Sunday, December 20, 2009

Going Green, Mate

Australia is a country of contradictions: It has both the cuddliest and deadliest animals in the world; it can be 40C one day and 15C the next; and while the rest of the world think of the average Aussie as a healthy, outdoor-living type, they are up there with the worst offending carbon polluters (per capita) in the world.

While most of the developed nations worry about dwindling energy supplies leading to blackouts in the next decade, Australia is sitting on enough brown coal to last them 300 years. Brown coal is bad - much worse than black coal for spewing carbon into the atmosphere - and although energy prices have risen in Oz, they are still relatively cheap compared to the exorbitant prices that residents pay in the UK.

Even their petrol is around half the price of the UK, so there's no incentive to get people onto public transport. And why would they? As the saying goes, "Australia is a bloody big country" and unless you live in a city suburb with a tram or train stop within walking distance, you have to use a car.

Australia isn't just a country, it's all but a continent, made up of people who don't want to live anywhere else and are generally very happy with their lives. They want to protect their status quo and they don't want America or Europe telling them they've got to change, so I'm not surprised that the country is dissolving into a political and social battle that revolves entirely around climate change.

I was in Sydney last week while COP15 was on and for the snail pace drive back to the airport which took an hour (usually 15 minutes), my taxi driver gave me an impromptu lecture on his theories surrounding the treaty that was never to be. Ask a London cabbie about Copenhagen and he'll probably be able to tell you that it's in Denmark - I doubt he'll be able to give you an opinion on the summit, let alone a lecture.

I don't know whether it's scaremongering; media reporting; or the haste at which Tony Abbott (the new Liberal leader who has described climate change as crap) has risen up the political ranks, but many Australians - and not just my taxi driver - feel that a binding treaty would have made them relinquish sovereignty while taxing them to the point of bankruptcy. Ask them how both these would come about and they don't really know - "I heard it somewhere" (probably from my taxi driver).

Kevin Rudd (the Labor PM) wants to introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - which is being dubbed the "giant new tax" by Abbott... Introduce the words giant, new and tax into the public psyche and Rudd will have a tough fight come election time - he may even be forced to call it sooner that planned just to draw a line under this rather hot potato.

Abbott only won the leadership election by a single vote and was close to pulling out of the race days before. But rather than a new leader fixing the cracks, his election has horrified moderate Liberals and has split the party more than it was already.

There will be an Australian election in 2010 before the next climate summit and it's already being dubbed the Climate Change Election. It goes against all my political principles to want a Labor victory but an Abbott victory (rather than a Liberal one) would not be the best option for this planet. I may not agree politically with much of what Rudd believes in but unlike Gordon Brown, Rudd didn't fly into Copenhagen with a self-mandate to save the world - he went there to make it work and you can see the utter disappointment in his eyes, once you get past the dark shadows giving away the lack of sleep.

It's great that climate change will be discussed over the turkey or barbied snags this Friday but Australia has to be careful that it doesn't go the for Abbott easy option and just ignore it. I don't think they will and when the election comes around, I think Rudd will still come out the winner. It'll be an election worth watching though.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thank you!

I didn't want to tag this onto another post as the CWO is so grateful to so many people for their trip to Brussels.

Huge thanks are due to Marina Yannakoudakis for inviting us to visit and giving us so much of her extremely precious time; to Timothy Kirkhope MEP (the leader of the Conservative MEPs in Europe), Vicky Ford MEP and all the other MEPs we met and talked to. An honour too to have sat down with Eva Svensson, the Chair of the FEMM Committee.

Special thanks must go to Mark Walker, Marina's Head of Office, and to Caroline Healy (the Conservative FEMM Committee Advisor) for their help in guiding us around and patiently explaining how everything worked. We would literally have been lost without Mark and still quite ignorant with Caroline!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Victory for voiceless women

A two-year campaign to give a voice to voiceless women forced into prostitution ended victoriously earlier this week. Late on Tuesday night members of the House of Lords voted in favour of a clause designed to protect people forced into prostitution. Clause 14 passed through the Report Stage of the Policing and Crime bill un-amended.

The clause, which is supported by over 60 charities and organisations, shifts the focus of the law onto those who create the demand for prostitution by making it an offence to pay for sex with someone who is subjected to force, deception or threats.

This is good. There would be no need for forced prostitution if there were not so many men out there looking to buy sex. I've heard a lot of the pro and anti /legalise and not legalise prostitution, but I always come back to the point of why do so many men buy sex? They can't all be misunderstood. Part of it is 'because they can' - and they are not taught otherwise.

I cannot help but recall a conversation with women at the UN Commission for Women who were all mainly from the USA. I asked if they talked to their sons about paying for sex, and the plight of some prostitutes. They said 'its not men like our sons'.

Yes it is ladies. It's always someones son, brother, husband, lover. They need to be told its not acceptable. This is a great step forward. Stopping the market would be another.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Harriet Harman's idea of Women's Rights

After John Prescott warned Harriet Harman to keep quiet about women's rights yesterday, I tuned in to see what the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party would say.

Admittedly I only caught the end of her speech, but what I did catch was incredulous, even for a Government on its last legs. I don't think my anger levels will survive watching the whole thing.

I caught the speech as she was talking about prostitution (which she obviously has never fully researched) but then went onto rambling about Labour's Diversity Evening:
"If the Tories had a Diversity Evening at their conference...Theresa May wouldn't be allowed to be there, because she's a woman. But she could serve the drinks."
I don't even know where to begin to understand why Harman said what she did.

Thankfully, the 10 people that have stayed for the last day of the conference didn't give Harman the reaction she must have been after. Other than one raucous laugh (probably from her speech writer), the rest of the delegates gave it a very quiet, embarrassed laugh.

May I remind Ms Harman that no Conservative Shadow Cabinet member has ever resigned from office telling their leader that they "have been treated ... as little more than female window dressing"!!

If the Conservatives achieve a majority of just one at the next election, then we will have 55+ women MPs in the next parliament. This will only have come about because of the hard work of the CWO and because of David Cameron's determination to increase the number of women MPs on the Conservative benches - and all without the NuLabour sexist, all-women shortlists.

Conservative women do well because they're damned good and will NEVER describe themselves as window dressing.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The BNP: Motivation against Voter Apathy

The vast majority of CWO members have been out canvassing, delivering leaflets, telling and knocking-up for the past weeks and months. Certainly in the County Council elections it was all worth the sore feet, slammed doors in faces, close escapes from dogs and scraped knuckles from unfriendly letterboxes.

Taking Devon and Somerset from the Lib Dems and the outstanding results in the North showed how successful Conservatives are at local level and just how much the population wants a change in Government.

It was all going so well - until Sunday evening - when the results came in from the North West and Yorkshire.

I don't know anybody in this country who wouldn't have had a lump in their throat watching the wonderful WWII veterans tell their stories at the D-Day celebrations. I just wish the elections had happened the day after the 65th anniversary - it might have stopped people believing that voting for the odious BNP was in some way a protest vote.

For Griffin to even align himself with Churchill and the heroes of the two world wars is sickening. In some twisted re-writing of history, the BNP believe that these same veterans fought to protect Britain for the British.

Every man and woman who defended Britain - be it on the front, working in factories, digging in the fields, or keeping the home fires burning - were all heroes and they worked, fought and died to defend our freedom from Fascism - from people like Nick Griffin.

If there was ever a reason for the electorate to participate in democracy - that most precious commodity saved by those heroes - then the shame of having two BNP MEPs is that reason.

For the 26 million of you who did not vote in the European elections because of political mistrust, boredom, couldn't be bothered or because parliament is going through much-needed reform, then you only have yourself to blame when you wake up this morning and are disgusted by the news. Remember that feeling at the next election and go and vote.

You might not like mainstream politicians at the moment but giving the BNP a foothold in British politics would be a far worse disaster than the times we are living through now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Telegraph has done a Disservice to Democracy

Enough is enough. For every day that new revelations are dripped out to the media and electorate, I can see another 500 votes for UKIP (or worse) in the June elections.

The day this broke, I wrote to the Telegraph to tell them that they had done a disservice to democracy by releasing this information before the June elections. My letter, unsurprisingly, didn't get published.

County Council and European candidates are getting thrown to the wolves. I forget the number of times I've had to remind voters on the doorstep that these are local and European elections and not parliamentary.  

Not voting goes against everything I believe in a democracy but for once I'd prefer people not to vote than give a protest vote to a party whose MEPs are embroiled in their own scandals, or to the loathsome BNP.

The Telegraph have had this information for weeks and possibly months. They would have had to, given the time it would have taken them to go through the million or so receipts.

Publish the rest in one go then publish another 10 editions highlighting the vast majority of our MPs who work hard and don't have any "accounting errors that were within the rules".

It is not the fault of all the County Council and Euro candidates that parliament has got itself into this mess - so why does a national newspaper believe that it has the right to interfere with democracy at such a basic level? I'm not saying they shouldn't have published the information - only that they should have started it after the 4th June.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What a day this has been....

Some 26 years ago I had the fortune to marry a young man who was destined to be an MP. As it happens, just 6 weeks after our wedding he was an MP, and decisions for my callow 23 year self had to be made. Stay in my job (administrator in the racing industry) or follow my hobby into work - 8 years service as a volunteer in the Conservative Party had me well bitten by the bug, so heading after my man to become his PA seemed reasonable, sensible, and a good way to not blow this fresh young marriage. We worked hard, we rented a small flat on the allowances, and we lived sensibly. In that respect nothing has changed. 26 years on; we rent a small flat, we live sensibly, we only claim what is appropriate.

To say we were stunned by some of the revelations this week is an understatement. I wrote in a recent article that I believed 99% of MPs were doing it correctly and it would be 'the few' that muddied the waters. I was wrong.

So what do we do? David Cameron has shown true grit and leadership today. Clean up or get out is his message, and that is one all must follow.

What I really hope is that for the prospective young things out there who have been bitten by the bug will not be put off. The honour of representing people cannot be underestimated, and is worth fighting for.