• My parliamentary campaign launch speech - A new voice for East Devon?

    3rd June 2014 | News | Claire
  • An alternative East Devon
    Imagine a different MP for East Devon …..

    • Who represents East Devon’s interests by frequently tabling QUESTIONS to ministers on matters of importance to constituents

    • Who regularly takes part in debates that are of importance to East Devon residents and SPEAKS OUT on their behalf.

    • Who INITIATES debates to further the interests of their constituents.

    • Who is free to speak and free to act, on behalf of their constituents precisely BECAUSE they are not a member of a party and because they are not subject to a party whip.

    • An MP who has more TIME to represent constituents because they are not a party member and therefore do not have to attend a myriad of group meetings.

    Contrary to what many people think, an independent MP has far MORE scope to properly represent their constituency than any party member has.

    A revolution
    Anyone who has lived in East Devon for any length of time is likely to have a noticed a rich seam of discontent among residents.

    That discontent – very far from the apathy that we keep hearing about – has grown into something that resembles a revolution….

    In November 2012 THOUSANDS of residents marched on EDDC’s offices at the Knowle, which of course, takes many of its orders from political colleagues at central govt.

    The event brought together people from all over the district united with one emotion.

    A burning anger.  That I share wholeheartedly.

    The demonstrators on the march were absolutely furious. Why?  Because their views were being ignored. Actually not just ignored. But trampled, trivialised and steamrollered.

    The main focus for their anger were planning decisions by EDDC, but fuelled by central government. Decisions that led to communities having excessive levels of development imposed on them.

    To give one example, a tiny community between Broadclyst and Pinhoe – Westclyst, has had a whopping 1200 houses imposed upon it. Where the highest quality agricultural land lay four years ago, boundaried by about 30 bungalows, there are now sprawling housing estates.

    Since the beginning of the East Devon revolution, as I tend to think of it. A plethora of blogs, facebook pages and campaign groups have been established. Save Our Sidmouth, Budleigh Longboat Association, Save Elizabeth Hall in Exmouth, Protect Ottery St Mary ….
    The widespread resentment, quite understandably, is directed at our conservative-run local council – and its political allies at central government.

    Most recently and most significantly, we have seen the rise of the East Devon Alliance, which draws together all of the smaller campaign groups under one umbrella. It is a powerful force for positive action and has given hope where there was previously a sense of hopelessness.

    Developing links with other groups in country…

    Apart from the loss of our precious countryside and trees, the loose planning rules in the NPPF are playing havoc with our ability to get appointments at our local GP surgeries.  And to get our children and grandchildren into the schools in the communities where we live. 

    Our roads are becoming ever more clogged with traffic, as the NPPF states that planning applications can only be refused on traffic grounds, if the impact is SEVERE. Even applications proposing hundreds of houses, are now not objected to by DCC highways officers.

    Mr Cameron’s claims on Countryfile in 2012 must ring hollow in the ears of many people. Two years ago David Cameron told John Craven: “I care deeply about our countryside and our environment.

    “I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family……!”

    And as for the claim at the beginning of this government that it would be the greenest ever, I think we could all think of a riposte to that!

    Big business
    So why is all this happening?…. Well the govt seems to be making policy – not for the benefit of its citizens, but for the benefit of big business.

    We all know that there is a huge deficit, that times are tough and things have to change, but ministers seem to be sacrificing our most precious assets on the alter of economic growth, without any regard for voters views.

    It is economic growth at all costs.  And big business is evidently influencing government policy.

    Ministers actually asked developers to write the NPPF!

    The coalition is offering tax breaks to big business, including fracking companies!

    – at least 50 big businesses have special access to ministers, through buddying scheme, including oil companies, pharmaceutical giants and telecoms companies. Own MP buddied with Proctor and Gamble, which is contributing to the destruction of the rainforest, with its use of palm oil in shampoo.

    – the lobbying bill .. OR quite wrongly named “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill”  …. Was supposed to address concerns about behind closed doors influence by big business on ministers…has signally failed

    There is little improvement on transparency in the govt’s dealings with big business.

    Instead it is charities that have had their influence curtailed, which of course, is miniscule compared with the influence of the likes of Proctor and Gamble or pharmaceutical giants.

    Big business appears to be rewarding the conservatives in particular, by pouring millions of pounds into party coffers.

    The trade unions do likewise to the labour party.

    In East Devon we know only too well the corrosive effect that big business can have on local government policy.

    Many of you will remember that in 2012 I lodged a motion to remove EDDC’s £5000 a year funding to the EDBF – whose big property developer members, had hugely influenced EDDC’s planning policy. Many of you will remember that I was heckled, insulted and ridiculed for proposing it.

    But less than a year later, EDDC cut ITSELF loose from EDBF in the wake of an undercover Daily Telegraph sting. A police investigation is still ongoing into the activities of former Cllr Graham Brown …..

    Public services.
    Something else that makes me angry is the crippling loss of our public services in East Devon. Central govt is forcing DCC to cut an eye-watering £110m by 2017. Follows similar amount cut by central govt in last four years.

    Estimated that by 2017 around 40 per cent of council budgets will be lost.

    Effect in East Devon already taking shape. We are seeing communities devastated with closures of libraries, youth centres, children’s centres, day centres and residential homes. 

    Our roads seem to be permanently potholed and our verges remain uncut.

    Our potholed roads appear to be a metaphor for what’s wrong with this government’s commitment to public svcs.

    And only just started. Next year and the year after will be worse.  Councillors are virtually helpless in the face of such massive budget cuts.

    Our two MPs who we relied on to speak up for us, have not found their voices. Year after year has seen them voting in favour of the local government cuts – and in favour of the hardship that such cuts have and will, cause.

    It should shame govt ministers that more and more people in East Devon are being forced to use foodbanks.

    The government claims that NHS funding is ring-fenced, at the same time as insisting it must make millions of pounds worth of “savings.”  The RD&E, one of the best hospitals in the country, is now struggling with a massive deficit, which is set to reach £13m by 2016.

    As a member of the DCC health overview and scrutiny cttee, I am aware that East Devon’s community hospitals are likely to see major bed losses in the coming months, in a bid to save money and move care closer to home.

    While the evisceration of public services is taking place, the government is wasting our money on vanity projects such as high speed rail. We will be taxed on the £50bn it is costing. The environmental cost, with the loss of dozens of important woodlands, is unlikely to ever be recovered.

    A fraction of that £50bn would dramatically improve Devon’s rail services.

    Police and crime commissioner elections cost £70m. And our own PCC here in Devon & Cornwall, is costing considerably more than the old police authority.

    More than ever before, people of this country are turning away from the big political parties. They are tired of party politics, mechanical sounding politicians, the slavishly followed party line.  And the whipped vote, which is often at odds with the rhetoric!

    In my experience there is little apathy in East Devon. The disaffection resembles a kind of fury that gets burns hotter and hotter.  The way things are going, it will reach boiling point by the time the general and local elections take place next year.

    Speaking of the local elections and looking around the room I am hoping that we will see a large number of minority and independent candidates standing for EDDC next May!

    A long-standing majority of 42 conservative councillors out of 59 councillors is unhealthy at best and corrosive at worst.  As it would be if the labour party held 71 per cent of council seats.

    I am – and I want to be, the opposite of a political party. I am independent. I have no party, no line to take, no whip to tell me how to vote and no nationally produced manifesto.

    I would never have to choose between my conscience and a party line.

    I will not take donations from corporations.

    I am free to speak and free to act!

    There are mechanisms within the House of Commons that an independent like me can use to further the causes of her constituency. I would make full use of them.

    If I have the honour of being elected as East Devon’s MP I promise I would always work hard and do my utmost to represent local people’s views.  Just as I have time after time, as a councillor.

    My manifesto will be based on your views, needs and wishes.  And it will be published after I have spent six months visiting as many ED communities as I can to collect those views, needs and wishes.

    Today has come about as a result of dozens of people asking me to run for parliament.  After much soul-searching I knew it was the right thing to do.

    I am deadly serious about getting elected and if I did I would spend as much time in the constituency meeting with, and helping my constituents. 

    During my election campaign I will prove that there is a much better alternative to party politics.

    And that’s an independent, free-thinking, free-acting, spirited alternative.

    Here’s Susie Bond’s blog post of the event ….. http://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/cllr-claire-wright-launches-her-campaign-for-a-seat-at-westminster/ 

    Here’s Roger Giles introduction outlined on the East Devon Alliance website – in the http://eastdevonalliance.org/2014/06/03/news-and-dates-for-your-diary-for-june-2014/

    Photograph: Sat with Roger Giles, just before the start of his introduction to my speech ….