Campaigning with Nick and Vince in Chippenham

Have you ever wondered what senior MPs like Nick Clegg and Vince Cable do while the other parties have their conferences? Well, I can tell you: they don’t sit at home watching them on the television, instead they take the chance to get out of Westminster and visit our teams in key constituencies around the country. Today it was our turn, when they both came to the Chippenham constituency here in Wiltshire.

Parliamentary candidates, like me, are always delighted to get a visit from well known Lib Dem MPs. It opens doors in the constituency, interests the local media, and provides a chance to say thank you to some of the team. When Nick visited us last year, he learned to drive a tractor at Wiltshire College in Lackham, which was a big hit – so I knew we were set for a great day when I secured us a visit to the local train factory.

hamesKnorr-Bremse Rail Systems in Melksham is a very successful advanced engineering business which this year won the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Their very impressive operation competes internationally to win orders from the Middle East and China, as well as having made the platform doors that you may have seen on the Underground at Westminster.

I was particularly struck by the loyalty of their workforce, many of whom first worked for the company in Chippenham before their move to a new site down the road near Melksham: one man we met was proud to have worked for them for over thirty years, and seemed every bit as enthusiastic as a new recruit. We also spoke to young woman who clearly commanded respect on this factory floor, as a production manager, on completing the company graduate trainee scheme. She is now the third generation of her family to work here, and looks set to go far.

I’m often campaigning for better rail services in Wiltshire, and promoting our party’s commitment to investment in railways such as re-opening Corsham station, so it was interesting to hear from Paul the Managing Director,
about how important it is to have some long-term stability in the demand generated by the Department of Transport. This point certainly wasn’t lost on Vince, who is developing proposals to help improve the way our government finances long term investments in major infrastructure projects.

We thanked our hosts, and after some photos for the assembled press photographers, we went to The Bear in Chippenham to do an interview with the BBC and meet some of my team. One unexpected occurrence was the sudden appearance of my Conservative opponent who wanted to introduce himself to Nick and Vince. Mind you, after listening to George Osborne at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester you can understand why he gave David Cameron’s speech a miss and came to hear Vince’s wise words instead.

Unfortunately for him we didn’t have time to stop and chat: some disruption on the railway line between London and Bristol had thrown the train timetable off and we had to hurry to make sure our MPs made their connection in Bristol in time to get to Newport later that afternoon. If only more of our railway ran on parts made in Melksham!

You can also hear my initial thoughts on the visit on a ‘phonecast’ here, or look out for us on this Sunday’s Politics Show in the West (which is also available on BBC iPlayer for those of you who, like my Conservative opponent, have homes outside our local TV region).

* Duncan Hames is the Lib Dems’ parliamentary candidate for Chippenham.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Norris 11th Oct '09 - 11:45pm

    Despite being a Chippenham resident and LD party member, I was very surprised to see the visit, previously unannounced, on the regional BBC television news.

  • You shouldn’t be surprised Richard, the media are bound to take an interest in such a visit. Although these things are often arranged, re-arranged, and re-arranged at extremely short notice because of the understandable needs of the Leader’s diary.

    You are really lucky to have such a great candidate in Duncan Hames who stands a very good chance of being Wiltshire’s first Liberal Democrat MP.

    I am coming up to your area from East Kent at the end of this month to canvass for Duncan, perhaps I will see you.

  • As well as reopening Corsham station I presume you are also campaigning for a decent service for Melksham station too? It badly needs it.

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