Leigh and Westcliff Times article October 2014

In about half a year’s time the people in Southend West, and beyond, will have a very important decision to make, which is who will run the country for the following five years.

The General Election is scheduled for May 7th and on the morning of the 8th of May we will wake up to either another five years of David Cameron and his Conservative-led Government, or we will have a Labour Government. Of course there will be other choices, but ultimately it boils down to this. And what of those other choices? We now know that the Liberal Democrats are content to rubber-stamp all of the Tories plans , even if this means breaking just about every promise they made in the run-up to the previous election. UKIP out-Tory the Conservatives, and seem to principally campaign on their aversion to Europe and immigrants. There may be other candidates, but until we change the way we vote (and I am a long standing member of the Electoral Reform Society) the reality remains of effectively a Lab-Con contest.

However, there is no denying that politics in Britain is changing. If I am elected to represent Southend West I hope to promote the modernisation of our democracy. A good starting point would be votes at sixteen, which proved so successful in the recent Scottish referendum.

In recent weeks there has been quite a lot of chatter about our relationship with Europe and immigration. I am pro-Europe, but I also firmly believe that the EU must change. It has to be made more democratic, it must be able to account for what it spends, and it must not be an excuse for wasteful agricultural policies.

As regards to immigration it strikes me that the debate is marred by misinformation and prejudice. Whilst there are issues with the significant numbers who have arrived in the last fifteen years, we must not lose sight of the benefits that we have gained from immigration. However, mistakes have been made, although for some there will be nothing right about any immigration policy. I think that Labour has learnt from the past and has a different approach. Local people should not be denied the opportunity to get work and so Labour’s plan to ban recruitment agencies that only recruit overseas workers, and to ensure that every large firm hiring a migrant worker from outside the EU must offer an apprenticeship in return is welcome.

Of course, the ratio of workers to the retired is going out of kilter to the extent that we may be faced with a choice between more immigration or penury for the old. Retirement age has already been advanced, and may have to be pushed further back at some point.

UKIP are getting a lot of publicity at the moment, particularly because of their rhetoric about immigration and the EU; yet UKIP cannot stand up for working people. From privatising our NHS to cutting taxes for the richest, they will not serve the working people of Britain. They are more Tory than the Tories.

Labour has recently announced six ambitious national goals for the next decade. These goals will be there to raise people’s sights for what can be achieved . We must be prepared to make our country work for all people again:
1. Giving all young people a shot in life: Ensure as many school-leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.
2. Tackling the cost-of-living crisis: Help working families share fairly in the wealth of our country so, when the economy grows, the wages of everyday working people grow at the same rate.
3. Restoring the dream of home ownership: Meet demand for new homes for the first time in half a century – doubling the number of first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder each year.
4. Tackling low wages: Halve the number of people on low pay in our country, changing the lives of over two million people.
5. Leading the world on green jobs: Create one million more high-tech jobs by securing the UK’s position as a world leader in green industries.
6. Saving our NHS: Build a world-class, 21st century health and care service.

The Labour plan is to cut taxes for millions on middle and low incomes. Labour will bring back the 10p starting rate of tax. Labour will also save and transform the NHS with 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs. The NHS improvements will be paid for by an Our NHS Time to Care Fund, and this will be funded by asking the wealthiest to pay a little more, tackling tax avoidance and asking tobacco firms to pay their fair share.

Southend West needs an MP and a Government that will work for the many, not the few, who will protect cherished public services, giving everyone a stake in our society.


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