Cunning plan by Mrs Sheppard

It isn't just Adam Boulton who did a bit of blogging on his honeymoon. In Feb this year – so did I – from Oz, and what a great time we had too. Now I am on my second holiday with Mrs S, and I think she has somehow got some form of sweet revenge on me by taking me to Cornwall which seems to have the most mobile blackspots I have ever come across. We are stopping at a great little place overlooking a beautiful bay – but which offers no mobile signal at all. That means no calls, no blackberry to play with, and no "tapping" on the laptop – as the Vodafone things just won't connect to anything!

Radio silence will end Friday – when I am going to have a big rant about environmental developments and the increasing power of incumbancy that sitting MPs seem to have!


A joker in the pack?

Get yourself over to Politicos bookshop and with every order you currently make you will get a free pack of rather exclusive Tony Blair playing cards. Now go on… I know you want a set, so click here 

Re-living the Doughty Street debut

Wednesday night was my debut on 18 Doughty Street.

 For those of you who want to watch again – here are the links.

My appearance with Iain Dale, Rena Valeh and Bryan Appleyard of The Times

Then there is the more relaxed end of the day show which can be found here

Comments about my tie will be added to the pile Cool

Recycling – could it be easier??

 Well my first week at Doughty Street is over and I have to say I've never enjoyed a job more than what I am doing at the moment. Now I know I haven't posted many podcasts lately – but that's what happens when you are moving house and changing jobs.

I have had a little play with Youtube – well if Sion Simon can do it why can't I.

One of the current issues I have is how complicated it seems to be to recycle things. Anyway – this was my first attempt at recording something and has had no editing whatsoever – but feel free to comment away!


Don't mention the football!

Shhhhh – but didn't a little team from Derbyshire beat a big team from London last night!! Spireites!!!!

Conservative Movement Awards

The date:- 13th November

The time:- 6-7:30pm

The venue:- TBC

Be there. Tory Radio will.

Michale Dobbs – First Lady

Iain Dale conducted an interview with best selling author Michael Dobbs for 18 Doughty Street.


Below is his excellent book review:-

Michael Dobbs knows how to tell a good political yarn and he certainly doesn’t let us down with his new political thriller 'First Lady'. He has a lot to live up to. Dobbs first burst onto the literary scene in the late 1980s with his House of Cards trilogy, which featured the bitter and twisted Chief Whip Francis Urquhart. He then penned a series of less successful novels before embarking on a mammoth four book series of docu-fiction featuring Winston Churchill as the main character. This genre had never really been tried before – at least not very successfully, so Dobbs was taking quite a risk. He succeeded in bringing to life a period in history for a whole new set of readers and enabled them to understand the complexities of some of the most important events of the twentieth century in a manner no one had managed to before. The last of the four books, Churchill’s Triumph, centred around the Yalta accords and the psychological battles between Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin. But in his new novel, First Lady, Dobbs goes back to basics and used the Palace of Westminster as the backdrop to an intriguing plot. Ginny Edge is married to a Conservative MP. When she discovers he is having an illicit affair it shatters he world. Everything she thought she knew turns out to be a lie. Dobbs uses the stereotype Tory wife to fight back. Instead of doing a Judith Mellor who stood by her man, she decides on a strategy to fight her turf on her own terms. Ginny Edge decides to become a player herself and embarks on a path of twisting men round her little finger in order to achieve her ultimate goal of becoming the wife of the Prime Minister. But she doesn’t have it all her own way. I suspect many a Parliamentary wife or partner reading this book will squirm rather uncomfortably as they turn the pages. In the PR blurb for the book it says that it exposes the greed, corruption and lust for advancement in twenty-first century politics. It does do that, but in a slightly 1990s manner. All in all Dobbs has struck literary gold with his new book. But I wait expectantly for the next series of docu-fiction featuring Margaret Thatcher. Surely her recapture of the Falklands would merit the Dobbs treatment. To buy:


First stop Doughty Street

Tomorrow I start my new role at Doughty Street – and I haveto say I can't wait. It is one of the most exciting ventures that anyone could be invovled in, and I know it's going to be a great success. So much so – that I've even had to give my lovely car back since leaving my previous role. Well actually they still haven't come to collect it, but once they do I'll feel so virtuous about cutting my carbon emissions and doing my bit for the environment. I won't miss it a bit…. honest……. I won't.

Sheppard's Nerd Score

I am nerdier than 4% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Mr  Dale tempted me with his latest interactive post on his blog. What a surprise to find my nerd score is indeed very low. I put it down to plain ignorance about some of the questions – plus of course they didnt ask about how many electronic gadgets or phones do I possess!

The last post?

My first job after leaving University was working for the Post Office, and three and a half years ago I left the company with its parent (Royal Mail Group) losing something like a million pounds  a day. Whilst I am sure the two events aren't linked – the company is now making a healthy profit. Well part of the company is. The part which runs our nations post offices doesn't make money.

When I worked in the Corporate Affairs team of Royal Mail I could tell you how many post offices were in each constituency – and how many were under threat by the Government's decision to move benefit payments from being paid over the counter – to direct payment to bank accounts. The number of threatened offices was huge.I

t is telling that when I was at the post office there were some 19,000 branches – yet today there are around 14,500, with 10,000 of them losing money.The arch capitalists among us would say the answer is clear – close 10,000 – they don't make money. But that's where the dilemma lies. Firstly 14,000 of those 14,500 branches are private business – they aren't owned by the state – they are run by people in village halls, in news agents etc up and down the country.

The Labour Government in its wisdom undertook a programme called Network Reinvention which effectively paid compensation to close urban post offices due to their overprovision. Now the country is faced with the rural network losing money hand over fist – with Government support due to end in the near future. It then moved to have all benefit payments to be paid directly into bank accounts – but allowed pensioners to have a Post Office card account in order for them to be able to collect their pension from a post office counter. Now we hear that the Post Office card account is to go to. So much for the Government backing local services!

So what is the solution? Surely its about allowing post offices to provide products and services that people want. Do I pay my bills at the post office? No. DO I get my TV licence from the post office anymore – NO – I cant. Do I use the post office to post parcels for bits I’ve sold on Ebay and to do my business banking? YES.Therein lies both the problem and the solution.

I was once at a Select Committee appearance where one MP put it to the then Chief Executive of Royal Mail that it was shameful the company was losing money – and then added that the Post Office Network has a huge social role. The Chief Executive jumped on that comment (quite rightly) and put it to the MP that he had just exposed the real issue the post office faced. Politicians wanted the company to be a profit making company – yet at the same time expected them to subsidise loss making parts to fulfill a social role.

Now are those two desires incompatible? Not necessarily. I wholeheartedly support the view that a rural post office branch has a social role. Some of these branches do not have enough customers to make them economically viable – therefore the post office has to be allowed to branch out into providing services that will make them viable. Not only does it have to provide access for people like me who quite like Ebay – it could become the first port of call – the one stop shop of government information and services. How much duplication must there be in the provision of Government information – yet surely the Post Office is the natural home for this to be made available. It should also be allowed to offer a much wider range of financial products and services that will attract a new and younger customer base. This country would be much worse without our network of sub-post offices, and the Government cannot be allowed to sound the last post on such a service.