Herald Express Article 11th September 2014

I wasn’t that surprised when a second Conservative MP defected to UKIP the other day, although there are several Tory MPs I’ve observed who I thought would have jumped ship before Douglas Carswell.

 

He has followed the route taken by Bob Spink the MP for Castle Point in the last Parliament in joining what has become a familiar home for Thatcherite Conservatives unhappy with Cameron’s metropolitan Conservatism.

 

What marks Douglas Carswell out from the very small number of MPs who have switched sides down the years is his decision to resign and test it in a by-election. Good on him for that I say and I suspect he will do better than the last defecting MP to do this.

 

In 1983 Bruce Douglas-Mann the MP for the South London seat of Mitcham & Morden left the Labour Party to join the SDP only when he put this to his electors they didn’t agree with him.  He came third in the by-election fought against the back drop of the Falklands War. Conservative Angela Rumbold was elected in his place whose House of Commons office I was allocated in 1997 when she lost her seat. Sadly neither are still alive to give Douglas Carswell by-election advice.

 

 

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I am sure everyone was shocked at the findings exposed in the recent inquiry into child abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

 

The failings exposed by this inquiry are appalling and the Government says it is absolutely clear that the lessons of past failures must be learned.

That is why it is right to establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

The government has set up a Home Office led National Group, through which agencies are working together to better identify those at risk and create a more victim-focused culture within the police, health and children’s services.

This is all good but what has saddened me has been the failure to focus on those who carried out the appalling crimes against children.

The concentration has mostly been on those who had responsibilities during this period.  Sure they failed the children in their care and they should be held accountable, but they are easy to identify and expose.  The difficult job is tracking down those who carried out these crimes and bringing them to justice.

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The brutal murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff  is shocking and depraved and at the time of writing there is a British citizen being held hostage by the same captors who look like they include Britons among them.

The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home.  If Britain does not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.  But as the Prime Minister has made clear, we are not going to put boots on the ground in Iraq in a combat role.

The Government is already taking action to address the threat that British nationals in extremist organisations pose to national security, including policies aimed at deterring people at risk of radicalisation.

Far too many British citizens have travelled to Iraq and travelled to Syria to take part in extremism and violence.  We should redouble our efforts to stop people from going.

The police and security services are actively working to detect and disrupt terrorist threats. People seeking to travel to engage in terrorist activity in Syria or Iraq should be in no doubt we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security, including prosecuting those who break the law.

The Government also have a wide range of powers at their disposal to disrupt travel and manage the risk posed by returnees.

What we mustn’t do is react in a knee jerk fashion and implement legislation without evidence that it is likely to have the desired effect its proponents claim and without any unintended consequences.  Legislate in haste, repent at leisure.

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I think the Prime Minister has so far handled this very difficult situation well but I do not support his view that British military assets could be deployed without reference to Parliament.

Whether or not one is convinced of the case for action it is only right and proper that the nation’s forum – the House of Commons – gets to debate such matters and passes its opinion on behalf of the people.

I kept a straight face at a recent Transport Select Committee when representatives from the north of England complained that they get hand-me-down rolling stock.  And who gets their old trains?  The South West of course.

Herald Express Article Thursday 28th August 2014

Twitter is a device for your computer or mobile phone that enables users to send and read short text messages, called “tweets”, of no more than 140 characters – which is around 25 words.

A ‘tweetchat’ is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter using a predefined hashtag – a title – that links those tweets together in a virtual conversation for the reader to follow and join in.

It gives people an opportunity to answer questions posed by the host from anywhere in the world and I hosted my first ‘tweetchat’ last week that reached a potential audience of nearly 200,000 people.

The purpose was to seek input from people with diabetes about the current provision of diabetes education and support and seek views on what other types and forms of training and support would enable them – and their families – to live healthier and happier lives.

It was part of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes year-long enquiry into education and diabetes.

I asked 4 key questions to help the conversation along and encourage answers that could be shared more widely beyond Twitter.

I watched reactions to the questions and the conversations that flowed sometimes answering further questions that were raised or commenting on interesting responses.

It was a great way of obtaining views and ideas and it struck me that such an exercise would lend itself to Council consultations if the Mayor was serious about listening to what local people want.

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Surveys can throw up very interesting results and a recent one of 1,000 people for an ice lolly brand revealed that a quarter of Britons have never visited the British coast!

Apparently the Scots showed the least enthusiasm for a day at the beach while nearly two in ten UK citizens routinely shunned British tourist attractions, with one in eight of those blaming the cost.

More ammunition I think for reducing the UK VAT rate on accommodation and attraction prices, and perhaps another argument for retaining a tourism company that can target marketing messages at groups such as the Scots to encourage them to dip their toes in Torbay’s waters and enjoy all that a holiday at a British seaside resort has to offer, including ice lollies.

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No sooner are we getting into the new routine of the recess and Parliament is about to go into session again.  Not through a recall but the now regular return for two weeks before breaking up again for the three week Party conference season.

I’m tempted to start a sweepstake each summer on who will be the first to go to the press and argue for a recall of Parliament.  Alternatively one could bet on what the likely cause behind the recall is likely to be.

Foreign affairs are always the firm favourite not least I suspect because Parliament is very good at debating subjects over which it has very little influence.  In my experience the less influence we have over an issue the more calls for debating time.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t discuss events on faraway places over which we have no jurisdiction, after all we are senior members of a number of international bodies that do have some influence.

As usual the recess has been a wonderful opportunity to get out and about and visit all those groups and organisations I can’t fit in on Fridays or meet during the week when I’m in Westminster.

It is also an opportunity for less pressurised time for meetings with the heads of organisations that serve my constituents.

In the past few weeks I’ve had meetings with the Chairman and acting CEO of the Torbay & South Devon Health Care Trust, the CEO of the Clinical Commissioning Group, senior managers of the two largest social landlords in the bay, the South Devon Coroner, council officers and many others.

Recess also affords time to meet constituents and most rewarding has been the warmth of reception I’ve received knocking on doors across the constituency and chatting to people.

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Congratulations to all those A level and GCSE students who have mostly been put out of their agony with the publication of their results.

Congratulations to those who got the A level grades to get them into university in a year where more students are going to start degrees than in 2010.  Yet the majority of school leavers don’t go to university, they go to college and their achievements deserve just as much credit.

Without mechanics and builders, engineers and laboratory technicians, chefs and electricians where would we be.  The academic/vocation divide is an unhelpful one made worse by the media’s focus on students going to university rather than college.

So well done equally to all.

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A great first home game of the season at Plainmoor had me cheering for Cameron – Courtney Cameron of course, who scored Torquay’s third with a wonderful chip over Welling United’s keeper.

I think we can expect a few more wins this season than last. Hopefully enough to challenge for a place back in the football league.

Adrian Sanders MP Urges Mayor To Include Paignton and Torquay Residents in Budget Consultation

Bay MP Adrian Sanders has written to Elected Mayor Gordon Oliver to urge him to hold budget consultation events in Torquay and Paignton as well as Brixham.

In an open letter to the Mayor Adrian Sanders says:

“I am deeply concerned by your plans to have only one consultation event over your proposals for next year’s council budget in Brixham.

By hosting only one event at one end of Torbay makes it difficult for people to be involved and to participate, and some residents may find the cost of travelling off-putting. Local people should be treated equally and fairly by the Council, and with this decision you are not.

I am also concerned that the only budget consultation is being held in the Totnes parliamentary Constituency. Two thirds of Torbay’s residents live in the Torbay parliamentary Constituency. I would respectfully request that you reconsider your plans.”

Commenting on his letter Adrian Sanders said:

“The Mayor’s proposed budget will hit some of the most vulnerable people hardest, so it is vital that everyone has the opportunity to have their say. Many local residents will be excluded from being able to participate in this consultation and I call on the Mayor to reconsider his decision.”

Herald Express Article 14th August 2014

I’ve written before about the need for a migration system which is both firm and fair. But freedom of movement is not the same as the freedom to claim.

In Government the Coalition has agreed a package of proposals based on security and firm control, growth and prosperity, compassion and fairness.

Just before the break for recess the Government enshrined in law our commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. Under the last Government thousands of little boys and girls were locked up every year. We have ended that practice and the Immigration Act will ensure future governments cannot reverse the decision.

There is a great deal more to do and after months of consultation and listening to the people the Liberal Democrats have set out plans to tighten the rules on migrants coming to the UK to work from future EU accession countries.

This is not about bolting the door but is about steadying the flow of people into Britain in a careful and honest way.

The plans include measures to close a loophole that allows migrants claiming to be self-employed to arrive before transitional controls are lifted. It also involves a crack down on sham marriages and employers hiring migrants for less than the minimum wage.

The policy is based on three key changes.  Firstly, proper border checks. This is fundamental. If we are really going to tackle illegal immigration in a meaningful way, we must complete the job of putting proper border checks in place.

Second, managing EU expansion. Freedom of movement between EU member states is a good thing. However, it was always intended as a right to work, not a right to claim benefits.

Third, encouraging everyone to speak English. A common language is the glue that binds a society. People who settle here will find it much easier to integrate into their communities if they speak English

People deserve a system they can have faith in and fair rules and a sense of fair play are the best antidote we have to resentment and mistrust.

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In a world where long-distance travel has become the norm for millions of citizens it is no surprise that troubles in one region of the world should worry the residents in another.

The latest information, at the time of writing, is that no cases of imported Ebola have ever been reported in the UK and the risk to travellers going to West Africa is very low.

The Chief Medical Officer has alerted medical practitioners about the situation in West Africa and requested they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited affected areas.

Wherever you may be travelling in the world always check the Foreign Office website for the latest updates.

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I think we all now realise that back in 2008 the British economy suffered a heart attack. The entire economic system went from being a solid, stable foundation of British society to being on the brink of collapse and people were, understandably, worried about their future.

That was the situation that we also found ourselves in after the 2010 election. There were riots on the streets of Athens, European leaders were frantically trying to keep their countries afloat and Britain found itself with a coalition Government for the first time in generations.

I had hoped we could pull together a ‘rainbow’ coalition Government and wrote to all my Liberal Democrat colleagues immediately after the election floating the idea, even though I knew that such a grouping would have faced immense problems with austerity measures the SNP and Plaid Cymru would have wanted to veto.

It became academic when Labour refused to negotiate seriously leaving the only stable option for economic recovery a Coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

It has been a tough road but last month’s GDP figures show that Britain’s economy is now the fastest growing major economy in the world.

There is still work to do and I want to ensure we focus now on helping people whose incomes have fallen behind so we can build a sustainable stronger economy and fairer society that my Party has always claimed to want to see.

The flow of excellent economic news over the last few weeks show that the UK is heading firmly in a good direction. But it is not just because of the role my Party has played, but also that of the sacrifices people in Torbay and across the UK have made who have helped deliver Britain’s economic recovery.

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In the last week before the recess began I joined with MPs, peers, academics and celebrities, such as Michael Palin and Sir Tony Robinson to sign an open in The Daily Telegraph, urging Britain to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Ongoing conflicts around the globe show no signs of stopping. Violence between Gaza and Israel, the crash of MH17 in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, and the continuing ISIS insurgency in Iraq have shown that we cannot take the safety and security of ourselves, or our cultural heritage, for granted.

After the 2003 looting of museums and historic sites in Iraq, Britain pledged to ratify the Convention. But we didn’t, and we are now the most significant world power not to have done so. As ISIS continues its destruction of historic sites in Iraq, there is no good reason for us not to sign the Convention. The sooner we do so, the better.

Herald Express Article 31st July 2014

The shooting down of a passenger jet airliner on its journey from Holland to Malaysia was an appalling incident and all our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones.

At the time of writing there is a growing weight of evidence suggesting that it is increasingly likely that MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists.

The delay to a swift, transparent and credible investigation is unacceptable. .

There must be a Ukrainian-led investigation as the plane fell on Ukrainian sovereign territory. Specialist experts from other countries, in line with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) must also be allowed access and to work without hindrance.

Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin needs to engage with the international community and use his influence on the separatists to find those responsible and allow them to be brought to justice.

This is an uneasy time for the world and cool heads must prevail.

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The continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine has once more hit the international news.

The recent escalation in violence is tragic and a ceasefire agreed by both sides is urgently needed. The only hope of breaking this cycle of violence is a return to peace negotiations and towards a two-state solution.

There can be no justification for the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza against the Israeli civilian population. But it is deeply disturbing that so many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this latest violence – the majority of them civilians.

While the people of Israel have the absolute right to live without fear for their security, the people of Gaza also have the fundamental right to live in peace and security.

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It has been calculated that households who do not use the internet pay an average £440 more a year for their goods and services, equivalent to 4.4 per cent of their average household income.

This equates to 5.4 percent for the average household containing older or vulnerable people who are the least likely to use the internet to pay their bills.

The research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research makes the case against those companies who charge for paper bills.  They are penalising the poor and vulnerable among the 7 million people in the UK who have never used the internet and those people who are perfectly happy with a paper based system.

It is clear that, whatever the consumer’s household income; there is a cost to people who manage their affairs “offline” be that through choice or circumstance.

I am supported the Keep Me Posted campaign that is calling on all service providers to offer consumers the choice without charge, of how they receive their bills and statements whether that be paper format or digitally.

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The Government is taking action to tackle websites which are charging people for their European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) when they should be free for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK.

People are often directed via search engines to these commercial sites when the cards can be obtained for nothing from the official government website: www.gov.uk/european-health-card or by calling 0300 3301350

If you have been caught out by any misleading website there’s a webpage where you can make a complaint to Google and other search engines: www.gov.uk/misleadingwebsites

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It was a very good job the organisers of the Barton Hill Academy opening ceremony hadn’t engraved a plaque with the name of the Education Minister due to cut the ribbon as she was reshuffled 48 hours before the event.  Her successor ably did the honours.

I was honoured to be invited and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion chatting to governors, parents and former pupils and being given a most informative tour of the school by current pupils Amy and Charles.

One former pupil, Mervyn Benny, and I planted a palm tree at the school’s last significant event when Barton Primary and Barton Junior’s amalgamated into one school.  We were bemused to find possibly Torbay’s only example of where a palm tree no longer exists.

Overall it was a fantastic event and the pupils I encountered were an absolute credit to the school and reflected excellently on the staff and leadership of the Academy.

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I have had a noticeable increase in residents attending my advice surgeries who are not constituents. It’s a great shame to have to tell someone who has waiting to see me that because they are another MP’s constituent I cannot help them.

Where you reside determines which MP can help you, so if someone is in dispute with Brixham Town Council but lives in Torquay I can help them, but I cannot help someone who lives in Brixham but has a dispute with Torbay Council.

If you want to double-check who your MP is there is a useful website called imaginatively http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/   All you have to do is type in your post-code and it will reveal who it is.

Adrian Sanders MP Voices Support For Improving Cancer Patient Experience

Macmillan Cancer Torbay MP, Adrian Sanders has supported Macmillan Cancer Support’s campaign to improve cancer patient care by attending a Parliamentary event with people affected by cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support is urging all Westminster parties to prioritise cancer ahead of the next general election and commit to ensuring all cancer patients are treated with the highest levels of dignity and respect in their manifestos. The charity is also calling on parties to support NHS staff to deliver this aim. At the event, Mr Sanders was presented with a copy of Macmillan’s briefing paper –  Dignity must not be denied: putting cancer patients at the heart of the General Election 2015 – which outlines the current issues with cancer patient experience and Macmillan’s proposed solutions for addressing them. He also met people affected by cancer who were able to outline their own experience and why being treated with dignity and respect is so important to them. Macmillan believes that every person diagnosed with cancer should be treated with dignity and respect throughout their cancer journey. However, the sad reality is that many people have a poor experience of care as shown in the results of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey. The survey provides insights into the care and treatment experienced by cancer patients in 155 NHS Hospital Trusts across England. Last year’s results shows that some patients:

  • Are not being asked what name they want to be called by
  • Report that the people treating and caring for them are not always working well together
  • Are not being given written information on their condition or their operation
  • Feel they are not involved in decisions about their treatment.

Speaking on the subject, Mr Sanders said:

“All cancer patients in Torbay should be treated with dignity, respect, care and compassion. The vast majority of NHS staff work incredibly hard caring for and supporting cancer patients. However, the quality of patient experience is clearly lacking in some cases. Macmillan’s campaign aims to drive improvements in care and I am very proud to support it. The time is now to prioritise patient experience in the NHS.”

As we approach the General Election 2015, Macmillan is also calling on political parties to commit to deliver cancer outcomes that match the best is Europe, and ensure that everyone at the end of life is given free social care to support them to spend their final days in their place of choosing.

Herald Express Article 17th July 2014

I seem to be meeting more and more people and groups affected by the Council’s cuts to the supporting people budget.  Two weeks ago I met a lady who is having to find £70 a month out of her state pension for ‘services’ previously provided by her social landlord who blame the Council’s cuts for having to impose the charges.

Last week I met residents of another sheltered housing development whose different landlord cannot fix broken slates on a roof, a dangerous broken fence with nails sticking out and a health hazard created by changes to refuse areas.

This week it was the increased demands on children’s centres and how they are having to reduce the good work they do helping struggling parents.

These examples are the tip of the iceberg of increased costs falling on the poorest and most vulnerable in Torbay.

All local authorities have had their grants cut, some more than others, because the country had to reduce spending more than its income in order to keep the cost of borrowing down.

Many councils have had to cope with larger losses of income than Torbay but have managed to protect services to the vulnerable and not impose charges on them.  It’s about local priorities and the announcement of more cuts to come is entirely down to the choices made by the Mayor and his supporters on Torbay Council.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Local Enterprise Partnership and MPs championing their areas, the Government has come up with the funding the Mayor asked for to improve roads and the appearance of the gateway to Torquay.

These Growth Fund grants are on top of the assisted area status announced recently and the City Deal funding that is offering a range of economic regeneration support in and around the bay.

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My friend and colleague Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP visited Torbay recently and hinted that he was about to make a significant policy announcement.

He has revealed a plan where pensioners would be guaranteed to earn at least an extra £790 per year by the end of the next Parliament under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans

These changes mean the state pension will be worth at least £131-a-week by 2020, up from just £97.65 four years ago.

Thanks to his idea for a triple lock guarantee, the basic state pension has risen in each year of the last Parliament by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%. The triple lock was a key demand from the Liberal Democrats in Coalition negotiations.

This means the state pension is £440 higher per year in 2014-15 than if it had increased in line with earnings from the start of this Parliament, and worth over £800 a year more in total.

Now we want to write this guarantee into law, giving pensioners more certainty that their pension will continue to rise in future.

For decades, successive governments allowed the state pension to decline after Mrs Thatcher broke the ‘earnings link’ in 1980. Our manifesto promise of a ‘triple lock’ has been implemented every year since 2010 and means that the state pension is already a higher share of the national average wage than at any time since the early 1990s.

But if we are serious about having a decent state pension we need to go further. That is why we need a guarantee in law that in each year pensions will rise by the highest of wages, prices or 2.5%.

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I forgot to mention last time how many apprenticeships have been created across Torbay this year.  It’s 1,210 – a record number locally and higher than most other areas in the South West.

All young people should have an opportunity to get on in life and apprenticeships are a great way to deliver that. Vince Cable has been the driving force nationally to get the Government to commit to reach an ambitious target of delivering 2 million apprenticeships by the end of this Parliament.

There are other important reforms of vocational education that have focused on raising the quality of all apprenticeships to world class standards, so that the programme is rigorous, responsive, and meets the changing needs of the future economy.

Support is available to businesses interested in taking on an apprentice and Torbay’s Development Agency has been promoting a £500 apprenticeship grant recently.  For more information contact the TDA or www.apprenticeships.org.uk/

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I’ve written before about the great work Torbay Neighbourhood Watch carries out and I applaud their new Feel Safe Scheme.

We all fear crime from time to time and vulnerable people especially worry about opening their door.  The Feel Safe Scheme will help people fit a door chain and peephole to remove their anxiety when someone calls.

The scheme offers to do many other things such as fit security lights, cut back hedges, repair broken fences – anything that could help a vulnerable person feel more secure.

The scheme is supported by Waitrose and the Torbay Neighbourhood Watch can be contacted c/o Torquay Police Station or email: feelsafe@torbaywatch.or.uk

Adrian urges constituents to hold hearty tea parties as part of Heart UK’s National Cholesterol Week

Adrian Sanders MP is urging his constituents in Torbay to take part in the HEART UK Hearty Tea Party during National Cholesterol Week, after meeting members of the cholesterol charity at Westminster today.

HEART UK’s National Cholesterol Week, which takes place from 17-23 September, aims to raise funds and awareness in the battle to beat the UK’s biggest killer, heart disease.

Hearty Tea Parties give the public the opportunity to raise funds by staging a get-together with family or friends which features heart-healthy food and drink.

Adrian Sanders MP said: “We all know how important it is to eat well and HEART UK’s National Cholesterol Week provides the perfect opportunity to raise money for this worthwhile cause and remind us of the benefits of eating more healthily.

“I sincerely hope my constituents in Torbay take part in National Cholesterol Week and have some fun along the way.”

Healthy eating is a key element of HEART UK’s National Cholesterol Week campaign, with a range of celebrity chefs providing recipes for cholesterol-lowering dishes.

HEART UK Chief Executive Jules Payne said:

“I would like to thank Adrian Sanders for supporting National Cholesterol Week and encouraging the people of Torbay to get involved.

“Cholesterol is a silent killer that can affect young and old alike. National Cholesterol Week gives us the opportunity to do even more to help the thousands of people across the UK with raised cholesterol and associated heart conditions.”

To register for a Hearty Tea Party today and help us help others whilst enjoying a cuppa with friends, please email development@heartuk.org.uk, call HEART UK on 01628 777 046 or visit http://heartuk.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising/events-challenges/the-hearty-tea-party

Mustn’t Bumble

I’ve been mentioned in a number of papers as part of some movement to depose Nick Clegg as Leader of the Liberal Democrats all because of my phrase bumbling along.

Yes I did say Nick Clegg was bumbling along because I think he is bumbling along looking to the future as if everything is going to come right for the Party at the next election because of our involvement in Government.  I don’t share that view and if their desertion of support for the Party is anything to go by, neither do half the people who voted for us at the last election.

But to draw the conclusion that such an observation is the same as a call for Clegg to go is stretching things, not least because I was fairly explicit in my view that a leader is only as good as his advisors and that he needs new advisors with experience of working in coalition within an adversarial political system such as UK local government and with a track record of fighting and winning elections.  Advisors who are closer to the grass-roots of the party’s core supporters than those who inhabit the  Westminster village where Liberal Democrats are outnumbered 10 to 1.

Fact is Nick Clegg’s position as Leader of the Lib Dems is unassailable this side of the election unless he himself decides to stand down, or just as unlikely, the Conservative’s depose David Cameron.  Talk about Clegg’s leadership is missing the point and the opportunity to re-engage with our lost supporters and build a successful campaign to save and gain seats in 2015 will be lost.

Herald Express Article Thursday 30th August 2012

Usually when the economy goes into a recession Torbay feels the effects first, goes in deeper and comes out last, but at the moment where employment is concerned Torbay seems to be bucking the trend. We still have the highest unemployment rate in the region but the fall in the jobless total has been the largest and most consistent in the county.

Since March unemployment has fallen month after month by 2.8 per cent compared with 1.1 per cent for Devon and 0.8 per cent for the UK.  A trend that started before seasonal factors should be taken into account.

Torbay has also recorded the highest increase in apprenticeships in the county and one of the lowest figures for young people not in education, training or employment – whereas we ought to have one of the highest given our other economic factors.

Perhaps the most encouraging figure is the ratio between those recorded as jobless and the number of job vacancies locally.  This has fallen to just under 4 unemployed for every job vacancy which is below even the national average for the first time I can recall.  With many other local labour markets recording ratios in double figures this really is significant.

There is no room for complacency though until there are more job vacancies than people looking for work, something Torbay has only ever witnessed once, back in 2000 at the height of Nortel’s short-lived boom.  There is also no cause for cheer given the structural weaknesses that underpin our local economy – over dependence on insecure low value employment, poor links with the rest of the country and unaffordable housing for lower income working households.

But the doomsayer’s narrative that it’s all going pear-shaped is simply not backed up by what is happening locally compared to elsewhere.

I put most of it down to higher optimism locally than outside the bay on the back of the Kingskerswell by-pass decision.  Businesses know that the new road should be completed and open to traffic by October 2015 and so are planning ahead already.

I hope we can carry on bucking the trend although better still would be for the whole world economy to start showing signs of recovery.

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The Coalition’s fiscal plan has helped maintain international confidence and lowered interest rates to record lows, making family mortgages and business loans cheaper. Crucially it also allows investment to boost the economy without increasing borrowing and debt.

This successful part of the Government’s plan has ensured lower borrowing costs.  Had it failed our borrowing costs would have mirrored those elsewhere and even deeper public spending cuts would have had to be made.

The unsuccessful part of the Government’s plan so far has been to restore confidence to the national economy so that it starts to grow again.

In order to stimulate demand and kick start the UK economy the Government has announced the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era, launched a £80 billion Funding for Lending and ‘UK Guarantees’ schemes which will use our hard won fiscal credibility to provide guarantees of up to £50 billion of private investment in infrastructure.

This is long-term planning and hopefully some of the benefits of this investment will eventually be felt south westwards. More immediately Government needs to look at ideas to stimulate the economy in the shorter-term.

I’m hoping for announcements on support for the construction industry and house-building to meet local housing need.  The last Government failed miserably in this area and left us with record numbers of inadequately and inappropriately housed families in private rented accommodation with inflated rents met by taxpayer-funded housing benefit.

The answer lies in local housing surveys to assess and meet the demand for regulated rent secure tenancy social housing.

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Most people are aware of my work campaigning for greater awareness, more accurate diagnosis and improved treatments for people with diabetes, but I wonder how many realise just how widespread this condition has become.

There are 2.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 850,000 people who have the condition but don’t know it.

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin producing cells in the body have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin.  Unlike the more common Type 2 diabetes Type 1 is not considered a consequence of lifestyle choices.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance). Around three quarters of all people with diabetes are type 2.

Locally an estimated 10,000 or 8.7 per cent of adults have diabetes in the Torbay Care Trust area – significantly higher than the England average of 7.6 per cent.

Overall Torbay’s care services are above average but in some areas we fall behind and worryingly over half – 52 per cent – of people with diabetes in our area are not receiving all of the recommended care processes.

There are some examples of excellent care locally but the overall figures indicate that even in an area considered one of the best there is plenty of room for improvement.