Cross-party cooperation needed for best interests of residents and businesses

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

During my years as the parliamentary representative for Worthing West, I have been impressed by political cooperation as well as political contest in the Arun and the Worthing sections of the constituency.

There is respect across the political spectrum and there has been movement too, not just one way.

It is a matter of record that much that needs doing is done best when people who vote in different ways are capable of accepting results of elections and of the rare referendum. Between votes, we achieve better results when together we accept the responsibility of making things work, work better and work best in the interests of local residents and local businesses, while recognising that national needs and international obligations matter too.

At election times, those of us who are nominated as candidates rightly declare how we will try to serve, what are the main parts of our programme and, hopefully too, that we will respect others who join us in a parish council, a district or borough council and in the county council, and also at Westminster.

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I lost my first three political contests. When standing as the Conservative county candidate in a solid Labour area, I used the opportunity to campaign successfully to achieve the development of a community park with football pitches we created with voluntary effort.

Additionally, when canvassing I came across a young homeless couple who could not bring their baby from hospital until they had a home and they could apparently not be allocated social housing until the baby was with them. Through connections and unusual gambits, within a week BBC Panorama included their plight in a programme on homelessness. They quickly gained a home and were reunited with their child. I discovered that my life work would be quietly helping others and less quietly enjoying political campaigning to reduce the numbers facing the kind of dilemmas that couple had struggled with.

I determined that at the end of any election, I could be a better friend to the person to whom I had lost or who I might have defeated. My first two unsuccessful attempts to reach Westminster, when I failed to dislodge the sitting Labour MP, were marked by the small drinks we bought each other at the end of each week of campaigning during the two general elections in 1974.

At the time Virginia failed to be elected in the Isle of Wight in the 1980s, she successfully created what became the largest branch of what is now Carers UK. Do good, whatever the personal outcome in a public endeavour.

Sadly the Labour MP died early the next year. Within a month of the 1975 referendum on staying in the European Common Market, I had been elected in his place with the support of floating voters and of people in my own party who had voted against each other a few weeks before. Such is politics.

Worthing has in living memory seen a Liberal mayor become independent while in office before joining the Conservatives afterwards. Later a Conservative mayor joined the Liberal Democrats and most recently a Conservative switched to UKIP for a time before being welcomed back.

Those of us who deliver leaflets, canvass opinion and campaign for local causes, whichever our party, are trying to do good and to do better. Our real opponents are not each other: we confront ignorance, apathy and prejudice. As a Conservative, I have more in common with a life-long Labour resident in Ferring than either of us has with the unthinking person who claims that every activist in every party is only in it for what they can gain personally. At this time when there is some parliamentary fluidity, please recognise the overlaps and in my view the important constant truth that the major political parties can pass on responsibility for government to each other without causing revolution or revolt.

People like that young couple with the baby have problems which need resolving, whatever the issues that dominate the headlines.

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