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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.


Monday, 31 December 2012

2013 - SIMPLE AS!

A few months back one of the work experience people that I often have shadowing me for a day was keen to share with me all day long his dazzling solutions to all of the world's deepest challenges. Each pithy summary was delivered with utter conviction and every masterpiece was topped off with the words: Simple As.

He was not invited back.

As we look out on 2013, the one thing we know for sure is that it will not be: Simple As. It will be complicated and probably messy. The ever-globalising, inter-dependent world is beset with complex problems: a faltering global economy, the relative decline of the West, the seemingly insoluble euro-zone crisis, conflict in the Middle East, changing weather patterns, mass migration and debt mountains to name but a few.

In the UK our own economy walks a tightrope between growth and recession as the government does its best to get our deficit under control and struggles with a welfare state that we can no longer afford.

Closer to home, in addition to our usual challenges we must now add improved flood defences for our low-lying communities and greater resilience to our vital rail link to the list of campaigns for the New Year.  Financial challenge; engineering challenge; challenges on all sides.

But when have we ever started a New Year thinking: everything in the garden is rosy. I can't remember it. So we must also see the positives and opportunities. Many businesses are growing, creating new private sector jobs. Unemployment keeps on falling and apprenticeships are rising. We are transforming the welfare system so that it will be more unaffordable for the next generation and our reforms of health and education are beginning to bear fruit.

Plymouth is still a great place to live and full of potential. They may be a trifle damp but the south hams, our coastline and Dartmoor remain majestic.

In the end the global and national landscape is only the backdrop. Our lives are much more directly impacted by the faith we possess, the people we love and the choices we make.  I remember knocking on two doors in the same street as a councillor one night, years ago, to speak to two ladies who lived in almost identical circumstances. One was positive the other only negative. What a difference it made to their outcomes.

2013 may well be challenging, but we can still be positive.  Simple As.

posted by Gary @ 13:08  



Friday, 21 December 2012


We all know that what you believe governs the way you live. If you believe that the sky is about to fall in you will remain indoors or wear a helmet when outside!

If you believe that climate change is caused by man you will take steps to control your own carbon footprint and lobby government to make sure the nations do likewise. If you remain more sceptical you might (or might not) support good stewardship of the planet's finite resources but be hesitant about more draconian action.

If you believe that people should stand on their own two feet unless there is a genuine and very good reason why not, you might support a series of measures that seeks to tackle the welfare dependency that now blights most western nations including our own.

If you believe that the country should not go on spending more than it can afford you might support a deficit reduction programme even though reductions in public spending come with real pain for real people. If however you believe that government should simply go on borrowing you might support a more expansive programme and leave the consequences to the next generation.

The most important thing, it seems, in politics is not policy, but belief.

But what do we believe about Christmas? If it is simply a time of year for partying, then a-partying we will go. If it is a special time for family gatherings then the mother-in-law will soon be firmly ensconced in your favourite chair directing operations in military fashion. If you believe that it is mainly a time for giving and receiving presents the credit card is in for another huge hit.

What if you really believe that Christmas is actually a celebration of the birth of Jesus? What if the main focus of the festive season is to celebrate that fact and give space for reflection and gratitude that 2000 years ago our Creator intervened in human history to begin a process that would end in our redemption?

Then this time of year takes on a whole new meaning. Partying and family gatherings; the giving and receiving of presents all make it a special day. But underneath all of this, for those who believe, it is about a baby born in a manger in some dingy old stable; a baby who grew to be the most impressive person who ever lived.

Merry Christmas from Jan and I to all.

posted by Gary @ 09:06  



Thursday, 13 December 2012


Have you tried shopping in Ivybridge lately? If not, you should. There are a surprisingly diverse number of boutiques to tempt you part with your hard earned cash.

For the past few weeks I have been chairing a government backed initiative called Ivybridge Town Team. The plan is to bring town centres to life building upon a report by TV pundit Mary Portas delivered to government earlier in the year setting out some creative ideas. It is obvious that small shopping centres cannot compete with the big out of town superstores or the mysterious delights of Internet shopping (which is growing massively year on year) so the suggestion is to make visiting a town an enjoyable experience: an event.

The Town Team aims to bring people together to make joint decisions. So we have the county, district and town councils on board, together with the primary landlords and retailers as well as the community and voluntary sectors. The energetic Town Clerk of Ivybridge supplies the secretariat as well as much experience. We have decided to commission an in-depth study on what makes Ivybridge tick – who uses it and who doesn't.  This hard evidence will help us to plot a course to a prosperous future.

The landlord of the Glanville's Mill complex is gradually making improvements and the leisure centre will undergo a refurbishment in 2013. In the run up to Christmas there is free parking and three Saturdays out of four a community market place.

Our study will seek the views of many local people, but it is never too soon to do that. We had a lively open meeting last Friday in the Watermark where several ideas were put forward, including an impressive presentation from the Guides about how they would improve their town.

The Town Team process will take well over 12 months. If you have a view about what we can do to breathe even more vibrancy into this great little town nestling against the moor, we would love to hear from you.

One of the reasons why Ivybridge is driving ahead in this way and Plympton and Plymstock are not, is that it has its own town (effectively parish) council, which sits under the other tiers of local government and has a passion for its community. The two suburbs of Plymouth that I also represent do not have their own councils. This makes cohesive action much harder. Time to put that right?

posted by Gary @ 14:36  



Thursday, 6 December 2012


Last week I visited 7 schools in one day to talk about democracy and answer the questions put by the children. It is one of my favourite activities. What is the best thing about your job, one of them asked? That is easy, I always say: the infinite variety. Witness the last few days.

Last week I chaired a meeting at Westminster between British MPs and a committee of Ugandan MPs.  The Ugandan parliament is currently considering a bill to introduce the death penalty for being a homosexual! Don't do it, we said, not if you wish to retain any respect in the international community. They seemed to listen. Then I was off to speak at a conference on North Korea where I drew heavily upon the experience of my visit to that grim country in 2003. I urged those listening to continue to engage with that oppressive regime to try and encourage a glimmer of democracy to break out over there.

Then we had the Leveson enquiry report to the House of Commons and once again I find myself disagreeing with my own Prime Minister.

Driving home to Devon (no trains) to attend more meetings about flooding, speak at a businessman's dinner, more meetings on local housing in Lee Mill, illegal fishing, a meeting with bankers to discuss the local economy, then a three hour surgery and so it goes on.
The good thing is that the Christmas events have now started and I was able to stuff my face on delicious turkey twice over the weekend.

Every other year I attend a reunion dinner of the lawyers that started with me in 1978, learning our trade at what is now the biggest law firm in the world. Six years ago, after a glass or two, details emerged in conversation of what various friends actually earned in their city law firms. It was eye-watering. Later that night one of them confessed to me that he envied me. How can you, I thought, you have just admitted to earning £750,000 last year. Because he said, for the last twenty years, he has been doing the same type of transactions over and over again and he claimed to be bored sick!

Infinite variety, living in two worlds, London and Devon. Never a dull moment. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I am relishing every moment, which is why I would like to keep going until I am 92.

posted by Gary @ 13:33