The Politics Show at The Metropolitan

This lunchtime I went "head to head" with Labour on the Politics Show. We were discussing the use of new media and how this is influencing the local campaign. New media is important, but it is no substitute for traditional methods of engaging with constituents. I might have only a few hundred Facebook "friends", but in my 5 years in Parliament I've helped over 20,000 constituents with individual cases, and that's before you add on all the campaigns where I am contacted by several hundred people all about the same issue. New media can also land politicians in hot water. I remember the reaction of people in Chorlton when one of Labour's local election candidates for the Constituency compared them to the fictional residents of the Chatsworth estate in the Channel 4 series "Shameless". It amazes me that he has been allowed to stand for the party after the "Chatsworth" gaffe.

We then went on to discuss about the issues that will matter the most in the next election. I said that the election in Withington is about who will stand up for South Manchester and protect local services. Where were Labour when I was campaigning to save Ewing School with the parents, teachers and Governors and Lib Dem councillors? They were supporting the decision of the Labour Council to close it! The same can be said for the closure of Burnage Walk in Centre when I challenged Gordon Brown on the decision to close it. So much for standing up for local people.

The final discussion was about the impact of the student vote. I reminded Arif, the interviewer, that when we'd spoken at Conference I had assured him that despite the economic climate we would still maintain our manifesto commitment to abolish tuition fees. Our manifesto is all about fairness - a fair start for young people, whether it's the pupil premium to target extra resources where they are needed, or a commitment to free education. The stark choice for students will be a Lib Dem commitment to abolish tuition fees, or a Labour Party that will increase them after the election.

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