All posts tagged 'Tracey-Crouch'

Popular culture binds us... but that Downton just sticks in my craw

by The Codgers' Club Monday, September 30 2013

by Peter Cook

I find the image of Chatham MP Tracey Crouch, tucked up in her PJs of a weekend for an evening feast of Strictly, X Factor and Downton, a heartening one. It’s what normal people do.

Politicians these days seem far too remote. They govern us but they are not of us. You imagine they spend their weekends reading reports, addressing meetings, attending dinners and being seen at events that will boost their political careers.

Tracey’s programmes would not be my choice, however, they do form the cultural – with a small ‘c’ – cement that binds people together.

You can talk to people more easily about the big issues of the day, if you can get the conversation started with a few bits of trivia they can chat comfortably about.

The fact that she is against the badger cull and against fox hunting also raises her in my estimation, for what that’s worth.

But I’m not sure her weekend couch potato habits would have gone down well with Maggie Thatcher. Remote control had a very different meaning for her.

Having said that, I cannot stomach Downton Abbey. I know it’s a soap, all in the past and not to be taken seriously. But that kind of aristocratic set-up really does stick in my craw.

It comes from a time when ordinary people lived in squalid conditions, overworked, vastly underpaid and made to feel inferior, so that a small minority could enjoy immense luxury.

I suppose I am influenced by a family history of people in service. My grandmother on my father’s side was a “maid of all work” at Powderham Castle, in Devonshire. My grandfather was an undergardener.

They met, fell in love, but were then forbidden any kind of association. My grandmother was confined to her room for just talking to him.

“But I didn’t mind,” she told my mother many years later, “because I could see him clipping the hedge from my window.”

Their answer to this enforced estrangement was to elope to London. My grandfather got work in Woolwich Arsenal, which eventually killed him. My grandmother, in addition to having 10 children, took in mending, stitching in the dim light of an oil lamp after everyone had gone to bed.

My mother went into service at the age of 14 or so. She recalled overhearing the “lady of the house” telling the housekeeper: “You must speak to the new maid. She’s very proud.”

Humility was what was required in a servant, certainly not pride.

Eventually she rose to the dizzy heights of cook, working for the blind MP Sir Ian Fraser at his home in Regent’s Park, where among the dinner guests were the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

By then things had changed and there was far less of an “us and them” scenario.

Once my mother had got us kids off her hands in the 1960s, she went back into service in a way, as the summer cook for the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, on the Chatsworth Estate.

Among the regular houseguests was Sir John Betjeman, who stumbled into her kitchen after the wine had flowed one night and said: “Mrs Cook that was an excellent dinner. You are an artist. And as one artist to another I would like to present you with a collection of my work.”

Sure enough, on her return to Kent, a parcel arrived containing three volumes of Betjeman poetry all signed. They are on my bookshelf now.

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Categories: Moans and groans

Southeastern on the rack again. Will the government step in?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, January 4 2011

I've a distinct feeling of deja vu even though the new year is only a few days old.

Why? Well, Kent MPs are back on Southeastern's case, this time raising concerns about its claim to have reached punctuality targets that means it does not have to give season ticket holders a discount.

The reason why some MPs are uneasy is that the company did indeed pass the threshold but only by the narrowest of margins. 2010 was a pretty miserable year for rail travellers in the region and I get the distinct impression that MPs have pretty much had enough of Southeastern and feel that even if it is strictly within the terms under which discounts are offered, it is rubbing salt in the wounds of long-suffering commuters who have endured delays and cancellations.

It looks increasingly likely that our MPs are moving to some kind of collective position that calls - as a minimum step - on the government to prevent Southeastern being granted an extension to its franchise after 2012.

Beyond redemption - one Kent MP's view of Southeastern>>>

A couple have already gone public with calls for it to be stripped of the contract (Thanet North's Roger Gale and Rochester and Strood's Mark Reckless, who labelled the company in characteristically uncompromising language as 'beyond redemption'). Meanwhile, the Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clarke told me in carefully chosen words that when the government came to any view about the franchise "the quality of service to the customer is an important factor" and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch has today written to the secretary of state for transport asking for an independent audit of Southeatern's punctuality claims.

Political predictions are tricky but I wouldn't bet against the government deciding that it too has had enough of Southeastern, particularly if - as seems inevitable - we get more bouts of bad weather and restles MPs representing heartland constituencies continue to demand that "something be done".

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Categories: Medway | Politics | Southeastern | Trains

Why one Kent MP won't be backing the government on tuition fees

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, December 9 2010

The government looks set to get its way over tuition fees in today's crunch vote but one Kent Conservative backbencher is not backing the plans. Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch - who interestingly once worked for David Davis, the high-profile rebel on the fees issue - will abstain in this evening's vote.

It's interesting reading her explanation in a well-reasoned statement she has just issued to the press, so here it is in full:

"I have, after much consideration and discussion with Ministers, decided not to vote for the Government’s proposals to treble tuition fees.  Once upon a time I was opposed to tuition fees but their introduction by the last Labour Government fundamentally altered the way higher education is funded and therefore the debate on whether higher education should be free is over.  The debate today is what the fee should be and I personally do not agree with the cap being raised to £9000, especially as it is a fee that will be inflationary so will continue to rise over time.  To put this in a local perspective, in 2012, the number of students attending the Universities at Medway is estimated to rise to 10,000; if each student is charged 9K per annum for their course, graduates from Chatham Maritime will owe £270million worth of tuition fee debt, a quarter of which will never be paid back and picked up by the taxpayer."

"The Government is due to conduct a review of higher education next year which will look at the size of the university sector, alternatives to HE such as further education and vocational education.  In my view it would have been better to conduct that review first and decide what the tuition fee structure should be after.  In many respects today’s vote is like making the icing for a cake that has not yet been baked."

"Since I don’t disagree with tuition fees, nor do I necessarily agree with increasing fees per se, I have decided to abstain rather than vote against. "

 Some may quibble that in abstaining, her stand is not as principled as those who are preparing to vote against the government but she makes some good arguments. It is refreshing to see one of our newly-elected MPs prepared to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of whether you agree with her case or not.

She may take some flak from the Whips. She may have irritated ministers. But at least she hasn't just parroted the party line and as Ann Widdecombe demonstrated, the public rather  likes politicians who speak their mind and are prepared to say what they believe.

Parliament needs more independent voices and fewer political careerists.

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There's no doubt that Nick Clegg is the biggest loser in this debate. Some are saying that he will come out OK because he is showing his mettle and indicating that he's prepared to take unpopular decisions - moving the party away from its knee-jerk tendency to support any populist cause just to harvest votes from any quarter.

I disagree. He made much before the election of the fact that his party would end a political culture of broken promises. Radio Five broadcast some devastating clips this morning from one of his election broadcasts which was littered with rhetorical flourishes about how the party would carve out a new road and how everyone would be able to believe that politicians meant what they said.

How hollow that looks now. Credibility matters in politics more than anything. Clegg's stock in that commodity had been pretty high. But he's seen his share price tumble in the tuition fees saga.

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Categories: Politics

Kent Conservative MPs sound off to Pickles over Kent-Essex alliance

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, October 5 2010

It seems plans to create an alliance between Kent and Essex to drive forward investment and boost jobs have not gone down well with Kent's Conservative backbenchers.

MPs voice doubts over "Kessex" bid>>>

The alliance has been proposed by KCC and Essex county council as the preferred option for the body - known as a Local Enterprise Partnership - that should replace the soon-to-be-scrapped Regional Development Agencies.

But the idea is not being supported by Kent MPs, who have sent a letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles saying it is not in the interests of Kent's businesses and they would prefer a LEP covering Kent and Medway - which was actually favoured by KCC.

The letter states: “As Kent Members of Parliament we believe any reform relating to its overall strategy and infrastructure should be in the interest of Kent and Medway’s economic stability and prosperity. We are therefore very concerned the proposal to create a super-LEP across Kent and Greater Essex is contrary to that belief. We feel the proposed LEP is not representative of the various micro-economies that exist throughout Kent, each with their own distinct characteristics and requirements that we feel will not receive the tailored attention they require.”

It goes on: “We believe the intention of creating a super-LEP to save central government money in the short term will in fact harm the people and businesses of Kent in the long term.”

This is a little embarrassing for KCC's Conservative administration, which initially had supported the idea of a LEP for Kent and Medway but appears to have gone in the direction of a Kent-Essex bid after Eric Pickles - an Essex MP - advanced the idea of teaming up with its counterpart over the Thames.

It's also a shot across Mr Pickles' ample bows. I gather MPs were unhappy that he hadn't involved them in the earlier discussions about the idea. There are also concerns that in getting rid of one regional body, the government is simply substituting another where the common interests are not that obvious.

Unsurpisingly, Medway council - which has advanced the Kent-Medway option - has scarcely contained its delight at the MPs' backing for its plan. Over to Mr Pickles...

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Not all Kent MPs have headed to Birmingham for the party conference. Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch have stayed in their constituencies.

Gordon tells me he feels his time will be better used tackling constituency issues.  "My constituents recognise that my first priority is to them and I put them first."  He's got four visits  to schools lined up for the week.

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I reckon George Osborne has got himself in unnecessary difficulty over child benefit. The excuse that it will be impossible to administer a system to distinguish between a couple who stand to lose £1,752 if the father earns more than £43,875 while a couple between them earning £87,778 will lose nothing is particularly weak. Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch has already expressed reservations, saying that while she agrees with the principle, she has "enormous sympathy" with those that consider the proposals as set out are anomolous and potentially unfair. 

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Categories: KCC | Local Politics | National Politics | Politics

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