The cynicism of politics was manifest last week with the descent on Eastbourne of both Cameron and Osborne, bearing a £2m handout for the restoration of the burnt-out – and insured – pier. Here is a LibDem marginal target for Tory take-over next year being handed largesse by people who have hitherto shown no interest in the place. Coincidence?
The money is to come from the new, tiny pot set aside for Coastal Communities, whose minister responsible was not in attendance. This cosmetic and opportunistic approach to politics demeans the whole process, when seaside towns like Eastbourne, Hastings and others cry out for improved transport, jobs etc. But the things that really matter are not funded.
No further from London than Brighton, Eastbourne has a rail link which takes 1 hr 45 minutes; and no rapid direct road route to anywhere. Its hospital is being eroded; but it has a higher-than-average proportion of elderly and disabled residents. Between Eastbourne and London lies the Weald, an area of great beauty but containing few jobs and hidden poverty.
£2m for a publicity stunt sums up the Government’s attitude to Coast and Country. The Tory ineptitude is further underlined by the contrast with Hastings, also a marginal but one Labour will surely win next year, whose pier also burnt down some years ago but which received no such Government cash – they must be furious.
Labour must take a longer-term, more strategic position on this neglected section of our country.
Tom Serpell is a member of the Labour: Coast & Country steering committee.