Leigh and Westcliff Times article April 2015

Leigh and Westcliff Times article April 2015

I have vivid memories of polling day in the 1970 General Election – my classroom at Chalkwell Hall Junior School was being used as a polling station. It was no day off for me though as I can recall encouraging voters to support Harold Wilson from my playground vantage point.

My political journey began, arguably, some forty-two years before my 1959 birth – although radicalism may have come down to me through my St.John genes. In May 1917 Arthur Ware Lane died at Arras, leaving my grandmother a widow and my father a three-year old without a father. Penury ensued, and hardship during the tough inter-war years moulded my dad’s left-wing politics.

Poverty and under-employment gave my father first-hand experience of the injustices sometimes meted out in a capitalist society; when my father started to discuss politics with me he passed on the belief that the world could, and should, be a better place.

Equality – a one-word description of my politics, a belief that we all are equal. This is not just about discrimination, although I abhor prejudices of any description. It is also about life chances – I want a meritocracy, something that can only exist if we create a society where everyone is able to fully realise their potential.

Does a Westcliff-upbringing equip one for public office? Does more than two decades as a local football referee help, or the years in local sports administration? Does my career, which began in the civil service and ended up working for many blue-chip companies help either? Well, if you believe that living in and being brought in the community I seek to serve is a bonus, then yes. If you think a life spent outside of politics helps, then yes. If you think many recreational hours spent serving my community helps, then yes again.

I do not claim any special qualification for the role beyond caring for my town, knowing my town, working for my town. However, I can claim to have spent many years battling against injustice and tackling prejudice. I have also sought to serve, and am known for my willingness to seek roles, and perform well in them. These roles, for sporting bodies, political organisations, and charities, I have enjoyed doing, despite the many hours often involved.

I am also a parent and grandparent, and a husband of thirty-two years. I am an indifferent gardener who somehow managed to win an award last year.

Having a set of principles is, I think, important, and my democratic socialism guides me. I am, too, a pragmatist, happy to seek the compromise and aware that I have to represent those who may not share my outlook.

Voting is a compromise. It has to be. How can any party purport to represent every view of those who might vote for it? It comes down to choosing the one which shares most of your values. It is also about competence. It might be noble to vote for a minor party that champions a cause particularly dear to one’s heart, and it might be appealing to protest – but is it really worth the gamble? Unless a Government is competent personal and national wealth are at risk, as well as personal and national security. However, there is a place for ideology and for ideologues. If there is one thing wrong with UK politics it is the apparent lack of core values in some of those who seek to represent us. Seeking to be in power is a means, not an ends. We must have politicians with convictions, with principles that they can resort to when making judgements on our behalf.

Government is about running the country, preserving peace, creating prosperity, maintaining a lawful civil society. Government is management. For me, though, there is more. I hope we are heading towards a better place. I do not believe that the Conservative Party wants a world which serves the many; theirs is an ethos aimed at preserving elites and serving the few.

Some years ago, not long after the 2010 General Election, we were told that, “We are all in this together”. If only. When we are in a fix, as happened after the financial crash in 2007/8, then I believe that everyone recognises a need to pull together. Except…

Except that the last five years have not seen us all in it together. Instead we have seen millionaires rewarded whilst the poorest are paying for the ills of the bankers. Bedroom Tax, ATOS assessments, trebling of tuition fees. This illustrates the point that the Tories are not capable of serving the needs of the many. Vote them out on May 7th.

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