September 14, 2005
Where were you when the Ashes were won? I have to confess to constituents that I pretended to do some paperwork in the corner of an Eastcote pub as we stuttered and then roared to a famous victory.
Where were you when the Ashes were won? I have to confess to constituents that I pretended to do some paperwork in the corner of an Eastcote pub as we stuttered and then roared to a famous victory. A lot more fun than deciding who to vote for as the next leader of the Conservative Party. Later that evening, I was in Norwich Street with representatives of your Residents association, collecting signatures in opposition to the proposed development of Joel Street Farm as a cemetery. Above the din of one of those scooters designed to irritate residents, a lady made an interesting point to me. How can we encourage a greater sense of community when people feel powerless to stop the destruction of the environment they value?. Green Space is precious in this part of the world: we should not shrug our shoulders at its irreversible loss. Antisocial behaviour; vandalism and graffiti all drag down a neighbourhood and impose costs on the innocent: we should not tolerate it. For me the key lies in community cohesion which is why I believe that local communities need to be given more power over the things that really affect their quality of life. Unfortunately the trend seems to be the other way. More and more the country seems to be run by huge, remote and impersonal agencies for whom we are all reference numbers rather than individuals.
Much the most rewarding part of my role as your Member of Parliament is the opportunity to shake these bureaucracies down on behalf of constituents who are struggling to get a response, often in situations where they are desperate. I cannot claim universal success – far from it – but I have been pleasantly surprised how much difference the intervention of an MP can make. I would be delighted to hear from you if there is an issue that you want to raise with me. The other part of the job that I enjoy is standing up for the quality of life in Ruislip-Northwood. There are many threats to it. Let me give you just two examples. The ‘blue line’ of police that protect us from crime and antisocial behaviour is too thin in Northwood and needs reinforcing. We have two outstanding local hospitals in Harefield and Mt Vernon but in both cases the Trusts that run them want to move core services away from this area. My job is to make the local case as best I can. Again, please contact me if you have a view on these issues or any others that are bothering you.
On a final note, I should say that this job gives you the chance to meet some interesting people. The other night, I had the chance to celebrate England’s Ashes victory in a unique way – by having dinner with Australia’s Foreign Minister. I was among a group of MP’s invited to meet the appropriately named Alex Downer at a dinner at the Australian high Commission in London. The dinner, was intended to be a forum to discuss issues of common interest between our two countries, but how often do you get a chance to patronise Australians about sport? I am glad to say that we took it."
July 31, 2005
Harefield and Mt Vernon hospitals are a source of great pride to our community. Extraordinary work is done on both sites, both in the hospitals and the research and voluntary organisations that coexist.
Harefield and Mt Vernon hospitals are a source of great pride to our community. Extraordinary work is done on both sites, both in the hospitals and the research and voluntary organisations that coexist. That achievement is all the more impressive, given the uncertainty over the future of both hospitals. Last month, I commented on the need for local health authorities to rebuild the bridges of trust with the local community after the fiasco of trying to move Harefield to Paddington. This month it is sad to report that the challenge of trust building has just got bigger. At a Board meeting of the North West London Strategic Health Authority on July 19th, it was recommended that the SHA walk away from a commitment to retain some ‘walk in’ radiotherapy services at Mount Vernon after the proposed move of the Cancer centre to a new hospital in Hatfield in 2012/3. I am personally satisfied that this recommendation reflects a genuine concern about patient safety and the ability to deliver a first class service. However both Community Voice and I have made the SHA well aware that many local people, who feel that they have a stake in Mount Vernon, will feel betrayed. My question to them now is what is being offered to the 1 million patients for whom today Mount Vernon is the most convenient location to receive treatment for this most traumatic of diseases? Are they expected to take the tube to Hammersmith or drive to Hatfield? Given that on their own figures demand for cancer services will grow by over 50% by 2012, why not consider developing full cancer services at both Hatfield and Mount Vernon? If there are to be no cancer services at Month Vernon what will take its place? Will someone finally take strategic responsibility for this underexploited site? We are promised some answers by the end of November. Watch this space. "
July 19, 2005
The clearest message that I heard in the general election was one of frustration and lack of confidence in politicians.
The clearest message that I heard in the general election was one of frustration and lack of confidence in politicians. People feel less able to control what is important to them, and the big decisions seem to be taken by remote, unaccountable bureaucracies.
The EU has begun to symbolise what people feel is wrong with politics: it is too elite; it is too remote; and it is seen as too self-interested and too corrupt. Over the past decade, the British people have recognised the degree to which Europe meddles in their lives, and they want less interference rather than more.
The current European leadership reminds me of the board of a grand multinational company that has lost contact with its customer base over many years. The crisis prompted by the rejection of the EU constitution is the opportunity to save the company, if the board accepts the need for a new strategy.
Instead of appearing to focus endlessly on its own workings and the allocation of power, the EU must prove its value to a new generation. First it must explicitly ditch the principle of ever-closer political union and focus instead on re-establishing the EU’s credentials as a force for prosperity, growth and jobs.
That means focusing minds on extending the single market, breaking down external tariffs and strengthening the economic ties that will do more to bind us together than any artificial political structure. It also requires a fundamentally different approach to regulation.
The second priority is to prove that the EU can deliver an effective lead on some of the issues that we cannot tackle on our own.
Take climate change, for example. The science has moved on, and there is an urgent need to look beyond the first, very small step that was Kyoto. It is clear that the world is not going to get a lead from the superpower. In this vacuum, the EU has a chance to play a constructive and possibly decisive role in building a coalition of the willing around a post-Kyoto framework. It can certainly take practical steps to put words into action. If, for example, we have to live with the common agricultural policy, is not there a case for using it to incentivise the production of biofuels? A robust EU emissions trading scheme could be, and must be, a template for a global scheme.
In short, it is time for the EU to be seen to be taking a lead on the difficult issues that matter to people. It is time to replace a culture of power grab with one of delivering tangible benefits to people. In truth, real progress will require new leadership, and in the short term only Britain can supply it until a new generation of leaders takes the stage in France and Germany.
While the old regime struggles to respond to the impudence of the French and Dutch people, it is time for Britain to find a bold, positive voice on the EU-one that steers the Community towards better defining its role, setting its limits much more clearly and, above all, proving its relevance and value to the people who pay for it. "