It may not have escaped your notice that I am not the greatest fan of the Conservative Party.
For those of us who believe that the Conservative Party promotes a divided society which puts opportunities for the strong above caring for the needy, that puts profits before people, market competition before fairness and privatisation ahead of public service; for those of us who see the dismantling of the NHS as typical of Tory values, we have been going through a dark period over the last few years. And nowhere more so than Shropshire.
We have had a clutch of Conservative MPs. The Conservative domination of Shropshire’s Unitary council has enabled them to take control of every committee, even the Scrutiny Committee whose very function is meant to be to call to account the administration of the Council itself. We even had a Town Council in Shrewsbury that was dominated by Conservatives.
This Tory domination of politics has made it particularly hard for those of us who believe in a fairer Britain, a greener Britain and a Britain where caring for the most vulnerable is more important than the blind pursuit of ideological dogma. We have even seen economic growth sacrificed on the altar of austerity. To add insult to injury, the Liberal Democrats in government have to a greater or lesser degree had to go along with these policies.
Well, the tide may have turned.
Liberal Democrats entered into coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster because that is what the country voted for. We have had achievements, notably the pupil premium the triple lock that guarantees a real annual rise in the old age pension and the reductions in income tax for lower earners. We have raised the starting point for income tax to £10,000 and as a result 13,000 people in Shropshire no longer need to pay any income tax. Vince Cable has tightened bank regulation and made a good start on rebalancing our economy with more apprentices and research investment in engineering industries. We have also managed to prevent, or reduce some of the things that might have been introduced had we had a single party government. We have raised the minimum wage when the Tories wanted to reduce it and we have insisted on better regulation of the press. But it has been hard. It is not easy to work with a party with such different basic values.
Well, the tide may have turned.
The local elections this month have reduced the Tory majority on the Unitary Council and pushed the Conservatives into a minority on Shrewsbury Town Council. We must welcome this as an opportunity for more open local democracy, and perhaps a sign that the voters are beginning to reject the simplistic solutions promised by the Conservatives.
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