Securing a future for sustained Government investment in cycling and walking

Frankly, this is one of the main reasons I went into politics and am now seeking to become an MP.  It’s  amendments to legislation such as this that can mark a step change in how we travel around the places we live on a daily basis and the knock-on effects on health, wellbeing, pollution and congestion.

The Infrastructure Bill, which will dictate the future direction and spending commitments for infrastructure once it becomes an Act, is nearing its conclusion. CTC, the national cycling charity, along with a number of leading transport groups, is demanding a change from the old ways of looking at transport infrastructure, as set out in the following statement:

CTC Statement

“One of the most important bills going through Parliament this year is approaching its conclusion. The Infrastructure Bill proposes a five year Roads Investment Strategy, but currently makes no similar commitment to long-term funding to vitally increase cycling and walking.

“It is not without irony that this falls so soon after the latest 12 year study from Cambridge University found that inactivity is killing twice as many people as obesity. This is combined with the fact that inactivity costs the UK economy £20 billion every year, with one in six deaths linked to physical inactivity. We must act now and make cycling and walking easier to do every day.

“This is why we are supporting an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to include a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy – to provide the long-term commitment to funding that is so desperately needed to increase levels of cycling and walking for the health of our nation. We urge as many people to write to their MP as possible this week to ask them to put their name to this important amendment and help turn the tide of physical inactivity.

“Our coalition supporting this amendment to the Infrastructure Bill is comprised of leading organisations in this area. Together we represent countless members of the public who are all clamouring for a Bill that reflects the importance of walking and cycling in the 21st century.”

What it will take to win in 2015

This Blog was just published on Lib Dem Voice this morning.  Here it is in full below.  Seems an appropriate way to start the new year!

The fact that there are just over 4 months now until the general election put me into a pensive mood about the state of British politics, what we need to do to change it and what I need to do to win.

The “trends” are:

  • People are increasingly disengaged from politics and have little faith in either politicians or the political process
  • People are increasingly not aligned to individual political parties
  • Young people, in particular, generally struggle to see the relevance of politics to their own lives
  • Because of prolonged austerity and “squeezed” living standards for the majority, populism, the politics of fear and a culture of blame are rallying support for extremist parties such as Ukip.

Much of this looks grim.  Yet at the same time, there are flashes of positive engagement in our society–some of it political– that give hope:

  • The high turnout at the Scottish referendum
  • The success of single issue and petition websites such as 38 degrees and which seem to connect with young people particularly well
  • The rate of engagement and giving to high profile causes, such as Children in Need, Sports Relief and DEC, etc

Teasing out why and how people engage from this list can give us some steers as politicians about what we should be doing to make ourselves relevant.

  1. Issues that have meaning to people and are readily comprehensible, inspire and motivate them.  People voted in high numbers at the referendum in Scotland because it actually meant something to them.  Also, it was a high stakes referendum, so people knew they had to get out and vote to ensure that their vote counted.  There was a feeling of importance and urgency about getting out and voting.
  2. Empathy is important.  People invest in issues, whatever they may be, that stir their emotions.  The fact that Sports Relief and Children in Need continue to amass successive higher totals, even during a prolonged recession/low growth period, shows us that when people care, they act.
  3. The internet is a great tool for sharing information and creating platforms that ease interaction.  Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, etc, can enable connections to happen between people who, in many cases, you would normally never have the chance to meet.  Sites such as Youtube enable you to broadcast what you are doing, creating, thinking, promoting, etc, and invite support and feedback.  Single issue websites such as 38 degrees are successfully using this sharing/broadcasing ability and interactivity around political issues without being politically aligned.

So, what should we be doing, as politicians?  I call it the “4 I’s”: we need to Inspire; we should possess political Instinct; we should talk about the Ideas that motivate us; and we should make greater use of the Internet to share, listen and interact.

Politicians have to inspire people to show that the issues they are campaigning on are important and matter, and to engender trust.   They need to use whatever political instinct they have to understand what issues matter to people–and this is one area, involving essentially one issue, where Farage resounds with ordinary voters.  BUT, to avoid populism, they also need to explain and generally share their ideas to generate interest and ignite passions on issues that previously may not have seemed important to many people.

Finally, the internet serves as a modern tool through which politicians  can: inspire “followers”, “friends” and others; react to breaking issues and news using their instinct; and spread their ideas and values through blogging, Youtube, etc.  Imagine if Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King or William Beveridge had access to the internet in their lifetimes?  How much further might their ideas have gone?

Whoever can master the “4 I’s” in 2015 will be a winner, in my opinion.  I aim to be one of them.