Facing up to the issues in Ely


Ahead of a visit to Ely Cathedral where he spoke about his recent book on the economic crisis, The Storm, Vince Cable met with Lib Dem candidates standing in the upcoming local elections. Characteristically, he had thought-provoking things to say in response to current economic and political concerns. He covered a range of issues and highlighted the absence of any real leadership from the Labour Government and the absence of any real, practical alternatives from the Tories.

Affordable housing shortage and homelessness: We have countless empty homes (many of them designated as shared-ownership on new development sites, others private) and councils must be allowed to make these available to people in serious need of shelter. The web of rules and regulations governing every step of housing standard and allocation are, ironically, often an impediment to putting people into homes.

Young people and the recession: Under the veneer of a comparatively affluent part of the country, the effects of the economic recession are making themselves felt in many households. Very soon a huge number of young adults will finish college and university and will find themselves unable to get a job. The Labour Government is deafeningly silent on this issue.

Proportional representation:This must be part of a package of sweeping reforms to our parliamentary and electoral system. There is a danger that if the Labour government introduces a referendum on proportional representation, public anger against the sitting government will translate into ‘No’ as a form of symbolic protest. It is important to stay focused on considering the fairness of a system of proportional representation, which among other things would do away with the phenomenon of safe seats.

Public services and hard choices:Whoever takes power in the next general election, there will be huge cuts in public services. Now is the time to make hard choices about cutting unwanted and unnecessary expenditure. As a result of the banking bailout the government is deeply in debt and it’s time to challenge major expenditures like ID cards and Trident. Local councillors must think ahead.

No political party is above criticism:Vince Cable commented that ‘no political party is above criticism.’ At the end of the day governments are run by groups of people, and any new grouping of “independents” will inevitably evolve into a formal political organisation. No one has all the answers and it is beneficial to work as a part of a group where ideas are challenged and shared. It seems to me that we must create the best political parties we can. I find that locally and nationally, the Lib Dems continue to listen, discuss and respond at ground level.

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