Mike Simpson, Prospective Liberal Democrat MP in Gostrey Meadow, Farnham

This election is likely to centre on two issues; economic competence and the expenses scandal. Vince Cable of the Lib Dems is respected as being the most astute and honest of the potential Chancellors, way ahead of George Osborne. A hung Parliament will see Dr Cable taking the economic reins of the country to the relief of millions. We cannot afford the amateur economist Mr Osborne, because nobody has the faintest idea how he would balance the books. Many fear it will be them who will pay in the mass job losses and tax increases so carefully hidden to date.

The Conservatives’ slick presentation reminds me of Blair in 1997. It is not yet clear if the electorate will fall for that again.

The bigger issue is of course the economy and the huge government debt we face. I for one would rather entrust decisions about this to Vince Cable than to George Osborne. I sincerely hope that the electors of South West Surrey will not take a leap in the dark with Osborne. This election gives us all the opportunity for a real political change. With a hung Parliament we are likely to get Vince and sound economics at last.

If it is accurate – the latest Opinion Poll on voting intentions must be very worrying for Cameron and his team. I don’t know if media-savvy Jeremy Hunt has been advising Cameron before last night’s debate, but if he has then he deserves the sack from the Tory front bench team.

Apparently Mr Hunt has been role-playing Nick Clegg in the Tory rehearsals for the debate. Clearly it is not a role that Mr Hunt has performed accurately – because Mr Cameron had no answer to the natural and relaxed manner of Mr Clegg.

Outside of the bear-pit of Parliament – where Nick Clegg is scoffed at by the boorish MPs of some sections of Parliament, there is no answer to his appeal. If he can’t be shouted down then his common sense straight talking is a winner.

See the poll by clicking here

After our successful campaign to save Farnham’s Water Meadows we have launched a new ‘Protect Our Greenspace’ campaign in Badshot Lea

I thought I should set out why I’m standing in this election!

What Motivates Me?

I got re-motivated about politics when the Iraq War was being prepared for by Bush and Blair. When my marriage broke up in the mid 1990s I left politics. I had to because I was looking after my twin children and had a full time job, so I had no spare time for politics. It may sound corny but I would say that bringing up my children as a single Dad is the most important and worthwhile thing I’ve ever done.

After a few years I dabbled a bit in politics again but what really got me energised was the run-up to the war in Iraq. The deceit of Blair and Bush angered me as it did many people. I never believed there were weapons of mass destruction (see my recent Blog post on this). I felt compelled to get re-involved in the Lib Dems because they were the Party who stood solidly against the madness of Iraq.

I know what a bad name politicians have these days but that’s NOT a reason to abstain from politics – it should motivate us to try and do something to change things. That’s why I’ve called this Blog ‘Shaking Up Politics’.

What I Stand For

Here’s a summary of my main campaign themes and how I’ve tried to fulfil them over the last 12 months:

I have four campaign themes which dominate my political philosophy:

Speaking up for Ordinary People

• I have spoken out against the plans for the Key Site development in Godalming and fought for affordable housing on the site.
• I have used my position to publicise the plight of Dan Eley, a young man from Godalming who used to work with street children in South America but suffered a broken neck and was left paralyzed, and stuck in Colombia. The Lib Dems put out 14,000 leaflets which publicised Dan’s situation.
• I have been outspoken in respect of the affairs of the standing MP Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has suffered the embarrassment of having to repay over £12,500 of his MP’s expenses claims, after I raised questions at a public meeting in May 2009.

Seeking a Fair Deal for the Vulnerable

• I strongly support the Royal British Legion’s Campaign for better care for returning veterans, having worked with army veterans through the YMCA.
• I am supporting the Act for Justice group in Haslemere, campaigning against human trafficking.

Campaigning for a Sustainable Community

• I chaired the successful campaign to save Farnham’s Water Meadows
• I am now fighting the proposals to double the size of Badshot Lea village
• I raised strong objections to the TAG flights proposal which involved the expansion of Farnborough Airport

Investing in our Children and Teenagers

• Seeking to help and empower young people is key to my agenda, as I have worked with them for many years in my role as a CEO of the YMCA.
• I strongly support the Lib Dems’ plan to phase out University Tuition fees. It’s too late for my own children, but I don’t want to see generations of young people saddled with huge debts just as they start out in life.

If you want to know more about my background you can click here to find out.

I was out door-knocking last night in Godalming and was surprised by the number of people who raised the issue of MPs’ expenses but who didn’t know about Jeremy Hunt. There are very few MPs who have had to repay more than him but people don’t know about it. So for the record here are some facts:

1. Mr Hunt had to repay many thousands of pounds following investigations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards;
2. Unlike many MPs who claimed for ridiculous things which were ‘within the rules’, Mr Hunt actually broke the rules. The Standards and Privileges Committee said in their report ‘We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Hunt committed two breaches of the rules’.
3. In one year alone Mr Hunt claimed £12,000 for his ‘second home’ in Farnham (he lived in Hammersmith and as far as I know he still does) but Hunt actually only stayed at the Farnham property for 60 nights that year, so the cost of his claim to the taxpayer was £200 per night;
4. He has now admitted that his political Agent lived in his Farnham home (he says for ‘3 or 4 nights per week’) at taxpayer’s expense;
5. This was a breach of the rules because ‘it provided a personal benefit to the agent from public funds’;
6. Mr Hunt had to repay £9,558.50 of the expenses he had claimed on his ‘second home’ in Farnham because of this;
7. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £1,996 in expenses because he had claimed for two properties at the same time! (his home in Hammersmith and his ‘second home’ in Farnham);
8. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £466 in respect of Council Tax claims and according to an interview in the Surrey Advertiser he has also repaid £659.75 because he double claimed on a stationery bill;
9. This makes a grand total of £12,680.25 in repayments that I know about;
10. In the separate investigation by Sir Thomas Legg only 16 MPs had to repay more than £12,500 out of a total of 646.

There are more embarrassing facts about Mr Hunt’s claims but I thought I’d stick to the main points here.

Mike supports local green campaigners at the Greening Godalming launch

Housing emits 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions. By retrofitting old houses with energy saving measures we could save between 60 and 80% of their carbon footprint. We will also save money on our fuel bills.

Government should help homeowners and social housing landlords in a massive retrofit process. German experience has shown that money spent by Government can stimulate up to six times the amount in energy improvements. By providing grants and low interest finance that makes repayment costs lower than fuel bill saving, the UK would move closer to meeting the goal of using 80% less carbon by 2050.

I support local Greening campaigns like Greening Godalming.

Government must have the courage and determination to take such bold steps. Not only would our carbon emissions fall but the jobs created would be very welcome in our current economic state.

Despite my opponent Jeremy Hunt and the Tories backing Labour to vote through the deeply flawed Digital Economy Act this week we must not accept it as a ‘fait accompli’.

If elected on 6th May I will be pressing my Party and the others to urgently repeal the Digital Economy Act and to subject all the proposals to proper and rigorous Parliamentary scrutiny.

Why? Because:

– it’s a flawed piece of legislation which hadn’t been properly thought through or examined before it became law
– it was rushed through in the dying days of a failed administration after a general election had been called
– it seriously restricts people’s civil liberties (the opposite of the Lib Dems’ proposed Freedom Bill)
– the Government was too lazy to go into the details before legislating due to the lobbying of certain industries
– the Government was too lazy to pay attention to the impact on other businesses, which is remarkable at a time of economic crisis
– the law was supported, rather than opposed, by the Conservatives, who recognised it was flawed but passed it anyway – another example of the Labservatives

Mike Simpson

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

Mike Simpson discusses pressure for housing in Badshot Lea. The Tory controlled Waverley Council are considering doubling the size of the village!

Why is Badshot Lea being targeted by Tory-controlled Waverley Borough Council for major housing development which would double the size of the settlement?

In February I spent an afternoon with Badshot Lea Councillors, looking around the village and the neighbouring green spaces. I was shocked to read the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment which suggests that the village might accommodate another 950 homes. The village clearly could not cope with such growth and the level of developer’s contributions would not be adequate to rectify major infrastructure problems in and around the village. In any case much of the land is unsuitable due to its frequent flooding.

Waverley Borough Council commissioned Baker Associates to conduct the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment and Badshot Lea is the largest housing site identified by them, with one area alone being earmarked for up to 850 houses.

The refusal to agree to the proposed eco-settlement at Dunsfold will inevitably lead to huge pressures on other areas to take major housing development. I will be urging Waverley Council to ensure a fair and reasoned approach to the allocation of housing and that at least 25% of any new housing is affordable housing for local families. Once again Farnham is being pushed by Waverley Council to take the pressure off other areas, but if past experience is anything to go by, Farnham will not get the facilities and services it needs to cope.

Hunt is said to be taking an interest in the issue, but he really needs to lobby his fellow Conservatives and get them to see sense over this issue. I suspect that, with the General Election coming up, there might be a re-think, at least for the time being.

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 ?

Dan Eley

Many of you reading this may not know about the campaign to Help Dan Eley. He’s a guy from Godalming, who went to school at Frensham Heights. Diana Clift set up a Facebook Group (Help Dan)

Dan used to work with street children in South America and taught English at a school in Cali, Colombia. He had a terrible accident on 1st Jan 2010. He dived into a river in a remote area and broke vertebrae in his neck.

The great news is that Dan is apparently now strong enough to travel and the air ambulance is ready to bring him home to England early next week. However Diana says his progress is still unpredictable.

I have been in contact with his family and offered whatever support I can give. I’m sure that the love and care of his family and friends will be the biggest boost to his spirit.

Diana says, “Thank you all you wonderful people all over the world! Please keep your support, prayers and messages coming. Together we’ll help Dan and his family get though this.”