For the avoidance of doubt had I been in Parliament I would have voted, as did almost all Conservative MP’s, to give the British public a vote in a referendum as to whether we should agree to the Lisbon Treaty. I agree the Lisbon Treaty is not absolutely identical to the draft European Constitution which all the three major parties promised to have a referendum on at the last General Election but no one is suggesting anything other than it is very similar indeed ( that is well over 90% of the content is the same). There is no wonder the general public are losing faith and confidence in politicians if Labour and the Liberal Democrats are not prepared to stick to their own Manifesto promises.
I believe we should be governed by Westminster not by Brussels. Europe should do less and interfere less in our lives. In my opinion the European Union should not have a flag or an anthem.
On Wednesday evening I attended the last normal scheduled meeting of Bury Council. The main new major item that had to be considered was the referendum on whether Bury has an elected Mayor. Now that the required numbers of voters have signed a petition calling for a referendum on whether there should be an elected mayor Bury Council has no choice but to hold such a referendum and the referendum will take place on 3rd July. I am completely opposed to Bury having an elected mayor, we already have enough politicians in Bury and I can not see how having yet another elected politician will help solve any of the problems that Bury faces. I will cover this subject more in the weeks and months ahead.
Can I take this opportunity of wishing everyone a Happy Easter, including of course, those for whatever reason do not personally celebrate the religious significance of Easter.
After taking part in a Good Friday walk on Friday morning when the conditions were cold and very windy Sue and I attended the Good Friday service at St. Anne’s Church which was a service of readings, music and quiet.
This morning we woke to find the countryside covered in a blanket of snow so we had to don our walking boots once more in order to safely walk down to the special Easter Day service at which was very well attended with both upstairs and downstairs. Lots of young families attended and we had a collection of Easter eggs which the church will distribute to children’s homes around the area.
Yesterday, in the last major debate before Easter MP’s debated an issue chosen by the Conservatives. The chosen issue was the present closure programme of our post offices. The Labour Government is presently embarked on closing down over 2000 of our local post offices. This is on top of the thousands that have already been closed across the country. It seems to me that the Government which is responsible for running the post office network has done absolutely nothing to try and revive the fortunes of the post offices in the light of what I accept is difficult competitin from the new technologies of the email and the text message. But the internet has also brought new opportunities such as the millions of goods that are bought an dsold each year over the internet both through normal retailers selling online and through auction sites like ebay. All this could be more business for our post offices. Instead the Government has actually made it more difficult for post offices by removing sources of business from them for example you can no longer renew your television licence at a post office and pensioners have to have their pensions paid into a bank account now rather than being able to collect it in cash from the post office. The Conservatives proposed to call a halt to the closure programme but their motion was defeated by 20 votes even though several Labour MP’s who accepted the points the Conservatives were making voted with the Conservatives and against their own Labour Government.
I am back from the Party’s Spring Conference in Gateshead, which for some reason which is probably lost in the midst of time is officially called the Spring Forum.
Both Sue and I really enjoyed it, we had a smooth run up and found our way to the hotel where we had booked in without any difficulty.
The Conference itself was held in the Sage Music Centre in Gateshead which geographically meant that it was on the other side of the River Tyne from where our hotel was on the Newcastle side.
There were sessions featuring all of the principal Shadow Cabinet Members and the Conference finished with a speech from David Cameron which struck exactly the right note. the main focus of the Conference was on the family and the support we will give to families when in Government. We are a Party who care about the family and see the family as the basic building block of society.
This morning Sue and I attended a coffee morning organised by the Ladies Committee of the Bury North Conservative Association. These small fund raising events are vital to keep the Association going. Many people think that the Conservative Party is funded by “big business” whilst that may have been true in some parts of the Country many years ago the reality in 2008 is that local Associations rely heavily on subscritions and donations from members and the results of fund raising events like the one that I was able to go along and support today.
We are off to Gateshead later to attend the Party’s Spring Conference and I will report back later.
We have witnesses Alistair Darling’s first budget statement today and having watched it all it struck me how very little new there was in it. Nowadays, it seems many of the measures that used to be in the budget are pre-announced, foreshadowed in earlier budgets or simply leaked in advance. For example, it was no surprise today when the Chancellor announced the 2p per litre increase in petrol duty was now to take place in October of this year because it had been heavily trailed in all the weekend newspapers.
There was little in the budget to help hard pressed families who are struggling to make ends meet and in fact as a result of the measures in the budget most families will probably find it even harder to make ends meet. I noticed the Chancellor did not mention the fact that for millions of taxpayers across the country, thousands of whom are in Bury who earn less than £18,000 a year they will see their income cut from this April due to the abolition of the 10p rate of tax.
Last Friday I accompanied Councillor Sheila Magnall to the Tiddlywinks nursery in Ramsbottom where the children were raising funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children by taking part in an attempt to break the World Record for the largest simultaneous poetry reading. The children and staff had worked extremely hard in preparing for the event with all the children and staff in fancy dress based around the Peter Pan theme. My congratulations go all involved.
I attended the Ramsbottom, Tottington and North Manor Local Area Partnership meeting on Monday evening. Last night I went down to a cold and wet Gigg Lane to watch Bury notch up their third consecutive win 3-0 against my home town team of Rotherham. Revenge for the reverse earlier in the season at Millmoor. Andy Bishop is in excellent form and the whole team is clearly much more confident now they have a few wins under their belts.