Newsletter Edition 56

It has been some months since I last sent out a newsletter, what with a three month re-selection process and then the local elections, so it is good to be back! I must first thank all those of you who were kind enough to vote for my re-selection and subsequent ranking as first on the list.

Secondly, I must reiterate my commitment to lead a team for next year’s elections which intends and expects to win at least four MEPs out of the eight places on offer. Plans are afoot for the campaign which will now culminate in a joint Polling Day with the County Council Elections in Lancashire and Cumbria on June 4th 2009. Both will be vital in maintaining the momentum that has been built up by David Cameron and the Party, particularly after the tremendous victory at Crewe & Nantwich.

One day’s team at Crewe & Nantwich

One day’s team at Crewe & Nantwich

With the NW’s newest Tory MP

With the NW’s newest Tory MP

Congratulations are due not only to Edward Timpson MP - the tenth Tory MP in the North West region - but also to the many newly-elected and re-elected Councillors who were successful on May 1st. It is somewhat invidious to pick out heroes but, clearly, the victory in Bury, thereby winning a second Metro Authority, stands out nationally. But we strengthened our hold in Carlisle, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Preston, Blackburn, Chorley, Trafford and West Lancashire and did exceptionally well in taking both the two new Regional Councils in Cheshire with huge majorities. Sadly, we lost Margaret Parker, Leader of Chester City, and Bill Joughin, Leader of Barrow, and I would like to put on record my appreciation and thanks for their sterling efforts on both councils. However, let me draw your attention to four achievements on four authorities where our representation has traditionally been weak - Oldham (4 gains), Tameside (2 gains and 2 very narrow misses), Wigan (4 gains) and Salford (3 gains). On the last, Karen Garrido now leads a team of 13 Tory Councillors and is the Leader of the Official Opposition! Yet five years ago, we were barely in evidence. These are great results on difficult territory and they all deserve our heartiest plaudits and thanks.

“PURDAH”

I must say that the “purdah“ period of some three months during the re-selection process was inordinately long and very restrictive. As one who spends a good deal of time in and around the constituencies, I was at a loss as to how to do my job properly. And I have the impression that many Tory activists felt the same. I do understand the need for fairness amongst candidates but I am quite clear that this system needs reviewing and improving before the next occasion.

AIRPORT ISSUES

The Management of Manchester Airport paid us a visit in Brussels a week or two back and the CEO, Geoff Muirhead, brought us up to date on security, baggage and airline issues. Despite some press reports to the contrary, Manchester is making a much better fist of passenger checks and congestion than most and I am very glad that I do not have to use the London airports! He also told us of MAG’s interest in purchasing one of those London terminals - namely Gatwick - if it comes onto the market in the near future. In addition to East Midlands and Bournemouth, it would make MAG into a major player on the airport stage.

“Congestion Control” at Manchester Airport

“Congestion Control” at Manchester Airport

TIBET

At the height of the Tibet crisis recently, one of the members of the Tibetan “Government-in-Exile” visited the Foreign Affairs Committee and spoke movingly to members about the behaviour of China towards his country. It is easy to take sides in such a situation but I do not think all the blame should be heaped on China. The historic claim to Tibet goes back many centuries and will not be solved overnight.

Tibet’s Representative comes to Parliament

Tibet’s Representative comes to Parliament

KOSOVO

So too with Serbia and Kosovo. The Serbian Foreign Minister came to Strasbourg last month to put his case against Kosovo and the EU’s support for it. An articulate, US-educated young man, he spoke knowledgeably and forcefully about the secession and independence of part of his country. He compared the situation to Scotland and Northern Ireland in relation to the UK, as well as to the Basque country in Spain, Northern Cyprus and other similar cases. He may have a point but the realities of the Kosovan breakaway are there for all to see. And, of course, recent history and the tragedies that are part of it are still fresh in local memories.

The Serbian Foreign Minister, Jeremic

The Serbian Foreign Minister, Jeremic

MINCE

Tory MEPs are having a battle over mincemeat - of the beef variety. The Commission is proposing to ban the production of mince six days after slaughter to bring the standards of the British product “up” to that on the Continent. The difference is that our mince is hung for up to 28 days to improve the flavour and then usually cooked, whereas our Continental neighbours eat it as steak tartare, i.e. raw, and require it to be used more quickly. “Leave British mince alone”!

UP IN SMOKE

The contrast with that is the £200 million subsidy that, yet again, is to be given to Southern European tobacco farmers. It cannot make any sense for the EU to direct large sums of money towards improving the collective health of its citizens at the same time as supporting those who grow such an unhealthy product!

CITY GUIDES

The Petitions Committee has received a number of requests from aggrieved citizens about a “scam” to take money off small businesses via a “European City Guide“. This organisation purports to provide free entries for firms in a directory circulated around Europe but then bills the business for an extortionate fee, backed up by various threats. I am demanding urgent action by the Commission and Member State Governments and my concern is shared by many Parliamentary colleagues across the political and geographical spectrum.

ROTARY

One of the few events that I was able to attend during “purdah“ was a Rotary lunch at Lytham.

With Lytham Rotarians

With Lytham Rotarians

I am always hugely impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of Rotarians and this event was no exception. The reports of past activities, present and future fund-raising and involvement in the local community demonstrated what interested citizens can do when they put their minds to it. A constant lesson to us all.

News of the World

Some of you may have seen some publicity from a “News of the World“ story three weeks ago suggesting that my current employment of Dulcie as my Secretary and the former employment of my son, James, as my Brussels-based Parliamentary Assistant is phoney and misusing taxpayers’ money. Most of you will know that this is complete nonsense and that both have worked, and in Dulcie’s case still does work, very hard for the Party and Constituents in the North West. I am advised that the “News of the World“ article is tendentious and defamatory - as well as untrue in many particulars - and I am therefore taking legal action against the newspaper.

Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins Signature
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