#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 29th September 2010

The ‘Conference Season’ is now upon us and parties are busy planning, taking stock and engaging in the usual showmanship.

No doubt the most long-term impact will be made by the election of the new Labour leader, kicking off Labour’s Conference and giving the country a new leader of the opposition – at the time of writing the contest remains too close to call.

This week Nick Clegg finally admitted that he believes there is no future for the Liberal Democrats as a left-wing party. After months of hatchet work this is little surprise to anyone, although it adds insult to injury for the many Lib Dem voters who supported him for making quite different noises.

No party secured a majority at the election, much less majority support for cuts of the extent we are now faced with. Indeed, Cameron looked into the camera told voters that claims he would make cuts to the winter fuel allowance were untrue; he said there were no plans to raise VAT. Whether or not he meant it is irrelevant, he was setting out his terms for being Prime Minister, terms he has now cast aside.

Every party accepted the need to reduce the deficit, but cuts of this extent and this speed seem set to stall the recovery at best and at worst send us back into recession. Insane comparisons with economies many times smaller and weaker than our own are frankly insulting.

These cuts will hurt the town, yet local Conservatives look set to offer no resistance. Indeed they’ve been cutting for a number of years themselves – quite unforgivably in the case of the Borough Council which has over £120 million spare. Throughout the recession our current MP – at the time council leader – claimed West Sussex wasn’t getting a fair deal from central government, now that we face the first cut since John Major he is mysteriously silent.

Crawley Labour Party will continue to fight these cuts but with Tories in power locally and nationally we need help, no matter how much we punch above our weight. We need local residents to get involved and let them know that the services we depend upon are not for sale. From online petitions to school governorships, PCTs to pressure groups there have never been so many ways to make your voice heard and make a difference … oh, and of course don’t forget to vote.

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