Colne Valley Correspondence….Letters to Voters and Non-Voters.

This week: CONSERVATIVES

This is a series of letters to people living in the Colne Valley Constituency, covering Holmfirth and the Holme Valley, Meltham, Golcar, Slaithwaite, Marsden, Linthwaite, Milnsbridge, Crosland Moor…and lots more places in between. I’m standing as the candidate for Yorkshire First and I want to speak to a wide range of people across this varied and vibrant constituency. I’m going to be writing to people who have different voting intentions, ranging across the spectrum.

After the first letter to non-voters (http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2015/03/19/letters-to-voters-and-non-voters/ ) I’m turning to people who normally vote Conservative.

April 4th 2015

Dear Colne Valley conservative (big ‘c’ or large ‘C’)

When I was a member of the Labour Party it used to annoy me that many colleagues regarded Conservatives as anathema. Abusing your opponents is never good politics and is even worse ethics – and my own experience of Conservative politicians is very mixed. I’ve met and worked with some very good, principled Tories. When I was a councillor I had a good relationship with many Conservative councillors and with the MP, Jason McCartney. And I have to say I’ve met some truly awful so-called ‘socialist’ politicians.

So I’m starting by saying that I honestly believe that most people get involved in politics, particularly these days, for the best of reasons. Generally, at local level, they want to improve their communities, be they Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green or UKIP.

Over the last five years we’ve had a Conservative-led coalition and I’m not impressed by the results nationally. The creeping privatisation of the NHS was in no-one’s manifesto and I don’t accept that the austerity policies of George Osborne have helped economic recovery. They have, if anything, hindered it – but that’s my opinion and you may disagree. Fact: the rich have got richer and the poor much poorer, through inequitable policies like the bedroom tax and welfare cuts. Fact: The gap between North and South has widened, on a wide range of indicators.

But there is a positive side. I work in transport and the investment in rail electrification and new trains is long overdue. Labour could have done this when they were in power, but didn’t. Locally, Jason McCartney has been a hard-working MP and if I took over as your representative there are some things I would be happy to continue, such as the ‘Jobs Fairs’ and regular contact with constituents. But overall, the balance sheet of this government has been poor and promises of further cuts will have the result of pushing more people into poverty and delaying economic recovery.

So why should people who have previously voted Conservative consider supporting Yorkshire First? We are a network of independents who share a common aim of an elected assembly for Yorkshire. We say that we are ‘neither left nor right’ but want to put people before party. So we do not operate a ‘party whip’ system which forces MPs to vote against their conscience and – the interests of their constituents. If elected I would work positively and constructively with politicians (local and national) of all parties.

My own background is of the left and I believe in many aspects of the ‘left’ agenda: social justice, fairness, good quality public services. But there are many aspects of the traditional left agenda which are no longer relevant. Above all, the obsession with a centralist, statist approach to the economy is completely redundant. We need to encourage enterprise and investment – and much of that will come from the private sector. I am a strong believer in supporting small and medium-sized businesses through more favourable taxation and easy loans and grants. I think there is much in the co-operative tradition that appeals to a right-of-centre mindset as well to many socialists. Real co-operation (as we see in the Colne Valley, e.g. HandMade Bakery, Green Valley Grocers) is about local people getting together with a shared vision and providing a valued service.

Co-operative principles can be applied to larger enterprises, such as railways and other services which get substantial public sector support. I don’t think it makes sense to have our trains run by foreign state-owned companies who repatriate their profits to the parent companies. Railways – and water, gas and other core services – should be run as mutuals or co-operatives with any surplus re-invested in improving their services. Of course some industries work well in the private sector and many business people recognise the importance of providing good quality employment and training and are aware of their wider social and environmental obligations. ‘Corporate social responsibility’ shouldn’t be a cliché but a way of doing business which actually improves the core viability of a company and benefits the wider community

One value which many Conservatives hold dear is a sense of tradition and heritage. I share that and – though born and bred in Lancashire – I am a proud to be an ‘adopted Yorkshireman’. I strongly believe that Yorkshire, working with other regions and nations in the UK, can achieve much more if it had the powers that Scotland has, rather than being dependent on handouts from Whitehall.

One other thing I may share with you is a dislike of the ‘big state’. I want to see power and resources taken out of Westminster and Whitehall and devolved to elected assemblies, e.g. Yorkshire. The current trend to hand over major responsibilities to unelected ‘combined authorities’ e.g. West Yorkshire is undemocratic. I’ve no problem with the idea of an elected mayor but s/he must be accountable to a directly-elected assembly (as Boris in London is – though the Greater London Assembly needs more powers). It shouldn’t cost a penny more if we get the resources out of London and distributed to the regions.

I agree with the Kirklees Conservatives in their desire to scrap Kirklees. I’ve never met anyone (without a vested interest in its survival) who thinks ‘Kirklees’ has worked. We should split the council into two – with Huddersfield and The Valleys covering roughly ‘South Kirklees’. That’s a long process but we need to make a start. And locally, the Colne Valley covering Golcar, Milnsbridge, Slaithwaite and Marsden should have an effective community council that has the sort of powers that Meltham, Holme Valley and Kirkburton have now. The extra cost would be tiny (at most, £50 to top rate council tax payers). A Colne Valley Community Council could take over responsibilities for libraries, green spaces, street cleaning and the local environment and encouraging new business and community projects. It should (but old habits die hard!) be non party-political.

One final issue is Europe. I’m pro-Europe but critical of some aspects of the EU’s approach. I don’t believe we should be forced to put some services out to competitive tender if we don’t feel it’s appropriate. But overall, the benefits of staying in, with access to that huge market, far outweigh the benefits of withdrawal. Many businesspeople I know (mostly Tory voters) share that view.

In summary, some of the things which this avowed ‘decentralist socialist’ would do if elected are:

  • Encourage local business development through ongoing links between small, medium and large-sized firms in Colne Valley
  • Encourage new business start-ups through support from a new Yorkshire Development Agency which supports innovation
  • Involve business associations (e.g. Mid Yorkshire Chamber) more directly in local economic development and training
  • Encourage local firms to ‘buy local’, pay the living wage and take on more apprenticeships
  • Build a movement to scrap Kirklees and have a Huddersfield and Valleys Council instead
  • Fight to get VAT for small businesses reduced

If you want to know more about me, go to the Yorkshire First website www.yorkshirefirst.org.uk or, for a more quirky view with my local manifesto: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2015/03/31/yorkshire-first-for-colne-valley-our-manifesto/

So thanks for your time in reading this – if you do want to know more, just get in touch! I’m contactable on email at paul@paulsalveson.com or colnevalley@yorkshirefirst.org.uk or ring me on 07795 008691