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Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 30 June 2016


The people have spoken. The vote to leave the EU was close but decisive. What happens next?

The Prime Minister has resigned as I forecast and we will have a new leader in place by 2nd September. Whether he or she then triggers an early general election to seek a fresh mandate for the actions they propose remains to be seen. At the same time the Labour Party has descended into a civil war. This all adds to the sense of insecurity and turmoil that many people are feeling.

There has been a Brexit impact on the currency and stock exchange, but this can be contained. The real problems may arise over the next few months and years as investment decisions in the UK are delayed or cancelled. There are signs we are heading into recession. I sincerely hope not as people lose their jobs and government has less to spend on public services and vital infrastructure like our rail upgrade.

It is for the new Prime Minister to press the button on the formal two-year departure process (Article 50). In the meantime civil servants are analysing all of the decision on which negotiations will take place with the other 27 EU countries in the run up to separation, which will presumably be in 2018/19.

Until then we remain part of the EU, and trade and immigration will continue as now. The crucial thing to try to negotiate is continued access to the single market without free movement of people (immigration). I think it is unlikely to be possible but hope I am wrong.

So a period of peace-time turbulence like never before. Many people have e-mailed calling for a second referendum. I just don't think this is possible. Imagine the outcry if Westminster tried to side-step the decision the people have made.

Detailed legislation will have to be passed by the House before Brexit becomes a reality. This provides an opportunity for further reflection, although again, it is essential to respect the decision taken.

One of the many unpleasant aspects of the last three months is the licence that some of our citizens think they now have to behave in a racially abusive way to people living here from other countries. This is completely unacceptable and must stop.

The future is uncertain, but I believe that we can make it work. Be patient as we seek a way of implementing the decision without wrecking our country.

posted by Gary @ 09:25  



Thursday, 23 June 2016


The death last week of Jo Cox was truly devastating. If any silver lining can come out of a tragedy that leaves two young children mother-less and a husband left alone, perhaps it will be a wake-up call to us all about how we conduct our politics in this country.

I have been touched by the "thank your MP" campaign that broke cover following Jo's murder, and the very generous messages received by so many. The demonization of MPs by the press since the expenses scandal of 2009 has been spiteful and based on a false premise. For all our faults, the simple truth is that most MPs are trying to make people's loves better, love their constituencies, are honest, work hard and are doing their best.

Healthy scepticism about their politicians has been the British way for centuries and that is fine. But balance is required.

So if there is a shift in the national mood towards the body politic that is to be welcome.

However, we must put our own House in order. There is too much spin and we need to find a way to be more authentic with the general public, especially at higher levels. There is too much petty point scoring and it is time we grew up a bit. Perhaps the tragic murder will shock us into a new attitude. Perhaps.

Whatever the outcome of this week's referendum (which I do not know while typing this) there is now a pressing need for national reconciliation. Whichever side won there will be a significant number on the other side who will feel genuinely aggrieved. At grass roots and at senior level, there is now a need to reach out and bury the hatchet – and not in each other's heads.

I once visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for over 20 years. He was a victim of one of the most divisive political regimes the planet has ever seen. He suffered appalling personal hurt and injustice yet came out of prison determined to heal his nation and forgive those who treated him so badly.

Although on a totally different scale, the debate on the EU has been very acrimonious and there is a pressing need for reconciliation. Some of us are planning this already at Westminster – reconciliation amongst those who have spent weeks ripping into each other.

It won't be easy and wounds have been deep. But good governance demands it.

posted by Gary @ 09:25  



Thursday, 16 June 2016


The debate in the run up to the referendum has been a poor oneI have been dismayed by the exaggerations on both sides, and a number of outright lies. This has not been the finest hour of the political classes. We are all diminished.

And yet on 23rd June 2016, next Thursday, we have to decideProbably the most important political decision most of us will ever make. In a general election, you can change your mind after 5 years, but this decision on EU membership will be close to irreversible. 

As I hope you know, I am voting to Remain. If you are still undecided, let me set out again, in measured terms, one reason why I recommend Remain.

Our membership is fundamentally about the single market: access to 500 million customers without tariffs or quotas. It has been responsible for much of our recent prosperity and millions of jobs. Maybe your job or a member of your family.

If we vote to leave the EU it is almost inconceivable that we will have access to the single market without having, at the very best, a deal similar to Norway. Norway is not in the EU,but has to pay to be a member of the single market and has to comply with the single market rules including free movement of peopleNorway has greater immigration than the UK.

If we come out of the EU, but have to pay to access the single market comply with its rules including in immigration, there is no gain. No savings. Same immigration. 

And any influence we currently have over setting the future direction of the single market would be gone. Bad deal.

If that deal were not acceptable to usthe only real alternative is for the EU to impose tariffs on our goods and services thus delivering our economy a devastating blow. 44% of our exports go to the EU. 6% of their exports come to us. There would be no special deal. 

So don't put the economic strength of the UK at risk. Don't put your job or your children's job at risk. 

There is a vast generational divide. Older people are inclined to vote Leave, with younger people likely to choose Remain. If younger people do not vote, they might lose this by default. 

Why not vote Remain and work towards a better, safer, more stable future for Britain and the whole of Europe?

posted by Gary @ 09:43  



Thursday, 9 June 2016


There is much that is good about modern society: technology, opportunity, mobility, prosperity, entertainment, access to information and so on. Some people do not like this much, and as my dad admitted to me on Sunday, they want to go back to the 1950's. Then there was less family breakdown, greater social certainty (everyone knew his or her place) more deference, and virtually no immigration.

But a lot of people lived narrow lives in which they were trapped. I would not want to swap then for now.

But there remain many stubborn problems and some new ones. Drug dependency was not widespread when Dixon of Dock-Green greeted us with his "Evening All" each week, and of course internet fraud and scams were thirty years in the future.

Significantly, levels of personal loneliness, anxiety and depression were less.

I have noticed a substantial increase in these challenges since my first election in 1992: more people unable to cope with modern life, stressed and depressed. There are doubtless many reasons for this. Fewer people live near supportive families. The pace of life. We have created new labels for some of these conditions and that might partly explains the prevalence. A senior mental health nurse explained to me the other day that years ago some people used to have "low days" and feel fed up. It would pass. Now, they go to the doctor and get a label and a prescription. I saw her point, but we know that mental health challenges are real and that we are not very good at supporting people who experience these conditions.

Which is why I am introducing a listening service. This is an experiment. I want to provide a place where constituents who are feeling anxious and/or depressed or lonely can get things off their chest. I am not talking about people with serious mental health challenges, but those who just want someone to listen to them. Where else can they go? Doctors are understandably too busy and few people are members of churches and support groups.

I have engaged the services of an impartial, non-judgemental, non-political, skilled person, Louise, who has relevant experience. If you or anyone you know living in South West Devon would benefit from a 45-minute chat with her, please ring us on 01752 335666 and give it a go. She will probably be able to help people find the right way forward or signpost to a professional if necessary.

posted by Gary @ 10:40  



Thursday, 2 June 2016


It was disappointing to witness the outcome of the Wembley play-off on Monday, with Plymouth Argyle losing to the better team on the day. Most of our family trooped up to London to watch it and were frustrated by the final result. Still they had a great day out, coloured their hair green, went to Wembley for the first time and, for the little ones, it will be something they will long remember.

I stayed back to look after one grandchild and we decided to build a tree house. I built one for our own children many years ago, but at the time a neighbour (Norman) took pity on me, more or less wrested the tools from my hands and built a thing of beauty at the bottom of our garden in Fore Street St. Maurice. I imagine it is still there. I was very grateful to Norman.

This time history did not repeat itself. I was on my own, but the promise had been made, so I had to deliver. I have always been sub-optimal at craftsmanship, but I recalled the words of a builder who had once reacted negatively to me describing him as being "good with his hands". "My hands would not know what to do unless my brain told them", he replied. Fair point. Skilled craftsmen are exercising their brains as much as their hands.

So I actually sat down and thought about it. I thought about it. We made some plans. Sketches. Diagrams. I went out and bought the necessary materials, a few new tools and got to work. At the time of writing this, the floor is in, the roof is on and I hope to complete the side-walls on Saturday. The grandchildren are thrilled and Jan is gob-smacked.

We are never too old to learn a new skill. I had a mental block about DIY, almost taking perverse pride in being useless at it. No longer. As this masterpiece comes into being, I have turned an important corner. Learning new skills is part of living.

Back to Argyle. Our character is tested when we suffer great disappointment but the true test is whether we pick ourselves up promptly and get going again. I wish them well in the ensuing season and hope that their Wembley experience will motivate them to win the league outright this year. Several people in our household will be cheering them on, occasionally from a magnificent tree-house.

posted by Gary @ 16:08