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Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 26 March 2009


Does the sad death of Jade Goody, combined with the recession, signal the end of celebrity Britain? In case like me you have resolved never to read another article about the late Ms Goody, fear not, this column is not about her, so much as the public mood that created her. Almost from the moment that Tony Blair entered Number 10 and the countdown to the millennium began, our country seems to have been in the grip of a culture that hero-worships people just for being on the tele; famous just for being famous. We have lived through a decade that has witnessed the birth of the astonishing Hello and OK magazines that give us a photo-centric fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of our celebrities. Reality TV programmes have created so-called stars who go on to cash in on their new found fame. Many young people today, when asked to express their life ambition, answer that they just want to be famous.

My wife and I disagree on this. She thinks that in a recession that people will retreat more into the lives of their celebrities as a way of escaping the harsh realities of the grim economic climate. I am hoping that we will move away from our fixation with personality tittle-tattle and focus on issues of more substance. Sadly, I have learnt over the years that Jan is usually right.

This superficiality has polluted our politics. To be honest, I am sick of hearing about focus groups and opinion polls. This has helped to get us into the economic mess that we are now in – nobody had the guts to blow the whistle on a period of financial irresponsibility that could not possibly have lasted. Nobody dared to take away the fantasy cash cow.

I hope we are moving back towards an era of genuine conviction politicians, men and women who believe in something and present that belief to the public, even if it does not attract immediate support; leaders who tell the crunchy truth even if it is unpopular. I may be wrong, but I believe that most people are happy to follow strong and envisioned leadership, rather than being constantly consulted on every last policy detail.

We face painful decisions in the future about: public finances, pensions, immigration, climate change, to name but a few. These issues can only be tackled by hard-nosed leaders prepared to take tough decisions.

What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 15:50  



Thursday, 19 March 2009


It is always a tragedy when one of our brave young servicemen is killed in Afghanistan. Because it is such an alien environment, so far away, and the enemy so hard to see, it is worth reminding ourselves why they are out there.

When the twin towers in New York were brought down in September 2001 by Al Quaeda terrorists, killing 3,000 people, it was quickly discovered that the terrorists were being harboured by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban are brutal Islamic extremists. To prevent further large scale atrocities it was necessary to go after Al Quaeda and to do so we had to remove the regime that was sheltering them. So coalition forces, led by the USA, went into Afghanistan.

Once the military action was over in 2002 we have stayed there to help this historically unstable country become a viable democracy, to keep the Taliban from returning, so that it would not be used again as a base to attack the west. The threat from global terrorists operating with all of the apparatus of a state behind them is greatly magnified compared to now, where they are operating out of some caves in North West Pakistan

It is true therefore to argue that our forces are fighting terrorism on the front line, rather than us facing a much greater threat of attack over here if we allow Afghanistan to fall.

Which brings me to the disgraceful protests at the homecoming parade in Luton last week, a sight that left me splitting blood for hours. The people behind that shameful protest are apparently a well known group of extremists whose tactics are to stir up hatred against all Muslims so that more young men are radicalised and will join them in their crusade to force their perverted brand of Islam upon us.

How should we respond? First, we must not play into their hands and agitate against all British Muslims most of whom are law abiding and pleased to be British. Second our police and courts must become more robust in using our anti-hate laws to arrest these extremists and deal with them using the full force of the law. In the UK all of our citizens are free to protest, but we now have laws that prevent us from whipping up hate. Those laws should be used. I never want to see our soldiers abused in that way again.

What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 10:58  



Friday, 13 March 2009


In any war there is collateral damage – innocent people who get hurt. In this battle against recession, the chief instrument is slashing interest rates and the main victims are a group of people who are blameless: the savers.

In this topsy turvy world where so much damage has been done by reckless borrowing and excessive spending there is one group of people who have been consisting doing the right thing: working hard and saving for their retirement. In recent years prudent savers could find reasonable returns on capital invested to make it worthwhile. Now they are seeing their income plunge over a cliff as interest rates plummet. I understand from my father who takes a keen interest in such matters that some enterprising manufacturer is now making a bed with a safe underneath it because most savers may just as well stuff their money under their mattress so low are the returns they can now obtain.

And it is not as if the slash and burn on interest rates is working. It does not help the vast army on fixed rates. It has not brought rates on business lending any lower and it has certainly not encouraged the banks to start lending again – the very heart of the problem, which is why it is called a credit crunch. The Bank of England was probably too slow to cut rates when the economy started to cool and now they may have gone too far to no good effect and hammered the good guys (savers) in the process.

As there are many more savers than borrowers, the current policy may actually be counter-productive. Retired people who are seeing their monthly returns shrink will inevitably tighten their belts rather than continuing to spend which is what the policy makers want them to do.

I realise that as inflation dwindles away towards nothing, the real reduction in the returns that savers can obtain is smaller than it seems. But that is not the point. Less money is coming into these millions of households and they will certainly feel worse off even if they are not, and cut back accordingly. As the economy works on the basis of confidence, I should have thought that was obvious

We need to take a fresh look at this. We always tend to fight the last war, not the one in front of us. We should certainly not be penalising people for doing the right thing.

posted by Gary @ 10:53  



Friday, 6 March 2009


Every cloud has a silver lining. I think by now that you all know my view that this recession is going to be deep and long and ugly. The more I discover about the true depth of bank liabilities, or the impact of the contraction on so many economies with all its dark implications, the more certain it becomes.

But even in the gloom some sectors will do well. Because we are all trimming our spending, even those people who do not really need to, those businesses that offer value for money are busy. The cheaper supermarkets and restaurants seem to be buzzing.

Another vital group could cash in if they play their cards right – the local tourist industry. Because of the perceived weakness of the British economy and our ever spiralling public debt, the pound is very weak against the dollar and the euro. If you have tried to book a holiday yet in the euro-zone you will have discovered just what a difference this makes. So, many British families will be deciding to stay in the UK this year for their holiday to avoid the 30% hike in costs caused by the exchange rate. This is a golden opportunity of the many tourist attractions in Devon and Cornwall. On top of this, those people in the EU for whom a trip to the UK has suddenly become a third cheaper because of the struggling pound are also ripe for the plucking.

But two things are essential. First, as we are competing with the Lake District and Scotland etc we have to make sure that our marketing is right. I still remember the impact a poster on the tube in London made on me years ago luring me to holiday in Cuba. It was only years later that we could afford it, but that seductive image was the inspiration. We have to market the delights of the West Country for all we are worth at this time.

Second, the product must be right. We have the seas, the beaches, the moors, the visitor attractions, but the service must be of the highest quality. It is what people expect these days and rightly so. If our tourist industry delivers on this, then they might have not one bumper year but several as satisfied customers come back. This injection of cash could offer our region a real lifeline.

Naturally, a decent drop of sunshine would also help.

posted by Gary @ 09:03