On Your Side

Thursday 13th November 2014: Today, I announce the launch of my campaign to become the MP for Taunton Deane.

Why am I standing? I am standing to give local people a real choice. A majority of voters opted for Jeremy Browne last time around and have been disappointed that he voted to treble tuition fees, breaking his party’s promise, and that he voted for other damaging legislation such as the rules that allow the Health Secretary to close hospitals with scant regard to local opinion. None of this does anything for us, the people who live in Taunton Deane.

What we need is someone free to speak up for our area without party interference. That’s why I’m standing as an Independent. Think of me as the “Taunton Deane First” candidate.

Many local people have approached me with comments along the lines of “Mike, we don’t know how to vote next year. You have a great record as an effective Independent Councillor, so will you consider standing?”

The long established model is broken, with the old stranglehold of the two party system fading before our eyes and If you thought voting Lib Dem was a good idea in 2010, what are you thinking now? It’s silly to claim that everything done by the three main Westminster parties has been wrong, but what is wrong with their policies, is that Party interests come first and the interests of local people – us – come a poor second.

I’ve lived in and around Taunton for over 20 years and feel a strong affinity with the Taunton area and have been dismayed at the relative decline in the town’s commercial fortunes. Taunton is the County town of Somerset and needs fresh leadership for a vibrant 21st century future that ensures prosperity, jobs and trade. That is why I became a founder member of Taunton Forward, a collection of businesspeople looking to put Taunton at the heart of our region for business, shopping, tourism, the arts and entertainment.

I intend to put Taunton Deane first, free from party orders. Did you know that along with Jeremy Browne, not one Somerset MP, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, voted to bring Government funding for Somerset up to the same as that given to urban areas? Again, party orders prevented them. That’s no good. We need a fresh approach, a Member of Parliament elected solely to put the interests of the people of Taunton Deane first rather than someone who will be whipped into voting along party lines.

Winning in Taunton Deane will not be easy but with the help of my team and local people, I believe it is possible. The Conservatives are polling at their lowest numbers in decades as are the Liberal Democrats and neither the Greens, UKIP or Labour are going to win here; even they’ll admit that. I believe that this is a reflection of the deep distrust in party politics that has grown up over the last 10 years.

Martin Bell and Dr Richard Taylor are both shining examples of what motivated, Independent MPs can achieve for their constituencies, their counties and for this Country. They were free from the corrupting influence of lobbyists and the sleaze that has dogged party politics for too many years.

As an independent County Councillor I was surprised that the Conservative administration at County Hall wanted to close the library in my village, slash funding for our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, sell off the West Somerset Railway and close a local Children’s Centre. Being independent meant that I was able to campaign, successfully, against all of these. I also pressed successfully for the early installation of superfast broadband for my County Council constituency.

It’s all about holding the executive to account and getting the best deal for the people I represent, putting Taunton Deane first. I have a particular set of skills well-suited to this task and firmly believe that I can apply these for the benefit of the wider constituency as I have my current electoral area. Taunton needs a Champion.

Keep checking back here for details of what I’m up to or follow the links above to my Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Defending Pubs

December 2nd, 2014

Denmark InnFor a decade now I’ve been fighting against the loss of pubs. I’ve objected to planning applications for conversion and drove the registration, as Assets of Community Value, of the two pubs in the village where I live. Pubs provide important social facilities in our communities and have endured a torrid time in recent years. A combination of cheap, supermarket booze, the smoking ban and the tightening of belts after the global financial crisis have led to a mass extinction of pubs over the last 10 years. The rate of closure is accelerating with almost 30 pubs now being lost each week. But perhaps the most dangerous threat to pubs has come, perversely, from their owners. Forty percent of the country’s pubs are owned by so-called Pub Companies or ‘pubcos’. In my view, this is something of a misnomer as they are in reality nothing more than property companies interested not in the pubs themselves but in the value of the buildings that they inhabit. For years, many pubcos have bled their tenants dry, with exorbitant rent increases and tied purchase, at excessive cost, of everything from beer to electricity. I can go to my local brewery and buy a barrel of beer at a lower price than the tenant of a tied pub. So much for economies of scale and their impact on buying power. Recently, a cross-party collection of MPs defeated the Government by legislating to cut some of the ties between the bigger pubcos and their tenants. The change gives 15,000 British pubs the chance to ask for an independently assessed market rent and allows them to buy beer on the open market rather than from their landlord at grossly-inflated prices. Continue reading “Defending Pubs” »