Stroud lost their widely loved Labour and Cooperative MP David Drew, as Neil Carmichael the Conservative pipped him to the post at Thursday’s General Election. David was not loved because of his party (indeed this was a problematic area for many), but because of his record as a “constituent MP”. In other words, because he made it known that he cared about his constituents and worked on their behalf. David set down the challenge for Neil during his speech on Friday morning saying that he would “drop the files off so you Neil can get started”. On the campaign trail I met numerous hardened Conservatives who were going to vote for David because they knew someone David had personally helped out. Neil must be able to show that he can represent all of his constituents not just the 30% who had voted for him by taking up these cases.
Stroud in the past has had less than effective Conservative MP’s. The most recent of which was Roger Knapman, who later went on to become leader of the UK Independence Party. It is widely held in the Stroud Valleys that Roger represented a wholly different kind of politics to David, despite their shared scepticism of the EU. Roger was born in Devon and soon after being defeated by David in 97 returned to Devon to contest a seat in North Devon. This is in stark contrast to David Drew who is truly seen as a local “Stroudite” (whether this is a good thing or not remains to be debated).
Many fear Neil may just be another Roger; a man too busy with the dealings of Westminster to be able to truly represent Stroud. I have heard countless “stoudies” rubbish Neil’s character with little or no basis. I say, let’s wait; at least until he has made a mistake before we start the attack.
Neil, academically speaking, represents a more progressive wing of conservatism. He has assured me that he opposes the Conservative’s involvement with the ECR group in the European Parliament because of the “unsavoury nature” of those who they sit with in coalition for example. There is no reason to believe (at this stage) that Neil will be any worst a constituent MP than David (although he must prove this) and there is no reason to think that he will be any worse than other elected Conservatives (just think we could have Dr Fox as our representative). Essentially, I am saying lets hold our fire and let him prove himself (for the good or the bad). At this stage we should be giving him all the support we can to see if he can give it his best shot. I want the best for Stroud and this will only happen if we try to work positively with our new MP.
Neil remains a decent hard working person. He was before he got elected, and he will remain to be so. We might disagree with some of his politics, but I do not see any advantage attacking the man. Equally, I see no point in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by talking up the “inevitable demise of the next 5 years”. Now is the time to be drawing out shared politics such as our equal commitment to localism and see how this can benefit Stroud and its surrounding valleys. Will Neil publicly back the community supported agriculture project in Stroud for example? Will he push for the investment needed (not cuts) in the Stroud valleys to make us a leading force in renewable technologies (including the manufacturing of wind turbines despite the hysteria in the Cotswold villages)? Will he really work to challenge the gender pay gap that persists in our society? These are all issues that Neil and the Greens agree need to be tackled; these are the sorts of areas that I would love to see Neil and the Greens working together on.
As far as I can see, he has done nothing to deserve the hatred that I have heard off people (not from Greens but from members of the public and other political parties), he simply has the misfortune of representing the Conservative Party. Let’s hope that Neil has the vision and the perspective to engage across the political spectrum for the good of the people of the Stroud valleys and beyond!
A simple yes or no question for this blog entry. Do you think these videos put out by the Green Party this week are fun, effective bits of campaigning; or do you think they are juvenile pieces of rubbish that undermine the serious nature of this election? I personally, think that if accompanied with some serious debate these videos can be a good thing to engage people with the election. What do you think?
Hold your candidates to account and learn from the Paxman!
Have you been watching the TV leaders debates, been to local hustings or tried to contact your local parliamentary candidate? Are you, like me, a little fed up with the unbelievably low standard of questioning that these individuals face? Too often I have heard questions like “What do you think about immigration?” or “I’m worried about schools, what are you going to do about it”? These sorts of questions just gives these trained politicians a chance to fill up the 5 minuets response with well-practiced spin. If you want to get to the heart of what your MP will be doing, try following these golden rules and ask some of these questions:
Quote something that their party leadership has said or done (or even better, something they have done…for example voting records – see theyworkforyou.com).
Make it local…take a national issue and relate it to whats happening locally (eg is there a new nuclear power plant planned for near where you live?)
Keep hold of the microphone…let them finish and then point out they have not answered your question (which they probably will not have)…re-ask it in a simplified form and if necessary “do a Paxman” on them.
For a Tory ask:
Do you think its acceptable for your party to be in coalition with “anti-Semitic, xenophobic homophobes” (in the words of MacMillan Scott) in the European Parliament? If you do, because they share your belief that Europe should not be a “federal Europe”, can you explain why you will not sit with Nick Griffin MEP who also shares this view?
Does you or your party still consider it acceptable for people to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality? If you do not, will you champion a move to get your party to apologies for Chris Graylings insensitive remarks and ask for his removal from his current post?
Can you guarantee your party will adopt policies to reach a 90% reduction in Green Houses Gases by 2050? If you can, could you outline how you plan to make such massive savings?
For a Labour candidate ask:
In light of the new generation of nuclear power plants planning to be built by your government, can you explain to me what will happen to the issue of waste? Assuming you have an answer to that, could you explain to me why it has not been made public?
Why are you pushing ahead with a biometric database using fingerprints, when fingerprinting is widely recognised as being inferior and less reliable to eye scans? Is your party putting money ahead of public safety?
Will you apologise to the families and friends of the hundreds of thousands of service men and civilians who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq?
For a Lib-Dem candidate ask:
In light of the economic melt down in Greece, would you still advocate Britain joining the Euro?
Do you support the EU’s drive to further its energy relationship with countries such as Iran, Turkmenistan and Nigeria, some of the worst human rights violators in the world? Should the EU put principles above its energy security?
What are the economic conditions that are needed for you to implement your previous commitment to scrap tuition fees? Do we face a danger that this might be placed on a back burner?
These are just a few questions plucked out of the dark…research your candidates and hold them to account.