Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Friday, April 30, 2010

New Voter Secured from Last Night's Debate

I thought David Cameron was head and shoulders above the other two in the debate last night. He showed dignity but passion for this country. A Prime Minister in waiting for sure.

Here's an email I received this morning from a voter in South Shields:

"Thought you would enjoy some good news. I had previously emailed you with regard to the fact that I was unhappy about a comment in the Press made by Mr. Cameron. You did kindly say that you had forwarded my comments on to Mr. Cameron's office. Having told David Miliband, who I met in person recently, that he was assured of my vote...I have now changed my mind. Following last night's TV programme I have to say that I was highly impressed with Mr. Cameron and what he had to say. I will most definitely now be voting for the Conservative Party!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canvas Result

An interesting day in Westoe and Horsely Hill today. I canvassed patches around Highfield Road, including Hemsley Road and the streets behind the Townhall off Hyde St. Although a lot of voters have already returned their postal vote, there are still many undecided voters - these were formerly Labour voters who are not not sure which way to plunge. I'm really pleased to report though there are many first time Conservative voters. There are lots of people in South Shields who want to give us a chance.

If you would like to suggest a street for us to canvas please post a comment. I'm very interested to visit a wide selection of streets in South Shields.

For those of you who are still undecided - Vote for Change, Vote Local, Vote Karen Allen!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Thick of It

I took a couple of hours out this afternoon to pop up to Newcastle with my Mother. I could tell when my Father picked us up at Chichester Metro he was bursting to ask something: "What you heard about Brown?" All sorts of things went through my mind - had he stood down? Had he found a secret weapon??

Listening to the radio what unfolded was the plot of an episode of "The Thick of It." I could almost hear Malcolm Tucker: "He's done what.....?! Get him back there. Get him into Mrs Duffy's house, apologising, having tea...."

There's really very little to comment on the whole episode - Brown's actions speak for themselves. Amateur. Spiteful. Out of touch.

Vote for Change. Vote for Conservative. The country cannot take five more years of Labour.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hague Visit to the North East

Ahead of his debate on the economy this evening, William Hague found time to visit Sunderland Central - a key marginal seat in the North East. It was nice to see William isn't only popular with Tory Party members. Shoppers were very keen to speak to Mr Hague when they saw him this afternoon and the response was very positive - many people saying they were voting for or already had voted for Lee Martin our candidate in Sunderland Central.

Sunderland Central Conservative Candidate, Lee Martin talking to a shopper in Pallion with William Hague.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Election Address

Under Election rules as a Parliamentary Candidate you can apply to have Royal Mail deliver a copy of one of your leaflets to all addresses in your constituency. This leaflet is my election address which every voter in the South Shields constituency will receive. Hopefully you will receive this leaflet during this week or the early part of next week.

My Election Address is one of four leaflets for the Campaign, so I hope most of you in South Shields will have received at least one if not two or three of the other leaflets. I have tried to make my leaflets clear and to the point. I have not employed any scaremonger tactics as the disgraceful Labour leaflets.

Vote Local, Vote for Change, Vote Karen Allen!

Email from a First Time Voter

I had to print this email I received, because I thought this young person really hits the nail on the head. I'm delighted that there are some first time voters out there who feel passionate about using their vote and I am really glad this young person has decided to vote Conservative because of the let downs and broken promises from the Labour Government.

Dear Karen,
I just wanted to let you know, you have my full support in this election. I am so sick of David Miliband, his smug "no one can touch me" attitude, his indifference to the people of this town and the lies he continually spouts. Nothing would make me happier than to see him lose his seat, and I believe that you are the right choice of candidate for this purpose and for South Shields.
I just wanted to ask you whether you are aware of the imminent job cuts at South Tyneside College and how you felt about it.
The College has had a budget cut over £1 million. Now, remind me again, which party was it that said "Education, Education, Education"? and which MP has been bragging about all the investment Labour has put into education in this town?(in the recent video on the Guardian website). Anyway, due to this budget cut, The college is making redundant 63 members of staff (The gazette article said over 50, but it was the college Union rep who told me 63). This is not only a very large number, but if you look deeper into the cuts... In Sixth Form, The IT and Computing department is going to be cut from 3 members of staff to 1, English from 4 members of staff to 2, Maths from 4 members to 3. I am not sure on the other departments but I know that in these departments, these staff could in no way be considered surplus, and I know that the main concern of many of the staff who have lost their jobs, is not about what they will do next, but of how students are going to cope next year. Already, as it is, if there is an absence in these departments there is a struggle to get those classes covered so often the classes either don't happen or only happen partially. I do not understand how the college can be expected (even with the expected drop in demand with Harton sixth form opening in Sept.) to run on so few staff. It will cause a tremendous strain on the remaining members of staff and overall the students will be the ones who will lose out.
I really wish there was a way I could get more people my age interested in voting. This is the first general election I am eligible to vote in and there is no way I would pass up on the opportunity to let my voice be heard.

Yours Faithfully

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turn South Shields Blue


Hague Visit to the North East

William Hague will be in Sunderland (on Hylton St) at 1pm on Tuesday (27th). David and Pete - sorry it's not South Shields, but with 650 constituencies there's limited time available and hopefully it's close enough for people in South Shields who would like to meet him to pop along.

Hustings Round Up

There were seven candidates speaking last night at St Hilda's Church at the Hustings organised by Faiths Together:

Labour David Miliband
Conservative Karen Allen
LibDem Stephen Psallidas
Green Shirley Ford
Independent Siamek Kaikavooski
Anti War Roger Nettleton
Independent Victor Thompson

Missing candidates were:

Sam Navabi Independent
Donna Watson BNP

I understand the above two were missing because no address was submitted on their nomination and organisers could not find anyway to contact the above candidates. A fairly interesting stance to occupy if you are standing for public office - that the electors are unable to contact you.

I enjoyed the evening on the whole, although due to the large number of candidates it was difficult to have enough time to say what you wanted to - my speech was cut down by more than three quarters to fit into the time frame available. We were given two minutes to address the audience and then a further one or two minutes question dependent to answer each question posed by members of the audience.

Needless to say the Anti War candidate and the Green candidate wanted out of Afghanistan immediately. One of the Independent candidates thought the war in Afghanistan was manufactured on CIA intelligence. Miliband boasted of how he represents South Shields internationally. I'm wondering exactly what this means. Did he perhaps tell Hilary about Coleman's Fish & Chips?

It was a shame the Hustings had not been widely promoted. There must have been 30 or 40 people present. I am not sure there was one person in that audience who was not closely affiliated with a political party already. Anyway, after the Hustings and over a glass of wine a member of the audience commented I had been "quite hard line" so I hope that I was able to give a snapshot of some of my beliefs and conviction and dispel the myth all politicians are about PR and fluff.

Elvis Brown - The Wonder of You?

Oh Gordon, Gordon, Gordon. You used to have Tony as your front man. In previous General Election campaigns you'd be safely tucked away in Labour HQ. Now you're left exposed and vulnerable in front of the elector. Who sanctioned this?? Alastair would never have allowed it to happen. Makes you wonder if someone at Labour's Campaign HQ is having a laugh at the Prime Minister's expense:

"When no-one else can understand me
When everything I do is wrong[...]
And when you smile the world is brighter."

I'd personally prefer if Mr Brown restrained himself from smiling. It makes me very uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as he looks when he reminds himself to do it.

Watch highlights of the spectacle:


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Winkball Campaign Video


Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Campaigning

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, as usual I will be on King Street. Our regular Conservative stall will be running and we will be handing out our latest leaflet. I am being joined by Ross Huartt, our Council Candidate for Simonside & Rekendyke. Ross is completing his studies in Newcastle and will shortly be a qualified charter surveyor. Please feel free to drop by the stall. All welcome.

Also tomorrow I will be speaking at the Hustings organised by the Faiths Together Group at St Hilda's Church, starting at 7pm. Once again all welcome. Hope you can attend.

Dr Shobha Srivastavahas who has organised the evening has confirmed to me of the nine candidates standing on May 6th the following will speak at the Hustings:

Labour David Miliband
Conservative Karen Allen
LibDem Stephen Psallidas,
Green Shirley Ford
Independent Siamek Kaikavooski
Anti War Roger Nettleton

Hope to see you tomorrow night. Question Slips will be made available to attendees on arrival in order to address candidates.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is there anybody there?

I promised to post some of the constituency contact I am receiving during the campaign. A lot of the letter and emails I've received this week have involved sensitive issues, so I didn't think it would be appropriate to put much of it into the public domain. However I can share with you several of the correspondences started something like this:

"I would like to start off by saying I have e-mailed David Miliband twice with what I have written below and have not even had a 'thank you for your e-mail' response, I am hoping you will take more interest:....."

I'm curious since Parliament has been out how much time Mr Miliband has spent in his constituency? I know he's been in marginal seat Ealing yesterday - helping Labour fight to hold the seat. Yet another example of him taking his vote in South Shields for granted I think. Hopefully he can use some of his free time between campaigning in Labour's Southern marginal seats to catch up on his constituency emails and letters - he certainly hasn't been busy using his influence as Foreign Secretary to assist in the organisation of the European conference call over the volcano ash problems. Apparently it took us 5 days just to organise a conference call.....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Labour Lies

I suppose what can we expect when our Prime Minister is a liar? We couldn't really expect the Labour Party to show any moral fibre and just campaign on the campaign issues (which is exactly what David Cameron is doing) rather than making up a lot of lies and nonsense. But scaring pensioners into thinking "Conservatives will scrap Winter Fuel, bus passes...." is pretty much the lowest of the low. Con Home posted on this recently:


Scaremonger leaflets are doing the rounds in South Shields now. I've had several calls about leaflets being distributed in Whitburn. I've had calls from worried pensioners seeking reassurance the cuts are not Conservative policy and I have also had a number of calls from pensioners saying they know the leaflets are full lies and they don't believe them and will vote Conservative.

I actually know that the content of these leaflets is coming from the top in South Shields and Mr Miliband is peddling these precise lies. When I was on King Street two weekends ago, a shopper just moments before she came to speak to me had been told by Miliband himself (at the other end of King Street) "we got you your bus pass and the Tories are going to take them away." She was really quite upset and not surprisingly.

I can refer you to David Cameron's Pensioner Pledge which was released last month which I hope will reassure anyone reading:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Week Two Leaflet

This is our second General Election campaign leaflet making its way through your letterbox in South Shields sometime soon.

If you have any spare time and could deliver your own street, please do get in touch.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marriage and Civil Partnerships Tax Credit

We want to make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe. This policy will help us achieve that because it is:

- Progressive: because the lowest earners benefit the most

- Mainstream: because most European countries recognize marriage in the tax system

- Realistic: because it is affordable and fully funded

- Fair: because it is funded by a levy on risky borrowing by banks

Couples who make a commitment to each other are the building blocks of a strong society – whether in a marriage or a civil partnership.

Our policy will take the form of a partially transferable personal allowance for all married couples and civil partnerships.

- One member of an eligible couple will be able to transfer £750 of their tax free personal allowance to their partner in order to reduce their partner’s income tax bill. This will be limited to basic rate taxpayers and is therefore worth up to £150 a year per couple at the 20% rate of tax. In 1999, its final year before it was abolished for all but pensioner couples, the Married Couples Allowance was worth £197 per couple per year.

- The additional transferable allowance will be tapered away at incomes above £42,500 so that no higher rate taxpayer earning £44,000 or more will benefit.

- Eligible couples where one partner is not using all of their tax free personal allowance and the other earns between £6,600 and £44,000 will be up to £150 a year better off.

- The full benefit of £150 goes to eligible couples where the main earner earns between £7,300 and £42,500.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies estimate that this will cost about £550 million. This will paid for using some of the revenues from a levy on banks that will raise more than £1 billion. The remaining revenues will be used to reduce the deficit.

This is a progressive tax measure, with two thirds of the benefits going to families in the lower half of the income distribution. The biggest gains as a percentage of income go to households in the third decile of the income distribution.

4 million out of a total 12.3 million married couples will benefit.

All these gains will be additional to the gains from stopping Labour’s jobs tax.

The rest of this email gives you some examples of what our policy would mean in practice; how we will make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe; and the bank levy.


1) A married couple where one partner does not work and the other works full time earning £20,000 a year.

- The non working partner pays no tax but they can transfer £750 of their unused personal allowance to their partner.

- Their partner would pay £2,680 in income tax under the current tax system. Under our plans they would pay only £2,530, saving £150 a year.

2) A couple in a civil partnership where one partner works part time earning £5,000 a year and the other works full time earning £15,000 a year.

- The part time worker pays no tax because they earn less than the £6,600 personal allowance.

- They can transfer £750 of the unused part of their personal allowance to their partner.

- Their partner would pay £1,680 in income tax under the current tax system. Under our plans they would pay only £1,530, saving £150 a year.

3) A married couple where one partner does not work and the other works full time earning £70,000 a year.

- The non working partner pays no tax but they can transfer £750 of their unused personal allowance to their partner.

- However, this additional personal allowance is tapered away to zero for all higher rate taxpayers (all incomes above £44,000), so this couple do not gain from the policy.

Recognising marriage in the tax system

David Cameron has set out a clear ambition to make modern Britain the most family friendly society in Europe. We have proposed a range of reforms to achieve this, including:

· Ending the couple penalty in the tax credits system

· Supporting families with young children with 4,200 additional health visitors

· The right to request flexible working for every parent with a child under 18

· Improving Sure Start by focusing it on early intervention and increasing its focus on the neediest families

· A new system of flexible parental leave that will let parents share maternity leave between them, including taking some of the leave simultaneously

· Cracking down on manipulative marketing targeted at children

· Ending the culture of fear of litigation in children’s activities

Now we are setting out our plans for backing marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system. Each family is different and some marriages and civil partnerships fail. We are not passing judgement on individual circumstances. But as institutions, marriage and civil partnerships promote responsibility, commitment and family solidity, and backing them sends an important signal that as a society, we value the commitment people make when they get married or form a civil partnership.

It means more help for people on top of our pledges to stop Labour’s National Insurance rise and to help local authorities freeze council tax for two years.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I will be under the Metro Bridge this morning on King Street - please pop down if you want to chat or pick up our new leaflet. Leaflets are also being delivered throughout the constituency too over the weekend.

Please get in touch if you can deliver you own street.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Leaders' Debate

I'm curious what the viewing figures have been for this evening's Leaders' Debate on ITV. I sat down eagerly to watch the first ever televised UK Leaders' Debate. It had a few highlights but I did find in the last half particularly - maybe the fascination was wearing off - it all got a bit stilted and frankly a little boring.

David Cameron definitely came out on top. He came out looking like a Prime Minister in waiting - rather than a washed out, unelected clinger-on or a fuzzy Liberal who is prepared to put the security of the country at risk (by scrapping Trident) and can frankly say pretty much anything he wants, as he's nothing to loose.

Will be interesting to see initial responses and of course the rerun to come.

If you are reading, please do feel free to post a comment. I've been really pleased my blog has become more interactive recently, with more readers posting and I'm keen to hear your views and have more discussion. Of course I do operate a moderation policy on any comments posted, which is just as well! Although I am welcoming and encouraging your comment, please do refrain from posting anything inappropriate. Your IP address is obtainable and stored if you post a comment.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Recent Resident Contact

I'm received a considerable volume of letters and emails from people in South Shields right now, I thought I would use this blog to share some of them with you:

Dear Karen

I was also born and bred in South Shields, and still live there as well as working in the town. I do feel that as long as you need a mobile phone or a birthday card you are catered for in King Street. King Street used to have a huge variety of Shops and personally I now find myself going to The Galleries in Washington to shop now where everyone is catered for and we even have 2 choices of supermarkets.

Mrs C

Dear Mrs C

Thanks for your email. We actually go up to Jarrow to shop at Morrisons these days - better parking and more choice in the supermarket - it was a sad day for me when we started to do this.

The closure of Binns was the catalyst of the downturn on King Street, then the likes of T G Allans and other shops which had been there for years meant there was less to go down to King Street for. Moving the stores off King Street and on to Coronation Street is only speeding up the further decline of the town centre.

If Stephen Hepburn has been so successful in regenerating Jarrow (I couldn't have imagined needing to go to the Viking Precinct instead of South Shields in the 1990s?) why can't David Miliband do the same for South Shields regeneration and investment? It's a disgrace how he has taken for granted South Shields.

If I am elected as the MP for South Shields the town will be my number one priority.

Karen Allen
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for South Shields

Manifesto Launch

I attended the Manifesto launch yesterday morning at Battersea Power Station (can you spot me in the pics wearing a "We're in this together" T-shirt!) A very apt setting I thought for the event - a landmark disused building on the brink of regeneration. It really was an exhilarating morning. There was a real buzz in the air in the hall and David Cameron was on his best form.

If you compare to previous leaders' manifestos we are actually saying and clearly laying out a lot. Our plans and vision for the next decade could truly transform this country. I believe people are ready to embrace our invitation to "Join the Government." People are sick and tired of a Government claiming it can do everything and is the body who can change things for the better - the only way this country can get back on track is if we give people the power to make changes and to do things for themselves. Together.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Into the second campaign week

After the newspapers resoundingly reporting the Conservatives were victors of week one of the GE campaign, lots going on again on the first day of the second week.

One of my colleagues, who although long since relinquished his Labour Party membership still reads the Guardian, shared this interesting piece with me this morning:


You'll see I did post a couple of commments - I think whatever I posted (so long as I was the Tory standing South Shields) it would not have been what the readers of the Guardian wanted to read! Interesting though to note the tone of the Guardian's piece, which is a divergence from what you'd normally expect to read (I imagine, not being a frequent Guardian reader!) Incidentally, since posting comments on the piece I have had another constituent contact me for help after he'd failed to get a response from Mr Miliband.

This to me what the real shocker of the day though:


Particularly disturbing the Labour Party are refusing to apologise for the postcards - "because it's the truth." The tactics they are stooping to and the farce they are making of supposedly data privacy is a disgrace.

Oh and the Labour Manifesto was released today. I don't count any of their regurgitations as news - just the same old tired recoils - so I won't comment any further.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conservative GP Pledge

A Conservative government will guarantee a GP in your area from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week

At present, many people cannot see a GP when they need to because Labour took responsibility for access to primary care outside normal working hours from family doctors and gave it to bureaucrats in Primary Care Trusts.

Nearly a quarter of GP practices are now closed beyond the normal surgery hours of 8am to 6:30pm, five days a week.

A Conservative government will give people the certainty they need: our 2010 manifesto (which is being rolled out on Tuesday in Westminster - I am attending so details to follow on a blog post) includes plans to change GPs’ contracts to ensure that everyone has access to a GP in their area from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. And responsibility for managing how patients access care outside of normal surgery opening hours will be given back to GPs.

Still on health, I was very shocked to hear about these Labour campaign tactics, I mean, how low can you stoop:


First General Election Leaflet

Thanks to a dedicated band of volunteers we are set to deliver our first Conservative General Election leaflet in South Shields over the next few days. We've already delivered a most of Horsley Hill and Whitburn. Harton, Westoe and West Park are due to be delivered imminently.

If you are reading this and have some time you can give to the campaign to deliver your own street, please get in touch:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Newcastle to London

If you want to travel from Newcastle to London tomorrow, booking a ticket today, it will cost you £135 to travel by East Coast trains (you could get a cheaper ticket if you were prepared to change several times and travel from Sunderland) or it will cost you a total of £40 (£15 + £25 tax) to fly BA into Heathrow - how can this be possible???

I suppose Mr Miliband doesn't have this problem (I some how doubt he's using public transport these days) but even if he was taking the train he would charge the tax payer for his journey with his nice MP's expense account.

Weekend Campaigning

I spent the morning on King Street talking to people and distributing our new Conservative leaflet. There were many people who said to me this morning they were going to vote Conservative for the first time and a few of them, as I gather, went to tell Miliband that too - when he turned up for a fleeting appearance at the bottom of King Street!

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so when the Labour team had their red balloons interspersed with my blue ones (there were definitely more blue balloons!) I had that in mind.

The Greens set up for the second time right next my stall, which I wouldn't mind if they concentrated on promoting their own policies (even if it is nonsense about a "Robin Hood tax") rather than pointing at me and talking about Conservative Policies they have misunderstood. But, hey, to coin another old saying, I guess all publicity is good publicity.

The people of South Shields, despite having been neglected by Labour for the last 13 years, are none the less riding high and spirits on King Street were high. First we had Joe McEldery, then we had Emily Femming and now we have Geordie Pantsman!


The publicity this guy has had is amazing! He got a mention on Have I Got News for You and in many national papers, as well as becoming an internet phenomenon.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Fundraising Appeal!

I've had some excellent literature designed by local printers, Harlow Printing in Maxwell St, South Shields and over the course of this next month if you live in South Shields it'll hopefully be coming through your letter box.

Over the course of the year we (the Association) have been trying to raise funds to pay for the campaign. On line we have raised over £250 which I'm delighted with, but it's still a way from our target, so if you can possibly spare a couple of pounds, please visit my donation page "Turn South Shields Blue" on myconservatives.com


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Serial Misleader

There have been too many times recently where Gordon Brown has been shown as a serial offender in misleading the British people in the run-up to the election.

I have given some consideration to this. He bleats on about his honour and how he is a man of principle so the fact he has

a) given false information on defence spending to the Chilcot Inquiry
b) had his advertising campaign about policing was banned
c) been been caught red-handed using dodgy statistics on immigration.

Leads me to three possibilities:

a) he has a bad memory
b) he actually doesn't realise when he is lying*
c) he's a pathological liar

Which ever of these three are true (and one has to be) I don't want a Prime Minister with any of these "qualities." I don't think he can be trusted to use facts, not fiction, so how can he be trusted with Britain’s future?

* I toyed with the definition of psychopath i.e. one with a marked lack of conscience, one who is typically remorseless and inclined to blame others. However a key and fundamental characteristic is also "charm" so I decided to knock this definition on the head.

What is our position on Immigration?

This is probably the issue I get asked the second most questions about in South Shields. It can be a charged issue, but I wanted to use this post as a means of laying out where we, the Conservatives stand on it.

Since 1997, Labour’s open–door immigration policy has seen the largest and most sustained rise in immigration in our history. In 1997 net migration – the number of people who come to settle here, minus the number who leave – was 48,000. In 2008 it was 163,000.

These figures help explain the pressure immigration is now placing on public services such as housing, health and schools. A Conservative government will reduce immigration to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands a year under Labour.

I believe that Britain can benefit from immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. We want to continue to attract the brightest and the best people to the UK – but with control on the overall numbers coming here.

Our immigration policy is based on three strands:

• an annual limit on the numbers of non-EU economic migrants allowed to work here, taking into consideration the effects a rising population has on our public services and local communities;
• preventing illegal migration, with important new rules to tighten up the student visa system – the biggest hole in our border controls - and a dedicated Border Police Force to crack down on illegal immigration and people trafficking; and
• promoting integration into British society, as we believe that everyone coming to this country must be ready to embrace the core values of British society and become a part of their local community. We will only allow people to come here to marry if they can speak English.

If you believe that we can’t go on with an immigration system that is out of control then vote for change. Five more years of Gordon Brown would make things even worse. David Cameron and the Conservatives have the energy, leadership and values to get our country moving again.

And on a lighter note......

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Tory Truth on Sure Start

I have been asked by many people in South Shields, "Is it true the Tories are going to close down Sure Start Centres?" To stop this Labour lie I thought I would post a copy of the recent letter I sent to Sure Start staff in South Shields:

Dear Sure Start Staff

With a general election just weeks away, I thought it might be helpful for me, as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Shields, to let you know a bit more about my party's policies for strengthening Sure Start if we win the election.

I know that here in South Shields Sure Start staff and management work hard day in day out, doing all that they can to support families in our community. I can assure you that Sure Start Children's Centres will play a critical role in our vision of making Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe. As David Cameron said recently, we are absolutely committed to keeping Sure Start and helping it do more for families, not less.

It is a pity that Labour are concentrating on spreading scare stories about Conservative plans to cut Sure Start, rather than working to improve the service themselves. Ministers have claimed that our plans to refocus Sure Start spending are a ‘cut’ – but the small print of the Budget revealed that Labour are themselves planning to make up to £150m of ‘efficiencies’ in the Sure Start budget. False rumours about our plans have caused real anxiety and concern amongst parents, and risked distracting attention from the important task of improving Sure Start. Let me make it quite clear: the Conservatives have no plans to close any Children's Centres.

Now the Centres have been created, Labour thinks the job is done - Sure Start staff know the job is really only just starting. The National Audit Office, the Audit Commission and OFSTED have all criticised this Government's failure to help develop Sure Start, and in particular to support the poorest and most vulnerable families in our communities better. Our plans and vision for Sure Start will change that.

We will strengthen Sure Start by recruiting thousands of new Sure Start Health Visitors and introducing a universal Sure Start Health Visitor service - improving the support Sure Start is able to provide to every family. Currently, fewer than one in five Sure Start Children's Centres has a formal agreement with their local Primary Care trust to join together to provide the services families need. Our plans will change that, and put health back at the heart of Sure Start as it was when the programme was originally launched. Sure Start Health Visitors, working with outreach and other workers, will also help improve the effectiveness of support given to the most vulnerable families.

This will cost £200 million per year and will be paid for using money the Government has set aside for more Sure Start outreach workers and from the Department of Health, the budget of which the Conservative Party has promised to increase in real terms every year.

We want Britain to be the most family friendly country in Europe. A stronger Sure Start is at the heart of delivering on that vision. I look forward to working with you to make this change happen.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Allen

Friday, April 02, 2010

Speeches and Debates

I've just been catching up on line with some footage of last week's political speeches and debates - as I was unable to watch most of it when it was originally broadcast.

I watched some of the Chancellor Live, the Darling-Obsorne-Cable debate. I'd already read and heard quite a few reviews, but I did think Osborne came across very well. Whenever I have encountered Osborne in the city and there have been quite a few events over the years where he has spoken, the response I have generally found is the city is very receptive to him and in the cases of skeptics, they have found him much more competent than they had expected. If you read the Mirror of course Darling came out of it looking more proficient and everyone seems to agree Mr Cable was certainly the most entertaining, but I struggle to find that a skill I would want my Chancellor to possess.

By far the most disturbing footage from last week was Tony Blair's speech in Trimdon Village. Let's not even bother to comment on his physical appearance (which was glowing!) why was he speaking with an American accent? Since bowing out of the Premiership Mr Blair was spent a considerable amount of his time in the USA, but in this short time span - only a few years - his accent has been affected to this extent? This must surely be indicative of the type of man he is - lacking conviction and easily pliable. If Labour think wheeling out this character is good for their campaign, then very good luck to them.

On the subject of my own public speaking, I have been invited to attend a hustings at St Hildas's Church at 7pm on Saturday 24th April, so looking forward to that and other opportunities over the course of the next five weeks. If you would like to invite me to speech at a meeting or event, please feel free to drop me a line.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter Weekend in South Shields

I'm looking forward to spending Easter with my family in South Shields. Mixed in with campaigning I am hoping there will be some time to enjoy some of the events and concerts South Tyneside Council have organised. There's a great line up down at the Seafront. My old school friend, Iain Cunningham is playing with his band Shake Ya Feather Tail on Good Friday, so looking forward to seeing them play.


On Saturday I'm off to see the Sunderland vs Tottenham Hot Spurs match. An important game for Spurs as I understand.... so come on the Black Cats!!

Fingers crossed for the weather too - looks as though they will be some patches of sunshine. When the sun is shining on the coastline here in the North East I truly believe there is no where better.