I bumped into my old friend, Councillor Hugh Rayner today (more of that later this week), who was attending the launch of a local community scheme. As ever I had a good chat with Hugh and he handed me one of the local Conservative leaflets promoting Matthew Offord. The cover said "Discover my 6 point plan for improving our local area". I rather excitedly opened the document up to see what exciting plans Matthew had concocted in the five years he's been our local MP.
Excitedly I turned the pages,trying to find out what Matthews plan was.
Page 2 - Tackling crime in Hendon, Edgware, Burnt Oak, Mill Hill and Colindale. He says "I will fight for the Police to be given support to tackle issues like gangs, anti Semitism, and violence againts vulnerable people and I will continue to work with residents to ensure our area is a safe place to live." Fine words indeed, but surely that could apply to just about any area in North West London. Does it constitute a plan? No it is a cut and paste job from the "how to be a good Tory candidate handbook". A plan is to say something like "In Burnt Oak, I've been out at night with the Police to see anti social behaviour for myself first hand. As a result of this, I've sat down with the Borough commander and we've identified the following priorities". That is what an MP who was doing his job would say. An MP with cut and paste platitudes is to my mind insulting our intelligence.
Page 3. Continuing to improve our childrens schools.
Matthew says "I will make certain that the government again provides funding for vital school security which was refused by the last Labour government". Again another cut and paste job. Our locality actually has rather good schools. If Matthew wasn't so lazy, he'd mention a few of them and say how he'd personally got involved to make a difference and highlight his plans going forward. Why hasn't he?
Safeguarding the Environment.
Matthew says "I will build on my work to clean and protect local waterways such as the Silkstream and will continue to work with local residents in Edgware, Mill Hill, Burnt Oak, Colindale and Hendon to improve local environments." Matthew is referring to a recent litter pick in the Silk Stream in Burnt Oak. Now whilst this is a good thing and is an example of what I was saying above, it is so marginal to the threats to our environment locally as to be laughable. In Mill Hill we have green belt, which is under massive threat. Where has Matthew been in local campaigns to protect it? Mill Hill Broadway bus station has some of the most polluted air in Europe, as busses rev engines with poor localised air circulation and fumes from the M1 spill down. In five years Matthew has done nothing to address this. Even more alarming, the station is usually full of children waiting for buses breathing toxic fumes and diesel particles. Surely this is the type of local environmental challenge Matthew should be addressing. Where are the low emission and hybrid buses that the Tory Mayor could insist we had? Sadly the hundreds of School children who breath this polluted atmosphere don't vote.
Page 4. Getting a better deal for train users.
Matthew mentions the £6.5billion Thameslink project. Sadly he says nothing about any tangible benefits from this scheme for Mill Hill, Hendon or Cricklewood stations. We have recently found out that both Hendon and Cricklewood station are at risk of closure due to the new station at Brent Cross and Mill Hill may lose 2 rush hour trains an hour to accomodate fast services from Brent Cross. Matthew doesn't mention this. He talks about Step Free access at Mill Hill East. He's been in office for five years and all he's done for Mill Hill East is seen direct services cut to the bone.
Promoting more support for local businesses.
He says he "I will continue to argue for local initiatives on parking to help traders and shoppers". This is absolute hypocrisy. The local Tory council have hiked parking charges, removed cash pay and display machines from the Borough, imposed "exclusion zones" all over Mill Hill for Saracens and ignored a petition with 20,000 signatures about parking. Did Matthew Offord accompany traders to support them? He didn't want to know.
Page 5, Helping local people who work and save.
Matthew says "I will argue for the cap in welfare benefits to remain to help remove abuse of the welfare system and ensure that being in work pays". This is very twisted logic. If you work and you save, then you get a chronic illness, you are denied benefits if you have a decent pot of savings. You can only claim benefits when you've spent all your money. I work and I save, but this government has done nothing to help me. This is Matthews local plan. Where is the talk of local credit unions or schemes to get people into work. Where is the help in his constituency to get people who are trapped in benefit dependency into local jobs, apprenticeships and schemes. Matthew doesn't mention any. What conclusion can we draw?
As I said, I feel sorry for his Tory chums. The public judge politicians on their record and their actions. After five years and effective local MP should have a whole list of successes and acheivements in their locality to list in their leaflets. Offords Tory predecessor in Hendon was John Gorst, who even Labour supporters grudgingly accepted was a good constituency MP. Not even Tory activists claim that about Offord in private. Offords leaflet sums his record and his actions up. It is all rather sad. His idea of a "local leaflet" is a cut and paste jobbie from the Tory Candidate handbook. It has no decent examples of local action. We can only conclude that this is because there are none.
One final rather hilarious note. At the back there is a "signed statement" from David Cameron. In it he says "I know how hard Matthew Offord MP works for this area because I have seen it in Westminster and in Hendon with Matthew working day in, day out. Now far be it from me to cast aspersions on the veracity of the Prime Minister, but when was the last time you saw him in Hendon monitoring Matthew Offords work rate? You know what they say about people who can't be trusted with small things......