Chancellor Sajid Javid defends public sector spending in Peterborough as he insists only Conservatives can secure Brexit
The Chancellor has defended the Conservatives’ record in government after hearing about funding shortages in Peterborough as he claimed only his party can deliver Brexit.
Sajid Javid said his party’s “strong” economic performance would fund vital public services in Peterborough and that a vote for the Brexit Party would only lead to Jeremy Corbyn entering Downing Street - a prospect he described as “frightening”.
The Chancellor met voters at the Conservative Club in Broadway on Thursday afternoon alongside his party’s candidate for the Peterborough seat at the General Election Paul Bristow.
Mr Bristow came third in a by-election in the constituency in June which was narrowly won by Labour’s Lisa Forbes ahead of Mike Greene from the Brexit Party, and the two prominent Leave candidates have been calling on the other to stand down to avoid a similar result this time around.
This view was echoed by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage who told supporters at the Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough on Tuesday that the electorate should vote tactically to support Mr Greene, but unsurprisingly this view was dismissed by Mr Javid when he spoke to the local media.
“There’s only one party in this General Election that will deliver Brexit, that will deliver it with a deal and ensure we can move forward, and that’s the Conservative Party,” he said.
“If people vote for any other party - the Brexit Party, the Lib Dems, or in Scotland the SNP - it doesn’t matter who it is, anyone other than the Conservatives, you might as well vote for Jeremy Corbyn because that’s who you’re helping.
“We want people to have more opportunities - including here in Peterborough - and to do that they need a Conservative government in Westminster and a fantastic local champion, and there’s no-one better than Paul Bristow for Peterborough.”
Conservative cabinet members at Peterborough City Council have complained that more than 80 per cent of the authority’s main government funding has been cut since 2013, forcing it to cutback support for the most vulnerable people in the city.
The council has even campaigned for “fairer funding” from the Government, but when questioned about this Mr Javid insisted that his party was taking action to help public services prosper.
“In terms of public spending, in my first spending round which was back in September we were able to increase local authority funding across the country - including here in Peterborough - and it was one of the biggest increases in funding we’ve had in a decade,” he said.
“The reason we were able to do that is because our economic fundamentals are strong. Ultimately, to pay for those fantastic public services that we all want to see - whether through local councils, the NHS, our schools, more police on the streets - it requires a strong economy. And only the Conservatives ae able to deliver the strength in the economy.
“If you look at the history of every Labour government we’ve ever had, they’ve all finished off with an economic crisis.”
Questioned further about city schools - many of whom are asking parents to support them financially due to money shortages - as well as Peterborough City Hospital, which has seen its A&E performance drop under severe pressures, Mr Javid said: “I’m proud of what the Conservatives have achieved since 2010: in balancing the public books, in having one of the strongest economies in Europe - we’re forecast to grow faster next year than Italy, Germany and Japan - having the lowest unemployment rate in 44 years, having wages rise faster than inflation, having the fastest rate of business creation this country has seen.
“Because the best way to lift people out of poverty, no matter where they live in our great country, is to give them opportunities, is to have a growing economy.
“And that’s really the fundamental choice at this election. Do we want the Conservatives that will keep the economy strong, get Brexit done and focus on people’s priorities, or do we want Jeremy Corbyn with his plans for two referendums and economic chaos?”
While Labour has been dogged by allegations of antisemitism, the Conservatives have also faced claims of Islamophobia.
Asked if that could be a problem in Peterborough where there are a large number of Muslim voters, Mr Javid replied: “If you look at the volunteers who are here helping Paul, who have been helping him for weeks with his campaign, you will see the great diversity of Britain - people from all backgrounds.
“Secondly, if you look at the Conservative Party today, if you look at the Cabinet Boris Johnson appointed, it’s the most diverse Cabinet our country has ever seen and that’s great to see.
“And thirdly, when it does come to any kind of prejudice, whether it’s in our party or society, the Conservatives will always be absolutely determined to fight all kinds of prejudice in all its forms. It’s completely unacceptable, and the Conservatives are the party that will stand up for everyone.”
Mr Javid hailed the influence of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister when asked why the election result in Peterborough this time would be different to the one in June, but despite his party leading in the polls he insisted it is very much all to play for before December 12.
He added: “We are not complacent in any way whatsoever. We’ve got to go out there and earn every vote.”