Finally the A11 opening!

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Matthew Hancock MP opening the new A11 Dual underpass and thanking Cllr. Guy McGregor for making that element happen

Matthew Hancock MP opening the new A11 Dual underpass and thanking Cllr. Guy McGregor for making that element happen

Last Friday week I travelled a few miles on the back roads to one of Lisa and my favourite café and shops for a quite historic morning. As I cross the bridge over the A11 from Brandon to Elveden I briefly looked down onto the new dual carriageway and for the first time the cones were cleared and the traffic was using the new Dual Carriageway.

The day started early with a business breakfast where Liz Truss MP and members of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce all talked about the economics benefits to Thetford and beyond and as I listened to the speeches, it struck me it was just as beneficial to West Suffolk and how FHDC are working with Brandon businesses to make sure we get the maximum benefit from this investment too!

Next we drove to the Elveden Inn where later in the morning there was the official opening speeches as the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLaughlin officially opened the road. It all looked splendid on the telly later in the day but the actual ceremony was slightly surreal as the Highways Agency used a lorry on which the VIPs stood and spoke and the rest of us, due the rain were huddled in a tent where you sort of had to, bend the knees, to see the faces of those speaking.

Later the more local of us boarded a bus to go and see the bridleway underpass that Suffolk County Council paid £350,000 for the building of and as Matthew Hancock MP officially opened it he paid tribute to Cllr. Guy McGregor the former Suffolk Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport who was instrumental in the fudging be made available before the underpass to be constructed.

Speaking of those instrumental in making the dualling happen, the picture shows Matthew Hancock opening the new bridleway underpass of the new road and thanking Cllr. Guy McGregor who when he was Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Transport battled for the funding to make it happen as a part of the scheme. The only other key person who could not be there on the day was Lord Risby of Haverhill, Richard Spring MP that was and Matt’s predecessor, but Matt thoughtfully retold one of Richard’s storys about the road, that its dualling was in his maiden Speech in the House of Commons and after 17 years of hard campaigning on his part, was given the green light 3 months after he retired! Having worked with Richard over many years firstly as his Association Deputy Chairman Political and later as his Chairman and then when I was in the cabinet of Suffolk County Council I recall that hard work and he should be proud of the part he played in this magnificence new road that will make such a difference to our part of the world.

Election Day 2010

Start of the election day with the sign outside the front of my cottage

7:00am A picture of me about to start my day looking fresh, well as fresh as is possible with the knowledge that I have 24hrs of non-stop work ahead of me.

Election Day, first things first, popped into the local newsagents to pick up those all important election morning papers (by my count 11 papers for the Conservatives, 3 for labour, none for the liberals and the 2 East Anglian based dailies neutral), before traveling about to see the tellers are in place at the polling stations across the constituency, not an easy task for the volunteers to cover with 95 stations across the constituency; start by visiting a few polling stations in my patch to say thank you to all those hardy soles who agreed to do the early telling stints, then off to pick up the battlewagon as it is affectionately known (well, a big green Land Rover).

On the way done, just have time to pull over and call Mark Bee, my fellow County Councillor, Leader of Waverney District Council and Agent to Peter Aldous Conservative PPC to wish him and Peter good luck in both his own personal district election, the general election and his fellow district Councillors’ elections; and I think I have a busy day with just one candidate!

Then a call to Paul West, Chairman of Ipswich Conservatives to wish him, their candidate Ben Gummer and his team the very best of British, hopeful in the wee small hours all the hard work by both candidates and their excellent teams will pay off and we can see the removal of the ‘never seen’ Chris Mole and the ‘I claim responsibility’ for all the very good thing that the District and County Council do in Lowestoft, Mr. Bob Blizzard, but of course the fiascos of the labour government’s highways agency ridiculous delay in fixing the Bascule Bridge was ‘nothing to do with me gov’.

Picking up the Battlewagon

Picked up the battle bus and arrived at Matthew Hancock’s house in Thurlow to find him blowing up balloons which was a good idea as the battlewagon has no air bags so they might help if we crash it, or err…. maybe not.

9:30am Matthew and I headed off to spend the day visiting the committee rooms, and generally getting out the voters to head off the yellow peril who not only does not live in the Constituency but set up their campaign headquarters outside the constituency, I pondered if for the first time we might bump into them during the day but as we had not seen anything of them during the past few weeks I doubted it today as well.

Dorothy, our brilliant Agent, using the latest hi-tec election equipment!

First stop was to Elaine’s house in Haverhill from which we were running our telling and getting out the vote teams across the town.

At this stage the turnout is looking high which is not suprising given that it’s such a lovely day.

Then straight off to Newmarket to see how things are going there, stopping in the high street to pick up Matthew’s lovely wife Martha, who had been making a few last minute arrangements for the day, we arrived at Maureen’s to see a large team working away, time for a cup of tea and a large slice of one of Maureen’s wonderful cake, Matthew eager to push on; I’m eager to finish my cake!

Matthew and Martha outside Exning Post Office

Palace House, Scaltback, and Exning polling stations visited, and just time for Matthew and Martha to pop in the Exning Post office for a chat, as it’s under threat of closure which is absolutely pathetic, as I briefly stood outside I saw lots of people walk there and use it, also in the time I was there the local ‘Dial a Ride’ Bus turned up and the driver helped a lady with a walking frame down from the lift at the rear and into the shop to pay her bills, yes, this government says she could pay them online with one of those computer things but it matters to her to be able to go to the post Office and pay her bills which is an important part of her keeping active, and carrying on with her live as best she can, despite her frailty; the cost of providing the Post Office and the ‘Dial a ride’ for her and her friends is far, far less o0f a cost to the state than keeping them in a home and it’s about time we started to look at the cost of things like Post Offices in the round, not in isolation, maybe they cost money to keep open but in terms of community cohesion and health and well being they are a bloody site cheaper than supporting the communities with all the older person intervention strategies that this outgoing Labour Government think its a good idea to keep rolling out.

The lack of joined up thinking is quite frightening really!

Save our Post Offices!

ANYWAY RANT OVER, we carried on!

To Brandon and a quick visit to Jean’s, who kindly provided her front room for the campaign committee room, and then on to the Brandon community centre to chat with County Council Bill Bishop and his lovely wife Shirley and District Councillor Stephen Edwards as well.

Then to Lakenheath for a brief chat with the team at Margaret’s and the tellers at the two polling station before traveling on to the committee room in Mildenhall for a break and delicious but quick bit to eat, then we crisis crossed the east of the constituency towards Buryand with no time to rest it was back to Newmarket for the afternoon’s knock-up.

Everyone was starting to get tired by now including me, but onwards and upwards as I picked up Iain and headed back to Haverhill to finish off the day’s knock-up.

As the light fades we decide to call it a day as the polling stations are about to close and head back to Newmarket for Lasagna and a small glass of wine, in quite the poshest high street dinning establishment imaginable, before heading to the Count to see the first of the poll station boxes arrive and be opened.

10:15 Box after box arrive and are opened and very quickly it becomes clear that the good people of West Suffolk have yet again made a strong positive decision to back the Conservatives, as each box is opened I look to the Liberal Candidate and her agents faces to see them getting longer and longer, always a pleasure to watch dejected liberals.

David Burnip CE of Forest Heath announcing Matthew's Victory

And finally after a very long day the Chief Executive of Forest Heath District Council David Burnip announces that Matthew has won with over 50% of the popular vote and has increased Richard Spring pervious majority which really proves the strength of feeling to get Gordon Brown out; and after the initial flirtatious dally with something new after Clegg’s good performance in the first leaders debate, in the cold light of the election campaign people have realise that actual behind him are a set of policies that are simply unworkable. (p.s. oops! I ment to say our beloved deputy Prime Minister and aspects of policy that we can now work together to impliment, I think the follwing weeks events clearly show that a day is indeed a long time in politics and its quite something how things move on, it certainly in going to be a interesting Parliament, talk about uncharted waters).

The result was:

Name Party Votes % +/-
Matthew Hancock Conservative 24,312 50.6 +1.7
Belinda Brooks-Gordon Liberal Democrat 11,262 23.4 +6.2
Ohid Ahmed Labour 7,089 14.7 -14.2
Ian Smith UK Independence Party 3,085 6.4 +1.5
Ramon Johns British National Party 1,428 3.0 +3.0
Andrew Appleby Independent 540 1.1 +1.1
Colin Young Christian Peoples Alliance 373 0.8 +0.8
Majority 13,050 27  
Turnout 48,089 64.6 +3.8

Interestingly and unlike a certain labour candidate from Bristol, I can now say that there were over 8,000 postal votes cast, so over 20% of the total turn out chose this method to register their vote; a significant number indeed.

Worryingly very worrying for the liberals locally is that there were over 8,000 postal votes and given that they were sent out at the height of the Clegg effect, and we all know that most people fill in and post their postal vote relatively immediately, if you look at their overall vote share and take away their good showing amongst the postal voters, they did very badly indeed; as it turns out after all the hype of the past few weeks the liberals are nowhere, and boy could you see it in the look on the faces of their candidate and her team on the night.

As I left I said to the liberal agent, ‘Tim please don’t try to sell this as a liberal victory, you lost and lost convincingly’ he response was ‘that’s a 2.3 percent swing from Conservatives to us!’ – Good to see even now spin is alive and well, I said ‘2, 3, 4, 5, 6, percentage you lost and we won, good night Tim!

4:00am I traveling home, a contented little chairman, well, contented until I got home and turned on the BBC Coverage but perhaps that’s another story to be played out over the next few days.

Out Campaigning with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill

Campaigning about the NHS at Haverhill Saturday Market with Matthew Hancock and the team

Today a large group of us were out with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill Town Square on a busy Saturday morning’s market. The weather was sunny and the response from those we talked to about the NHS and our plans to improve it, was really postive and well received. So many people told us of their personal experiences of going into Hospital, the Doctors and Nurses are wonderful but they simply cannot believe the number of people with clip boards, buzzing around all the time.

Thirteen years of this Labour Government has brought investment but it has also brought a middle management Culture of form filling and report filling that has nothing to do with delivering world class health care but actually blocks it as so much of the funding goes in management costs not front line services and this culture has to be reversed.

After the mornings campaigning on the Market Square we set about knocking on doors and asking people their views were, on probably my favourite estate to canvassing in the whole constituency Roman Way, lots of houses, not too many long driveways and once you have been up the hill, its down the other side and back around to your car; if only all canvassing locations were like this one!

There was a real improvement on the door step from just a week ago and I think this is largely due to David Cameron’s far better performance than Nick Clegg’s this week on the Leadership Debate and I can’t wait until we actually get to poll day and residents real opinions are heard loud and clear and Matthew Hancock becomes the new MP for West Suffolk.

Election up and running

Matthew Hancock and the team at the launch of his Election Campaign on Brandon Market

Bright and Early this morning I picked up our excellent candidate Matthew Hancock at his house in Thurlow and we drove up to Brandon to launch his election campaign; Matthew chose Brandon as he wanted to meet as many people as possible to hear their views on the Brandon By-pass proposals and to assure everyone he met that he will be working to secure the funding for the A11 dualling once the Inspector has presented his report. We then moved on to Haverhill and a team of 14 canvassed across Haverhill until darkness.

Also heard today that the Liberals have opened their campaign centre for West Suffolk  in Bury St Edmunds. Bury is a lovely town, but it hasn’t been part of the West Suffolk for over 12 years!  Maybe this basic lack of local knowledge can be blamed on the fact that the Liberal Democrat candidate does not live in the Constituency, and is a councillor in another County.

If the Lib Dem candidate doesn’t even know where the constituency boundary is, how can she possibly understand the issues that matter here!  You simply couldn’t make it up could you! But lets be fair she does have to drive throught the Constituency on the A14 from her home in Cambridge to Bury, so I suppose that counts!

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