Last Thursday 7th May, Labour lost the General Election. I was the parliamentary candidate in Dartford. It is a classic bellwether seat – having been taken by the party which forms the government at every election since 1964. Sadly, despite us building a committed and passionate team of local volunteers and running a professional and joined up campaign, the Conservative candidate was returned with a bigger majority than in 2010. We could do little on the night to stem the tide against Labour and needed a national 37-30% split in our favour to have succeeded. Memories of the 1992 election came flooding back.
With another leadership election now looming, a worryingly simplistic argument is brewing about the future direction of the party: some have been quick to talk about the need for a focus on aspirational politics, and a return to the political centre ground. Let me be clear – to win an election in Conservative (with a small “c” and currently big “C”) England, you do need to appeal across the political spectrum. But I think to simply talk about aspirational politics, and to frame arguments in terms of left versus right, can risk failing to address the changing political landscape we now face.
Having put my heart and soul into the election campaign in Dartford, since being selected as the candidate eighteen months ago, in an area where I grew up, I think I can offer a more considered view as to where Labour went wrong.
Election strategy: Dartford lies in north Kent, close to London and is an area where Margaret Thatcher successfully appealed to voters in the 1980s and Tony Blair at the end of the 1990s. Many constituents benefited from the opportunity to buy their council houses under Thatcher. Many would be considered to be skilled manual workers or C2s -- small business owners: plumbers, decorators and electricians. Many others are long suffering rail commuters into London on Southeastern. The demographics of Dartford are also changing: with more people moving to the area from London boroughs. With a reliable history as a bellwether seat, and in the south-east of England – where Labour needs to be winning in order to form a majority government, Dartford should have been an important seat for Labour in 2015. But it wasn’t.
To be blunt, the national party completely ignored our campaign in Dartford. We got no help from the party throughout the campaign. No financial help. No organiser, nor any administrational support of any kind – and when the short campaign kicked in, that really mattered. Nor did we receive any visits from front-bench spokespeople. In many ways the General Election seemed miles away from Dartford and virtually passed us by.
In some ways that was actually an advantage: it meant that I was able to localise my campaign on the two local issues which really mattered to people in Dartford and transcended both local and national politics: the appalling state of the town centre and the threat of another Thames crossing being sited at Dartford.
But just how much we were ignored by the national party really struck home when I tried to follow up information that 3,000 people had signed up via email to support Labour in Dartford. Repeated attempts to get hold of that information – which would have helped in updating our voter-id data and potentially building a larger team of volunteers – were rejected by the party. Instead, we were told that only key seats were being provided with that information.
In the months and weeks before polling day, and even on the day of the election itself, several of my team of committed, hard-working volunteers were still receiving emails and text messages asking them to help in one of Labour’s key seats, instead of Dartford.
There was no doubt that during the course of our election campaign in Dartford, the Conservatives were worried. They were suffering from a lack of volunteers, they’d been in charge of a town centre which had fallen into a sad state of decline, and the MP had failed to scrap the crossing tolls – one of his key pledges in 2010. On the doorsteps, time and time again there were so many people who openly admitted to us that while they had voted Tory in 2010, they were unsure about how to vote this time. Our candidates and volunteers in Dartford worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the election, chatting about issues and identify thousands of voting intentions. But with a lack of up-to-date information, we were still having to identify potential Labour voters in the final weeks of the campaign, unable to go back to the people who were undecided. Our calls for more help from the national party in Dartford fell on deaf ears.
Inflexibility: A party needs to have a coherent strategy in fighting an election campaign. But it seems to me that Labour drew up its list of 106 key seats based mainly on the size of electoral deficits. The list seemed to be devised before realising the impact the SNP would have on Labour in Scotland, and before realising the impact UKIP would have on the political landscape in England. The strategy seemed to ignore changing demographics or constituency party organisation. Any political strategy must be flexible – with an ability to react to changes as events happen and to word on the ground. But Labour’s strategy seemed to be inflexible.
Under our present, out-dated and un-proportional electoral system, of course we will have “safe” Conservative seats where it is unlikely that Labour will ever win the seat. Certainly some of those constituency members may well wish to help out in a constituency where they can make a difference. But sending out blanket emails and texts insisting that activists in non-target seats must drop their focus on their own seats, can be counter-productive and cause resentment among newly engaged and passionate volunteers.
In the event, I am really grateful to the financial support which the GMB gave us in Dartford. At least they recognised that Dartford is a seat which Labour should be winning in order to form a government.
Policy: I don’t think you can simply frame the debate about where Labour went wrong on policy in terms of the traditional left-right perspective. Some policies, which could be considered as left-wing, such as taking back failing rail services into public ownership, certainly resonated with the electorate. Look at the madness of the Tories insisting that the well run and profit making north-east coast franchise would be returned to private ownership. And the consistently poor service which Dartford’s commuters have to endure from Southeastern, makes public ownership an attractive proposition.
It was right to focus on fairness and opportunity as the mainstay of Labour’s message. I was proud to stand on a ticket which proposed proper apprenticeships for all school-leavers, raising the minimum wage and giving low paid workers greater security. After all, during the election campaign, the Conservatives also proposed raising the minimum wage, extending free childcare and pumping £8bn extra into the NHS: so hardly exclusive policies of the left. But where I think Labour went wrong on policy were the mixed messages its manifesto gave to the electorate:
Business: Labour was promising to cut rates for small businesses. I was able to use that as a key message for offering help to struggling local businesses in Dartford’s town centre. Yet, many people with small businesses in Dartford don’t work from an office. They’re on the road in a van, running an internet company or based at home. Corporation tax hits them. But on cutting corporation tax for small businesses, Labour was silent.
Taxation: when Labour announced plans to end non-dom status, the reaction across the media and the country was favourable. It was also right to talk about introducing a lower ten pence rate of tax. However, many voters were unsure as to whether they would lose the proposed increase in tax free allowances – a popular move under the last coalition government. And even if most of us will probably never earn such income, proposing a return to a top rate of tax of 50 pence for anyone earning over £150,000 undoubtedly risked creating the image of a high tax and spending party again.
Economy: like it or not, many voters on the doorsteps in Dartford had bought the coalition’s line that Labour had messed up the economy before 2010. When Labour lost office five years ago, it simply didn’t do enough to acknowledge that spending was high before 2010, to explain why and to challenge the Conservatives: ie that the alternative was to let the banks collapse. Trust in politics does really matter, and it seems to me that without an apology and recognition over their mistakes, voters weren’t ready to forgive Labour yet.
Housing: the growing housing crisis is one of the most important issues facing our country and it was right that Labour made it one of our six pledges. Many people in Dartford can’t afford the price tag on new developments and are facing escalating rent and insecurity in the private rented sector. I was proud that Labour proposed doing something about this – Germany has a much more stable rental market and better standard of housing. But what Labour failed to acknowledge is that an increasing number of people -- and potential Labour voters – have been putting their money into property to supplement a poor pension. I met many in Dartford – older voters with grown up family, postal workers, couples. None would consider themselves rich. But Labour’s emphasis on solely helping Generation Rent, without acknowledging that many potential Labour voters are also potential landlords, alienated some voters.
UKIP: Labour has been ignoring the threat of UKIP to its vote for far too long. It is time to wake up to that threat. UKIP doesn’t just take votes from the Tories. The result in Dartford, and many other similar constituencies proves that. In Dartford, Tory voters, perhaps galvanised into going to the polling stations through fear of a Labour-SNP dominated parliament, came out in their numbers. But the "soft" Labour vote, or former Labour voters, seemingly turned to UKIP. Just and unjust concern over immigration was certainly a factor: time and time again I would be told by former Labour voters – “you lot let them all in”.
But it wasn’t just immigration that attracted former Labour voters in Dartford to UKIP. Many said to me on the doorstep “I used to be Labour but not any more mate – Labour doesn’t represent people like me anymore”. However you wish to define social background, many people still see themselves as working class, and no longer feel that Labour represents them. There’s a perception that the Labour party is now dominated by a middle class London elite and that’s something we need to address, and urgently. To many people who vote UKIP, it’s a chance to stick two fingers up to the ruling elite and say “none of the above”. There’s a crisis of disconnect between the Labour Party, its once core vote, and what the party now represents. Nationally, Labour will now be going through another review and leadership contest. I am convinced that one of the most important things the party should do is talk to as many former Labour voters as possible about why they now see UKIP as the party most closely representing them.
The background of candidates
And that brings me to the final important point. In order to reconnect with lost Labour voters, we urgently need candidates with a greater variety of social backgrounds. There is a justifiable perception that the party has too many career politicians: too many candidates from legal backgrounds, from think-tanks or who’ve solely worked in Westminster. We desperately need care-workers, teachers, and nurses in parliament. But that won’t happen without support for all our candidates. To stand for parliament it has cost me several thousand pounds in unpaid leave and personal costs. How can someone from a low paid background afford to stand for election? They can’t, without proper help from the national party. We should stop putting all our resources into key seats, and instead create a financial fund to support all aspiring candidates.
I will support the candidates for leader and deputy who best address the issues I have outlined above.
Politically, interesting and worrying times are on the horizon for our country: the rise of nationalism north and south of the border, further cuts to public services and a looming EU referendum. But let’s not forget that although Cameron now has a majority, that majority is small. A week is a long time in politics, let alone five years.
Political fortunes change and they will change again in Dartford and many other constituencies like it across the south of England. Of that, I’m sure. And when the time comes, we must be ready to capitalise. But we must first learn from our mistakes in 2015, change our approach and reach out across the political spectrum.
Labour’s 2015 Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford.
Last Thursday 7th May, Labour lost the General Election. I was the parliamentary candidate in Dartford. It is a classic bellwether seat – having been taken by the party which forms the government at every election since 1964. Sadly, despite... Read more
Simon Thomson, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dartford met with Southeastern's MD David Statham yesterday - as part of an event organised by Dartford Rail Travellers Association.
Simon said “It was a useful meeting and I was keen to raise the issues many long suffering Dartford commuters have raised with me – particularly the cramped conditions on trains and the shortage of carriages. It’s clear that as a result of the Conservatives failure to invest in our railways, Southeastern simply doesn't have enough rolling stock. If elected the MP for Dartford I will work with the DfT to support Southeastern's request for more rolling stock.
We need more 12-car train services through Dartford to get our increasing number of commuters to work and to get Dartford moving again.
I also raised the issue of poor communication and the lack of information provided when there are problems. I’m clear that it’s not the fault of the front line staff who do their best in difficult circumstances. I believe more support needs to be provided by Southeastern management so that staff can keep passengers informed. I was pleased to hear that Southeastern are investing how this can be improved – I’ll be keeping a close eye on progress.
Dartford needs a MP that is going to stand up for commuters and raise the issues that matter to you. If you choose me as your MP on May 7th, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
Dartford only succeeds when working people succeed - that's Labour's message for the General Election.
Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of time knocking on doors in Dartford listening to people and their concerns. I’ve seen first hand that many local people are still struggling to make ends meet. I’ve also seen they’ve not given up on hoping for a change.
We need real change in Dartford and real change in our politics. We need to take action on the cost of living crisis. It cannot be right that under the Conservatives the rich are getting richer while we all pay more in taxes. It cannot be right that the Tory top down re-organisation of the NHS has meant that nurses and doctors are struggling with ever increasing workloads and lack of support. It cannot be right that after 5 years of a Conservative led government, the next generation is faced with being worse off than their parents. I think it is time for change and a better plan.
Dartford needs a better deal. Last week, Labour announced five pledges that are at the heart of our plan for a better future. It’s based on a simple idea: that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. That’s as true in Dartford as it is in the rest of the county. The five pledges set out a clear vision about what type of society Labour wants to create - a fairer, more equal, more prosperous society.
· A strong economic foundation: Labour will balance the books and cut the deficit every year while securing the future of the NHS.
· Higher living standards for working families: Labour will freeze energy bills until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter, ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8 and provide 25 hours free childcare a week.
· An NHS with time to care: 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs. Labour will join up services from home to hospital, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
· Controls on immigration: People who come here won’t be able to claim benefits for at least two years and Labour will introduce fair rules making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.
· A country where the next generation can do better than the last: Labour will reduce tuition fees to £6,000, and guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and deliver smaller class sizes for 5, 6 & 7 year-olds.
As your MP, I’ll work hard every day to help restore pride in Dartford and make sure that everyone benefits from our town's revival.
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
Waiting to hear whether you’ve been given your preferred choice of school can be a stressful time for parents and children.
However, it seems that Kent County Council’s policy of accepting more applications from outside the county is creating extra stress for families in Dartford.
Dartford’s successful secondary schools and the town’s close proximity to London can make an attractive alternative for parents living in the capital.
There were 2,299 applications for places in Kent’s schools this year from parents living outside the county and a third of those have been offered places.
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, Simon Thomson, has been made aware of several cases where local families have missed out on all their preferred choices of local secondary school.
Simon Thomson says “the situation is absurd. KCC seems to be giving an increasing number of places in Dartford schools to families not living in Kent. And that means local schoolchildren in Dartford are missing out.”
“In one case, KCC are expecting a family to get their child to a school outside of Dartford, with the journey involving three different buses. That’s crazy.”
“I want to see KCC give priority for places in Dartford’s secondary schools to families living in Dartford. And I hope the county council will address these absurdities on appeal.”
“But there simply aren’t enough school places in Dartford, especially with all the development being planned for the area. Instead of being obsessed with opening more free schools, the government should be working with KCC to create more places at good schools in Dartford as a matter of priority.”
Simon Thomson can be contacted on 07941 679353 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Increasing numbers of people in the Dartford area are struggling with debt and are only just able to meet their living costs, according to new figures released by StepChange, a Debt Charity. The figures are released as part of the charity’s Debt Awareness Week.
During 2014, the charity’s helpline was contacted by 1476 people from the Dartford postcode area. Those contacting the charity’s helpline on average owed £12,970 in unsecured debt such as credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts and they only had £36 left each month after paying their debts and household bills.
Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity said:
“More and more families in the Dartford area are falling into debt and struggling to make ends meet. For those living on the edge of their financial means, taking control of the situation can seem a daunting, if not impossible, prospect, but taking positive steps towards tackling debt is crucial to getting back on your feet. We urge those who are worried about their debt problems to seek free confidential advice as soon as possible."
Simon Thomson, Parliamentary Labour Candidate for Dartford said:
“StepChange provide vital support for people in Dartford struggling with debt. This a problem that has got worse in the last four years and shows that too often the economy is just not working for local people.”
“Working people are £1600 worse off under the Conservatives and these figures highlight what many people have told me on the doorstep - far too often it’s still a struggle to make end meet. Dartford needs a pay rise and real help with the cost of living. That’s why a Labour government would deliver a fairer economy by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills until 2017 and create more jobs, including a jobs guarantee for young people out of work."
Notes for Editors:
Figures from StepChange Debt Charity, based on helpline calls in 2014.
Simon Thomson is the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford. He can be contacted for further comment on 07941 679353
I am writing to you to seek urgent clarification following a tweet sent earlier today by the Mayor of London, which stated:
“yes the new silvertown crossing will be in by 2020 followed by 3 more bridges inc Dartford 2 #askboris”
The issue of the location of a new Lower Thames Crossing will have a huge impact on Dartford and it vitally important that the crossing is sited away from this area so that the congestion and pollution our town currently suffers from can be alleviated.
Therefore, the Mayor of London’s remarks today have been the cause of considerable concern amongst Dartford residents, particularly as they come from a senior politician within the Conservative Party. I also note that this is not the first time the Mayor has asserted that a new crossing is planned for Dartford.
I hope you will agree with me that Dartford residents deserve clarity and honesty from the Government on this decision. Therefore, will you urgently confirm to residents that a decision on the location of new Lower Thames Crossing has not yet been made?
If it is now the case that a decision has been made, will you agree with me that this needs to be confirmed to Dartford residents without further delay, prior to the General Election on May 7th?
The people of Dartford would appreciate clarification at the earliest opportunity possible. I have today also written directly to the Mayor of London asking him to clarify his remarks. I look forward to hearing from you
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
Dear Mayor Johnson
I am writing to you to seek urgent clarification over your tweet earlier today, in response to a question from @mark_bailey10, in which you stated:
“yes the new silvertown crossing will be in by 2020 followed by 3 more bridges inc Dartford 2 #askboris”
I appreciate that 140 characters gives you very little space, and sometimes the nuance can be lost. However, your statement would seem to confirm that plans are afoot for a new crossing in Dartford.
Given your senior role within the Conservative Party and what I am sure are regular discussions with colleagues in national government, could you either confirm or deny that a decision has been made regarding the location of a Lower Thames Crossing? And, if you are aware of a decision, has the local Member of Parliament been informed?
As I am sure you will appreciate, the issue of a new Lower Thames Crossing is causing great concern for many people who live and work in Dartford, and have to put up with chaos on the roads whenever there is congestion at the current crossing. This has been reflected in the immediate response to your statement on social media and in the local press.
The issue of the location of a new Lower Thames Crossing will have a huge impact and therefore it is vitally important that any new crossing is sited away from Dartford, so that the congestion and pollution our town currently suffers from can be alleviated.
Local residents have had to put up with month after month of delay and uncertainty in regard to this issue. The only thing which would be worse is a decision to build yet another crossing in Dartford. My fear is that your earlier statement has removed that uncertainty to the detriment of this town.
The people of Dartford would appreciate clarification at the earliest opportunity possible. I look forward to hearing from you
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
Cc: Gareth Johnson MP
Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Today's confirmation that Tesco has finally dropped plans to build a super-store in Dartford town centre hardly comes as a surprise. Anyone who walks past the boarded up shops in Lowfield Street or has read the company's annual report will realise that.
The Tory council in Dartford has overseen this sorry saga for twelve long years. And the Tory MP has done nothing over the last five years to find a resolution and come up with alternative plans. They've failed Dartford and have left the town centre to rot. It was foolish to solely rely on a supermarket to regenerate Dartford, without a plan B.
But we don't have to watch our town centre die. We need a new vision and fresh start for Dartford.
We need local politicians who have the confidence to stand up to developers, and tell them what our town needs, not the other way around. That's why a Labour government would give local councils the power to tell developers to "use it or lose it" -- to build or give back the land.
Many small businesses complain that they're struggling because Dartford council is always putting their costs up. Labour would cancel the government's hike in small business rates due this year and freeze the rate in 2016.
If elected Darford's MP in May, I would support initiatives to create an alternative shopping space by helping independent traders, new start ups and young entrepreneurs to open premises. For example, we could be offering them rate free premises for the first couple of years - isn't it better to see shops occupied than empty or boarded up?
Other towns have turned themselves around. So can Dartford. It just takes vision, a "can do" attitude and a fresh start.
Simon Thomson responds to the governments’ road building announcement – “Dartford has been let down by the Conservative led government again. There is nothing new announced that will help get Dartford moving.”
Responding to todays’ government announcement, Simon Thomson, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Dartford said:
“Todays roads announcement shows that once again, Dartford is being let down by the Conservative led government. Despite Dartford suffering some of the worst traffic gridlock in the South East, no new road improvements that would help get Dartford moving were included. It’s even more frustrating that the government are simply re-announcing previous schemes, such as improvements to the Bean junction, that they’ve already failed to deliver on. This is a smoke and mirrors announcement from a government that has nothing to offer Dartford.”
“The lack of investment in Dartford’s roads is a major cause of the gridlock residents suffer and demonstrates that Dartford’s Conservative MP is simply not standing up for local residents. Dartford needs an MP that is prepared to fight our corner for investment in our roads and if elected in May, that’s exactly what I will do.”
Road Investment Strategy announced by the government of 1st December 2014. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/biggest- upgrade-to-roads-in-a-generation. The strategy contains many schemes that had already been announced.
Simon Thomson is Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford and can be contacted on 07941 679353
Dear Gareth Johnson,
The NHS is one of our greatest achievements and our most important institution. But it’s under threat from your government which puts privatisation before patient care.
Now more than ever we need action to save our NHS. That’s why I back Labour MP Clive Efford’s Bill, which will scrap the market framework that David Cameron has imposed on the health service.
The NHS has never been more vulnerable than under the present government. You voted for an unnecessary and damaging £3 billion NHS reorganisation - money which could have been spent on patient care where it was needed – and you have failed to support Labour’s Bill to save our NHS.
Your government’s competition rules force doctors to open up services to competition from the private sector, wasting millions on competition lawyers – money that could and should be spent on patient care. Many local doctors simply didn’t want these changes.
Labour will ensure that the NHS once again puts patients before profits. We will invest the millions of pounds saved from scrapping competition red tape in ensuring people can get a GP appointment within 48 hours, or on the same day if they need it.
This issue really matters to people across Dartford, and I have been copied into many letters from constituents asking you to support the legislation. It would make sure NHS patients across Dartford are put first once again. Now that the Bill has passed - without your vote - the people in our area want to know what you will do. That’s why I’m challenging you to back the Bill now and ensure that the government acts to enforce its provisions to protect our NHS.
Patients in Dartford are relying on you to do the right thing and back this Bill so we can put the right values back into the NHS. It’s time you backed this up with action by ensuring that the government listens to Parliament and acts to protect our NHS.
The Conservative MP for Dartford has failed to support local publicans in their fight for survival against the predatory practices of large pub owning companies.
Last week Gareth Johnson voted against a new clause to the Small Business Bill which had cross party support, and which offered new protections for small publicans against the predatory practices of the large pub owning companies (known as pubcos).
Many pub companies force their licencees to buy limited products at inflated prices, making it more difficult for publicans to make a living. Labour has been campaigning alongside a broad coalition of groups in the industry – including the Federation of Small Businesses, CAMRA and trades unions to call for greater protection for local pubs and put a stop to unfair treatment and restrictive practices by pubcos.
The government’s provisions to regulate pubcos in the Small Business Bill, were debated in Parliament last week, but fell some way short of Labour’s plans and campaigners’ demands. Labour therefore supported a cross-party clause which would strengthen the proposed legislation and offered a better deal for small pubs.
The amendment, which was passed by MPs, would give pubco licensees the right to choose between a tied agreement or a rent only agreement, allowing them to buy beer on the open market.
But despite several of his Tory colleagues defying their whip to vote for this new clause, Gareth Johnson voted against the clause.
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, Simon Thomson said “we know many publicans are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living. Several pubs have shut locally in the last few years, including the Fox and Hounds in Darenth, The Morning Star in Swanscombe and The Horse and Groom in Wilmington. And other publicans are struggling to keep going.”
Simon Thomson added, “27 pubs close every week and more than half of all landlords, who are tied to a large pubco earn less than £10,000 a year. But Gareth Johnson decided to support the big pub companies instead. The government should adopt this amendment to the bill as soon as possible.”
Toby Perkins, Labour’s Shadow Pubs Minister said: “Labour has led calls for a proper statutory code with teeth on pub companies, giving tenants the protection they need and putting an end to the unfair treatment they’ve received from large pub companies. Our plans have won support from a broad coalition of campaigners including CAMRA, the Federation of Small Business, trade unions and the cross-party BIS Select Committee.
“Over the past three years ministers have been dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way on this issue, and now they have been dealt a resounding and humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. Ministers must now act immediately to ensure there is a proper statutory code with a free-of-tie option to protect local pubs, and must not ignore the will of the House of Commons, after their desperate and shambolic attempts to stave off defeat have failed.”
- New Clause 2 was passed by 284 votes to 269 at 4pm on 18/11/2014 despite the government whipping against it. It delivers a mandatory free of tie option (also known as the market rent only, or MRO, option) which allows publicans to buy their beer on the open market. The BIS Select Committee concluded that this was the only way to ensure that landlords would be no worse off than if they were free-of-tie as it would force pubcos to offer tied tenants the best deals.
- The government’s own response to a consultation on a statutory code, printed in June, concluded that a mandatory free of tie option: “is popular with many tenant groups and might arguably offer the simplest way of ensuring a tied tenant is no worse off than a free of tie tenant” – but for reasons known only to themselves they decided not to pursue this.
- Under the original Bill, licencees would merely have the right to ask their pub company to show them how much their rent would be under a free of tie scheme. This was problematic as all the information would be held by the pubcos, all the calculations crunched by their accountants and all the final estimates would be made by them – and then even if they revealed that the landlord would be better of free-of-tie they would have had no legal right to demand this option.
Simon Thomson is Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
He can be contacted via:
Whether it’s being stuck in traffic gridlock or being left on a platform by a cancelled train – too often it seems like Dartford isn’t moving. We need that to change – we need a plan to get Dartford moving again. If I’m MP for Dartford next May I’ll tackle our traffic and transport issues. I’m not going to pretend we can fix everything overnight – but there are things we can and should be doing to help get Dartford moving again. That’s why today I’m launching my traffic and transport priorities for Dartford:
Trains: I’ll fight to get a better service for Dartford
As a daily commuter on the Dartford line, I know just poor the Southeastern service is at the moment. Expensive tickets, delays and cancellations, crowded and dirty carriages and a lack of information when things go wrong. Quite simply, Southeastern are letting us down, badly. The local Tory MP and his government colleagues have ignored your concerns and handed Southeastern a new contract until 2018. Dartford’s rail users deserve better. Labour will cap fares and if Southeastern won’t improve, I will push for a change in operator – preferably in the public sector -- that can deliver the modern, integrated and affordable rail service that Dartford needs. And bringing the Oyster card to Dartford now, is a must.
Crossing: I’ll campaign against another river crossing at Dartford
Our roads grind to a halt whenever there’s a problem at the crossing. But the Tory government is considering building another crossing at Dartford. That makes no sense. Any new crossing has to be built away from Dartford or our town risks remaining a traffic bottleneck forever more. The local Tory MP campaigned to scrap the tolls in 2010. They went up by 30%. Now he’s failed to get this government to rule out another crossing in Dartford. He doesn’t stand up for Dartford - I will, by campaigning against another river crossing being built in Dartford.
Traffic Gridlock: Delivering a new Traffic Plan for Dartford
Gridlock on Dartford’s roads is an all too common experience. The current traffic plan has failed and from congestion to the many problems with parking across Dartford – I’m clear that your concerns can’t continue to be ignored. That’s why as your MP, I’ll ask our local councils and government to work with me to deliver a new traffic plan for Dartford, and to find solutions to the many parking problems across the borough.
Infrastructure: I’ll work to bring Crossrail to Dartford
Thousands of new homes are being planned for Ebbsfleet and Eastern Quarry. Paramount wants to build a theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsular. Huge, exciting projects but I’m concerned that we don’t have the infrastructure to match. That’s why I believe we should benefit from being so close to London by extending Crossrail to Dartford and I’ll work hard to make that happen. I’ll also support a rail extension from Ebbsfleet to the Paramount development, to avoid Swanscombe and other areas getting swamped by traffic.
Cycling: Expanding safe cycling provision across the constituency
Cycling is healthy and enjoyable way of getting across town. But too many of us are put off from getting on our bikes because we feel unsafe in traffic. Many local cycle paths are overgrown; others are simply lines painted on the road, providing little safety to cyclists. Neighbouring boroughs are benefiting from the London mayor’s investment in cycling initiatives. I will work with the Mayor’s office, Kent County Council and the new Dartford Council to seek investment to improve cycling provision across the constituency, But that must mean designated cycle routes, properly separated from traffic.
Buses: Improving local bus services
Many people have been raising with me the issue of poor bus services delivered by Arriva across our constituency. In Longfield, services seem to bear little resemblance to published timetables and we need to improve and extend FastTrack. We need a fully integrated bus service, which meets the needs of passengers. Labour will give local regions the power to regulate their bus services, so that local people and businesses get the service they need. I will make sure this happens across our communities.
I want to hear you views too – what are your ideas to get Dartford moving?
...or comment below.
Simon Thomson, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford