On Your Side

On 13 November 2014 I launched my campaign to become the MP for Taunton Deane. You can read my first campaign leaflet here and you can listen to a wide-ranging interview with me here

You can read my recently-adopted health policy here

Why am I standing? Because we need an MP free to speak up for our area without party interference. That’s why I’m standing as an Independent.

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.

Martin Bell and Dr Richard Taylor are both shining examples of what motivated, Independent MPs can achieve for their constituencies, for 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.

Taunton Deane 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.

LibDem and Conservative MPs Vote Against Protection for Pubs

January 26th, 2015

Your Pub Next?Following last month’s famous victory giving pub tenants the right to a Market Rent Only (MRO) deal, parliamentary pub campaigners tonight had a go at providing further protections for pubs.  Currently, there is nothing to stop pubs being converted into supermarkets.  No planning permission, no local consultation; the pub owner can just do a private deal with the supermarket and that’s the end of it.  Greg Mulholland and other MPs tabled a motion in the Commons seeking to remove the part of the planning rules that enables this fast-track road to pub loss.  DCLG, the Government department that oversees planning rules, attempted to head off a potential rebellion with a sop to waverers.  What they have proposed is to remove the right to convert pubs without permission in the case of those pubs that have been designated as Assets of Community Value (ACV).  This is a right given to local people to request that their local pub be offered first to the local community in the event that it comes up for sale.  It’s a useful tool and Bishops Lydeard & Cothelstone Parish Council, on my suggestion, has successfully applied to register both Bishops Lydeard pubs as ACVs providing some level of protection to our village pubs.  The snag with DCLG’s sop is that ACV applies only to 600 of the country’s 48,000 pubs leaving all the rest of them vulnerable to the rapacious appetites of the supermarket giants.  It’s no sort of compromise at all.  And who knows when they’ll get round to changing the law.

However, even those pubs designated as ACVs are not safe.  I’ve recently heard of local examples where supposedly protected pubs have been subjected to ‘improvements’ where the owners take the roof off or remove a major wall for so long that there is nothing left to offer the community under the ‘right to buy’ and the only option is demolition.

It would have been the easiest thing for Parliament to do to vote through the simple change proposed today. But it failed by 245 votes to 293.  It’s shameful to see all those Conservative and LibDem MPs on the Government payroll dutifully obeying their parties rather than representing the interests of their constituents.  I’ll let you know how Jeremy Browne voted once I hear.  For the record, he voted against when given the chance to free tenants from paying inflated rents and beer costs.