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Today’s Farnham Herald carries an article about the growing support for Dr Louise Irvine who is standing against Jeremy Hunt in the General Election on 8th June

I had written to the paper urging Lib Dems to support her.

Here’s my letter …

I was the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate standing against Jeremy Hunt in 2010. I was pleased to have the support of over 17,000 people who voted for me, but not pleased by the result of the election which of course led to the Coalition between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. I did not support the coalition and it did not turn out well for the Lib Dems.

Be that as it may, in this year’s General Election I am urging everyone who backed me in 2010 to support Dr Louise Irvine, the progressive alliance party candidate, because she represents by far the best chance to beat Mr Hunt who has been a disaster as Secretary of State for Health. I know to my cost that he enjoyed support as a local man in South West Surrey, but his tenure at the Department of Health has been calamitous, most recently demonstrated by his role in the shambles of NHS Trusts being subjected to damaging internet attacks in recent days. The national press have rightly criticised him for his failure to ensure greater protection for NHS IT systems. Even the Telegraph carried the headline, ‘Jeremy Hunt ignored repeated warnings over system vulnerability’. Professor Ross Anderson, of Cambridge University, said the incident is the “sort of thing for which the secretary of state should get roasted in Parliament”.  When you add this latest fiasco to the appalling record of Mr Hunt presiding over dangerously lengthening A & E waiting times, not to mention the junior doctors’ dispute, it is hard not to conclude that he is unsuitable for the job of Health Secretary.

Liberal Democrat members and supporters in South West Surrey have been saying to me that they are putting aside party allegiance to support Dr Louise Irvine simply because we cannot risk giving the Conservative Party carte blanche to continue its woeful management of our National Health Service. That is one reason why I will be in South West Surrey during this election campaign to support Dr Irvine. She took Mr Hunt to court back in 2012 and Judges found that he had acted unlawfully when he decided to substantially cut services and close departments, including maternity, A&E and intensive care units. That was gutsy of Louise and just the sort of passionate commitment to our NHS that an MP needs. I sincerely hope she is elected on 8th June.

Yours sincerely

Mike Simpson

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In ‘the thick of it’ in Parliament Square

I was in London yesterday and was shocked by events inside and outside Parliament! I saw for myself what happened in the heart of Parliament Square and I heard eloquent and intelligent young people rage against the madness of the Coalition’s tuition fees policy.

The Tory/Lib Dem Coalition government voted to massively increase tuition fees for students. There was heated debate in the House of Commons but Nick Clegg was unapologetic and eager to push the policy through. This was despite huge opposition from young people who protested on the streets of London outside Parliament yesterday.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg appeared arrogant and out of touch in his media interviews. This went down very badly with young people!

Students on Westminster Bridge at around 1pm on 9th December 2010

I saw the protests from both sides of the police lines and saw many injured young people and one injured policeman. There were some upsetting scenes which I chose not to photograph. This included one young man with blood pouring from his head onto the road. There was a whole group of injured young people sat on the pavement. Police at times did seem very heavy handed with the crowds and there was huge anger amongst protesters. See video footage of police horses charging the crowd – unlikely to be shown on Sky!

Students reason with the law

The impact of the Lib Dem leadership voting for the policy was very evident outside as young people challenged police control lines and chanted “Shame on you for turning blue” whenever Clegg’s name was mentioned. He was, of course, called a lot worse.

Sense of Betrayal is Felt by Young People

There was a deep-rooted sense of betrayal amongst young people and probably the majority of the anger was directed at Clegg and his supporters (a reducing number of people as time goes on).

For my part I believe that it’s crucial to be a man or woman of your word. If there is an explicit promise made in writing and on film (and it’s a promise that has no conditions attached ) … well you can’t renege on it – at least not without undermining your credibility with the electorate and feeding the cynical attitude that ‘you’re all as bad as each other’.

Broken Promises Undermine Coalition Politics

The Observer said this on Sunday, “the (tuition fees) furore risks cementing coalition in peoples minds as licence to break promises”. When the referendum on changing the voting system comes there’s a real danger that people will say, ‘well if that’s the result of the kind of coalition that would come from electoral reform, I don’t want to vote for it’.

In any case Clegg did not hold the Party together. His attempt to appear tough with his own MPs backfired badly as more Lib Dem MPs voted against or abstained than voted for the policy put forward by the Lib Dem leadership. Clegg is weakened by this – as is our Party. So a pretty comprehensive disaster Nick! You have managed to deeply damage public trust in our party, particularly amongst young people and you have caused major division in the Lib Dems at the same time.

That is the kind of leadership we can do without.

28 Lib Dem MPs voted in favour of trebling tuition fees proposals, 21 voted against, 8 abstained.

Here are the names of the 21 Lib Dem MPs who voted against the trebling of tuition fees

Mass protest in Parliament Square

The public are being led to believe that the UK’s public debt is somehow worse than anywhere else. This is a barefaced lie. George Osborne says the UK was “on the brink of bankruptcy” when the coalition took over and that “we have the largest budget deficit in the developed world”. Sounds apocalyptic doesn’t it? And of course if his assertions about government debt were true it would help Osborne to argue for ‘savage cuts’.

But the truth is very different. Look at the USA. Last Friday the Washington Post said ‘Total U.S. government debt exceeded 84 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009, and most observers expect that percentage to keep growing.’ In Britain it’s just over 60%.

The truth is that many countries have a far higher government debt as a % of their GDP. Take Europe …

The following European countries have a higher debt level (as % of GDP) than the UK:

Netherlands;
Austria;
Ireland;
Spain;
Germany;
Hungary;
France;
Belgium and
Italy

Measures of the annual ‘structural deficits’ of different countries as opposed to their total accumulated debts, suggest that the UK is indeed in a poor position, but it is by no means the worst of all the developed world as Osborne implied on the Andrew Marr programme on BBC 1 yesterday. In fact recent analysis by the IMF shows that the United States’ structural deficit is far worse.

Budget deficits are split into structural and cyclical elements by economists. They estimate that a part of the deficit will be corrected as an economy grows and tax revenues roll in. This is the ‘cyclical’ portion. But there’s also a ‘structural’ portion to the deficit which won’t be corrected just by growth. Of course lots of assumptions have to be made in order to make the estimates of the two different portions of the deficit.

A Warning from Hungary

One thing is clear – if the coalition’s austerity measures stifle growth (as is pretty certain) or worse still if they tip us back into recession, then we could well go the way of Hungary and Ireland – the economic situation will get a LOT worse and the coalition will be to blame.

This warning appeared in a report last week by Eversheds International ‘Hungary acts as a warning for others now considering how quickly to reduce their deficits. It was in an austerity-induced slump in 2007, even before the global downturn, and since being rescued from insolvency by the EU and IMF in 2008 it has been forced to renegotiate budget targets with them because it found that the spending cuts and tax hikes pushed its economy into much deeper recession than expected.’

Savage cuts will weaken the prospects for economic growth, leading to less tax revenue and weakening the ‘cyclical’ portion of the equation. That’s the main reason why the coalition’s economic plans are so flawed.

A Positive Alternative

There is an alternative approach comprising much more modest cuts in government spending; maintaining and significantly increasing major infrastructure projects; massive investment in green technologies (which could in time create hundreds of thousands of jobs) and international action to levy a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the banking sector. Before we all get locked into the madness of ‘savage cuts’ let’s consider these alternatives and take heed of the warnings coming from the economic disasters of Ireland and Hungary where ‘savage cuts’ have bled their economies dry.

As the Conservatives look set to help Labour push the flawed Digital Economy Bill into law before the election, Mike Simpson, Lib Dem candidate for SW Surrey, questions his opponent in the election – the Conservative media spokesman.

Dear Mr Hunt

Digital Economy Bill: another Parliamentary scandal?

I am puzzled: why are you and the Conservatives working with the Government to get the Digital Economy Bill passed before the election?

It can’t be because consumers will have to pay an extra £300 million for internet security to avoid being disconnected or have their bandwidth throttled. Or because businesses could find their websites blocked through spurious copyright claims. Or because all of us will have to replace our analogue radios with digital radios by 2015. Or because the Bill will force universities, libraries, small businesses and others to shut down wifi hotspots. Or because photographers and other independent creators are up in arms as they could have their creative work stolen and published on the internet for commercial purposes.

Even if you don’t spend much time in SW Surrey, I hope you noticed that many complaints have been posted on your own blog, that there have been thousands of #debill tweets complaining about the Bill in the past month, that over 18,000 people have e-mailed MPs in the past 2 weeks, that hundreds of people have demonstrated outside Parliament and that technology companies are against the Bill, saying that it could disrupt the internet and warning that this type of legislation should not be passed in a rush.

Of course, there has been heavy lobbying by major media interests and unions, mainly based of an argument which cannot withstand any statistical or economic scrutiny. On one side the major record companies and the Labour candidate in SW Surrey are trying to take us back to the pre-internet era when they didn’t face so much competition. On another, major publishing interests are keen to make use of whatever material they can find on the Internet.

It seems to be Big Business vs consumers, artists and web-based small businesses. You may vaguely remember that there are a lot of the latter in SW Surrey, which is what has helped keep Farnham’s local shops open in spite of the current recession.

I think it is totally undemocratic to push this 24,000 word Bill through now, without the usual 80-90 hours of Parliamentary time it would normally deserve. I also think it is far more about protecting dinosaurs from consumers, artists and small businesses than about Freedom, creativity and the internet. If you and the Conservatives still insist on pushing this into law before the election, and if the people of SW Surrey elect me in your place, I will work to reverse it and to make sure that we have a Government which listens to the people, not corporate lobbying.

Mike Simpson
Lib Dem Prospective MP for SW Surrey
www.mikesimpson.org.uk
twitter.com/mikesimpsonuk

The Conservatives have been raising millions of pounds for their election campaign and they’ve been spending millions too! Remember the airbrushed giant posters of David Cameron’s head and then the scare story posters of the so called ‘death tax’? Well it doesn’t seem to have helped them – they are going into reverse in the polls.

People have wised up to politics over the Blair years. They want to vote for genuine people not slick advertising. And they want to know what their politicians stand for!

It’s hard to see what Cameron and his followers stand for.

Do they stand for the rich and powerful?
Do they stand for ‘families’ (what about people like me who have been single parents for many years?)
Do they stand for Thatcherite cuts to public services?
Or is it a sort of soft focus nice but tough image they are going for?

I honestly don’t know, but I think their instincts are the same as they ever were i.e. protect privilege and squeeze those least able to afford it; cut education and health whilst encouraging people to go private; talk green but support big business polluters’ interests; talk tough on the banks but do nothing to upset their friends in high places in the City; and most importantly of all – never agree to any real reform of our political system because that might ruin their chances of ruling the Country on their own.

If I’m wrong about these Tory instincts I’d love to hear what the Conservative Party DO stand for.

Why not email me your thoughts at info@mikesimpson.org.uk ?

Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, this week continued his campaign of attacks on the BBC, a campaign which began several months ago. A weakened BBC is clearly in the interests of its competitor News International and surprise surprise The Sun is now backing the Tories.

If Mr Hunt were just an ordinary citizen criticising the BBC for its bad decisions and extravagant expenses I would not be concerned, but Mr Hunt hopes in a few months to be in control of the Ministry for media which will oversee the BBC and the press. Mr Hunt’s public utterances are therefore of great concern to all in the media industry.

I have written to Mr Hunt about my concerns that the Tories want to sell off or scrap key parts of the BBC including much of its online operations, Radio 1, BBC 3 and BBC 4. Mr Hunt’s attacks have been vicious and sustained. In a Daily Mail interview last month under the headline, ‘We’ll rein in the BBC, say Tories in radical plans to prevent one broadcaster state’, Mr Hunt talked about scrapping BBC 3 and 4 and taking action which the Mail said would ‘pave the way for channels such as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News’. In August The Times reported that the Tories were planning to sell off Radio 1.

For months Mr Hunt has pursued an agenda of verbal assaults on the business of the BBC. Yet Mr Hunt, as far as I can see, has said nothing critical about the massive media power of the Murdoch Empire. Are the commercial interests of News International (owners of The Sun, The Times, BSkyB, etc) being deliberately favoured for party political advantage? “Nothing new there” some might say, but at a time when the reputation of politicians has hit rock bottom, we have a right to know.

My opponent in South West Surrey has attempted to cloud the issues around his attacks on the BBC and his support for the views of James Murdoch of News International. He says ‘it is not Conservative Party policy to privatise Radio 1’ or ‘ to scrap BBC 3 or BBC 4’.

Readers can make up their own minds by reading the numerous national press stories about Mr Hunt’s views and those of his fellow Tory Shadow Ministers. For example take a look at these articles:

Times details Tory plans to sell off Radio 1
Daily Telegraph article on the Tories, Murdoch and the BBC
Hunt interview with the Daily Mail on plans to curtail BBC
The Independent questions Tory plans for BBC

And finally – How Cameron cosied up to Murdoch