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Damn the Meon Valley

April 8, 2009

column-picture2Well well well. Sounds like my Conservative counterpart’s stamina is faltering a little.

In her column last week, the irritation about Gordon Brown not calling an election until the very last gasp was palpable.

But, I detect that this was not entirely on behalf of the electorate.

At a glance, Amber’s piece may have read as though her primary concern was how the lack of a General Election this year (as well as the state of the economy) will affect ordinary people.

But the subtext, if I may do a little psychologising, appeared to me to say, this is tough this politics lark; I do wish they’d picked me in the Meon Valley…

The Meon Valley? Great Scott, what is he talking about now?!

Well the Meon Valley is near Winchester. And for those of you who weren’t aware, it was Amber’s first choice of parliamentary seat.

Hastings & Rye came up a few weeks afterwards, at the back end of 2006.

Whilst, like Amber, I am no fan Gordon Brown, I do not criticise him for his performance at G20.

Certainly I do not believe that David Cameron would have done any better.

It is important that we understand that our own domestic problems are located in, and will only be improved by, a wider set of mutual, international relationships.

It is in this sense that, on a smaller scale, I believe the Hastings & St Leonards Town Conference was such a success last week.

Held at Azur, it offered the opportunity to think laterally and in a partnership-oriented way about the area’s future, as well as to locate our problems in the national and international economic context.

Coming from St Helens, I am all too aware of how towns can have a tendency to introspection. It may not be a popular thing to say, but I believe Hastings & St Leonards can at times fall victim to this too.

The conference offered a number of ideas in respect of how best to weather the economic storm.

There were ideas in respect of sustainability, eco-tourism and using green and digital technologies (in partnership with our FE and higher education sector) to create specialisms, and more importantly, jobs.

It was all music to the ears of a Liberal Democrat.

Our ‘Green Road out of the Recession’ plans are very much in the same vein.

We brainstormed at the end of the day about how to improve the Hastings & St Leonards community strategy.

My own view is that, at every stage, we need to prioritise hearing the voices of our most disadvantaged, so that we have a true picture of how well our most vulnerable residents are being served by our policies, and protected in these turbulent times.

Whilst I can imagine them nodding, I haven’t heard anything from the Conservatives to convince me that they are committed to this too.


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