Thursday, 4 February 2010

Moving On

I now have a website which replaces this blog and on which there are new entries. Please visit to keep up to date with what I am up to and to see my views on a number of current political issues.

Best wishes - and thank you for reading!

Anne Marie

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn - changing colours

It has been an action packed summer but now the nights are drawing in and autumn is with us. The leaves are turning colour and falling. While in this third quarter other countries are out of recession, we are still in recession. While the decline is slowing, we have experienced one of the longest and deepest recessions on record.

I have been visiting a number of local businesses following my business survey, and while many say the recession has bottomed out, none can say it is over. Mark Prisk MP Shadow Minister for Business and Enterprise came down to listen and to learn this month. The biggest issue - business rates and the cost of red tape.

This month I have had the opportunity of sitting down with John Hart, our new Devon County Council leader to hear about future plans and with Nicola Bulbeck, Chief Executive of Teignbridge District Council. Both are well aware of the need for financial prudence. John Hart has some very clear plans which he has been spelling out this week - and more will come.

I also had very good meetings with both David Radford, Chairman of Devon Primary Care Trust and with Iain Tulley, Chief Executive of the Devon Partnership Trust responsible for mental health care provision across Devon. They are both considering my request to maintain some form of out-patient mental health care provision in the new Newton Abbot Hospital.

One of the biggest issues we face is the increasing challenge of providing for mental health care for the elderly. Dementia is still not well supported or understood and I am delighted by the work of the Senior Council for Devon who have done a great job of explaining the challenge of the disease and where to go for help.

I visited the recently re-opened village shop in Stokeinteignhead - a real credit to the villagers. Never mind the goods, it provides a real social life line to many. If you need a hand, volunteers will help with all sorts of practical advice and come around with you helping you to shop.

Communities are key and we have so many good examples. I was asked to open the Village Olympics in Ashcombe - a challenge of endurance, enthusiasm and fitness between three villages. In Shaldon the challenge was all mine as I competed in the women's and mixed rowing pairs as part of Shaldon Regatta. I used to row when I was younger - and fitter! At least I finished the course.

I had the great pleasure of visiting South Dartmoor College to talk to politics students about our electoral system - I was impressed by their knowledge and clear enthusiasm. They had lots of ideas for change. I was just so pleased to see them so engaged - after all politics will play a large part in determining their future opportunities.

But the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month where David Cameron and George Osborne set out their stall for the next election - expected by most to be 6 May 2010 was exceptional. A clear message about the need to rebuild the status of families and family life and of communities. And some very clear messages about the difficult steps needed to get the economy back on its feet.

The leaves are changing colour.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Summer, what summer?

While June was glorious, July has been a complete washout - and even August is now predicted as another wet month. But the English are always good at carrying on regardless - as so many of us have done at countless fetes and flower shows. But we have had some fun! I thoroughly enjoyed presenting the prizes with Cllr Dennis Smith and drawing the raffle at the Ipplepen Flower Show - some first class vegetables and flowers. At least that was under cover as was the Rotary picnic at Teign School - the cabaret was great - unless you don't like going to the dentist! The wettest day for me was undoubtedly the day I spent escorting Victor Elliot to visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace at her annual garden party - the skies opened and we were drenched. None the less a very special occasion.

Water events score highly with me as a former oarswoman and Amateur Rowing Association coach. The Barham Cup was overcast and the start was a bit choppy but the teams came through safely to Newton Abbot from Teignmouth - where we all enjoyed a few beers and burgers. Shaldon Water Carnival was a great family day. It was a great pleasure for me to judge the drawing competition and sandcastle squares. The Parade of Decorated Boats in the afternoon was as well attended as ever. I was invited to join the crew of Radio Caroline which was a great pleasure. A bit of drama when "Harold Wilson" tried to board the boat to shut the radio station down secured the prize for humour.

I was invited to visit Devon Air Ambulance at their base in Exeter. We are very lucky to have them. The ambulance service is not funded by the NHS - it's a charity, and a very well worth while one. It works in conjunction with the police at Middlemore and the NHS without whom it could not operate. It gives us a unique additional service complimenting the land based ambulance service. In other parts of the country, the air ambulance services are an integral part of the NHS, not an addition to it. This gives our team greater flexibility to meet patient needs. The biggest frustration for the team was the volume of red tape and paperwork to measure procedural targets taking time away from the really important issue of patient care.

Alan Partridge invited me to visit the Newton Abbot Scout Hut and be briefed on the scouting movement. A wonderful concept and a really good way of giving youngsters life skills and a sense of self worth that they don't get elsewhere. I was very impressed at how strong the movement here is - one of the strongest in Britain. My greatest sadness was to learn how much it cost to take part - too much for some families I suspect. What they also need is more Mums and Dads to volunteer to help. If there is anyone out there interested I am sure Alan would love to hear from you.

The caseload gets bigger each week - some planning and housing, some health and social care - its a very wide range. With Dawlish residents I visited Secmaton Lane to understand the planning issues they faced. I also went to hear the summing up of the bypass public enquiry. I think we have a long wait ahead of us. This month, I am starting to visit all the businesses that responded to my survey to really get to grips with their problems.

Monday, 29 June 2009

June Days

June was not a month for relaxing - despite the glorious sunshine! Since the election we have been out delivering and canvassing most days. Last Saturday we were 13 strong out all day in Newton Abbot. Many of you should now have received "People Talk" and those of you who read the Mid Devon Advertiser will have seen my views set out in a new fortnightly column on page two, an advertisement sponsored by Conservative supporters. Any feedback on what you would like to see me cover in future on that page would be welcome.

I sent out a survey last month to over 2,000 of our local businesses and have been delighted by the high response rate. We are now analysing the results and I will post them on my website as soon as we have completed the exercise. If there is any business who would like to contribute and did not receive my survey, please do let me know and I will send out a survey to you. I am determined that our smaller businesses get the support they need - they are the unsung heroes of our economy.

I was delighted this month to be invited to attend the Federation of Small Businesses' annual awards dinner in my capacity as a Board Member of the Devon and Cornwall Institute of Directors - especially as one of the winners was our very own local taxi business - Teignbridge Taxis - well done! A special mention should also go to Anne Walker at International Dance Supplies in Newton Abbot who has just been named a winner of the prestigious First Women Awards run in association with the CBI and Lloyds TSB, a national award that recognises women who are the trailblazers and pioneers of Britain. I chair a networking group of local businesses of which IDS is a founding member and we are very proud of what she has done to keep the Newton Abbot business community flag flying.

Following my meeting with the Devon Pensioners Forum last month, this month it was the Senior council for Devon ,which represents the over 50s. We had our bi-monthly branch meeting and our quarterly Devon wide meeting of the Council's Assembly which I attended representing the Newton Abbot area which includes Kingsteignton. Key issues for us here locally are health and transport and we are planning a series of meetings to look at these issues in more detail to come up with some locally relevant recommendations. I had been approached by a local group wanting to see if we can establish a patient transport support group in Newton Abbot rather like Kingscare. I took this to the Senior Council branch meeting and we hope to meet with them to see how we can help. It must be a good idea!

I was very pleased to be able this month to spend some time at Rydon School where I am a governor with Year 5. We had a great time talking about what they had learnt about Henry the VIII and his wives - not a great advert for marriage! We talked about the science work they had been doing - including the solar system and the life cycle of plants - which led to a great trip around the school grounds as the children showed me the gardening club's work and the butterfly patch.

Saturday was particularly busy - it was armed forces day, a day to celebrate what a huge contribution our serving men and women make to the community. I am a member of the British Legion and joined everyone in Dawlish for a great celebration. It was also the Friends of Dawlish Hospital's fete - which added the treat of a great cream tea! And then on to Shaldon where the RNLI had a super fundraiser - and I enjoyed another scone or two! As Roger, my other half, and I sail, we are great supporters - not least because one day we may need them!

But the summer is a time to have some fun together - and that we are doing as local Conservatives in our community. We had a cheese and wine in Dawlish at the beginning of the month, we have a lunch party in Broadhempston next week and a wine tasting at the end of July in Preston, Kingsteignton. I should love to meet anyone who would like to come and join us at one of these events. All events are advertised on

July will be hotter - and busier!

Friday, 26 June 2009


It has been drawn to my attention that there was an error on my last Blog entry in relation to the designation of the party allegiance of Colin Authers in my report of the county election results. I have corrected the error and apologise unreservedly to Mr Authers.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Moving on - towards a general election!

The voters have spoken quite convincingly! Devon was a landslide in favour of the Conservative Party - and locally there was a strong vote for change. Across the country as a whole the Conservative vote share was 15 percentage points higher than Labour - a 9% swing. Of the seven Devon county council seats in the Newton Abbot constituency, as it will be at the next General Election, we now hold five - four substantial gains. John Clatworthy held his seat in Dawlish increasing his majority. John has now been joined by Dennis Smith who lives in Ipplepen (Teignbridge South), Mike Walters who lives in Kingsteignton (Kingsteignton), James McMurray who lives in Teignmouth (Teignmouth Town) and Chris Clarence (Teign Estuary) who lives in Shaldon. John Clatworthy has been appointed Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group in Devon County Council. This gives us a strong voice in Devon. One of their first challenges as a team will be to find savings and reduce the county debt. The aim - no council tax rise next year. Working together we can get things done!

It has been a rollercoaster of a week with very little sleep. But it was all worth it. The two seats out of seven we did not regain were the two Newton Abbot seats - but it was close. After the first count, Newton Abbot North was declared a Conservative win - on the recount it was a loss - but only by 191 votes. We also have an interest in the results for Exminster and Kenton. This seat includes the villages of Starcross and Kenton which are both part of the new Newton Abbot constituency. Here Alan Connett's majority was almost knocked out - he is now hanging on in there by just 33 votes. Now the task moving on is to prove to the electorate that we were worth the vote and deserve to go to Westminster at the next general election - whenever that election is.

Every day Gordon Brown seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. No one has confidence in him - not even his ever changing cabinet. Britain deserves better than this. Instead of thinking about what is best for the country, Labour has spent thinking about what is best for themselves. At a time of economic and political difficulty, we need a strong and united government. Instead we have a Government in complete chaos. But will the Labour back benchers be able to agree on a successor to force a leadership vote? Even if they do succeed will that individual take the country to the poles? Its a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas! The British people should get to decide who runs the country, not Labour MPs!

These were the Devon County Council election results for the constituency:

Teignbridge South:
Dennis Smith (Con) 1,849
Aistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem)
Karen Eberhardt-Shelton (Green) 561
Mary Kennedy (Lab) 152

John Clatworthy (Con) 2,236
Derek Collins (Lib Dem) 969
Margaret Fountain (UKIP) 901
Richard Fairfax (Green) 273
Graham Hesse (Lab) 236

Mike Walters (Con) 1,269
Andrew Fear (UKIP) 886
John Smith (Lib Dem) 655
Jane Baker (Green) 267
Babs Errington (Lab) 229

Teignmouth Town:
James McMurray (Con) 1,209
Christopher Bray (Lib Dem) 1,120
Chris Whitlock (UKIP) 631
Roy Phillips (Ind) 228
Ros Langdon (Green) 177
Niall Duffy (Lab) 129
Colin Authers 129

Teign Estuary:
Chris Clarence (Con) 1,618
David Cox (Lib Dem) 1,306
Richard Stanton (UKIP) 642
Adrian Prter (Green) 211
Alan Lumb (Lab) 127

Newton Abbot North:
Anne Fry (Lib Dem) 1,323
Lorna Lowes (Con) 1,132
Lucia Capaldi (Green) 408
Robert Kennedy (Lab) 208

Newton Abbot South:
Gordon Hook (Lib Dem) 1,940
Anthony Ballinger (C0n) 1,169
Corinne Lindsey (Green) 441
Barry Kaye (Lab) 201

The European election results are just hot off the press. We won as many votes nationally as Labour and the Liberal Democrats put together. We came first, increasing our vote share and we're thirteen per cent ahead of Labour. It's clear that the Liberal Democrat's position on Europe is not resonating with voters. And no wonder, when they have reneged on their promise to support a referendum on the renamed European Constitution, voted to abolish Britain's rebate from the EU, and want to scrap the pound and join the Euro!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

An election like no other!

Next month on 4th June the country will be asked to vote in local county council elections and European elections. Will these elections predict the outcome of the general election? The current expose on parliamentary expenses and MPs' conduct has had a profound effect on voters. Quite rightly they are angry. Some MPs seem to have forgotten the small print which says expenditure has to be wholly and exclusively for the purpose of being an effective MP - ie necessary to help them do their job. However the worst offenders are those who have in anyone else's book committed fraud - assuming what the Daily Telegraph has printed is accurate. Where fraud is proved they should be prosecuted.

And the effect on the voter? Well while the press predict a low turnout and a move in favour of smaller parties, on the doorstep the picture is a little different. Yes there are those that won't engage now and won't vote - but there are others who have grown increasingly interested in politics and who want to engage now as never before. They recognise that not voting would be a triumph for anarchy and a defeat for democracy. Making politicians more effective and more accountable can only take place if the electorate play their part. But as politicians we have to be more accessible and work to deserve the vote. It's a two way street.

It has been a busy few weeks. The Newton Abbot Senior Council is back on its feet under new chairmanship. Our focus is on transport issues and health. One particular problem we face is the availability of good home care visits to the elderly and infirm. To be effective, home visits need to be long enough to do the job - 15 minutes won't do - and the visitor needs to have sufficiently mastered the English language to be able to communicate. Right now this is not the case and this must change. As a group we are beginning to have a voice which Devon County will listen to and have made significant progress in a number of areas including raising awareness of the challenge dementia patients and their families face.

I have also been working with Transition Town Newton Abbot along with Conservative Future to begin to bring the message of sustainability to the town. We are creating a town garden on disused land just by Baker's Park. We had an Open Day and it was a real pleasure to welcome visitors - particularly young children and introduce them to the fun of planting and explain to them the role of the earth worm. You need good muscles to dig - but practice makes perfect as they say!

I was invited to a very moving event at the Langstone Cliffe Hotel in Dawlish Warren - a dinner in favour of the charity "Richard's Wish" . Richard, a young boy, had been terminally ill - and a group of well-wishers had granted him his wish to go to a fabulous football match , meeting the players and being the VIP for the day. His parents have now established a charity to provide the "dream" for other children in the same situation. It was a great evening and a handsome figure was raised. And of course earlier this month I was invited to the formal inauguration of the new major of Dawlish, Geoff Wills - a great event and a great tradition.

Our Newton Abbot Networking Group met again to discuss key issues affecting the larger businesses in Newton Abbot - and I was invited to take on the chairmanship going forward. There are a number of issues - education and development for employees, planning issues and most important the Newton Abbot brand. As you come up the A380 or A 38 you would hardly know you had reached Newton Abbot. There is very little signage and nothing to indicate what the town has to offer. The town needs a strong brand to attract visitors and to reinforce its identity. This was a key issue we wanted to discuss with Teignbridge District Council. I also had a very successful meeting with the Dawlish Chamber of Commerce to discuss the issues affecting local businesses. Branding was also an issue here.

Earlier this month I had a meeting with the Devon Pensioners Association. We talked about the plight of those trying to survive on the old age pension and agree it needed to be linked again to the average wage. We also discussed the real challenge of council tax - a sum now so huge that for many it is almost 12% of their monthly expenditure - and for others much more. Council tax needs to be frozen and the pension needs once again to be a figure someone can reasonably live on - and be easy to claim.

I visited Downing Street to present my school's petition this month - with some 2,300 signatures. David Cameron visited Decoy School with me in support of what I have been trying to do. He is as concerned as I am that every child should have an equal and fair start in life. We had a great time with the children. One class interviewed him - a very professional job done and some very good questions asked! Philip Hammond, shadow Treasury Secretary also visited at my request to see for himself what is happening here n Newton Abbot during the downturn to manufacturing. We visited Centrax together and the Barr family gave us a very clear brief of what we needed to do to get the country working again and manufacturing back on its feet.

And of course the Devon County Show which I visited on the Thursday - great weather, great event - and well attended despite the downturn! The Ram Roast however at Kingsteignton was the local highlight - not enough ram baps to go round! Never have I seen it so well attended. Lets hope this weather lasts - the farmer tell me it will and they are usually right.

Lets see what June 4th brings!