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Saturday, 8 May 2010

Following the election...

Thanks very much to everyone who voted for me as the Lib Dem candidate for Hendon in the General Election of 6 May 2010. I got 5,734 votes, which is roughly the same as the Lib Dem candidate got in 2005, despite strong attempts to "squeeze" the Lib Dem vote in what was seen as a Labour/Tory marginal. I am disappointed not to have got more votes, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of standing for Parliament for the first time, which was a great honour. I do think that a lot of voters were tightly undecided between the Lib Dems and another party before finally deciding to vote Tory or Labour (partly for tactical reasons), and I respect that entirely - I am just delighted to have been able to stand. I have congratulated the Conservative Matthew Offord on being elected as Hendon's next MP, and my commiserations go to Andrew Dismore, the outgoing Labour MP. I greatly enjoyed debating with Andrew and Matthew at the hustings meetings to which we were all invited.

Nationally, the British people have elected a Parliament in which no one party has an overall majority. In light of this, I strongly endorse the approach being taken by Nick Clegg, as outlined in the statement below yesterday morning:
"Last night was a disappointment for the Liberal Democrats. Even though more people voted for us than ever before, even though we had a higher proportion of the vote than ever before, it is of course a source of great regret to me that we have lost some really valued friends and colleagues and we have returned to Parliament with fewer MPs than before.

"Many, many people during the election campaign were excited about the prospect of doing something different, but it seems that when they came to vote, many of them, in the end, decided to stick with what they knew best. And at a time of great economic uncertainty, I totally understand those feelings. But that’s not going to stop me from redoubling my efforts and our efforts to show that real change is the best reassurance that things can get better for people and their families, that it shouldn’t be something which unsettles people.

"Now we’re in a very fluid political situation with no party enjoying an absolute majority. As I’ve said before, it seems to me in a situation like this, it’s vital that all political parties, all political leaders, act in the national interest, and not out of narrow party political advantage. I’ve also said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties, and I stick to that view. It seems this morning that it’s the Conservative party that has more votes and more seats, though not an absolute majority, and that is why I think it is now for the Conservative party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest. At the same time, this election campaign has made it abundantly clear that our electoral system is broken, it simply doesn’t reflect the hopes and aspirations of the British people, so I repeat again my assurance, that whatever happens in the coming hours and days and weeks, I will continue to argue not only for the greater fairness in British society, not only the greater responsibility in economic policy making, but also for the extensive, real reforms that we need to fix our broken political system. Thank you very much."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Polling day: It's over to you

I have just written a letter to electors on my blog on the website of the Hendon Times; I do hope that you might read it. Well, here we are on the eve of polling day. With the Hendon Times reporting signs that the Lib Dems could do well here, I'll leave you to make up your own mind what to do in the polling booth on Thursday. As you ponder your decision, I would invite you to consider:
  1. I am a community campaigner, as shown by my having held First Capital Connect to account over Thameslink. I will do much more of that if you elect me as Hendon's next MP.
  2. No longer can anyone say that the Lib Dems "can't win" - the polls show that we can win, and we will win if you choose to vote for us.
  3. If Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have inspired you with the wish to see Lib Dems in power, then why not vote for us?
So now it's over to you! And that's democracy.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The situation in Sri Lanka

It has been suggested that I expand upon what I previously wrote here about the situation in Sri Lanka. As well as being deeply aware of the suffering of the Tamil people, I am very much aware that the Tamil Tigers have been a brutal terrorist organisation, responsible for killing many people. The Sri Lankan government is well within its rights to fight terrorism. However, I question some of the methods used by the government over the years, and I am critical of many aspects of how the post-conflict situation has been handled since 2009. When I call for alleged war crimes to be investigated, I include within that not only the actions of Sri Lanka’s government, but also the actions of the Tamil Tigers. On 29 April 2009, the Liberal Democrats devoted an Opposition Day debate in Parliament to the situation in Sri Lanka. During that debate, our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, said:
"no one in the House is taking sides... I believe that we are united in opposition to human rights abuses and violence whoever perpetrates them."
May I echo that approach and say that I look forward (especially if elected as Hendon’s next MP) to continuing to learn more about Sri Lanka and listening to all points of view, be they Sinhalese or be they Tamil.

Tragedy in the Congo

I am filled with anger at the latest news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I know that no British government can wave a magic wand and solve every problem, but more can and must be done by the international community, including Britain. My party's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, put it well in his speech at the Lib Dem party conference. This is the sort of foreign policy I want to see for Britain, as outlined in the speech - why not read it and see if you agree with me? With the Lib Dems remaining ahead of Labour in most national opinion polls, this election is wide open, so YOU get to choose who you want to be Hendon's next MP. Perhaps that's why Betfair has slashed its odds on me winning from 100/1 to 16/1? I know that still makes me a long shot, but it's a big reduction in the odds, reflecting what local people have been saying to me about who they might vote for on Thursday. There is everything to play for in this election here in Hendon.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Liberal Democrats' local manifesto

Thursday is polling day not only in the General Election, but also in the local council elections. I very much hope that we Lib Dems win lots more councillors here in our borough of Barnet and here is our local manifesto, which I strongly endorse. Here's an interesting thing. Some people think that when you become the local MP for Hendon, you are somehow put in charge of delivering local services. The reality is different. I would be the local area's representative in the House of Commons, looking at national issues on local people's behalf, but I wouldn't have any control over services that are delivered locally.

So, if, as a Parliamentary candidate, I claimed to be able to deliver lots of local improvements, I would be being dishonest, and I don't want to do that. Our local area would benefit from the Liberal Democrats' national policies and I would strongly fight for those policies to be implemented nationwide including here, for the benefit of people living in Hendon. So my top three local priorities as MP for Hendon would be:
  1. As a community campaigner, I would hold deliverers of public services to account, as I have already done in my Thameslink campaign - cutting through bureaucracy on your behalf, so you don't have to
  2. I would fight hard for Hendon to get its fair share of national resources
  3. I would scrutinise legislation for things that might be bad for Hendon, so that they can be amended or removed.

All to play for here in Hendon - and a hustings meeting tonight

As another national opinion poll shows my party in the lead, I am really enjoying this campaign in Hendon - whatever the result turns out to be! With polls like this, I really do believe that the Lib Dems have a chance of an excellent result in Hendon, but that's up to the voters to decide. Talking of which, this evening (Sunday 2 May) at 7.30, there is another hustings meeting, this time at Mill Hill East Church on Salcombe Gardens. I will be speaking alongside the Conservative and Labour candidates, before we take questions from the audience - all are welcome, and it should be a lively event. If you're still considering who to vote for, why not come along and see if one of us can convince you?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

My party's agenda on gay rights

A local resident has asked me to expand on my views on gay rights. My party has an excellent record on this and I strongly agree with Nick Clegg's stance on these issues. We candidates get sent a lot of web surveys to fill in, and in my answer to one such survey, I ticked something that wrongly implied that I might have doubts about gay adoption. I have no such doubts and am strongly in favour of gay couples having the right to adopt and foster children. In an ideal world, every child would live with its mother and father, who would be together and able to happily bring up their children unaided - but we don't live in anything like an ideal world, hence the need for adoption and fostering. Adoption and fostering are almost always better for any child than is instutional care. I am filled with admiration and respect for anyone (whatever their sexuality) who is prepared to adopt or foster a child. I am a strong believer in gay people's right to adopt and foster children.

Proud to stand with local Gurkhas

I was recently contacted by some leaders of our local Nepalese community, most of whose households include a Gurkha who has served in the British Army. I was delighted to go and meet some of these Gurkhas to answer their questions about what I would do as Hendon's next MP and I got a very positive response, although everyone will make up their own mind how to vote in this election.

It was the Liberal Democrats who won the Parliamentary fight for justice for Gurkha veterans and it really is an honour to have met men who have served with such distinction in the British Army. I hope to serve them, and everyone else in the constituency, if elected as Hendon's Liberal Democrat MP.