GORDON BIRTWISTLE MP: UKIP is no credible ‘protest vote’

WORK in Westminster started with an urgent question to the Government regarding the news that Moody’s had stripped the UK of our triple A credit rating.

Sunday, 17th March 2013, 12:31 pm

Luckily the news does not seem to have had an adverse effect on the stock markets, and it seems unlikely that pensions or investments will suffer but there will be some effects. Most noticeably the pound has fallen against the Euro and the Dollar meaning a little less for your spending money on any planned holidays. But importantly, the drop in sterling has an effect on imports which, in turn, increases inflation and the downgrading could weaken confidence. We must re-double our efforts to strengthen sectors such as manufacturing and hopefully the UK will see both the economy, and credit rating improve soon.

There was a by-election in Eastleigh after my colleague Chris Huhne resigned as an MP. This was a hard-fought battle between the Tories, Lib-Dems and UKIP. Luckily we managed to hold onto the seat but we experienced, as did the Tories, a huge swing towards UKIP who came in a close second. Despite public feeling and disillusionment towards the three main parties, I remain unconvinced UKIP is a credible “protest vote”.

As we saw not so long ago in Burnley with the British National Party, these parties actually have very little to offer. When the BNP had 11 seats on the council they failed to deliver for the people of Burnley and rightfully lost their seats.

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For any of you who listen to Pienaars Politics on Radio 5 Live on a Sunday evening, you would no doubt have heard a very lively discussion between myself and MPs from Labour and the Tories about the Eastleigh by-election. I often go on John’s show and the discussion is always interesting.

I went to Thomas Whitham Sixth Form for an inspiration day with more than 1,000 young people from schools across Burnley. Exhibitors from a range of local business including waste disposal, health care and engineering came along and it was a great opportunity for young people to see the type of jobs available. Lesley Burrows helped to organise the event and it was a great success. I hope many of the young people who attended went away feeling inspired and determined to succeed in their future careers.

I went along to the University Technical College for an open day. The building is well on its way to completion and all of the sponsors were there including Aircelle, GE and Graham Engineering. It was great to see how the UTC is taking shape and I spoke to a lot of parent and potential students about what would be offered by the UTC. Everyone was really enthusiastic about the college and opportunities it would offer.

I had a very busy surgery at Sainsbury’s which generated a huge amount of casework on a wide variety of issues. On Saturday morning I was able to stand in the sunshine for the first time this year and my stall in Burnley town centre was really busy. Many people came to talk to me about every issue imaginable.