Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Oops - Tory 'shadow' caught campaigning on tax-payers' money

It seems that Mark Prisk, the self-styled Shadow Minister for Cornwall, may be getting his comeuppance.

Mr Prisk has been claiming up to £300 a time to visit the county and the taxpayers are funding these campaigning trips. He is being reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for allegedly misusing public money.

Mr Prisk is legitimately a shadow business minister and is therefore entitled to ask Commons authorities to pay for his trips when he is in that role. But he has made 5 trips to Cornwall in just 9 months and fewer to any other part of the country it seems. The accusation is that he is using his business portfolio as cover for coming to Cornwall to campaign for the Tories - something which he is not allowed to claim any expenses for.

Mr Prisk grew up and went to school in Cornwall and still has family here. No doubt they will be glad that he visits them regularly, but should we the taxpayer have to fund such trips?

Mr Prisk is MP for Hertford and Stortford to the North East of London. A rule in Parliament is that he is not allowed to take up cases for people other than those in his own constituency. Julia Goldsworthy and Matthew Taylor have complained that he is doing just that and Mr Prisk was rebuked by the Speaker for breaking the rules. Now that the expense claims have come to light it looks like he will have to answer to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

Hat tip - Western Morning News

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Manifesto Launch

Cornwall Liberal Democrats have launched our manifesto for the new Council elections on June 4th.

The headlines are:

- a promise to introduce 10p first hour parking to all local towns;
- to oversee the building of 1200 new affordable homes for local people every year;
- to freeze councillors' allowances;
- the cut council tax in real terms over the four year term.

The manifesto was launched at an afforable housing scheme in Blisland by myself, Ann Kerridge and Robin Teverson. The scheme represents the best of housing projects with ground source heating, larger than average interiors and affordable pricing tied to local use. The seven rented units are all occupied already and the the six properties for sale have all been reserved. The two bedroom houses will sell for £100,000 and the three bedrooms for £120,000.

The other key pledges we have made are to provide a new PCSO for every neighbourhood area in Cornwall - and possibly more in those areas that need them most, and to increase spending on adult social care by more than the rate of inflation.

The manifesto will be online soon and I'll link to it then.

Clegg comes to Cornwall

Nick Clegg was in Cornwall last week to visit the local NHS Trust's food unit near Barncoose Hospital.

The Trust has decided to seek to source all their food locally if possible and to produce it themselves. Not only does it mean better food and fewer food miles, but they also seem to manage to produce it for the same cost as the multi-nationals do. Cornish produce is fantastically good and it's great to see the NHS making the best of it.

Nick and local MP Julia Goldsworthy had a go at making their own pies. Not bad efforts, but perhaps not up to the standards of the production unit.

To serve the food to patients, it is loaded onto hostess trollies and dished up at the bed-side. I would hate to be on 'nil by mouth' as the trolley went past as the smell even while we were there was great.

Campaigning...

I know the election campaign doesn't start for a couple of weeks, but things have certainly started moving fast.

In Launceston Central we have delivered a survey and a newspaper to every house and the replies are coming back thick and fast. Combined with the discussions I'm having with people on the doorstep it is giving me a valuable insight into local people's thoughts about the area.

I'm proud to say that I've been on every doorstep of the ward already (and will no doubt do so at least once more before the end of the campaign).

Two issues that have been mentioned more often than others are at the two ends of the ward. Once concerns the state of the advertising billboards on Western Road. They haven't been used properly since they advertised the BBC serial Britz about 18 months ago. More recently they were pasted over with blank paper but that was well before Christmas and they are now falling into a state of disrepair again. Local people are complaining and it seems to me that the company that owns the site should either make sure it is used and maintained properly or remove the hoardings altogether.

The second issue are the play areas on the Ridgegrove Estate. There are two areas with a few swings and so on, but they are hardly what you might call up to date. Local parents complain that there is always dog mess around and often broken bottles. Of course the owners and users of the area should behave responsibly but I noticed that there are no dog mess bins and no litter bins for people to use.

I've written to the Council about both issues and will keep you updated when I get a reply.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

"As I've made clear all along..."

Gordon Brown has apologised for 'smear-gate'. At last. But the way he made the apology just showed how incredibly bad he is at understanding how an apology works.

To open up with the phrase 'As I've made clear all along...' is crass in the extreme.

To begin with Brown refused to say anything.

Then he sent the letters of regret to some of the potential victims of the smears. Regret only for the damage that had been done to politics, not an apology and not even regret for the harm done to the potential victims.

So Brown's apology will mean very little given that he couched it with (yet another) untruth.

Farewell to Clement Freud

I really love Just a Minute and Clement Freud is about the best panellist there has been in my time of listening to the programme.

And so when I got to meet him during a Lib Dem Leadership Election when he backed Chris Huhne I came over all fanboy. I went to his flat in Marylebone and turned up early. He was incredibly charming and happily chatted until the appointed hour for the photo I was taking of him and Chris.

Listening to the tributes earlier today, I loved the one told by Stephen Fry on Today. On a Parliamentary trip to China, Freud and Winston Churchill the younger were staying in a hotel. Freud found that his room was far inferior and asked the hotel manager why. He was told that Churchill had the better room because he had a famous grandfather. Freud complained that it was the first time he had been 'out-grandfathered'.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

What if Ian Tomlinson had been protesting?

I flabberghasted at the comments of the Met Police Federation Chair on the Today Programme today. This man seems to have little idea of the law of assault and should be removed from whatever rank he holds as a Police Officer.

Asked about the Guardian footage showing a Police Officer shoving Ian Tomlinson in the back - despite the fact he was not protesting and was walking peacibly away at the time - Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said some physical confrontation was inevitable during a large protest.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "On a day like that, where there are some protestors who are quite clearly hell-bent on causing as much trouble as they can, there is inevitably going to be some physical confrontation."

He added: "Sometimes it isn't clear, as a police officer, who is a protestor and who is not. I know it's a generalisation but anybody in that part of the town at that time, the assumption would be that they are part of the protest. I accept that's perhaps not a clever assumption but it's a natural one."

Clearly Mr Smyth believes that if Mr Tomlinson were a protestor then the actions of this officer would have been acceptable. Is this really the attitude we expect of Police Officers in response to a peaceful protestor? Just because there is violence elsewhere doesn't mean that the Police can start randomly assaulting people.

David Howarth is quite right - there needs to be a full investigation and consideration of criminal prosecution. In the meantime, the Met must suspend both the officer shown in the video and Peter Smyth - he's not fit to walk the streets.

(Trancript courtesy of BBC News Online)

Friday, 3 April 2009

It's Aintree time

Sorry for the hiatus in posts.

My friend Steve, he of the Racing Post, has challenged me to beat him in picking winners at the Aintree festival. Yesterday I had three winers and Steve... well, he didn't (despite the wonders of his special soap)

So today's winners are:

American Trilogy
Here Comes the Truth
Voy Por Ustedes
Consigliere
Karabak
Kayf Aramis
Chilli Rose

Apart from Voy Por, Steve has picked a completely different bunch, so we'll no doubt have no winners between us