Thanks to the Somerset County Gazette for publishing my opinion piece in the current edition (12/2/15). Here is the full, unedited text:
THE WAY I SEE IT by Mike Rigby, Independent Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane
Independent – Free to Speak, Free to Act
First off, remember, if you’re not on the electoral register, you will not be able to vote in the General Election. The rules have changed recently and many people have fallen off the register. To make sure that you’re on it, visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or write to Taunton Deane Borough Council.
I am standing to be the next MP for Taunton Deane because we need a fresh voice, untainted by the failures of the three main parties and capable of delivering the change that we desperately need. To listen to their candidates, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were nothing to do with their own parties that have done so much damage, locally and nationally, over the last decade. In that time our County Town, Taunton, has diminished commercially. Huge areas of potential regeneration land have been left undeveloped, while our rivals in neighbouring towns and cities have forged ahead. Fibre broadband has largely passed Taunton town centre by.
Too often, we see our party-backed MPs meekly obeying orders from above rather than acting in the best interest of the people they are supposed to represent. Last year the LibDem/Tory government again decided to offer significantly less money per head for spending on public services in Somerset than most of the rest of the UK. MPs had the chance to vote this down but because of party instructions, NOT ONE SOMERSET MP voted against the plan that disadvantages us here in Taunton Deane. What is the point of having MPs like this? It’s why I’m independent. As an independent County Councillor, I have been free to speak and free to act. As leader of a small group, I have been able to provide effective opposition at County Hall at a time when the Liberal Democrats have been quiet. I have fought for the people I represent, forcing the Conservative administration to drop many plans that would have adversely affected my area, including the sale of the West Somerset Railway, the closure of both the library and children’s centre in Bishops Lydeard. I have also highlighted concerns about the multiple problems occurring in Children’s Services, which now appear to be spreading to Adult Social Care. I have successfully lobbied for fibre broadband in my County Division; much of it now covered by superfast speeds. I am now working to fix the lack of fibre broadband in Taunton town centre itself.
Who Am I? I’ve worked for local authorities, regulating the activities of the mining and waste industries as well as many years in the private sector. For the last 10 years, I have run small businesses in Taunton Deane, employing dozens of staff. I am married with three children, all of whom attend the local school. I am a founder member of TauntonForward, a group of businesspeople looking to put Taunton at the heart of our region for business, shopping, tourism, the arts and entertainment and I am the Chairman of the On Your Bike charity that recycles bikes and employs vulnerable adults.
Some may say an independent can’t win. I say look at examples such as Dr Richard Taylor and Martin Bell who were both elected as independents and were shining examples of MPs who acted for their constituents, free from the corrupting influence of lobbying and from party orders. And look at my performance in the County elections two years ago, where I polled more than the rest of the candidates put together.
Historically, Taunton Deane has been a straight fight between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but make no mistake; those days are gone. The recent Ashcroft poll in Taunton Deane shows that the Conservative vote has dropped significantly here while the Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed. As in the County Council elections, this will shape up as a two-horse race between me and the Conservative candidate.
So, if you’re concerned about the future of the NHS, vote for me. If you’re concerned about the uneven recovery and the squeeze on living standards for most people, then vote for me. If you want someone to wake Taunton from its slumber, then vote for me. If you’re concerned about the lack of local infrastructure improvements – rail (e.g. Wellington railway station), road, schools, cyclepaths, health facilities, then vote for me.
Taunton Deane has been governed, at District, County and Parliamentary level by LibDems and Conservatives for decades and look where it’s got us. We need a fresh approach. Taunton Deane needs an independent champion.