Theresa May has called an election and thus far she has two policies (if you can call them that).
1. She's a strong Leader.
2. She's not Jeremy Corbyn.
Given that no one believes she's Jeremy Corbyn, I guess that if you think anyone would be better than Jeremy Corbyn, then she's definately got a point with policy number 2. What about Policy number one though. Is Theresa May a strong leader? I think that this is very much spin and smoke and mirrors. Firstly strong leaders stick to their principles and don't bend with the wind, swim with the tide or change their stance to go with the prevailing flow. Before the referendum, May supported remain. She is an adult who has spent her life in politics, so presumably, she believed that this was the best option for the UK. But now, because the prevailing mood in the country last year was to support Brexit, she too has bent with the wind. And what is the Brexit plan of this strong leader? She won't tell us. When Maggie Thatcher wanted a better deal, she told us she was going to Brussels, armed with her handbag, to get our money back. Her view was that as a strong leader, going into the talks with a clear position was the way to get a deal. May won't lay out her cards, because she is scared that she won't get what she wants and then will be held to account. Does that sound like strong Leadership to you? Personally, I think she's failed this test already. She is a weak leader, who's whole strategy is to run and hide. She is too scared to even hold a debate with the opposition. You may say "But why should she, she's storming ahead in the polls?". Well that is true in England, but it's not true in Scotland. There we have the SNP who are seeking a mandate to destroy the Union. Whilst May's cowardice may go down well in England, it may will be what finally breaks the Union. Is that strong Leadership?
Then there is the local scene. Who do we vote for? Well here in Hendon, at the moment, The Labour Party haven't selected a candidate. We have a sitting MP, Matthew Offord, who is a Conservative. What is his record like? How has he done representing us. I bumped into Matthew at The Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum AGM on Wednesday. Strangely, I didn't see him there last year, when there wasn't an election in the offing (although maybe that is my poor eyesight and he was just not sitting next to me then). In fact, I've not seen or heard from Matthew since the election in 2015. I did hear him say that he was as surprised as everyone else by Theresa May doing a complete U-Turn and calling an election. I believe him, as I'm sure he'd have done a bit more locally if he'd had an inkling.
I was amused to see his PLAN FOR TRANPORT was dated November 2012 and said
30 November 2012That was five years ago and it is fair to say that the last five years have been an unmitigated disaster for Thameslink users. Matthew boasted that he was the chair of the all party group on Thameslink. Given the chaos on the line, surely that says everything we need to know about how he does his job. According to the Thameslink website only 68% of trains arrived on time yesterday.
Matthew sought reassurance from the Transport Minister that the Thameslink improvement programme remains on schedule.
Matthew, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Thameslink, raised the matter in the House of Commons as a result of speculation that there were errors in the procurement process for the Thameslink rolling stock. Concern had been expressed about Thameslink in the light of the “flaws” discovered in the competition process to run the West Coast Main Line.
Matthew said: “As a user of Thameslink I have first-hand experience of this line and understand the problems that face hard working commuters and other users. I am therefore anxious that there should be no delays in the upgrade programme and I am pleased that the Minister confirmed that the requirements of EU procurement law had been met in connection with Thameslink and that the whole process should conclude early in the new year.
I will continue to monitor that this programme - which will provide new and longer trains between a wider range of stations without requiring passengers to change trains in London - remains on track so that my constituents in Edgware, Mill Hill and Hendon receive the smooth and comfortable journey they deserve.”
Friday 28th April 2017
Unlike the vast majority of voters in Hendon, Matthew is a hard Brexiteer. He was a vocal supporter of the Brexit campaign and wants to see a firm exit. On his website he clearly states "He welcomed the Prime Minister's comments that we are not seeking partial membership of the EU or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.". I want an MP who reflects the views of the majority of his voters on this most important issue. Matthew Offord doesn't. This is what he posted on his website immediately after the referendum.
"Yesterday's vote was a historic moment in Britain's history. The people of the United Kingdom democratically decided that - even with the Prime Minister's negotiated deal - they do not want this country to continue to be a member of the European Union.
I agreed with that view and voted to leave in order to take back our country." - Matthew Offord MP
Then there is the issue of same sex marriage. Matthew Offord is again out of step with the majority of Hendon Voters. Pink News reported that Dr Offord previously wrote to a PinkNews.co.uk reader in his constituency to say that he did “not see the point” in legalising equal marriage because gay couples could not have children. I do not want such a person representing me in Parliament. This is not only insulting to all of the Gay people in the UK, but also to those heterosexual people who through choice or circumstance are childless.
Finally there is the issue of the Green Belt. The Barnet Tories have recently voted, against the wishes of the vast majority of people in Mill Hill, to allow Hasmonean School to build on 14 acres of green belt land in Copthall. Matthew Offord has claimed on his website that he believes in protecting the Green Belt and ensuring local people's wishes are respected. This is what he says on his website.
"I will fight to protect the Green Belt"
Fine words, but it's not what he told a local resident who emailed him about the application.
"The decision on whether to agree the application is one for members of Barnet Council, not the Member of Parliament.If you have any questions about the application, please contact your local councillors."
So much for fighting to protect the Green Belt. Whilst an MP does not take the decision, he clearly can influence the process and bring pressure to bear on his colleagues. In short, his words are completely misleading. He can't have it both ways.
So those are the reasons I will not be voting for Matthew Offord. Which begs the question, who will I be voting for. In previous years, I've voted for Labour, believing that they hold the most realistic chance of beating Mr Offord. This time, I believe the choice is a very different one. I don't know who the Labour candidate will be. I am sure it will be a fine upstanding individual, with the best intentions. It is most likely that I will consider them a significant improvement on Mr Offord. However, I believe they have zero chance of beating him. Therefore, I need to look at the bigger picture. I believe that we need to send a big message to the Barnet Conservatives that they are out of touch with the people.
I have concluded that the best way to send this message is to vote for Alasdair Hill, The Hendon Liberal Democrat candidate. The reasons.
1. Alasdair campaigned tirelessly for Remain. The Lib Dems have a clear and consistent policy, which I fully agree with. They believe that Brexit will be a huge mistake. I believe this as well. I don't buy the "it's been decided" argument, just as Brexiteers never accepted the wisdom of the referendum to stay in the EU in 1975. If you see friends and neighbours making a mistake that will cause them serious harm, do you say "they made their decision, let them suffer" or do you say "It is my duty to try and make them change course and avoid the harm". The UK electorate were not offered a choice between two futures. They were offered a decision with both sides telling a pack of lies. I believe the referendum should be rerun, when a deal is formulated and if people then decide it is what they want, that will be a different story. A 2% margin, bought with the £350 million a week for the the NHS, is not a mandate of any sort. If you buy a product in the John Lewis and it doesn't do what it says on the tin, you can take it back. The same should apply to politicians lying at Referendums. Offord believes in Brexit at any cost. As an MP, his salary and his pension is gold plated, so it doesn't matter to him. It does however have huge implications for our city and our country.
2. Alasdair is supportive of the campaign to hold Govia, the Thameslink operator to account. He has been involved in local politics in Mill Hill for several years and understands the issues and the solutions. I've discussed the problems with Thameslink with Alasdair regularly and he recognises that cosying up to the operator and attending lots of nice jollies is not the way to improve service.
3. The local Lib Dems have a decades long track record of protecting the green belt in Mill Hill. Between 1994 and 2010, the majority of Mill Hill Councillors were Lib Dems. They fought passionately to protect the Green Belt and stood at the front of campaigns, with local people. Since they lost power, the Green Belt has been under ever greater pressure. The Tories need a strong message in Mill Hill that people have seen through their porkies. Even if Alasdair fails to win in the ward of Hendon, a strong Lib Dem vote in Mill Hill will send a message they can't ignore.
4. Alasdair is supportive of equality and outlawing discrimination and division on the issue of same sex marriage. The Lib Dems are a progressive party. I was delighted to learn that former Mill Hill Lib Dem Councillor Jeremy Davies was able to marry his partner, following the change in the law. I have huge respect for Jeremy and I am delighted at how happy he seems, now that he can have a fulfilling and legally recognised marriage. I was not a fan of many of the things the coalition did, but the Lib Dems gave David Cameron the support to face down bigots like Matthew Offord who believe they have the right to pontificate to others how they should live their lives and who they should fall in love with.
There are several issues which I do feel I should clarify.
1.The coalition with the Tories. I was shocked when this happened. It never occurred to me that such an outcome was possible. I felt deeply uncomfortable with it. I was a Lib Dem and I left the party over the student loans issue, which I felt was a betrayal. However, having seen the chaos that has ensured in the two years since the coalition finished, I have realised that whilst the coalition was far from perfect, it was at least a sane and rational government, that made much much progressive change, Same Sex marriage, big rises in minimum wages, raising start rate of income tax to £10,000. Perhaps the best was that they kept us out of military action in Syria. It is intuitive to see that Boris is now talking about airstrikes on Syria without parliamentary authority. I stopped supporting Labour over its illegal war in Iraq and its treatment of asylum seekers. Ultimately, I do not believe that we should be murdering people in other countries, unless there is a threat to us. We should not get involved in proxy wars.
2, Student loans. The Lib Dems were wrong for breaking their promises and betraying students ( I have two kids at Uni so I know all about that).Nothing has changed my mind. I believe the Lib Dems should apologise and admit they were bang out of order. As Alasdair Hill was not a Lib Dem at the time of the promise, he has no charge to answer. Yes it was wrong, but it is far less wrong than invading Iraq and seeing hundreds of thousands suffer and die. No party is perfect, all are deeply flawed, you just have to pick the least bad.
3. A future coalition between the Lib Dems and the Tories. 2010 opened my eyes. This could happen. The only solace I can take is that at least we'll have a degree of sanity smeared on the Tories and their destructive policies. If the choice is a Tory Majority or a coalition, I'm grown upe enough to see that a coalition is a far safer option for the UK.
4. A "Grand Coalition" between Labour/Lib Dems/SNP. This is far more likely than many realise. The Labour core vote will not collapse. It was pretty low under Milliband and so is unlikely to be decimated in the way that right wing fantasists dream. I can see the Lib Dems taking back many seats. As to the SNP neing in government, they already are in Scotland. Is it a banana republic? No. From what I've seen it is still functioning just fine. Would it work? I think it is likely that Jeremy Corbyn would not be PM, as Labour MP's have been trying to cook up a wheeze to dethrone him. If Lib Dems & SNP make it a condition, then that is what will happen. I doubt Corbyn really wants the job. I suspect that we will end up with a prgamatic government that is actually far better than anyone expects. In my experience, pragmatism is the best policy for running a country. The one thing which I think will be marvellous should this happen, is that we won't be starting any more proxy wars.
I sort of feel that the coalition experience of 2010 was where I lost my political virginity in the harshest of fashion. Having recovered from the trauma, I can now move forward as an adult, the scales have fallen from my eyes about what might happen. Of all the options, a massive Tory majority is the worst. In Barnet, a backlash against the out of touch Brexit MP's is perhaps the one saving grace we can work for.