Monthly Archives: March 2014

Euro Hustings in Camberley 28 March 2014

The European Parliament elections are on 22 May 2014, less than two months away. It is vital that all Labour supporters, wherever they live, come out and vote. The election uses proportional representation, so every Labour vote will count.

One of our candidates, John Howarth, will be speaking at a hustings meeting in Camberley. I know John well and he is an excellent public speaker. He will be a brilliant MEP but he will only have the chance to represent us if Labour supporters remember to vote on 22 May.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing John make mincemeat of his opponents at the hustings. See you all there!

Euro Hustings in Camberley

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Surrey Heath

Last night I attended the selection hustings in Camberley where the Surrey Heath Labour Party chose their candidate to be MP in 2015. There was a very strong field of candidates, which was fantastic to see. Each candidate gave a five minute speech and then answered questions from the audience. I was able to ask a question to each of them. Having been through this process recently, I appreciated it from the candidates’ point of view as well. It is a challenging time for potential PPCs but the members and the voters of Surrey Heath would expect nothing less.

At the end, we all voted by ranking the candidates in order of preference, 1, 2, 3, etc. This is how the selection process was run in Guildford too. There were a similar number of postal votes too. The process was overseen by a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee.

The winner was Laween Atroshi, who I thought answered the questions from the floor particularly well. He has a great commitment to the party and the people of Surrey Heath. I think members were impressed with the work he has done researching the constituency and we were all pleased that he chose to apply here.

I think the Labour Party is really lucky to have candidates of such a high quality as Laween. He is energetic, talented and committed to working for everyone in Surrey Heath. As the PPC in a neighbouring constituency, I look forward to working with him on the many issues which affect voters in both our constituencies. Michael Gove will have a fight on his hands in 2015!

Me congratulating Laween Atroshi after the count

Me congratulating Laween Atroshi after the count

Our Responsibility to Future Voters

I was very pleased today to be invited to speak at the assembly of the Duke of Kent School in Ewhurst. Young people are finding they are less and less of a priority for government and policy makers. I feel we have a responsibility to help them regain democratic influence and power.

The Duke of Kent School

The Duke of Kent School

Yesterday’s budget showed starkly the political reality that older people are much more likely to vote than younger ones. George Osborne offered a cash bribe to pensioners, one of many. He will subsidise the interest rates they receive on their savings. Over-65s will have state money added to the market rates if they are lucky enough to have spare cash, for them only. This imbalance in democratic power is out in the open and its cause is undisputed. I have written about this before.

I spoke to the pupils about how they will need to use their voice, but not just for themselves. The Duke of Kent School is a private school and the pupils receive a privileged education. This means they have a responsibility for others who are less fortunate through no fault of their own.

There were some really good questions from pupils after my speech. I was asked about Labour’s taxation policy, the armed forces, affordable housing, immigration, my job as an airline pilot. I was even asked about Ed Balls’ performance on that morning’s Today Programme.

It was very pleasing to see that school pupils have such an interest in current affairs. This is vital for the years to come when the temptation of policy makers will be to continue to chase the pensioner vote at the expense of the next generation.

Guildford Tories Run Out of Excuses

As regular readers will be aware, Conservative Guildford Borough Council is rushing to war on the Green Belt. Their acceptance of developers’ wishes to build on pristine greenfield sites instead of previously developed brownfield ones has met with huge public opposition. There have been well-supported petitions and marches, and not just from people who normally oppose Conservative policies either.

Hapless, two-time drink-driver Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, who is still Leader of Guildford BC, has blamed central government and the Planning Inspectorate. He claimed that if GBC submitted a Local Plan which did not meet independently assessed housing needs then the Inspectorate would force a change in Green Belt boundaries. He tried to persuade people to accept a reduction in the Green Belt of their choosing rather than have one forced on us, which he said was inevitable.

It turns out he was wrong, either deliberately or inadvertently. The Planning Minister, Nick Boles, sent a letter to the Planning Inspectorate last week (and made a written submission to Parliament) on this subject which couldn’t clearer: Nick Boles letter

He says that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, will prevent the Planning Inspectorate overruling local authorities if they decide not to change Green Belt boundaries, even if it means they miss their housing targets. A link to the statement is here. The second bullet point claims that Boles is:

re-affirming green Belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green Belt and other harm to constitute very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development

This puts Cllr Mansbridge and Tory Guildford Borough Council in a rather tricky spot. I was interviewed on BBC Surrey radio last Thursday about this.

I think it is time for Cllr Mansbridge to listen to the public and scrap plans to change Green Belt boundaries within Guildford Borough. He has claimed that the council cannot live within its budget and needs the New Homes Bonus that building on the Green Belt would bring. He has also raised Council Tax this year by the maximum allowed. However, the cut to GBC’s non-ringfenced central government funding has only been 2.1% since 2010, much less than the 34%+ suffered by some less fortunate authorities.

Under Mansbridge, GBC seem unable to make efficiencies or even meet basic expectations of residents. He recently wrote a very long letter to the Surrey Advertiser grumbling and moaning about how it wasn’t his fault that Council Tax was rising, the traffic in Guildford is impossible, the Green Belt was about to be lost and there was no hope of building the new homes we need.

Guildford needs new leadership. We need to get a grip. Protect our Green Belt. Force developers to use the planning permissions they already hold. Sort out the abysmal traffic and transport problems. And stop demanding ever higher Council Tax from even the poorest families in the borough.

Cllr Mansbridge has had two warnings already. He told the Prime Minister that he expects to lose control of the council along with the parliamentary seat in 2015. People in Guildford can’t wait that long. Mansbridge should go now before extending his record of failure. He has run out of excuses.

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