Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
Substance in politics is what really matters but sometimes the tone matters too. Contrast the opening efforts in the General Election campaign between Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
Gordon Brown and the Labour Party have launched divisive attacks – based on class, on bankers, on those with support hunting. The tone is one that seeks to deflect blame from the Government’s own failings but also one which seeks to divide the country in to “them” and “us”.
Yesterday, David Cameron launched the Conservative Party’s draft health manifesto, which you can read here, Conservative Party Draft Health Manifesto.
The draft manifesto has lots of sensible initiatives that will focus money on the provision of healthcare rather than management and process initiatives.
The draft manifesto also points the way forward to give each of us more power to choose our public health providers, and it does it in a very sensible way, seeing the GP as our guide rather than relying on us as isolated – and, sometimes, ill-informed – “consumers”.
Last year, over 1000 residents in Bedford and Kempston participated in my survey of local health services and issues – a huge response rate and one that indicates how important the NHS is to us all.
A summary of some of the findings from the survey is available here, 2009 Health Survey Feedback.
So the Mayor, Executive and now the Council have made the decision to move, now, to a two-tier education system. We will embark on an expensive overhaul of our soon to be “Upper” schools and an expansion of the size of our Primary schools.
Putting on one-side the educational merits of two-tier vs three-tier – and on balance, I believe the arguments were in favour of two tier – the decision for a change is a very risky one at this time. The current government has so severely undermined the economy that there is very little faith that it has the money needed to meet its public funding promises. When the current period of artificial stimulus is over, and whichever party is in government, there will be a strain on the public finances more severe than any in living memory. Yet, despite this backdrop, the Mayor has led the decision to ask the Government for more money and foolishly taken them at their word that they have the wherewithal to pay. I have my doubts.
While others talked, I collected over 500 signatures in support of the Borough Council’s petition for Government funding to complete the bypass. Thank you to all of you who signed and joined the effort for this long overdue improvement. I believe that we need to put pressure on this Government to get them to help finish the job otherwise congestion will get even worse across town.
Jim Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer of Unilever PLC, was my guest at the inaugural meeting of Bedford Futures Business Club. Unilever is a major local employer and I toured their Colworth facility learning about Unilever’s new conference centre and their advances in ice cream technology!
Jim spoke about Unilever’s recession beating strategies and expressed support for my campaigns to strengthen Bedford as a business location.
I toured local Sure Start centres in Kempston, Cauldwell, Kingsbrook and Bedford town centre with Lynne Summerfield, Programme Manager. For families with kids under 5, Lynne and her dedicated teams provide a range of helpful advice, run self-help groups and offer childcare at their day nurseries. Local charity, Spurgeons, provides additional support for the services. I was very impressed with the commitment of staff and happy to confirm Mr Cameron’s commitment to continue support for Sure Start under the next Conservative Government.
Beds on Sunday have a video of Parvez where he outlines his priorities for serving the people of the Borough of Bedford. Parvez’s key themes are: keeping Council tax down – reducing waste and cutting costs; striking a fairer balance between the rural and urban parts of our Borough; and, being a listening Mayor responding to the needs and requirements of local residents. Well worth a look
If you want to see the efforts of the other candidates, they are also available on the BoS site.
The people of Bedford Borough have, in Parvez Akhtar, the chance to elect one of our own to provide the new leadership that our Borough needs after the untimely passing of Frank Branston.
Parvez Akhtar, is the person for the moment, and I am delighted to endorse him wholeheartedly and it is an honour to be campaigning hard for him to win the Mayoralty.
With only 20 yards of bicycling experience in the last ten years, I was clearly looking for support from others for my “challenge” to cycle from Bedford to Oxford (a 66 mile route) on Saturday.
I was blessed with support from many people. First – and crucially – from the Mayor of Kempston, Cllr Steve Collins, who kindly loaned me his bicycle for the trip. Thank you, Steve, and I promise to return the bike to you in roughly the same shape as you gave it to me.
Second of all, thanks to the irrepressible Holly, from St Paul’s Church whose prayers for fine weather for the ride were answered in abundance.
Thanks also to all of the riders who fulfilled the challenge – in part or in full – on behalf of the Beds and Herts Historic Churches Trust. Please support this worthwhile cause by emailing them here.
Finally, a personal word of thanks to Ben Waine who roped me in for this ride. When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was full of dread at my lack of preparation. I knew I would be the “tortoise” in the race and Ben kindly encouraged me along. At great surprise to myself and the people who sponsored me (thanks to them too) I made it. So thanks, Ben, for the encouragement and support. It turned out to be a great pleasure.