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Part 2 of MP's interview with East Kent Gazette

29 March 2010

BRITAIN can expect American presidential-style election campaigns in the run-up to polling day, says retiring MP Derek Wyatt.

“It’s Cameron versus Brown,” he said. “It’s not about parties any more.”

Labour might still be behind in the polls, but the Sittingbourne and Sheppey representative is quick to point out the gap is narrowing. He also thinks he knows why. “Cameron wants to cut public expenditure immediately. The Tories would bring in a rush budget in January. They want to right the market and there would be pain before gain.


“It would lead to some of the most skilled people losing their jobs, thousands of extra people on social security, which would cost.

Accept the debt

“We are saying we accept the debt. The only way forward is to tackle it gradually over three years. There will still be pain, but not as much.

The reason the polls have come together is the man and woman on the street is beginning to spot the difference”

Derek claims the PM’s intervention to provide failing banks such as Northern Rock and HBOS with millions of public money saved the economy from going into freefall.

“Gordon Brown led the world. His policy was picked up by a number of countries. Something the PM has got is he’s good at running the economy.

“Cameron would have let the banks go. No action would have led to a run on the pound, five to six million unemployed and a 10-year recession.”

There will be ample opportunity to scrutinise the policies and performance of the party leaders, particularly with the first-ever televised debates, common in the States, on the BBC, ITV and Sky.

“It’s a first-class idea,” said Derek. “The one that will gain the most is Clegg. It will pitch the Lib Dems as a major party.

Good for democracy

“I hope the three debates will lead to a higher turn out on election day.

“If the ones on BBC and ITV get between five and eight million viewers, that’s good for democracy. It can only improve the relationship between politicians and the people they serve.”

Bridging the gap between MPs and constituents was Derek-’s motivation for encouraging people to use the internet.

“In 1997, I was receiving 100 letters a week from constituents and maybe five emails — now it’s five letters a week and 500 emails.

“You’ve got to remember there is still 20 per cent of the nation who have never sent an email. There’s still a divide or reluctance for people to come online. Older people have got it, it’s the 25- to 45-year-old male that’s reluctant.”

Arguably the most IT-savvy MP given his previous job as director of a Sky computer channel, Derek was the first to develop his own “app” for the iPhone. Since its launch, 30 MPs have made inquiries about the software and the major parties are expected to embrace the technology as the election approaches.

 

It’s arrival will mark the end of a 13 year career, which Derek says he can look back on with a certain amount satisfaction. “We’ve helped 16,500 families with housing issues, problems with the child support agency or Jobcentre plus, and won about 85 percent of cases. We’ve brought £250 million of investment here.”

Walking away

It will not be easy to walk away from a job that has consumed so much energy but some things will be easier to cope without than others. “I shall not miss voting at 10 or 11pm on Monday or Tuesday. I will not miss the whip’s office one bit,” he said.

“I will miss the camaraderie of MPs on both sides of the House. I will miss making a difference.”

Next on the agenda for Derek, a huge jazz fan, is a music tour of the United States.

And then there’s the 2012 Olympic “We will be there for the final of the 100 metres, my son and I, whatever it costs.”

While Derek is sure of his seat in the Olympic stadium, the destiny of his parliamentary pew is far from certain.

 
“I think it will be a hung parliament,” he said. “And then it is all I play for.”

 



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