Fresh, if a little tired and sore, from his epic fundraising walk to Westminster, Steve Double, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the St Austell and Newquay seat has return to Cornwall focused and determined to win the election next May.
Steve and his wife Anne set out from The Eden Project on 14th June and walked the 267 miles to the House of Commons in just over 12 days. Explaining the reasoning behind this marathon walk Steve said ‘Cornishmen have been marching on London for over 500 years. Therefore it seemed like a natural thing to do to demonstrate my determination and commitment to be elected as the MP for my home constituency next year. It was firstly a personal challenge, but I am also delighted that we have been able to raise £6500 for two charities that provide really vital services in Cornwall – The Cornwall Air Ambulance and Children’s Hospice SW.
He went on ‘we have been overwhelmed by the response and support we received from so many people from across the country, but especially from Cornwall. We were getting hundreds of message a day from people supporting us and encouraging us to keep going. It really helped us through the tough days knowing so many people were backing us and making donations. In made all the pain and blister worthwhile ’
Whilst Steve was on route to Westminster the story that suggested the current MP for St Austell and Newquay might be joining the Conservative Party broke. ‘The story hit the news just as we were leaving and although I had a couple of calls from the press about it I hadn’t really kept it touch with all that was being said. Therefore it was interesting to come home and read Stephen Gilbert's comments.’
Responding to the news Steve said ‘Leaving aside the obvious point for a moment - that I am not sure I can think of a single local Conservative that would want him to represent our party - I find his comments somewhat bemusing.
This is of course the same Mr Gilbert who has voted with the Conservatives in Government on countless occasions over the past four years. Including supporting bills to increase University Tuition fees, changes to Housing Benefit and reforms to the NHS. All necessary Conservative policies.
We are of course very grateful for his support in being able to implement the changes this Government urgently needed in order to rebuild the broken economy and broken society left to us by the previous government.
But the Conservative Party that he describes is not one I recognise today. In fact, I would suggest it is he who is the one still living in the past. I am proud to be a Cornish Conservative. Having been born into a local working class family I count myself very fortunate to have made a decent life for myself here in Cornwall, through hard work and taking the opportunities given to me.
These are the opportunities I want to see created for all local people, especially our children and the generations to come. I know first hand that these opportunities are currently lacking as my two eldest boys have had to move away to find the jobs they wanted.
I am a Conservative because I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their potential in life, whatever their background. Mr Gilbert says he wants to give everyone a chance to get on in life. However, in this part of Cornwall he doesn't appear to be doing anything to achieve this.
Under the Liberal Democrat representation of the past 25 years I, along with many local people who have spoken to me, have watched with dismay as mid-Cornwall has fallen further behind the rest of the UK. We need to see this change.
This Conservative led Government has already achieved a great deal in repairing the mess we inherited. The deficit has been cut. We have created 144,000 new jobs in the South West since the last election. Employment is up, unemployment is down.
We have brought reform to our education system that is raising standards and we are providing the opportunities our young people need by creating 180,090 new apprenticeships in the region – 19,030 in Cornwall. We are making work pay by reforming welfare and supporting working families.
All the indications are that as this Government continues with its Long Term Economic Plan better times lie ahead. But too often in the past this area has missed out. I am determined to do all I can to ensure that, this time, St Austell and Newquay reap the benefit of economic growth.
I believe that I can provide the political representation and leadership this area has been lacking and desperately needs. We need to attract inward investment and the creation of better paid, secure jobs so that our young people can choose to stay here and have a career. That is the best and only way we will create the opportunities for the future.
Cornwall's history is full of those that took risks to take the opportunities they saw and Cornwall prospered as a result. It is time we saw those times again. Criticising successful businesses and the creation of wealth is not the way to achieve this. We need to be a place where business success is celebrated not treated with disdain, which appears to be the message Stephen Gilbert is giving.
We won't see things change for the better here in mid-Cornwall if we continue as we are. We need to lift our sights, raise our expectations and believe we can make this an even better place to live, do business, work and raise our families. I am determined to be a part of that change.’
Details of Steve Double's Walk to Westminster, including his daily blog from his walk and how to make a donation can be found on his websitewww.stevedouble.org.uk
NB. Article originally published in Western Morning News 3 July 2014