By Tim Montgomerie
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One of Grant Shapps' first acts as the new Tory Chairman has been to ask for the election countdown clock to be put back on the wall of Conservative HQ. Meeting him yesterday afternoon he told me that there were less than 1,000 days until the next general election (969 actually if its 7th May 2015) and the party machine needed to start getting into battle mode.
Yesterday he announced the team that he hopes will help the party deliver victory for David Cameron. He, Lord Feldman and Mr Cameron made five new appointments:
Nicola Blackwood (Social Action), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (International), Alan Lewis (Business) and Andrew Stephenson (Youth) were reappointed as Vice Chairmen. They are all pictured above.
Grant Shapps told ConservativeHome that one of the jobs facing him, Lord Feldman and the new team was to overcome the cynicism that people feel about the tasks currently facing Britain. He suggested that we were in the phase two or three years before the Olympics when people were suspicious about the cost of the Games and wondered whether all of the effort would be worthwhile. It was the whole Conservative Party's task, he said, to use the rest of the parliament to convince people that the road may be hard but the destination of better schools, a benefits system that rewards work and a paying down on the deficit will all be worth it.
The new Tory Chairman will be writing a regular monthly column for ConservativeHome.
PS Can any reader remember the last time that we had a party chairman who has won a seat from Labour?
By Joseph Willits
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40 Tory volunteers, including MPs Tobias Ellwood, Nicky Morgan, Eric Ollerenshaw, Andrew Stephenson (pictured), Anne Main and MEP Syed Kamall, have all travelled to Bangladesh to welcome in Project Maja in the country.
Project Maja was set up by Party co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi (who also joined the volunteers), in Bosnia in 2009.
The project has now been extended to Bangladesh, working in the capital Dhaka, and the north-eastern city of Sylhet. The volunteers, and the project more generally, will be focusing on working with several UK charities and businesses in Bangladesh, including Islamic Relief, the London Tigers, BRAC and Save the Children. Sport, community and health projects were the focus of the visit, and of Project Maja.
By Jonathan Isaby
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Last year his constituent, Jane Clough, was murdered by her ex-partner, who was out on bail for a series of serious charges of crimes against her (including nine counts of rape and four counts of common assault and sexual assault).
A judge had granted him bail despite police and CPS advice that it ought not be granted - and that decision could not be appealed against because as the law stands, the prosecution can only appeal when such a decision is made by a magistrate's court.
So Stephenson proposed that the law be changed to allow the CPS or Attorney General to challenge such a bail verdict in order to change a system which is "unfairly weighted towards the defendant."
"By allowing the prosecution to appeal against bail decisions, we will make sure that judges can be held accountable for the decisions they make. Even the best judge will not get every decision right and surely there should be a safeguard for when a decision is made that clearly looks ill-advised or incomprehensible. Making such a change would also protect the rights and freedoms of victims of crime and their families."
"Jane became a prisoner in her own home. It strikes me as totally unacceptable that Jonathan Vass was allowed to roam free, while Jane lived under the constant shadow of her tormentor and rapist. I have received support from across the House from more than 50 MPs who want to see this issue addressed. We must ensure that victims of crime are protected from further punishment."
A cross-party group of MPs are backing the bill, which was sent to its next stage with out a division, but it is highly unlikely to proceed any further unless the Government backs it.
Two of Lancashire's newly-elected Conservative MPs made their debuts in the Commons yesterday by emphasising the importance of manufacturing.
"I am proud to represent a seat where a higher proportion of the work force are employed in manufacturing than in any other constituency in England, and I am delighted that manufacturing is back on the national agenda. I was also delighted to read in the coalition agreement that rebalancing the economy is a key Government aim and that the Government are committed to boosting the provision of workplace apprenticeships.
"More than 8,000 people in my constituency are employed in manufacturing, producing everything from Silentnight beds in Barnoldswick to the biscuits that are sold in Harrods, which are produced in Nelson. It was a real pleasure for me, as a candidate, to visit so many of those firms over the past four years. It was a particular pleasure to take my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), now Chancellor of the Exchequer, to visit Rolls-Royce and Weston EU—two great British companies, working in the vitally important aerospace sector, that also have fantastic apprenticeship schemes. They are real companies providing real jobs that generate significant value added for the United Kingdom."
"We also need a fair deal for British manufacturers, so that we can continue to be a world leader in sectors such as aerospace. British industry has been hampered by too much tax and regulation for too long. We know that tough times lie ahead because of the legacy left to us by the previous Government, and that will make building a high-skilled economy even harder. However, I look forward to working with the Government to address the challenges that we face, while never shying away from speaking out on behalf of the hard-working people of Pendle."
"It is apt that I am making my maiden speech during a debate about building a high-skilled economy because I believe that Rossendale and Darwen can be in the vanguard of rebalancing our economy to that of a highly skilled industrial economy. Rossendale and Darwen were at the centre of the first industrial revolution. Rossendale was the centre of the world’s slipper trade, while Darwen was the birthplace of wallpaper, and both were major centres for the textile industry. Such was Darwen’s importance to the cotton trade that it was visited by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931 so that he could witness the effect of the Indian Congress party’s boycott of Lancashire cotton mills.
"This white-hot flame of innovation that led to the invention of wallpaper and the introduction of the first power looms still burns in the breast of every young person in my constituency, and we must do all that we can to foster their full potential. I applaud the Government’s commitment to investing in workplace apprenticeships to ensure that our young people, especially in Rossendale and Darwen, have the correct menu of skills to continue our strong tradition of local manufacturing."
"The rebalancing of our economy is a key aim of the Government, as is set out in the coalition agreement. With a fairer and more balanced economy in which we are not so dependent on the financial services industry, and in which economic opportunities are more evenly shared among our regions and industries, I optimistically predict that Rossendale and Darwen will prosper and become a regional manufacturing superpower."