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In Government but not in office?

Bermondsey and Old Southwark deserves an MP able to influence policy and ensure better outcomes and opportunities for our community and country as a whole.

Our Lib Dem MP and Tory-led Government Minister has failed in a number of areas.

  • The ‘super-sewer’ decision affects our riverside community and upends a primary school playground for years as a result of our MP’s inability to influence Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
  • The coalition ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for first time buyers has shockingly failed to help a single person buy their first home in the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency.
  • A whole raft of Government policies have impacted negatively in Southwark which our MP failed to prevent. These include:
    • 5,000 people being hit by the Bedroom Tax;
    • 300 fewer police officers and PCSOs; and the closure of the Southwark fire station despite our growing population.
    • Axing the council's budget by £310 per person in the borough leaving Southwark the 6th worst affected council in cuts since 2010.

Other Lib Dems have left office rather than vote for such policies – including Sarah Teather on welfare cuts. But the Lib Dem MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark has remained in office despite the controversy and apparent hypocrisy.

The local MP is Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. This includes overseeing the controversial privatisation of probation services – affecting 40 officers in January alone in Southwark, set to leave the Met’s staff count according to the Borough Commander. It also includes the embarrassing attempt to ban books reaching prisoners. And includes direct responsibility for axing help to families seeking legal aid.

Locally, I have spoken to a mother in Bermondsey unable to seek changes to access rights granted to her violent ex-partner despite his behaviour becoming more disturbing for her and the children. And I’ve met a father in Walworth unable to fight for access to even see his children. Whilst Thatcher was Prime Minister, my father fought for custody of my siblings and I to prevent us being separated and put in care. He won. It is hugely disturbing that I might never have seen my sister or brothers again if the Lib Dems had been in Government at the time. 

The negative impact of coalition legal aid policy were condemned last September after the Children’s Commissioner published a report demonstrating that the Government was breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A Lib Dem Minister and former barrister who claims to support human rights had left children without access to justice.

His pompous claims on Magna Carta and access to justice have resulted in public lampooning and further accusations of hypocrisy. Instead of seeking direct departmental policy change, the Lib Dem Minister claimed he had ordered his department to review the impact of the changes on children.

However, it has come to light that no specific review is underway or planned. This Lib Dem Minister is unable to influence his own department, let alone broader Government policy. A Lib Dem in power but not in office.

I make this very basic promise to people across Bermondsey and Old Southwark: that I will seek to influence Government policy to benefit people in Bermondsey and Old Southwark; and I will not vote for something I think will negatively impact on our community.

This promise is based on principles but also a decade’s professional policy and campaigns work. My track record is on successfully influencing social care and social security policy:

  • I helped ensure older people funded by councils in social care settings had their human rights upheld by influencing legislation under the last Government;
  • I helped ensure this Government was forced to trial policies affecting disabled people and influenced a legal case to protect children from the bedroom tax; and
  • As a result of my policy work, I have been invited to speak as an expert witness to three parliamentary committees examining Government policy, including the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Public Accounts Committee. 

My promise to influence policy to benefit Bermondsey and Old Southwark should not be bold or extraordinary, but has become so after five years of our local MP failing to do so, leaving our community worse off as a result of his department and his Government’s policies.

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commented 2015-02-19 15:18:04 +0000
Neil – as a Labour party member and a Southwark constituent, I feel that this election will be won on local lines – people are disillusioned with party leaders, of whatever colour (I would reiterate I am 100% behind Ed – however it is not unknown that others have doubts). Hearing someone that will stand up for local issues is big and it is great to see how you have taken the fight to the area, my area, your area and an area I hope will be red come May and look forward to working with you in the future.

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