Why are Tory Government Ministers like buses?


I never knew Tory ministers were like buses but it’s true. You don’t catch a glimpse of one for ages and then they all turn up at once. That’s certainly how it’s been in my home constituency of Birmingham Northfield. The Conservative government has never shown much interest in the people who live around here. Presumably that is why they thought it fine to hit Birmingham with cuts at a rate twice the national average. All of a sudden, though, it’s different. To my knowledge we have had five Ministers dropping by in the last two weeks alone, each time with the Solihull-domiciled Tory candidate for Northfield in tow. Anybody would think there is an election coming up!

Talking to people around here, it seems a lot of local people are getting mightily sick of the constant bombardment of glossy Conservative leaflets with lots of posed photos promoting someone few local people have ever actually seen about. The procession of Tory Ministers turning up just seems to add insult to injury.

That’s politics, you may say, but there is a serious side to it. Instead of just going for the posed photos, why don’t the Ministers ever get to meet those people whose lives they are ruining? Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith was on the patch last week. But did he meet one of the 1,300 Northfield families hit by the Bedroom Tax? Or a young person forced onto a zero hours contract? Or a someone with a disability who has been hit by his “welfare reforms”? I suspect not. They would not have been difficult to find. Indeed a former Tory activist in Northfield has written on this very Facebook page about how the Conservatives’ attitude to disability has led him to abandon them.

Of course, if the Tory Ministers are interested in finding out a bit more about our area, they could always ask the local Labour MP to introduce them to some of the people who come to me for help week, in week out. There is a convention in Parliament that Ministers should always notify the local MP when they intend to visit, irrespective of Party. For some reason, though, Tory ministers usually only manage to remember to tell me they are coming a few hours before they arrive and they sometimes even forget altogether. Funny how impending elections can have that effect on Ministerial memories isn’t it?

Never mind. The impression I get is that local people aren’t very impressed. They prefer politicians who walk the walk rather than those who just talk the talk – however many posed photos are involved.

Still, if the Tories really do want to inflict “death by photo opportunity” on the people of Northfield, they should learn to be a bit less repetitive. Otherwise people might just come to the conclusion that their claims are a bit less than genuine.

If, like me, you refuse to be taken in by the Tories, please join Labour’s campaign to change Britain for the better. To help Labour’s campaign in Northfield by e-mailing me on richard@richardburden.com. Donations – whatever you can afford – are also vital to our getting our message across in the coming weeks. Click here to donate.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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