People often ask, why get involved in politics?  One reason is because it allows me to meet and speak to so many people.  That is why I love campaigning – the opportunity to hear more stories, pick up more experiences and help develop ideas for new solutions.

An election is exactly that experience for me, a chance to knock on more doors, meet more people in Cardiff and beyond and hear what you want us to do more and better.

I have run parliamentary campaigns in Wantage in 2015 and Cardiff West in 2017 and campaigned in dozens of by and local elections besides.  I have learned such an enormous amount along the way.  Only this direct campaigning and activism can equip you with the insights and determination to deliver for constituents when you get the opportunity to take their issues forward and get them resolved.

Being part of that direct transfer from people’s doorsteps to delivering action and change is one of the reasons I can’t get enough of canvassing and campaigning.

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It was Theresa May who famously pleaded that “nothing has changed” when her election campaign came off the rails in 2017.

Parliament just delivered the same message to Jester Johnson – you can bluster and bluff till you’re blue in the face but nothing in parliament has changed.

Our nation is still a Parliamentary Democracy and if you don’t have the numbers, if your arguments aren’t good enough to win over MPs (and in fact alienates more) then your rhetoric and threats are as potent as a guff in a hurricane. No amount of flatulent fawning and flattery by the Tory Party faithful over the summer has changed the arithmetic. We are mercifully back from silly season on Borisland to prosaic parliamentary reality.

We should congratulate the MPs who stood firm. Their courage has ensured we can now be confident that this country will be prevented from being dragged out by the No Deal zealots on 31st October.

There remains enormous work to do to ensure a People’s Vote is the ultimate outcome. But on the streets of Cardiff, across our nation and most importantly in Westminster tonight it’s a moment to recognise our Parliamentary Democracy is alive and well.

The Cummings Coup has (for now) been defeated.

One of the proudest moments of my life was singing the Olympic Anthem at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony.  Being part of that event was a great privilege as it showcased  the modern, outward-looking, engaged, thoughtful and successful nation that we are.  A bright future lay ahead.

Some of the shine of 2012 has been rubbed off by political failures that have sown division and discord.  We have failed to address core issues in our economy and society, and instead embarked on a divisive referendum in 2014 in Scotland, but particularly the EU referendum in 2016 to try to find superficial answers to complex problems.

I believe that the root cause of this division has been the lack of meaningful economic and constitutional reform in our country.  Policies in these areas have been weak and ineffective.  In both economic and constitutional contexts radical change is required to put citizens and communities back at the heart of wealth-creation and decision-making.  If we can achieve that aim, I believe we can heal the divisions and move forward to a more balanced and stable prosperity.

That future seemed possible – even likely – on that evening in London in 2012.  It is the job of politicians to deliver on that promise, and I intend to make it a central part of my mission.

I will admit that I expected Remain to win the EU Referendum in 2016.  I was convinced that the economic arguments for greater trade, investment and jobs within the EU would prevail over the emotional calls for sovereignty and control that the Leave side put forward.

I got it very wrong.

Waking on 24th June and hearing the result, I felt the pain in my heart not my head.

My immediate thoughts were for the damage that might be done to Irish peace and the anxiety that the result might be causing my Polish neighbours.  This made me realise instantly how Remain had simply failed to adequately express the emotional reasons why we believe in EU membership.  It is not really the economics that makes the EU such an important part of my identity – it is the feeling of solidarity I have with people from other EU nations, it is the ability to enrich our communities those people and it is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that the EU brings to problem-solving across our continent.

From then on I have always believed that – important though the economic arguments are – it is crucial that those of us campaigning for a chance to look at the EU membership issue again make their case on emotional grounds.

I have been and will continue to be committed to arguing passionately for Remain, no matter what the tortuous path of Brexit.

The lesson I have learnt however is that we must make that case from the heart, from our values and from our experience and beliefs, and leave the economic forecasts for the spreadsheet junkies.

I can remember my first science project when I started comprehensive school in 1991. It was to look at the way carbon dioxide caused the greenhouse effect.  I was no scientist (and am still not!) but the simple explanation of the insulating effect of CO2 and the resultant global warming made sense.  The more I thought about it the more illogical it seemed that we would voluntarily drive our species (and every other species on the planet) towards trying to survive in a hotter and hotter planet.   It seemed obvious to me that this should be something everyone would be trying to sort out.

I qualified as a solicitor in London in 2006, and realising I was now one of the people who had the responsibility to use my skills to find solutions, I started working in renewable energy in 2008.  Since then I have spent a decade working in different technologies within the clean tech and renewable energy sector, from innovative energy storage companies to large utilities delivering enormous offshore wind farms.  I moved out of the legal team in 2016 to work on the commercial and project management aspects of offshore wind projects until taking a leadership role in onshore wind in 2018 working for the company that has delivered a third of all of Wales’ renewable energy.

My passion for taking action on climate goes beyond my profession.  I have been campaigning for more investment in environmental technology and a green new deal since the noughties – my wife and I travelled to Copenhagen by train to protest at the Climate Summit in 2009.

In recent years I have been inspired by the achievements of campaign groups, NGOs and the renewables industry itself in raising the profile of the climate emergency, and promoting the the need to act faster and more effectively to avert temperature increases of 1.5 degrees.  I’ve been particularly inspired by Greta Thunberg who’s peaceful protest, eloquence and bravery has created a new generation of activists who will ensure that we keep up the fight for rapid climate action.  I was a part of the Liberal Democrat working group devising the party’s most recent policies intending that once in government, we can deliver exactly that.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me and supported me throughout this campaign.  The full result was:

Ed Vaizey (Con) 31,092 53.3%
Stephen Webb (Lab) 9,343 16.0%
Alex Meredith (LD) 7,611 13.1%
Lee Upcraft (UKIP) 7,288 12.5%
Kate Prendergast (Grn) 2,986 5.1%

It was a disappointing result for me and my party, but I am very proud of the campaign we fought.  In particular I have tried to highlight key local issues, and focus on core liberal values of tolerance, unity and protection of the environment as well as offering the continued stability we have delivered over five years in government.

It has been a great inspiration and a privilege to stand for the wonderful communities of Wantage constituency as your candidate.  Here is my video message:

You can join the fightback by joining the Lib Dems here: http://www.libdems.org.uk/joining

Thank you once again for all your support and encouragement.

Alex

07592447794

alex@brightgreendragon.com

On the eve of the poll, here’s my video message – vote Lib Dem for localism, the environment, education and a government rooted in the radical centre ground:

We’re almost there.

It has been a great honour to pound the pavements and porches of Wantage constituency over the past months as your candidate. I know from the uplifting conversations that I’ve had on the doorstep that thousands of people want to install a dynamic local campaigner as their MP on May 8th. I am going to keep fighting right up to 10pm on Thursday to make sure you get just that.

I don’t have an 8ft tablet of stone, but one issue has been etched on my conscience by this campaign. We need planning reform and infrastructure investment in this constituency.

That would be my first priority as your MP.

There are planning reforms set out in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto to prioritise garden cities, release brownfield sites and give communities a right of appeal against bad planning decisions. That is the package I will start work to deliver on May 8th.

My main challenger in this constituency is Conservative Ed Vaizey who sneaked back in in 2010 on a promise not to ‘dump houses on local communities’. Ed is a fan of the housing policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto (as he has quoted them at every major hustings), he is a committed pro-European and even spoke in favour of electoral reform at the last meeting. But even with the Conservatives drifting to the right, Ed’s defection to the Lib Dems in the next parliament is by no means guaranteed.

Therefore if you want the Liberal Democrats’ package of reform proposals on planning and a local champion who can deliver the infrastructure investment that we need, please vote Liberal Democrat on Thursday.

But I also want to encourage you to vote Liberal Democrat with a view to the sort of Britain you want for you and your family at the end of this coming parliament in 2020.

Will you, like me, have children or grandchildren in school in 2020? The Liberal Democrats launched our manifesto with a headline commitment to fund education properly from nursery to 19.

Will you and your family, like mine, be relying on the NHS or are elderly relatives likely to need support in 2020? The Liberal Democrats have a fully costed plan to give the NHS the funding it needs to maintain the service that we all cherish, to enhance mental health services and to integrate social care and the NHS.

Do you, like me, care about the environment, and want to see the green economy leading our growth in 2020? The Liberal Democrats have five green laws on the front page of our manifesto and continue to support investment in the green economy protecting thousands of green jobs in Oxfordshire.

These are some of the red lines for coalition negotiations for Lib Dems and reasons why I think the Liberal Democrats have the best 2020 vision for this country.

And there is one more thing.

I want a united, stable and tolerant Britain in 2020. A country that punches above its weight on the world stage, helps resolves conflict and humanitarian disasters abroad and treats those that come here to work with respect and decency. With a strong group of Liberal Democrat MPs (including one for Wantage) I am confident we can achieve that too.

But we should not be complacent about the threat posed by nationalists.

The rise of the SNP in Scotland has been well documented and there is no doubt that a Labour-SNP stich up will threaten our United Kingdom. But there is an equal threat of a Conservative-UKIP alliance turning our country inwards and backwards.

Such an arrangement would be designed to drive the UK into a divisive referendum on Europe that would put our fragile recovery in jeopardy, harm community relations and is unlikely (as we have seen in Scotland) to resolve the fundamental question definitively.

Liberal Democrats will fight tirelessly for Britain’s national interest and we will make the case for staying in Europe if a referendum is called. We just don’t think it’s the top priority until further powers are transferred to Brussels.

Our economy is growing, we have record employment and interest rates and inflation are at rock bottom. Those conditions will allow us to balance the books by 2018 and invest in our public services for the long term. That is the Liberal Democrat plan.

Nationalists and their sympathisers within Labour and Conservative parties threaten that long-term plan, either by breaking up the UK and borrowing more money or crashing the economy into an unnecessary referendum.

Only a strong Liberal Democrat influence on government can keep us on the stable, united course. That is why the Financial Times, the Economist and The Independent are all backing Lib Dem candidates in seats, like Wantage, where they have a chance of winning.

A vote for me on Thursday is a vote for a local champion and an environmentalist who will protect our countryside through planning reform. It is also a vote for a strong, stable economy with a commitment to public services and a tolerant liberal perspective.

I am offering a bright, sustainable 2020 vision for Wantage constituency and for Britain. I hope you can support me to help make it a reality on Thursday.

We are into the last week and the sun is shining!

I’ll be pulling out all the stops this week to ensure you get a dedicated local champion as your MP on May 8th.

If you can help this week or on polling day itself please get in touch – 07592447794 and alex@alexmeredith4wantage.com.

The feedback I have received is that there are many people undecided or tempted to vote for a change in this constituency.  We need to reach them one last time to reinforce the message that we can deliver a fresh liberal approach in the next parliament.

Get in touch to be part of the most exciting election for many years!

 

Being an election candidate is a wonderful privilege, but at times it’s frustrating.  Whether on the doorstep, or at a hustings or in a leaflet, it’s difficult to get the full message across.  I’ve found that in relation to planning reform, so I thought I’d elaborate here.

There is no doubt that the failure of the planning system is the number one issue coming up on the doorstep.

I agree that the planning system is not working in Oxfordshire.  Too many large developments have been approved for grand family homes which do not meet the need for affordable housing and concrete large parts of the countryside.

Yet many people assume changing planning is a District Council issue.  It is not.

If we are going to get back control of the planning of our communities, we must change the national policy.  That means changes to legislation and policy – changes that can only be achieved through our members of parliament.

The Lib Dems have a deliverable plan to reform the planning system for the future – prioritising brownfield building and garden cities, giving local authorities the ability to borrow to build affordable housing and giving communities the right to appeal against development that is against an emerging local plan.  I am committed to those policies as well as the reforms of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) set out by Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland in his Manifesto on Planning Reform.

My view on this is clear – the current system is not working, so let’s set about fixing it by implementing the Lib Dem plans, starting on the 8th May.  Change will be fought by lots of vested interests, but we need leadership and determination to deliver what constituents are telling me they want.  I will provide that leadership.

Ed Vaizey used to offer something similar.   In 2010 he made planning a key priority for his reelection.  In fact it was his second most important priority behind the NHS.  His commitment (published on his leaflets) was as follows:

“Too much development: Conservatives will get rid of top-down plans from Whitehall leading to houses being dumped on local areas.  We will give people a say in how many and where local homes are needed”.  Full leaflet is here

Now, I’ve not spoken to everyone in the constituency, but on the canvassing I’ve done, I’ve a feeling that most people believe that this commitment has not been fulfilled.  A broken promise, you might say.

I’ve pushed Ed on this at hustings to find out whether he will join me in calling for reform of planning.

His response thus far has been to quote the Lib Dem manifesto, and occasionally to throw in a few lines from Nick Clegg.  This is very flattering, but perhaps takes coalition a stage too far.  Ed should understand that although we worked together for the last parliament, the deal was that the Conservatives were supposed to come up with their own policies for this election, not just talk about the Lib Dems’ ideas.

Unfortunately, instead of working on ways to deliver his 2010 pledge to reform planning, Ed and his Oxfordshire chums (Nicola ‘Bankrolled by Developers’ Blackwood and John ‘Architect of the NPPF’ Howell) have managed to concoct a way to make the housing crisis even worse for those needing housing and better, strangely, for developers, through the extension of the right to buy.

This beggar’s belief.  Having failed so spectacularly on planning in this parliament, Conservatives plan to sell off more housing to put more demand into the system in the next parliament.

Unsurprisingly, Ed doesn’t really talk about this policy much when it comes up at hustings.  One thing Ed does say is that the reason for the planning free-for-all that the Conservatives have supervised, is because the Lib Dems controlled the Vale’s local government 5 years ago.  This is a rather pathetic position.  It’s very sad to see an MP with a decade in parliament and ministerial clout claim he can’t take forward the national reforms he was so passionate about in 2010 because of a Lib Dem local council which left office in 2011.

In fact, the Lib Dems left the VOWH DC with a draft local plan that could have been delivered within a year of the Conservatives taking control.  The fact that it has taken four years and we are probably still eighteen months away (regardless of the outcome of the election) is an indictment of the Conservatives alone.  They should apologise for this abject failure to deliver a plan rather than trying to blame a previous administration.

So this is the frustration.  Planning is the big issue in Wantage.  I want to get into the detail of which candidate and party is best equipped to deal with it.  Lib Dems have set out our plans on planning reform and are determined to fix the system and put developers and communities on a level playing field (if there are any left).  This week I will take our plans on a roadshow of villages that have been so badly mauled by the Conservative-led developer bonanza – Harwell (Monday), Southmoor (Tuesday), Cholsey (Thursday) and Shrivenham (Friday) (Full details of the meetings are here).

In-between those meetings, on Wednesday, we have our final full hustings in Grove.  I will once again ask Ed to set out his proposals for reform of planning and seek his appraisal of his delivery on his 2010 commitment.

It would be enlightening for the electorate if – just this once – he had something constructive to say about his vision for the future of planning, rather than quoting our policies or trotting out tired lines he’s misinterpreted from the history books.

I won’t hold be holding my breath.