KnockoutLast night we held a fundraising dinner for our superb MP Robert Halfon.

Joining us were Eric Pickles and his lovely wife and Frank Bruno.

Frank spoke very openly and honestly about his struggles with mental health issues  and how he now keeps his body and mind fit.

Eric covered a wide range of topics including how he is changing planning law to deal with travellers – something the whole audience was very interested in!

Rob gave a barnstorming speech, covering the campaigns he has successfully led around petrol duty and hospital parking fees and showed just what a great MP he has become with some insightful thoughts about the state of the country.

My wife won (in my view)the best prize of the night in the raffle:gloves


Currently sitting in the chamber at Harlow Council, but for once in the audience gallery. I have come along tonight to see a planning meeting which is discussing two quite controversial planning applications.

It’s really good to see the public gallery nearly full. I think it’s great when people take part in the local democatic process.

What I look forward to though is the freedom offered to councillors in the new Locslism bill; Eric Pickles has promised to abolish the rues, which currently prohibit a local councillor who expresses a view on a planning application from voting. These rules introduced by the previous Government were plain crazy and prevented councillors who know local areas well and have, often, been elected on a mandate involving stopping contentious issues were denied the right to represent their residents.

Off into London today, to a Conservative Councillors Association event, at which Eric Pickles will be guest speaker. I hope to find out a little more about the CSR and put some meat on the bones of what we already know.

We know it will be a tough few years in Local Government, and I hope that Eric, despite being a damn fine speaker, will be able to cheer me up with a few surprises of good news that I may not have heard about, but I suspect the main thrust will be pointing at councils who are sharing services/management tiers in an effort to save money.

All the more reason why we need to pass the paper on Shared Services with Uttlesford council on the 4th November.

Eric Pickles visited Harlow today.

He came as Conservative Party Chairman to see how the association was doing, and to Support our future MP Robert Halfon.

It was another great chance for us to show a senior member of the Conservative Party just how wonderful Harlow is.

Eric is MP for nearby Brentwood and Ongar, so knows Harlow well. He has often come over with supporters to help us in elections, and it was great to see him again.

He visited Harlow Town Football Club to see their new stadium and the Norman Booth Centre, where him and Robert took on all comers at Table Tennis…. Yes photographic evidence has been secured for later amusement!!!

In the evening, Eric was guest of honour at a Ladies Committee “supper club” and spoke about how very prepared for a General Election the party is. Although having seen Gordon Brown bottle one attempt at an election, I wonder if he now will just hang on till May 2010. Nomatter. The Conservative Party under Eric’s Chairmanship will be ready for the election fight!

The Ladies succeded in raising some money for our election efforts and a really good night was had by all.

Because Robert Halfon got so close to being Harlow’s MP at the last general election, and because Harlow is important to the national Conservative party, we often get Shadow Ministers and senior members of the Party visiting Harlow.

I love it when they do, especially since we took control of the council, as we get to showcase what is good about Harlow, and how we are changing the town.

Today we were visited by Shadow Local Government Secretary Caroline Spelman MP, who told us much about the policies of a future Conservative Government; for example the next conservative Government will:

  • Abolish the East of England Regional Assembly
  • Abolish centrally imposed housing targets
  • Scrap the Government’s Regional Spatial strategy.

But we didn’t just listen to her; Caroline took the chance to have a lunchtime discussion with Conservative Councillors and then went on to visit a Crucial Crew session and to meet with the anti-social behavioural team.

Mrs Spelman was so impressed with improvements in the last year, that she said would seek to replicate the work of Harlow Council’s anti-social behaviour team in her own area in Birmingham.

Robert Halfon who accompanied her for the day told me afterwards “I was pleased that Caroline visited Crucial Crew and the anti-social behaviour team. The work this team does for Harlow is ground-breaking and is having a significant effect on reducing anti-social behaviour.”

Overall a really good visit. Next one we have is Eric Pickles the Party Chairman on Friday.