And we’re off! The country will be going to the polls on 12 December for an historic winter election.
The national media have been flocking to Cheltenham over recent weeks because they recognise that what happens here has a massive impact nationally. A win for anyone other than the Conservatives makes it more likely that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister.
After nearly a decade when our country has clawed its way out of the financial abyss, we simply cannot afford to be dragged back into bankruptcy, hitting those on the lowest incomes the hardest. We’ve come so far as a nation, getting to a point of fiscal stability where we can fund major investment in our NHS, our schools and our police. It would be a disaster to throw that all away.
And here in Cheltenham we are on the cusp of an exciting future, particularly for our young people. The local hospitals budget went up by 7% last year, schools funding in Gloucestershire is forecast to rise by millions of pounds. The £400m Air Balloon project is a giant step closer, and we have secured £23m in funding for Cheltenham’s cyber park project, which will create jobs and opportunity for the next generation. So much has been delivered and protected, but we need to finish the job.
Brexit will be an issue of course. I was a Remainer, but I believe with this deal we can honour the result whilst avoiding a damaging crash-out. Simply revoking Article 50 would do horrendous harm to faith in democracy, and further endless uncertainty from a stitch-up between Labour and the other parties would damage jobs in its own right. Gloucestershire business BAE Systems are backing the deal and I think we should listen to them.
Finally, I want to say this: standing for election puts a strain on candidates and their families. On a personal level I want to wish everyone standing in Cheltenham my best wishes for a fair and safe election.