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andrew stephenson

It is good to learn that many people in the North West have received recognition through the honours system for the contribution they have made to the community. It is always good to hear that people are recognised for service rather than their contribution to a political party’s fund.
Not so good is the news that the hard core hawks of the Thatcher government were prepared to abandon Liverpool and its environs to “managed decline”.
Senior ministers warned her that it might be a waste to pour money into the “stony ground” of Merseyside — the county encompassing Liverpool and several other urban areas — after the decline of its heavy industry led to high unemployment and social unrest.
It would be unfair not to recognise that Michael Heseltine, from the left of the Conservative party, did make a stand for Liverpool by attempting to encourage private sector investment to regenerate the area.

Another piece of bad news is that full time workers resident in the North West have suffered the worst drop in living standards in the 12 regions of the UK. The real value of our average gross earnings has fallen by 9.1% between April 2007 and November 2011, due to the ‘bankers’ recession’ and stalled recovery.

Our Conservative MP applauds David Cameron for isolating us in Europe to protect the financial sector, whilst failing to recognise the small contribution that the finance sector makes to Pendle’s economy and that it could be bad news for Pendle, because in percentage terms we have one of the UK’s highest concentrations in manufacturing.

Those of us who have more years under our belts than we feel comfortable with will recall how during the 1950s the local Textiles Trades Federation had campaigned for the Conservative government of the day to explore the possibilities of balanced East–West trade and to encourage new industries to be based in Lancashire.

The Government remained undisturbed and flatly refused to take part in discussions between the Hong Kong Textile Employers and the Cotton Board.

The Government finally showed its hand when the President of the Board of Trade presented to Parliament a Bill for the “Reorganisation of the Cotton Industry”. This turned out to be a loom scrappage and compensation scheme. Best estimates at the time were that the Mill Owners would receive in total £560,000 for scrapping the looms, whilst the textile workers who were to be flung on to the ‘scrapheap’ would receive a total of some £90,000.

Quite clearly (and with the odd notable exception) the Conservative Party’s commitment to sustaining economic development in the North West is not good. Although I do recall one of Thatcher’s ministers advising us to get on our bikes and look for work.

Time and time again the people of the North West have shown that they are adaptable to the changing patterns and the advancing technology of manufacturing and developing industries.

The New Years Honours underlines that we have ordinary people committed to our community.

We need a Government that is equally committed to the economic development of the North West; the present Government’s record is not good, but I would welcome a viable economic ‘blueprint’ for the North West from any political party, rather than for us to be left by this government to “wither on the vine”.

 

Last week the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee did a 180 degree turn in agreeing to spend £75billion of tax-payer’s money, called quantitative easing or QE2.
Could it be that this vast sum of money is being used to keep the Tory government backer’s, from the financial sector, afloat when the Euro zone finally allows Greece (and others!) to default on its unpayable debt’s? This will result in banks everywhere nursing huge losses on their loans to Greece.
QE2 is not going to help the two and a half million unemployed nor the growing number of young people who cannot find a job. George Osborne sits back and waits for the stagnant business sector to grow when household spending is being cut to the bone. Increased inflation is going to hit anyone on a fixed income for years to come.
Incidentally, £75billion is about twice Britain’s annual defence budget, or the same as the entire market value of BP.
It would be good to know what our Tory Member of Parliament’s views are on the issue and its likely effect on Pendle.

 

I recently emailed the local Conservative MP asking him to oppose the Government’s reforms of the National Health Service.

Will he take any notice? I doubt it; toeing the party line appears to be more important than constituents’ concerns.

Interesting that one of the changes that was proposed following the ‘pause for consultation’, is to open up the membership of the new GP led consortiums designed to take control of around 65% of the NHS budget, to include clinicians and nurses.

Therefore any decisions to review department or hospital closures will be in the hands of a broad based group of health professionals rather than the PCT. The result will be an influential body that will have total say on which services should be provided at which hospital and which hospitals will remain in operation.

A very convenient outcome, if your name is Cameron or Clegg or Lansley and prior to the 2010 General Election you had given the people of Enfield, Bury North or even Pendle and Burnley a warm feeling that if they voted either Conservative or Lib Dem a future review of services could keep departments and hospitals open.

It may also be a convenient outcome for those Lib Dem and Conservative parliamentary candidates who had campaigned for the retention of local services as part of their election platform, that the issue is now being taken out of their hands and it will be solely down to the health professionals. Result - no need for articles in glossy leaflets, chains, or stalls outside of department stores any longer.

Anyone seen the soap?

 

I see the East Lancashire Colleges have come up with a package to support struggling students who are losing their EMA.

Last November, Pendle’s MP, Andrew Stephenson, famously declared he was a great fan of the EMA. 

I am a fan of EMA; 65% of students in my constituency going to Nelson and Colne College receive EMA. The Government are not scrapping EMA; they are simply replacing it with more targeted support.

We wait to hear how many (and what percentage) of students at Nelson and Colne College who used to get EMA will qualify for its replacement.

The College will have the thankless task of deciding who gets help and who doesn’t.

 

Read the original article on Gordon's Blog.

 

My old friends in the Pendle Labour Party have been diligently tracking Andrew Stephenson, comparing his pre-election promises with what he has actually delivered in his year as MP.

This gets me thinking. What do we do with politicians who promise one thing and do the polar opposite?

A moment’s reflection shows how difficult it is to hold politicians to account.

They have a million weaselly ways to defend themselves. (I should know)

Before the election they hadn’t seen the books. Things are really bad. Worse than even they expected.

The cupboard is bare. No money. Sorry.

Then there is the “circumstances change” line. Things happen. Unforeseen events. Yak! Yak! Yak!

As it happens, I was over in Scarborough last week having a pint or two with my old friend Colin Challen who used to be MP for Morley and Rothwell.

He, too, has turned his mind to the matter and concludes:

As a first step (and there are others) I’m calling for a Political Standards Authority (PSA) to do for political parties what trading descriptions legislation does for dodgy traders. If a party says it will do something – it should be held to it. If it finds it cannot deliver, it has to be forced to say why. If parties want to lie, obfuscate, change their minds or dissemble then let them face the penalty for deceiving voters, with sanctions up to and including outright bans on future participation in elections, hefty fines on leaders and suspension from parliament.

Most of the reforms that parties are generally prepared to accept do not address the fundamental question of simply telling the truth. It is almost second nature for politicians to be economical with the actualitié for a large variety of reasons, some of them even justifiable. But if we are to avoid engendering even more cynicism amongst the public, we ought to install some safeguards against political cynicism amongst the practitioners.

It is a plan that would make for a new and refreshingly different kind of politics - which is why it won't happen.

 

Read the original article on Gordon's Blog.

 
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