County town has rich vein of MPs MailMarks
THE Maidstone area has been served by members of parlia- ment since 1552, but it has never enjoyed such a rich vein as now. Both MPs who represent the borough – Hugh Robertson (Mid Kent) and Helen Grant (Maid- stone and The Weald) – have new government appointments and hold high-profile ministerial offices. Helen’s progress has been particularly remarkable and within three years of re- taining Ann Widdecombe’s seat, she has been appointed to three ministerial roles. She now holds two, adding Minister of Sport (with tourism, gambling and Big Lottery) to her equalities role. Hugh did not have to pass the athletic
baton far to Helen when he was promoted from Minister of Sport to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He could have done it at The Mote CC ground, which borders the two constituencies. I was surprised by the announcement,
but delighted that Helen’s talents, pas- sions and dedication had been rewarded with an office so significant and high-pro- file for our sport-loving nation. Her mod- est childhood and youthful sporting achievements have been highlighted in many national publications since the big news broke. I worked closely with Helen for months
when we led the MASH campaign (I chair Maidstone Action for Services in Hospi- tal) to retain women’s and children’s serv- ices in Maidstone. It is not easy taking on government pol-
icy, the Health Secretary and the local NHS trust, but the people of Maidstone put up a magnificent fight, which turned against us on a final decision by the then
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Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. Helen was at the heart of the fight and
was warned publicly by Tory MPs about how she, as a novice MP, jeopardised her political future by aggressive lobbying of Mr Lansley. I never saw it that way. Good MPs need
many qualities. Theymust understand the battleground and fight a cause with dedi- cation, charm and courage. These qualities stood Helen in good
stead then – and she needs them in chal- lenges ahead. How far and quickly can her star ascend? If she does as well as Hugh as Minister of Sport who knows? She is only 52, and retains the youthful enthusiasm of a talented young sportswoman. Her aims make interesting reading, es- pecially promoting how sport empowers social mobility – part of her own story. Lord Coe paid fulsome tribute to Hugh
as Minister of Sport. Seb Coewould know because they were such big players in the London Olympics. He is now Minister of State with responsibility for the Middle East, North Africa and counter terrorism. He told me he could not give too much
detail about the last of those duties “for obvious reasons”, but explained: “I amthe minister in charge of foreign and com- monwealth office counter-terrorism de- partment. It looks after our overseas intelligence agencies and any incidents re- lating to terrorism affecting British citi-
Warning to horse owners as thieves hit rural areas
HORSE owners are being ad- vised to take extra care follow- ing a spate of horse tackle thefts in rural Maidstone.
Police are investigating at least half a dozen incidents in Maidstone and the surrounding areas where horse blankets, col- lars or saddles were taken from barns or animals’ backs. Five saddles worth more than £1,000 were reported stolen overnight in The Brucks, Water- ingbury, while the following night two winter blankets worth £300 went missing from horses in Pilgrims Way, Harrietsham. Three saddles worth £4,000, plus a £3,800 tractor and a £7,000 generator were stolen from Kemsing and other inci- dents have been reported in Lenham Heath, Broomfield and Wouldham.
Rural crime partnership offi- cer PC Michael Laidlow said: “Horse equipment can be very expensive and vulnerable to theft. We will always investi- gate crimes thoroughly, but there are several things horse owners and those living in rural areas can do to minimise the
36 South risks.”
PC Laidlow said barns and other outbuildings should be fitted with good quality locks, and windows protected with metal bars or grilles.
Doors and windows should be locked shut when not in use while security lighting, CCTV and alarms would also deter in- truders.
He advised horse owners:
“We suggest you take time to look closely at the perimeters of your land to ensure it is as se- cure as possible. Remove all private access points which are no longer used and establish a single gated entrance. Installing a controlled entry system using an intercom or keypad lock will make that entrance even more secure.”
Agricultural vehicles can be fitted with a tracking device or a data tagging chip to increase the chances of locating them if stolen and property can be se- curity marked with forensic tools like SmartWater.
Police are now patrolling rural West Kent and carrying out random road checks.
zens abroad.” This role is far removed from Minister of Sport. He won his spurs in that office. At 51, Hugh too is a young, but experienced politician.Watch this space!
Maidstone needs Fran MAIDSTONE’S Lib Dems have
been through a turbulent few months, with a small but more
militant faction making much political noise. The long-standing Lib Dem leader on Maidstone Council, Cllr FranWilson, was unhappy with some of their statements and emerging campaigns and tried to con- trol them. This came to a headwhen she offered to
resign both as leader and from the coun- cil. That triggered a major group meeting when she received an “overwhelming vote of confidence”. This has established her position as
leader very strongly – and will influence all Lib Dem thinking, including in the constituency. Fran is at the heart of the Lib Dems in Maidstone, and has been for many years. She, the late Malcolm Robertson, Peter Hooper,Mick Stevens and Dan Daley built a successful and respected Lib Dem team. I have always seen it asmostly balanced
and playing a sound role in the council. Had Fran quit, I fear her determination that Lib Dems should “never compromise on integrity and the truth” would have been endangered. Policies must be formed for the good of Maidstone – not to win an election seat. Running Maidstone Council just now is mightily tough. We need the right people in power and opposition.
Beat the criminals IF YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE PHONE: Police: 101 Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
A TRAILER and horse rug were stolen from a field off Wilsons Lane, East Farleigh. Two Seiko watches were among items stolen in a burglary at a property in Bell Lane, Staplehurst.
A charging unit was stolen from a caravan in Charlesford Avenue, Kingswood. Various items of gold jewellery were stolen from a property in Bathurst Road, Staplehurst. A property in Linton Road, Loose, was burgled.
Laurel plants were stolen from the front garden of a home in Dean Street, East Farleigh. Thieves got into a shed in the back garden of a home in Staple- hurst Road, Marden, and stole power tools and a black Giant bi- cycle. Two parts of a 30ft aluminium ladder, together with securing bolts, were stolen from a vehicle parked in a layby in Farleigh Hill, Tovil.
To contact Downs Mail just phone 01622 630330
Jewellery was stolen from a home in Salts Avenue, Loose.
A jewellery box with an engraving of The Last Supper on the lid was stolen from a property in Boughton Lane. Gold jewellery, in- cluding a wedding ring, was stolen from a property in Loose Road. A silver Mercedes A140 was stolen from the car park at Maidstone Hospital, Hermitage Lane. It was later crashed, and a suspect was arrested.
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