My first job in politics was working for the cross party ‘no’ campaign against the euro. It was a diverse coalition of business leaders, trade unionists, greens and MPs from all parties. Keeping everyone happy was a challenge at times, but it was also refreshing to get people from so many different backgrounds working together for a common cause. It might prove good training for the sort of politics we are now in.
Making a coalition government work is undoubtedly more difficult than running a government of one party with a clear majority. The compromises made to form this new Liberal Conservative coalition have understandably caused some unease among both Conservative and Lib Dem supporters. But there are strengths in coalitions too. They force a change in the culture of our politics and encourage people to set aside differences and work together in the national interest.
Here in Cornwall, a new coalition government offers the prospect that, at long last, we can move on from talking about the problems our county faces to actually implementing the policies that will solve them.
There are some areas where the Lib Dems and Conservatives have long agreed. We need to tackle the unfairness of water charges in the South West. The proposal that I favour to deal with this problem is to charge a small tariff to water companies in other parts of the UK to help cover the cost of maintaining our coastline so that there could be significant reduction in water bills here in Cornwall. All MPs in the South West must now work together to try to make such a policy a reality.
Then there is the problem of the NHS funding formula. Despite the squeeze on public funding, we need a new formula that recognises the fact that we have an older population in Cornwall and therefore a greater need for medical care. Again, I want to work with all MPs of both parties in our county to make a reality of such a change in the NHS funding formula.
Here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, I have always maintained that economic regeneration is the single most important task facing us all. There are some important decisions to be made about the plans to regenerate Hayle Harbour, the Heartlands project at Pool is at a crucial stage and we need to make sure that we are able to sustain the progress made at the Wave Hub project in Hayle and actually convert a good idea into a world leading position in marine energy.
Delivering all of this will need not only a coalition at the top but a spirit of cooperation among MPs in the South West and a willingness among all the MPs in Cornwall to take a stand in the interests of our county.