Lewes Tory is stealing Lib Dems’ thunder

The Lewes Constituency Conservative candidate’s advisers and correspondents are as ill-informed on railways and transport as they were on planning (as pointed out in my letter of June 27, 2014).

Let’s look at the local Tory six-point plan.

Issue 1 – A27 improvements: How can the Lewes Tory candidate say ‘we’ have been awarded £75m? I cannot find any reference to her in the 20-year-campaign, which was led from Eastbourne. Talk about jumping on a band wagon!

Issue 2 – Railways: Norman Baker, while rail minister, championed the biggest railway investment since the 19th century. Our Tory candidate is (belatedly) ‘supporting’ the campaign to reopen the Lewes to Uckfield line. So what has she actually done? I can’t find a single action. But in 2010 Norman Baker was arguing the business case for the line when the Lewes Conservative candidate was standing for Parliament in Caerphilly.

Issue 3 – the NHS: Where was the Conservative candidate when Norman Baker and I handed in a petition to save the Victoria Hospital? Where was she when we took on the local hospital trusts, or when Norman Baker marched successfully with Seaford councillors Lambert, Gauntlett, and Adeniji to stop maternity and other services being transferred to Hastings? Norman has helped many people over such simple things as respite care, so vital to families under stress. Against this, the £475m for Brighton Hospital has been 10 years in the planning, and has nothing to do with our Tory candidate’s recent appointment.

Issue 4 – standing up for our villages: The Tory ESCC Cabinet proposes massive cuts in rural buses, apparently despite the Tory candidate’s ‘objection’ to route closures. What weight did they place on her objections? And the Tory team are pushing fracking in the Sussex countryside which Norman Baker is opposing.

Issue 5 – Supporting local business: the Tory team conveniently forget it was the Lib Dems who, at the last LDC budget, pushed through business rate rebate proposals (see the public record of LDC council meetings). And their £0.5m of flooding etc amendment included a budget of £30,000 on vulnerability of business etc property to storm damage.

Issue 6 – “A campaign for appropriate housing that protects our green spaces”. I hesitate to say motherhood and apple pie, but what a bland statement, with no ideas on what to do. Her advisers’ understanding of affordable housing has already been shown to be nonsense.

So our local Tory team are trying to claim ‘success’ where, frankly, their candidate can have had very little influence, just as the party are claiming for themselves all the positive things the Lib Dems brought from their manifesto to the Coalition – £10,000 income free of tax, investment in schools, making pensions rise with prices, an emphasis on apprenticeships, etc.

And please stop trying to label Norman Baker a ‘career politician’. The Tory candidate is the career politician! She has stood in three different areas (Brighton, Caerphilly, Lewes). Norman Baker has represented local people since his first election as a Beddingham parish councillor. The difficult issues he now takes on (drugs and FGM, for example) make the Tory candidate’s ‘success’ look very small beer.

Peter Gardiner

Liberal Democrat