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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, 31 May 2012


For most of us, the celebration of Her Majesty's 60th year of reign will be a cause for genuine celebration. I appreciate there are a handful of republicans in our midst and although all views are valid, we can cheerfully ignore them for the next few days!

Looking around the world, who else has a Head of State of such unique experience? If you were starting to design a new country from scratch you might not have a hereditary monarchy; but we are not starting from scratch, we are building upon centuries of history. It works and works gloriously. Which other country enjoys our record of political stability?

Looking back over the past six decades, who can but admire how Queen Elizabeth II has led the Royal Family through sometimes choppy waters into a place of near universal respect. There have been taxing times for the royal family. The conduct of some of the younger royals in the eighties often fell short; the relationship between Charles and Diana and her tragic death have been real challenges. Perhaps, with hindsight, it has made the royals more human, more like the rest of us with our imperfections. Perhaps the monarchy was at one time slow to catch on to the changing mood of the nation. But not now. The queen and her family have judged to perfection their role in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Looking ahead, we can see how the younger royals are ready to one day take their place at the head of a constantly shifting country, with Kate Middleton proving such a magnificent addition to the team. Even Harry who will doubtless say and do the wrong thing from time to time (and we will always forgive him) somehow embodies the spirit of the age. 

There is no scientific way of measuring popularity, but just consider what happens whenever the Queen is due to visit. The crowds turn out in their thousands. I have heard from countless people of all backgrounds how thrilled they have been over the years to meet Her Majesty, at a garden party or on a royal visit here or there. Just reflect on how most of us refer to her in private conversations. I have scarcely ever heard a negative word about her.

We are often to slow to count our blessings in this remarkable country. Queen Elizabeth II is most definitely one of them. Happy Diamond Jubilee!

posted by Gary @ 00:00  



Thursday, 24 May 2012


I now firmly believe that the people of this country should have a say on whether or not the United Kingdom remains part of the European Union. Our membership of this club has become a deeply divisive issue in British politics and this wound needs to be healed once and for all.

But not yet! Over the next two years the EU is likely to change shape dramatically. To make the Euro work those countries still in it will have to give up more national sovereignty and become much more integrated. We always said that the single currency would require a single set of decisions on all financial matters and so it has proved. That is why some of us have been implacably opposed to the Euro and remain so.

It also seems certain that some countries will be leaving the Euro-zone over the same period, notably Greece, Spain and Portugal. So the question will become: what will happen to the members of the EU who do not go down the euro-integrated route? Surely a two tier EU becomes inevitable, with significant differences between the two tiers. It is not beyond the imagination that the countries in the second tier should move increasingly towards a looser relationship, much more akin to the Common Market that many people thought they were voting for in 1975.

Once we see the new shape of the EU emerging from the ashes of the current crisis we can decide whether we want to be part of it or not. For myself, if the direction of travel of the new EU remains steadfastly towards ever closer union, I would vote to come out. If however a looser set of relationships is put in place with the single market as its focus I might well choose to stay.

And let us not forget that there is a price to pay for being in the single market. Norway and Switzerland both pay huge sums to Brussels to enjoy the benefits of the market and also have to comply with all of the rules of the single market, many of them being the same rules that we complain about. Coming out of the EU and just being in the common market is not the free hit that some people pretend.

My strong recommendation to my own party has been that we go into the next election firmly promising an in/out referendum in our manifesto.

posted by Gary @ 09:39  



Thursday, 17 May 2012


We need to find a new way of doing local elections. I am not saying that because my party has just lost control of Plymouth City Council. This is a thought that has grown over the past ten years. I have seen Plymouth change hands five times in my time as an MP and I dare say it will not be the last. I congratulate Tudor Evans on becoming leader and I will work with him on behalf of the city.

Most people vote in local elections according to the popularity or otherwise of the government of the day. This happens every year.
Unpopular mid-term government – its supporters stay at home or vote for a party of protest. You can predict local outcomes almost to a percentage point on the back of national opinion polls. I must have knocked on thousands of doors at local election time over the years and I can scarcely remember anybody raising a local issue. All campaigners will tell you the same thing – unless there is a spectacular local concern - people vote according to their reaction to the government of the day.

The problem is that an election is supposed to elect the best people/party to carry out the job, in this case to run Plymouth. If people are not voting according to local performance of their councillors then accountability has gone out of the window. The essence of democracy is to elect people to make decisions on our behalf and to kick them out of we don't like what they are doing. In 4 years Plymouth went from a failing council to last year's council of the year, but it made no difference. The Coalition Government made some daft decisions and all that progress was blown away. Councillors can always rely on us at Westminster to rain on their parade!

Being a councillor is hard work. We should be grateful to those who undertake this important task. They beaver away in their wards and committee rooms, squeezing their public duties into their wider lives, with little reward and plenty of pain.

This time we welcome Ian Darcy, a newcomer in Plympton Erle. We welcome back Sam Leaves and David Salter in other parts of Plympton as well as Mike Leaves and Kevin Wigens in Plymstock. Thank you to all of our councillors for all you do. It is just a pity that the electoral system does not accurately measure your efforts.

posted by Gary @ 09:39  



Thursday, 10 May 2012


My advice is to start keeping a diary, for I feel sure that we are in the foothills of historic events. Politics is volatile enough in the UK right now, but this is a nothing to the events unfolding, albeit in slow motion, on the continent. I imagine that the events at the end of the 1930's had a similar flavour: austerity on the ground, the political elite in turmoil – seeing what's coming but unable to avoid it, and turbulence in the air.

The backdrop for all this is the relative decline of the West and the debt mountain that we have all amassed. The day of reckoning has arrived, ushering in a period of necessary adjustment and austerity. But people (understandably) do not like austerity and are voting for politicians who promise something different and better. This is precisely what has just happened in France and Greece and is likely to happen in every election from now on, including possibly in the UK. The problem is - what if the solutions proposed by the new guys do not work? What if there really is no alternative to a period of reducing our debts by cutting public spending at the same time as trying to stimulate our economies. What happens then?

History teaches us that what happens then is that people reach for more and more radical and extreme solutions. At the Greek elections a far right party with neo-Nazi tendencies achieved 7% of the vote. Hitler started with a lower figure. Six months ago I learned that very clever people in our Treasury were reading up on the rise of Fascism because that nearly always follows a period of austerity and political powerlessness.

The Euro is also part of the problem. It is bad enough to have austerity imposed upon you by your elected government, without having it rammed down your throat from "outsiders" you did not elect. It now looks very likely that several countries will be leaving the Euro Zone in the next 24 months or so, starting with Greece. This turbulence can only help stir the pot.

All the more important then, that mainstream politicians concentrate on the things that matter to voters, do not make promises they cannot keep and spell out the harsh realities of the mess we are in at the same time as offering a way out, albeit a long and painful one.

Start scribbling, a story is unfolding.

posted by Gary @ 08:25  



Thursday, 3 May 2012


Next Wednesday is the state opening of Parliament, heralding with all the pomp and majesty that we do so well, another session of law-making. The Queen's Speech, written as ever by the government of the day, will set out the legislative programme for the next 12 months. The horses are being groomed, the House of Lords burnished to glittering perfection as we await the arrival of this wonderful state occasion always beautifully described by Huw Edwards on the BBC.

This year there is quiet controversy, behind the scenes, about the contents of the Speech. It had been intended that the main plank of the Parliamentary programme would be a bill to pave the way for a directly elected House of Lords. The trouble is twofold. First of all, many of us think that the bill as drafted to introduce Senators for a fifteen year term, elected on a regional list system (like our MEPs) would introduce constitutional chaos. Secondly, at a time when people are worried about the economy, their jobs, rising costs of living, they would be bemused to see us spending three months or more debating something about which they care...not at all.

Many of us are trying to persuade our masters that this bill should be kicked into the long grass and that the focus for the next 12 months should all be about getting our economy to grow, enabling us to debate and improve the things that matter to our constituents. Although it is late in the day, there is still time to pull the plug on this largely unwanted sideshow.

This is one of the times that being in coalition does not help. For understandable reasons our coalition partners are wedded to the extra democratic legitimacy that an elected upper house would allegedly bring. For myself, I cannot see the point of putting in place a system in which the wise and experienced who have achieved something special in their lives and have something to contribute would be excluded from now on. Captains of industry, Army chiefs, charity leaders etc would never stand for party elections and so we would be left with more career politicians. Is that such a great idea?

By the time you read this the decision may well have been made. It will shape the next few months and maybe British politics for a generation. I hope common sense will prevail but I am not holding my breath.

posted by Gary @ 09:38