Francis Maude: 2015 will be a big year in politics

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

This week I’m looking forward, not back, as 2015 will be a big year in politics. Now we have five year fixed term Parliaments, we know the date of the next General Election already: 7th May.

The political pundits and forecasters are united on one thing, that the result is impossible to predict. There has been a Coalition Government for the last five years, the first in peacetime for 70 years.

It is a sad but well evidenced fact that the junior partner in a coalition government always pays a heavy electoral price for its participation, and this is especially the case in a government that has had to take really difficult decisions, in our case to cut spending and reform the welfare system.

As the election approaches there is inevitably a tendency for differences between the coalition parties to emerge, but I don’t forget that the Liberal Democrats entered government for good and patriotic reasons while knowing that there was a potential downside.

There is a Labour alternative whose standing in the polls has been falling steadily over the last year. There are two explanations for this. The first is that they seem to have very little to say about the two issues about which the public are most concerned: the economy and immigration. It seemed scarcely credible that Ed Miliband failed to mention either the budget deficit or immigration in his conference speech in September. So the second explanation may be Ed Miliband himself, who is thought by few to be a credible future Prime Minister.

And then there’s UKIP. I take nothing for granted, and see that it has erupted onto the scene with vigour. I’m happy that the party won no seats in the Horsham constituency in the 2013 county council elections, and in local by-elections since it has done even less well. But there is still an important message for all politicians, which is that many voters feel quite alienated from traditional parties.

I take this seriously, as a traditional and long serving politician from the longest- established political party in the history of democracy. I don’t claim to know the complete answer, but I do believe in the old-fashioned method of saying what I think should be done about the things that fall within my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament, and then doing my best to make them happen.

Which is why when it comes to the other elections on 7th May, for Horsham and Mid Sussex district councils, I will not be venturing a view on matters which fall within the councils’ responsibilities.

Like the Coalition Government, councillors have a difficult task in reconciling conflicting objectives, and I believe they deserve respect for the way they undertake that.

It’s going to be an interesting year, and I wish all my constituents the very best for 2015 - peace, good health, security and prosperity.