COMMENT: Tory MPs must fight for the investment that Sussex needs and deserves
As Boris Johnson spoke to the nation and Conservative party supporters in the wake of his landslide general election victory, he repeated a number of key, campaign pledges on the domestic front.
50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments. Forty new hospitals. Record spending on schools, 20,000 more police, and ‘colossal’ new investment in infrastructure.
In Sussex, now entirely and robustly Tory outside Brighton, we look to our elected representatives – some new faces and some returning – to ensure our county gets its fair share of that extra spending.
In the North of England where we own sister newspapers like the Yorkshire Post a huge campaign for a northern power-house has been waged to get the cash they want.
Let’s make sure that all their cries do not drown out the more nuanced calls for the vital help that we need here too.
A massive national campaign was started here, in Horsham, to get a fairer funding formula for schools led by the terrific Tanbridge House head teacher Jules White. We do expect our MPs to ensure that our education spend per pupil really is levelled up to the best in class across the country.
On hospitals and the health service, here with a largely rural and slightly older population we need a big financial injection. A great place to start would be a new hospital serving the greater Horsham area – campaigned for over decades by our newspaper the West Sussex County Times and yet never realised.
On infrastructure we must build on the huge economic success of the Gatwick Diamond which runs north of Brighton up through Mid Sussex and embraces Crawley at its heart.
That means vastly improved transport links.
Our railways are a disgrace. Massive track upgrades and new rolling stock is vital. How crazy is it that it can take nearly two hours to get to London from some parts of Sussex, if the train ever turns up at all.
And the A27 along the horizontal line of West Sussex from Chichester to Shoreham desperately needs its long-awaited upgrade.
We echo Chichester MP Gillian Keegan’s acceptance words: “For Chichester we have to get the A27 back on the agenda first thing. That’s going to be basically getting a consultation back on the agenda so that we can agree a scheme and have a transparent process so that we can bring the community together to do that and then obviously get the funding for that.”
We look to her and fellow MPs like newly elected Andrew Griffith in Arundel & South Downs to make this a reality.
The current coastal congestion is entirely unacceptable and destined to get far worse given the vast house building in development.
That development must, of course, respect our most sensitive areas like Chichester Harbour and we again call on Mrs Keegan to apply the necessary pressure to ensure that Chichester District Local Plan does nothing to damage this site of special scientific interest.
Indeed, protecting our wonderful landscapes with a true green agenda will be essential.
As we build more homes, let them be to new innovative designs that are truly affordable to local young people as well as to the environment by being entirely carbon neutral. Sussex may be politically blue but its landscape and its heart is green. It is no accident that the formidable champion of the environment Caroline Lucas was returned to Brighton Pavilion.
Not all parts of Sussex, of course, enjoy comprehensive economic success. It is no surprise that places like Hastings have proved marginal in the past. This is a vibrant and very special community but one that has real needs. New MP Sally-Ann Hart must ensure the word ‘deprivation’ is never justly associated with Hastings again.
Finally, we applaud all candidates in this election in Sussex for on the whole conducting themselves with good manners and good grace during the campaign; we commiserate with the losers and we wholeheartedly congratulate those who have secured the mandate of the people they will serve.
In particular, we note the principle shown by the likes of Maria Caulfield (Lewes) and Henry Smith (Crawley) in holding out for a Brexit that the democractic referendum of 2016 demanded be implemented; and the tenacity of Eastbourne’s Caroline Ansell in winning the seat back from the respected local Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd.
This newspaper supports no party. It is our job merely to hold those you elect to account. That means delivering on their manifesto promises and standing up for Sussex on every occasion to ensure we get the investment we need delivered in a way that wholly meets local aspirations and our geographic sensitivities.