Published — 14 January, 2020
View from Westminster
Elections are by their nature divisive things. I like the cut and thrust of debate, the battle of ideas and the feisty hustings which are a stimulating part of our democracy. This election was no different; if anything the dividing lines between the parties and candidates were sharper than ever.
So it was quite something for me personally to be elected for the fourth time in nine years to represent my home area in Parliament. It is also a matter of personal pride that I again secured more than half the votes cast and a total vote not dissimilar to the peak in 2017.
Whilst it would be inhuman not to feel some pride at the above the role of an MP is not to win big majorities or to get re-elected time and again. It is to represent their constituency, community groups, businesses and individuals to the best of their ability and irrespective of party politics.
That is what I have tried to do for the past nine years and aim to do for the next five. And that is why I would like to thank all those who supported me and all the residents of Harrogate, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge and the surrounding villages for taking part in the democratic process. Some people don’t vote and I respect that choice and will seek to represent everyone regardless.
And that brings me to the parts of modern day elections I do not like. I don’t like it when candidates spend much of their time demonising their opponents. I don’t like statistics manipulated into dodgy looking bar charts to present improbable outcomes based on bizarre scenarios in an attempt to con people to vote for one party or another. I don’t like party political apparatchiks masquerading as independent professionals encouraging people to vote in a particular way without declaring their political allegiances.
We saw all these things in this constituency during the General Election.
I don’t use these tactics. I simply say what I do in the local area and describe how I represent local people and our communities. My literature and my team were positive about our achievements and our ambitions. We didn’t pull down opponents or manipulate people to vote differently to their beliefs to ‘stop someone else winning’.
We didn’t pour vitriol on other opponents on Twitter. The personal abuse heaped on my team on social media this election from just a handful of people was significant.
But, as I said in my speech at the count, little of this was reflected in what people were saying to us on the doorstep particularly in areas like Bilton and Knaresborough. It was the warmest welcome I had ever received on the doorsteps.
Politics needs to grow up and step away from this old-fashioned and frankly US-style attack ad approach. I hope over the next few years – at least locally – there will be agreement to adopt a more positive approach.
It is important because there are significant things to do locally. We need to get Northern Rail – or whoever runs our local line – back on track so that we can capitalise on the new rolling stock and the direct trains to London. We need to re-assess how our town centres operate in an age of ever-increasing internet shopping so that our high streets remain vibrant and alive. Climate change is a global problem but local action matters so we need to plant trees, reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and make our homes more energy efficient. Our public services need the ongoing investment that can only happen if we have a thriving and growing economy and people in work providing the taxes that fund them.
Those are just some of the goals for the new Government and for me locally for the next five years. My ambition is to work with others of all parties and none to achieve them and much more besides.
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