Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Sunday Read: Northumberland's untapped potential

Rural Northumberland has extraordinary untapped potential. 

We live in a part of the world that brings together natural beauty and culture: the historic Hadrian’s Wall and Northumberland National Park are just some of the key assets we have on our doorstep.

In fact according to the latest Government figures, predominantly rural areas in England are experiencing net internal inward migration of more than 60,000 a year. Places likes Ponteland, Morpeth and Hexham are special and wonderful places to live.

I want to see Northumberland and the North East continue to be at the heart of our economic plan. We are already delivering when it comes to manufacturing, tech start ups, small business, and exporters; all areas where our region is leading the way and all vital parts of our rural economy

We can only unlock growth in Northumberland if we unlock the potential in our rural economy - as well as our great cities. The connection between the two is key to the economic success of our region. That intrinsic connection between town and country is exemplified in my constituency. The links between Hexham and Newcastle for example can be traced back centuries - and continue to the modern day.

From Hadrian's Wall to the A69 - the River Tyne to the Carlisle to Newcastle railway line - our communities, and economies are inextricably linked. It is the great industries and thriving business of Newcastle which provide much of the work for my constituents living in places like Ponteland.

Yet, our rural economy has so much potential and it must be harnessed. On Thursday 30th July I hosted the Rural Economy conference. Bringing together over 70 of the regions key drivers, the conference was a showcase of the talent and ambition in our region. 

The rural economy Minister and neighbouring MP, Rory Stewart, gave a speech in which he stressed his desire to put Northumberland back at the heart of the country. The unique opportunities we have in our region when it comes to forestry, bio diversity and green energy development were underlined.

There are now more than half a million businesses registered in England’s rural areas, representing over 23 per cent of the total. So the economic importance of the rural economy – worth £210 billion a year – cannot be overstated.

I am keen to employ any strategy that will bring more prosperity to our region. One key initiative is the creation of Enterprise Zones. These zones are designated areas where tax incentives are offered to businesses in order to create growth. A new enterprise zone has been announced for Berwick-upon-Tweed to build on the planned dualling of the A1 and I am keen to bring similar such zones to our region. They have the potential to incentivise business growth and boost our local economy.

The Government is also committed to looking at planning and regulatory constraints facing rural businesses. In a recent survey of rural businesses the main barrier to growth that most identified was planning restrictions. So for a start, we’ll review rules around agricultural buildings such as barns to allow rural businesses to expand more easily.

Our rural enterprises are vital for a strong economy - vital for industries such as tourism, delivering £30 billion to our economy and bringing employment and jobs. The key is to ensure Government and Councils, Agencies and Organisations, work together to help deliver the infrastructure around which those business can grow. Our rural economy has so much potential with so many entrepreneurs and ideas that we must harness. A growing economy with growing woodlands and forests; mirco businesses developing new ideas and new services; farms diversifying and manufacturing business expanding, creating new jobs and opportunities. That is the potential we must unlock.

This Government is determined to support the millions that already choose a more rural lifestyle.

That’s why we are backing our rural economy. For communities like ours, we are working to deliver better internet and mobile phone coverage, improved transport and increased skills, increased business growth and more accountable local government.

You can read more on the Government's plans for boosting rural Britian by clicking HERE


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Trade Union Bill to be debated in the Commons this autumn

The Trade Unions Bill will be debated this autumn to make strike laws fairer for working people.

Trade unions have a constructive role to play in representing their members’ interests but we must balance their rights with those of working people and businesses – who have a right to expect that the services they rely on are not going to be disrupted at short notice by strikes with the support of only a small proportion of union members.

That’s why this Bill will introduce a 50 per cent threshold for ballot turn-out, and an additional threshold of 40 per cent for support to take part in industrial action in important public sectors such as fire, health, education and transport. These changes will ensure strikes are the result of a clear and positive democratic mandate from union members.

This is a One Nation approach – balancing the right to strike with the right of millions of people to go about their daily lives without last minute disruption – and will deliver a key commitment we made in our Manifesto.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Iconic Tower of London Poppies come to Northumberland

The iconic poppies sculpture "Weeping Window" will be visiting Woodhorn Musuem in Northumberland as part of a UK-wide tour.

Woodhorn will host the incredible sculpture from Saturday, September 12, until Sunday, November 1.

Woodhorn Museum will be the first venue outside London to present Weeping Window by artist Paul Cummins.

The installation was famously at the Tower of London llast year. 

888,246 poppies were displayed, one to honour each death in the British and Colonial forces of the First World War.

Woodhorn is now looking for volunteers to help greet and direct visitors during the installation. Anyone who wants to find out more can visit the website, emailing for an application pack or calling (01670) 624455.

Applications must be received by Tuesday, September 1.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Sir Bradley Wiggins to race through Tynedale

Sir Bradley Wiggins will be amongst those taking part in next month’s Aviva Tour of Britain.

Stage five of the race with see participants cycling from Northumberland, along the River Tyne to Hadrian's Wall, across the Pennines and into Cumbria. 

The route on Sept 10th sets off from Prudhoe, through to Hexham, Walwick, Gisland and eventually into Cumbria.

The previous day the race will pass through Wooler, Alnwick, Warkworth and Blyth.

Sir Bradley is the reigning Olympic, World and British time-trial champion and this will be the eighth time time he has taken part in the race, winning it in 2013.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

GCSE results looking up across Northumberland

Students across Northumberland recently received their GCSE results, and the latest figures show that results have improved.

Across Northumberland's 16 High Schools and Academies, there was on average a 4% increase compared to last year in the number of students achieving 5 or more A* to C grades, including English and Maths.

On average schools in Northumberland achieved 57% of 5 A* to C grades, including English and Maths, which is a real improvement on last year’s 53%.

North East schools actually made the biggest improvement in the entire country this year. Pupils across the North East achieved their best ever GCSE results with the biggest national leap in the A* - C pass rate, up by 1.5%.

There has also been good news with the recent A-Level results.

At QEHS, 65% of all A-level entries at Queen Elizabeth High School were graded A* to B, that's up 10% on last year.

At Ponteland High, 30% of students achieved A* to A grades, and 53% managed grades of A* to B.

At Prudhoe High 46% of students achieved A* to B grades and the school recorded it's best ever average point score per student at A-level, while at Haydon Bridge High School, 76% achieved grade A* to C.

Congratulations to all the pupils and teachers for their hard work.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

County Council revives Chief Exec role after scrapping it to save money

The Evening Chronicle reports:

"A council has re-introduced its chief executive role less than two years after paying almost £180,000 for the postholder to leave in a cost-saving drive.

Northumberland County Council has made lead executive director Steve Mason its chief executive - and boosted his pay by £17,000, taking it to more than £183,000 a year.

The move comes less than two years after the council scrapped its chief executive role as part of a cost-cutting review of its senior management structure, which saw it pay the then postholder more than £179,000 to leave.

The authority has faced criticism from opposition groups who question how the reinstatement of the role can be justified."

Full story HERE

Monday, 24 August 2015

Forestry Journal reports on our Rural Economy Conference

The Forestry Journal, the main magazine in the forestry, sector has a report about our recent Rural Economy Conference in Hexham with Rory Stweart MP.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Sunday Read: To Whom does my Life belong?

Last weekend the Sunday Times published my article on assisted dying. Here is the completed unedited version:

I am in favour of changing the law on assisted dying, and will be supporting the Private Members Bill that is being brought before Parliament on Friday September 11th. This is a free vote matter, but a very contentious issue of conscience which will divide the Houses of Parliament. However, I am strongly in favour of change that provides safe evolution of the law, with stringent safeguards.

Many of my constituents were friends of Geraldine McClelland, the former BBC TV producer, and founding member of Newcastle’s Live theatre. Geraldine took her life at Dignitas in Switzerland in December 2011, following an unsuccessful battle with cancer. Before her death she made the case for change by saying: “I am not sad that I will die today. I am angry that I can't die in the country I was born in, in my own home.”

Her good friend Nick Ross, the “Crimewatch” presenter, said:

“Gerry had to abandon her home and be driven across Europe…to end her life in a light commercial estate in an impersonal Swiss suburb.”

The tragedy is that we now have one law for the rich, and one for the poor. It cannot be right that those who need our support most, at the end of their lives, live in fear and uncertainty of how or where their last moments will be, and whether their loved ones will face prosecution after they are gone. It seems to me manifestly wrong that individual members of the public do not have the choice, and are prevented by law from doing something in this country that they are able to go and do legally at Dignitas in Switzerland. How can it be fair that wealth determines dignity in death? Where those rich enough are afforded a death in a manner they choose and yet those who are too poor to escape are locked in the system and have no rights over the ending of their own life?

My own personal views changed in 2011. I had been an MP for less than a year when on the 26th April 2011 I collapsed in the Central Lobby of the House of Commons. I was rushed to St Thomas’s NHS hospital, where after a midnight scan, a young A and E doctor advised me that I had a tumour the size of a child's fist pressing down on to the left side of my brain. I was told that I would need a craniotomy to remove the tumour. The implications of such surgery are vast: there is a genuine risk of death whilst under the knife, or alternatively loss of speech or sight and partial paralysis. The implications, however, of not operating on the tumour would ultimately have been terminal. It was 2 weeks before I had my operation. I survived with a substantial scar and with no physical deficit. My tumour was not malignant, and I feel a great deal healthier, better and stronger now the tumour has been removed.

I was one of the lucky ones. During my time in hospital, before and after the operation, many of those around me who were also suffering from different types of brain tumours were not so lucky. This time provided the opportunity to contemplate my situation, and the law that existed. Subsequently, back in parliament and in my Hexham constituency I have met with medics, lawyers, hospices, carers, religious representatives from a multitude of faiths, and groups on both sides of the argument. But my view is now clear: the law on assisted dying needs to change.

The heart of this debate surely centres on one question: to whom does a person’s life belong? I suggest that a person’s life belongs to the individual themselves. It should be for those who are not as lucky as I was, to make their choices about how they live, and if required, how they end their own lives. This is a transfer of power from the state to the individual, who is then free to choose, subject to very strict safeguards.

Patients have the right to life: but they also have the right to personal autonomy and dignity. When a patient’s condition has no cure and death is a certainty there must surely become a point where the individual has a right to end their own suffering? In these cases, this Bill provides a clear way forward. It only applies to a person who has a reasonable expectation of death, by reason of a terminal illness, within six months; this prognosis must be made by two registered medical practitioners. The Bill also provides safeguards by requiring patients themselves to self-administer the medication, and only after a High Court Judge has agreed that the prerequisites of the law have been properly complied with.

One of the central arguments against assisted dying is that it would lead to a slippery slope: this Bill does not threaten the lives of vulnerable people. It will not lead to more deaths, but to less suffering. Safeguards are essential and not a single Member of Parliament disagrees with that. To those that argue safeguards do not work, or that it is not possible, should look to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. In place for 17 years, it enables someone who is terminally ill to request the option of an assisted death. There has been no evidence of abuse since its inception. Further to that, around 40% of dying people who meet the strict safeguards to obtain life-ending medication never use it, simply taking comfort from having the option.

This Bill creates a more defined legal pathway which gives choice and certainty back to those who want to die on their terms, at the time and manner of their choosing. The Bill does not lead us to euthanasia - no MP wants that. 

This Bill, above all, provides comfort at a time of great personal sadness and loss. Professor Stephen Hawking, a supporter of assisted dying, has stated that ‘to keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity’. This Bill is a free vote and an opportunity to change that. I will be trying to change the law on September 11th.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ovingham Bridge Update

Northumberland County Council has once again promised that the refurbishment of Ovingham Bridge
is on track.

The refurbishment is mainly funded by £3million from the Government as part of a £64million infrastructure programme, but the project has been managed by Northumberland County Council.

Like many local residents I have been frustrated by delays to the project. Worringly the Council recently issues an order which allows for the closure of the bridge until the end of February 2016.

However, the Council promises that this is just a fall back measure against ‘unforeseen events.’

According to the Courant a County Council spokesman said: “The local community can be reassured work is still expected to conclude in November.”

I am writing to the County Council's Chief Executive this week to urge them to prioritise the works and ensure the November deadline is one they actually meet. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Two Tynedale pubs make Daily Mail's Best 20 Pubs list

The Daily Mail is running a Glories of Secret Britain feature, chronicling the wonderful sights across
the country that too few people know about or visit. I am very pleased to say that two of Tynedale's finest pubs, The Rat Inn and the Lord Crewe Arms have both made the top 20. Here is what the Mail had to say about them:

The Rat Inn:
"Tucked into the hillside, overlooking the Tyne Valley, this hard-to-find old drovers’ inn has an irresistible appeal.

The bar is cosy, with gleaming dark oak, flagged floor and roaring fire. Sup a pint of something local while you decide what to eat. Those who have yomped heartily to get here may be hungry: roast Northumberland rib of beef with watercress and golden chips for two is delicious."

Lord Crewe Arms:
"Originally the Abbot’s lodge and kitchens, the Lord Crewe Arms has become a Grade II-listed inn. The village, in a sheep-clad valley on the moor’s edge, was built with stone from the abbey’s ruins.

Inside are ancient flags, inglenook fireplaces, fortress walls and a classy country decor. Public areas range from lofty to intimate, and the atmospheric bar is in the vaulted crypt."

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Special awards for the Roman Army Museum at Greenhead and Vindolanda

The Roman Army Museum at Greenhead and Vindolanda were amongst four North East attractions to have been awarded national tourism accolades in recognition of the quality of their visitor experiences.

In a national list of 17 Visit England Awards, Vindolanda Roman fort and the Roman Army Museum at Greenhead both made the list along with Beamish Museum, and Raby Castle in County Durham.

James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland said: “We know that England has a fantastic range of standout product which generates high levels of satisfaction for visitors.

“These attractions have succeeded in receiving an accolade either for their warm welcome, unique storytelling or high-quality food and drink; ensuring an all-round quality experience for visitors.”

If your looking for something to do over the summer you find out more here:

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Labour's leadership candidates would cost working families £1,000

A Conservative Party analysis has revealled that Labour’s leadership candidates would cost working families at least £1,000 in higher debt and taxes.

The election delivered a clear verdict – the party that left a note saying there was no money left still couldn’t be trusted with the nation’s economy. But Labour haven’t learnt. All four leadership candidates have offered more of the same: more welfare, more borrowing and more taxes – exactly what got us into a mess in the first place.

It would be hardworking families who end up paying the price for these unfunded promises. The commitments made during this contest alone would cost every working family at least £1,000 in higher debt and taxes. This rise in debt and taxes would mean less money in working people’s pay packets, fewer jobs and a weaker economy.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mobile coveage checker

Ofcom have launched a very useful tool which allows you to see what (if any!), 3G and 4G signal you can get from the main providers across our match. 

The Government has signed a new deal with providers which will require them to provide coverage for 90% of the UK by 2017. However the Mobile Coverage Checker shows there is a real difference in coverage across our patch so it is worth seeing if you could get a better service.

Take a look:

Monday, 17 August 2015

David Cameron writes: 100 days as Prime Minister

David Cameron has written a very intresting piece for the Telegraph marking his first 100 days as Prime Minister. Read below or by clicking

One hundred days ago I stood on the steps of Downing Street and told the British people that the first Conservative majority Government for 18 years would govern on behalf of everyone. One nation, one United Kingdom. It is that brand of modern, compassionate conservatism that has guided us since May 8 - and it will continue to guide this Government for the rest of this Parliament.

Our central task is to finish turning around our economy. Through our Long Term Economic Plan we are getting the fundamentals right, generating growth, creating jobs, clearing the deficit and offering the British people the security they need to get on in their lives. I am determined that we will build on this foundation. Just as Conservative ideas have won the debate on how to manage the economy, so I believe Conservative ideas can now shape the future in meeting the challenges facing our whole society too.

On the challenge of delivering an economy that supports working people, it is Conservatives who believe that a free enterprise economy is an ally not an enemy in generating wealth and extending opportunity. By cutting taxes,reforming welfare and increasing minimum wages we are showing we are the real party of working people.

On tackling poverty, it is Conservative ideas that can make the biggest difference - attacking the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms, by tackling generational unemployment, strengthening families and ensuring that work always pays.

On delivering security in a dangerous world, we will confront the extremist threat in all its forms and build a stronger, prouder sense of British identity.

As Conservatives we will also meet our commitments on defence spending and international aid. This is not some naïve neo-conservative internationalism but a hard-headed realism that recognises our prosperity and security are inextricably linked to how we meet the threats of terrorism, poverty and climate change.

Our success also depends on being an outward-facing trading nation and so I will continue leading trade delegations oversees to win new business for Britain.

Taken together all these beliefs add up to a genuine One Nation vision for our country through which I believe Conservative ideas can lead the way for a decade.

Yet during the election there were some who suggested we would only be firmly on the side of working people or demonstrate true compassion with the Liberal Democrats holding our hands. These first hundred days have shown this is simply not true. Indeed without the restrictions of coalition we have shown that by being bolder and more radical we can be more progressive and compassionate.
We are delivering strong, centre-ground, pragmatic and progressive government exemplified by our new National Living Wage and our commitment to a real terms increase of at least £8 billion a year by 2020 to support the NHS’s own Five Year Plan. We are moving from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society. By 2020, the new National Living Wage will represent a pay rise of around £100 a week for the lowest paid. While our continued commitment to cutting taxes means we have already raised again the amount you can earn before paying any income tax at all. And the legislation we are bringing forward will mean no increases in income tax, VAT or national insurance in the lifetime of this parliament.

We are supporting working parents with the challenges of childcare, so they can take on that extra shift or go back to work after a break. So the Queen’s Speech honoured our promise to double free childcare to 30 hours a week for three and four year olds.

We are also seeing through vital reforms in our public services, including the creation of a truly 7-day NHS. At a time when Labour is giving up on public service reform and appealing to its left-wing base, I believe it is a moment for a Conservative government to be bolder still.

There is no better example than academy schools. We want everyone to have a chance to succeed and education is the best way of ensuring that. This means schools with strong standards and discipline. It also means giving great headteachers the freedom to run their own schools with the ability to set their own curriculum and pay their staff properly. Academy schools were created to do exactly that. This is something Labour used to understand and we have proudly expanded them, including the creation of entirely new academies as free schools.

I profoundly believe this is the right direction for our country because I want teachers not bureaucrats deciding how best to educate our children. We have already seen how academy freedoms have been fundamental in turning around failing schools – like Manchester Enterprise Academy, where results have almost doubled during its time as an academy.

That is why in the first 100 days we have brought forward legislation to transform all failing schools into academies and for the first time taken the power to convert coasting schools into academies too. But we have also seen how these freedoms can help all schools, with more than 3,000 good and outstanding schools already making the decision to become academies themselves.

So when Labour leadership contenders say they want to phase out academies, I say the opposite. I want every school in the country to have the opportunity to become an academy and to benefit from the freedoms this brings. So we will make it a priority to recruit more academy sponsors and support more great headteachers in coming together in academy chains. In doing so, we can extend educational excellence and opportunity to every school and every child in our country.

100 days in, we are showing it is a Conservative majority government which has the ideas to build the One Nation vision and to deliver real social mobility in our country. We will not waste a second in getting on with the job and delivering the prosperity and security on which our future depends.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Tynedale Work Clubs really making a difference

Two weeks ago I went to Number 28 in the East End of Hexham and met with some of the team who are helping people locally find employment through work clubs. Whilst the Job Centre Plus office are very good there is much to be said for the personal touch and local assistance in Haltwhistle, Hexham, Bellingham and Prudhoe that The Work Clubs provide. It is a free chat, some mentoring and assistance and a coffee from someone who is there to help. Have a read below and go along if you can.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Broadband rollout for Northumberland as updated by BT - slowly but surely the constituency is getting coverage

As always please get in touch if there are gaps, not spots, failure to deliver by BT or the NCC and I will do what I can to expedite the matter.
BT Advise that the rollout of phase 1 is as follows:

LIVE areas since May 2015
Otterburn village
Bellingham (3 cabinets)
W Woodburn
Slaley (W of village)
Lanehead, Tarset
Catton, Allendale
Once Brewed / Twice Brewed

PLANNED areas June-Sept
Simonburn, N Tyne
Slaggyford area
Halton Lea Gate
Longbyre nr Greenhead
Nr Coanwood, S Tyne (radio connection replacing long fibre build)
Comb Hill Rd, N of Haltwhistle
W Woodburn
Stannersburn & Yarrow, nr Falstone

PLANNED areas Sept-Dec
Bingfield & Hallington
Blackheddon & the Highlander, nr Belsay 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Decision time for Labour members, with a warning from Tony Blair

Clearly Kendall has spoken the truth that dare not speak its name to labour members - namely that a left wing, anti business, regressive Labour Party who opposed aspiration and failed to inspire - but she will come last. My labour friends, spies and fellow MPs tell me Burnham is toast - in the words of one "he should buy some flip flops he has shifted position so many times". But Cooper is everyone's second choice thereby making her the new favourite. If Corbyn does not get 50% first up then Cooper could win but Corbyn is still my strong favourite to win.
This from Tony Blair yesterday on why Corbyn would be a disaster for Labour:
"The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes “disunity”. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible….
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the left, right or centre of the party, whether you used to support me or hate me. But please understand the danger we are in…
If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation… Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new. This is literally the most laughable of all the propositions advanced by his camp. Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons…
We know where this ends. We have been here before. But this sequel will be a lot scarier than the original. So write it if you want to. Go over the edge if you want. But think about those we most care about and how to help them before you do.”

Thursday, 13 August 2015

We need to plant more forests - the question is where, and what type of trees

The rural economy conference in Hexham ten days ago included a specific discussion on the approach to forestry in general and the need to plant more trees.
I am pictured with Rory Stewart, MP, the rural economy and forestry minister, and Simon hart, forestry guru form Egger. I am big supporter of Roots to Prosperity, the forestry and timber industry plan for more forestry, and have been making the case for many years for enhanced planting in Northumberland, of both conifers and other trees.
The journal has covered the story in more detail here:

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Edinburgh agreement precludes another Scottish referendum for a generation

Last year we had an independence referendum that was legal, fair and decisive – and the people of Scotland voted decisively to keep our family of nations together and remain part of the United Kingdom.

Both Governments then signed the Edinburgh Agreement, which committed them to respect the outcome of the referendum. The Scottish Government's own White Paper made it clear that the referendum was a once in a generation event, and that commitment was repeated by Yes campaigners including the First Minister herself.

With serious concerns about the performance of Police Scotland, access to GPs and the attainment gap in Scottish schools, the SNP now needs to stop agitating for a second referendum and start saying what they plan to do with the powers they’ve got and the substantial powers which are on the way through the Scotland Bill, to improve the lives of the Scottish people.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tour of Britain in Tynedale in 1 month - what will you do on September 10th to celebrate?

Excitement is building with the arrival on 10/9 of the worlds top cyclists coming through Prudhoe, Hexham, and going along the Military Road under the lip of Hadrians Wall, before heading off into the Cumbrian hills. what are you going to do to celebrate and welcome the riders to your village or your community. I know Haydon Bridge is doing a lot and there will be many more keen to welcome the top riders. Some ideas are here from the Courant:

Monday, 10 August 2015

Back to Clause 4, the state owning everything, a return to coal mining - Corbyn keeps the pressure up

Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn. His manifesto of promises and throwbacks to the 1970s, indeed the post war years is blowing his rivals out of the water. Burnham seems only memorable for his Armani suits, as told to GQ magazine and his failure to have a job - any job ever - outside of politics! I am still unaware of any of Yvette Cooper's actual beliefs after 5 years facing her in the commons. She was a Blairite, then a Brownite, then a Milifan. The impression is of someone without any real views.
 Corbyn’s interview with the Independent on Sunday’s Jane Merrick that he wants to bring back clause IV seems pretty clear:
‘I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring Clause Four as it was originally written or it’s a different one. ‘I would want us to have a set of objectives which does include public ownership of some necessary things such as rail.’
So Clause 4 which,of course, was got rid of by "the virus that is Tony Blair" over 20 years ago reads as follows:‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’
Those on the other side of the party say this is unaffordable and it will make Labour even more unelectable than it proved to be in May. But Corbyn is doing well, when some of his rivals seem so be struggling. One thing is clear. You could not make this up. 

Westminster this week

Am back in The House of Commons this week, with a variety of constituent casework meetings with. Arrows departments but notably DECC, for a Hexham business concerned about the domestic renewable heat incentive. Also I have ongoing work in the whips office and am generally trying to get up to speed this week before heading off for a late August holiday.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Are you buying British lamb? Our farmers need your support - insist your shops buy British

I have met many Sheep farmers over the last few months and they are clearly struggling with the strength of the pound and the approach of some of the supermarkets. Local butchers always buy local food but that is not always the case with the likes of Tesco. Many supermarkets are stocking overseas exports, when their local farmers are struggling. 
I am applying pressure as best I can, and have made the case in today's Journal:

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Hexham Farmers Market today - shop local and support your local producers

The market goes from 9-lunchtime and should not be missed. Greenhead Farmers Market is on Sunday and also very good.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Slaley Show this Saturday and much to do in Tynedale this weekend

Slaley show starts at 9 and goes on till the bar classes at 5. It is always a great event for all the family and there is a vintage car parade, falconry, games and competitions, pony racing and dozens of other animals and all manner of marquee entries - go along if you can - it is fun for all the family!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Prudhoe Community Allotments is one of the great community achievements in Prudhoe

Yesterday I went once again to the Prudhoe Allotments and met the Committee members, the community champions and the many locals who support this great cause. We had a delicious, and very fattening lunch of cakes and scones in the hut that a few years ago my community action team and I helped repaint - see the picture. I only have 2 jobs - MP and Vice President of this Allotment. If you have not been to the Prudhoe allotments I urge you to go. They can be contacted at:

Corbynomics is failed trotskyite economic theory by another name - and more people should be taking him on

The reality of economics, and politics, is that when something appears too good to be true it is too good to be true. The ideas that Corbyn is putting forward in his quest for the Labour Party leadership have been seen before in countries like Russia, Greece, Venezuela - all countries who have tested to destruction the theory that he now espouses. I will attempt a short appraisal, with help from a few sources:

1.Quantitative easing for people: in reality print more money for the people, and create more public debt. The reality is that this will have an inevitable impact on inflation and the examples of countries who have tried this is a salutary lesson.
This approach was also debunked by the Shadow Chancellor, Chris Leslie MP, a Labour MP who is not exactly a free market guru: Leslie said:
"I’m afraid some of those solutions, the policies offered on the hard left are not all that they’re cracked up to be. In fact, they risk hurting some of the most poor, the most vulnerable, those on the lowest incomes.
Take, for example, this suggestion that there should be the people’s quantitative easing – in other words, the Bank of England should be able to just turn on the printing presses and magically deal with all the public service and public investment needs that we have. 
Of course, at one level it sounds fantastically easy: if there’s a shortage of money, print some more; the difficulty is if that then provokes higher inflation, if that then means interest rates go up, who will pay the price for that? It’s the poorest and those on the lowest incomes who already find the cost of living very difficult. And I think it’s that sort of issue we now need to confront.’

2. Increase taxes for businesses: - strip out all of the tax reliefs and subsidies on offer to small and larger employers. These allegedly amount to "£93 billion a year – money which would be better used in direct public investment, which in turn would give a stimulus to private sector supply chains".
The full Corbyn quote is here:
‘You just cannot cut your way to prosperity so Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels. Under these plans Labour 2020 will make large reductions in the £93 billion of corporate tax relief and subsidies.’

- So why would you set up and / or expand a business in the UK? We are in a competititve global market. If a busniess is going to be taxed to extinction then why come to the UK? Again these poilices have been tried and failed. Remember the Labour chancellor Denis Healy asserting in the 1970's that he would "Squeeze business until the pips came out!" Britain went bankrupt and ended up needing an IMF bailout.

3. Bear down on small businesses: Corbyn wants to reform small business taxation to discourage avoidance and tackle tax evasion.
- So it is an attack on SMEs up and down the country as well, the corner shops, the small businessman and woman? Our country needs more help to SMEs not less; if every small business takes on another worker, another apprentice we will all benefit. The problem is that Corbyn is attacking those small businesses.

4. There is a call for greater regulation, a stonger and more powerful role for trade unions, and generally the state knows best on everything.

- I think that a country's economy and businesses are created by its people and their aspiration and entrepreneurship not by forced actions of the state - Corbyn definitely does not think this.

5. I don't even want to start with foreign policy issues, and the Corbyn friendships with everyone from the Hamas to Sinn Fein / IRA. But hopefully you get the drift.

It is a depressing sight that not enough people, even within the Labour party, are taking this claptrap on. I can only repeat that a win for Corbyn would be a disaster for the Labour Party, but also very bad news for the country. I, as a Conservative, want a reasoned intelligent opposition, not something led by a failed communist who is a laughing stock in the House of Commons.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Leader programme of grant support helping establish rural businesses

It was a pleasure to go to Humshaugh Village Hall last week, both to meet the team from the Northumberland Uplands Group and also to see the kitchen bought with Leader funds. Leader is a government backed funding scheme for fundamentally rural projects. By reason of the Humshaugh Village Hall Leader funding they were able to create a proper kitchen that supports the village hall itself and lots of the activities that the village wants to do for bread making and cider for the village shop. 
However, the spin offs from such a project are massive. The village hall derive an income from Maureen Nixon, who is a local chef, and who has created the Village Kitchen as a small business. Maureen was midway through making her amazing meals that she then sells in and around Tynedale. I bought one and they are delicious! 
Her website is

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Rural Northumberland has untapped potential - our rural economy conference discusses ways to bring about change

Last Thursday over 70 key drivers of the rural economy gathered in Hexham to listen to and question the rural economy Minister, Rory Stewart, MP.
The historic Hadrian’s Wall, Hexham Abbey and Northumberland National Park were just some assets a new approach and possible new enterprise zone should aim to capitalise on, the Cumbrian MP said as he stressed he was receptive to any amount of innovative ideas. We also heard from key employers like Egger and Northumbria Water, the National Park's new chair Glen Sanderson, and exponents of the need for rural enterprise zones.
Speaking at a conference on the rural economy in Hexham organised by MP Guy Opperman, Rory particularly stressed opportunities in forestry, biodiversity and green energy development. Full story here:

Monday, 3 August 2015

A busy week ahead in Northumberland

Today I have a series of meetings at County Hall - which for the time being is still in Morpeth! Then I have a number of appointments including with representatives of the housing provider, Isos. Tuesday I am heading out west again, whilst Wednesday I am in Prudhoe almost the whole day, followed by a meeting regarding the Tynedale Community Bank project. Thursday And Friday are fluid. Saturday is the Slaley Show, but I have another commitment elsewhere, of which I will blog more this week.
Wednesday's Prudhoe day will feature
- a discussion and visit to the Prudhoe allotment
- a meet regarding the walled garden project
- meetings with various residents in west Wylam and a trip to the Prudhoe Football club
- a residents meeting at old eltringham court

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Labour heading left left left as Corbyn now certain to win as CWU declares Blairites a virus

With the backing of the most Labour Party associations, and the support of the unions utterly wrapped up this contest is pretty much a done deal. Andy Burnham is being blown away by the argument that he is simply not left wing enough. This will be music to the ears of the North East MPs who back Corbyn like Ronnie Campbell, Ian Lavery and Chi Onwurah.
Today the Guardian describes the Labour Party as utterly split:
But it is the comment of the leader of the Communication Workers Union that stuns me. Dave Ward said: “I am delighted to announce that the CWU will be backing Jeremy Corbyn MP to be the next leader of the Labour party. There are no quick fixes for the Labour party, but there are some easy decisions, and choosing Jeremy as its leader should be one of them.
“We think that it is time for a change for Labour. The grip of the Blairites must now be loosened once and for all. There is a virus within the Labour party, and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote. We reject the notion that Labour needs to move to the centre ground of British politics."

Success for the Wylam Brewery - Northumberlands breweries leading the way as usual

Wylam Brewery is toasting success after securing a listing at Tate’s family of four galleries around the UK.
Three beers made by the micro brewery, which marks its 15th anniversary this year, will now be sold at Tate venues, a move the firm said will raise awareness of its brands on a national scale.
Directors were invited to the Tate to showcase their beers and, as a result, Jakehead India Pale Ale, Puffing Billy – a smoked bitter – and Les Saisonnier, which is Wylam’s lemon balm and rosemary farmhouse ale, will be available at Tate venues from later this month
Full report here:

Friday, 31 July 2015

St Oswald Day pilgrimage walk Hexham Abbey to Heavenfield tomorrow

Heavenfield is the purported site of the critical battle in 634 when Oswald and his band of Christians defeated defeated Cadwallon, the accursed leader of the Britons. As a result there is a church on the site, and the wooden cross is a specific reminder of the battle, and oswalds rallying cry to his men. St Oswalds day is the 5th August and every year there is a pilgrimage from Hexham Abbey to Heavenfield. This 5 mile walk will follow a church service in the abbey tomorrow (when for convenience they are doing the public walk)  at 11.15. Try and come along. If you have not Visited the church at Heavenfield is on a spot that is magical, mysterious, historical and very moving in both a religious and non religious way. 

Heading out west to Slaggyford, Featherstone and Haltwhistle today as part of West Northumberland tour

Starting my day bright and early in Knarsdale and Slaggyford, before slowly working my way down the South Tyne river through the West Northumberland villages of Halton Lea Gate, Herdley Bank and Featherstone. I will be finishing in the town of Haltwhistle where I have a number of meetings and surgeries.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

It is National Parks week and today we are holding a rural economy conference in Hexham with Rory Stewart MP

Over 60 experts, interested parties, businesses and key stakeholders in the rural economy, are coming together today in Hexham to make their case to my good friend and neighbour Rory Stewart, who is the Rural Affairs Minister, the Forestry and National Parks Minister, the Water and Floods Minister, and also responsible for trying to help Defra create and stimulate a rural economy that is both vibrant and respectful of our land. As you can imagine his is a fascinating but difficult job. He is uniquely qualified, as he is a proper countryman, with a practical and realistic understanding of the realities of creating a working and respectful environment in his Cumbria seat and here in Northumberland. Between us Rory and I represent most of what I call the true North of England that runs roughly along Hadrian's Wall from the Newcastle border in the East to the Solway in the West. Rory is speaking and doing a short Q and A. The event is at the Beaumont Hotel in Hexham from 10.45-12.30. After the morning session Rory and I will be heading out west to visit specific sites in the Northumberland National Park near Walltown, and I will be finishing my day speaking to locals in Greenhead and the west.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Definition of Summer madness: Corbyn to lead Labour and Trump for next U.S. President?

"We lost because Ed Miliband was not left wing enough" - so said a labour voter to me yesterday on the doorstep in Northumberland.
I knock on doors all the year round and I found this particular conversation that followed fascinating. There is no doubt that with Jeremy Corbyn over 19% ahead in the Labour Party race we are heading for a labour opposition party led by their most left wing candidate ever. It will make Ed Miliband look middle ground. Clearly a centre left Blairite would have no place in such a shadow cabinet.
I tried to put it to my constituent that:
- surely we should try and balance the books and not pass on our debts to future generations
- that £36 billion pounds a year annual interest paid by government is not sustainable
- and that it is businesses, big and small, that need nurturing so that there is both jobs and taxed cash to spend on the public services we all cherish
- and that eventually socialists run out of other people's money
but he was having none of that.
I fear I am not making progress converting Corbynites to even a Blairite way but that is democracy.
But then again I got home last night to find that Donald Trump is doing well in the USA Presidential race.

Redefest In North Northumberland - 12 bands in a great event at Rochester this Saturday

Rochester is where it is at this Saturday. I was on site yesterday speaking to the organisers and it will be an amazing day, with great local beer and food available. The event is great value for money, and the music is superb. I urge you to get along. 

Tynedale's economy will be top of the agenda on Thursday

The future of Tynedale and Northumberland's economy will be centre stage on Thursday as Rural
Affairs Minister Rory Stewart heads up a conference of the district's major economic players.

I am organising the Conference as part of National Park Week. Joining the Minister will be representatives from Egger, Northumbria Water, Northumberland National Park and the North East Enterprise Partnership.

The aim of the conference is see what we can all do to create more jobs and growth here in Northumberland.

Our rural economy is vital to creating more jobs and greater prosperity, contributing to our countries long-term economic security. We can only unlock growth if we release that potential in our rural economy - as well as our great cities. The connection between the two is key to the economic success of our region. My hope is that our big employers, the National Park and those others in attendance will be able to tell the Minister directly what we need to do unlock growth here in Northumberland.

Local unemployment is down on last month, and down by 150 people compared to this time last year, but there is always more to be done. With the right infrastructure, good broadband and the right support, our area can become a real hub for growth, business and jobs. That is what I want to see, and bringing everyone together at our conference goes some way towards that.

The conference will hear a keynote speech from the Minister as well as from the new Chairman of the Northumberland National Park Coun Glen Sanderson.  I will  then be joining Rory for an afternoon visiting small businesses and projects within Northumberland National Park.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The rural Northumberland tour starts today by Scottish border in Byrness then Kirkwhelpington

ISOS are holding a series of events in East Hexham this morning and I am going along but thereafter I am on the road, travelling to the Scottish Border and working back southwards. I have rural surgeries in byrness and will be knocking on doors there, followed by a series of meetings in the village of Kirkwhelpington. Much looking forward to it.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in the North East

Good to hear the positive view that the North East private sector is driving forward the region with more and better jobs, growing businesses and an entrepreneurial spirit that we really need. Great to read Nigel Mills positive view of the region business and its outlook for the future.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Summer holidays not booked yet? Come to Northumberland

The perfect Northumberland day would feature:
A good walk - you could go to Hadrians Wall
ending at a good pub like the Twice Brewed Inn, or do a stretch of the Pennine Way, or take in the gentle wildness of the St Oswalds Way - best done on August 5th:

Where to stay:
If you have to have the creature comforts then Matfen Hall is a top destination but
Hexham's Beaumont Hotel
is family run by Martin and Linda, and was good enough for Pippa Middleton when she came to stay last year!
We also have all manner of brilliant pubs and Bed and Breakfasts but if you want a good alternative then the Battlesteads Hotel in Wark consistently wins prizes; the best Bed and Breakfast in the country was recently adjudged by Les Routiers guide to be The Black Cock Inn:

Where to eat:
If you want great pub food then I am a big fan of the Barrasford Arms,
Tony is a brilliant chef, and the pub also has great beer and a bar where you will discuss everything from sheep prices to current affairs and who won the big race of the day. Great people and a top dining pub.
The Feathers in Hedley, and La Bouchon in Hexham are both prize winning and the destinations for fine dining but if you want a great south Asian experience then two restaurants will prove it is not just country fare up north
The Valley in Corbridge is the ultimate Railway lovers restaurant, producing great food in an old railway station:
Also very good is Hexham's Diwan E- Am:

You will need a tea shop on your travels:
My friends say I am on a mission to try every tea shop in Tynedale but the county is justifiably famous: on your Pennine Way travels do not forget to stop at the Greenhead Tea Room:
Alison makes great cakes and scones.
Corbridge has more tea shops that any other but my favourite is Tea and Tipple, where you can while away an afternoon - they do great Northumberland Scones, including the normal cheese scone but also Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Scones:
Their web site has a special "Sconage" section...

Beer: this is obviously essential. We have lots of brilliant brewers, but I have worked a lot with the Hadrian Border Brewery, who produce the deliciously summer ale which is Tyneside Blonde. But my favourite would be a pint of Golden Plover, made locally by the Allendale Brewery, and found in most of the pubs:

What to see; the beautiful eerie cry of the curlew is the harbinger of spring and summer and is worth the visit alone:
But if you want 5 places to visit these would all make anyone's top spots:

- The Beach at Bamburgh - a great walk and a top castle
- Roman Vindolanda = our best Roman and historical site
- Kielder Water and Forest Park:
They win awards all the time!!
- Alnwick Castle and its magnificent Gardens
But if you go to one for engineering / spring flowers then I would probably pick Cragside:
-It is a stunning house with amazing engineering everywhere and beautiful gardens filled with 40 miles of walks, rare flowers and so much more. It is a special place.

What to Buy:
Whether you want to browse the independent shops of Hexham or Corbridge or purchase pottery in Bardon Mill or visit some of the amazing markets there is so much to do.

Visit a Show
We specialise in summer shows - which make southern fetes look like a childrens tea party: Slaely, Allendale, Falstone and Bellingham are all shortly
  • Don't delay 

  • See you soon!!

    Sunday, 26 July 2015

    Why neither Labour leaders[T. Hunt] nor serious Conservatives [Hannan] want Corbyn as Labour leader

    I genuinely do not want Jeremy Corbyn to become the far left leader of the Labour Party. Some may disagree, and enthusiastically embrace the Tories for Corbyn campaign but what I want is a credible Labour oppostion. Corbyn is not such a man and he is taking the Labour Party the way of Syriza.
    Any dismayed Labour supporter should read Tristram Hunt's article from yesterdays paper:
    The best bit of it is at the end: "Labour was felt not to be on the side of aspirational voters. We were regarded as the party of high welfare, lax immigration and big spending," before he adds:
    "But Corbyn’s siren calls need to be resisted on grounds of political principle as well as political pragmatism. Of course, parties win from the centre ground when they are trusted with the public finances and have credible leadership. Yet with this Government spending £36 billion a year on debt interest repayments there is a good, progressive case for balancing the books rather than indulging in more reckless spending."

    The Conservative argument aginst Corbyn is likewise well expressed by Dan Hannan:
    the force of his argument is overwhelming.

    Saturday, 25 July 2015

    Our campaign for a local Tynedale Community Bank continues to take shape

    I want a bank that is based in the community, run by someone from that community & with profits going back to that community - like a German Sparkassen  .... rather than that which you call Lloyds / HSBC or another of the big banks, who are based so far away in so many ways, and who struggle - despite the best efforts of local staff - to be a truly local bank.
    To that end we have done many things:
    First we have changed the law to make it easier to set up local community banks and enhanced credit unions. I spent a large part of the last parliament doing this.

    Then we started by setting out our vision and of a community bank / beefed up credit union would look like and work upwards from that. For more details of what our plans are read here:

    We have set out to convert people locally with regional banking events in Gateshead and elsewhere covered by the media and featuyring local successes in banking:

    Then we have worked with the press, media and opinion formers; for example, the Financial Times / Mail on Sunday columnist Jeff Prestridge is kind enough to comment favourably on our think tank / symposium we held last year in Birmingham:

    Finally, we are taking steps this summer to expland our offer to cover not just those in fuel poverty but anyone who is struggling with pay day lenders and / or are unbanked; we are also unashamedly seeking to attrract middle class savers, which is the prennial failing of an old style credit union. This has been a journey of many years but we have much more news to follow. I am spending a lot of the spring and summer taking this forward.  
    We are now beginning to take shape locally with
    - a number of local champions across Tynedale
    - a proper board of key local supporter and community leaders
    - a partnership with the Prince Bishops Bank in Stanley, County Durham
    - a formal proper launch in the winter after several months of soft launches, visits to interested parish councils, oil buying clubs, and discussions with clergy and commuinties.
    As always we need volunteers interested in contributing by action or outreach, fundraising and engaging with the wider community. This is an utterly apolitical project. Anyone interested should get in touch with me and I will pass on details of the key players taking forward this exciting project in our community.

    Friday, 24 July 2015

    Last day in Westminster today before heading home to hexham for several weeks

    Casework and whips work awaits today in the Commons before heading north later this evening.
    Next week I have multiple meetings with everyone from the new Chief Constable of our police force, to Newcastle University, and the doctors and nurses at the new Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington. There are also literally dozens of other appointments lined up in the next few weeks with constituents, small businesses, the National Park, rural champions like NULAG and isolated communities who I often struggle to see when the Commons is sitting. 
    This will involve visits to Walltown, Slaggyford and Halton Lea Gate at the end of the month, time in Otterburn, Matfen, and Kirkwhelpington, and a host of meetings, chats and discussions. I am having a holiday later in August but much looking forward to the next few weeks working in Northumberland. 

    Hexham hosts decathlon trials for World Championships this weekend

    We have world class quality athletics in Hexham this weekend, as the multi event disciplines are being hosted over a 2 day meet.
    Action gets under way at 10.30am on Saturday with an earlier start of 9.45am on Sunday. Spectators are welcome both days with the programme expected to conclude around 5pm each day.
    Full details here:

    Thursday, 23 July 2015

    Watching the Labour leadership election is car crash TV in real Labour time

    Let me give you three angles on the leadership election from my Labour MP friends in the Commons, from NE Labour and from normal voters.
    Yesterday Tony Blair attempted to point out some home truths to his former Labour Party colleagues in a speech.
    He said:
    "We lost in 2010 because we stepped somewhat from that modernising platform. We lost in 2015 when we stepped even further away from it and lost even worse. I don’t understand the logic now of stepping entirely away from it.’"

    The speech reads well,yet he is now portrayed locally and nationally as a Tory, a renegade etc etc; his description of Corbyn supporters as Star Trekkers did make me smile but even for the febrile world of Twitter and the Internet age this attack on him is laughable. To be honest I want a credible opposition. I want a party that challenges the government in difficult times. In the last parliament the labour leadership and MPs opposed every reduction in budget. This is not sustainable or helpful. Come up with alternative plans?
    Amswer there was none.

    Governments do not get every decision right. Nor does a family or businessman or woman. Proper oppositions create better law and government. They don't just oppose everything like a naughty child denied sweets in a sweet shop - to use the Chuka Umana phrase. In conversations in the pubs of Northumberland last weekend I was struck by the disappointment in the leftward lurch by local voters. These were genuine Labour supporters in Northumberland who definitely did not vote for me, but asking me - "what is going on with the Labour Party?"

    For me three things are notable.
    I) Locally in the North East we see Labour members and supporters urging and pushing for an ever more left leaning Labour Party. They are Syriza in all but name. Even hard left wing MPs are pilloried if they don't take an ever more left leaning line.
    II) Those Labour MPs who argue that elections are won by parties in the middle ground, offering rational pro business policies that support job creation and speak to the aspirations of normal people who want to get on and progress are ignored. In Westminster they are shunned by the new intake of MPs. I have MP friends in the Labour Party who despair of the Corbyn / leftward lurch, but are powerless.
    III). How does the Labour Party treat Tony Blair? There is a fine tradition in Westminster of venerating your elders, of seeking the wisdom of those who have done these struggles before. I, and many other newer MPs deliberately seek out the likes of Ken Clarke, and other veterans,to ask them for their opinions, recollections, advice and wise words. The Labour Party presently seem unable to afford such respect to their former leader. And given he won 3 elections that is particularly odd.
    For those who are interested the Tony Blair speech yesterday is here:

    Wednesday, 22 July 2015

    Pleased that we have another good chair of Northumberland National Park in Glen Sanderson

    Veteran councillor, farmer and magistrate Glen Sanderson has been elected to chair the body.
    He replaces fellow councillor and Bellingham farmer John Riddle, who stood down after 14 years at the helm.
    Coun Sanderson said: “I am very honoured to have been elected to this position and to follow John Riddle who has chaired the national park authority fantastically well over a long time.
    “Our national park has rightly won numerous accolades over recent times and that is down to staff and board members who really care for the national park and the visitors that we welcome to it.
    “I hope to be able to play a part in building on that success, to welcome even more people to enjoy this wonderful place, and to see The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre become a hugely important and enjoyable attraction for young and old alike.”
    I am a big supporter of the Park, and the projects they are engaged in and will be looking forward to working with Glen and the team, and am looking to meet with the Glen and the team this summer when the House rises.  If you have not come to England's most beautiful park come soon.

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015

    Is Ed Miliband's legacy the creation of a more left wing Labour Party?

    Yesterday's welfare debate, and the last two months of the new parliament have shown conclusively that the legacy of Miliband, and the selection process that was so dominated by the unions, has resulted in a more left wing Labour Party.
    This from this mornings Guardian, which makes the case eloquently:

    "Labour’s disarray over the government’s welfare policy and the party’s wider divisions over the best response to the general election defeat were underlined when 48 Labour MPs, just under a quarter of the parliamentary party, defied their whips and voted against the welfare bill at second reading. 
    Harriet Harman, the interim leader, had urged Labour MPs to send a message to the electorate that they were listening to concerns over welfare payments by abstaining on the welfare bill after voting for an amendment that set out the party’s objections to the bill.
    However, Labour whips suggested that as much as 40% of the intake of Labour MPs at the 2010 election had rebelled by voting against the bill, apparently confirming that the parliamentary party had moved to the left during Ed Miliband’s leadership."

    Monday, 20 July 2015

    Westminster this week - Welfare Reform Bill dominates

    We are reaching the end of the summer term of parliament this week, with long debates ahead on welfare reform, the finance Bill which enacts much of the budget, and questions to the Chancellor on Tuesday.
    I am sure that today will also see a parliamentary discussion of the past usage of UK troops working with americans and other allies in actions against Isil. The Defence Secretary of State will make a statement I suspect at 3.30. The reality is that there is a huge difference between UK planes and specific forces flying sorties in Syria and a few individual pilots working with US forces as part of an embedded unit. For example, special forces from a host of different countries, have been working together on multiple missions in various places as part of embedded groups for decades.  

    The longer term discussion that is going to have to be had at some stage is the issue of widening the air strikes against Isil from Iraq, where we already take part, to flights and missions using UK Aircraft over and in Syria, against Isil.  As the horror in Tunisia proved, both the terror group and its message is a threat to British citizens.  The border between Iraq and Syria is now real only on maps.  The argument is that it makes no sense to stop attacking ISIS’s forces when they flee to the latter side of it. Like many I will listen to the Defence Secretary at 3.30.
    I have various constituency meetings in the next few days and then will be staying on in London to finish up a large amount of casework, correspondence and loose ends before heading north on Friday.

    Sunday, 19 July 2015

    Welfare Reform Bill debate tomorrow will define Labour - back to the 1970s again or supporting change?

    Tomorrow the Labour party will have to debate the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. It contains measures which the interim leader, Harriet Harman, said a week ago that Labour would not oppose.
    Except that Corbyn, Burnham and Cooper [3 out of 4 leadership candidates] then said that actually they would oppose it. So Harriet backtracked and tried to come up with some sort of compromise that the warring factions of Labour can more or less agree on.
    So, whereas previously the welfare reforms were ones which Labour should not oppose because people “want us to listen to their concerns and we’ve got to recognise why it is that the Tories are in government”, now they are unacceptable and hurt the poor. Todays Labour Party are oblivious to the way that the welfare system has caused millions of people to lead miserable, benefit-dependent lives without satisfaction or dignity. They should embrace universal credit, the Living Wage, the benefit cap and the reforms that will create a benefits system that helps people back to work, giving them hope of a brighter future. This will be a crucial test for Labour. Will it finally stand up for refrom, for people who work hard and do the right thing, and for those who want a way out of welfare? Or will it carry on with an approach that has failed our country.