Friday, 30 January 2015

The 2015 General Election

In my Crawley Observer column on New Year's Eve, I wrote about the 2015 General Election and the risk of Ed Miliband being propped up as Prime Minister by Alex Salmond. Since I wrote this, the likelihood of this terrible scenario has increased.
"2014 was an eventful year and I have no doubt that 2015 will be equally so. One certain prediction for 2015 is that there will be plenty of political uncertainty. The general election is only four months away and amid the uncertainty, there are some things regarding its outcome that we can be certain about.
Most people are expecting a huge Parliament, but no credible political pundit is predicting anything other than a Conservative or Labour Prime Minister after the general election. Assuming they are both still in place as party leaders in May, that means either David Cameron or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister.
What is very uncertain in a hung Parliament is who will have the numbers to form a government. My nightmare scenario is that the Alex Salmond SNP tail could be wagging the Ed Miliband Labour dog. The south of England is never a priority for the northern-based Labour Party, but if a Labour government is propped up by the Scottish nationalist SNP, then we can be certain that their policies will be bad for Crawley.
Other potential coalition partners for Labour are the Northern Irish nationalist SDLP who usually sit with Labour in the Commons, and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru. A heavy price that costs us dear here in southern England could be extracted by nationalists outside of England, in order to make Ed Miliband Prime Minister.           
What is certain here in Crawley, is that it will be Conservative or Labour who wins and that the Crawley outcome will have a direct impact on whether the next Prime Minister is Conservative or Labour. We can also be certain that just like in 2014, UKIP will not be anywhere near winning a single Council seat in Crawley, yet alone have any chance of the Parliamentary seat.
Amid all the uncertainty for 2015, I can accurately predict that it is still a two-horse race both locally and nationally. I’m sure everyone will be pleased once the election is over and hopefully for 2015-2020, we can have stability like the Conservative and LibDem Coalition has delivered since 2010."

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Labour's Sick NHS Scaremongering

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the NHS and how it is becoming increasingly apparent that scaremongering about the NHS will be a key theme of Labour's general election campaign. This follows their campaigning  failures on the economy, unemployment, the cost of living and freezing utility bills at high levels when they are actually falling. The picture was part of a Labour leaflet delivered last week by the Royal Mail to every home in Crawley. It was generic with no Crawley content so no doubt other Labour target constituencies are receiving it too. This is truly sick and deserves to backfire.

Shameful Labour scaremongering of vulnerable people
"I was pleased to hear from our MP Henry Smith, that Crawley Hospital now has 200 more doctors and nurses than in 2010. Labour downgraded Crawley hospital when last in government so anything to help reverse this is very welcome. My own daughter was born at Crawley Hospital in the late Nineties but Labour’s downgrading means our children and grandchildren can no longer be born in Crawley.
Going forward, we do need to get as much use as possible from Crawley Hospital and the trend since 2010 has been services returning. We now have more resources going into the NHS than ever before with a record number of people accessing NHS services. An example of this is that are now 3,000 more people each day accessing A&E across the country than in the last year of the previous government.

Under the Conservatives, spending on the NHS has been has been protected since 2010. This will continue if the Conservatives are in government after May’s general election. We are also looking to increase access to GP services, especially at weekends. Apart from the obvious convenience for those working Monday-Friday, it cannot be good for our economy if people have to take time off work to see a doctor.

Healthcare and the NHS shouldn’t be political and I don’t like it being a political football. My own view is that we should follow the advice of healthcare professionals and that the two main parties should work together to get a consensus about how to ensure the NHS is sustainable for the future. Unfortunately the Labour party are determined to use scaremongering about the NHS as their main theme for their general election campaign.

This was evident last week when a Labour party leaflet that was delivered by the Royal Mail across Crawley, was virtually all about scaremongering about the NHS. I find it beyond contempt that this Labour leaflet had a mock-up medical bill for NHS patients of “Cancer treatment £30,000 per course” and “Giving birth £19,000”. Sadly, making vulnerable people fearful over something that will never happen is Labour’s underbelly exposed."

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Impact On Housing Of A Gatwick Second Runway

In my first Crawley Observer column of the year, I wrote about the huge increase in local house prices over the last year and how a second runway at Gatwick would turn a local housing problem into a local housing crisis in Crawley and the wider area. 
"I was interested to see it reported that outside of London, the last year has seen house prices grow faster in Crawley than anywhere else in the UK. The very high 22% figure quoted is a double-edged sword and unsustainable.
While it is good to see the economy doing so well, we know there is a supply and demand problem with the population growing faster than new house building can keep up. It is a struggle to stop home ownership becoming increasingly out of reach for many, although the Government’s help to buy scheme has helped many young couples buy their own home and new homes are being built.

We have a housing problem but I am keen to ensure a local housing problem does not turn into a housing crisis. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen if Gatwick has a second runway. I sometimes hear a simplistic view that a second runway will be good for Crawley because it will provide jobs for local people who need them. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that a second runway will see tens of thousands of new jobs in the area. However, with low levels of unemployment in the Crawley travel to work area being the long-term historical norm, it is obvious that huge numbers of people will have to move to the area from the UK and abroad, over and above the existing year-on-year population growth, to fill jobs that cannot be filled locally.

When we are struggling to keep up with the current housing demand, it is clear that a second runway will make this problem much worse. There would be an explosion of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) as prices become ever more unaffordable. This overcrowding and congestion in our local streets and neighbourhoods will negatively change Crawley for ever in so many ways. Residents who may live in quiet streets where parking and traffic currently isn’t a problem, do need to be aware that a second runway will have an irreversible and negative impact on our quality of life in Crawley."

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Solidarity With Our French Friends

Last week in my Crawley Observer column, I wrote about the awful events in France and the reaction to them. There has been a lot of debate about freedom of expression. Naturally, I support freedom of speech, but I do not support personal abuse and trolling which I have seen defended under the 'freedom of speech' banner in the past. It is a debate that will run and run but I guess I see it like this: Do I have the right to offend? Yes. Should I set out to offend? No. As an elected representative, I should choose my words carefully and recognise I represent a very wide range of people, not all of whom will think like I do.

That said, I shouldn't be afraid of speaking the truth as I see it even if it is likely some people will not like what I say. Ultimately, differences of opinion and the right to disagree should be respected. I sometimes come across bullies who can't respect other opinions and who love to dish it out but can't take it back. I find they hate freedom of speech and having their behaviour exposed, including on this blog on occasion.

"Last week was truly terrible for France and for Paris in particular. We were all shocked and appalled at the very upsetting events. Unlike the UK and other European countries such as Spain and Norway, France had not been the victim of such vile atrocities for some decades.
Writing after watching coverage of the national unity march, this feels like a watershed moment and the implications for France and Europe feel profound. After this terrible week, it was very heartening to see French people of all backgrounds and religions marching together, putting their shared freedom, democracy and French national identity before any differences.

The unity march was the largest ever protest in French history, with an estimated 3.3 million people across the country. France and its people have taken a stand against those who seek to destroy its liberties and rights. The freedoms of expression and of faith are absolutely fundamental to our way of life in the free world. This is nowhere more precious than here in Europe which saw the end of World War II seventy years ago, where these freedoms were seriously at risk.         
It is easy to forget how close Paris is to us. Geographically, Paris is a similar distance from Crawley as Manchester is. Obviously, language is a barrier to many of us but I prefer to focus on what unites us than what divides us. People here have had great sympathy for France and have shown solidarity with our French cousins in the wake of the assault on their freedoms.
Last week was not a time for politics but this will return and it remains unknown how this will play out politically. Here in the UK, we are sometimes told to celebrate diversity but I prefer to respect diversity and to celebrate what unites us. I hope that going forward after the French attacks and unity rally, that people in all European countries from all backgrounds can have a greater sense of shared national identity and will look to celebrate their unity. Ultimately what unites us will always be greater than what divides us."