Well, I am delighted to have been asked to write an election blog for the website of our local Times newspaper, as the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Hendon – thanks very much for taking the time to read it.
You can find my main campaign website at http://matthew4hendon.blogspot.com/ and you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to help with my campaign.
Meanwhile, for this first posting here, I’d like to tell you a little about who I am and why I am asking you to elect me as Hendon’s next MP.
So, Matthew, why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself? Well, I was born in 1971 and educated at a local comprehensive school, Christ’s College, Finchley, and at Oxford University, from where I graduated in English.
I’ve previously worked in the arts and as a journalist before going into public relations, including for Thames Water for three years. Last year, they made me redundant, so I deeply understand what the recession has meant to the many local people who have lost their jobs and suffered in other ways.
I was fortunate enough to find a job within months of my redundancy, and I work in a branch of public relations called ‘public affairs’ – that means that I advise my employer on its relationship with government and politicians.
One advantage of this work is that I have a deep knowledge of how Parliament works, so, unlike a lot of new MPs, I wouldn’t be caught in the headlights wondering what to do – I already know how to get the best out of Parliament (and its committees) on behalf of local people.
You could call me a lobbyist and I strongly support calls for lobbying to be regulated to prevent unethical practices by a few corrupt individuals; indeed we Lib Dems called for lobbying reforms many years ago, but the Tories and Labour voted it down.
So you’re standing to be Hendon’s Liberal Democrat MP – are you local to the constituency? I grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb and I’ve always lived locally in our borough of Barnet (I now live in New Barnet) and I’ve always known Hendon well.
Under the old constituency boundaries, I first joined Hendon South Liberals aged fifteen in 1986! I grew up, for example, with Hendon as my local library, and lots of friends at Christ’s College were from Hendon.
Parts of the constituency have elected Liberal Democrat councillors and I’ve long worked with them and other Lib Dem campaigners in all parts of Hendon.
The constituency includes the ‘wards’ of Hendon, Mill Hill, Edgware, Hale, West Hendon, Burnt Oak and Colindale, and I’ve spent time in them all over the years. So, having always lived pretty much in the local area, I feel that I can call myself a local, yes.
And why the Liberal Democrats? The boring answer is that I was raised in a Liberal household – my parents actually met as members of Hampstead Young Liberals and are still staunch Liberal Democrats, so I was introduced to it in my youth.
A lot of people who say that they are Labour or Tory, when you ask them what motivates them, it’s actually a dislike of the other side – Labour people tell you that they became political because they didn’t like Mrs Thatcher, and so on.
So in that political system, in which so many people define themselves as “not the other thing”, a lot of people become Tory or Labour by default.
ecause I was in a committed Liberal family, I was exposed to the party and its ideas, so I had the option of considering that, instead of automatically supporting one of the other two parties.
And the more I explored the philosophy of English liberalism, the more attractive I found it. For instance, in the 1980s, when Labour was still talking about nationalisation (i.e. state ownership), Liberals were talking about employee share ownership, rather like the John Lewis model – people actually owning the company in which they work and sharing profits like shareholders.
That idea of industrial democracy strikes me as being far more exciting and radical than Labour’s talk of state ownership.
I grew up believing that the best thing that could happen in British politics would be for my party to replace Labour as the main non-Conservative party, just as Labour had replaced the Liberals in the 1920s.
I still do believe that, actually. I believe that the Liberal Democrats have not only the best underlying philosophy, but also the best policies at this General Election.
A fair chance for every child
A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener
And a fair deal by cleaning up politics
I believe that you can trust us to deliver because unlike the other parties, we are spelling out line by line in the manifesto how every single policy is paid for, and how we will reduce the deficit.
We are setting out £15bn of detailed spending cuts and just £5bn a year of new spending, meaning £10bn for reducing the deficit every year.
We are the first party to put detailed spending plans into a manifesto.
And our four key pledges are: Fair taxes: We will ensure no-one pays income tax on the first £10,000 they earn. Most taxpayers will get a tax cut of £700 a year. We’ll pay for it by closing loopholes that unfairly benefit the rich, a new tax on mansions worth over £2m, a crack down on tax avoidance and higher aviation duty.
A fair start for all our children: We will get every child the individual attention they need by cutting class sizes. We will spend an extra £2.5bn on schools, targeted at children who need the most help. The average primary school could cut class sizes to 20. An average secondary school could see classes of just 16.
A fair future: a rebalanced, green economy: We will break up the banks and rebalance the economy away from unsustainable financial speculation.
We will be honest about where savings must be made in government spending to balance the books and protect our children’s future. And we will create new jobs with a £3.1bn green stimulus and job creation plan in our first year in office, fully funded by cutbacks elsewhere.
A fair deal from politicians: We will introduce a fair voting system. We will ensure corrupt MPs can be sacked by their constituents and stop non-doms from donating to parties or sitting in Parliament. We will take power from Westminster and give it to communities, with local power over police and the NHS, and introduce a freedom bill to protect and restore civil liberties.
We also have the following commitments: Protect front line NHS services. We will help the NHS work better with the money it has and protect front line services by re-investing the savings we find back into healthcare Recruit 3,000 more police officers to keep our streets safe and scrapping ID cards Scrap student tuition fees to reduce the burden of student debt immediately and eliminate fee debt altogether over 6 years A pay rise for our brave servicemen and women together with cutbacks of bureaucrats and top brass officers in the Ministry of Defence Up-rate the basic state pension in line with earnings immediately so that pensioners do not fall further behind when the economy starts to grow again.
That’s a nice list of policies, but can you really win in Hendon? Well, here are three facts for people to consider. One is that our neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Haringey have elected excellent, hard-working Liberal Democrat MPs, proving that we can win in this part of North London.
Secondly, we Lib Dems have gone from winning 20 MPs in 1992, to winning 46 in 1997, 52 in 2001 and 62 in 2005 – the most we’ve had since 1923! I believe that we can continue that sharp upward curve at this General Election now, including in seats like Hendon. After all, at the last election, we gained some seats in one go from third place.
My third fact is this – if everyone who said that they would vote Liberal Democrat if they could win, did vote Liberal Democrat, then I would win. This election is in your hands and no-one else’s. There is no greater wasted vote than a vote for a party you don’t truly believe in.
So, if you think Labour have done well enough and you want more of the same, then vote for them. If you’re sure that David Cameron would make the best Prime Minister, then vote for his party.
If, however, you would like me to be Hendon’s next MP, you’ve been inspired by Nick Clegg and you think Vince Cable should be running Britain’s economy – then vote for me and the Liberal Democrats.
So many people tell me that they are thinking of doing it this time, and if everyone votes for what they believe in – I just need one more vote than my nearest opponent, and I’m the Lib Dem MP for Hendon. It will happen if you make it happen with your vote.