Saturday, 31 October 2009

Members' concerns #3 - Facilities for young people and anti-social behaviour (not necessarily related)

I've just spoken to a young member of the CLP - in his early twenties, I'd guess - who made the point about the need, in his opinion, to improve facilities for young people in Darlington.

Firstly, whether it is a concern shared by most of the members remains to be seen, but it's been the first time it was mentioned in calls to a large number of members. But it got me to thinking that, because the profile of not only Darlington but practically every CLP in the country has a tendency towards older members (and I count myself in that bracket, being a tender 42 years old), sometimes we can under-emphasise issues that are of great importance to people under 30. (It's also interesting that climate change has also been mentioned only sporadically by members so far, despite it being an issue which young people are overwhelmingly concerned about, and understandably so.)

Secondly, his comment also chimes in with some of Nick Wallis' interesting posts on anti-social behaviour in Springfield and elsewhere. And here there really have been quite a number of members echoing this as an issue during my calls over the last couple of weeks.

Questions: (i) Could these two areas be related, or is it just coincidence? And (ii) in our discussions, should we as a Party take proportionally more notice of issues raised by young people, so as to better represent what's important to the electorate?

Anyway, it's a thought. I certainly think quite differently now, married with a two year-old daughter, than ten years ago when I was single and living alone.


Friday, 30 October 2009

Climate change: Angela, put your hand in your pocket

It seems that although the UK and Scandinavia are doing well to try and cover poorer countries' contribution to the anti climate change program, the Germans are reluctant to pay up. Full story here.

Come on! We need to be united across Europe and stop squabbling ahead of Copenhagen. If we're not as Europeans, and we're the greenest of the lot, how on earth are we going to convince the US or China to move on this?

Copenhagen is a big deal, for all of us. Particularly for my two year-old daughter, who's going to have to live with the decisions they make.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Members' concerns #2 - Town centre traffic

A couple of different members have said to me, what can we do about Darlington town centre traffic, which can be horrendous, without affecting our ability to attract shoppers and, by extension, major retail chains to the town? It's a tricky one, which I hesitate to plunge into because I am sure that my colleagues on Darlington Council have looked at it in detail, and is ultimately within their jurisdiction.

Park and Ride, it seems, is dead, following the July 2008 report of the feasibility study, at least until there are major investments in Metro or buses. But in the meantime, I'm genuinely interested to know what the interim plan might be. And is there any way that an MP could help clear the way for this? Your thoughts please.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Members' concerns #1 - stimulating the local economy

A number of members have mentioned the local economy as their no.1 concern, and have asked me about how I'd help in bringing money and jobs to Darlington, were I to be selected as candidate.

Well, firstly I got my masters in economics and I work an adviser to small business, so it's a subject which I've got some working knowledge of. Darlington also has a high proportion of businesses in the SME sector, which is the sector I work in, helping exactly these sorts of companies.

I'd like to see:
- Mentoring for small and startup businesses to reduce failure rates (something like over 70% of new businesses fold in their first two years);
- Better access to funding for companies in their startup stage, including the encouragement of venture capital, and not just bank loans;
- In the current economic climate, it's clear that there may be an opportunity to secure infrastructure projects for the region and the Darlington area which might not otherwise happen, as the government looks to stimulate the economy at a national level through such investments. We should take advantage of such opportunities.

I'd obviously also be wanting to continue providing support for existing large development projects, such as the Oval development, which will undoubtedly bring jobs and economic growth to the area.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

It's either be at the centre of Europe, or be on the outside - again

Now it's time for that other Milliband, the Foreign Secretary - great interview with Gavin Hewitt here. Now, we have a choice at the moment, to shy away from supporting a European president, or run away from even the idea of it, like the Tories. Let's leave on one side for a moment whether you like, or don't like, Tony Blair as that figure.

But let's suppose that the other countries of Europe, support the creation of that figure - as seems wholly likely on past experience - engage with the idea, and cede power.

Now look forward to 20 years' time, or less: we are then looking at standing outside and looking on, "semi-detached" (in the expression which has now become a cliché for the British towards Europe), while Obama negotiates with the European President, the Russian President and the Chinese President. If you think that sounds far-fetched, read some basic economics - the Chinese economy will be bigger than the US economy by 2050.

I know what I'd prefer, and I know what a future Prime Minister Cameron would do if he got elected. Let's have a bit of vision for the future.

Monday, 26 October 2009

North East Lib Dems at it again

You can see how they try and twist whatever we do for political point-scoring. Jacquie Bell, Lib Dem candidate for Stockton South, complains about Labour not voting for their parliamentary motion on climate change. This was a nice try, but fundamentally misleading. As I helpfully point out in the comments to her letter...

Now, Ed Milliband doesn't sign up for the 10:10 campaign vote organised in the House, because (a) it was set up by the Lib Dems as a stunt to try and make Labour look bad, rather than make a genuine difference to climate change, and (b) because we are already committed to higher targets. Full story here.

Aesthetic solar panels from Sedgefield

This is a great story for the Darlington area on making solar panels pleasing to the eye. It's great to see the North East taking the lead on an issue dear to my heart.

Great meeting, nice people

Just got back from the Darlington "meet the candidates event" at the Arts Centre this weekend. Darlington I know pretty well, having grown up nearby, but it was nice to be back. Really nice bunch of people, and extremely well-organised. I had some grillings, as expected, from a few members, but that's part and parcel, and actually I'm always glad that people take the process seriously. Anyway, a very positive response.

I've already started the long and involved task of talking to all CLP members, as I really want to find out everyone's views. And if you're a Darlington member reading this, please, tell me what you think's important.

We are now 11 candidates out of the original 30, assuming that no serious candidate would have been absent. Less than 3 weeks till nominations close, and may the best candidate win...

Friday, 23 October 2009

Darlington - and they're off...

I set up this blog ages ago, but now I have much more of a reason to use it. Yesterday I announced my entry into the Darlington parliamentary selection, so this will be a place, initially at least, for my thoughts during this process, as well as on political issues in general in areas which interest me such as the local and national economy, job creation and sustainability. Right now, I also hope it will be useful to members of Darlington CLP who want to know a little more about me - hope you find it informative.

It's going to be a tough election at national level, that's for sure, despite a little "fightback spirit" at this year's Party Conference. At the Darlington level, the applications process closed on Monday and tomorrow is the "meet the candidates" event at Darlington Arts Centre.

I'm looking forward to meeting the members.
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