Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, visited Launceston as part of a tour to big up the thousands he has granted for the Cornish Language (you know, that one nobody speaks). I was allowed five minutes to question him about things, which he tactfully edged around and didn’t answer; just like a real politician.
Other than not trusting what he said (as a graduate I am still hurt by the student fees thing); I liked speaking to Clegg, he had really blue eyes.
And he walked into the coffee shop asking for a pot of tea. Of course.Here is the interview, as published in the Cornish and Devon Post March 27, 2014.
THERE is no ‘pot of gold’ to improve transport links to Cornwall, the Deputy Prime Minister said in Launceston last Thursday.
Nick Clegg was in the town as part of a Westcountry tour. Visiting the old Liberal Club, now Jericho’s Brasserie, Mr Clegg said that having experienced traveling on a train and changing to the bus to visit the town, he was aware of the public transport situation in North Cornwall.
He said: “I have spoken with local MP Dan Rogerson on many occasions, and his campaign to get the Department of Transport to look at different routes and what options are available for North Cornwall. Everybody in the area already knew, but now I think the whole of the country knows, it is not right to over rely on one vulnerable railway line. What happened at Dawlish was a real wake up moment; we have to look at what alternatives might be. Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, has said that is what they are now doing.
“I don’t think we should dismiss any options until we have had a proper look at them. I am not bearing gifts, a pot of gold or a magic wand, these things all take time and money, but for regions as important as Cornwall, particularly in the 21st century, I do not want to accept that there are no other options until we have had a really good look.”
Mr Clegg said Liberal Democrats were one of the oldest champions of devolution to constituent parts of the UK, supporting Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and other areas. He believed by the end of the current Parliament, England would be more decentralised from London than it has ever been.
Mr Clegg also understood the ongoing campaign for babies being born in Cornwall. With no maternity ward in north and east Cornwall, many families are forced to travel to Devon to use hospitals in Okehampton, Barnstaple, Exeter and Plymouth as Truro is not feasible for most to travel to.
Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group board member for East Cornwall, which includes Launceston, Iain Chorlton, said: “People who wish to give birth at home are supported, but there are no plans to commission maternity wards in East Cornwall.”
Mr Clegg said: “I think it is a very bad situation indeed; I totally understand why people are proud to be Cornish, and as a father of three I know where your babies are born stays in your heart forever. This is what clinical commissioning groups are for, and I urge people who feel strongly about this to campaign, with Mr Rogerson and their local Liberal Democrats, to voice their concerns to Kernow CCG.”
When asked about the lack of provision in this year’s budget for young people, in particular graduates, Mr Clegg disagreed, stating there was much for the very young. He had announced extra funding for childcare and campaigns to double the 200,000 apprenticeship places across the country, hoping to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to open up apprenticeship places.
Mr Clegg and Mr Rogerson both said the increase in personal tax threshold was the most important part of last week’s budget announcements.
Mr Clegg added: “Raising the threshold, talking about young people, is important. And of course it helps women too, many are on low and middle incomes, part-time or working themselves up the career ladder. If they are earning in the mid teens, 20s or 30s they are proportionately benefitting from this. And how young people save for their pensions is an immensely important thing.
“We are all connected and it is important we don’t set generations against each other. Every older person might have a niece or grandchild they care about, or young person has a parent or grandchild they care about. With this budget we have talked to low and middle income earners and taken measures for people who retired in terms of pension savings.”