On Wednesday the 10th of February 2010 Cambridge’s Parliamentary Candidates from the Labour, Green, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties debated their “vision for Cambridge in 2020″ at an event hosted by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership at B-Bar on Market Passage. Each candidate from the main parties outlined their vision for Cambridge in 2020.
Zeichner started by talking about a report from the 1960s written by the City of Cambridge’s “Chief Engineer” in which the same challenges which are now facing the city of deciding where to put housing and how to avoid traffic gridlock were being considered then.
Daniel Zeichner hammed it up and out on a dramatic stage voice as he warned that in just ninety days time we could find the British economy in the hands of George Osbourne. He said our future will be at the mercy of an experiment which as only be played out once before, and thats’ happening in Ireland and we’re seeing the consequences. Despite a number of loud and clear heckles asking “what experiment” Zeichner ploughed on. What we’ve seen in the Irish economy is a huge amount of money being poured in by the UK and other net contributors to EU funds which have not been utilised wisely. There has been little to show for this, the money has not been invested to enable the county to continue to create wealth once the support is taken away. While I can see a parallel of some sort between that and the current government’s “fiscal stimulus” which isn’t focused on the industries and activities which will enable us to trade our way out of the dire financial position the Labour government has left us with I can’t see the connection between that and any conservative policy or principle.
Zeichner then made a series of the statements that prompted the sharpest intakes of breath and murmurs of disagreement of the evening when he said: “The polls don’t lie, as it stands the Tories are set to win, and if people are comforting themselves with the thought of a hung Parliament then I tell you – don’t. It won’t make any difference, because even if Labour wins more seats in that Parliament the Tories are going to get more votes and the reason for that is quite simple – turn out in Tory areas is always higher than in poorer Labour areas and actually the constituencies the Tories are more likely to win have more voters in them anyway. When it comes to a hung parliament Nick Clegg has already set down the terms, he’ll support the party which has the most votes; that sounds fair but it means the Tories.”
Moving back to the question of Cambridge in 2020; he said our best hope was that the kind of knowledge based research intensive companies which we’ve got in Cambridge might continue to do OK. He suggested the “Cambridge Bank” might help. He said Cambridge had so far been insulated from economic problems, and said what had been experienced so far was nothing to what would be coming be it “Clegg’s Savage cuts” or “Cameron’s age of austerity”. He said he feared Cambridge could join the rest of the country in 2020 in a state of social and industrial unrest following a spiral of spending cuts.
Zeichner said that this vision could be avoided and we could get through by getting the right mix of spending restraint, modest tax increases for those who can afford it, and getting the economy back to growth.
Zeichner pointed out a positive side of new housing being delayed, in that it would mean higher environmental standards.
Pointing to Exeter (which has just become a unitary authority) the potential to do something similar in Cambridge was raised; Zeichner said that in Cambridge the Liberal Democrats didn’t even make an effort to try and get a unitary authority.
Other suggestions included revisiting the crazy decision to relocate Marshall out of the city, reigning in the monopoly bus operator and creating a top class public transport system with smart cards, real time information which would make buses a real transport solution of choice.
My Comments on Daniel Zeichner’s Speech
I think Mr Zeichner’s focus on Party Politics and use of lines which could have been applied by any Labour candidate standing anywhere in the country didn’t go down at all well with the Cambridge audience.
I support Daniel Zeichner’s call for a unitary authority – assuming he’s talking about a greater Cambridge region, bigger than the current city; and agree with him that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives shouldn’t be trying to push Marshall out of the city. Later in the evening he also revealed himself to be the only main party candidate fully behind the government proposals to upgrade the A14; something I think is essential for the city.
The Labour government can’t be trusted for one moment longer with the economy, with massive government borrowing, encouraging personal borrowing, and getting into massive debt with private finance initiatives to build schools and hospitals they have been utterly irresponsible. To me a vote to carry on with the current Government would be unthinkable, I think the country knew what it was getting in 1997 and I understand the lack of an alternative which prompted the change and think that party politics is as much to blame for boom and bust as any external forces or economic cycles.
Other Articles in this Series:
- Richard Taylor – An Independent Vision for Cambridge in 2020
- Julian Huppert – A Liberal Democrat Vision for Cambridge in 2020
- Tony Juniper – A Green Vision for Cambridge in 2020
- Nick Hillman – A Conservative Vision for Cambridge in 2020
- Cambridge Parliamentary Hustings Focusing on Growth – October 2009