WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.251
A serious week in both Westminster and Surrey with UK/US air strikes in the Red Sea and some horrifying rural crime in Bramley. We can never take safety or security for granted…
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
UK AIR STRIKES AGAINST THE HOUTHIS I am probably the only cabinet minister who has met the Houthis when I negotiated a ceasefire to the civil war in Yemen in 2018. So it is highly regrettable that they are trying to escalate the situation in Gaza with attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. This week Rishi Sunak authorised a second round of airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, making a thoughtful and measured statement in the Commons to the House of Commons on Wednesday that this is not about confrontation but self-defence as we secure a vital trade route.
ALZHEIMER’S BLOOD TEST When there is so much bad news, there is always something to cheer you up…and it looks like a simple blood test can now detect the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s – up to fifteen years before symptoms start to show. This raises hopes that people might be able to head off the onset of the disease by taking available treatments earlier (when they work better) and lifestyle changes. It is one of the most heartbreaking diseases and affects families as much as the person with the disease so let’s hope this is a real breakthrough.
MALARIA VACCINE In another bit of good medical news (and a chapeau for UK science) the world’s first routine vaccine programme against malaria started in Cameroon, where all infants up to the age of six months are being offered the new vaccine. The vaccine was developed by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and delivered by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which is also supported by the UK. Over 1000 children under 5 die from malaria every day so this is truly fantastic news.
DAVOS Last week I hobnobbed with the rich and famous (well a little anyway) at Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. It was my first time and I have previously hesitated from going but given the concentration of world business leaders it was important to bang the drum for UK business and investment. When I was there I signed a deal with Google for a further $1 billion investment from them for a new data centre in Hertfordshire. As I say in this video, the new centre will power Google services like Google Maps and support the company’s AI innovation, whilst also being a big boost to the British economy and creating more jobs. This video shows me speaking on the stage next to Sam Altman, probably the world’s leading AI guru, about the power of AI to transform our public services, deliver vaccines faster, and bring taxes down. I also spoke at an upbeat KPMG event on how the UK is going to prosper this century: in a sentence by being a global leader in sectors like technology that are going to grow the fastest. I spoke about that at a session with the CEOs of Microsoft and life sciences company Moderna. Reminder: the UK is now the world’s third largest tech economy (twice the size of anywhere else in Europe) as investments like the one from Google highlight.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
RURAL CRIME Following the shocking incident in which 14 lambs were mown over last week, Surrey Police launched an appeal for information and there has been an arrest in connection with the incident. A member of my team attended a meeting on Monday night on my behalf with police officers including the rural crime team and other local farmers. There were several unpleasant incidents spoken about which are all being investigated together. As I wrote about in this week’s Herald, Surrey remains one of the safest places to live in the country– thanks also to our brilliant Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend. But I will continue to be monitoring these incidents very closely and have several follow-up actions and meetings planned so will keep you in the loop.
CANCER RESEARCH Cancer Research UK is one of the most impressive cancer charities in the world so it was fantastic to meet Yo and Sarah to hear about local fundraising for the charity. World Cancer Day is 4th February and so it is fast approaching– do take a look at their website here to see how you can get involved. My training for the London Marathon is starting to pick up as I will be running to raise money for the Royal Surrey Cancer Campaign– stay tuned for pictures to come!
FLOOD ALERT The various storms over the past week have been very serious across the country. Few of us in Godalming forget Christmas in 2013 when horrific floods forced people out of their homes for several months– affecting some 85 homes. At the time, I formed various working groups to secure the funding and teamwork needed for flood defences. In the end I secured £4.5 million for the Godalming Flood Alleviation Project - this included construction of a 525m barrier wall to protect all of those properties plus a removable flood barrier and two pumping stations also installed. All of that means that this week people were able to have peace of mind that they would be safe if the Wey flooded again.
SURGERY STORIES On Friday I spoke to a junior doctor from Farnham about the childcare reforms I introduced. Her concern is that she will be excluded because her partner's salary is more than £100k. I said I would find out from my officials at the Treasury what the cost would be of removing this exclusion and whether it would be affordable. I then spoke to a lady from Milford who has a diabetic daughter who is autistic and has severe learning difficulties. She wants to get funding for an omnipod for her daughter's diabetic care so we will get onto the case.
LONELINESS EVENT Last Friday I took part in a moving panel event at St Andrew’s Church in Farnham. There were some important thoughts on how feelings of loneliness have increased since the pandemic, particularly amongst young people, and what we can be doing as a community to combat it. I reminded people of a remarkable Holocaust survivor who survived because she persuaded herself that her guards were the real prisoners and she was the one who was truly free.
SHAMLEY GREEN Congratulations to Chris Howard, President of the Surrey Hills society, for being appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for Surrey. Chris is doing an excellent job as Wonersh Parish Councillor, having also served as Chair of Visit Surrey, so this is testament to her commitment to the area.
MILFORD LITTER-PICKING As you know, litter is a bugbear of mine– huge thank you to Tom Burford and Karen Kinder for filling three bags next to Milford surgery up to Milford Golf Club!
JOIN ME Want to get more involved locally? Email me at email@example.com to join my growing team supporting our work in our community.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK (picture 3 above)… Coffee at Elliott’s is the perfect way to end a morning of door-knocking in Chiddingfold!