Monday, 24 December 2012

Cameron’s Religious Christmas Message Shows Britain has Regained its Confidence

David’s Cameron’s Christmas message comes at the end of one of the most patriotic and heartwarming years for our country in recent memory. In his address, it is fitting that Cameron should choose to reference our Christian heritage by using quotes from the bible, a signal of his personal faith, but also his love for Britain’s history and identity. Although those on the left will undoubtedly claim that these references are offensive and divisive, they are actually a signal that Britain is at peace with itself, and more confident and passionate about its religious and cultural history and the rich and diverse society in which we now live.

There is no better example of our country’s diverse talents than the Olympics, a towering example of Britain at its best. Our heroes who achieved extraordinary athletic achievements came from different backgrounds, religions and cultures, but above all they were British. The same can be said from the wonderful Jubilee party I attended in my ward of Waddon, so many people had come out in the early hours to prepare the bunting, bake the cakes and set up the tables, for everyone to enjoy the day. 

2012 will be remembered as the year not simply where Britain excelled itself but the year that we re-discovered what being British was all about. Our ability to finally celebrate our historic religious identity is a sign that our county once again believes in itself, and a country that believes in itself will believe in and support every individual, whatever their religion and whatever their background. 


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

International Aid with Accountability - An Appeal for The Gambia

In the age of austerity, with everyone struggling to make ends meet, the challenge of securing support for overseas aid and development projects can be a tough one. When it comes to securing donations and support, it’s only right that those offering to help some of the world’s poorest people have visibility into how and where their money is being spent. It was a question I put to Bill Gates at the International Development meeting in the House of Commons earlier in the year – I asked him how you can make aid relevant when people are worried about keeping their jobs struggling to pay the rent on time. His response was as simple as it was significant. He said it wasn’t necessarily about asking for amounts of money, but more about explaining to people what a huge impact such a small amount of money could have on some of the world’s poorest people.

Last year, when I launched the Memorial School Appeal after working for two weeks in Sierra Leone, I was stunned by the response from friends, colleagues and Croydon residents. It wasn’t simply a matter of donations of school equipment, but the wider interest and messages of support I received from people keen to learn more and help out.

This year I spent one week of annual leave in The Gambia, West Africa and worked  alongside staff from the GLOVE project. The organisation seeks to help train and support villagers to become more self-sufficient, teaching them skills and techniques to raise their own funds and improve living standards.

Today I am launching an appeal to support the villages in North Bank in The Gambia. This appeal is not for money, but for educational materials such as paper, pencils and textbooks and healthcare products such as paracetamol, bandages and plasters to help the Gambian villagers create a better life for themselves. No matter how small you may think your contribution may be, I can assure you it will mean a great deal to them. 

Please get in touch and help bring change to some of the world’s poorest people. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Help out with Croydon Council's 2013/14 budget

Croydon Council are asking all residents across the borough to complete an online survey to get their view on where efficiencies should be made.

Since 2006, the Council has delivered over £118m efficiencies which has enabled council tax increases to be kept to a minimum.

Please do fill in the survey as your view is important and will help shape the 2013/14 budget.

Complete the survey here

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Osborne Made Me Proud

Anyone hoping that yesterday’s Autumn Statement from George Osborne would signal a change of strategy from ‘Plan A’ is likely to be bitterly disappointed, as the Chancellor pressed ahead with proposals for radical cuts to departmental budgets to find an additional £5billion to kick-start the economy.

This aggressive approach will mean that departments are expected to slash 1 per cent off their running costs in 2013-14 and save 2 per cent the following year. The Government's economic strategy will continue to focus on reducing the deficit, restoring stability and rebalancing our economy. 

Osborne's central message was that Britain was on the right track, pledging:

- investing £5.5billion (gained by cutting Whitehall spending & benefit bills) into schools, roads and science

- a 2 year increase in the Annual Investment Allowance from £25,000 to £250,000 to support SMES

- corporation tax cut to 21p (the lowest rate in the G7 and the fourth in the G20)

- cancelling January's 3p fuel rise

- increase in personal allowance to £9,440, by a further £235 resulting in a further 24 million people getting a tax cut

- increasing state pension by 2.5% so that it will be £110.15 a week

This was a good day for Osborne and the Conservative backbenchers cheered loudly when he explained that 1.2 million new jobs had been created in the private sector since the Coalition Government came to power. 

To read Osborne's Autumn Statement in full please click here 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Croydon North Needs Andy Stranack

Tomorrow voters in Croydon North will go to the polls with a very clear choice about the future of their community. They can choose a complacent Labour candidate from another Borough or a dedicated community and charity worker in Conservative candidate Andy Stranack.
I know Andy well and I know how much respect he commands from his work on the ground with residents in Croydon North. Andy is a fighter with a strong heart who puts his community first and would make an excellent representative for Croydon North. When he was just five years old, he was told he would never be able to walk due to his cerebral palsy, just two years later he proved them wrong. Andy also rises above petty party politics, working closely with his friend, the late Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks to set up the Croydon Disability Forum in 1995.
Tomorrow, Croydon North needs to select a representative that lives in and knows the area. Croydon North needs someone that will fight for residents and support them through thick and thin.
Vote Andy Stranack for Croydon North.
To view his five priorities please click here                      

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Andy Stranack launches his campaign for Croydon North

Andy with supporters

On Saturday 20th October, our Conservative candidate Andy Stranack launched his campaign to become a new Member of Parliament for Croydon North after the sad death of Malcolm Wicks on September 29th.

We had a large turnout with various MPs, MEPs and local councillors attending and hope to see more people on the campaign trail soon!

The by-election will take place on 15th November and if you can offer your support to our excellent Conservative candidate Andy Stranack then please do let me know.   

Andy was born in Mayday hospital and has spent his life serving the local community. He worked for Croydon Jubilee Church as a Community Development Worker, helping to set up a number of community services including a debt advice clinic, a lunch club for the retired and several youth organisations.

I hope to see you on the campaign trail soon. 

Richard & Nicky Ottaway, Charles Tannock & myself campaigning

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Finally, Cameron sets out our vision for the future

Last Friday, before heading to Birmingham with the rest of the party faithful, I called on David Cameron to use this party conference to set out his vision for the future and to place the Conservative party firmly on the side of hardworking families across the UK. I am delighted that David Cameron delivered this vision in his best speech yet and also provided a summary of what Conservatism means in practice for our country.

The central message in his speech was a commitment to aspiration and he outlined the core message underpinning the Conservative ideology as wanting to “get behind people who want to get on in life” and that the first rule of being a Conservative is that “it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going”.

David Cameron’s speech provided the finale for the message that we have heard throughout the conference on how “Britain can deliver as an aspirational nation”.

Before conference had even begun, the Daily Telegraph interviewed me setting out what ambitions Conservative Future Women had for conference and I also set out my personal views about what Cameron needed to deliver in a live interview Sunday morning on Sky News.

When Iain Duncan Smith spoke about his radical welfare reforms the mood inside the hall was electric, with delegates listening intently. Minutes away and outside the secure area, The Freedom Zone attracted huge turnouts and held a series of debates in conjunction with other organisations such as The Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Trade Union Reform Campaign. Headed up by the legendary Simon Richards, this year he attracted high-profile speakers such as Liam Fox and Eric Pickles who debated the issue of ‘pilgrims’ with delegates.

I was lucky to attend a whole host of receptions at conference such as the infamous narrow-boat booze cruise where we mixed with other delegates, the London Reception with both Boris & Cameron and other legendary receptions such as the local government one where Eric Pickles rallied the troops.

Birmingham was a significant next step for us, setting out our vision and message. Now, buoyed up by our theme of aspiration I now aim for Cameron to deliver his message of aspiration and fairness. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

A Make or Break Conservative Conference

This weekend Conservatives will travel from across the UK to Birmingham for one of the party’s most important conferences in recent years. The economy is stumbling, people are worried about keeping their jobs and paying their rent on time and this struggle is set to continue into the immediate future. Despite the gloomy economic outlook, the Government is taking steps in the right direction. The deficit has been cut by 25 per cent, obscene welfare bills have been slashed and public sector spending has been reigned in.
It’s time for the Government to set out its vision for the future, and that vision needs to be centered on deficit reduction. No hardworking family, saving the pennies to pay the electricity bill, or struggling to make ends meet would endorse taking on more debts and running up bills.
Hardworking Britons are all too aware of the dangers of overspending and the misery and problems it will bring. There is a clear moral case for cutting back on Government spending, not just to protect this generation, but to protect the next. After Labour brought this country to near bankruptcy, it is up to the Conservatives to clear up the mess, no matter how painful the process is.
This conference also provides David Cameron with an opportunity to rally the troops, by demonstrating his gratitude for all the hard work of our activists up and down the country. Each and every member plays a critical part in making our Party successful, working hard delivering, canvassing and engaging on the doorstep. Without these people, we would cease to exist as an effective political force and it’s time this was recognised and praised by the leadership.
Voters in Britain who are struggling in tough times don’t want miracles. They want clear, sensible and, most importantly, relevant policies that will help them and their families fight on for a better life. This conference provides David Cameron with an opportunity to put our party in line with these aspirations of every man, woman and child in Britain, if he does so, the Conservatives will begin the road to a majority in 2015.  

Monday, 24 September 2012

Croydon's Young People Invited to Have their Say

As Croydon's youngest councillor I try to encourage other young people to become involved in their local communities by attending resident or council led meetings or participating in Council led initiatives to improve their local areas. All  decision makers across Croydon have a duty to listen to young people having their say in how our town is run. 

On Monday 8th October, Croydon Council is hosting a Young People's Question Time at Croydon College from 5.30pm to 9.30pm where young people across the borough will be given a chance to question Council cabinet members and senior council officers about the issues and services that matter most to them. 

I hope to see many of the young people in Waddon and across the borough attending this important event.

For more information and to register please email: 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Conservative Future Women Update

Conservative Future Women was launched six months ago by the Rt Hon Theresa May and since then we have held hosted several events across the UK, have met many of our members and campaigned across the country in the local and London Mayoral elections. 

During the summer we hosted a Jubilee Summer Picnic in conjunction with Conservative Future and heard from a variety of politicians on the importance of the Diamond Jubilee. We held a very successful policy debate on whether women can shatter the glass celling with a panel of very successful female entrepreneurs and politicians.

Next week we have two events for our members to attend- a Networking and Skills Workshop that we will be hosting on Thursday 13th September, (7-9:30pm) where attendees will have the opportunity to hear from a range of people in business, politics and professional networking including Baroness Jenkins, Mary MacLeod MP and Charlotte Argyle giving their advice on the skills, attributes and acumen it takes to be successful in business and politics. Get your ticket here

We are also hosting a campaign day for Surrey PCC Julie IIles with Marina Yannakoudakis MEP on Saturday 15th September and please click here for more information. 

We are also very supportive of the recent government reshuffle that has seen a new intake of female MP's stepping up to ministerial posts across education, health, welfare reform and justice and look forward to supporting them in the future. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Croydon's Olympic Legacy

Despite all the negative headlines in the lead up to the Olympic Games, everyone knew deep down that London 2012 was going to be a success. What I don’t think anyone could have realised was just how successful it was going to be.

Not only have our glorious and dedicated Team GB athletes shattered their medal score from Beijing, but our sporting heroes have dominated every single Olympic discipline with flair and commitment. It’s not only our athletes that deserve praise, the many thousands of volunteers who have helped with security, planning, the opening and closing ceremonies have shown the world that London really is the beating heart of the world. With every day comes a new, inspirational headline alongside a life changing imagine of a Team GB athlete winning gold and often breaking records.

As someone privileged to have lived in Croydon all my life, we must also recognise the huge contribution our town has made to this year’s athletics team. Croydon athletes like Martyn Rooney, Lawrence Okoye, James Dasaolu, James Ellington, Luol Deng have already made headlines for their efforts in London 2012, in four years time will they be bringing home gold medals for our country? Quite possibly.

As I watched the Olympic flame pass through my own Council ward in Waddon as residents cheered, I knew London 2012 was already going to be something special. Croydon’s famous community spirit was indeed united behind making the Games a great success and our home grown athletes made us proud.

Today, the Prime Minister has called for more investment and time to be spent on competitive sports in schools. This policy should be embraced moved forward to by everyone who has benefitted from the joy of this truly golden Olympic Games.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Have you seen Tia Sharpe?

Police have renewed calls for public help over the disappearance of 12 year old Croydon school girl Tia Sharp.

Tia was last seen leaving her grandmother's home in New Addington, South London, at around midday on Friday after telling relatives she was going to the Whitgift Centre in Croydon town centre.

She was wearing a yellow bandeau top over a white bra with visible cross straps, very faded grey jeans and a pair of black Nike trainers with pink tick on.

Tia is described as white, slim build, 4ft 5in tall and wearing glasses.

Anyone who has seen Tia or knows of her whereabouts should call 0208 721 4005 or 116 000.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Can Women Shatter the Glass Celling?

Last Friday Conservative Future Women hosted a joint debate with the Conservative Future Policy Forum on the challenges of seeing more women in senior leadership positions in business. We were lucky to have a distinguished panel of top females including:

- Claire Noyce (CEO of Hybridan)
- Marina Yannakoudakis (London MEP)
- Susan Greenwood (Destiny CIC)
- Natalie Campbell (CEO of A Very Good Company)

The debate was chaired by Conservative Future Women's Policy Director Elizabeth Anderson and all of the panel agreed that aspiration and education were key to empowering women to achieve. After a lively debate between the panel and the floor of approximately 50 people Elizabeth concluded by asking the panel what practical methods women can 'shatter the glass celling' including:

- Change your own view of success
- Don't wait for others to make it happen
- Look out for opportunities to join boards of even local and social enterprises
- Be confident when pitching for investment for business ventures
- Make sure that you have the skills that are needed- not technical or hard but soft skills such as communication and inter-personal skills

Well done to our panelists for their expertise, Elizabeth for chairing so efficiently and our audience for participating so enthusiastically!

To read more click here

Conservative Future Women's next event will be a networking skills event in September 2012. Look here for more details.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sun Shines in Waddon on Historic Day

Today, tens of thousands of people lined the streets across the borough to witness the Olympic Torch's path through Croydon.

After passing the Town Hall and Queens's Gardens the torch was carried into Waddon along Southbridge Road, Duppas Hill Road and then onto Warrington Road where the Olympic convoy stopped for lunch.

At St Andrew's School, hundreds of school pupils from schools within the Waddon Inclusion Network (WIN) had turned out to welcome the Olympic Flame that was carried by Sir Patrick Stewart. As soon as he approached the choir from St Andrew's broke into song and pupils from Aerodrome and Howard Primary Schools danced with hula-hoops symbolising the Olympic Rings.

Many thanks to St Andrew's School for inviting me to this historic occasion, for the excellent lunch that they provided and to the pupils and parents for their enthusiasm and excitement. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Conservative Future at Downing Street

Last Monday, 120 Conservative Future activists were invited to Downing Street so that the Prime Minister could thank them for their campaigning efforts before and since the 2010 general election.

This event was a culmination of lobbying over the last few years by Ben Howlett and myself. When we were elected to National Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Conservative Future in September 2010 our organisation was described as the 'black sheep' of the Conservative Party. Since then Conservative Future has undergone substantial changes, resulting in Conservative Future being a more professional, efficient and respected movement. 

A big thank you to Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi and Vice-Chairman of CF Andrew Stephenson MP for believing in us and to Ben Howlett who has worked closely with them throughout his Chairmanship, culminating in this reception.

Lastly a HUGE congrats to all of the Conservative Future activists who have campaigned in the rain, wind or snow enabling David Cameron to be in No. 10. We may have a Coalition Government but at least it's Conservative-led!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

How to improve social mobility

Social mobility across Britain is in a rapid decline, with children from poor backgrounds now having less chance of improving their prospects then they would have done in the 1950s. Top jobs in journalism, media, medicine and law are dominated by workers who have enjoyed the benefits of a private education. Internationally, Britain has one of worst records for social mobility in the Western world, and this has to change.

There are many causes for these problems, but a theme which underpins them all is education, the engine of social mobility. Since the abolition of grammar schools in 1976, social mobility has effectively ground to a halt. Our once competitive education system, offering a route out of poverty for millions of poor children, now does not. Michael Gove has described this as a “deep rooted problem in our country” and he’s right.

In Croydon when grammar schools converted to comprehensives they effectively became abolished.  This resulted in us losing our brightest pupils to grammar schools to Sutton, Bromley and Kent, a problem that still occurs today.

I have personal experience of this, having grown up in Croydon and going to school at Regina Coeli in Waddon before finishing my studies at Wallington High School for Girls in Sutton. Getting into grammar school transformed the prospects of my family, allowing me to be the first person in my family to go to university, enabling me to achieve.

I believe that education is the engine of social mobility, a privilege that transforms the lives of children financially and culturally. We have a duty in Croydon to help the brightest children from disadvantaged families reach their full potential. Grammar schools provide their students with aspirations and fill them with the self-confidence to fulfill them.

Grammar schools offer hope and excellence to those who need it most and will provide life changing educational opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged families.

Like the boroughs that surround us, Croydon should be a place famous for its quality grammer school education. Offering disadvantaged kids an opportunity to benefit from teaching excellence will encourage social mobility and improve lives for many children and their families.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Supporting Aung San Suu Kyi in her struggle

One of my heroines Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in the UK yesterday on her 67th birthday. She is on a two-week long tour around Europe and on Saturday collected her Nobel Peace Price in Oslo, 21 years after it was awarded to her in 1991.

In 1988 she was an Oxford housewife, raising her two young sons. However when she returned to Burma to nurse her sick mother, she became the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement. During the last 24 years there have been several assassination attempts on her life, her supporters have been killed or imprisoned and she was placed under house arrest for 15 years. Yet she persevered and carried on fighting for democracy and speaking out against the regime. In 1999 she faced an impossible choice; to either leave Burma forever to nurse her dying husband or stay in Burma to fight against the regime. She chose the latter and was rewarded by being elected to parliament in April with her party winning 43 out of the 45 seats contested in by-elections. The next landmark for her is Burma's 2015 general election and if they are free and fair then she will probably be elected to lead Burma's government.

For the first time in 24 years she has been able to leave Burma, trusting President Thein Sein's promise that she will be allowed to return after her tour.

After being awarded an honorary degree in 1991 from her old university of Oxford, she finally collected it today- its citation said:

“Here you studied and formed friendships, here you knew the delights of youth, here as a wife and mother you lived a quiet domestic life, until your love of your country and passion for the cause of freedom summoned you back.

But you were forced to leave behind a beloved husband and children, so that your return to your native land was made into a kind of exile.

For many years you bore the burden of isolation, displaying patience and endurance to a degree no easily imagined.

Your silence has sounded longer than the jabber of politics and the clang of military power.

Out of deep darkness your little lamp has shone across the planet. Your stillness has moved the world.

Sitting in this theatre, we are conscious that we are also spectators of a drama played in the theatre of the nations, one whose ending is as yet unsure.”

This citation provides a poignant reminder that her political struggle for freedom is not yet over in Burma and that we all have a duty to support 'The Lady' with her ongoing fight.