16 NOV 2017

1918

Kent Messenger Column – 16-11-17  To lay a wreath at the annual Remembrance Sunday service in Maidstone is one of the great honours that I experience within my role as your MP. It is humbling to commemorate the sacrifices made by our forebears, whilst standing as one with representative...


09 NOV 2017

Leeds-Langley relief road public meeting

Kent Messenger Column - 09-11-17  My neighbouring colleague Helen Whately and I held a public meeting in early 2016 at the Maidstone Studios to facilitate an open discussion about the Maidstone local plan. The widely held view from the floor was that the borough was planning to build too many ...


02 NOV 2017

Stay Warm this Winter

Kent Messenger Column – 02-11-17  There was certainly the feel of seasonal change in the air this week; as the clocks turned back, the nights drew in and the winter chill descended. As we know, winter can be a challenging time for many in our community. Energy bills rise and homes becom...


26 OCT 2017

The Women's Resource Centre & Human Trafficking

Kent Messenger Column 26-10-17  One of the great privileges of Parliamentarians is the freedom to shine a light on causes that personally resonate. It is one of the aspects of an MP's work that I particularly enthuse about when younger people ask me about the role. What we say and do in the ...


19 OCT 2017

A Modern Infrastructure

Kent Messenger Column - 19-10-17  A modern society and economy needs a modern infrastructure in order to function effectively. A critical pillar of this must be the availability of reliable, fast internet connection. Too often, in our part of the world, the broadband service provided falls sh...


12 OCT 2017

Race Disparity Audit

Kent Messenger Column - 12-10-17 In the early 60's, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only person in the whole of Carlisle with a darker skin colour. Born in London of an English / Welsh mum and a Nigerian dad, I'd get called names at school and bullied sometimes, but so did some other kids w...


05 OCT 2017

News in the making...

Kent Messenger Column – 05-10-17 Last week I used this column to champion the importance of inspiring new generations to take an active interest in politics. This week an opportunity has arisen for young people in our community to do just that and I felt compelled to write about it. The Poli...


28 SEP 2017

Party Conference

Kent Messenger Column - 28-09-17 The excessive cost of attending party conferences has been a bugbear of mine for years now. I last wrote about this a couple of years ago, with particular reference to young people and how we can better securing their political engagement – with whatever part...


21 SEP 2017

New Housing Consultation

Kent Messenger Column - 21-09-17  Readers will surely be aware of the ongoing spat over Maidstone's emerging local plan, driving both local MPs to seek intervention by the Secretary of State. It was widely broadcast last week, including on the front page of this venerable publication. I echo...


14 SEP 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill/Myanmar

Kent Messenger Column - 14-09-17  My attentions this week are divided between home and away; Here in the UK we move toward Brexit with much progress on The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Rule of Law is pervasive in modern Western life; It sets the legal parameters by which the shops in...


07 SEP 2017

Anyone for Fundraising?

Kent Messenger Column 07-09-17 The ingredients for a good fundraising event are not complicated but you sometimes need a bit of good fortune for the recipe to come together at the designated moment; a lovely venue, some good volunteers, a genuine cause, decent weather and a bit of promotional zing ...


31 AUG 2017

Heritage Lottery Fund

Kent Messenger Column - 31-08-17  The haunting vision of deep red porcelain poppies cascading down the cold grey walls of the Tower of London was one of the most poignant moments of my time as a culture Minister in the Cameron government. I was responsible for the World War One Centennial com...


24 AUG 2017

Fairer energy prices

Kent Messenger Column - 24-08-17 Hands up if you are this person; The last time you moved house you adopted the gas and electricity supplier already in place there, haven't changed since, and your supplier is one or more of the big six (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, N-power, SSE or Scottish Power)? The ...


17 AUG 2017

National Citizens Service

Kent Messenger Column - 17-08-17 Dragons' Den panellists conjure a vision of beasts of business inflicting savage critiques upon aspiring entrepreneurs. Exhaling fire isn't my thing really but this was not the BBC show either. I was invited to attend the Dragons' Den phase of the National Citiz...


10 AUG 2017

Sponsorship in women's sport

Kent Messenger Column - 10-08-17  I welcomed the recent focus on the BBC's gender pay gap, but the issue spreads much more widely than on-screen media talent; a current case-in-point being sport. This summer has thus far witnessed an unprecedented level of English success in international wom...


03 AUG 2017

Cancer Statistics

Kent Messenger Column 03-08-17 Around this time last year I learned that my husband had prostate cancer. As you might expect it had a marked effect upon my whole family; it also realigned my own 'life priorities' significantly, and permanently. When Cancer Research UK released their cancer statist...


27 JUL 2017

Southeastern Franchise

Kent Messenger Column - 27-07-17  Since commencing my work as a Parliamentary Candidate, and then MP for Maidstone and the Weald almost 10 years ago, campaigning to improve commuter train services has constantly been a top priority. Customer satisfaction with Southeastern has fallen from 84% ...


20 JUL 2017

Maidstone Mela

Kent Messenger Column - 20-07-17  Perhaps I am becoming wiser with the years, or maybe it is an emerging sign-of-our-times, but the importance of community has never been more prominent in my psyche; those vital human needs of belonging, togetherness, sharing and caring, shielding and shelteri...


13 JUL 2017

Vehicle emissions

Kent Messenger Column - 13-07-17  Last November I raised serious concerns about vehicle emissions with the planning inspector at Maidstone's local plan public hearings. The core of my anxiety was (and remains) unmitigated rising emissions from increased road traffic, directly arising from lar...


06 JUL 2017

'Go Train'

Kent Messenger Column - 06-07-17 There are more people now in work than ever before, unemployment has remained at its lowest rate for eleven years, women in employment has reached a record rate and youth unemployment is at its lowest level since 2005. However there is still much to do... One of my...


29 JUN 2017

Thank you for re-electing me

Kent Messenger Column - 29-06-17  I am deeply honoured and proud to have been returned as your MP following the recent General Election on 8th June. I am also grateful to the Editor of the Kent Messenger for giving me the opportunity to continue with my weekly column. It is a unique conduit a...


20 APR 2017

General Election 8th June 2017

Kent Messenger Column - 20-04-17  Ever since the tumultuous events that followed the referendum result less than 10 months ago it has been my strong view that our country needed stability and certainty as we navigated our course to leave the EU. General elections do not usually lend themselve...


13 APR 2017

Syrian sarin gas attack

Kent Messenger Column - 13-04-17 In August 2013 over 1400 people are reported to have died, including 426 children, when Sarin gas was used against the people of Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus in Syria. Our Parliament voted on military intervention specifically to prevent President Assad from contin...


06 APR 2017

Fant Farm

Kent Messenger Column – 06-04-17 Fant Farm. For local people two words synonymous with a priceless Medway valley view and a haven for nature; a vital buffer between the urban and the rural in our county town, and the subject of avarice by speculative housing developers for all of my ten year...


30 MAR 2017

Westminster Attack

Kent Messenger Column - 30-03-17 The appalling attack in Westminster last Wednesday was a sick homage to nihilism by a deranged and lost soul. I don't see religion being involved here, just plain evil and mal-intent. I feel so much for the families and friends of the dead and injured, desperately...


23 MAR 2017

Howard Interns: a week in British Politics

Kent Messenger Column - 24-03-17 Taylor and Mirabella present Helen with a gift depicting Howard University In last week's column I heralded the arrival of two young female politics students from Howard University in Washington D.C. for a week with a British MP. Here is an extract of Mirabella ...


16 MAR 2017

Howard mini-internships

Kent Messenger Column - 16-03-17 As I write (Monday 13th) MPs and Peers are today preparing to cast their historic final votes to trigger Brexit. For me this is not goodbye Europe, it is all about 'Hello Rest of the World' and a good (albeit small) example of my own international outreach took a t...


09 MAR 2017

Brexit and The Lords

Kent Messenger Column - 09-03-17 The House of Lords is in the headlights once again, this time on two separate fronts. Our Upper Chamber is the subject of a current BBC2 documentary 'Meet the Lords', and more vitally the Brexit legislation (which will allow the Prime Minister to trigger the process...


03 MAR 2017

Fair School Funding For All

Kent Messenger Column - 03-03-17 Schooling is a subject which evokes great passion and interest. The Prime Minister has been clear that education is a critical component of her plan to drive up social mobility and many of us also have a personal stake in the system through our sons, daughters, niec...


24 FEB 2017

Calling time on the abuse of MPs

Kent Messenger Column - 24-02-17  When I started thinking about standing for Parliament, an experienced MP and friend told me 'it's the roughest toughest career in the world and you will need your bullet proof vest'. I suffered bullying as a child and learned how to handle myself at an early ...


17 FEB 2017

National Cyber Security Centre

Kent Messenger Column – 17-02-17 The digital revolution has been undeniably transformational, bringing endless opportunities through vast social and economic change. Like all great revolutions however, it presents new risks to our safety. Moving forward one of our greatest challenges as a nat...


10 FEB 2017

Time we coughed-up for our NHS?

Kent Messenger Column - 10-02-17  This paper previously reported of West Kent Clinical Commissioning group's (WKCCG) decision to cease non-urgent operations until the new financial year. Last week, this story was also featured nationally in papers such as the Guardian and the Times. Kent MPs h...


03 FEB 2017

Trump: the first 10 days

Kent Messenger Column - 03-02-17  Last week I suggested his first 100 days would be critical, but with just 10 under his belt we may already know all we need about Trump. His Executive Order suspending the entire US refugee admissions system, also banning entry to the USA from seven majority-...


27 JAN 2017

Trump: the first days

Kent Messenger Column - 27-01-17 The inauguration's over and here in the UK we must now get to grips with an 'America First' term of office. The trouble I'm having in assessing Mr Trump's true intentions is that it's tough to believe a word the man says, let alone whether or not I agree with him. ...


20 JAN 2017

Brexit: Clarity will defeat uncertainty

Kent Messenger Column - 20-01-17  It is now well over 6 months since the British people took the decision to leave the European Union. Setting aside the disgraceful campaigning on both sides, the referendum did settle a long-lingering blain and provided a clear and positive democratic mandate ...


13 JAN 2017

Mental Health

Kent Messenger Column - 13-01-17  The last time I talked to Theresa May as Home Secretary was in April last year when she visited Maidstone & Mid Kent Mind's wellbeing centre in College Road. She showed a keen and genuine interest in the work and challenges of the Mind team in helping tho...


09 JAN 2017

No way to run a railway

Kent Messenger Column - 06-01-17 January fare increases edge annual London season tickets toward £5,000 for commuters from Maidstone & The Weald, rubbing salt into pre-Christmas wounds from poor service, cancellations and strikes. Cost of the fare aside, the persistent failure to deliver...


30 DEC 2016

Choices

Kent Messenger Column - 30-12-16  A few weeks back I attended an important 20th Anniversary event in Maidstone. It was a fundraiser and a celebration for an organisation called Choices; no, not the Estate Agency or the NHS website but the Charity formally known as North Kent Women's Aid. Cho...


23 DEC 2016

Contact at Christmas

Kent Messenger Column - 23-12-16  Most of us would agree that Christmas is an extra special time for children, but sadly not for all of them. In the months and weeks leading up to the big day there will have been harsh words, open animosity, social media abuse, threats and sometimes violence ...


16 DEC 2016

Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter

Kent Messenger Column - 16-12-16 For those without a roof over their head in Maidstone, the Churches Winter Shelter returns in the New Year, offering beds, a warm meal, companionship and constructive advice Now in its fourth year, the scheme reopens for 12 weeks from the 3rd January 2017. It is e...


09 DEC 2016

Child sexual abuse in football

Kent Messenger Column - 09-12-16 Prior to becoming the MP for Maidstone & The Weald I was a family lawyer for 23 years. One of my most harrowing cases came to me as a 'straightforward' injunction referral from the local police. I was asked by my client 'X' to get a Court Order to prevent pers...


02 DEC 2016

Aleppo

Kent Messenger Column - 02-12-16 My KM column usually involves issues directly relevant to Maidstone & The Weald but every now and then an international tragedy develops that demands overriding attention. The situation in Eastern Aleppo is dire. The last hospital was put out of action on 19th ...


25 NOV 2016

Exporting is GREAT

Kent Messenger Column - 25-11-16 In my former career as a business owner there came a point where I started looking for new sales opportunities abroad. It was a step in the dark and fraught with potential risk but happily my experiences proved both profitable and rewarding in many different ways. ...


18 NOV 2016

Donald Trump

Kent Messenger Column - 18-11-16  Two Tuesdays ago I texted my sisters, one in North Carolina and the other in Maryland, reminding them both to vote for Clinton. Well, at least I did my bit for American democracy, but here's the thing; Trump won decisively. Clearly people wanted a different ...


11 NOV 2016

Brexit process must be legal

Kent Messenger Column - 11-11-16 The usual suspects are out in force again, reinvigorating division and disharmony with misinformation about Brexit. I've received many letters from concerned constituents in Maidstone & The Weald, so here's some clarification; The suggestion that the High Cour...


04 NOV 2016

Swim Relay 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 04-11-16 From Live Aid to Children in Need, and from Red Nose day to Help for Heroes, I expect most of us have been inspired to donate or participate in various charity appeals from time to time. In my case one such moment was as a guest during a fundraising event in late 2...


28 OCT 2016

Mobile Phone Signals

Kent Messenger Column - 28-10-16 Absurd isn't it? Overseas visitors to Britain automatically get the best roaming signal on their mobile phones, wherever they are in the UK, yet we Brits get stuck with the signal from the sole provider in our contract. In the 21st Century reliable mobile communic...


21 OCT 2016

Anti-slavery Day 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 21-10-16  Four years ago, the Kent Messenger broke a story about slavery in Maidstone; 30 Lithuanian men living in squalid conditions and threatened with violence if they failed to obey their chicken-catching gang-masters. Sadly this was not an isolated incident. World...


14 OCT 2016

Local Plan

Kent Messenger Column - 14-10-16 Most working people have a job description these days, but unusually not so for MPs. Convention says we have responsibilities to our constituents, to Parliament and to our political parties, but protocol usually steers us away from matters under the auspices of loc...


07 OCT 2016

Women in Sport

Kent Messenger Column - 07-10-16  As a young girl, sport was absolutely pivotal in my life. Finding activities that I could be 'good at' helped build my self-confidence and self-esteem and as sporting success grew, other aspects of my life blossomed too. Understanding the power of sport to c...


30 SEP 2016

Boundary changes, have your say!

Kent Messenger Column - 30-09-16 A little shy of 20 years ago it would be true to say that Maidstone was abolished, and it wasn't the first time. In 1554 the town's Charter as a Parliamentary Constituency was temporarily revoked by way of a punishment for rebellious activities against Queen Mary. ...


23 SEP 2016

Lower Thames Crossing

Kent Messenger Column - 23-09-16 Constituency work, by its very nature, is territorial but there are several challenges that MPs handle regionally; border control, counter-terrorism, public transport to name but three. To that end I meet with my Kent colleagues regularly to address common issues a...


16 SEP 2016

Choice in Education

Kent Messenger Column - 16/09/16 There's only one left where I grew up in Cumbria, and on the other side of the Pennines there are none. Contrastingly Kent and Medway is home 39 state funded Grammar Schools, more than any other county in England, and five of them are in my constituency. Why do I...


09 SEP 2016

Dementia

Kent Messenger Column - 09-09-16 In my family it's up there as one of the greatest family films of all time and on countless occasions we've enjoyed Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory since it was first screened in 1971. Learning of his passing last week naturally sent a sad ripple th...


26 AUG 2016

The Lottery

Kent Messenger Column - 26-08-16 Do you remember where you were on the evening of Saturday 19th November 1994? There's a fair chance that, like my family, you were sitting around the TV watching 6 balls fall out of a machine as 22 million of us hoped for a win from the first ever national lottery ...


19 AUG 2016

Visit Kent

Kent Messenger Column - 19-08-16  Last summer I visited my American family to celebrate a wedding and enjoy a vacation with them. To maintain the transatlantic momentum I invited them to join me for a return match and see England at its best this summer. During my time as Minister for Touris...


12 AUG 2016

Sport for all

Kent Messenger Column - 12-08-16  It is the greatest show on earth and to be in it, let alone to win it, is a huge accolade for the 366 Olympians who have been selected to represent Great Britain at Rio. 'The Games' rightly shine a special light on these outstanding competitors, and each of t...


05 AUG 2016

Vodaphone CISS100 scheme

Kent Messenger Column - 05-08-16 High speed broadband and mobile phone services are an essential part of modern life for most of us. For some living in rural areas the situation is still far from good and I have been campaigning for better services for many months in my constituency of Maidstone a...


29 JUL 2016

Vigilance with care

Kent Messenger Column -  29-07-16 It reminded me of operation stack all over again; miles and miles of traffic backing up from Dover just as the school holidays commenced last week. But this time it wasn't about a French strike, it was about French security. The Nice attack on Bastille day r...


22 JUL 2016

Celebrate!

Kent Messenger Column - 22-07-2016 This column has focused, somewhat unavoidably, upon divided opinions in recent weeks and I think everyone has had just about enough of politics, for a while at least. It is with great pleasure therefore that I write this week about something that brings people to...


15 JUL 2016

A vote for change

Kent Messenger Column - 15-07-16 Our country has undergone an extensive period of uncertainty ever since the Prime Minister announced the referendum date four and a half months ago in February. A further 9 weeks of leadership campaigning was a sobering prospect at a time when the country desperate...


08 JUL 2016

The Leadership Election

Kent Messenger Column - 08-07-16 David Cameron's early resignation announcement was regrettable but understandable after losing the referendum, and so we now seek a new leader. I will be voting for the Home Secretary, Theresa May. Her campaign launch speech was outstanding http://bit.ly/29sXRZr w...


01 JUL 2016

Brexit - the early fall-out

Kent Messenger Column - 01-07-16  If ever the phrase 'a week is a long time in politics' was pertinent, now is one such moment. The Brexit vote, David Cameron's resignation and the search for a new Prime Minister, demand for a change in Labour leadership, a second possible Scottish referendum...


24 JUN 2016

Time to unify

Kent Messenger Column - 24-06-16 We now know the result of the referendum and a long period of divisive campaigning is finally over. Two weeks ago on these pages I criticised both sides of the national campaign for misinformation, personal attacks, and general nastiness. The rhetoric had already ...


17 JUN 2016

Why I will vote 'Remain'

Kent Messenger Column - 17-06-16  My decision to vote to 'remain' on June 23rd comprises many separate considerations, but the overarching reasons are about two fundamental pillars of human need; freedom and security. We are today experiencing a period of peace in Europe longer than any other...


10 JUN 2016

EU Referendum

Kent Messenger Column – 10-06-16 A few months ago in this column I welcomed the PM's decision to hold his general election promise of an EU Referendum vote as early as realistically possible, thereby limiting the damage of uncertainty within our country. It was a hopeful start to several cam...


03 JUN 2016

National Volunteers Week

Kent Messenger Column - 03-06-16  Some do it for fun or to meet other people, others seek to develop new skills, many do it to give something back, but they all do it for free. Every month 27% of the UK population (14.2 million) volunteer in a diverse range of sectors and roles; running sport...


27 MAY 2016

Sporting Equals

Kent Messenger Column - 27-05-16 22 years ago The Queen's Gurkha Engineers moved into Invicta Barracks and with them came a new and welcome cultural aspect to our County Town. Since that time the Nepalese community have enriched Maidstone life through their vibrant festivals, fabulous food, charit...


20 MAY 2016

The Swattenden Centre

Kent Messenger Column - 20-05-16 Much debate has surrounded the entry of unaccompanied child refugees to this country but little is reported about what happens once they arrive. To that end I visited the Appledore Centre, part of the Swattenden Centre in Cranbrook, last Friday. It has been used fo...


13 MAY 2016

BBC Charter Review

Kent Messenger Column - 13-05-16 Personally I think £145.50 is pretty good value for a year's worth of TV, radio and internet content – particularly of the quality created by the BBC. But is funding by license fee still the right model? And in a rapidly changing world what should be its...


06 MAY 2016

Unaccompanied Children

Kent Messenger Column 06-05-16 Several constituents have contacted me regarding whether or not the UK should take-in 3000 unaccompanied children, presently in Europe, having fled war-torn countries in North Africa and the Middle East. It is an emotive issue and, in the absence of all of the facts,...


29 APR 2016

Meningitis B debate

Kent Messenger Column - 29-04-16 For almost three hours this Monday Parliament was engaged directly at the request of 823,345 petitioners from every constituency across the nation, following the tragic death of Maidstone's little Faye Burdett. Unsurprisingly Maidstone & The Weald had the highes...


22 APR 2016

Corporate Social Responsibility

Kent Messenger Column - 22-04-16  In Parliament next week I hope to raise the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a debate about Meningitis B. My point will relate specifically to GlaxoSmithKline and whether they could be encouraged to further relax the price of their vaccine to...


15 APR 2016

PCC elections 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 15-04-16 'Britain has no written constitution' – discuss. Such was the title of an essay question I recall from my law exams many moons ago. It is a big subject that can be tackled in many different ways but ultimately it is all about how we organise, distribute and ...


08 APR 2016

Flood Management

Kent Messenger Column - 08-04-16 Monday was a step forward for Maidstone & The Weald, particularly for the flood-plain residents of Yalding, Marden, Hunton, Allington and other parts of my constituency. Flood Re was finally launched allowing insurers to provide cover for properties with a know...


01 APR 2016

Meningitis B debate

Kent Messenger Column - 01-04-16 Privately, a course of three shots will cost a family around £400; that's the price of the Bexsero vaccination for one child against Meningitis B, whilst the discounted price to the NHS is still expensive at £225 + VAT per child. Since September 2015 th...


25 MAR 2016

Strawberry fields forever

Kent Messenger Column - 25-03-16  As Wimbledon starts to appear on the horizon preparations for the annual strawberry fest are well underway and Kent is by far their largest supplier. But according to the National Farmers' Union the British strawberry could soon become an unaffordable luxury ...


18 MAR 2016

National Apprenticeship Week

Kent Messenger Column - 18-03-16 It's National Apprenticeship week once again and it is worthy of celebration. For those entering the workplace there are now 1500 different job roles across 170 industries with around 28,000 quality apprenticeship vacancies available at any given time; www.gov.uk/a...


14 MAR 2016

International Women's Day

Kent Messenger Column - 11-03-16 Helen Grant MP speaking in the International Women's Day Debate A shock headline this week might have said 'Kent child abduction increases by 67%'. The figure is, in fact, correct according to police figures. Mercifully the actual numbers are low in our county ...


04 MAR 2016

Sunday Trading

Kent Messenger Column - 05-03-16 1994 seems such a long time ago. The channel tunnel officially opened, Four Weddings and a Funeral was released and Tony Blair became leader of the Labour party. Oh yes, and the Sunday Trading Act 1994 came into full effect, permitting retailers to trade on Sunday...


26 FEB 2016

EU Referendum Launch

Kent Messenger Column - 26-02-16  The referendum is a simple question about a very complex situation and much remains to be clarified before we go to the polls on June 23rd. On the timing point I was relieved that the PM has scheduled the vote as early as realistically possible. Business and...


19 FEB 2016

Maidstone's Local Plan

Kent Messenger Column - 19-02-16  Speculative developers slipping questionable housing projects through the planning process, because we have no formally adopted local plan to oppose them, has been a problem for many months in Maidstone & The Weald. Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) are now...


12 FEB 2016

Become a Councillor

Kent Messenger Column Last week's readers' letters were typical of the KM's postbag; subway closure, traffic signage, speed limits, infrastructure repair management to cite just a few. They are very reflective of the issues my constituents raise on the doorstep, who frequently offer ideas and solu...


05 FEB 2016

Southeastern

Kent Messenger Column - 05-02-16  Southeastern have been getting a bit of stick from Kent MPs again recently, even when there's no snow to blame. But how much rail commuter woe is actually their fault? Dirty trains, smelly toilets, lack of information, these all are within the control of the...


29 JAN 2016

Rural mobile phone services

Kent Messenger Column - 29-01-16  In February last year Communications Minister Ed Vaizey together with the major mobile phone companies joined me for a public meeting in Cranbrook. I wanted to explore what more could be done about poor rural mobile phone coverage, fluctuating signal strength...


22 JAN 2016

The Junior Doctors' Strike

Kent Messenger Column - 22-01-16  The NHS is perhaps Britain's most cherished institution. The provision of healthcare to be available for everyone, free at the point of use, is rightly considered one of our post-war society's greatest achievements - made more extraordinary as the NHS continue...


15 JAN 2016

David Bowie

Kent Messenger Column - 15-01-2016 "I don't know where I am going from here, but I promise it won't be boring" Thus spoke David Bowie on his 50th Birthday but it was a quote that could be applied throughout his life. Whether a glam rock star from space or wholesome Bing Crosby's Christmas companio...


08 JAN 2016

Benenden's Community Share Offer

Kent Messenger Column - 08-01-16 In an era where the closure of village stores, post offices and pubs in our land is sadly commonplace, it is with great happiness that I can report one location in my constituency that has decided to buck the trend. Identified in their village plan as being an esse...


01 JAN 2016

Kent County Council Flood Funding

Kent Messenger Column - 01-01-16  As I write this week's column national headlines universally report hundreds of flood warnings being in place, 27 of which the Environment Agency has deemed severe. 1,300 homes are without power in the North West, 500 troops have been deployed on the ground a...


23 DEC 2015

Homelessness in Maidstone

Kent Messenger Column - 23-12-15 Vicar of St Lukes (left) and volunteers at the MCWS in St Lukes Church Hall Now in its third year of operation the Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter (MCWS) has once again opened its doors to the homeless in Maidstone during the cold nights of our winter weeks. T...


18 DEC 2015

Don't suffer in silence

Kent Messenger Column - 18-12-15 Before I became the Member of Parliament for Maidstone & The Weald in 2010 I had been a practising solicitor for 23 years, with my own Legal Aid firm specialising in assisting survivors of domestic violence. New figures released this week show a staggering 30% ...


11 DEC 2015

Drink Driving

Kent Messenger Column - 11-12-15  It's the season for Christmas parties, family get-togethers and festive cheer. No doubt a glass or two of will be had by many but for drivers, how many units, or milligrams or glasses can you have before you're over the limit? I'm not going there because all ...


04 DEC 2015

The Syrian Vote

Kent Messenger Column - 04-12-2015 Helen Grant MP leaving the Chamber on Wednesday evening to vote I entered the chamber just before 11:30am with a weight on my mind and a churn in my stomach. For the past few days people have been asking which way I would vote on the Syrian issue, if it came to...


27 NOV 2015

Syria

Kent Messenger Column - 27-11-15  In August 2013 Parliament voted 'no' to military intervention in Syria. The motion on that occasion was specifically about preventing the Assad regime from continuing to use chemical weapons against its own people. It did not allow action for any other purpose...


20 NOV 2015

The Paris aftermath

Kent Messenger Column - 20-11-15 The Paris attacks last Friday were a step-change moment for the global community and have affected virtually everyone I have spoken with. The civilian security debate has also shifted to a new plane in both the West and the East, and at the highest level. Obama an...


13 NOV 2015

Flood Management Update

Kent Messenger Column - 13-11-15 The rains of recent days provide a timely cue for a local flood management update. Readers may recall that following the Christmas floods of 2013 I established a Flood Forum comprising representatives from County, Borough and Parish Councils, the Environment Agency...


06 NOV 2015

Tampon Tax

Kent Messenger Column - 06-11-15  Last week my mailbag saw an array of comments from puzzled and angry female constituents. They were questioning why, as a woman and a former Minister for Women, I had chosen to vote against exempting female sanitary products from VAT, also commonly referred to...


30 OCT 2015

Fair School Funding

Kent Messenger Column - 30-10-15 Every now and then a campaign comes along that brings us all together, cross-party, for the common good. This one is called F40 and our aim is to get a fairer funding deal for our school children. By way of illustration schools in the 10 best funded areas in the c...


23 OCT 2015

Solar farms on agricultural land

Kent Messenger Column 23-10-15 In 2010 I made a pledge to the people of Maidstone & The Weald to do all I could to protect our precious countryside from inappropriate planning proposals. It was a promise I repeated in the 2015 General Election and I am proud of my record, publicly opposing cer...


16 OCT 2015

Special Constables

Kent Messenger Column - 16-10-15  In his civilian working life Ben Elsey is a project analyst working for Lloyds Banking Group. A lot of his work involves communicating across key project teams to make sure they talk to each other and keep collaborating. That's just one of the skills he ...


09 OCT 2015

Party Conferences

Kent Messenger Column - 09-10-15 At the launch of my General Election campaign this year I was blessed with the support of a platoon of people from all ages and backgrounds. Some were still at school or University while others were in the later stages of their careers and lives. The common factor...


02 OCT 2015

Cranbrook Community Hub

Kent Messenger Column - 02-10-15 When Cranbrook's council offices were demolished in 2011 several local organisations lost a home and the town lost a cohesive centre for its community. This issue first came onto my radar long before that, in September 2008, and has been the subject of a long runni...


25 SEP 2015

Punch and Judy Politics

Kent Messenger Ccolumn - 25-09-15  Throughout my career in business and in the legal profession, before I considered entering public service, I achieved success through quiet negotiation and persuasion. It worked as well in the board room as it did in the Court room and I still employ that st...


18 SEP 2015

The River Medway; lets flaunt it!

Kent Messenger Column - 18-09-15  Critics say we don't use the River Medway to its full potential, either as a tourist attraction or as a local amenity, and they have a point. Within Maidstone town centre we have one or two gems; The Archbishop's palace and the Barge restaurant come to mind. ...


11 SEP 2015

Syrian refugees

Kent Messenger Column - 11-09-15  On July 4th the media reported migrant activity in Calais closing the channel tunnel and triggering Operation Stack, again. The people of Kent were understandably frustrated. We now know that the vast majority of some 3000 displaced people around Calais are ...


04 SEP 2015

Love Kent, Hate Litter

Kent Messenger Column - 04-09-15 This summer Kent's been getting tough on litter. For those of us who make the effort to dispose of our litter properly, this issue is a real bugbear. It's a regular topic in my mail bag and our county really does deserve better. That's why I was delighted to hear...


28 AUG 2015

Commuter News

Kent Messenger Column - 28-08-15 Commuting to London can be the bane of working life for many. I share the angst being a regular rail user myself and I have spent much time engaging with our transport providers to seek improvements over the years. This week I was pleased to learn of two developme...


21 AUG 2015

6th Form Results

Kent Messenger Column - 21-08-15  Two years ago this week I remember returning to Maidstone from our family holiday to learn of my youngest son's 'A' level results. A mixture of anxiety and anticipation thankfully gave way to calmness and relief; feelings that will be common amongst thousands ...


12 AUG 2015

The price of milk

Kent Messenger Column - 14-08-15 Every now and then politicians are confronted with the question of the price of milk to check if they are in touch with the everyday world. Right now a better question might be 'what's wrong with the price', in the week when farmers marched their cows through a sup...


07 AUG 2015

Operation Stack

Kent Messenger Column - 07-08-15  Since it was first used in 1988, Operation Stack has been a bane of life for Kentish folk and a hot potato for a string of Kent politicians. In 2000 Michael Howard raised the issue with then Transport Secretary John Prescott who defended the scheme. In 2007 ...


31 JUL 2015

DfID Select Committee

Kent Messenger Column 31-07-15 A few days ago I was delighted and proud to be elected as a member of the Select Committee that keeps a close eye on the Department for International Development (DfID). It's the department that spends our money on overseas aid of one kind or another, £11 billi...


24 JUL 2015

Thank you Alistair and Lorna

Kent Messenger Column 24-07-15 One of the key attributes expected of an MP is to make a difference and get things done. Charged with that simple brief I find myself working with others who share the same mantra and make a difference to their communities. They are the glass-half-fulls, the can-dos,...


17 JUL 2015

Big Weekend

Kent Messenger Column 17-07-15  When my kids were still kids, family breaks were a rare opportunity to park our frantic working lives for a time and focus upon those we loved the most. But the prospect of a regular family holiday, or even just an away-day, is not the presumption for nearly on...


10 JUL 2015

Sobell Lodge

Kent Messenger Column 10-07-15  The youngest group captain in the Royal Air Force and one of the most highly decorated pilots of WW2 resigned his commission after being profoundly affected as an observer of the Nagasaki nuclear attack. He went on to work in conflict resolution and founded a h...


03 JUL 2015

Work Experience

Kent Messenger Column 03-07-15 'The most striking point was how my experience seemed to completely contradict the negative label that is stuck to the entire political class. The governmental system seemed to be clearly set up for those who wished to serve the community, not themselves.' Refreshin...


26 JUN 2015

'Our hospitals'

Kent Messenger column 26-06-15 As long as I've been involved in Maidstone, I've been committed to Maidstone hospital. One of my first local campaigns was MASH (Maidstone Action for Services in Hospital) back in 2008. Our core objective was, and remains to this day, to fight against NHS driven tr...


19 JUN 2015

The Rule of Law and Magna Carta

Kent Messenger Column 19-06-15  I wish to pay tribute this week to a very special Maidstone friend and resident, for a very special reason. There are some political events that occupy a higher place in global human awareness; more recent examples might be Hiroshima, Luther-King’s assass...


12 JUN 2015

Kent Fire and Rescue

Kent Messenger Column 12-06-15 The first aid box, a set of jump leads in the car, a laptop back-up procedure, knowing whether to dial 999 or 111; All of these are contingency plans for the unexpected. Most of us would find them commonplace in everyday life – often because we have learned from...


05 JUN 2015

Farming for economic growth

Kent Messenger Column 05-06-15  The ability of the private sector to more than absorb the jobs lost in the public sector is widely seen as the story of Britain’s economic recovery so far, but where do we go from here, particularly in Kent and the South East? In mid-April I met with Kent...


29 MAY 2015

The Queens Speech

Kent Messenger Column 29-05-15 Over the last few months, through postal surveys and on the doorstep, I have received a wealth of comment and opinion from thousands of people in Maidstone & the Weald about the things that matter to you most; more local jobs and apprenticeships, reducing inward m...


22 MAY 2015

It's great to be back!

Kent Messenger Column 22-05-15 Hello again everyone! In my last KM column before the election, on 30th January 2015, I said I would do my utmost to return in May, both as your MP and as a columnist, voters and editors willing. The people of Maidstone & The Weald spoke with firm conviction on ...


30 JAN 2015

Final KM Column before the General Election 2015

In October 2010 the editor of this paper invited me to write a column. I was given free rein on the subject matter and was just asked to keep it informal and local where possible. Since that time I have produced around 200 pieces for this paper and it has been a privilege to have the freedom to wri...


23 JAN 2015

Campaigning for Commuters

Rail fare increases always generate debate but the cost of travel is but one of a compendium of issues our commuters report to me. Travellers regularly drop into my office at Maidstone East Station forecourt to report their experiences, generating almost weekly correspondence with Southeastern Trai...


16 JAN 2015

Mobile Phone Coverage

I'm privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country in the Garden of England. Not only do we have a bustling and thriving county town in Maidstone, we have large swathes of stunning countryside and across our rural areas in the Weald. It seems, however, one price we ...


09 JAN 2015

Potholes

They're known in the business as 'a failure in an asphalt pavement, caused by water in the underlying soil structure and the persistent passage of traffic passing over'. We know them as Potholes. Historically illustrated by a 1955 photo in this paper last week, traders in Maidstone's Week Street r...


02 JAN 2015

2015

It seems every year in recent memory has produced something significant. Sporting showpieces, landmark anniversaries and historic celebrations. 2015 is set to continue that trend. Our First World War Centenary Commemorations enter their second year as we mark the Centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign...


26 DEC 2014

Winter Shelter

They go about their vital work quietly and effectively all year round, but at Christmas time they come out to play – literally. A quintessential part of the English street scene in villages and town centres across this great country, our Salvation Army Bands fill the chilly air with a soulful...


19 DEC 2014

Rural Speeding

It's been brilliant meeting so many of you at my community outreach surgeries at various locations across the constituency and at my office at Maidstone East Station. This, the last Friday before Christmas I will be hoping to see you at Asda Living from 1.45 to 2.30pm and Tesco at Tovil from 3pm ti...


12 DEC 2014

Small Business Saturday

The FTSE 100 gets a mention every day in our news bulletins but over 99% of businesses in the UK are in the SME category - small and medium sized enterprises. They are the lifeblood of our economy, employing some 14.4 million people, and last year turning over £1,600 billion. Locally in Maids...


05 DEC 2014

The Fight for Fant Farm

For years now there have been rumours and rumblings about possible building developments at the Fant Farm orchard in Maidstone and thankfully, one by one, they have all been fought off. Most recently a new proposal for housing put out to public consultation by the developer has given renewed cause ...


28 NOV 2014

Flood management funding update imminent

FLOOD MANAGEMENT FUNDING DECISION IMMINENT Kent Messenger w.e. 28-11-14‘Partnership Working’ is working in Maidstone & the Weald In recent weeks I have reported on the work undertaken by a wide range of stakeholders in addressing the needs of our flood blighted areas, following the...


21 NOV 2014

Ebola

Ebola is a fearful infection, slipping under the body's natural protection radar while it takes hold. When our immune system eventually does kick-in, it over-reacts causing a ghastly melt-down of blood vessels and internal organs, often with fatal effect. There is a 50% survival rate and presently...


14 NOV 2014

We Will Remember Them

In the age of the social media and smartphones, moments of silent reflection are rare. In a bustling town like Maidstone or a city like London, the hum of activity is constant. So those moments where people stop and come together, disconnect from the digital world, and towns and cities come to a sta...


07 NOV 2014

Parking for pensioners?

As a working mum with two young boys I was always grateful for the dedicated car spaces allocated for us at Supermarkets and certain other public parking places. Blue Badge holders will feel similarly I am sure. In recent weeks I have received letters about parking from another group of people and...


03 NOV 2014

Ensuring our train services are on track

We commuters brace ourselves when the autumn clocks change, heralding the season of delay and disruption to our daily journeys. Here in the South East we have suffered significantly in recent years with excessive snow, rain and leaves. For that reason I met with South Eastern Trains last week to che...


24 OCT 2014

2nd Flood Forum for Maidstone and the Weald

On Boxing Day and in the ensuing week last year I was working amidst a large number of people tackling the swollen waters of the Medway at Allington Lock, at Fairmeadow in Maidstone and in Yalding. A range of different measures were needed to deal with the challenges at different locations and it...


17 OCT 2014

Shadow Helen 2014 competition

Engaging younger people in our political processes is arguably one of the most important roles politicians undertake. These are the people who will shape the future of our nation and our place in the world, affecting the lives of our grandchildren and future generations. This week Kent County Coun...


10 OCT 2014

Housing and Infrastructure

Last August I surveyed 1500 people in the village of Marden about local issues. One major concern (65%) was the effect of newly planned homes on local infrastructure, and sewage waste management in particular. For some time the sewage system there has been beyond capacity and Southern Water have b...


03 OCT 2014

Parliament Recalled

From circus animals to corporation tax and from barbers to bankers bonuses, MPs are required to take decisions on a huge range of issues. With most votes I feel comfortable that I am acting in the best interests of the majority of people in Maidstone & the Weald, and for my country, given the i...


26 SEP 2014

Scotland and the West Lothian Question

The Scottish question was answered loud and clear last week and for me, personally, a sad cloud of division and uncertainty was dispersed in an instant. I lived in the Border Country for all of my childhood and teenage years and I have always felt just as much an affinity for Scotland as I have for...


19 SEP 2014

Future Flood Management Forum

Our Round Table Flood Management Forum in February 2014 was a valuable step forward for Maidstone & the Weald in preparing an integrated approach to future flood management. We came away with a comprehensive action plan and I said at the time we should reconvene to review this at a suitable jun...


12 SEP 2014

Invictus

The Olympic Legacy was a vital part of London 2012's successful bid to stage the games back in 2005. Some of our aspirations included: encouraging wider participation in sports, inspiring others to volunteer and encouraging social change. This week bore testament to the success of those ideals, in...


05 SEP 2014

Charity & Sport

With the news being dominated by conflict and darkness, both at home and around the world, it is a relief to see positive action too. Two events in which I was involved last weekend were glad reminders of some of the good that is going on around us. On Friday I was speaking at a lunch with the Mai...


29 AUG 2014

Results Day

It's that time of year again. Teenagers up and down the country have been anxiously awaiting GCSE and A-level results. Shaping future careers and influencing life-decisions -and going through it with my own children - I know results day can be an anxious time for parents too. We had some fantastic ...


22 AUG 2014

Family

As a daughter, wife, mother, family lawyer and now an MP: my outlook has always been influenced by my family. As a lawyer, looking after children and families and coordinating mediation to assuage family breakdown: issues surrounding the family moulded my own professional development. As an MP, no...


15 AUG 2014

Pride - a hundred years on

Even with a week's or so perspective, I'm finding it hard to grasp fully what happened as we began the First World War Centenary commemorations. The events themselves – in Glasgow, Saint Symphorien, across Kent and at Westminster Abbey – and the way in which the British people responded ...


08 AUG 2014

3G Pitch Campaign - Victory!

It's official. The Football Conference will allow 3G pitches in all their leagues from the 2015/16 season. The decision vindicates a fantastic and hard-fought campaign by Maidstone United, which I was honoured to play just a small part in. Regular readers of my column will know that I've waxed-lyri...


01 AUG 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

"Dear soldier, It's hard to imagine what you went through. The heartbreak of leaving your loved ones behind. The fear of facing almost certain death. The nightmares that haunted your uneasy sleep...The sound of the gun shot, loud and terrifying...The shake in your voice as you muttered your final g...


25 JUL 2014

Another action-packed week across the constituency!

It's been another action-packed week across the constituency. It started with another of my supermarket surgeries - this time at the Co-op in Cranbrook. It was fantastic to meet so many shoppers and local residents, whether just for a chat or to offer advice on a particular issue. I discussed a vari...


18 JUL 2014

Banging the drums for schools' explorer day at Maidstone Museum

Almost 170 years ago, Maidstone man and Victorian explorer Julius Brenchley left the town on a voyage of discovery. He would spend the next 22 years of his life travelling the world, collecting artefacts from foreign lands before bequeathing his collection to Maidstone Museum upon his death in 1873....


11 JUL 2014

Kent County Show

Ferret racing, live bee keeping demonstrations, pig handling classes, heritage tractors, marching bands, spitfires and motorcycle displays! It can only be the Kent County Show. Now in its 85th year, the 3-day spectacle kicks off today at the Kent Showground in Detling, celebrating the best of farmi...


04 JUL 2014

Westminster Work Experience

I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given by my local MP Willie Whitelaw when he helped me secure funding for a place at the College of Law. That single act launched my career in the legal profession and beyond. I know it remains tough for young people when considering their career...


27 JUN 2014

Kent School Games

130 schools. Over 1,200 students. 8 different sports. Kent's School Games County Festival of Sport. As the year round intra and inter-school competition culminated in the Grand Finals at the University of Kent on Wednesday - part of 11 days of competition throughout June and July - I was honoured t...


20 JUN 2014

World Cup Fever!

World Cup fever has arrived. Despite England's late night loss to Italy on Saturday, there were many positives to take from our young, energetic side. I'll leave the post-match analysis to the experts; but I wanted to talk more generally about our national game at the grassroots as I count down the ...


13 JUN 2014

Apprentices and Hospitality

When I see success at a local level it is gratifying to be in a position to help develop that success nationally. Take the hospitality industry; It already employs an enormous number of people, many thousands of them in Kent. And it contributes a massive amount to our economy. But all of the ind...


06 JUN 2014

Whitsun Recess

One of the great advantages of parliamentary recess is that I get to take part in a number of fantastic activities across the constituency. Over the past week I've seen a selection of some of the best that Maidstone and The Weald has to offer – talented students, inspiring charity work and sup...


30 MAY 2014

Helen takes floods to the top

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has ultimate responsibility for endorsing government funding for certain major capital projects; projects like flood management in Maidstone and The Weald. Readers may recall in April I requested a private meeting with Owen Pate...


23 MAY 2014

New Regular 'Meet Helen' Surgeries

I'm delighted to announce that I will be launching a series of new drop-in surgeries across Maidstone & The Weald. As your MP and voice in Westminster I think it's really important to be an accessible and visible figure in the community. These surgeries will give you the opportunity to come and ...


16 MAY 2014

Queen's Baton Relay

Our action-packed summer of sport is now just weeks away. Preparations are well under way as we approach the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Queen's Baton landed on British Isles in Jersey on 11 May as part of its 190,000km tour. From Sydney Harbour Bridge to the forests of Rwanda; from the Pa...


09 MAY 2014

Gambling

In my recent surgeries, a number of constituents have raised concerns about gambling and the clustering of betting shops our high streets. Under the current system, a betting shop falls into the same category as a bank or estate agent and can open without the need for a planning application when a ...


02 MAY 2014

Football and Peace

"Both sides singing...My orders to the Coy. [Company]...are not to start firing unless the Germans do". Captain A.S Bates, commanding No 4 Company, 1/5th London Regiment (4th Division), France, 24 December 1914. 100 years ago this December guns fell silent on the Western Front during the Christmas ...


25 APR 2014

Summer of Sport

2014 promises another scintillating summer of sporting spectacle. The Commonwealth Games, the football World Cup, the Tour De France Grand Depart and Andy Murray's defence of his Wimbledon singles title - to name just a few. Last week marked 100 days until the start of the Commonwealth Games in Gla...


18 APR 2014

Flooding Action Plan

I want to update you on my work in tackling the issue of flooding across Maidstone and The Weald. Following my multi-agency round table meeting in February I prepared a draft plan which was then put to stakeholders for consideration and further input. There's been a really positive response. The E...


11 APR 2014

WW1 Centenary & Walter Tull

The First World War Centenary is almost upon us. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television are aptly awash with articles and programmes marking the occasion, and it was fascinating to read about Kent and the Great War in the KM's commemorative supplement a few weeks ago. To honour this significa...


04 APR 2014

English Tourism Week

It's English Tourism Week! And this week marks its third annual incarnation celebrating the benefits this key industry brings to everyone, everywhere, and every day in England. There has been a fantastic array of events up and down the country, and I was delighted to be a part of the launch. Last Th...


28 MAR 2014

3G Pitches - Progress

It's official. 3G pitches will be permitted in the FA Cup next season. This is a fantastic boost for Maidstone United's campaign for 3G use in the Conference and for grassroots football up and down the country. Those of you who read my column last week will know that I've been raising the issue with...


21 MAR 2014

The Case for 3G Pitches

The Stones remain very much in the hunt for promotion to the Conference South after a string of impressive performances in the Ryman Premier. But if they do qualify to go up, their promotion could be threatened because they play on a state-of-the-art 3G pitch. The current League rules for the Confe...


14 MAR 2014

International Women's Day 2014

Sadly we still live in what could be described as a man's world. Last Saturday marked the 103rd International Women's Day (IWD), or possibly the 106th! There are differing accounts of the year and indeed location it first took place. Whatever the date, it's now an established fixture on the calenda...


07 MAR 2014

Flooding Round Table

The Christmas and New Year floods were a wake-up call: our communities remain vulnerable to the forces of nature unless we act to protect them. I want to assure my constituents that I am acting in the wake of recent flooding, and will be doing everything I can to secure funding for proposed flood de...


28 FEB 2014

Women in Sport

Let me put one thing straight. I am completely committed to getting more women participating in sport. Some of you may have read comments from me in the papers at the weekend that were taken out of context. Some of the headlines were a misrepresentation of what I said and what I believe. I was ask...


21 FEB 2014

Visit Kent!

As your MP for Maidstone and The Weald I'm privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country, in the Garden of England that is Kent. As Tourism Minister it's my job to champion Britain's vital and thriving tourist industry, and with attractions such as those promoted by...


14 FEB 2014

Chance to Shine

On the back of the fantastic result in the Women's Ashes Down Under, this week I'd like to give a special mention to Chance to Shine, a brilliant initiative to get children involved in cricket from primary level. Charlotte Edwards and her team did us proud in Australia, and as the Minister for Sport...


07 FEB 2014

Equality and Democracy

I attended a fantastic event last Monday hosted by the Local Government Association where I outlined plans to help more disabled people get into politics. Disabled people are still vastly under-represented in political life. I truly believe a strong democracy is an inclusive one and that's why we a...


31 JAN 2014

Schools commemoration of WW1

In the news, daily, we learn of human tragedy somewhere in the world. We are told of the numbers of people lost but rarely is there time or space for the individuals involved, each of whom has a unique story, and whose passing will have affected a family and a community. In my village of Marden the...


24 JAN 2014

Sochi Winter Games

In 2012 we witnessed the power of the Olympic movement bringing together the global community. The nexus is sport, of course, but so much more is achieved from these world-class events. I hope the Sochi Winter Games 2014 proves to be no exception. On the political front there has been much condemna...


17 JAN 2014

Digital Switch-On goes further

During the week before Christmas, as a Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, I was delighted to be involved in 'Super Switch-On Day'. In case you missed it, this was the point at which an additional 5000 homes and businesses in towns and villages across many parts of rural England ...


09 JAN 2014

Future flood management

The deluge continues and clearly we must implement improved flood defence solutions to deal with the inherent problems of Maidstone & the Weald. But the issues are complex and the costs can be significant In terms of complexity, by way of example, the widely publicised flooding in Yalding rece...


03 JAN 2014

The Christmas Floods

The main story in the national news over the Christmas period is ebbing away like the flood waters themselves. With the clean-up operation now in full swing we have a chance to step back and review the events of the past few days. There have been questions raised as to the timing and severity of t...


29 NOV 2013

Women's participation in sport

Women’s participation in sport29-11-13 Last weekend Maidstone’s Hazlitt theatre presented a dance spectacular featuring performers from the Melody Marshall School of Dance www.melodymarshalldance.co.uk. Established in 1982 in Barming, Melody Marshall now has around two hundred pupils o...


22 NOV 2013

1st World War Commemoration.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns of Europe fell silent after four years of bitter fighting.  The Great War was finally over but at the cost of over 16 million lives and a further 20 million wounded. At 11am on each Remembrance Sunday we remind our...


15 NOV 2013

Protect our Bluebell Wood

Protect our Bluebell WoodA cross party campaign for Maidstone15/11/2013 5 years ago I made an election pledge to help protect our rural heritage in Maidstone & the Weald. At the time the ‘No to KIG’ campaign was in full swing and I was pleased to give my support (pic from 04-09-0...


15 NOV 2013

Community Outreach Surgeries

08/11/2013 Community Outreach Surgeries When I was practising as a legal aid solicitor, I would spend much of my day seeing clients and helping them deal withtheir problems and worries. It might have been about domestic violence or some form of harassment, maybe a housing problem, perhaps a deb...


25 OCT 2013

Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter

25/10/2013 Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter As winter approaches the plight of people without a home is not only uncomfortable and lonely, it becomes hostile and life-threatening. Presently Maidstone Borough Council provides bed and breakfast accommodation under its Severe Weather Emergency Pro...


18 OCT 2013

Minister For Sport And Equalities

The announcement of my new job as Minister for Sport and Equalities spread quickly and the media reception was gratifying (http://www.helengrant.org/media/press-cuttings). I was curious, however, about idle chattering that the sporting agenda would be somehow diluted by my ongoing equalities brief....


11 OCT 2013

UKPPS

On 28th December 2012, The Daily Telegraph correctly reported me as saying "We can't deal with serious organised crime without brave witnesses coming forward". I was talking about slavery, human trafficking, forced prostitution, murder and gun-related drug and knife crime. One in four cases in whi...


04 OCT 2013

Broadening Horizons

I went to hospital last Friday to meet a builder. I was on the construction site of the new Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS) hospital just outside Maidstone near Junction 7 of the M20. The development will provide our County Town and local communities with certain treatments currently...


27 SEP 2013

Constituency Surgeries

On the cover of my Spring Newsletter, I was proud to report that my team and I had handled over 5,000 constituency enquiries since I was elected in May 2010. Many were dealt with by way of correspondence, but there is only so much you can do and say in writing. In this column last week I highlight...


20 SEP 2013

Party Conference

Communication these days is a remarkable thing. You can speak on the phone to most people from almost anywhere in the populated world, and send and receive messages, documents, pictures and videos with equal ease. But we still choose meetings in person for the most important debates because less t...


13 SEP 2013

Curry Lunch With Eric

Throughout my years in this constituency I have always sought to attract people of all ages and walks of life into the political forum wherever possible; local enterprise meetings, rural business events, the 'Shadow Helen' competition for our 6th formers, the Maidstone Hospital Maternity Services Pr...


06 SEP 2013

Syria

The Parliamentary recess of 2013 looked like it might turn out to be a quieter period than those of my previous two summers as a Member of Parliament. In 2011 we witnessed the scourge of the London riots, whilst in 2012 we were fully occupied with the London Olympics and Paralympics. In generally...


23 AUG 2013

Enlightened Men And Courageous Women

The KM Editor and readers will know I take care to refrain from party political comments in this column. I am your Member of Parliament and I am here to represent everyone regardless of political persuasion. Sometimes, however, there are things that must be said. Late last week, somebody publicly...


16 AUG 2013

To Frack, Or Not To Frack?

Shale Gas and fracking has risen to prominence in recent weeks. It is a subject which garners strong feelings and Maidstone and The Weald is no exception. Concerns include detriment to our beautiful landscape, a possible rise in greenhouse gas emissions, potential water-contamination, and worries a...


02 AUG 2013

Women And Equalities

Going into politics requires learning about yourself as much as anything else. What makes you tick, what are your beliefs and values. For me, fairness and equality of opportunity has always been up there, particularly with regard to women. It has been an issue throughout my life and has taken cen...


26 JUL 2013

Supporting Local Businesses

It is the Parliamentary summer recess and as MPs desert Westminster like clouds of bats fleeing from Hogwarts, cynics will have you believe that we all flutter off for 6 weeks of r & r on tropical retreats. Not so. For most MPs the end of the Parliamentary calendar means we can get back to our...


19 JUL 2013

The Kent County Show

Where am I? Racing camels, charging forth like Epsom Derby contenders; a line of pretty ladies in red, revealing bulbous buttocks; an RAF Spitfire with British-bulldog growl performing low-altitude aerobatics. Answer: The Kent County Show - this year bathed in glorious sunshine and such a welcome ...


12 JUL 2013

For Country And For Constituency

Regular readers of this column will know how much I look forward to returning to my cottage in Maidstone and The Weald after a wearing Westminster week. Friday is usually surgery day and I attend as many local events and meetings as I can, too. Last Friday, however, there was some important Parlia...


05 JUL 2013

Restoring Trust In Politics

Well under half of 18 to 24 year olds in our country bothered to vote in the last general election, yet in my opinion young people are probably more engaged with political issues than they have been for a long time. Tuition fees, the environment, youth employment, transport... Many sign petitions,...


28 JUN 2013

Pathways Into Work

Creating jobs in this tough economic climate is a common goal for all political parties but finding the people to fill them is a challenge in equal measure too. Speaking as an employer for the last 20 years, the difficulty is not with academic qualifications but more with finding people who can lea...


21 JUN 2013

Joined-Up Thinking For Maidstone

Prime Minister's Questions can sometimes be an unruly affair with Members shouting and heckling. This is the Westminster that our national tv chooses to broadcast to the country and I can see why many people are turned off politics as a result. There is another Westminster, though, where bright, k...


14 JUN 2013

A Busy Summer's Day

This column, in recent weeks, has largely been a diary of good news and happy events (www.helengrant.org/km-columns) and last Saturday was no exception. Simon and I awoke in our Marden cottage after some lively debate over a Friday night supper with good friends just round the corner. My first con...


07 JUN 2013

Volunteer Week

Every year about one third of our population do something for nothing. That's 20 million people giving 100 million hours of their time every week. It's a never-ending good news story and this week I have an easy excuse to give praise to our volunteers because it is UK Volunteer Week. In my role a...


31 MAY 2013

Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

The best of times, the worst of times. Last week I witnessed both. The appalling murder of Drummer Rigby was a stark reminder of the darkest depths humanity can fathom. Shocking blood soaked images of the kind usually confined to Hollywood or foreign newsreels briefly became reality on the streets ...


24 MAY 2013

A Taste Of Kent In Westminster

When I popped over to my Mum's house in Sutton Valence last week, I met one of Kent's younger entrepreneurs. A local school girl was on the doorstep with a small delivery of pretty hen's eggs, freshly laid. White, brown, pastel pink and blue, the half-dozen box was a picture; so much more eye catc...


17 MAY 2013

Celebrate Maidstone

Friday was a good news day for Maidstone and The Weald. In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting my friends at Claygate Distribution in Marden for a happy occasion. They had invited me to open a new 30,000 ft2 warehouse extension, enhancing their existing premises to a total of 145,000 ft2...


10 MAY 2013

Good News For Business And The Economy

Despite persistently difficult economic circumstances, there are encouraging signs that the economy is healing. The deficit is now down by a third, interest rates remain at record lows, and businesses have created over a million and a quarter new jobs. In Maidstone and The Weald the signs are equa...


03 MAY 2013

Mote Cricket Club

Remember the song: "What a perfect day, drink Sangria in the park, then later when it gets dark, we go home"? (Lou Reed - 1972). For me, last Sunday was that Perfect Day. Simon and I drove up from our cottage in Marden to Maidstone's wonderful Mote Park. It was a classic English rural spring morn...


26 APR 2013

Human Trafficking

Last Thursday, in Women and Equalities oral questions, the issue of human trafficking was raised once again. The theme persisted this week when, as Victims Minister, on Monday I attended a human trafficking exhibition in Westminster also attended by the Prime Minister and on Wednesday I addressed t...


19 APR 2013

A Diary In The Week Of Baroness Thatcher's Funeral

Parliament resumed after recess at a merciless pace this week. Monday was the beginning of our consultations on the Victims Code (see my KM column 05th April), hotly followed on Tuesday by the Defamation Bill. My Easter recess had been largely consumed by the Lords' amendments and preparing for th...


12 APR 2013

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

I think I was about ten when I first saw her in real life. She had come to Carlisle to open a civic centre and my Mum took me down to watch. There was Mrs. Thatcher, in one of her signature blue two-piece outfits, controlling the event with the panache and efficiency our entire nation soon came to...


05 APR 2013

The Victims Code

It was something I encountered constantly in my legal practice, and it continues in my constituency surgeries. People who have suffered the effects of crime all too often tell me of their confusion, intimidation and marginalisation within the system. The focus is firmly upon the perpetrator whilst...


29 MAR 2013

Sergeant Fitzgerald Of Staplehurst

On Saturday in All Saints Church, Staplehurst, Simon and I had the privilege of attending a service of remembrance for Sergeant Reginald Charles Fitzgerald. Aged only 19 years old, Sgt. Fitzgerald was declared missing in action, presumed dead. He was one of many losses suffered by the RAF in an il...


22 MAR 2013

Success Breeds Success

Sport has always been a passion of mine and played a major part in my life. It was 'success breeds success', as the saying goes. Actually, I believe 'success breeds confidence', which in turn helps achieve more success. I experienced it myself as a young girl, when success on the sports field lat...


15 MAR 2013

Distance Risk For Maidstone Mums

The news about a baby being born on a Maidstone commuter train last week had a happy ending. Congratulations to all who ensured a safe delivery and I wish the very best to Sonia Banks and her family. The back-story, however, has some worrying implications. Sonia had actually gone to Pembury Hospi...


08 MAR 2013

In My Book...

This week, we had a flurry of days celebrating education, with 'World Spelling Day' on Tuesday, 'World Maths Day' on Wednesday and 'World Book Day' on Thursday. Good literacy and numeracy skills are something I know the Government rightly places significant importance upon. Marks have been reintro...


01 MAR 2013

Justice And Equality

I used to have a normal life. I was a solicitor, a businesswoman, a wife and a mum. In 2006 it all changed. I considered becoming a Member of Parliament. Suddenly I had to have an opinion on anything and everything; the price of fish, nuclear power, the monarchy... But entering politics isn't ...


22 FEB 2013

London Fashion Week

There are occasions when my work and my more leisurely interests collide in happy harmony and last weekend was one such occasion. I was invited to visit London Fashion Week by the British Fashion Council (BFC) in my capacity as an MP and as Minister for Women. Being a lady who loves clothes, I was...


15 FEB 2013

4G Is Not A Boy Band

A notepad, a pen and a Dictaphone. That was all I needed when I was running my legal practice. Word processing was the world of my wonderful assistant who anaesthetised me from my computer phobia for years. In the early days my e-mails would be printed for me to consider 'in due course' whilst my...


08 FEB 2013

Power To The People

I very much welcomed David Cameron's announcement that he intends to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union, and his promise that by the end of 2017, under a Conservative Government, a referendum will be offered to remain in the European Union under those new terms, or leave. Th...


01 FEB 2013

That Friday Feeling

Central London is very quiet at 5 a.m., as I discovered last Friday travelling to Millbank Studios, opposite the Houses of Parliament. I was announcing the Government's new policy on protecting vulnerable people from aggressive bailiffs and my first interview was with the BBC on Breakfast. In a p...


25 JAN 2013

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Some of my colleagues have vast rural seats to look after, whilst others represent corners of condensed urban metropolises. Maidstone and The Weald has both town and country, in a rather special balance, and I love the diversity that brings to the job and to life. Last Friday morning I was greeted...


18 JAN 2013

School Report

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring aspects of my work as a Member of Parliament is the opportunity to visit our local schools. It's a little chance to reminisce whilst having an insight into the world of future generations. I am currently in the process of arranging a visit to Linton Park Sch...


13 JAN 2013

Mid Term Review

Mid Term Review Westminster woke up to the new term with gusto this week. Business in the house got off to a lively start with a snubbing of Europe’s draft Directive for a 40% quota for women on boards. Quotas are something I’ve been arguing against for some time; they demean women an...


04 JAN 2013

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013

Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013. 2012 was a year of great contrast. Starting with a drought and ending with a flood, we also endured one of the least clement Junes I can remember. But amidst the meteorological gloom national spirits were undampened. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations brought warmth to th...


21 DEC 2012

Christmas shopping

Christmas Shopping For Christmas shopping Maidstone & the Weald is hard to beat. In the north of the constituency our county town is home to one of the most diverse retail offerings in the country. With more than 700 national and independent shops and over 75 cafes and restaurants, there&rsqu...


14 DEC 2012

Why be an MP?

Why be an MP? Why do you want to be an MP? It was the first question I was asked when I started my journey in politics and it is one of the most frequently repeated, by friends and constituents alike. For me it was a natural progression from 23 years as a legal aid family lawyer. The role still a...


07 DEC 2012

Who Dares Wins

Who dares wins The BBC’s sports personality of the year will be crowned in a little over a week’s time; a tough choice in what has been a truly incandescent period for British Sport. It was surely hard enough to select the shortlist let alone the winner. I think they’re all grea...


30 NOV 2012

Community Spirit

Christmas has come early to Maidstone, or to be more precise, to the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, and the The Royal Scots Borderers. They were part of Operation Yuletide, now in it's sixth year, which is underway at Cranbrook's High Weald Academy. Under the tutelage of Ann Cook, they join...


23 NOV 2012

MPs expenses; what is right?

MPs should use their reasonable discretion in spending their allowances and that has been the topic of news again lately. Here are some examples of decisions I have taken; When I rented a home in Marden in 2010 my allowances were about £1000 a month. In March 2011 my mother moved from my vill...


16 NOV 2012

Maidstone Matters

My weekly column in the Kent Messenger is a privilege. I have always tried to use it to promote and support our local issues and inform people about my work. Sadly, this week, I feel compelled to use this precious space defending recent allegations that have been made against me. Regarding my staff...


09 NOV 2012

PCC elections 2012

I wouldn't say doing a law degree was a walk in the park, but it did have its moments and learning about our 'Constitution' was one of them. Our American cousins had the wherewithal to create a single written Constitution back in 1787. We Brits did ours piecemeal over the last 800 years or so and s...


02 NOV 2012

Presumption of Death Bill

My beloved dog Charlie went missing a few months back. I was beside myself. The rat turned up after a three hour search, nonchalantly appearing out of a neighbour's hedge. I thank God that's about as close as I have personally come to experiencing the effects a missing person can have on their loved...


26 OCT 2012

Community is alive and well

What is a community? There are the 'online' versions; 'Facebook' (don't like), and 'Twitter' (kind of like). And there is the traditional version; 'People living together, helping each other, and sharing common values' (like lots). The latter was the one I grew up with. I believe it is a model with...


19 OCT 2012

Anti-Slavery Day 2012

In April 1833, at a public meeting in Maidstone, the great politician and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce delivered what was to be his final anti-slavery speech. He died three months later, just after hearing that the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act through Parliament was assured 1...


12 OCT 2012

Trains, thieves and trespassers

Maidstone and the Weald commuters brace themselves at this time of year as adverse weather and falling leaves bring seasonal strife. But a ray of sunshine broke through on Sunday as the PM confirmed that rail prices will be capped at RPI +1%, not the expected RPI +3%, for 2013 and 2014. More than 2...


05 OCT 2012

Choice and equality

Freedom of choice and equality; two ancient cornerstones of democracy and things we often take for granted. In the final week of the summer recess I chose to join four other Parliamentarians, from Portugal, Sweden, Cyprus and Lithuania, to visit the Philippine capital of Manila. Our purpose was to...


28 SEP 2012

Party Conference

Making space in a busy life to think and plan, away from the usual daily demands and distractions, is essential for survival and success. Some of the most productive and enlightening meetings I have had with people from Maidstone & the Weald have been with those who have taken an away-day and v...


21 SEP 2012

The PM reads the KM

I had a lovely letter the other day. It was a most gratifying, kind and personal note, from a very busy man, about my appointment to the Government. One of the sentences was as follows; 'I loved your column in the Kent Messenger last week about how similar your experience of ministerial life is to ...


14 SEP 2012

Yes Minister

When the BBC's 'Yes Minister' was running in the early 80's my interests were not aligned. I confess to being involved with other student orientated activities at Hull University, partying included. TV didn't really get a look-in. 30 years hence, and beyond prediction, I am that Minister. Simon sec...


07 SEP 2012

Reshuffle

Last Wednesday I felt a bit like Billy Elliot – in the part where he waits for a decision on his acceptance into the Royal Ballet School, and then gets the letter while his family wait anxiously in the other room. In my version a phone call came at about 4:15 in the afternoon. 'The Prime Mini...


31 AUG 2012

Paralympics

Monopoly was my first choice but Trivial Pursuits was always a giggle too, and there was a question I always answered – Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and who? Learning of Neil Armstrong's passing this week I zoomed back to July 21st 1969. The first man on the moon was one of those moments few ...


24 AUG 2012

TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards 2012

I used to be a technophobe, but I'm alright now. For most of my 23 years as a solicitor and a business owner, given a telephone, a dictaphone and secretary, all was fine and dandy. If anyone dared threaten to clutter my desk space with a PC there would be a frowned rejection. Then came e-mails and ...


17 AUG 2012

London 2012: A gold medal Olympic legacy for gender balance

600 years B.C. a woman called Queen Hippodameia founded the Heraean games. They took place every four years and centuries later became the model for the Games at Olympia c. 175 AD. In some ancient texts the sixteen female competitors at those games were also credited as being politically astute wome...


10 AUG 2012

Parliamentary recess – a day in the life of

Our national media like to portray the summer Parliamentary Recess as MP's holidays. The notion of what they call a three month paid break is an attractive proposition, but sadly something I have only enjoyed once - following the birth of my second child in 1994. Westminster work is just part of ou...


03 AUG 2012

A tale of two cities (London and Aleppo)

Human emotion is a wonderful and a fearsome thing. It impassions us to undertake great acts of caring, kindness and creativity, and empowers us to attain the most remarkable feats of mental and physical achievement. Tragically it is just as capable of enabling acts of cruelty and hatred, and wreaki...


27 JUL 2012

Post combat DV

Before I became a Member of Parliament I spent some 23 years as a solicitor running a legal practice that specialised in tackling violence in the home. It remains a central aspect of my firm's activities today. The issue is widespread and many of the causes are commonly understood – a perpetr...


20 JUL 2012

The week the Stones came home

I remember the weather on 28th November 2009. It was a bit miserable and damp and I was watching Maidstone United play Canvey Island at Ashford FCs ground 25 miles away from Maidstone. It was my first time with the club and I learned about the wealth of work they undertake in the community, coachin...


13 JUL 2012

Kent County Show

In March it was all about drought warnings, hosepipe bans and dry reservoirs. Then the rains came, and caused havoc. The last of the hosepipe bans has been lifted, not that the gardens suffered, but the collateral damage is serious. I was very sad to learn of the cancellation of the Great Yorkshire...


06 JUL 2012

News is like our weather, but there is a bright side

Persistently dark and miserable interspersed with a few brighter moments, outlook uncertain. An accurate picture of our weather so far this year and it fits the bill for the headlines too. The Eurozone system comes at us in waves, with an unending lashing of financial crises washing over the entire...


29 JUN 2012

Armed Forces Day

How important is the defence of the realm? I would say it is our first priority. Yes the economy is the big issue right now, but if our way of life and our precious freedoms became threatened, money matters would pale into insignificance on the national agenda. The subject is rarely out of the news...


22 JUN 2012

Cage Cricket

A new game is making the news and I'd love to see it played in Maidstone. Sympathies for those who are not sports fans. You could be forgiven for seeking sanctuary in a local spa just now, with Euro footy everywhere, tennis everywhere else, World athletics trials in Birmingham, the British road cyc...


15 JUN 2012

Fathers' Day

Should we invest in time travel research? Is smacking children OK? Why do fools fall in love? Politicians these days are expected to have opinions and views about pretty much anything, myself included it seems (answers below). Out of the blue this week I was asked how I felt about Fathers' Day, as ...


08 JUN 2012

Syria

The celebrations of last weekend stimulated many diverse conversations amongst my friends and family. The strength of our Union, the freedoms we enjoy, the British ideals of fairness and tolerance, the right to celebrate as well as demonstrate. People came out in their millions to pay their respects...


01 JUN 2012

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

A palpable air of Jubilee anticipation spread through Westminster following Her Majesty's special address to Parliament in March. MPs and Peers have now unveiled the Diamond Jubilee window in Westminster Hall, which was personally funded by Parliamentarians across both Houses. It is a majestic work...


25 MAY 2012

Civic Pride and Charity beats Euro nausia

In September last year, in this column, I expressed my amazement at the Eurozone leaders' lack of assertiveness in dealing with their predicament. Reports from the Camp David G8 meeting this week indicated that nothing has changed. Unpredictable tectonic shifts are taking place in political Europe ...


18 MAY 2012

The Israel / Palestine conflict

I remember, as a child, three pervading international conflicts constantly in the news headlines; the Vietnam war, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Israel – Palestine conflict. The latter of these has been running the longest and is remains in our headlines today, further from settlem...


04 MAY 2012

Gatwick getaway

Good infrastructure is vital to any economy, both regional and national. Maidstone, being a commuter town, relies more heavily than most on our railways. The UK, being an island, often puts more stock in air travel. But in reality our country relies on a network of transport hubs – from Dundee...


27 APR 2012

Marathon effort

The annual London Marathon weekend is indelibly impressed upon my memory. Those who have undertaken this valiant venture will doubtless recall the anniversary of their efforts with quite some emotion, no matter how long ago they ran. The demands that this race places upon lay participants, mentally ...


20 APR 2012

South Sudan

A country girl at heart, my Cumbrian upbringing has engrained within me a great affection for our bountiful land. Something I had not realised fully until my more recent years, particularly upon coming to a Constituency so rich in rural and agricultural life. In the four years that I have been work...


13 APR 2012

Portas Pilot

When I was talking to Simon recently about what makes a good shopping centre he (predictably) went off on 'the theory of competing centres' and made (understandably) un-girly utterances about 'diversity of offering' and 'accessibility'. Carrie and her pals in Sex and the City would just say 'Jimmy ...


06 APR 2012

National Citizens Service

Anyone who has ever been in a 'Catch 22' situation will know the anxiety and fear of being amidst a seemingly inescapable dilemma. The charity known as Catch 22 was created to help young people who find themselves completely boxed in – be it through crime, homelessness, or poverty of aspiratio...


30 MAR 2012

A Taste of Britain

I wonder which words Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke would use to describe England if our country were a wine? Complex, historic and reserved, but yet bold and forthright with notes of crustiness? In such terms the tourism marketing brains of this country have been focussed as they attempt to attract t...


23 MAR 2012

Diamond Queen

As children we seek leadership and wisdom for our protection and guidance. Many of us are lucky enough to find it in our parents. And even when we grow up ourselves, their strength often remains an important foundation in our lives. As a nation we have similar needs and our unwritten constitution h...


16 MAR 2012

Newts of the Medway Unite

Readers may recall my recent column concerning the drought threat facing the river Medway. An invitation to meet with the Medway Valley Countryside Partnership team last week was therefore a timely and welcome opportunity, particularly as it was at the behest of MVCP Chairman Sir Robert Worcester an...


09 MAR 2012

Teenage pregnancies

The trouble with Statistics is that they deny emotion to the scenarios in which they are employed; 'human beings with the tears wiped off' as someone once said. And so it is with recently released numbers about pregnancy rates in the UK, where we learn good (but sterile) information about a downwar...


02 MAR 2012

Schmallenburg Virus

2001 was a rural disaster of almost biblical proportions in parts of this country. Our national news broadcast pictures of quarantined families and warzones of slaughtered carcasses being dumped by tractors onto flaming pyres. The scourge of foot and mouth took a terrible toll on communities that ye...


24 FEB 2012

Appealing for our watery heritage

Warnings of drought are being heralded once again. Our own Bewl Water is pictured in the Sunday Times this week looking like a parched African landscape. A single small dinghy, with its keel balancing on acres of cracked mud, is the only watery clue in the photo. British society lacks an abstemious...


17 FEB 2012

Calling Police and Crime Commissioners everywhere

Dawn raiding Sun Journalists and Abu Qatada's curfew - just a small sample of the complex policing issues arising over the last week. The decisions and actions taken by our law enforcement officers are hugely varied and challenging. But for a long time there has been disquiet, both publicly and pri...


10 FEB 2012

JustTextGiving

Question: What have the following got in common? Kent Wildlife Trust, The Holly Eatwell Trust (cancer in young people), The Giraffe Project (child education in Nairobi), The Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust (supporting projects in athletics, adventure and the environment). Yes, they are all Maidsto...


03 FEB 2012

Are you being kept in the dark?

In the celebrated 1994 movie, Forrest Gump memorably said "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." I wonder how many of our readers have unwittingly picked a hard centre and broken a tooth on a regrettable personal relationship? More than will ever ...


27 JAN 2012

Bring back real bank managers

Last week's column was very much about the Westminster week, Monday to Thursday. It is an intense, surreal and often rather airless environment. Thank goodness for the oxygen of constituency work. Friday surgeries in Maidstone and Cranbrook are always a highlight for me – a return to normalit...


20 JAN 2012

International affairs

It was back to Westminster for me last week as Parliament resumed its work after the Christmas break. I felt a noticeable shift away from domestic toward international issues - perhaps because much of our own legislation is currently in 'The Other Place', as the House of Lords is affectionately know...


13 JAN 2012

The Iron Lady

It was with great interest that I went to see the movie 'The Iron Lady' this weekend. Love her or loathe her, Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly a strong and decisive leader and I wondered how Hollywood had chosen to present such an iconic British personality. Having run the gauntlet of a Westminste...


06 JAN 2012

Maidstone is a Des Res!

There are a plethora of polls, surveys and reports published throughout the year making assertions or claims as an excuse to create publicity or promote sales. But sometimes the pollsters do actually hit the mark, and well done The Halifax for naming Maidstone as the UK's 8th most 'des res' in 2011...


30 DEC 2011

Goodbye 2011, hello 2012!

2011 was a year of colossal change. One that will be worthy of its own chapter in the study books of students for centuries. The 'Arab Spring' was an awakening of hope that has willed literally millions of suppressed citizens to press for positive change. A seismic shift from dictatorship to democr...


23 DEC 2011

Christmas is a time for charity

How many of us have benefited from the work of a charity in the last year? The range of possibilities is diverse, including anything from Animal Welfare to Cancer Research and from the St John's Ambulance to the Samaritans. Everyone who's visited one or our museums, or perhaps found a bargain in a ...


16 DEC 2011

Don't suffer in silence

In this column, about a year ago, I highlighted a persistent problem that always becomes more acute at Christmas time. I make no apology for returning to the subject now. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate against age, race, class or creed. It permeates every section of society and needs to be r...


25 NOV 2011

Strike Out

One side call it sound political protest, the other says it is self-serving disruption at a time when least we need it and least we can afford it. Either way, next Wednesday could see the biggest day of strike action in the UK for a generation. The Unions are right to do their best for their member...


18 NOV 2011

Question Time

People in this country are disengaged with Politics. Such is the contention of many within the Party political sphere, citing poor turnout at the polls and lack of party membership as concrete evidence. They are wrong. People care enormously about the decisions that affect their lives and have much...


04 NOV 2011

Maidstone Hospital

Rarely a week goes by without Maidstone Hospital being in the news for one reason or another. No wonder. It maintains the heartbeat of around 250,000 people in our County Town and environs. And yet it seems constantly under threat of dimunition; sometimes by blatant acts such as the transfer of our...


28 OCT 2011

An open door to democracy

Before I became involved in Politics, my impression of Westminster and the people of Parliament was that of another world. It was somewhere behind locked doors where mortals rarely entered and where Sir Humphrey used every effort to preserve his antiquated gentlemen's club. Whether my impression wa...


21 OCT 2011

Helen goes clubbing!

Some would say 'the trouble with young people today is that all they do is watch TV and play console games', oh yes, and drink too much at high street hostelries. The perception is oft an unfortunate truth. In times gone by the local pub was the usual place to socialise, with their bar games, cards...


14 OCT 2011

The NHS misTrust

Last week a news story broke in this paper which was also well covered by BBC TV as their lead item on Friday's South East Today. The argument was about ambulance visits lurching away from Maidstone, mainly to Pembury. Patients at the newly opened hospital complained of excessive waiting times and ...


07 OCT 2011

A big step closer for the Stone's return

Sustaining successful and happy societies requires strong and united communities - places where people work together toward a common good. Issues that have galvanized the local populous here over recent years have, unfortunately, been a fight to save rather than a push to create; Preserving our cou...


30 SEP 2011

Passage to India

During this conference season recess I joined a small group of MPs visiting a country of 1.2 billion people as guests of their Government. We were in India to see social, political and economic developments and learn about what challenges and opportunities might lie within for our own country. With...


23 SEP 2011

Power to the people

When a crisis hits, its impact is often determined less by the severity of the challenge than by the timeliness and effectiveness of the response. Mindful of this I am flabbergasted at the manner in which the leaders of the 'eurozone' are responding to the crisis. The speculators are having a field...


16 SEP 2011

Goodbye summer, Hello conference season

Prior to the General Election last year the Parliamentary Summer Recess continued right through to the end of the Party Conference season in Mid October. Not any more, and rightly so in these challenging times. In fact the two week period at the beginning of September is now one of the busiest times...


09 SEP 2011

Life after recess

One of the challenges I have consistently faced since the election 16 months ago is to try and explain to constituents what an MP does, and equally what perhaps should be done by someone else, maybe a Borough or County Councillor. Many people have little or no real idea and that is a failure of our ...


02 SEP 2011

Love grows (where my Rosemary goes)

Many readers in my age group and beyond will surely remember the tune to 'Love grows where my Rosemary goes, and nobody knows but me'. The song's pervading cheerfulness, deftly performed live by 70's band Edison Lighthouse, perfectly reflected the atmosphere of a very special evening this week at Ma...


26 AUG 2011

Maidstone's rail commuter services

'Is it possible you could take a little break from Oaken Wood and supporting fruit growers onto some more pressing matters such as why commuters from Maidstone will have to pay extortionate above inflation price hikes just to get to work'. These were the vexed words of one Maidstone commuter in my i...


19 AUG 2011

Out of the shadows come the stars of tomorrow

The fall-out of last week's rioting continues to grab the national headlines, with the political parties vying for position with policies and ideas about how to respond and how to prevent. There is no quick fix but I believe much can be gained from huge amount of work already carried out by The Cent...


12 AUG 2011

Criminals on our streets

This week I had intended to write a good news story about young people in Maidstone & the Weald. It was about aspiration, success and achievement. I find it impossible, however, to talk about something that is so completely at odds with the events that have been unfolding on our TV screens in th...


05 AUG 2011

Living within our means

Do you remember when you had to save up if you wanted something and if you didn't have the money you couldn't have it? There was even a bit of a stigma attached to buying things on the 'never never' and saving up had great strengths. Doing errands and working weekends as a chamber maid at the Crest...


29 JUL 2011

Tragedy and Hope

Not being a person who dwells on the negative aspects of our world I found myself in uncomfortable territory this week. The famine in the Horn of Africa is a human disaster of such enormity that it is hard to imagine the extent of the suffering. There are an estimated 12 million lives hanging in th...


22 JUL 2011

Richard Plummer

A few years ago one shuddering phone call knocked me completely off balance. I heard that my Mum had been involved in a head-on car collision whilst on holiday. They said she was unconscious, in intensive care, that I should come straight away and that I should prepare myself for the worst. It was a...


15 JUL 2011

Allington Castle & Kent Wines

It's everywhere you look, so I am not going to go on about it, but I cannot let this week go by without paying my respects to those who have been the victims of the phone hacking scandal. It is one of the ugliest domestic news stories I have witnessed in my lifetime. My thoughts lie with the familie...


08 JUL 2011

Strengthening Families

Tens of thousands of mortar boards are being thrown into the air at this time as proud families gather for graduation ceremonies across our country. And we were among them with our hearts and hankies on our sleeves. The metamorphosis of my straggly boy into a chiseled and dashing serviceman was an ...


01 JUL 2011

A day in Westminster

I am often asked 'what is your typical day' and my short reply is 'there isn't one'. Responding to the mass of incoming communications and maintaining a busy diary is ever ongoing but the rest is very varied and often unexpected. Tuesday this week starts with an ominous email; 'colleagues who norma...


24 JUN 2011

Legal aid

The school exam season is coming to an end – hooray! This year I have taken my third set of GCSEs, and they don't get any easier. This lot were my youngest son Joel's and two years ago it was his brother Ben's ordeal. But like thousands of other Mums and Dads in Maidstone and the Weald, I suff...


17 JUN 2011

What is the military covenant?

Ever mindful of the welfare of Maidstone's 36 Engineer Regiment and our Queens Gurkha Engineers I took great interest in the third reading of the Armed Forces bill in the House of Commons this week. One of the principal issues is Clause 2 which deals with the Military Covenant. In our country there...


10 JUN 2011

Religious education is more important today than it has ever been

I regularly receive lobbying letters about last January's introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBac) into our schools curriculum. My position is that I support the principle of the EBac as a method of allowing students to pursue a variety of courses without being bound, too quickly or early, t...


03 JUN 2011

We need a bit more order Mr Speaker

Ken Clarke was recently castigated for an injudicious choice of words. He was discussing criminal sentencing and became flustered by a sharp radio interviewer who focused on different categories of rape. The national media laid-in, recklessly lumping together all victims of rape into a single undiff...


27 MAY 2011

Belle of the ball

Readers who are unfamiliar with the County town of Maidstone might be forgiven for guessing the Allington Belle is a twin of the Brighton Belle, the famous Pullman class electric train service which ran from Brighton to London in art deco style from 1933 to 1972. Oh! that Southeastern Trains were to...


25 MAR 2011

Womens’ and Children’s services at Maidstone Hospital

In May 2010 the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, published four criteria which needed to be satisfied if hospital reconfigurations were to be allowed to proceed. The support of GPs was one of them. On 22nd December 2010 he approved the reconfiguration of Womens' and Childrens' services...


25 FEB 2011

What is the Big Society?

There is much debate in the air about the Big Society, about what it means, and whether it is a mere smokescreen as some cynics would have us believe. For me, as a concept, the Big Society is a way of thinking and a way of living that is the opposite of relying on the state. It is about moving towa...


21 JAN 2011

Southeastern must wake up and smell the coffee

One of the questions I have often been asked in interviews is 'if there was one thing you could do for your constituency what would it be?' And my answer is 'to strengthen our County Town and its rural communities as an enviable place for people to live and work and for businesses to thrive'. It is...


14 JAN 2011

Maidstone Hospital

The Secretary of State's recent decision to allow the reconfiguration of womens' and childrens' services between Maidstone and Pembury Hospitals is so irrational that it gives me hope. This may sound somewhat perverse but if we are to get the decision overruled then it will be the absurdity of the ...


24 DEC 2010

A toast to our troops, and one for their brave families too

In Westminster recently I sponsored a long established Christmas lunch event organised by one of our distinguished constituents; Lt Col (retd) Brian Awford RE of Cranbrook. Running since 1977 these lunches are attended by former members of 9 Independent Airborne Squadron RE together with serving of...


26 NOV 2010

Domestic Violence

One humorous festive card I have noticed this year features the legend 'women and turkeys against Christmas'. Sadly the intended joke will only be a fearful reminder for the hundreds of women, and some men, who were beaten last Christmas and know that they will almost certainly suffer again, at leas...


29 OCT 2010

Ill-planned short-term savings could cost us dearly

In the Kent Messenger published 22/10/10 many of the most important leaders in Maidstone's voluntary and charity sector rightly and properly set out a series of reasons why great care must be taken when the inevitable forthcoming cuts are made in our public services. They have my full support. Havi...



Helen's column

16 NOV 2017

1918

Kent Messenger Column – 16-11-17  To lay a wreath at the annual Remembrance Sunday service in Maidstone is one of the great honours that I experience within my role as your MP. It is humbling to...


09 NOV 2017

Leeds-Langley relief road public meeting

Kent Messenger Column - 09-11-17  My neighbouring colleague Helen Whately and I held a public meeting in early 2016 at the Maidstone Studios to facilitate an open discussion about the Maidstone...


02 NOV 2017

Stay Warm this Winter

Kent Messenger Column – 02-11-17  There was certainly the feel of seasonal change in the air this week; as the clocks turned back, the nights drew in and the winter chill descended. As we know,...


26 OCT 2017

The Women's Resource Centre & Human Trafficking

Kent Messenger Column 26-10-17  One of the great privileges of Parliamentarians is the freedom to shine a light on causes that personally resonate. It is one of the aspects of an MP's work that I...


19 OCT 2017

A Modern Infrastructure

Kent Messenger Column - 19-10-17  A modern society and economy needs a modern infrastructure in order to function effectively. A critical pillar of this must be the availability of reliable, fast...


12 OCT 2017

Race Disparity Audit

Kent Messenger Column - 12-10-17 In the early 60's, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only person in the whole of Carlisle with a darker skin colour. Born in London of an English / Welsh mum...


05 OCT 2017

News in the making...

Kent Messenger Column – 05-10-17 Last week I used this column to champion the importance of inspiring new generations to take an active interest in politics. This week an opportunity has arisen for...


28 SEP 2017

Party Conference

Kent Messenger Column - 28-09-17 The excessive cost of attending party conferences has been a bugbear of mine for years now. I last wrote about this a couple of years ago, with particular reference...


21 SEP 2017

New Housing Consultation

Kent Messenger Column - 21-09-17  Readers will surely be aware of the ongoing spat over Maidstone's emerging local plan, driving both local MPs to seek intervention by the Secretary of State. It...


14 SEP 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill/Myanmar

Kent Messenger Column - 14-09-17  My attentions this week are divided between home and away; Here in the UK we move toward Brexit with much progress on The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The...


07 SEP 2017

Anyone for Fundraising?

Kent Messenger Column 07-09-17 The ingredients for a good fundraising event are not complicated but you sometimes need a bit of good fortune for the recipe to come together at the designated moment;...


31 AUG 2017

Heritage Lottery Fund

Kent Messenger Column - 31-08-17  The haunting vision of deep red porcelain poppies cascading down the cold grey walls of the Tower of London was one of the most poignant moments of my time as a...


24 AUG 2017

Fairer energy prices

Kent Messenger Column - 24-08-17 Hands up if you are this person; The last time you moved house you adopted the gas and electricity supplier already in place there, haven't changed since, and your...


17 AUG 2017

National Citizens Service

Kent Messenger Column - 17-08-17 Dragons' Den panellists conjure a vision of beasts of business inflicting savage critiques upon aspiring entrepreneurs. Exhaling fire isn't my thing really but...


10 AUG 2017

Sponsorship in women's sport

Kent Messenger Column - 10-08-17  I welcomed the recent focus on the BBC's gender pay gap, but the issue spreads much more widely than on-screen media talent; a current case-in-point being...


03 AUG 2017

Cancer Statistics

Kent Messenger Column 03-08-17 Around this time last year I learned that my husband had prostate cancer. As you might expect it had a marked effect upon my whole family; it also realigned my own...


27 JUL 2017

Southeastern Franchise

Kent Messenger Column - 27-07-17  Since commencing my work as a Parliamentary Candidate, and then MP for Maidstone and the Weald almost 10 years ago, campaigning to improve commuter train services...


20 JUL 2017

Maidstone Mela

Kent Messenger Column - 20-07-17  Perhaps I am becoming wiser with the years, or maybe it is an emerging sign-of-our-times, but the importance of community has never been more prominent in my...


13 JUL 2017

Vehicle emissions

Kent Messenger Column - 13-07-17  Last November I raised serious concerns about vehicle emissions with the planning inspector at Maidstone's local plan public hearings. The core of my anxiety was...


06 JUL 2017

'Go Train'

Kent Messenger Column - 06-07-17 There are more people now in work than ever before, unemployment has remained at its lowest rate for eleven years, women in employment has reached a record rate and...


29 JUN 2017

Thank you for re-electing me

Kent Messenger Column - 29-06-17  I am deeply honoured and proud to have been returned as your MP following the recent General Election on 8th June. I am also grateful to the Editor of the Kent...


20 APR 2017

General Election 8th June 2017

Kent Messenger Column - 20-04-17  Ever since the tumultuous events that followed the referendum result less than 10 months ago it has been my strong view that our country needed stability and...


13 APR 2017

Syrian sarin gas attack

Kent Messenger Column - 13-04-17 In August 2013 over 1400 people are reported to have died, including 426 children, when Sarin gas was used against the people of Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus in...


06 APR 2017

Fant Farm

Kent Messenger Column – 06-04-17 Fant Farm. For local people two words synonymous with a priceless Medway valley view and a haven for nature; a vital buffer between the urban and the rural in our...


30 MAR 2017

Westminster Attack

Kent Messenger Column - 30-03-17 The appalling attack in Westminster last Wednesday was a sick homage to nihilism by a deranged and lost soul. I don't see religion being involved here, just plain...


23 MAR 2017

Howard Interns: a week in British Politics

Kent Messenger Column - 24-03-17 Taylor and Mirabella present Helen with a gift depicting Howard University In last week's column I heralded the arrival of two young female politics students from...


16 MAR 2017

Howard mini-internships

Kent Messenger Column - 16-03-17 As I write (Monday 13th) MPs and Peers are today preparing to cast their historic final votes to trigger Brexit. For me this is not goodbye Europe, it is all about...


09 MAR 2017

Brexit and The Lords

Kent Messenger Column - 09-03-17 The House of Lords is in the headlights once again, this time on two separate fronts. Our Upper Chamber is the subject of a current BBC2 documentary 'Meet the Lords',...


03 MAR 2017

Fair School Funding For All

Kent Messenger Column - 03-03-17 Schooling is a subject which evokes great passion and interest. The Prime Minister has been clear that education is a critical component of her plan to drive up...


24 FEB 2017

Calling time on the abuse of MPs

Kent Messenger Column - 24-02-17  When I started thinking about standing for Parliament, an experienced MP and friend told me 'it's the roughest toughest career in the world and you will need your...


17 FEB 2017

National Cyber Security Centre

Kent Messenger Column – 17-02-17 The digital revolution has been undeniably transformational, bringing endless opportunities through vast social and economic change. Like all great revolutions...


10 FEB 2017

Time we coughed-up for our NHS?

Kent Messenger Column - 10-02-17  This paper previously reported of West Kent Clinical Commissioning group's (WKCCG) decision to cease non-urgent operations until the new financial year. Last week,...


03 FEB 2017

Trump: the first 10 days

Kent Messenger Column - 03-02-17  Last week I suggested his first 100 days would be critical, but with just 10 under his belt we may already know all we need about Trump. His Executive Order...


27 JAN 2017

Trump: the first days

Kent Messenger Column - 27-01-17 The inauguration's over and here in the UK we must now get to grips with an 'America First' term of office. The trouble I'm having in assessing Mr Trump's true...


20 JAN 2017

Brexit: Clarity will defeat uncertainty

Kent Messenger Column - 20-01-17  It is now well over 6 months since the British people took the decision to leave the European Union. Setting aside the disgraceful campaigning on both sides, the...


13 JAN 2017

Mental Health

Kent Messenger Column - 13-01-17  The last time I talked to Theresa May as Home Secretary was in April last year when she visited Maidstone & Mid Kent Mind's wellbeing centre in College Road. She...


09 JAN 2017

No way to run a railway

Kent Messenger Column - 06-01-17 January fare increases edge annual London season tickets toward £5,000 for commuters from Maidstone & The Weald, rubbing salt into pre-Christmas wounds from poor...


30 DEC 2016

Choices

Kent Messenger Column - 30-12-16  A few weeks back I attended an important 20th Anniversary event in Maidstone. It was a fundraiser and a celebration for an organisation called Choices; no, not the...


23 DEC 2016

Contact at Christmas

Kent Messenger Column - 23-12-16  Most of us would agree that Christmas is an extra special time for children, but sadly not for all of them. In the months and weeks leading up to the big day there...


16 DEC 2016

Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter

Kent Messenger Column - 16-12-16 For those without a roof over their head in Maidstone, the Churches Winter Shelter returns in the New Year, offering beds, a warm meal, companionship and constructive...


09 DEC 2016

Child sexual abuse in football

Kent Messenger Column - 09-12-16 Prior to becoming the MP for Maidstone & The Weald I was a family lawyer for 23 years. One of my most harrowing cases came to me as a 'straightforward' injunction...


02 DEC 2016

Aleppo

Kent Messenger Column - 02-12-16 My KM column usually involves issues directly relevant to Maidstone & The Weald but every now and then an international tragedy develops that demands overriding...


25 NOV 2016

Exporting is GREAT

Kent Messenger Column - 25-11-16 In my former career as a business owner there came a point where I started looking for new sales opportunities abroad. It was a step in the dark and fraught with...


18 NOV 2016

Donald Trump

Kent Messenger Column - 18-11-16  Two Tuesdays ago I texted my sisters, one in North Carolina and the other in Maryland, reminding them both to vote for Clinton. Well, at least I did my bit for...


11 NOV 2016

Brexit process must be legal

Kent Messenger Column - 11-11-16 The usual suspects are out in force again, reinvigorating division and disharmony with misinformation about Brexit. I've received many letters from concerned...


04 NOV 2016

Swim Relay 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 04-11-16 From Live Aid to Children in Need, and from Red Nose day to Help for Heroes, I expect most of us have been inspired to donate or participate in various charity...


28 OCT 2016

Mobile Phone Signals

Kent Messenger Column - 28-10-16 Absurd isn't it? Overseas visitors to Britain automatically get the best roaming signal on their mobile phones, wherever they are in the UK, yet we Brits get stuck...


21 OCT 2016

Anti-slavery Day 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 21-10-16  Four years ago, the Kent Messenger broke a story about slavery in Maidstone; 30 Lithuanian men living in squalid conditions and threatened with violence if they...


14 OCT 2016

Local Plan

Kent Messenger Column - 14-10-16 Most working people have a job description these days, but unusually not so for MPs. Convention says we have responsibilities to our constituents, to Parliament and...


07 OCT 2016

Women in Sport

Kent Messenger Column - 07-10-16  As a young girl, sport was absolutely pivotal in my life. Finding activities that I could be 'good at' helped build my self-confidence and self-esteem and as...


30 SEP 2016

Boundary changes, have your say!

Kent Messenger Column - 30-09-16 A little shy of 20 years ago it would be true to say that Maidstone was abolished, and it wasn't the first time. In 1554 the town's Charter as a Parliamentary...


23 SEP 2016

Lower Thames Crossing

Kent Messenger Column - 23-09-16 Constituency work, by its very nature, is territorial but there are several challenges that MPs handle regionally; border control, counter-terrorism, public transport...


16 SEP 2016

Choice in Education

Kent Messenger Column - 16/09/16 There's only one left where I grew up in Cumbria, and on the other side of the Pennines there are none. Contrastingly Kent and Medway is home 39 state funded...


09 SEP 2016

Dementia

Kent Messenger Column - 09-09-16 In my family it's up there as one of the greatest family films of all time and on countless occasions we've enjoyed Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...


26 AUG 2016

The Lottery

Kent Messenger Column - 26-08-16 Do you remember where you were on the evening of Saturday 19th November 1994? There's a fair chance that, like my family, you were sitting around the TV watching 6...


19 AUG 2016

Visit Kent

Kent Messenger Column - 19-08-16  Last summer I visited my American family to celebrate a wedding and enjoy a vacation with them. To maintain the transatlantic momentum I invited them to join me...


12 AUG 2016

Sport for all

Kent Messenger Column - 12-08-16  It is the greatest show on earth and to be in it, let alone to win it, is a huge accolade for the 366 Olympians who have been selected to represent Great Britain at...


05 AUG 2016

Vodaphone CISS100 scheme

Kent Messenger Column - 05-08-16 High speed broadband and mobile phone services are an essential part of modern life for most of us. For some living in rural areas the situation is still far from...


29 JUL 2016

Vigilance with care

Kent Messenger Column -  29-07-16 It reminded me of operation stack all over again; miles and miles of traffic backing up from Dover just as the school holidays commenced last week. But this time...


22 JUL 2016

Celebrate!

Kent Messenger Column - 22-07-2016 This column has focused, somewhat unavoidably, upon divided opinions in recent weeks and I think everyone has had just about enough of politics, for a while at...


15 JUL 2016

A vote for change

Kent Messenger Column - 15-07-16 Our country has undergone an extensive period of uncertainty ever since the Prime Minister announced the referendum date four and a half months ago in February. A...


08 JUL 2016

The Leadership Election

Kent Messenger Column - 08-07-16 David Cameron's early resignation announcement was regrettable but understandable after losing the referendum, and so we now seek a new leader. I will be voting for...


01 JUL 2016

Brexit - the early fall-out

Kent Messenger Column - 01-07-16  If ever the phrase 'a week is a long time in politics' was pertinent, now is one such moment. The Brexit vote, David Cameron's resignation and the search for a new...


24 JUN 2016

Time to unify

Kent Messenger Column - 24-06-16 We now know the result of the referendum and a long period of divisive campaigning is finally over. Two weeks ago on these pages I criticised both sides of the...


17 JUN 2016

Why I will vote 'Remain'

Kent Messenger Column - 17-06-16  My decision to vote to 'remain' on June 23rd comprises many separate considerations, but the overarching reasons are about two fundamental pillars of human need;...


10 JUN 2016

EU Referendum

Kent Messenger Column – 10-06-16 A few months ago in this column I welcomed the PM's decision to hold his general election promise of an EU Referendum vote as early as realistically possible,...


03 JUN 2016

National Volunteers Week

Kent Messenger Column - 03-06-16  Some do it for fun or to meet other people, others seek to develop new skills, many do it to give something back, but they all do it for free. Every month 27% of...


27 MAY 2016

Sporting Equals

Kent Messenger Column - 27-05-16 22 years ago The Queen's Gurkha Engineers moved into Invicta Barracks and with them came a new and welcome cultural aspect to our County Town. Since that time the...


20 MAY 2016

The Swattenden Centre

Kent Messenger Column - 20-05-16 Much debate has surrounded the entry of unaccompanied child refugees to this country but little is reported about what happens once they arrive. To that end I...


13 MAY 2016

BBC Charter Review

Kent Messenger Column - 13-05-16 Personally I think £145.50 is pretty good value for a year's worth of TV, radio and internet content – particularly of the quality created by the BBC. But is...


06 MAY 2016

Unaccompanied Children

Kent Messenger Column 06-05-16 Several constituents have contacted me regarding whether or not the UK should take-in 3000 unaccompanied children, presently in Europe, having fled war-torn countries...


29 APR 2016

Meningitis B debate

Kent Messenger Column - 29-04-16 For almost three hours this Monday Parliament was engaged directly at the request of 823,345 petitioners from every constituency across the nation, following the...


22 APR 2016

Corporate Social Responsibility

Kent Messenger Column - 22-04-16  In Parliament next week I hope to raise the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a debate about Meningitis B. My point will relate specifically to...


15 APR 2016

PCC elections 2016

Kent Messenger Column - 15-04-16 'Britain has no written constitution' – discuss. Such was the title of an essay question I recall from my law exams many moons ago. It is a big subject that can...


08 APR 2016

Flood Management

Kent Messenger Column - 08-04-16 Monday was a step forward for Maidstone & The Weald, particularly for the flood-plain residents of Yalding, Marden, Hunton, Allington and other parts of my...


01 APR 2016

Meningitis B debate

Kent Messenger Column - 01-04-16 Privately, a course of three shots will cost a family around £400; that's the price of the Bexsero vaccination for one child against Meningitis B, whilst the...


25 MAR 2016

Strawberry fields forever

Kent Messenger Column - 25-03-16  As Wimbledon starts to appear on the horizon preparations for the annual strawberry fest are well underway and Kent is by far their largest supplier. But according...


18 MAR 2016

National Apprenticeship Week

Kent Messenger Column - 18-03-16 It's National Apprenticeship week once again and it is worthy of celebration. For those entering the workplace there are now 1500 different job roles across 170...


14 MAR 2016

International Women's Day

Kent Messenger Column - 11-03-16 Helen Grant MP speaking in the International Women's Day Debate A shock headline this week might have said 'Kent child abduction increases by 67%'. The figure is,...


04 MAR 2016

Sunday Trading

Kent Messenger Column - 05-03-16 1994 seems such a long time ago. The channel tunnel officially opened, Four Weddings and a Funeral was released and Tony Blair became leader of the Labour party. Oh...


26 FEB 2016

EU Referendum Launch

Kent Messenger Column - 26-02-16  The referendum is a simple question about a very complex situation and much remains to be clarified before we go to the polls on June 23rd. On the timing point I...


19 FEB 2016

Maidstone's Local Plan

Kent Messenger Column - 19-02-16  Speculative developers slipping questionable housing projects through the planning process, because we have no formally adopted local plan to oppose them, has been...


12 FEB 2016

Become a Councillor

Kent Messenger Column Last week's readers' letters were typical of the KM's postbag; subway closure, traffic signage, speed limits, infrastructure repair management to cite just a few. They are very...


05 FEB 2016

Southeastern

Kent Messenger Column - 05-02-16  Southeastern have been getting a bit of stick from Kent MPs again recently, even when there's no snow to blame. But how much rail commuter woe is actually their...


29 JAN 2016

Rural mobile phone services

Kent Messenger Column - 29-01-16  In February last year Communications Minister Ed Vaizey together with the major mobile phone companies joined me for a public meeting in Cranbrook. I wanted to...


22 JAN 2016

The Junior Doctors' Strike

Kent Messenger Column - 22-01-16  The NHS is perhaps Britain's most cherished institution. The provision of healthcare to be available for everyone, free at the point of use, is rightly considered...


15 JAN 2016

David Bowie

Kent Messenger Column - 15-01-2016 "I don't know where I am going from here, but I promise it won't be boring" Thus spoke David Bowie on his 50th Birthday but it was a quote that could be applied...


08 JAN 2016

Benenden's Community Share Offer

Kent Messenger Column - 08-01-16 In an era where the closure of village stores, post offices and pubs in our land is sadly commonplace, it is with great happiness that I can report one location in my...


01 JAN 2016

Kent County Council Flood Funding

Kent Messenger Column - 01-01-16  As I write this week's column national headlines universally report hundreds of flood warnings being in place, 27 of which the Environment Agency has deemed severe....


23 DEC 2015

Homelessness in Maidstone

Kent Messenger Column - 23-12-15 Vicar of St Lukes (left) and volunteers at the MCWS in St Lukes Church Hall Now in its third year of operation the Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter (MCWS) has...


18 DEC 2015

Don't suffer in silence

Kent Messenger Column - 18-12-15 Before I became the Member of Parliament for Maidstone & The Weald in 2010 I had been a practising solicitor for 23 years, with my own Legal Aid firm specialising in...


11 DEC 2015

Drink Driving

Kent Messenger Column - 11-12-15  It's the season for Christmas parties, family get-togethers and festive cheer. No doubt a glass or two of will be had by many but for drivers, how many units, or...


04 DEC 2015

The Syrian Vote

Kent Messenger Column - 04-12-2015 Helen Grant MP leaving the Chamber on Wednesday evening to vote I entered the chamber just before 11:30am with a weight on my mind and a churn in my stomach. For...


27 NOV 2015

Syria

Kent Messenger Column - 27-11-15  In August 2013 Parliament voted 'no' to military intervention in Syria. The motion on that occasion was specifically about preventing the Assad regime from...


20 NOV 2015

The Paris aftermath

Kent Messenger Column - 20-11-15 The Paris attacks last Friday were a step-change moment for the global community and have affected virtually everyone I have spoken with. The civilian security...


13 NOV 2015

Flood Management Update

Kent Messenger Column - 13-11-15 The rains of recent days provide a timely cue for a local flood management update. Readers may recall that following the Christmas floods of 2013 I established a...


06 NOV 2015

Tampon Tax

Kent Messenger Column - 06-11-15  Last week my mailbag saw an array of comments from puzzled and angry female constituents. They were questioning why, as a woman and a former Minister for Women, I...


30 OCT 2015

Fair School Funding

Kent Messenger Column - 30-10-15 Every now and then a campaign comes along that brings us all together, cross-party, for the common good. This one is called F40 and our aim is to get a fairer...


23 OCT 2015

Solar farms on agricultural land

Kent Messenger Column 23-10-15 In 2010 I made a pledge to the people of Maidstone & The Weald to do all I could to protect our precious countryside from inappropriate planning proposals. It was a...


16 OCT 2015

Special Constables

Kent Messenger Column - 16-10-15  In his civilian working life Ben Elsey is a project analyst working for Lloyds Banking Group. A lot of his work involves communicating across key project teams to...


09 OCT 2015

Party Conferences

Kent Messenger Column - 09-10-15 At the launch of my General Election campaign this year I was blessed with the support of a platoon of people from all ages and backgrounds. Some were still at...


02 OCT 2015

Cranbrook Community Hub

Kent Messenger Column - 02-10-15 When Cranbrook's council offices were demolished in 2011 several local organisations lost a home and the town lost a cohesive centre for its community. This issue...


25 SEP 2015

Punch and Judy Politics

Kent Messenger Ccolumn - 25-09-15  Throughout my career in business and in the legal profession, before I considered entering public service, I achieved success through quiet negotiation and...


18 SEP 2015

The River Medway; lets flaunt it!

Kent Messenger Column - 18-09-15  Critics say we don't use the River Medway to its full potential, either as a tourist attraction or as a local amenity, and they have a point. Within Maidstone town...


11 SEP 2015

Syrian refugees

Kent Messenger Column - 11-09-15  On July 4th the media reported migrant activity in Calais closing the channel tunnel and triggering Operation Stack, again. The people of Kent were understandably...


04 SEP 2015

Love Kent, Hate Litter

Kent Messenger Column - 04-09-15 This summer Kent's been getting tough on litter. For those of us who make the effort to dispose of our litter properly, this issue is a real bugbear. It's a regular...


28 AUG 2015

Commuter News

Kent Messenger Column - 28-08-15 Commuting to London can be the bane of working life for many. I share the angst being a regular rail user myself and I have spent much time engaging with our...


21 AUG 2015

6th Form Results

Kent Messenger Column - 21-08-15  Two years ago this week I remember returning to Maidstone from our family holiday to learn of my youngest son's 'A' level results. A mixture of anxiety and...


12 AUG 2015

The price of milk

Kent Messenger Column - 14-08-15 Every now and then politicians are confronted with the question of the price of milk to check if they are in touch with the everyday world. Right now a better...


07 AUG 2015

Operation Stack

Kent Messenger Column - 07-08-15  Since it was first used in 1988, Operation Stack has been a bane of life for Kentish folk and a hot potato for a string of Kent politicians. In 2000 Michael Howard...


31 JUL 2015

DfID Select Committee

Kent Messenger Column 31-07-15 A few days ago I was delighted and proud to be elected as a member of the Select Committee that keeps a close eye on the Department for International Development...


24 JUL 2015

Thank you Alistair and Lorna

Kent Messenger Column 24-07-15 One of the key attributes expected of an MP is to make a difference and get things done. Charged with that simple brief I find myself working with others who share the...


17 JUL 2015

Big Weekend

Kent Messenger Column 17-07-15  When my kids were still kids, family breaks were a rare opportunity to park our frantic working lives for a time and focus upon those we loved the most. But the...


10 JUL 2015

Sobell Lodge

Kent Messenger Column 10-07-15  The youngest group captain in the Royal Air Force and one of the most highly decorated pilots of WW2 resigned his commission after being profoundly affected as an...


03 JUL 2015

Work Experience

Kent Messenger Column 03-07-15 'The most striking point was how my experience seemed to completely contradict the negative label that is stuck to the entire political class. The governmental system...


26 JUN 2015

'Our hospitals'

Kent Messenger column 26-06-15 As long as I've been involved in Maidstone, I've been committed to Maidstone hospital. One of my first local campaigns was MASH (Maidstone Action for Services in...


19 JUN 2015

The Rule of Law and Magna Carta

Kent Messenger Column 19-06-15  I wish to pay tribute this week to a very special Maidstone friend and resident, for a very special reason. There are some political events that occupy a higher...


12 JUN 2015

Kent Fire and Rescue

Kent Messenger Column 12-06-15 The first aid box, a set of jump leads in the car, a laptop back-up procedure, knowing whether to dial 999 or 111; All of these are contingency plans for the...


05 JUN 2015

Farming for economic growth

Kent Messenger Column 05-06-15  The ability of the private sector to more than absorb the jobs lost in the public sector is widely seen as the story of Britain’s economic recovery so far, but...


29 MAY 2015

The Queens Speech

Kent Messenger Column 29-05-15 Over the last few months, through postal surveys and on the doorstep, I have received a wealth of comment and opinion from thousands of people in Maidstone & the Weald...


22 MAY 2015

It's great to be back!

Kent Messenger Column 22-05-15 Hello again everyone! In my last KM column before the election, on 30th January 2015, I said I would do my utmost to return in May, both as your MP and as a columnist,...


30 JAN 2015

Final KM Column before the General Election 2015

In October 2010 the editor of this paper invited me to write a column. I was given free rein on the subject matter and was just asked to keep it informal and local where possible. Since that time I...


23 JAN 2015

Campaigning for Commuters

Rail fare increases always generate debate but the cost of travel is but one of a compendium of issues our commuters report to me. Travellers regularly drop into my office at Maidstone East Station...


16 JAN 2015

Mobile Phone Coverage

I'm privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country in the Garden of England. Not only do we have a bustling and thriving county town in Maidstone, we have large...


09 JAN 2015

Potholes

They're known in the business as 'a failure in an asphalt pavement, caused by water in the underlying soil structure and the persistent passage of traffic passing over'. We know them as...


02 JAN 2015

2015

It seems every year in recent memory has produced something significant. Sporting showpieces, landmark anniversaries and historic celebrations. 2015 is set to continue that trend. Our First World War...


26 DEC 2014

Winter Shelter

They go about their vital work quietly and effectively all year round, but at Christmas time they come out to play – literally. A quintessential part of the English street scene in villages and...


19 DEC 2014

Rural Speeding

It's been brilliant meeting so many of you at my community outreach surgeries at various locations across the constituency and at my office at Maidstone East Station. This, the last Friday before...


12 DEC 2014

Small Business Saturday

The FTSE 100 gets a mention every day in our news bulletins but over 99% of businesses in the UK are in the SME category - small and medium sized enterprises. They are the lifeblood of our economy,...


05 DEC 2014

The Fight for Fant Farm

For years now there have been rumours and rumblings about possible building developments at the Fant Farm orchard in Maidstone and thankfully, one by one, they have all been fought off. Most recently...


28 NOV 2014

Flood management funding update imminent

FLOOD MANAGEMENT FUNDING DECISION IMMINENT Kent Messenger w.e. 28-11-14‘Partnership Working’ is working in Maidstone & the Weald In recent weeks I have reported on the work undertaken by a wide...


21 NOV 2014

Ebola

Ebola is a fearful infection, slipping under the body's natural protection radar while it takes hold. When our immune system eventually does kick-in, it over-reacts causing a ghastly melt-down of...


14 NOV 2014

We Will Remember Them

In the age of the social media and smartphones, moments of silent reflection are rare. In a bustling town like Maidstone or a city like London, the hum of activity is constant. So those moments where...


07 NOV 2014

Parking for pensioners?

As a working mum with two young boys I was always grateful for the dedicated car spaces allocated for us at Supermarkets and certain other public parking places. Blue Badge holders will feel...


03 NOV 2014

Ensuring our train services are on track

We commuters brace ourselves when the autumn clocks change, heralding the season of delay and disruption to our daily journeys. Here in the South East we have suffered significantly in recent years...


24 OCT 2014

2nd Flood Forum for Maidstone and the Weald

On Boxing Day and in the ensuing week last year I was working amidst a large number of people tackling the swollen waters of the Medway at Allington Lock, at Fairmeadow in Maidstone and in Yalding....


17 OCT 2014

Shadow Helen 2014 competition

Engaging younger people in our political processes is arguably one of the most important roles politicians undertake. These are the people who will shape the future of our nation and our place in the...


10 OCT 2014

Housing and Infrastructure

Last August I surveyed 1500 people in the village of Marden about local issues. One major concern (65%) was the effect of newly planned homes on local infrastructure, and sewage waste management in...


03 OCT 2014

Parliament Recalled

From circus animals to corporation tax and from barbers to bankers bonuses, MPs are required to take decisions on a huge range of issues. With most votes I feel comfortable that I am acting in the...


26 SEP 2014

Scotland and the West Lothian Question

The Scottish question was answered loud and clear last week and for me, personally, a sad cloud of division and uncertainty was dispersed in an instant. I lived in the Border Country for all of my...


19 SEP 2014

Future Flood Management Forum

Our Round Table Flood Management Forum in February 2014 was a valuable step forward for Maidstone & the Weald in preparing an integrated approach to future flood management. We came away with a...


12 SEP 2014

Invictus

The Olympic Legacy was a vital part of London 2012's successful bid to stage the games back in 2005. Some of our aspirations included: encouraging wider participation in sports, inspiring others to...


05 SEP 2014

Charity & Sport

With the news being dominated by conflict and darkness, both at home and around the world, it is a relief to see positive action too. Two events in which I was involved last weekend were glad...


29 AUG 2014

Results Day

It's that time of year again. Teenagers up and down the country have been anxiously awaiting GCSE and A-level results. Shaping future careers and influencing life-decisions -and going through it with...


22 AUG 2014

Family

As a daughter, wife, mother, family lawyer and now an MP: my outlook has always been influenced by my family. As a lawyer, looking after children and families and coordinating mediation to assuage...


15 AUG 2014

Pride - a hundred years on

Even with a week's or so perspective, I'm finding it hard to grasp fully what happened as we began the First World War Centenary commemorations. The events themselves – in Glasgow, Saint Symphorien,...


08 AUG 2014

3G Pitch Campaign - Victory!

It's official. The Football Conference will allow 3G pitches in all their leagues from the 2015/16 season. The decision vindicates a fantastic and hard-fought campaign by Maidstone United, which I was...


01 AUG 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

"Dear soldier, It's hard to imagine what you went through. The heartbreak of leaving your loved ones behind. The fear of facing almost certain death. The nightmares that haunted your uneasy...


25 JUL 2014

Another action-packed week across the constituency!

It's been another action-packed week across the constituency. It started with another of my supermarket surgeries - this time at the Co-op in Cranbrook. It was fantastic to meet so many shoppers and...


18 JUL 2014

Banging the drums for schools' explorer day at Maidstone Museum

Almost 170 years ago, Maidstone man and Victorian explorer Julius Brenchley left the town on a voyage of discovery. He would spend the next 22 years of his life travelling the world, collecting...


11 JUL 2014

Kent County Show

Ferret racing, live bee keeping demonstrations, pig handling classes, heritage tractors, marching bands, spitfires and motorcycle displays! It can only be the Kent County Show. Now in its 85th year,...


04 JUL 2014

Westminster Work Experience

I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given by my local MP Willie Whitelaw when he helped me secure funding for a place at the College of Law. That single act launched my career in the...


27 JUN 2014

Kent School Games

130 schools. Over 1,200 students. 8 different sports. Kent's School Games County Festival of Sport. As the year round intra and inter-school competition culminated in the Grand Finals at the...


20 JUN 2014

World Cup Fever!

World Cup fever has arrived. Despite England's late night loss to Italy on Saturday, there were many positives to take from our young, energetic side. I'll leave the post-match analysis to the...


13 JUN 2014

Apprentices and Hospitality

When I see success at a local level it is gratifying to be in a position to help develop that success nationally. Take the hospitality industry; It already employs an enormous number of people, many...


06 JUN 2014

Whitsun Recess

One of the great advantages of parliamentary recess is that I get to take part in a number of fantastic activities across the constituency. Over the past week I've seen a selection of some of the best...


30 MAY 2014

Helen takes floods to the top

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has ultimate responsibility for endorsing government funding for certain major capital projects; projects like flood management...


23 MAY 2014

New Regular 'Meet Helen' Surgeries

I'm delighted to announce that I will be launching a series of new drop-in surgeries across Maidstone & The Weald. As your MP and voice in Westminster I think it's really important to be an accessible...


16 MAY 2014

Queen's Baton Relay

Our action-packed summer of sport is now just weeks away. Preparations are well under way as we approach the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Queen's Baton landed on British Isles in Jersey on 11...


09 MAY 2014

Gambling

In my recent surgeries, a number of constituents have raised concerns about gambling and the clustering of betting shops our high streets. Under the current system, a betting shop falls into the same...


02 MAY 2014

Football and Peace

"Both sides singing...My orders to the Coy. [Company]...are not to start firing unless the Germans do". Captain A.S Bates, commanding No 4 Company, 1/5th London Regiment (4th Division), France, 24...


25 APR 2014

Summer of Sport

2014 promises another scintillating summer of sporting spectacle. The Commonwealth Games, the football World Cup, the Tour De France Grand Depart and Andy Murray's defence of his Wimbledon singles...


18 APR 2014

Flooding Action Plan

I want to update you on my work in tackling the issue of flooding across Maidstone and The Weald. Following my multi-agency round table meeting in February I prepared a draft plan which was then put...


11 APR 2014

WW1 Centenary & Walter Tull

The First World War Centenary is almost upon us. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television are aptly awash with articles and programmes marking the occasion, and it was fascinating to read about...


04 APR 2014

English Tourism Week

It's English Tourism Week! And this week marks its third annual incarnation celebrating the benefits this key industry brings to everyone, everywhere, and every day in England. There has been a...


28 MAR 2014

3G Pitches - Progress

It's official. 3G pitches will be permitted in the FA Cup next season. This is a fantastic boost for Maidstone United's campaign for 3G use in the Conference and for grassroots football up and down...


21 MAR 2014

The Case for 3G Pitches

The Stones remain very much in the hunt for promotion to the Conference South after a string of impressive performances in the Ryman Premier. But if they do qualify to go up, their promotion could be...


14 MAR 2014

International Women's Day 2014

Sadly we still live in what could be described as a man's world. Last Saturday marked the 103rd International Women's Day (IWD), or possibly the 106th! There are differing accounts of the year and...


07 MAR 2014

Flooding Round Table

The Christmas and New Year floods were a wake-up call: our communities remain vulnerable to the forces of nature unless we act to protect them. I want to assure my constituents that I am acting in the...


28 FEB 2014

Women in Sport

Let me put one thing straight. I am completely committed to getting more women participating in sport. Some of you may have read comments from me in the papers at the weekend that were taken out of...


21 FEB 2014

Visit Kent!

As your MP for Maidstone and The Weald I'm privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country, in the Garden of England that is Kent. As Tourism Minister it's my job to...


14 FEB 2014

Chance to Shine

On the back of the fantastic result in the Women's Ashes Down Under, this week I'd like to give a special mention to Chance to Shine, a brilliant initiative to get children involved in cricket from primary level....


07 FEB 2014

Equality and Democracy

I attended a fantastic event last Monday hosted by the Local Government Association where I outlined plans to help more disabled people get into politics. Disabled people are still vastly...


31 JAN 2014

Schools commemoration of WW1

In the news, daily, we learn of human tragedy somewhere in the world. We are told of the numbers of people lost but rarely is there time or space for the individuals involved, each of whom has a...


24 JAN 2014

Sochi Winter Games

In 2012 we witnessed the power of the Olympic movement bringing together the global community. The nexus is sport, of course, but so much more is achieved from these world-class events. I hope the...


17 JAN 2014

Digital Switch-On goes further

During the week before Christmas, as a Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, I was delighted to be involved in 'Super Switch-On Day'. In case you missed it, this was the point at...


09 JAN 2014

Future flood management

The deluge continues and clearly we must implement improved flood defence solutions to deal with the inherent problems of Maidstone & the Weald. But the issues are complex and the costs can be...


03 JAN 2014

The Christmas Floods

The main story in the national news over the Christmas period is ebbing away like the flood waters themselves. With the clean-up operation now in full swing we have a chance to step back and review...


29 NOV 2013

Women's participation in sport

Women’s participation in sport29-11-13 Last weekend Maidstone’s Hazlitt theatre presented a dance spectacular featuring performers from the Melody Marshall School of Dance www.melodymarshalldance.co.uk. Established in 1982...


22 NOV 2013

1st World War Commemoration.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns of Europe fell silent after four years of bitter fighting.  The Great War was finally over but at the cost of over 16...


15 NOV 2013

Protect our Bluebell Wood

Protect our Bluebell WoodA cross party campaign for Maidstone15/11/2013 5 years ago I made an election pledge to help protect our rural heritage in Maidstone & the Weald. At the time the ‘No to...


15 NOV 2013

Community Outreach Surgeries

08/11/2013 Community Outreach Surgeries When I was practising as a legal aid solicitor, I would spend much of my day seeing clients and helping them deal withtheir problems and worries. It might...


25 OCT 2013

Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter

25/10/2013 Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter As winter approaches the plight of people without a home is not only uncomfortable and lonely, it becomes hostile and life-threatening. Presently...


18 OCT 2013

Minister For Sport And Equalities

The announcement of my new job as Minister for Sport and Equalities spread quickly and the media reception was gratifying (http://www.helengrant.org/media/press-cuttings). I was curious, however,...


11 OCT 2013

UKPPS

On 28th December 2012, The Daily Telegraph correctly reported me as saying "We can't deal with serious organised crime without brave witnesses coming forward". I was talking about slavery, human...


04 OCT 2013

Broadening Horizons

I went to hospital last Friday to meet a builder. I was on the construction site of the new Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS) hospital just outside Maidstone near Junction 7 of the...


27 SEP 2013

Constituency Surgeries

On the cover of my Spring Newsletter, I was proud to report that my team and I had handled over 5,000 constituency enquiries since I was elected in May 2010. Many were dealt with by way of...


20 SEP 2013

Party Conference

Communication these days is a remarkable thing. You can speak on the phone to most people from almost anywhere in the populated world, and send and receive messages, documents, pictures and videos...


13 SEP 2013

Curry Lunch With Eric

Throughout my years in this constituency I have always sought to attract people of all ages and walks of life into the political forum wherever possible; local enterprise meetings, rural business...


06 SEP 2013

Syria

The Parliamentary recess of 2013 looked like it might turn out to be a quieter period than those of my previous two summers as a Member of Parliament. In 2011 we witnessed the scourge of the London...


23 AUG 2013

Enlightened Men And Courageous Women

The KM Editor and readers will know I take care to refrain from party political comments in this column. I am your Member of Parliament and I am here to represent everyone regardless of political...


16 AUG 2013

To Frack, Or Not To Frack?

Shale Gas and fracking has risen to prominence in recent weeks. It is a subject which garners strong feelings and Maidstone and The Weald is no exception. Concerns include detriment to our beautiful...


02 AUG 2013

Women And Equalities

Going into politics requires learning about yourself as much as anything else. What makes you tick, what are your beliefs and values. For me, fairness and equality of opportunity has always been up...


26 JUL 2013

Supporting Local Businesses

It is the Parliamentary summer recess and as MPs desert Westminster like clouds of bats fleeing from Hogwarts, cynics will have you believe that we all flutter off for 6 weeks of r & r on tropical...


19 JUL 2013

The Kent County Show

Where am I? Racing camels, charging forth like Epsom Derby contenders; a line of pretty ladies in red, revealing bulbous buttocks; an RAF Spitfire with British-bulldog growl performing low-altitude...


12 JUL 2013

For Country And For Constituency

Regular readers of this column will know how much I look forward to returning to my cottage in Maidstone and The Weald after a wearing Westminster week. Friday is usually surgery day and I attend as...


05 JUL 2013

Restoring Trust In Politics

Well under half of 18 to 24 year olds in our country bothered to vote in the last general election, yet in my opinion young people are probably more engaged with political issues than they have been...


28 JUN 2013

Pathways Into Work

Creating jobs in this tough economic climate is a common goal for all political parties but finding the people to fill them is a challenge in equal measure too. Speaking as an employer for the last...


21 JUN 2013

Joined-Up Thinking For Maidstone

Prime Minister's Questions can sometimes be an unruly affair with Members shouting and heckling. This is the Westminster that our national tv chooses to broadcast to the country and I can see why...


14 JUN 2013

A Busy Summer's Day

This column, in recent weeks, has largely been a diary of good news and happy events (www.helengrant.org/km-columns) and last Saturday was no exception. Simon and I awoke in our Marden cottage after...


07 JUN 2013

Volunteer Week

Every year about one third of our population do something for nothing. That's 20 million people giving 100 million hours of their time every week. It's a never-ending good news story and this week I...


31 MAY 2013

Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

The best of times, the worst of times. Last week I witnessed both. The appalling murder of Drummer Rigby was a stark reminder of the darkest depths humanity can fathom. Shocking blood soaked images...


24 MAY 2013

A Taste Of Kent In Westminster

When I popped over to my Mum's house in Sutton Valence last week, I met one of Kent's younger entrepreneurs. A local school girl was on the doorstep with a small delivery of pretty hen's eggs,...


17 MAY 2013

Celebrate Maidstone

Friday was a good news day for Maidstone and The Weald. In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting my friends at Claygate Distribution in Marden for a happy occasion. They had invited me to...


10 MAY 2013

Good News For Business And The Economy

Despite persistently difficult economic circumstances, there are encouraging signs that the economy is healing. The deficit is now down by a third, interest rates remain at record lows, and...


03 MAY 2013

Mote Cricket Club

Remember the song: "What a perfect day, drink Sangria in the park, then later when it gets dark, we go home"? (Lou Reed - 1972). For me, last Sunday was that Perfect Day. Simon and I drove up from...


26 APR 2013

Human Trafficking

Last Thursday, in Women and Equalities oral questions, the issue of human trafficking was raised once again. The theme persisted this week when, as Victims Minister, on Monday I attended a human...


19 APR 2013

A Diary In The Week Of Baroness Thatcher's Funeral

Parliament resumed after recess at a merciless pace this week. Monday was the beginning of our consultations on the Victims Code (see my KM column 05th April), hotly followed on Tuesday by the...


12 APR 2013

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

I think I was about ten when I first saw her in real life. She had come to Carlisle to open a civic centre and my Mum took me down to watch. There was Mrs. Thatcher, in one of her signature blue...


05 APR 2013

The Victims Code

It was something I encountered constantly in my legal practice, and it continues in my constituency surgeries. People who have suffered the effects of crime all too often tell me of their confusion,...


29 MAR 2013

Sergeant Fitzgerald Of Staplehurst

On Saturday in All Saints Church, Staplehurst, Simon and I had the privilege of attending a service of remembrance for Sergeant Reginald Charles Fitzgerald. Aged only 19 years old, Sgt. Fitzgerald...


22 MAR 2013

Success Breeds Success

Sport has always been a passion of mine and played a major part in my life. It was 'success breeds success', as the saying goes. Actually, I believe 'success breeds confidence', which in turn helps...


15 MAR 2013

Distance Risk For Maidstone Mums

The news about a baby being born on a Maidstone commuter train last week had a happy ending. Congratulations to all who ensured a safe delivery and I wish the very best to Sonia Banks and her...


08 MAR 2013

In My Book...

This week, we had a flurry of days celebrating education, with 'World Spelling Day' on Tuesday, 'World Maths Day' on Wednesday and 'World Book Day' on Thursday. Good literacy and numeracy skills are...


01 MAR 2013

Justice And Equality

I used to have a normal life. I was a solicitor, a businesswoman, a wife and a mum. In 2006 it all changed. I considered becoming a Member of Parliament. Suddenly I had to have an opinion on...


22 FEB 2013

London Fashion Week

There are occasions when my work and my more leisurely interests collide in happy harmony and last weekend was one such occasion. I was invited to visit London Fashion Week by the British Fashion...


15 FEB 2013

4G Is Not A Boy Band

A notepad, a pen and a Dictaphone. That was all I needed when I was running my legal practice. Word processing was the world of my wonderful assistant who anaesthetised me from my computer phobia...


08 FEB 2013

Power To The People

I very much welcomed David Cameron's announcement that he intends to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union, and his promise that by the end of 2017, under a Conservative...


01 FEB 2013

That Friday Feeling

Central London is very quiet at 5 a.m., as I discovered last Friday travelling to Millbank Studios, opposite the Houses of Parliament. I was announcing the Government's new policy on protecting...


25 JAN 2013

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Some of my colleagues have vast rural seats to look after, whilst others represent corners of condensed urban metropolises. Maidstone and The Weald has both town and country, in a rather special...


18 JAN 2013

School Report

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring aspects of my work as a Member of Parliament is the opportunity to visit our local schools. It's a little chance to reminisce whilst having an insight into the...


13 JAN 2013

Mid Term Review

Mid Term Review Westminster woke up to the new term with gusto this week. Business in the house got off to a lively start with a snubbing of Europe’s draft Directive for a 40% quota for women on...


04 JAN 2013

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013

Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013. 2012 was a year of great contrast. Starting with a drought and ending with a flood, we also endured one of the least clement Junes I can remember. But amidst the...


21 DEC 2012

Christmas shopping

Christmas Shopping For Christmas shopping Maidstone & the Weald is hard to beat. In the north of the constituency our county town is home to one of the most diverse retail offerings in the country....


14 DEC 2012

Why be an MP?

Why be an MP? Why do you want to be an MP? It was the first question I was asked when I started my journey in politics and it is one of the most frequently repeated, by friends and constituents...


07 DEC 2012

Who Dares Wins

Who dares wins The BBC’s sports personality of the year will be crowned in a little over a week’s time; a tough choice in what has been a truly incandescent period for British Sport. It was...


30 NOV 2012

Community Spirit

Christmas has come early to Maidstone, or to be more precise, to the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, and the The Royal Scots Borderers. They were part of Operation Yuletide, now in it's sixth...


23 NOV 2012

MPs expenses; what is right?

MPs should use their reasonable discretion in spending their allowances and that has been the topic of news again lately. Here are some examples of decisions I have taken; When I rented a home in...


16 NOV 2012

Maidstone Matters

My weekly column in the Kent Messenger is a privilege. I have always tried to use it to promote and support our local issues and inform people about my work. Sadly, this week, I feel compelled to use...


09 NOV 2012

PCC elections 2012

I wouldn't say doing a law degree was a walk in the park, but it did have its moments and learning about our 'Constitution' was one of them. Our American cousins had the wherewithal to create a...


02 NOV 2012

Presumption of Death Bill

My beloved dog Charlie went missing a few months back. I was beside myself. The rat turned up after a three hour search, nonchalantly appearing out of a neighbour's hedge. I thank God that's about as...


26 OCT 2012

Community is alive and well

What is a community? There are the 'online' versions; 'Facebook' (don't like), and 'Twitter' (kind of like). And there is the traditional version; 'People living together, helping each other, and...


19 OCT 2012

Anti-Slavery Day 2012

In April 1833, at a public meeting in Maidstone, the great politician and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce delivered what was to be his final anti-slavery speech. He died three months...


12 OCT 2012

Trains, thieves and trespassers

Maidstone and the Weald commuters brace themselves at this time of year as adverse weather and falling leaves bring seasonal strife. But a ray of sunshine broke through on Sunday as the PM confirmed...


05 OCT 2012

Choice and equality

Freedom of choice and equality; two ancient cornerstones of democracy and things we often take for granted. In the final week of the summer recess I chose to join four other Parliamentarians, from...


28 SEP 2012

Party Conference

Making space in a busy life to think and plan, away from the usual daily demands and distractions, is essential for survival and success. Some of the most productive and enlightening meetings I have...


21 SEP 2012

The PM reads the KM

I had a lovely letter the other day. It was a most gratifying, kind and personal note, from a very busy man, about my appointment to the Government. One of the sentences was as follows; 'I loved your...


14 SEP 2012

Yes Minister

When the BBC's 'Yes Minister' was running in the early 80's my interests were not aligned. I confess to being involved with other student orientated activities at Hull University, partying included....


07 SEP 2012

Reshuffle

Last Wednesday I felt a bit like Billy Elliot – in the part where he waits for a decision on his acceptance into the Royal Ballet School, and then gets the letter while his family wait anxiously in...


31 AUG 2012

Paralympics

Monopoly was my first choice but Trivial Pursuits was always a giggle too, and there was a question I always answered – Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and who? Learning of Neil Armstrong's passing...


24 AUG 2012

TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards 2012

I used to be a technophobe, but I'm alright now. For most of my 23 years as a solicitor and a business owner, given a telephone, a dictaphone and secretary, all was fine and dandy. If anyone dared...


17 AUG 2012

London 2012: A gold medal Olympic legacy for gender balance

600 years B.C. a woman called Queen Hippodameia founded the Heraean games. They took place every four years and centuries later became the model for the Games at Olympia c. 175 AD. In some ancient...


10 AUG 2012

Parliamentary recess – a day in the life of

Our national media like to portray the summer Parliamentary Recess as MP's holidays. The notion of what they call a three month paid break is an attractive proposition, but sadly something I have only...


03 AUG 2012

A tale of two cities (London and Aleppo)

Human emotion is a wonderful and a fearsome thing. It impassions us to undertake great acts of caring, kindness and creativity, and empowers us to attain the most remarkable feats of mental and...


27 JUL 2012

Post combat DV

Before I became a Member of Parliament I spent some 23 years as a solicitor running a legal practice that specialised in tackling violence in the home. It remains a central aspect of my firm's...


20 JUL 2012

The week the Stones came home

I remember the weather on 28th November 2009. It was a bit miserable and damp and I was watching Maidstone United play Canvey Island at Ashford FCs ground 25 miles away from Maidstone. It was my...


13 JUL 2012

Kent County Show

In March it was all about drought warnings, hosepipe bans and dry reservoirs. Then the rains came, and caused havoc. The last of the hosepipe bans has been lifted, not that the gardens suffered, but...


06 JUL 2012

News is like our weather, but there is a bright side

Persistently dark and miserable interspersed with a few brighter moments, outlook uncertain. An accurate picture of our weather so far this year and it fits the bill for the headlines too. The...


29 JUN 2012

Armed Forces Day

How important is the defence of the realm? I would say it is our first priority. Yes the economy is the big issue right now, but if our way of life and our precious freedoms became threatened, money...


22 JUN 2012

Cage Cricket

A new game is making the news and I'd love to see it played in Maidstone. Sympathies for those who are not sports fans. You could be forgiven for seeking sanctuary in a local spa just now, with Euro...


15 JUN 2012

Fathers' Day

Should we invest in time travel research? Is smacking children OK? Why do fools fall in love? Politicians these days are expected to have opinions and views about pretty much anything, myself included...


08 JUN 2012

Syria

The celebrations of last weekend stimulated many diverse conversations amongst my friends and family. The strength of our Union, the freedoms we enjoy, the British ideals of fairness and tolerance,...


01 JUN 2012

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

A palpable air of Jubilee anticipation spread through Westminster following Her Majesty's special address to Parliament in March. MPs and Peers have now unveiled the Diamond Jubilee window in...


25 MAY 2012

Civic Pride and Charity beats Euro nausia

In September last year, in this column, I expressed my amazement at the Eurozone leaders' lack of assertiveness in dealing with their predicament. Reports from the Camp David G8 meeting this week...


18 MAY 2012

The Israel / Palestine conflict

I remember, as a child, three pervading international conflicts constantly in the news headlines; the Vietnam war, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Israel – Palestine conflict. The latter...


04 MAY 2012

Gatwick getaway

Good infrastructure is vital to any economy, both regional and national. Maidstone, being a commuter town, relies more heavily than most on our railways. The UK, being an island, often puts more stock...


27 APR 2012

Marathon effort

The annual London Marathon weekend is indelibly impressed upon my memory. Those who have undertaken this valiant venture will doubtless recall the anniversary of their efforts with quite some emotion,...


20 APR 2012

South Sudan

A country girl at heart, my Cumbrian upbringing has engrained within me a great affection for our bountiful land. Something I had not realised fully until my more recent years, particularly upon...


13 APR 2012

Portas Pilot

When I was talking to Simon recently about what makes a good shopping centre he (predictably) went off on 'the theory of competing centres' and made (understandably) un-girly utterances about...


06 APR 2012

National Citizens Service

Anyone who has ever been in a 'Catch 22' situation will know the anxiety and fear of being amidst a seemingly inescapable dilemma. The charity known as Catch 22 was created to help young people who...


30 MAR 2012

A Taste of Britain

I wonder which words Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke would use to describe England if our country were a wine? Complex, historic and reserved, but yet bold and forthright with notes of crustiness? In...


23 MAR 2012

Diamond Queen

As children we seek leadership and wisdom for our protection and guidance. Many of us are lucky enough to find it in our parents. And even when we grow up ourselves, their strength often remains an...


16 MAR 2012

Newts of the Medway Unite

Readers may recall my recent column concerning the drought threat facing the river Medway. An invitation to meet with the Medway Valley Countryside Partnership team last week was therefore a timely...


09 MAR 2012

Teenage pregnancies

The trouble with Statistics is that they deny emotion to the scenarios in which they are employed; 'human beings with the tears wiped off' as someone once said. And so it is with recently released...


02 MAR 2012

Schmallenburg Virus

2001 was a rural disaster of almost biblical proportions in parts of this country. Our national news broadcast pictures of quarantined families and warzones of slaughtered carcasses being dumped by...


24 FEB 2012

Appealing for our watery heritage

Warnings of drought are being heralded once again. Our own Bewl Water is pictured in the Sunday Times this week looking like a parched African landscape. A single small dinghy, with its keel balancing...


17 FEB 2012

Calling Police and Crime Commissioners everywhere

Dawn raiding Sun Journalists and Abu Qatada's curfew - just a small sample of the complex policing issues arising over the last week. The decisions and actions taken by our law enforcement officers...


10 FEB 2012

JustTextGiving

Question: What have the following got in common? Kent Wildlife Trust, The Holly Eatwell Trust (cancer in young people), The Giraffe Project (child education in Nairobi), The Jeremy Willson Charitable...


03 FEB 2012

Are you being kept in the dark?

In the celebrated 1994 movie, Forrest Gump memorably said "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." I wonder how many of our readers have unwittingly...


27 JAN 2012

Bring back real bank managers

Last week's column was very much about the Westminster week, Monday to Thursday. It is an intense, surreal and often rather airless environment. Thank goodness for the oxygen of constituency...


20 JAN 2012

International affairs

It was back to Westminster for me last week as Parliament resumed its work after the Christmas break. I felt a noticeable shift away from domestic toward international issues - perhaps because much of...


13 JAN 2012

The Iron Lady

It was with great interest that I went to see the movie 'The Iron Lady' this weekend. Love her or loathe her, Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly a strong and decisive leader and I wondered how...


06 JAN 2012

Maidstone is a Des Res!

There are a plethora of polls, surveys and reports published throughout the year making assertions or claims as an excuse to create publicity or promote sales. But sometimes the pollsters do actually...


30 DEC 2011

Goodbye 2011, hello 2012!

2011 was a year of colossal change. One that will be worthy of its own chapter in the study books of students for centuries. The 'Arab Spring' was an awakening of hope that has willed literally...


23 DEC 2011

Christmas is a time for charity

How many of us have benefited from the work of a charity in the last year? The range of possibilities is diverse, including anything from Animal Welfare to Cancer Research and from the St John's...


16 DEC 2011

Don't suffer in silence

In this column, about a year ago, I highlighted a persistent problem that always becomes more acute at Christmas time. I make no apology for returning to the subject now. Domestic violence doesn't...


25 NOV 2011

Strike Out

One side call it sound political protest, the other says it is self-serving disruption at a time when least we need it and least we can afford it. Either way, next Wednesday could see the biggest day...


18 NOV 2011

Question Time

People in this country are disengaged with Politics. Such is the contention of many within the Party political sphere, citing poor turnout at the polls and lack of party membership as concrete...


04 NOV 2011

Maidstone Hospital

Rarely a week goes by without Maidstone Hospital being in the news for one reason or another. No wonder. It maintains the heartbeat of around 250,000 people in our County Town and environs. And yet...


28 OCT 2011

An open door to democracy

Before I became involved in Politics, my impression of Westminster and the people of Parliament was that of another world. It was somewhere behind locked doors where mortals rarely entered and where...


21 OCT 2011

Helen goes clubbing!

Some would say 'the trouble with young people today is that all they do is watch TV and play console games', oh yes, and drink too much at high street hostelries. The perception is oft an unfortunate...


14 OCT 2011

The NHS misTrust

Last week a news story broke in this paper which was also well covered by BBC TV as their lead item on Friday's South East Today. The argument was about ambulance visits lurching away from Maidstone,...


07 OCT 2011

A big step closer for the Stone's return

Sustaining successful and happy societies requires strong and united communities - places where people work together toward a common good. Issues that have galvanized the local populous here over...


30 SEP 2011

Passage to India

During this conference season recess I joined a small group of MPs visiting a country of 1.2 billion people as guests of their Government. We were in India to see social, political and economic...


23 SEP 2011

Power to the people

When a crisis hits, its impact is often determined less by the severity of the challenge than by the timeliness and effectiveness of the response. Mindful of this I am flabbergasted at the manner in...


16 SEP 2011

Goodbye summer, Hello conference season

Prior to the General Election last year the Parliamentary Summer Recess continued right through to the end of the Party Conference season in Mid October. Not any more, and rightly so in these...


09 SEP 2011

Life after recess

One of the challenges I have consistently faced since the election 16 months ago is to try and explain to constituents what an MP does, and equally what perhaps should be done by someone else, maybe a...


02 SEP 2011

Love grows (where my Rosemary goes)

Many readers in my age group and beyond will surely remember the tune to 'Love grows where my Rosemary goes, and nobody knows but me'. The song's pervading cheerfulness, deftly performed live by 70's...


26 AUG 2011

Maidstone's rail commuter services

'Is it possible you could take a little break from Oaken Wood and supporting fruit growers onto some more pressing matters such as why commuters from Maidstone will have to pay extortionate above...


19 AUG 2011

Out of the shadows come the stars of tomorrow

The fall-out of last week's rioting continues to grab the national headlines, with the political parties vying for position with policies and ideas about how to respond and how to prevent. There is no...


12 AUG 2011

Criminals on our streets

This week I had intended to write a good news story about young people in Maidstone & the Weald. It was about aspiration, success and achievement. I find it impossible, however, to talk about...


05 AUG 2011

Living within our means

Do you remember when you had to save up if you wanted something and if you didn't have the money you couldn't have it? There was even a bit of a stigma attached to buying things on the 'never never'...


29 JUL 2011

Tragedy and Hope

Not being a person who dwells on the negative aspects of our world I found myself in uncomfortable territory this week. The famine in the Horn of Africa is a human disaster of such enormity that it...


22 JUL 2011

Richard Plummer

A few years ago one shuddering phone call knocked me completely off balance. I heard that my Mum had been involved in a head-on car collision whilst on holiday. They said she was unconscious, in...


15 JUL 2011

Allington Castle & Kent Wines

It's everywhere you look, so I am not going to go on about it, but I cannot let this week go by without paying my respects to those who have been the victims of the phone hacking scandal. It is one of...


08 JUL 2011

Strengthening Families

Tens of thousands of mortar boards are being thrown into the air at this time as proud families gather for graduation ceremonies across our country. And we were among them with our hearts and hankies...


01 JUL 2011

A day in Westminster

I am often asked 'what is your typical day' and my short reply is 'there isn't one'. Responding to the mass of incoming communications and maintaining a busy diary is ever ongoing but the rest is very...


24 JUN 2011

Legal aid

The school exam season is coming to an end – hooray! This year I have taken my third set of GCSEs, and they don't get any easier. This lot were my youngest son Joel's and two years ago it was his...


17 JUN 2011

What is the military covenant?

Ever mindful of the welfare of Maidstone's 36 Engineer Regiment and our Queens Gurkha Engineers I took great interest in the third reading of the Armed Forces bill in the House of Commons this week....


10 JUN 2011

Religious education is more important today than it has ever been

I regularly receive lobbying letters about last January's introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBac) into our schools curriculum. My position is that I support the principle of the EBac as a...


03 JUN 2011

We need a bit more order Mr Speaker

Ken Clarke was recently castigated for an injudicious choice of words. He was discussing criminal sentencing and became flustered by a sharp radio interviewer who focused on different categories of...


27 MAY 2011

Belle of the ball

Readers who are unfamiliar with the County town of Maidstone might be forgiven for guessing the Allington Belle is a twin of the Brighton Belle, the famous Pullman class electric train service which...


25 MAR 2011

Womens’ and Children’s services at Maidstone Hospital

In May 2010 the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, published four criteria which needed to be satisfied if hospital reconfigurations were to be allowed to proceed. The support of GPs was...


25 FEB 2011

What is the Big Society?

There is much debate in the air about the Big Society, about what it means, and whether it is a mere smokescreen as some cynics would have us believe. For me, as a concept, the Big Society is a way...


21 JAN 2011

Southeastern must wake up and smell the coffee

One of the questions I have often been asked in interviews is 'if there was one thing you could do for your constituency what would it be?' And my answer is 'to strengthen our County Town and its...


14 JAN 2011

Maidstone Hospital

The Secretary of State's recent decision to allow the reconfiguration of womens' and childrens' services between Maidstone and Pembury Hospitals is so irrational that it gives me hope. This may sound...


24 DEC 2010

A toast to our troops, and one for their brave families too

In Westminster recently I sponsored a long established Christmas lunch event organised by one of our distinguished constituents; Lt Col (retd) Brian Awford RE of Cranbrook. Running since 1977 these...


26 NOV 2010

Domestic Violence

One humorous festive card I have noticed this year features the legend 'women and turkeys against Christmas'. Sadly the intended joke will only be a fearful reminder for the hundreds of women, and...


29 OCT 2010

Ill-planned short-term savings could cost us dearly

In the Kent Messenger published 22/10/10 many of the most important leaders in Maidstone's voluntary and charity sector rightly and properly set out a series of reasons why great care must be taken...