Where we agree
The Coalition Government has surprised me many times over.
First, I didn’t expect it would happen. Yet, amazingly, the negotiators produced an agreement both parties could support. Of course there were compromises – and these continue, not least in the budget. However, both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs recognise that a strong, stable Government is in the country’s interests - especially given the public finances and weak economy. We can’t avoid taking difficult decisions, so we may as well take them together.
Second, I am delighted by the amount of agreement that comes easily. In elections politicians spend time emphasising differences. In coalitions I’m learning politicians must spend time doing the opposite! So in the department I work – Business, Innovation and Skills – we continually find we share roughly the same approach towards enterprise and small business, for example.
Take David Cameron’s idea of the “Big Society”. During the election, my party questioned exactly what he meant. Yet in Government we see the Conservatives’ interpretation of the idea as a “localist” concept, finding ways for communities to help themselves, is not only something we can embrace but something close to what Liberal Democrats have long argued for.
And it is an idea that faith communities can play a role in. One of my responsibilities is “Minister of Social Enterprise.” It requires me to work with Ministers across Whitehall , like Nick Hurd in the Cabinet Office, to see how we can encourage and make life easier for voluntary groups and charities.
My biggest problem as a local MP will be explaining the Government’s spending cuts. These are bound to impact our way of life across the Royal Borough and beyond. They will inevitably reverse some of the successes we worked so hard to achieve since 1997. Yet if we can protect the most vulnerable as we bring spending under control, we can still work towards making Kingston and Britain a fairer society.