If there’s one thing that winds me up, it’s MPs who have a wonderful ability to forget the recent past and absolve themselves of any responsibility.
So when Yvette Cooper turns up blaming ‘cuts’ for the proposed closure to Pontefract Hospital’s A&E Department I was particularly incensed, given I spent months shouting about the issue - it was front page on the election leaflet I delivered to every home across Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford; I raised it at every public meeting I spoke at;and I spoke to the local media about it. It holds a special significance for me, because I was born in Pontefract Hospital.
I warned that the range of facilities at the new Pontefract Hospital meant it was all but inevitable full A&E services would not continue. This was dismissed as ’scaremongering’ by Yvette’s team. For her to now claim to be on the side of those of us who have seen this coming for years is not only disingenuous but downright offensive.
I repeatedly highlighted the warnings passed to me by staff that the new hospital was not going to have a range of facilities essential for running a full A&E. No acute care beds, no emergency ambulance bays, no morgue.I asked whether we had been misled over the new A&E, while Yvette didn’t even think the new hospital worthy of a mention on her election address. (Below)
And heaven forbid we ask who the Junior Health Minister was at the time the new hospital plans were being finalised? Yes, one Yvette Cooper.
Every decision made concerning Pontefract Hospital was taken under a Labour government. From the grossly expensive PFI deal that has seen parikng charges rocket to the lack of ambulance bays and facilities essential to running a full A&E, there is only one thing Yvette should be saying today and that is sorry.
Morley and Outwood was undoubtedly one of the highest profile battlegrounds of the 2010 general election. Antony Calvert put up a sterling fight to turn a nominally safe Labour seat into a tight marginal with a majority of little more than 1,000. Not bad to say he barely had a fourteen months as candidate, compared to the four years many people enjoyed in some target seats.
One thing that did raise eyebrows was Ed Balls’ speech upon being declared the winner. Rather than recognise his narrow escape and pay tribute to his opponents, Balls went off on one, telling the assembled media and public that he wanted to send a message to the Tory campaign: “You can come along with all your posters, and all your leaflets, and all your advertising, but you cannot buy this constituency”
Figures now released tell another story - Ed Balls was the highest spending candidate in the seat.
He spent £26,659 to Calvert’s £24,911. And that doesn’t include the office funded by his union friends or the Parliamentary communications allowance he received as a sitting MP. (While his old constituency of Normanton was abolished, 2 of the wards in it remained in the new Morley & Outwood seat.)
Also, if anyone’s interested, my opponent Yvette Cooper spent £10,831 on her election campaign - roughly £5,000 more than me. (I came in at £5,761)
She nearly doubled my campaign spend, I nearly halved her majority. Who said the public don’t read election literature?!
So, after a few hectic months, the time has come to reflect on the campaign and thank the dedicated group of volunteers for their support during the campaign.
We performed much better than the national swing of 5%, halving Yvette’s majority with a 12.5% swing - which was described as “astonishing” by no less than David Dimbleby. My dad was particularly proud of that!
It has been a real privilege to be the candidate, and it is deeply humbling for so many people to place their trust in me with their vote. I’ve enjoyed the experience enormously, from the street surgeries to the hustings events I hope I’ve been able to bring a few new people into the fold and strengthened the Conservative cause.
Whilst I was gutted to see both Wakefield and Morley be held by labour by such slim majorities, across the district I think we can be proud that we ran a positive campaign in the face of one of the most relentlessly negative campaigns an incumbent government has ever run.
I can honestly say I don’t know what comes next now - I’m lucky to have a job I enjoy, once again festival season will soon be upon me and I really, really do need to go on holiday. I’ve got a paper for the Conservative Technology Forum to finish, lots of thank you letters to write and the election in Thirsk & Malton to help with. Some people said some incredibly kind things to me during the campaign and I will take their messages with me into whatever avenue my life goes down next.
But for now, I’ll end with saying once again, to everyone who helped thank you very, very much and I hope this won’t be the last time I have the privilege of being part of the noble endeavor we call democracy.
Yesterday some of the team and I spent the day handing out copies of David Cameron’s contract between the Conservative Party and voters.
The contract sets out certain specific things in exchange for people’s vote.
It’s a contract that sets out what we will do as our side of the bargain. How we’ll make sure we’ll have good schools. What we’ll do to improve our health service. How we’ll make people feel safer on our streets. What our role is in getting the economy moving and making sure there are jobs.
Changing our political system to make it more accountable, open and local - including commitments to give people the right to sack their MP; cut the number of MPs by 10%; cut ministers’ pay by 5%; give local communities more power, and publish details of government spending and contracts.
Changing the economy to get it moving - including commitments to cut wasteful spending to stop Labour’s jobs tax; act now on debt; get Britain working by reforming welfare; reduce emissions and build a green economy; control immigration.
Changing society to help build a Big Society where everyone plays a part in helping to mend our broken society. This includes commitments to: increase spending on health each year; support families; raise standards in schools; increase the basic state pension; fight back against crime, and create National Citizen Service for every 16 year old.
In his speech launching the contract, David Cameron said: “We haven’t had enough accountability in our government these recent years, they say things and say things but nothing changes.”
“This contract will set out our side of the bargain, what we’re going to do. And I urge people to read it, to hold us to it, to make sure we deliver it as we all work together to build the stronger society, the faster growing economy, the cleaner political system that we all need to see in this country”.
It’s one of the biggest issues facing Britain, and something I know people across the constituency are concerned about. How will a Conservative government tackle the benefits culture Labour have burdened us with?
We will create a new welfare contract, one that promises people: if you do the right thing then we will back you all the way; but if you fail to take responsibility then the free ride is over.
We will introduce a single, comprehensive Work Programme to get Britain working again, which will be up and running by the end of 2010. As part of our Work Programme, we will offer unprecedented support to all those who are looking for work. If you can’t work and need to be paid Incapacity Benefit then we will give you the financial support to which you are entitled. And if you can work, and you actively look for work, we will give you unprecedented help to find a good job.
But you must keep to your side of the bargain. We will make sure that you are claiming the right benefits and, within six months of taking office, we will introduce new sanctions for anyone who refuses to look for work.
It couldn’t be more clear - we’re on the side of hard working people, and we can’t go on with the broken system we have.
There are now two public hustings events confirmed for the constituency, where members of the public are able to quiz the people who would like to be the next MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.
Friday, 23 April: 8pm, Normanton Conservative Club
Tueday, 27 April, 7pm, The parish church, Snydale Rd, WF6 1NT
There’s also an event at Pontefract New College at 1pm on Friday 30th, open to students.
Normanton might not be the sort of place you’d expect to turn blue. Then again, you could say that about lots of places in West Yorkshire.
Whether it’s in the council estates of Wakefield or the terraced streets of Outwood, people are turning to the Conservatives to mend their communities, get the local economy moving and change not just the district council (Labour’s last in West Yorkshire) but the country.
Across Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, I’ve been struck by just how badly the current government has served those who most need real help. The seat is home in every sense for me – it’s where I was born, where I grew up and where I live – and my campaign has been inundated by people who have always voted Labour, but are now desperate to avoid five more years of Gordon Brown.
In taking on Yvette Cooper in her existing constituency and parts of the seat currently occupied by her husband, Ed Balls, I have been shocked by the apathy towards politics that they have fostered. Life-long Labour voters, not to mention people like me, have seen letters, e-mails and phone calls go unanswered and pleas for help ignored. Their photographs may regularly appear on the pages of the local newspaper, but their detachment from the communities they were elected to serve is all too clear.
Westminster is an alien land to too many people here, while the policies pursued from Whitehall hit the vulnerable hardest. From uncontrolled immigration to the collapse of discipline in schools, the target culture driving nurses to despair to the early release of criminals, thousands of once stalwart Labour voters have had enough and are ready for change.
I seem to come across a harrowing tale of Government failure every day. In Castleford, children have nicknamed one play area the ‘Glass Park’, such is the level of debris, yet just a few miles away more than £4m was spent on a bridge that doesn’t lead anywhere.
On the doorstep, you hear tales of how people working forty-hours plus weeks live alongside people just as well off on benefits, while others are desperate to work but are penalised by a complex and regressive tax credits regime.
These aren’t just statistics – they are the very real examples of how desperately Britain needs change.
Labour have betrayed the trust of working class people and it is the Conservatives offering a vision of a Britain built on work, responsibility and community.
These are the values communities across West Yorkshire are built on and why I believe on election night you’ll see a large swathe of Labour’s heartland turning blue.
(This post was first published on the Blue Blog - you can read it here)
A country is at its best when the bonds between people are strong and when the sense of national purpose is clear. Today the challenges facing Britain are immense. Our economy is overwhelmed by debt, our social fabric is frayed and our political system has betrayed the people. But these problems can be overcome if we pull together and work together. If we remember that we are all in this together.
Some politicians say: ‘give us your vote and we will sort out all your problems’. We say: real change comes not from government alone. Real change comes when the people are inspired and mobilised, when millions of us are fired up to play a part in the nation’s future.
Yes this is ambitious. Yes it is optimistic. But in the end all the Acts of Parliament, all the new measures, all the new policy initiatives, are just politicians’ words without you and your involvement.
I am delighted to have been selected as the Conservative Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.
It’s of particular significance for me because the constituency covers where I grew up, and to all intents and purposes is home. I was born in Pontefract hospital, played football as a teenager across the towns of Knottingley, Castleford and Normanton (in the process achieving my greatest sporting accolade, Altofts U15’s Opposition player of the Season’ award*) and until moving to Harrogate in January 2008, I lived there.
In a week or so I’ll be moving back to Altofts but the campaign will be kicking off before then - I’ll be in Knottingley with our candidate for the local elections, Jon Wadey, all day and then spending the evening in Pontefract Conservative Club, enjoying a beer with the members.
If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, do feel free to email me on email@example.com and there will soon be a campaign website up and running, as well as a Facebook group. You can also keep upto date with what I’m getting upto via twitter - www.twitter.com/nickpickles
*At the time, I was playing in nets and it’s fair to say we didnt have a very good season. Despite losing pretty much every game by quite a few goals, I apparently saved enough chances for opposition managers to pick me as the best player on our team more often than any of my team mates. I decided to move to defence after that season, playing centre half or full back, believing it was best to hang up my gloves on a high point.