Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Mossley, Stalybridge, Hyde and Dunkinfield, provides an insight on the build up to next month’s General Election
I LOVE Easter. I’m a practising Christian and so Easter has a significant meaning for me.
But it’s also a lovely time of being at home with the family, going to community events, and enjoying some roast lamb.
It’s never easy to get back into the swing of things the first day you have to be back in Parliament.
But this year things took an even more unexpected turn when a few hours into that first day back the Prime Minister appeared on TV calling a General Election.
Twenty-four hours later Parliament had voted to dissolve itself and I was heading back up the M6, as a power failure meant there were no trains running from Euston (of all days!).
Elections take a lot of logistical planning. There’s usually around 70,000 people on the electoral roll for this constituency, which is far less than the population, so register to vote!
That means you need a lot of printed materials and a good organisation to get round as many people as possible.
For the local authorities that run elections, there is also a significant cost. Ballots need printing, polling stations need staffing, people have to be employed to count the result etc.
This is so significant that most people were working on the assumption that if an election was held this year it would be on the same day as the Mayoral and County Council elections.
To hold two ballots on consecutive months will cause a significant dent in most council budgets.
Once elections begin, I quite enjoy them. Different candidates have different styles. But my days are mostly spent simply knocking on doors and talking to people.
It’s old-fashioned but I find people rather like it. Of course, some of the exchanges are robust, and naturally not everyone will be voting for you.
However, I generally find people give you credit for being prepared to approach them directly.
It’s also important for me to make sure people receive a local message.
There’s an ‘air-war’ in any election, which is conducted on TV and radio each day between the Party leaders and other senior figures.
But I also think the local choice of candidates is important to consider. Getting across your work as a local MP isn’t easy amidst the national campaign, but often that’s where you have made most of a difference.
We’ve had an example of the impact of national politics on local issues recently in Mossley.
I’ve given my support to the ‘Save Open Spaces’ group because I agree with them and I do think some of our most important amenities are the open and green spaces in an urban area. I’d go as far as to say these are often even more important to protect from development than the agricultural land around urban areas.
As I write Cosgrove Gardens and the other sites have been removed from auction and I would like to pay tribute to all those residents in Mossley who have made that happen.
The reason that’s relevant to the General Election is that, whichever political preference you subscribe to, there is a crisis of local funding that needs answering.
When I was first elected as our MP in 2010, Tameside MBC received around £162million from central government (most council funding actually comes this way, which is then added to local council tax receipts).
By next year, Tameside will receive just £69m from central government, with the overwhelming expense being the cost of social care for the elderly. Whichever Party wins this election, this requires a long-term answer.
If it doesn’t the pressure on councils to sell local amenities will become intolerable.
So I hope to see you on a doorstep soon, and naturally I hope this isn’t my last column as our local MP.
Whatever view you have of this snap election, make sure you’re registered to vote, make sure you’ve get a postal vote if you’re going to be away on June 8, and make sure you use it to have your say.
In particular, parents of children in Tameside primary schools may need a postal vote this time as the election falls in half-term. You do all these things online at: www.tameside.gov.uk/elections