The Leadership Race

I’m writing this on Tuesday night, after watching an entirely unilluminating BBC leaders debate. The format really didn’t work I’m afraid, and led to endless interrupting – by both the presenter and candidates. The Channel 4 format was far better in allowing the candidates to set out their stall.

I backed my former boss, Matt Hancock, in the first round. As Digital Minister he was a huge supporter of my vision for Cheltenham as a cyber hub, creating fantastic jobs and opportunities locally. And as Health Secretary he has been a friend to Cheltenham General Hospital, releasing millions of pounds for urgent improvements. He is a sensible, moderate, One Nation Conservative and would have made a good leader. But he decided to withdraw, and by the time this column is read the field will likely have been whittled down to the last two. When it comes to choosing between them, I will be looking for a leader who I can trust to back my plan for Cheltenham whilst engaging with people who might not think of themselves as natural Conservatives. That is so important for whoever eventually wins if we are going to bring our nation back together.

From the national to the local, here in Cheltenham I can’t back the latest proposals to close the Swindon Road recycling centre to general rubbish and garden waste, as well as reduce the number of recycling banks in town.

First, these measures simply risk more fly-tipping and the illegal burning of green waste, which releases pollutants into the air. Second, they would also drive up costs for local people forced to travel further afield to a recycling bank. Third, vehicles heading off to Stoke Orchard or beyond would belch out more fumes in the process. These proposals need to go back to the drawing board.

Although Brexit and the identity of our next Prime Minister are important issues of course, it is decisions on everyday issues that directly affect all our lives that make a big impact too. They need to be got right.