Whitehaven News column – 13th February 2014

13th February 2014

Consilio absit Discordia

Welcome to the first of my weekly columns for the Whitehaven News. Typically, this column will be free from Latin phrases but our local motto ‘deliberation without discord’ is a noble aspiration to which I will try my best to adhere.

Good or bad, major or minor, change is a constant of life. The best changes are those that we decide to make for ourselves and so it is that this newspaper’s switch from the traditional broadsheet to a modern, compact format (lets not use the word tabloid) should be seen. For some, the change will no doubt give rise to a little ‘discordia’ but it’s the kind of change that should be welcomed.

Now with a modern, progressive, and for my money, better format – the Whitehaven News has been the voice of this community for over 150 years and it’s the ability of this newspaper to accommodate change that has meant it’s been able to last longer than the Cumberland Pacquet, the Whitehaven Guardian, the Whitehaven Herald and even Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser. It’s a unique newspaper in a unique part of the country and it’s a privilege to be able to contribute a weekly column. As ever, you will be the judge as to whether or not it’s any good…

Communities like ours are currently besieged by change – some of it welcome, most of it not – but it’s the ability of communities like ours to understand the nature of the changes we are facing and to then shape those changes that will determine whether or not we are successful in the future.

I firmly believe that the best days of our community still lie ahead of us – and the evidence is all around – but the process of change has been and will continue to be painful.

As a front-bench politician, I’m fortunate enough to see many different parts of England. Outside of the major urban centres, communities like ours are witnessing similar patterns of change:  high streets in decline, abandoned churches, closing courts, police stations and schools, threats to local health services, and local government in turmoil.

This isn’t all. These changes are taking place in an extraordinary context. In recent years, Britain has gone from being the fourth largest economy in the world to eighth. The pace of change is incredible; we are living through another industrial revolution. Sadly, for us and our children, we are not the principal beneficiaries this time around.

The bad news is, if you’re sick of change, get ready for even more…

And this is why I’m confident about our future. Nobody in Whitehall is going to pull a lever and solve our problems – this is something we have to do ourselves. Yes, with help, but we have to own and shape the changes we all want to see.

Change: in our schools, the West Cumberland Hospital, local government, and our town centres – these are just some of the issues I’ll be addressing in this column over coming weeks. Consilio absit Discordia? Surely, this is in all of our interests.
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