Grant Shapps: Eastleigh residents deserve an MP they can trust, who is on their side
Never are voters more aware of the power they have than in the days leading up to an election. In Eastleigh, the TV crews have already descended and canvassers from all parties are hard at work.
I was there on Friday, with prospective Conservative MP Maria Hutchings. Eastleigh is a place Maria cares deeply about. Here is a working mum of four, who’s not frightened of taking on politicians, including, memorably, Tony Blair – and she wants to win.
For Maria, this contest is about Eastleigh, not Westminster. It’s about what she has already achieved for the community she loves – and how much more she could achieve if she were elected to raise local concerns in parliament.
Of course there could be few more serious moments in which to enter national politics. Mid-terms are notoriously tricky for any government. As Conservatives tackle Labour's deficit, we’re making difficult decisions that have been put off for far too long. We know that we have our work cut out, but that the prize for Britain is immense.
After all, we have a Prime Minister making impressive reforms that even the most radical Conservative governments have failed to deliver in the past. But how does that translate to the resident who opens her door to a Conservative campaigner in Eastleigh?
It means more money back in their pocket because this Conservative Chancellor has ensured that, from this April, 25 million of the lowest paid workers – 40,000 of whom live in Eastleigh – will be better off. It means that hard-pressed local families have benefited from a government backed freeze in their council tax for the past two years; a stark contrast to it more than doubling under Labour.
And for pensioners opening their front doors, Conservatives can let them know that we provided the biggest cash increase in history for their basic pension last year. On Monday, they will also learn how losing everything to pay for long-term care will become a thing of the past, thanks to this government’s determination not to duck the difficult issues.
But it doesn’t stop there. Our campaigners can tell Eastleigh locals that this Prime Minister is prepared to stick up for them in Europe. For the first time in years, the interests of the British people are being put before the bureaucracy of Europe, with the PM’s use of the veto and our promise of an In/Out referendum, after a renegotiation of powers.
And while just last week, LibDems claimed that proposing such a referendum would lead to a loss of power in Europe, in fact our Conservative Prime Minister will tell Parliament today how he has fought for and won a better deal for the British taxpayer – the first ever cut in the EU's seven year credit card limit.
Back on domestic issues and our campaigners can explain how our determination to tackle the deficit has kept the confidence of the global markets, leading directly to the lowest mortgage rates we have ever seen. Then they can explain how the deficit is down by a quarter. How schools are seeing a return to rigour and standards. That crime in Eastleigh and across the country is down. That employment is up at its highest rate ever; including more women in work than ever before.
None of these things are the wonky obscurities of Whitehall, they’re real life, serious achievements of a Conservative led government that means business – and we need to make sure people in Eastleigh and beyond know about them.
These reforms are already helping to make a difference to the lives of working families. Ending the something for nothing culture. Helping with the cost of living. Making sure we’re on the side of people who want to get on in life. They aren’t just slogans – they’re backed by some of the biggest economic reforms in decades.
Like investing in the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe including Crossrail and High Speed Two. Projects that will make sure that Britain’s open for business with the rest of the world in the global race ahead.
Our Eastleigh Campaign HQ is open to everyone who wants to come down and campaign for a local champion for Eastleigh. I’ll be on the ground in the weeks to come. Join me, and let residents know that they can have an MP who they can trust in Westminster who is part of a Conservative led government on the side of their own hard-working family.