'Summer before the Storm': John Piper and John Betjeman at Upton Cressett, 1939 

I was delighted to learn from the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that previously unknown photographs from the John Piper archive have just been put on line after a major Heritage Lottery Fund grant to Tate Britain gallery in London had made their digitalisation possible.  Since the Shropshire: A Shell Guide was the first of the famous Shell travel guides to be published after the war (Shropshire was published in 1951) the new collection of b/w photos by the acclaimed English artist John Piper contains a considerable amount of Shropshire images ranging from Upton Cressett to small churches and market towns. 

To celebrate the unearthing of these remarkable archive photo discoveries relating to Shropshire's pre-war heritage heritage, taken by one of England's most acclaimed 20th century artists, Upton Cressett will be exhibiting copies of these historic photographs at a new pop up exhibition that is opening on Saturday, 22 August and will over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The exhibition - entitled 'The Summer before the Storm: John Betjeman and John Piper at Upton Cressett, 1939'  - will be open from 12pm to 4.30pm on Saturday 29th August, Sunday 30th August and Bank Holiday Monday 31st August.

The exhibition will include photos taken of Upton Cressett Hall along with a first edition (1951) copy of Shropshire: A Shell Guide written by John Betjeman and John Piper. Entrance is free to the exhibition for those buying an admission ticket to the Hall or Gardens. Hall tickets with a tour and tea/cake is £12.50 and for the gardens only with tea/cake is £7.50. 

Members of the public will also be able to view other photos of Shropshire taken by John Piper on-line from the Tate Archive. The Tate have asked that members of the pubic help with trying to identify photos that have not been identified by the Tate research team. The photos will also form part of a new photo led exhibition called 'Upton Cressett in the 20th Century' that will be opening next Spring in the new Adam Dant exhibition hut installation that was previously displayed at the Bloomberg Art Space in London. 



John Piper was one of the most influential and important English artists of the 29th century. 
In the piece, you can say that all his approx 250  images of Shropshire - some of which have not yet been identified - can be seen at
The exhibition will be a 'pop up' temporary exhibition that will give the Shropshire public a chance to see the work of John Piper that is available on line. There will be a new exhibition opening next Spring 2016 that will feature a wider range of photos of Upton Cressett taken by John Piper in 1939, along with other photographs that tell the story of the decline and restoration of Upton Cressett in the 20th century. 







Whilst deserted for decades, the Hall and Gatehouse and Norman church of St Michael remained of considerable interest to architectural historians such as Nikolaus Pevsner. In the summer of 1938, the poet John Betjeman visited Upton Cressett with the artist John Piper whilst researching their Shell Guide To Shropshire (Faber & Faber). Because of the War, their guide-book – the first of the post-war Shell guides – was not published until 1951.

A series of remarkable black and white photographs of their visit taken by John Piper can be seen in the Tate on-line John Piper archive.  In the photographs, taken in what must have been the late summer afternoon or early evening from the light, it appears that the Hall (with all its tall Elizabethan brick chimneys still intact) has become a farm-house and The Gatehouse is being used to house agricultural machinery. See: 

In the introduction to his Shell Guide, Betjeman writes that ‘the particular beauties of Shropshire appear in the most unexpected places, such as Hawkstone Park, Tong, Bromfield and Upton Cressett’. Inside the guide, Betjeman writes that Upton Cressett is ‘best approached on foot, horse or bicycle; only so can its peace and various landscape be appreciated. The road to it stops at what was once the manor of Upton Cresset…An orchard surrounds the disappeared Tudor brick gatehouse with towers at its corners and stone dressings to the windows’. The church of St. Michael was also photographed by John Piper with Betjeman writing of its ‘rich Norman chancel arch and south door, and a little late Flemish glass’.  

Several years after the Shropshire Shell Guide was published in 1951, Nikolaus Pevsner visited Upton Cressett in the late 1950s for his Shropshire edition of The Buildings of England. Despite its derelict and overgrown state, he described it as a ‘remarkable Tudor house of brick’ that deserved more academic study.


Peacock Trouble 

I was pleased to see that our star White Peacocks made the pages of Tatler this summer. Alas the story only tells half the story of the peaccock wars at Upton Cressett - as a result, we are now down to just one white peacock.

At our Easter Weeekend opening our star new attraction was a pair of rare White Peacocks for the new Moat Aviary at Upton Cressett that is set in the old 15th century grass moat of Upton Cressett Hall.  The Moat Aviary features fowl, including rare chickens. We used to have five India Blue Peacocks and a male pair of the unusual White Peacocks but the 'peacock wars' of Upton Cressett has resulted in heavy casualties this summer. I will be blogging separately about the peacock saga. 

The chickens have all been supplied by the Gobbett Rare Fowl Farm near Burwarton. The collection includes  Appenzellers, Salmon Faverolles, Rhode Island Reds, Silkies, Gold Sussex chickens, French Marans and a variety of peacocks. The White Peacocks were tracked down to a rare peacock breeder in Yorkshire after a long search. They were a Christmas present from Lady Laura to her husband William. 

 Following an unfortunate incident involving a fox jumping into the Moat Aviary, a large Bronze turkey called 'Pavarotti' was killed before Easter, along with one of the Gold Sussex chickens. ‘The incident is being called ‘Murder in the Moat’ says Laura. ‘I was very attached to Pavarotti who was huge and used to stamp his feet whenever a male peacock was flirting with his wife, another bronze turkey, who fortunately survived last week’s fox attack’.

The ‘rare fowl’ aviary is located in penned off section of the Grade 1 listed garden medieval moat (which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument). Combined with the new tourist signs, the Elizabethan aviary is hoping to become a popular local family tourist attraction. 





To Windsor Castle: And the Band Played on...

I recently attended the  'Investiture at Windsor Castle' for my father's knighthood for over 30 years of political service. Each person receiving an honour is allowed to invite up to three guests. It was a fine October day, with the early morning mist still shrouding Windsor Great Park as the line of cars of people receiving awards began queuing up from around 9.15 am along the great avenue that stretches before Windsor Castle. Most of the cars (certainly my father's silver 4 x 4, which was uncharacteristically mud-free) showed evidence of having been through a car wash and wheels polished. 

Likewise the formal shoes of all honourees were all shined, brushed and glistening like a Guard's officer or a Dowager Countess (of which more later). Many shoes, bags and indeed outfits looked new. An Investiture - there are around 27 a year, split between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse  - is not the time to let your sartorial standards slide. Nobody wants to be remembered by the 100 plus audience of family and friends  - like a Bateman cartoon - for having a mother of pearl button missing from your morning waistcoat. 

The orange printed invitation card issued to each guest by the Lord Chamberlain stated 'Entry from 10 O' Clock'. Since almost everybody was cautiously early, a police officer walked along the row of cars (resembling the queue to get into Car Park 1 at Royal Ascot) and said it was fine to go off and have a coffee and 'stroll around' in Windsor. 

Once we were inside the castle gates, the first thing I noticed were Her Majesty's lawns. Never have I seen lawns so immaculate, edges so manicured, stripes so regimental and grass so glossy, Forest-of-Arden green. Thinking of my bumpy mole hills and un-scarified lawns at home in the country made me realise how a well presented English lawn is one of our nation's great contributions to civilisation. Windsor Castle's lawns make Wimbledon centre court or the Lords cricket square suddenly resemble a municipal dog-park. 
We were handed smart navy blue Investiture booklets, listing all those receiving honours  and the selection of music like a wedding order of service. The ceremony was in the Waterloo Chamber, a magnificent room decorated with a series of 25 famous paintings by Thomas Lawrence celebrating victory at Waterloo in 1815. Family members and guests sit in the main chamber whilst those receiving honours wait in another room waiting for their moment to be 'presented'. Once you receive your award, you then take a seat at the back - clutching your award - of the Waterloo Chamber. I was sitting on the end of an empty row in an aisle seat near the back which meant I had a clear view down the main aisle of all proceedings. It all felt quite overwhelming. 
There was suddenly silence.
A royal trumpet sounded followed by the National Anthem played by a string orchestra (conducted by Major Philip Stredwick of the Corps of Army Music)  assembled in a minstrel's gallery at the back of the state  chamber. The Queen then entered attended by two Gurkha officers - a tradition going back to 1876 by Queen Victoria - and escorted by either the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward or a Lord in Waiting who then stands to the Her Majesty's right and announces the name and 'achievement' for which they are being decorated. 
The first up receive their award was Dame Maggie Smith who received The Companion of Honour. The next thing I knew she was sitting next to me as the empty row of seats began filling up with honourees clutching their decorations. Several thoughts floated through my head as I sat in a semi-surreal state waiting for my father's turn. 
First, I never realised how much she was 'aged up' in Dpwnton with make-up to look much older than she looks in real life. The second thing that surprised me was that instead of putting down his conductor's baton when the ceremony began, Major Stredwick's string orchestra continued to play throughout the Investitute. Perhaps this is just royal tradition or maybe the music drowns out anybody hearing what Her Majesty may be saying to those being decorated. 
Nobody can accuse the Royal Household of being stuck in the Victorian or Edwardian era when it comes to their selection of music. The music was far from the sort of Vivaldi court wallpaper music I was expecting. True, the orchestra started with Elgar's Salut d'Armour but it wasn't long before Major Stredwick was getting into his stride with film music by John Barry from the movie 'Somewhere in Time', followed by 'Bring Him Home' from Les Miserables (Schonberg). My favourite moment was when the Major played an animated rendition of 'The Windmills of Your Mind' - from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. 
When I saw my father walking in, it was a very proud moment. The Queen spoke with him for a short while (he refuses to say what she said as a royal conversation, as Cameron should have known, is not for repetition). Those receiving a Knighthood then kneel on a velvet Investiture Stool which is placed in front of the Queen. Her Majesty then bestows the Accolade (as it is officially termed) using the sword which King George VI used as Duke of York. It was a memorable occasion. 
My only regret of the splendid occasion was that the ceremony coincided with a three-line whip for a 12.30pm vote in the Commons on the Referendum Bill. This meant my father had to leave his Investiture early to catch a train on his own to London to make the vote. Despite an attempt by my mother and brother to mutiny in favour of a family lunch, my father is not so easily swayed. Political duty prevailed over lunch. 


The only other snag about taking the train back early to vote is that he missed out on queuing up (and it is a real queue) for the 'official' photo of him standing by a panelled board in Windsor Castle after the ceremony holding up his decoration. So my father's 'official' knighthood photograph is actually taken of him on the day standing outside the House of Commons (see above).

Speaking Express and Star after receiving his award, my father summed up the day: "I'm so delighted, I try to do everything I can for what I believe in, both in the House of Commons and for the country and obviously Her Majesty in the sense I serve her and am devoted to her as a monarch - so it's a very great honour.Some people would say the clock has turned a very long way so I'm very pleased about that'. 

My father has a way of not letting his views rest. "There is of course unfinished business however' he added,  'regarding the whole question of the integrationist programme of the rest of Europe. So we've got to deal with the whole question of restoring the right of British people to govern themselves and restore parliament to its rightful place."

Certainly having his photo taken outside the Commons did seem like the right place.  


If Sir Simon Jenkins is talking about UKIP, something must be right 


According to both the Daily Telegraph and Country life, the 12 million voters of rural England now regard the UK Independence Party as the only party that is standing up for the countryside and the rights of ordinary people to enjoy the unspoilt ‘green lungs’ and fields around towns that also helps to bring in over £26 billion a year to the economy through tourism. UKIP is the only party that has ‘woken up to the threat to the countryside from developers’, says Sir Simon Jenkins, the outgoing head of the National Trust.


At the election, UKIP will be fighting against HS2 and will be fighting to protect the green belt. UKIP are the only party that have come out against the 'rural vandalism’ of wind farms, solar parks and and wrongly placed Lego-Land style housing that is seriously harming the identity of historic market towns - such as Athertsone in North Warwickshire where I am standing as the PPC for UKIP - and cathedral cities such as Ely or Lichfield. Such towns and cities are not just 'chocolate box' window dressing for tourism but rather key economic drivers of regional growth as beautiful places act as a magnet for new jobs and investment from new businesses that are attracted to the creative energy of our beautiful market towns and historic cities. 


Simon Jenkins said that people in beautiful parts of the country were engaged in a “battle royale” to protect valuable rural areas from unwanted building projects. UKIP will be positioning itself as the true ‘countryside party’ that wants to protect our green spaces and will amend to the NPPF to strengthen and enforce the statutory protections for heritage and landscape protection (Listed buildings, Ancient Monuments, AONB etc) that already exists but which are increasingly ignored by councils and planning inspectors.


UKIP will continue to fight against the vanity project of HS2 and will end the green energy scam taxes that are driving so many rural voters into 'fuel poverty' as well as destroying our countryside to the benefit of only developers and greedy farmers. The AONB status has proven to be a wholly inadequate designation to protect against the bulldozer fleets of the developers intent on building where they like thanks to the Coalition's Builders Charter of the NPPF. 


As heritage spokesman, I am looking at the the idea - put forward by Simon Jenkins (above)  - of creating a new designation of extending 'Conservation Area' status to more rural areas, including villages, and listing local landscapes so as to protect the scenery and unspoilt countryside around  important historic towns and villages where excessive and 'inappropriate' ugly local development has a negative impact on local identity and character and is also harmful to the regional growth.

An excellent recent report by English Heritage into how the essential character of our cathedral cities and market towns has been published under the leadership of Simon Thurley, CEO of English Heritage (above). The report shows that many of our most famous cathedral cities and market towns are being so targetted for new housing that many will expand by a third and will be unrecognisable within a few decades. It should be required reading for all political leaders in the run up to May 2015. 


UKIP will also be proposing to abolish the punitive 20% VAT rate on listed buildings repair (see Packington Hall, right, in North Warwickshire), reducing the rate to just 5%. The current rate of 20% discriminates against the improvement and repair of older homes whilst developers, farmers and landowners pay zero VAT on new build housing developments that only benefit themselves. UKIP believe that whilst the land may be owned by farmers, the community – all of us – own our precious landscape and countryside that makes us the envy of the world.


The Rumble in the Forest - May 2015 

I was selected as the UKIP candidate for North Warwickshire on Thursday night. 
There is a Tory majority of just 54 - making it the most 'ultra-marginal' seat in the country. With UKIP support
already over 25% in the local elections in North Warwickshire,  the parliamentary election looks set to be a three horse race between Labour, Conservatives and UKIP. I will be the initial underdog but with everything to play for as the area thinks about the consequences of Coalition policy on immigration, HS2, green belt planning, local jobs and housing issues.
The seat has very serious HS2 issues, not the least as it slices through the last remnant of Shakespeare's Arden Forest. Wild deer still roam around the 300 acre park at the Packington estate near Meriden which the HS2 route will roar through, decimating one of the last vestiges of the Arden: a perfect metaphor for the rural vandalism that has resulted from the Coalition's NPPF planning wars and detrmination to push through HS2 regardless of social, economic or environmental cost. 
Last week, the Daily Telegraph ran a news story in which Sir Simon Jenkins singled out UKIP as the only party to articulate the level of rural anger currently felt around the country and to speak up for conservation in the countryside.
The other parties have generally sat silent as our heritage, landscape and national identity is over-built or bulldozed. 
In North Warwickshire, for example, the historic market town of Atherstone - UK headquarters of Aldi  - has been targeted by the Council for the building of a possible 25% increase in homes that would irrevocably change the character of this quintessentually English market town that was built on the Roman Watling Street. The 'Green Belt Market Town' of Coleshill is being targeted for 275 homes and the market towns of Polesworth and Dordon are being targeted for another 400 homes.  
My Labour opponent is former Labour veteran minister Mike O' Brien. I gather he is a 'personable' and decent fellow so I hope the campaign will remain non-personal and ciivilied. MIke has been busy - after being defeated in the 2010 election - making a tidy personal fortune a la Blair as a highly paid QC - and former Solicitor General - working as a barrister (happy to work as a 'junior' at times despite 13 years as a minister of state ) for No 5 Chambers in Birmingham. 
The area has very serious HS2 issues with the unusual electoral bonus of Mike O' 'Brien having also been Labour's former 'open borders' Minister of State for Immigration under whose ministerial watch UK net migration nearly quadrupled from 1997 to 2001. 

Mike O' Brien (right) was also Minister of State for Energy responsible for helping to push the 2008 Climate Change Act through parliament. This resulted in the UK signing up to a mad plague of wind farms across the country and the surging cost of fuel bills due to invidious green taxes that are resulting in fuel poverty around the country.  
The political class are out of touch wth ordinary voters. They dont understand the level of anger in the countryisde over wind farms, solar parks and Legoland housing. I intend to stick up for North Warwickshire when it comes to protecting this beautiful part of England. 
With David Cameron's father in law earning a hefty fortune from these green tax subsidies with his own wind farms, and Clegg's wife Miriam also being professionally involved as a lawyer advising various foreign owned wind energy companies, it looks like Westminster's political elite are no diffferent from each other when it comes to being part of the subsidy or tax-payer funded gravy train. Yet ordinary voters ae having their lives ruined - along with property prices slashed - by such follies as wind farms and HS2.
Having campaigned for three years to prevent the Shropshire Hills being desecrated by wind farms and solar parks, I now intend to put my consderable experience of taking on developers and councils to helping the people of North Warwickshire who have every reason to feel badly let down by the Coalition, not the least with HS2. I am a West MIdlands man and I intent to stand up for West Midlands interests, espcially in the county of Warwickshire where I have such strong family ties. 

O' Brien was the ultimate Blairite minister, being pro-wind (as Minister of State for Energy) pro-immigration (as Minister of State for Immigratuon), and pro-Europe (as Minister of State for Europe). 
Who would not relish the challenge of taking on an old Labour minister with a foot in the past and such a CV? Such ministerial credentials - 13 years as a key architect of the economic mess that Labour left behind - cannot get any better for a political opponent. But as I said in the North Warwickshire 'Rumble in the Forest" lets keep the fight about the issues and policies and not get personal. 
Yes, UKIP will be the underdog as the campaign starts. But with HS2, North Warwickshire has once again has found itself bearing more than its fair share of national transport infrastructure issues around the outskirts of the county  - before HS2, there was the the M6, M42 and the M6 Toll road, otherwise known as the Birmingham Relief Road. Sick of being targeted by Whitehall traffic and HS2 route planners, the communities of North Warwickshire will be voicing their anger as their lives are ruined, property values slashed and communities destroyed. 

Although I do not live in Warwickshire, I have lived in the West Midlands all my life. I have strong family ties to Warwickshire.  My family originated from Coventry where we founded the Cash’s of Coventry weaving and name-tapes business in 1846 and built up Cash's into one of Coventry’s most famous manufacturing firms with a Royal Warrant and clients including Levi jeans and Harris Tweed and shirt companies like Hilditch & Key.  
As a result of running the Cash’s weaving factories, our family also lived around Coventry and Warwickshire for many generations with Colonel Reginald John Cash, CBE MC, of Blackdown, Leamington Spa, being High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1950.

Cash's of Coventry has changed ownership several times since then most recently earlier this year when I attempted to buy it myself with a private equity company  - along with its factory and all its old Coventry looms - to prevent the business being sold off for a pittance to a Hong Kong based mass-market clothing factory based on cheap labour.
As a result of this Chinese-based labour, over 50 Coventry jobs were cut and the £10 million pension fund for hard working former Coventry employees was liquidated.  We need to find ways to prevent such iconic British manufacturing businesses being taken over by hard nosed foreign companies  - such as Cadbury's in Birmingham, another West Midland family business that the Cash family intermarried into in the 19th century. As shown by the way the American Kraft food giant have treated Cadbury's employees recenrly, most foreign owned companies are only interested in profits and have little interest in the company's work culture, or the welfare and job security of its employees. Invariably, they will employ whoever will take the lowest wage. 
Which brings me onto Aldi. Anybody concerned about local jobs will welcome the announcement today that the German owned discount super-market Aldi, with its HQ based in Atherstone, is creating new local and national jobs and investing £70m in expanding from 530 to 1000 stores by 2021. David Cameron was even on hand to make the announcement and lunch with Aldi's senior management at their plant on Holly Lane in Atherstone. 
But whilst this is encouraging on the jobs front, we need to also consider the impact on high streets if there are even more discount super-markets based at retail development sites on the outskirts of our rural towns. Our market towns and high streets in places like Coleshill, Atherstone, Mancetter and Polesworth - are the real life blood of rural areas like North Warwickshire.  
As supermarket chains like Aldi continie to expand, more high street shops will close, including many old family business including butchers, resulting in more local job losses. Former vibrant market towns are threatened by the rise of retail supermarket discount chains which can end up making histroic market towns resemble ghost towns with a Costa, Boots, a small Tesco and a few charity shops. 
Most importantly perhaps, Cameron may have boasted of Aldi creating thoudands of jobs. But whose jobs are these ? Are these local jobs for local people? or will most go to cheap a European labour force who - because of our EU 'open botders'  - are prepared to work for a German owned discount chain at around £7. 20 per hour? Judging by the employees at the Bridgnorth Aldi where I have occasionally shop for fresh vegetables (their grapes and avocados are better than M& S or Sainsbury my wife tells me) many are not British-born workers.
Don't get me wrong. I think Aldi is a great European business success story. But one has to also think about the social consequences across of the rise of the discount supermarket store chain. 

I am not a ‘career’ Westminster politician having spent the last 25 years working in the real world as a journalist, author and starting a successful financial publishing company from scratch.  For the last three years, I have campaigned nationally and locally against Coalition planning issues, including HS2.

Here are the links to various articles that expand on my reasons for campaigning. 

The Daily Telegraph:

New Statesman:

The Spectator:

Cameron’s sacking in July of Owen Paterson – a countryman with sensible views on the iniquities of green taxes paid for by the public to subsidise foreign energy companies  – was the final straw before I joined UKIP.  The Spectator piece was apparently ‘enjoyed’ by Nigel in his EU Parliament office. This lead to a meeting with him and his offer of the role of Heritage spokesman.

I am excited to be given the chance of fighting North Warwickshire North for UKIP.
With Mike O'Brien - a veteran former MP for the constituency -  as the Labour candidate, it will certainly be a bruising battle that will require a well organised campaign. The existing Tory MP has stood down and has been replaced by a local insurance broker and local councillor with no national profile or Westminster background. 

Much of the desecration of the rural countryside and inappropriate industrial renewable development around historic market towns - such as Atherstone in Warwickshire - is thanks to policies, especially in regards to immigration, for which O'Brien was personally involved, voted for or was responsble. To have the chance to debate down and personally defeat the Blairite minister responsible for such much of the damage to this country done by 13 years of Labour rule is an unexpected bonus. 
One reason that I accepted Farage's invitation to be UKIP's Heritage spokesman, also advising on rural planning policy is that I have already invested considerable time, money and energy into making detailed recommendations to the government on the importance of getting their rural and heritage planning policies right.
Yet such is Osborne's determination to build all over the countryside, with developers given a presumption in favour of development, nobody is listening to the rural anger. The setting of impossible to achieve local Council housing targets is being used as a clever loop hole to allow developers to build new 'affordable housing (read immigrant housing) wherever they like. 
As I wrote in the Spectator after the sacking of Owen Paterson, this betrayal of rural England - over HS2, rampant new affordable housing and a plague of renewables - is an area that UKIP can pick up enough votes from disaffected rural and suburban voters in 2015 to win some important marginal rural seats. Hence the critical need to get the policies right in relation to heritage, tourism and countryside planning.  
As I wrote in my Spectator article above, voters are currently disenchanted with Cameron and the Coalition as they do instinctively care about Britain's green fields and historic heritage. Rural voters tend to feel a much closer connection with surrounding countryside, villages than urban voters. The local landscape is part of their identity and who they are. They also understand its economic value, with over £16 billion being contributed last year to the GDP from heritage tourism alone.
This is especially to local economies in areas like the West Midlands where there is an abundances of heritage and sporting tourism critical to regional economic growth.When a rural area such as North Warwickshire has a world famous sporting attraction such as the The Belfry golf club, built on the site of the old Moxhall Park estate near Solihull  - just ten miles from the National Exhibition Centre - it is essential that its tourist and sporting appeal is protected and preserved.
Look at what happened to the Silverstone racing circuit in Northants which used to be a world recognised Formula One track but which nearly was struck off the F1 GP calender because of lack of investment, facilities and poor local accomodation and road links. The Belfry (left) has hosted more Ryder Cup tournaments than any club in the world. Such an iconic part of North Warwickshire's sporting culture needs to be kept up to a first class level without inappropriate local development which could harm the setting and visitor experience of this world class sporting jewel. 
Coventry is now in the top 20 list of best cities to visit, bringing in £86 million a year as the Coventry Telegraph have reported. In fact, Coventry is the fastest-growing holiday destination in the West Midlands. According to Visit England, the English tourism board, the number of visitors choosing Coventry as a holiday destination sharply rose by 37.2 per cent from 113,000 a year between 2006-08 to 155,000 between 2011-13. This is good news and we must build on this to encourae more jobs and growth for the North Warwickshire and Coventry area. 
Alas my wife Laura could not make the Hustings near Middleton, as she had a millinery event in London that night (she makes hats). However, she did tip me off before the selection meeting that the historic market town of Atherstone used to be a weaving town, famous for its felt, and the centre of the English hat-making industry. She looks forward to paying a visit to the spiritual capital of English millinery very soon.
Perhaps for Christmas she can make me a smart new felt trilby hat - the 'Atherstone' - with a yellow and purple band to pound the streets on the campaign trail.