First and foremost, let us deal with the elephant in the room. The past week in Westminster has seen me sitting through hustings in hot and stuffy rooms listening to candidates tell me all sorts to try to get my vote.
If you want to read about the constituency and not the politics, can I suggest you scroll down to the bit in red and miss all this!
I have chosen to back Rishi Sunak. When I tell people some nod sagely and say how wise, others arch an eyebrow quizzically. So let me try and set out how logic got me to this position.
It has been an immensely difficult time for the Government. It was clear that, whether you thought the controversy around parties to be fair or unfair to Mr Johnson, the government was increasingly dysfunctional as a consequence, and the bond of trust with the British people had been broken. The ‘misremembering’ of the treatment of the allegations around Mr Pincher were the straw that broke the back for many colleagues.
Such are the times we face with the cost of living crisis and the Ukraine that difficult decisions will need to be made, and we need a public that – even if they don’t agree with us – feel we are acting in the national interest rather than our own interest. We may not be perfect, or get it right every time, but that we act with integrity to maintain public trust is essential.
The challenge for MPs is that we engage with these candidates on a daily basis and know them well. It often strikes me that the views the public shape about a leading politician are often the complete opposite of what I find sitting with them in the Commons tea room or in a one-to-one meeting. Some are capable of incalculable rudeness, let me tell you, and some can’t even be bothered to remember your name (I can cope). I also have to put my personal fate aside to make a decision about what I believe is best for both the country and this constituency so that we are governed competently.
I love tax cuts as much as the next Conservative, but in this constituency not all that many earn enough to pay tax. For them, inflation is the problem – and it has always been seen as a tax on the least well off. Tackling inflation helps those who need it most now, helps the economy recover from the shock, and creates the space for tax cuts where we don’t need to borrow money to pay for them. That is one attraction of Rishi Sunak – he doesn’t see the economy as an experiment to see what happens if you do ‘x’.
My main concern is that we focus inwards as a party on minute differences of little interest to the general voter, rather than thinking about what matters most to the country. And, yes, who can win a General Election and not just an internal party election. We face a series of foreign and economic crises also. So it is important to have candidates who have occupied high office. Both Ms Badenoch and Ms Mordaunt have immense talent, I don’t doubt, but they have not had the opportunity to prove themselves in senior cabinet roles for a sustained time. That left Mr Sunak and Ms Truss. As a Brexiteer, I remember Mrs May struggling to persuade the party that her heart was in delivering Brexit, and I fear Ms Truss (who also supported Remain) will find similar problems that would hobble her Government. Mr Sunak is thus the logical choice for me.
Whatever goes in Westminster, important stuff occurs here too. I am sure the fate of the Prime Minister was not uppermost in residents’ minds as flood waters rose once more across the north of Cleveleys.
Flooding has been occurring far too much in recent years. New investment in automatic pumping stations like Anchorsholme help store storm water – but that drains from central and south Blackpool mostly. Our storm water flows towards Stanah and the Wyre Estuary, so we are heavily reliant on old streams and dykes and uncleared drains that are in dire need of maintenance and desilting.
I am focusing on getting the Environment Agency to do its job and clear and desilt the dykes, get private land owners to clear their own stretches of dyke, and look at setting up a Local Drainage Board that will bring those responsible together to pool funding more effectively. I will be attending a number of roundtables and stakeholder meetings to make sure the pass-the-parcel blame game is brought to an end.
I was also very pleased with the government’s welcomed decision to progress the reopening of the Fleetwood-to-Poulton Line to the ‘final stages’ of delivery. We’re not quite there yet – but it is tantalisingly within touching distance once we have cleared some of the practicalities up. I have met with Jason Graham, Senior Project Manager at Network Rail, and Eddie Fisher, train driver and president of the Poulton Wyre Railway Society to discuss just what is needed next.
I also visited ‘Project Neptune’ on the Fleetwood docks. The project was built in partnership with Associated British Ports and Wyre Council to change the economic narrative in Fleetwood. We all know that Fleetwood is not the fishing town it once was, but the visit filled me with hope that the fish processing sector can be a job creator for my constituents, and offers young people a chance of career progression within the sector. It is 40,000 square feet of newly built warehouses, mostly processing facilities but also an auction hall. The Fleetwood Fish and Merchants Association Ltd are also bidding for a grant to cover the cost of installing clean energy alternatives (like solar panels and electric forklifts) as well as a training academy to train local future generations.
I also met with the Tourism and Business Improvement District (TBID) group who are developing some exciting plans for the Warbreck/Cliffs area. The area has some fantastic hotels, unparalleled views, and is not as well know perhaps as the ‘golden mile’ The most fascinating innovation I heard was to produce a heritage centre in the ward – having just taken the 20th Century Society around the local area, we had been learning all about the high quality domestic homes built along the seafront.
Here is also what I have been doing recently
- Introduced a Bill on requiring an assessment of individual Ministers’ competence to be conducted
- Attended hustings for leadership candidates and kept voting for Rishi Sunak
- Demanded ‘social tariffs’ be made available by broadband companies – action now promised
- Welcomed transfer of MOD Business Services jobs to Blackpool at defence questions in the Commons
- Led debate on listed buildings and Blackpool in Parliament
- Got coverage in the Times for my raising awareness that no company left in UK which makes cricket balls!
- Raised concerns about owners of ‘lived in’ B&Bs not getting energy grant
- Visited electric car leasing exhibition to stress need for a steady supply of affordable second hand e-vehicles
- Represented the political world at Fleetwood’s Sea Sunday service
- Complained to Amazon about poor driving standards by too many of their delivery drivers
- Met with Barclays to discuss my ongoing Access to Cash
- Chaired round table with TSB and Times journalist Anne Ashworth on how to address poverty
- Met with Versus Arthritis to learn more about the backlog of treatment currently in NHS
- Attended the Armed Forces day event at the Fylde Memorial Arboretum led by the Fylde Ex-service Liaison Committee.
- Met with Louise Beardmore, Chief Executive of United Utilities, to discuss trialling financial support for those undergoing financial difficulty in the constituency.
- Met with the Royal Life Saving Society to discuss local initiatives to encourage life-saving training to school pupils.
- I chaired my All-Party Group on Cerebral Palsy where we heard from parents the transition of children with CP into adulthood and how challenging that is - and discussed with Minister Gillian Keegan.
- I visited Wandsworth Prison with the Justice Select Committee to look at how the remand system operates.
- I had a fantastic time at St. Stephen-on-the-Cliffs’s Summer fete to meet the parishioners and enjoyed the fantastic cakes stall!
Feel free to pose any questions!
Paul Maynard MP