Friday, 29 December 2006
Last year I was very humbled when invited, with David Davis, into a charitably run drug rehabilitation home Three former addicts told us their history with drugs. Each had started off stealing alcohol as a 10-14 year old, moved on to cannabis and then to "harder" drugs. All three had been “clean” for over 6 months and described the battle to get that far – but each also stated that staying off drugs is a continuous battle.
This month we read bios of each of the victims of the dreadful murders in Ipswich. This rammed home again the message that all-consuming drug addiction is not confined to poor housing estates. It can take hold of a young person from any walk of life.
I agree that a new approach must be taken to drugs policy and that cannabis is much too dangerous to be a class C drug. Residential rehab is vital – but so a long term support network once the residential part is over. Charities and voluntary workers must be supported.
From the stories that I am told across the country, I believe that we are at a tipping point in our attitude towards drugs. Unless more serious efforts are made to reduce drug addiction now, the situation will become uncontrollable.
Saturday, 23 December 2006
Today I spoke to a recently retired and much respected hospital consultant. He said "you know secretly, Vicky, I would quite like Labour to win one more time. Then Gordon Brown would have to live with the mess he has created. He'd be doomed for ever..."
I come from an NHS family and frequently talk to doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Many of the medical professionals I speak to are devastated by what is happening to our health service. I would love to hear more of your views. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or blog here.
Friday, 22 December 2006
I confess that this year, the big doc and I have no-one but ourselves to blame for last minute Christmas panic. With just 10 shopping days to go we snuck off and left the country for a few days. Beautiful, caring, intelligent Anita was married this weekend in her family church in Austria. We joined friends form all around the world to wish her and Michael healthy, happy marriage. There has been much in the news recently about the risks that women run when putting off children for their careers. If Anita has children she will be an "older mother". We should encourage businesses to support women who wish to start families earlier. Too many women are forced into a corner to choose between families and careers.
Another confession, I boarded a cheap flight to get to the wedding. It is many years since I was in Stanstead Airport at 4.30 on a weekday morning ..... IT WAS BUZZING. There was no room to sit in the waiting rooms, no room to stand on the transits, and triple queuing through security. My flights had cost next to nothing. This time even Gordon’s taxes didn’t seem high. I am told about the environmental done by aircraft and would have been happy to pay more for my occasional flight for a very special trip. I do feel very sorry for all those currently stranded because of foggy airports, but in the longer term if we are do tackle global warming we must all take fewer planes.
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
Monday, 11 December 2006
Sunday, 10 December 2006
I was pulling up to the traffic lights at Westminster Bridge. BANG - a car shunted into my beloved Rover from behind. Michal, the Polish driver, could not have been more apologetic or chivalrous. Passers-by rushed up to help and the police were with us in seconds, moving on the traffic and sweeping up broken glass.
The CCHQ candidates’ dept picked me up with sweet coffee and I sat down to listen to Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth. He not only spoke about global warming and species loss but moved on to speak about British Industry. "Why do our wind turbines come from Denmark? Our Photovoltaic panels from Germany? Hybrid cars from Japan? Britain has a history of Marine engineering excellence - why are we not leading the development of off-shore power?" Good to know that environmentalists care about more the economy too not just the environment.
Michal's insurance will pay for the damage to the car - but I do think it’s unfair that my insurance costs will now rise next year. Bernard the local milkman had one of his floats stolen. He thinks it’s unfair that he had to cough up £200 to get it out of the car pound when the police picked it up. Hidden taxes aren't just government taxes they are all around us.
Friday, 8 December 2006
I stopped to visit David my farming friend today. He is meant to have retired but like many farmers he keeps going. David had a bad fall on Monday and has just come back from hospital full of praise for the paramedics, doctors and nurses - but he won’t stop his Bupa sub no matter how bad farming gets.
Of course the conversation quickly moves on to the farm and he's had time this week to catch up on lots of reading. He will be delighted if Gordon Brown allows them to put up a small wind turbine without going through the costs of planning permission. Though he's not so sure about the giant ones! The farm uses a lot of energy in the workshop. He is furious about the hidden taxes that have been put on red-diesel, and as for the "bonus" payments that have just been paid to Defra officers - well I cant repeat the full words! "The farm payment system is the worst cock-up in farming I have seen in my lifetime" said David.
Did you know it has been the warmest winter for 300 years? We discussed the Ducklings that hatched at Halloween and David sent me off down the road to see Narcissi in bloom. They should not be here until the spring and we haven't even had Christmas yet. I thought you might enjoy the photo. It is a local warning of global warming.
Thursday, 7 December 2006
Every year for the past 4 years a group of local mums have got together to go out for a Christmas dinner. The group includes teachers, doctors, the local midwife, teaching assistants, charity workers, scientists, lawyers, part time workers and me. This year the consensus is that we can’t afford it. Everyone is coming for a “girls night in” at my house instead. Is it because of the rising mortgage rates? Or because they are worried about the financial year ahead? I will find out more on Friday.
In the meantime I’m off to Stourbridge tonight where many people have doubts about their long term financial future.
Tuesday, 5 December 2006
I have spoken today to the police, councillors, many others. They all try to do what they can but again and again today I have heard "this sort of thing always happens at this time of year". That is no excuse. We must be vigilant and stand by the Steves of this world. We must not let crime like this be acceptable.
Monday, 4 December 2006
Followed this morning by 3 1/2 hour meeting of "Crime and Disorder Partnership". I know that it is important that we look at the data - but so much is time spent worrying about the targets and being reactive not proactive.
We have had a lot of arson - everything from Kids setting fire to bins to major "Stack" fires all across the district in the summer. Do you remember all those fires during the heat wave last summer? It is Distressing to hear that the Fire service is having to cut back the work they do in schools about the dangers of arson. Programs like that can be so much more useful in getting the message across than time spent monitoring the statistics. We did approve some grants for some technical wizardry to help track down a few crooks (Q would approve) but not enough in the pot to pay for more squad cars.
The big doctor (my better half) was a bit worried about the very obvious brand promoting during the Bond movie. Lots of Sony equipment and Gordon’s gin etc. The kids are busy writing to Father Christmas for all the plastic junk that has been forced down their throats through the TV but sadly no matter how beautifully the big doc asks he won’t be getting an Aston Martin in his stocking.
Sunday, 3 December 2006
In my opinion many of Cameron's "new" style focuses are rooted in old Conservative values. It is right to worry about work-life balance since Conservatives have always believed in supporting families and that children need time with their parents. It is right to discuss global warming - Conservatives always have believed in caring for their local environment, but if we are to protect our local environment for the future we must try to protect the planet. Having said that there is a lot of anxiety in Cambridge about congestion charging, none of my friends from outside Cambridge City ever face the City traffic unless they really have to. Public transport does need to be improved - a concern is that the money from charging will not go towards those improvements. Cambridge is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, with thousands of new homes planned. It is also a major driver of the Eastern region economy. The Conservative County council have started work on the guided bus but that is still a while from being a reality.
Baroness Perry gave us an excellent summary of the work that she has been undertaking with the public services commission. Their interim report is HERE It is good to hear that so many senior professionals in the health and education are engaging in the debate with the Conservative party about the future of our services.
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Older people often feel the pinch of Labour taxes more than any other group. On top of the pensions crisis, council tax and fuel rises hit them far harder than many of the rest of us - as these bills are often such a large percentage of their spending. I did like the Tory policy in the last election that every household of over 65 year olds would automatically get a 50% discount on their council tax. This seemed to me a very simple way of putting more money in older people's purses.
However we are stuck where we are this winter as Gordon Brown has signalled no intention of additional financial support. Age Concern make a lot of useful suggestions. Some are very simple, for example changing to energy saving light bulbs in order to safe fuel bills. However again these are an expensive investment for many on lower incomes. There is also the option to shop around for cheaper gas and electricity. Surfing the web I find switching to an "online" tariff can save over 20% of your fuel bills but lots of older people aren't so internet aware. Perhaps the fuel providers should be encouraged to make simpler fuel discounts for older people? Age concern publishes some good advice which you can find on www.ageconcern .co.uk. Help the Aged has a list of “top ten tips” but I cant get their website to work tonight!
Many of my older friends are incredibly good at making those pennies stretch and we should all make sure that we are helping them this winter. When I was at school we were encouraged to do “granny visiting” as community work but I understand that this has lapsed in many areas. I’m not sure what the older people thought but I know we all benefited from their wisdom and kindness.
Stourbridge was great. A packed room and interviews by Julie Kirkbride MP for Bromsgrove. There was a very positive sense of working together by all present.
Friday, 1 December 2006
I come from a large medical family and all the doctors frequently tell me how bigger hospitals are better. I also have 3 children. Number 1 son, Edward, went through a phase as a "casualty kid" - is that what 5 year old boys do? When he broke his collar bone, cut open his eyelid, got stung by hornets it was horrible. All I wanted to do was get him to A&E as quickly as possible and I was grateful that it was only 25 minutes away.
There may be good medical arguments for making sure that A&E departments are only in hospitals where there is a full raft of Orthopaedic surgeons and intensive care beds, but the decision about the A&E's future should be made on those medical grounds. At the moment it feels as if decisions are being made solely on the grounds of short term financial accounting.
I have for a long time thought that the health service is too important to be left in the hands of politicians who only have 5 year vision. But I also believe that the health service is one of the most important (and expensive) things that we trust our government with. The buck stops with the PM.
On Sunday I will go to the Cambridge City christmas lunch as their guest speaker. Cambridge City Council is now fully controlled by the Lib Dems and there is no Tory council representation at all. They need all our support and help to get back some blue this May.
Some people mutter "the A list isn't working" - well I say this A lister is working - very hard. And loving it! I'll let you know more over the weekend.
All the issues that people have spoken to me about in the past 10 days are ones that I care about. We must sort this country out. I will keep fighting - and Im now turning into such a blog addict that please keep being heard on this site.