.
The President of France
President Sarkozy visited the European Parliament on Tuesday last week and, of course, was given a properly splendid reception. We are in France, after all! The Leader, Timothy Kirkhope MEP, and I presented the French President with a letter asking him to reconsider his country’s rejection of the majority view of MEPs that we should withdraw from Strasbourg altogether. As you will recall, Conservative MEPs have been at the forefront of the campaign to stop the costly and environmentally unfriendly trek each month to this otherwise lovely city. The European Parliament should sit in one place and that should be Brussels! Needless to record, the President did not agree with us and the ball is still firmly in Prime Minister Brown’s court.
Le President de la Republique de France
Relating to the foregoing, there has been much publicity about the “new” Eurostar Terminus at St Pancras Station and I have been asked by some of the media if I am intending to use the train rather than the ‘plane in future. I have to point out to my questioners that the journey via Preston Station, the West Coast Main Line, the tube/taxi to St Pancras and the Eurostar would take far longer than my direct flight from Manchester to Brussels and cost considerably more. So that option is on hold for a bit!
World Diabetes Day
I was invited to a delightful lunch in Strasbourg recently to mark World Diabetes Day, at which a number of young people with the disease came to tell us about their problems and what they think should done to give more international focus to their growing illness. My daughter, now 31, has been a diabetic since she was 3 and our family have witnessed the trials and tribulations at first hand. Representing the UK was Phil Day, with his mother Lynne, and I was delighted to discover that he was from St Helen’s. It was good to be present and to enjoy the hopeful and constructive attitude of the youngsters.
Underneath the Diabetic Arch in Parliament
Singing for my Supper (1)
I have had a number of speaking engagements over the last month, one of which was out of the ordinary. I was asked by Cllr. Marie Birkenhead if I could help her create a new Conservative Branch in Manley, a village in the Weaver Vale constituency. Perched on a stool next to the bar in the local hall, I had a wonderful debate about the world and its worries, Europe, farmers and pretty well everything else, with a score or so of potential members. It was great fun and a challenging evening and I think everyone went away believing that some elected representatives are worth their corn!
The Tory answer to Dave Allen!
With PPC, Cllr Graham Evans
An organisation called TATOC came to see me in Brussels last week. The acronym stands for The Association of Timeshare Committees which represents some 25,000 timeshare-owners across various resorts throughout the world. They came to brief me on a number of issues and not least to counter the poor perception that many people have of timeshare. It is a hugely successful and popular industry giving immense satisfaction to a variety of holiday seekers. And they informed me that 97% of their membership was completely content with the results of timesharing. Incidentally, TATOC is also based in St Helen’s!
Singing for my Supper (2)
I went to another aspiring Branch on Hallow’een Night, this time at the beautiful home of Peter and Yvonne Wrinch in Alderley Edge. Most participants were suitably fancy-dressed and the Tatton Association has high hopes that a new Conservative Branch will be formed from the welcoming and friendly people who listened patiently to my few words and then went back to enjoying themselves afterwards!
The political situation in Pakistan is provoking great concern in the European Parliament, as it is elsewhere, not least amongst ex-patriate Pakistanis in Britain. Do we support a “strong” leader in Musharraf, battling against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and watching carefully over his nuclear weapons? Or do we take the strong issue against a dictator, repressing all opposition to his ‘re-election’, destroying the independence of the judiciary and imprisoning his political opponents. Would the alternative to Musharaff be worse or better? It is a serious crisis and the potential implications hardly bear thinking about.
I have just come from a meeting which was addressed by an Emperor. The 95 year-old Otto von Hapsburg, last survivor of the great Hapsburg Empire which fell in 1918, used to be an MEP and, periodically, he returns to see the centre right group of which he was once a distinguished member. He is as sharp and pertinent as ever he was and had some salutary things to say about the image of politicians! A brief moment of living European history.
The Last Emperor
A lot of attention is being given presently to aviation emissions - of an environmentally unfriendly variety. The good intentions are obvious and there is general agreement about the need for EU action even if not about the limits and the timing. One aspect which causes me great concern, however, is the potential restriction which might be placed upon military aircraft. Encouraging the RAF etc. to be careful and not to pollute unnecessarily is one thing but to prevent or impede the free use of aircraft in combat conditions, whether real or in training, is wholly unacceptable. We will fight to get this removed.
The Curry Club
I went to a really good curry supper in Salford over the weekend, to meet and speak to the new Salford Federation of Conservatives.
The food was excellent, as was the company, and I was able to congratulate Cllr. Karen Garrido and her fellow councillors on their amazing achievement in gaining 10 seats on this formerly 100% Labour Council. Hard work, clever politics and good humour – that’s the recipe!
The Curry Club
Last – but by no means least – to Cherry Tree Cricket Club in Blackburn to enjoy a fascinating chat and to share lunch with more than 70 local Tories. Perched, yet again, on a stool by the bar, I discussed European and other issues and was able to offer warm plaudits to Cllr. Colin Rigby and his team of Councillors for taking minority control of Blackburn with Darwen.
What progress they are making – just like the Party nationally - and that is due to a combination of the leadership of David Cameron together with a real local commitment to the needs of Blackburn residents and a will to do the best job possible.
On the Stool Again
Under Conservative Party rules on MEP re-selection, I am not allowed to make any contact with Party members from 1st January 2008 until 25th March 2008. Therefore, I shall be unable to provide Newsletters, Press Releases or any other material during that time.
However, they will be available for you on my website:
I cannot be in touch with you but you can contact me or my office to request any of the above.
I am sorry for the inconvenience but the decision is not mine.