TODAY the former chairman of Blackburn with Darwen Local Strategic Partnership Mike Murray who has run businesses in the borough and across East Lancashire since 1980, explains why he wants people to vote for Tory Parliamentary candidate Bob Eastwood in Blackburn tomorrow.


MY experiences with the local Labour leadership in the town when I was chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) have left me disappointed.

I grew up on a council estate in Blackburn and all my efforts over the years to put something back, mostly in the form of better paid and sustainable jobs, have often met with polite acceptance and little real commitment.


It all started in 1980, when I set up my own business and by 1990 employed around 300 people in the town. Those workers, mainly drawn from the local area, were a wonderful, hardworking, well paid, and I hope, largely happy group of people.

The workforce was a vibrant mix of people from England, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Poland and even a supervisor from Wales.

In 1988 we, a handful of business bosses, set up the Blackburn Partnership in sheer exasperation at the local political scene then centred on negative and depressing politics.

Ban the bomb, nuclear free zones and barmy left-wing politics that had little to do with decent hard-working local folk and the running of a town.

Asians were referred to as the ‘Ethnic Minority’, a term that lasted well past its sell by date.

What an insult to be called an ethnic minority when in point of fact they were hard working, often born in Blackburn and more entrepreneurial than the great forefathers that built this town.

My Asian employees would take work home and on piecework could often earn more than me, the managing director. And rightly so; why do so many who create and graft end up at the bottom of the earnings pile?

It all boils down to wealth. A town needs wealth if its citizens are to thrive. Our larger local employers bring capital to the town via their profits and importantly the city institutions or stock exchanges that back them.

Large capital-flows result in better paid jobs, improved training, better housing and health, reduced crime and a pride in building or selling something the world can recognise. Education prospects for young people develop alongside and the town prospers and establishes itself.

Far from the sorry state of deprivation Blackburn is still mired in. Despite working hard with partners to bring millions of pounds of public subsidy to the town, here we are, still in the lower leagues when it comes to the prosperity of our townsfolk.

Our smaller firms are often limited by their inability to borrow without putting their own house at risk. Why should the boss and his family be in danger of losing their house to support up to 10 or more other workers and not even see that reflected in the company’s balance sheet?

Are our Labour politicians looking after their own interests instead of ours? Do they even have roots in Blackburn? I fear not. We have a chance now to change things. Bob Eastwood is Blackburn born and bred. He held a top job in the fight to make Blackburn a better place.

The police were a major component of the LSP, a group of stakeholders drawn together to work as one to improve the town’s prospects. Bob was divisional commander and rarely missed a meeting; indeed, I often witnessed him racing across a car park to attend a meeting at 6pm, after a day’s work and for no extra pay. I watched him actively work with other partners such as child and social services, the education authority and the private sector. A committed member if ever I saw one.

When he announced his candidacy to run as the MP for Blackburn I could not think of a better person. Right age, right background, an achiever and above all close to ordinary people and the difficult lives they often face.

He understands us. Even his mantra – ‘One Blackburn’ - sums up the right approach.

I’m fed up with politicians who back anything to get back into power and in doing so perpetuate negative and downward spirals, instead of trying harder to support upward and positive ones, even if that should risk re-election defeat. They have a duty to do the right thing, not the one that best suits themselves or their pocket books.

I’ve met Bob several times to understand his approach to this important election. Even if you don’t see yourself as a Tory, any other vote risks the return to old negative and frankly unintelligent leadership as personified by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. God help us if they end up running Britain.

Any other votes than Conservative may lead to the Scots holding the balance of power with Miliband and Balls fronting it. Imagine that, the Scottish would get what they wanted but the British people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be paying for it. That’s you and me. We should not risk it.

Nigel Farage reminds me of a double-glazing salesman, and yes I’ve employed a few of them in my time. They’re brilliant at talking and persuading but in my experience couldn’t run anything important to save their lives. It’s that self interest thing again.

By now you are all thinking I’m a Conservative. Even my old dad would accuse me of that. The truth is, in my time I have voted both Labour and Conservative, simply because I voted for what or who I felt was right at the time and importantly, for the leader I felt could make Britain and its people strong and respected. My inkling was to vote for the person with a Tory head and a truly Socialist heart.

In my opinion, a Tory head and a Socialist heart describes Bob Eastwood. If you vote Conservative you want a candidate who is of the people, but who also understands the importance of capitalism and grabs it for his constituents, not himself, and who has credible past experience to back it up. You want someone educated, from the area and who could earn far more doing other things but cares enough to try and put Blackburn back on the map as a town that innovates, a town that is successful, prosperous, healthy and well educated. You can’t do any of that unless you have gravitas, guts and determination and certainly not because you are the next in line and you think you deserve it.

The politics of the past 20 years has divided this town; one person commented that all the playing pitches on one side of the town are lit and the others are not.

I’m not certain if that’s true or not. One community centre on the Roman Road estate has this week been closed, quietly, while others have not.

I’ll leave you to look around and decide for yourself if this is the result of a two-halves policy of local politicians and timid Town Hall bosses. At the level of the citizen, the town is certainly not divided, they get along just fine.

It’s in no one’s interest to divide a town in this cynical way, except of course for self-serving politicians.

There is, however, a more natural divide, that this and every other town like it suffers. It’s the one between the better off and the less well off, in terms of housing, education and of course wealth. Tat’s what local politicians and MP’s ought to be concentrating on. The proven way to solve that is through economic strength, more jobs and better paid jobs, successful small and large modern firms well capitalised and with space to grow. We need bigger national and international employers on our patch.

The economy is strengthening. Now is the time to hold steady and build on that long awaited recovery, not risk it in the hands of the very team that broke it, reportedly even knew about it 12 months before the crash happened and did nothing, specifically Ed Balls. Do you remember, Ed Miliband even forgot to mention the economy in his party speech.

I recently read that Martin Winter, who reportedly helped Miliband to win the Doncaster North seat in May 2005, wrote that his 10-year-old daughter gave Miliband a lesson in economics.

He went on to recount how Miliband set fire to his carpet and nearly missed a meeting with Gordon Brown by locking himself in a house. Miliband’s own colleagues saying such things.

Why not give Bob Eastwood a chance. Don’t waste a vote that may let the Scottish Nationalist Party, Eds Miliband and Balls run the show. Above all, don’t support the failed local politicians who for the past 20 years seem to have been unable to make Blackburn a more prosperous or at least less deprived place.

Capitalism was probably introduced by Islamists centuries ago but they had the sense to ban interest and any other form of usury, preferring instead to work on a system of honour.

Where is the honour of our politicians these days?”