Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Brexit - We Need To Respect Differences

Insulting Leave voters - Labour candidate for Three Bridges & Pound Hill South

Today, Wednesday the 29th of March sees the much-anticipated triggering of Article 50 which starts the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union. I am optimistic about our leaving of the EU and I believe that our country has a very bright future as a uniquely placed outwardly looking global nation.

The UK voted Leave by 52% to 48% in last June’s referendum and in Crawley we voted Leave by 58% to 42%. However, while my view and the majority view is positive about us leaving the EU, I recognise that over 40% is a very significant minority and that not only do people like myself need to recognise this opposing view, we need to be respectful of it. Indeed, I recognise the concerns about the uncertainty going forward that many Remain voters have. This is why I think that as start to leave the EU, we need to come together and make sure we make the very best of it for our country’s future, regardless of how we all voted last June.

Therefore, it is very disappointing that the Crawley Labour Party feel unable to be respectful of differing views from theirs on Brexit. I was appalled when the day after the referendum that Julian Charatan, who is the former Chairman of the Crawley Labour Party and also Labour’s candidate for Three Bridges & Pound Hill South in the upcoming County Council elections on 4th May, wrote on his publicly viewable Facebook account: “So it’s confirmed. We live on a nasty little island where a majority of ignorant little bigots have just voted to slash their economic throats”.
While feelings can run high in politics, all of us involved in public life should maintain respect for opposing viewpoints and certainly not be insulting of those who exercised their democratic right to vote Leave in the EU referendum. As we enter these uncertain times with the triggering of Article 50, we will be stronger as a country if we are tolerant and respectful of our differences, and if we all pull together to make sure our country is successful outside of the EU.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Labour Scrap Parking Improvements Budget - To Pay For New Town Hall

Boswell Road in Tilgate where the Conservatives provided more parking spaces  

One of my biggest gripes in politics is seeing the hypocrisy of those who say one thing and then do the opposite, and in doing so, not only hiding information but also misleading the public. This is what I believe happened at last month’s full council meeting at Crawley Borough Council.
In May last year, the Crawley Borough Council elections saw the Labour Administration re-elected. This was very much on the back of a parking petition that Labour circulated in marginal wards such as Southgate, Gossops Green and Tilgate, although they masqueraded it as coming from the community rather than what it really was - an overtly political petition.
Added to this, Labour’s election leaflets claimed that neighbourhood parking problems in Crawley were all the fault of the Conservatives and how only Labour could be trusted to deal with it. This was of course all nonsense, but in the same way that fake news can gain currency when people are frustrated about something, I believe Labour’s disingenuous narrative did resonate and ultimately helped Labour to retain political control of the council.
Nine months later at last week’s full council meeting, the following sequence of events unfolded. Firstly we had the budget agenda item. This contained the capital programme of infrastructure investment, which includes the Council’s long-standing annual budget for neighbourhood parking improvements. This was cynically passed by Labour, full in the knowledge of what was coming next.
We then had an agenda item about whether to proceed with a new town hall in which the detailed paperwork for it was not allowed to be seen by the public. Buried within this paperwork was that the £1.247 million that had just been approved for neighbourhood parking improvements in the budget as usual, was secretly being scrapped, with it all going towards the new town hall instead! The Conservative Group moved an amendment to try and save the parking improvements budget but to no avail as Labour’s Councillors voted us down.
In contrast, the Conservatives in Crawley are pledged to not only reintroduce the parking improvements programme - but to expand it. We also have a range of polices to help address parking problems in Crawley whereas Labour's 'policy' is to just blame the County Council because that is Conservative-run. 
There is a view among some Labour Councillors in Crawley that if you make life difficult enough for motorists, that we will all get on our bikes instead. I am all for encouraging cycling but as a Conservative I believe in people having a choice and not being dictated to, and I certainly don't believe in punishing people for wanting to own a car and to be able to park it near their own home.