I now live in the South West in a small village in South Devon so it is with interest that having moved from the Midlands to look at how political parties have treated the region.
I’ll start by saying that Devon and the wider South West has never been a region that Westminster Governments, especially Conservatives have lavished on or paid a great deal of attention to.
Perhaps it is because it is one of the most difficult places to reach either by road or rail and also one of the poorest with areas in the region amongst the lowest in terms of the Index of Deprivation.
The question amongst many questions is “why was this?”
Hasn’t every Government entered election campaigns claiming that they would look after and resolve issues affecting the poorest neglected areas and the people who live in them?
What is clear is that even though there has been and continue to be MPs in the region who have been very vocal in Westminster the reality is that the South West has as far as Governments are concerned been considered to be both out of sights and out of mind.
And they have treated it accordingly and it would be fair to say the treatment has been metered out equally by both Conservative and Labour Governments.
They of course would undoubtedly claim that they had more important things to think about, like blaming the European Union for all of the UK’s woes, or entering the country into wars on made up pretexts.
There was it appears a slight interruption in Westminster ignoring the South West during the Coalition years when the Liberal Democrats fought for major investment not only in infrastructure such as road and rail communication but also in business.
However true to form in the last two years Westminster has reverted to the old habit and listening to the current crop of MP’s the only conclusion you can reasonably arrive at is that they have accepted the status quo without any qualms, voting with the Government on issues that continue to ignore the region.
Having said that, the major difference between this and Governments of the past is that not only are they ignoring the South West but are also neglecting it.
It is bad enough being ignored but to wilfully neglect it by underfunding the regions schools, NHS, the disabled, elderly and vulnerable this Conservative Government if nothing else is demonstrating a callousness towards people who they simply take for granted
Perhaps that is why the devout Brexiteers conveniently forgot to mention that the European Union in recognition that it was a region that was markedly less affluent than other parts of the U.K. invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the South West.
Yes the South West is a beautiful place to live but when you are constantly having to worry about how to feed your family or having somewhere to live it is a beauty that is easy to forget.
I can’t help thinking that our MP’s, the majority being Conservatives, who are regularly seen claiming that they’re fighting for the region whilst at the same time tamely walking through the lobby to vote for policies that penalise it should have at the very least come out to reassure the South West that funding for the region pose-Brexit would be secured.
As the saying goes, ” their silence speaks volumes”
To be ignored is bad enough.
To be intentionally neglected just adds to the insult.
But to be taken for granted…… ???
The question for the people of the South West is can they believe a word that David Davies and his Brexit department says when taking into consideration that to ensure a Brexit Vote he and his Brexiteers clearly not only misled but actually lied to them over its impact.
The reality for the South West is that it is invisible to the Westminster political elite and will remain so for as long as people continue to elect and send representatives who are not prepared to stand up for those who elected them.
If you need evidence then you only have to look back to when Boris Johnson pledged during the EU referendum that the South West EU would not be a penny worse off post- Brexit.
And who am I to doubt he was being honest – after all he also promised that an extra £350 million a week would be given to the NHS post-Brexit!!
OK they have back tracked on the NHS promise and have also refused to guarantee the regional funding – is anyone really surprised?
If people really believe anything that Boris Johnson and David Davies say then perhaps they deserve everything they get – or don’t.
So what are the priorities of the South West and who i going to stand up and fight for them?
In the next six weeks there is going to be two opportunities for the people in the region to make their voices heard.
This week there is the County Council Local Elections in which people have the first opportunity to send a very clear message to Theresa May, Boris Johnson and the Conservative Government that by replacing their acolytes who currently run the Councils they will not be taken for granted.
It is a chance to send a clear message that would at the very least make Theresa May reconsider the wisdom of gambling her premiership in calling a General Election having pledged (yes another pledge) that she wouldn’t.
A gamble it appears in light of the gamble David Cameron took with the EU referendum that Conservative Prime Ministers now see as normal business.
The General Election in July is a second opportunity for the people of the South West to replace the Conservative MP’s who have taken them for granted and who have consistently voted for the policies that are inflicting neglect on the region.
The obvious question is who to vote for to replace them.
Who will really fight for the region?
In the South West it increasingly looks as if the only party that will hold the Government to account is the Liberal Democrats.
How will the people vote?
They may choose to believe that the Conservatives will keep their pledge to fund the NHS, fund agriculture to the same level post – Brexit, fund our schools and fund front line services for the elderly and vulnerable….
Only time will tell, but one thing is certain,
If people don’t vote, or if they vote Conservative the South West will continue to be ignored and neglected without any meaningful support in Westminster.
The South West people have a proud history of being bloody minded and rebellious against the establishment – now is their opportunity to show it.