In the Scottish Independence referenda on the 18th September 2014 it was brilliant to see a majority of Scottish voters rejecting independence and choosing to stay with the 307 year old United Kingdom. Whilst Scotland may seem a long way away to the people in Wyre Forest many of us have friends and relatives who live north of the border and a successful ‘Yes’ vote would have had a political, economic, social, constitutional and psychological impact throughout the whole country.
However, despite a welcome result it is worth considering why a sizable minority of voters flirted with independence as it does reveal how much the people of Wyre Forest have in common with people throughout the United Kingdom. Amongst those who voted ‘Yes’ there were two reasons cited which stand out. The first was a general dislike of Westminster politicians who were regarded are being out of touch with the concerns which effect most people on a day to day basis. It is clear that many people have not forgiven or forgotten our elected MPs and the expenses scandal. I know that feeling is shared in Wyre Forest.
Secondly, many ‘Yes’ voters despise the Tories with a passion. One of the most popular slogans used in Scotland was “Vote ‘Yes’ and never get a Tory government again”. Time and time again ‘Yes’ campaigners raised the Bedroom Tax, Food banks, stagnating wages and the encroaching privatisation of the NHS as reasons to vote to guarantee against a Tory government. Again, these are concerns which many people in Wyre Forest share.
Therefore, the recent actions of local Tory MP, Mark Garnier, must add to the sense of frustration and anger which many voters feel. Two weeks ago MPs voted to scrap some of the worse aspects of the hated Bedroom Tax. It didn’t go far enough and Labour is committed to scrapping it completely. However, even the modest proposals were opposed by Mark Garnier who seems blind to the hardship this policy causes.
To add insult to injury, whilst many people in Wyre Forest are struggling with prices rising faster than wages, Mark Garnier has claimed no less than £184,000 of expenses on top of the £67,000 he already earns as an MP. As Kidderminster Food Bank continues to do a roaring trade many people in Wyre Forest will wonder how our local Tory MP can justify any of his actions. In contrast to Scotland the only way the people of Wyre Forest can declare “independence” from this Tory government is to vote Labour in May 2015.