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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, 17 December 2015


Nobody ever died saying: I wish I had spent more time in the office. Christmas is a good time to reflect on the more important things in life and to resolve to rebalance if things have gone awry. Have I got the work-life balance right? Am I spending enough time with my family? Have I unfulfilled potential? What happens to me when I die?

Westminster has been busy and we seem to be going through a season of big issues: Austerity or Not; Mass Migration; Terror attacks by ISIL/Da'esh; Generation Rent; Trident renewal; and so it goes on. Locally the new town at Sherford has now started, the tungsten mine at Hemerdon is up and running and good progress is being made towards a 2016 20-year deal with the government to substantially upgrade our railway.

It will be good for all of us to take a few days to catch our breath and grapple with issues that are less urgent but more important: the true meaning of Christmas.

One challenge with the modern world is that there is so little time to think deep thoughts. We are bombarded with somebody else's thoughts all the time, through 24/7 media. This is bad enough for my generation, but those who from whom Facebook and twitter are like oxygen, whose lives are (it seems to me) filled with trivia, when do they make the space to think: hang on a minute: who am I, why am I here and where am I going?  

This is where the true meaning of Christmas can help us.

The Christmas story can be best understood as an intervention.  God had created the world and everything in it. Mankind was the icing on the cake: his finest production. Part of our creative design was the possession of free will. We used it badly and did our own thing. He sent messengers to get us back on track. We ignored them.

Then, big decision, he decided to come himself. He came as a baby, born in poverty. He knew what it was to be a refugee. He grew to be a man who at 30 began 3 astonishing years of activity in which he said and did many things that showed us what God is like. It was all written down and we can read it in the bible.

Jesus came to get us back on track. All we have to do is believe.

Happy Christmas.

posted by Gary @ 10:16  



Thursday, 10 December 2015


Just when you thought Donald Trump, a contender for US President (can that really be true?) could not get any more ridiculous, he comes out with his dumbest comment so far. In the wake of the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, he calls for a total shut-down of Muslims entering the USA.

I cannot think of a more dangerous and ludicrous response to recent terror attacks than to pick a fight with the whole of Islam. It is the very reverse of what we now need to do: namely to understand that these jihadists are perverting their religion and do not represent the rank and file of Muslims. Recent events are an opportunity to draw close to followers of Islam, not to alienate them.

Mistakes have been made.  In the UK we have been too slow to encourage integration since many Muslims came here in the 1970's. That requires more attention and action. We have been too slow to spot the dangers of radicalisation in Mosques, prisons and universities, but we have an increasingly robust focus on this. Over the years, the Muslim community has been too slow to condemn the terror attacks, but this is changing and Muslim leaders now speak out powerfully about Islamic State (Da'esh) atrocities. I went through the lobbies last Wednesday with four Conservative Muslim MPs, all of whom support air strikes against these murderers.

The main domestic threat to our children's peaceful futures is to stir up enmity between different religions at home and abroad. 

Our response to Islam should be to find out more about it and seek the company of some of its followers. People in this constituency could do a lot worse than pop down to the Shapla Balti restaurant on the Ridgeway in Plympton, enjoy a tasty meal and have a chat with Ali, its proprietor. He is one of the loveliest men I have ever met and about as likely a terrorist as my mother. 

Ignorance breeds fear. Many of my constituents who e-mail me about this subject seem genuinely fearful that all Muslims want to take over the country and destroy the western way of life. This is partly because they do not know any Muslims, the vast majority of whom are slowly being assimilated into the British way of life, often much to the chagrin of traditional elders. This trend will increase as Britishness grips the younger generation. 

Friendship, not alienation, is the way forward. 

posted by Gary @ 08:12  



Thursday, 3 December 2015


I am very pleased that the Chancellor was able to find sufficient funds last week so that the police budget for the next 4 years could be protected (along with health, schools and defence). The police have already had to manage substantial savings in the past 3 years and a period of consolidation is very welcome for our thin blue line. Crime is falling, but public confidence is built in part upon police presence and community engagement at which our local force is very good.

I am sorry that the absurd figures being touted by some as future cuts must have unsettled our committed and hard-working officers unnecessarily.

That is not to say that the police forces in the United Kingdom can stand still. They remain behind the curve on the use of modern technology, and their procurement practices are old-fashioned. 47 police forces is probably about 40 too many. We may need to see significant rationalisation in this sector: for example there could easily be one force for the seven counties of the south west, not 4.5 as now. The savings on chief constables and head-quarters alone would be substantial. Far better if momentum for these mergers happen from the bottom up, rather than imposed by government.

Speaking recently to professionals who interact with our police force in Devon and Cornwall it seems that we are behind most forces in deploying modern technology and working practices. I hope the next 4 years will see major advance in these fields.

I have another, more controversial, reason for welcoming the police settlement. We are entering a difficult phase in our national life. A strong Conservative government is always unpopular with a minority of our population. Already tensions are running high and this is reflected in some of the letters and e-mails we receive in my office. As the Labour Party, sadly, slides into an unpleasant civil war, many are feeling that there is no proper democratic alternative to the government.

This is not healthy. Every government needs a strong opposition. One consequence could be an increase in street protests and demonstrations as people seek to make their voice heard. Peaceful demonstrations are an important part of our democracy, but we know how easily they can spill over into violent confrontation, often spurred on by anarchists and trouble-makers.

In such times we will need the police to maintain public order. I am glad their funding has been protected.

posted by Gary @ 08:30