Campaigning in Sevenoaks Constituency

It was a busy day in and around the area on Tuesday with a visit to Amherst School in Sevenoaks in the morning.  This was for a Q & A session with year 6 pupils who had visited and toured Parliament in March.

This was followed by a visit to Knole Academy‘s Mock General Election Event for a lunchtime meeting for students interested in either standing as a candidate or being an active campaigner in the future.  The meeting was one of a series with all the parliamentary candidates, for students who are making up their minds about which political party to represent at their Mock Election on 6th May.

Next was a visit to Total Fitness Gym which is based above Iceland and opposite Costa in Swanley.  Serra Chakarto and her business partner have just opened this state-of-the-art gym with fantastic equipment specially selected and imported from Italy.  This is a gym for all members of the community, whatever state of fitness or age – with a friendly atmosphere where everyone is treated with great respect.

In the evening Michael held a campaign meeting in Kemsing to meet local residents and introduce Lorraine Stack and Simon Reay who are standing as the local Conservative candidates in the Sevenoaks District Council elections.  this was well-attended, and as in previous meetings, there was a good discussion about a great many topics, both national and local.

The next meeting will be in Underriver Village Hall on the evening of Thursday 23rd April at 7.30 pm

Sevenoaks Business Show

I was pleased to support and officially open the Sevenoaks Business Show today.

There are now 760,000 more business in the UK than there were five years ago.  Since 2010, more than 2.2 million new jobs have been created.   In the Sevenoaks area the number of unemployed persons has halved – from 1,074 in 2010 to 484 in March 2015.  These are both remarkable achievements.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the driving force of the economic recovery.  From cutting taxes to helping hire staff – the Government is backing small businesses and will always make sure that they get the support they need to start up and thrive.

We have some amazing businesses here in the Sevenoaks area.  As MP and a Minister I have always been unashamedly pro-enterprise.  That means promoting competition, opening up markets, and championing new firms.  It’s something I’ve done whether in the Business Department scrapping red tape, or as an Energy Minister backing new suppliers.  It is also what I am doing in the Ministry of Defence by opening up more government spending to SMEs.

Knockholt and New Ash Green Campaign Meetings

Knockholt Village Hall Campaign Meeting 9th April

Michael has been holding meetings with local Conservative District Council candidates recently and more are to come over the next few days and weeks.

Last week over 40 residents from Knockholt met Cllrs Gary Williamson and John Grint from the Halstead, Knockholt and Badgers Mount Ward.

Last night there were 80 in the audience in New Ash Green Village Hall to meet Claire Pearsall and Cllrs Cameron Clark and Alan Pett standing for Ash and New Ash Green.

New Ash Green Village Hall 14th April 20115Questions have covered zero hours contracts, defence, the size of the army, fracking,  immigration, Right to Buy, the economy and the deficit, foreign affairs and the Middle East, Trident, taxation and local issues such as the Fort Halstead planning application, New Ash Green village regeneration and speeding traffic on country roads.

First Off The Mark For A Vigorous Campaign

Michael with Christian Everett and Dr Pav Ramewal - Handing  in his General Election 2015 Nomination Papers
Michael with Christian Everett and Dr Pav Ramewal – Handing in his General Election 2015 Nomination Papers on 1st April 2015

Michael was the first Sevenoaks parliamentary candidate to hand in his nomination papers at 10am today.

Michael said:
“We’re planning a very vigorous campaign. As well as street canvassing, I will be holding at least eight open public meetings in villages across the constituency. There will also be several all-candidate debates, organised by the churches and local schools, including the Chronicle hustings on Monday 4th May.

“The election issues here will be local as well as national: how we can secure the recovery to provide more jobs here for our young people, to give rail commuters a better deal, and to continue to protect the Green Belt. I will also be supporting our Conservative council candidates: they can be very proud of their record in running good value, efficient services throughout Sevenoaks District.”

I am holding meetings in the following villages over the next few days:

Wednesday 15th April – New Ash Green Village Hall 7.30 pm
Thursday 16th April – Otford Memorial Hall 7.30 pm
Friday 17th April – All-Candidate Hustings organised by Swanley Churches – St Peter’s Church, Hextable 7.00 pm

Note: notwithstanding the dissolution of Parliament Michael continues as Secretary of State for Defence, with ministerial responsibility for the armed forces, in particular for current operations against ISIL, in Afghanistan, and in Sierra Leone. He will carry out his duties at the Ministry of Defence alongside his local and national campaigning, and attend the MoD in London when required.

Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

Business-is-good-for-Kent-logo1The West Kent Partnership of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which includes Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks hosted a business breakfast today:  West Kent – The Big Priorities – Have Your Say.  80 businesses were represented at the breakfast to discuss the big, local issues that are holding their business back.

Michael opened the Conference and Exhibition with the following speech:

“It’s a pleasure to be here and to see some many of the  businesses that are making a major contribution to our growing economy and creating jobs for local people.

“What is striking about the last five years is the rate of business creation. Across the South East there are 103,000 more business now than in 2010 – 750,000 in total for the country.

“If you cast your mind back to 2010 that is a remarkable change. Back then our economy was in trouble, with a budget deficit second only to Greece.  But it doesn’t surprise those of us who understand that it is businesses that generate the wealth that funds our public services.

“That’s why despite the fiscal challenges we faced, the cornerstone of our economic plan was to back business.  We’ve cut corporation tax, increased tax incentives for investing in growing businesses, cut the jobs tax, and invested in infrastructure.

” It is thanks to the efforts of millions of firms across the country that we are now the fastest growing major economy in the world.  And that 1000 new jobs have been created everyday in this parliament – three quarters of them full time jobs.

“I was fortunate to be Business Minister for 18 months. In that role I championed business and the concerns that the Chambers of Commerce and others raised – cutting red tape, improving the supply of credit to small firms by backing challenger banks and new providers such as peer-to-peer lenders, and simplifying business support.

“On local growth, I worked with local authorities and LEPs to agree Growth Deals and give them greater powers and freedom to help improve infrastructure and support business in their areas.

“In the Budget the Chancellor outlined further measures to promote growth including an ambition for ultrafast broadband to be available to nearly all premises, a comprehensive review of business rates, and scrapping the annual tax return.

“But there is always more to do to help firms grow – whether it is to start exporting, to harness the potential of technology to move into new markets or innovate, or to increase access to finance.

“So I am delighted that West Kent B2B is leading the way in identifying barriers to growth and practical steps to help boost the local economy.  And I note that your agenda covers the big themes of tax, finance, technology that can help drive your businesses forward.”

Zed Music Café

With Zoe Ashfield, owner of  Zed Music Café
With Zoe Ashfield, owner of Zed Music Café

Last night Michael launched Link-Up, an initiative set up by Warners Solicitorés to provide networking opportunities for young professionals and associates, at an event hosted by Zed Music Café.

First he congratulated Zoe at the Zed Music Café for taking a huge step and setting up her own business and for hosting the event.

Michael said:  “Zoe’s business is one of the 750,000 more businesses than there were five years ago.  If we cast back to 2010 that is a remarkable change.  Back then our economy was in trouble, with a budget deficit second only to Greece.  The huge numbers of people starting a business has been a surprising feature of our economy since then.   And contrary to what some might say, this is a choice people have made because they have spotted an opportunity and have the confidence to pursue it.  It isn’t something borne of necessity.

“New firms and existing firms have driven the recovery to a position where

  • we are the fastest growing major economy in the world
  • 1000 new jobs have been created every day in this parliament – and three quarters of them are full time jobs

“And what is so important – not only to new businesses, but all businesses – is the advice that you can get from contacts, mentors or customers. Whether it is how to start exporting for the first time, how to secure that finance that you need, or how to get membership of a particular association.

“That’s why Link-Up is an excellent initiative and I hope the people you will meet and the experiences you can share will help all of you to succeed – and by doing so benefit Sevenoaks too.

“I was fortunate enough to be Business Minister for 18 months. In that time I visited some excellent businesses and it reinforced my view that as a country we don’t give enough credit to people in business.

“We all need to do more to make the case for enterprise because it is only with a strong economy and successful businesses that we can fund the public services, defence, the police upon which we all rely.

“As MP for Sevenoaks and a Minister I have been unashamedly pro-enterprise.  That means promoting competition, opening up markets, and championing new firms.  It’s something I’ve done whether in the business department scrapping red tape, or in energy backing new suppliers.  It’s what I am doing in Defence by opening up more spending to SMEs.  And it means delivering lower corporate and personal taxes to ensure Britain was competitive.

“Link Up can play a role in pushing us as a government to do more to help business – and to help make the case for enterprise.


I wish you all and the Zed Music Café every success.

The Skinners School

The Skinners School Lecture
The Skinners School Lecture

Michael accepted an invitation recently to speak to sixth-formers at The Skinners School on Globalisation,  looking at the benefits, drawbacks and consequences and drawing on past business experience, but the debate soon widened with questions from the floor.

Michael said:  “I really enjoy these events.  The questions from the students are probing and often quite thought-provoking.  It was a good afternoon.  The Skinners School looked impressive in all ways.”

skinners school

St Mary’s School, Swanley

Meeting Cllr Tony Searles,  and Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher with local police officers
Meeting Cllr Tony Searles, and Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher with local Swanley  Police Officers

Michael visited the school and met Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher together with representatives from Swanley Town Council.  The school has been trying to tackle issues of antisocial behaviour coming from the recreation grounds which back onto the School.  Swanley Town Council has provided funding for some CCTV cameras and helped to repair a boundary fence.

Michael said:  “I was delighted to be able to return to St Mary’s School and meet Mrs McGarrigle and her team.  I’m really impressed with the way the Town Council has come forward to provide support and assistance in this particular instance.  The school needs reassurance that the students are in a safe and secure environment and the Town Council has been able to assist.”

Leadership Masterclass at Sevenoaks District Council

SDC Masterclass 2015
SDC Masterclass 2015

Michael presented certificates to 17 members of staff at Sevenoaks District Council who had recently completed an innovative management development programme, designed jointly by SDC and Passe-Partout.  This had covered a whole range of subject areas which are normally unfamiliar to much of local government.

All senior managers, including the Chief Executive, have had to complete 36 different modules.  More detail about this special programme can be found here.

The District Council has now started a second course which has been attended by the voluntary sector, Sevenoaks Town, parish councils and other local authorities.