Personal statement

For reasons unconnected with politics, as one of my predecessors once said, I wrote yesterday to Cllr Paul McCloskey, chair of the local Liberal Democrats, to let him know that I have decided not to put my name forward in any forthcoming selection of a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham.

I do regret having to take this decision and I very much hope to return to frontline politics in the near future.  But I can’t commit to that right now.  We ran a tremendous campaign in Cheltenham earlier this year, bucking the national trend by increasing our vote significantly and making this one of the most winnable Liberal Democrat / Tory marginals in the whole country, so I understand why the local party will want to crack on with selecting a candidate as soon as possible.  But the timing isn’t right for me.

Luckily, the Liberal Democrats have many able campaigners locally and nationally who will be very interested in taking on this challenge.  I wish them every success and I hope to be able to give them my wholehearted backing.

For the record – since this question is often asked – Cheltenham remains home and I have no intention of going anywhere else.  I remain a trustee of three local charities and I will be continuing with all of those commitments and continuing to help Cheltenham Liberal Democrats as much as I can.

The Conservatives are making a tragic mess of our country and their inept handling of Brexit in particular threatens all our futures.  Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly embarrassing personality cult and his 1970s policies provide no realistic alternative.  Here in Cheltenham, we continue to see Lib Dem victories in local elections.  So I see no reason why the Liberal Democrats should not go from strength to strength again, nationally and locally.  We have a new national leader in Vince Cable and we now need a new standard-bearer in Cheltenham too. But there is still everything to play for.

Thank you for your support in the 2017 General Election

Originally posted on Facebook, June 2017.

Well we didn’t quite do it. But we did buck the national trend to increase our vote share by 8 points, adding six thousand to the Lib Dem total and slicing the Tory majority from 6,500 to 2,500.

We suffered from a national campaign that struggled to break through despite excellent leadership from Tim Farron, the lack of a UKIP candidate locally sending pro-Brexit votes straight to the Tories, and an increased Labour vote swept along by the Corbyn surge which in Cheltenham ultimatelyhelped the Tories win as well. Sometimes the cards just fall the wrong way during a campaign.

But the fact that we came so close is a credit to everyone from all over Gloucestershire and further afield who volunteered, delivered, stuffed, donated, delivered, called, knocked on doors, tweeted, posted and generally worked their socks off for weeks. Thank you SO much.

And thanks as well to those who co-ordinated ward efforts, led canvassing, covered Cheltenham in Lib Dem diamonds, gave advice on policy and messaging, wrote copy, handled emails, managed the money, produced video, promoted the campaign on social media and fundraised. We would never have come so close without you too.

Its invidious to name anyone in particular but I have to name check our core campaign team: my agent Steve Jordan, Andy Williams’ political intelligence and hard work at the printing presses in Hewlett Road, our vital national link Dave Wood, Chris Twells on the outstanding literature and many people’s superstar of the campaign, Chris Ward, who read the data and directed the huge volunteer effort at the Bakery and across the town. You were a fantastic team and put together a strategy that should have won us the seat – and would have done if the national tide had just flowed a bit more strongly in our direction.

But Theresa May’s gamble in calling the election misfired so catastrophically for the Tory party that we may all be back here again before long. Overturning a 6,000+ majority always looked like a bit of a longshot. But your tremendous effort this time means that whenever the next election comes, we’ll start within spitting distance of victory.

Thank you

Martin

Martin Horwood
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham 2017


Cheltenham EU citizens deserve right to remain

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood has called on the government to accept their defeat in the Lords on Wednesday and accept the right of EU citizens already in this country to remain after Brexit.

Speaking to a meeting of Cheltenham’s Polish Tenants & Residents Association earlier this week he strongly condemned the government’s plan not to guarantee the right to remain of citizens of other EU countries until reciprocal rights for British citizens in the rest of the EU had been secured as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations – ‘as soon as they can’.

“Those negotiations could drag on for many years and agreement might never be reached” Martin told the TARA. “Yet the government could sort this tomorrow if it wanted.  It is just immoral to use people as bargaining chips in this way. People have lived here for years and have always been told they had the right to remain here.  They have jobs, families, children that can’t simply be uprooted. They are working hard, paying taxes and keeping the NHS and care sector functioning.  No-one imagines that a sane British government would actually deport them on the day we leave the European Union but employers and landlords and banks would start to ask for evidence of their right to live and work in the UK and make life more and more difficult.  Yet it is entirely within the power of the UK government to guarantee their right to remain regardless of the negotiations.”

Cheltenham is thought to have thousands of citizens of other EU countries living and working here, including in the NHS and in local technology companies.  Martin Horwood criticised Theresa May’s hardline stance on this issue during the Conservative leadership contest last year (http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/martin-horwood-criticises-theresa-may-over-eu-citizens-stance/story-29478677-detail/story.html).  The TARA meeting heard many Polish Cheltonians complain about the uncertainty the row had suddenly caused them and how current Home Office systems to grant permanent leave to remain were simply not set up for people who had always had that right and never before needed documentary proof of permanent residence.

Following Wednesday’s House of Lords vote Martin Horwood added: “The House of Lords have shown the government the way by amending the Brexit bill to guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain.  The government should accept this defeat gracefully and do the right thing for our European friends, neighbours, family members and workmates.  The House of Lords isn’t seeking to stop Brexit, just impose some moderation and humanity on the process.  The government should follow their Lordships’ lead and make the guarantee now.”

Thank you

key_martin_pittville.png

Thank you. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Cheltenham for ten years, so far, as your MP.  We have won many battles together – to protect local health services, keep treasured green spaces and win investment in the town and its public transport system in particular.  I will keep on fighting for those causes and for this town.

Thank you too for all the kind messages for me and my family which I have received since the election.  Cheltenham has a big heart.

To those of you who voted for me, and resisted the overwhelming professional marketing campaign dropped on us and many other LibDems from a great height by Tory central office and their millions, thank you so much for putting your trust in me again.  I’m so sorry we didn’t win it for you this time.

To those who voted Labour or Green, I understand your desire to vote for what you may have believed but, as we warned, it has helped to achieve the exact opposite of what you wanted under our rotten voting system, helping our new Tory MP into office and the Conservatives into a majority government.

To those who switched to Conservative to stop Ed Miliband and the SNP, I’m afraid the Tories’ real objective has now been achieved: to rule on their own, committed to deeper and faster cuts than any other party.  There will be no tax rises for the wealthiest now, but there will be a referendum on Europe that could prove as divisive as the Scottish one and lose us vital jobs, and a confrontation with the SNP in Scotland that could put the union at risk all over again.  It’s a grim prospect but the Liberal Democrats will keep battling for a fairer approach, just as we did in government.

Your new MP’s office address is:

Alex Chalk MP

Gloucestershire Conservatives

Regent Court

Gloucester Business Park GL3 4AD

Finally, thank you too to all those who were part of the LibDem volunteer army in Cheltenham that fought back like tigers against the Tory marketing machine.  You made me so proud to be a Cheltenham Liberal Democrat. It was the most phenomenal team effort I’ve ever seen and it bodes very well for this local party in the future.

If you want to join us in the fight back, click here.

Thank you again.

Martin