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Martin Horwood MP

Another Summer Over... crack

September is the end of the summer holidays for school kids and students andMPs too head back toWestminster after the summer ‘recess’. Don’t tell them they’ve been on holiday, though.Many of the ruralMPs set out on a ‘summer tour’ visiting far-flung villages. Those of us in more compact, urban constituencies catch up with all the local businesses, charities and other organisations that we don’t have time to see when parliament is sitting. I’m based at my office in Hewlett Road and I’m sure my small but brilliant staff welcome having me around more. Well, fairly sure…

There may be exceptions of course. Since the British electorate, in their infinite wisdom, were persuaded to reject the ‘alternative vote’ electoral reform proposals in May, thoseMPs with big majorities can afford to relax again and maybe one or two do sneak off to Tuscany for rather longer than is entirely right. But for the majority, the work rarely stops.

ButMPs and, yes, even ministers and prime ministers do need some kind of break.What kind of deranged leadership would we have if they never got time off with their families? I’m not always sympathetic to our dear leader Mr Cameron (as a Lib Dem, I see the coalition as an essential working arrangement, no more) but even I thought it was a bit tough on his poor family that he had to interrupt one holiday because of the riots and a second time to welcome the liberation of Tripoli by Libyan rebels. He had to do it of course but I hope SamCam was in tolerant mood.

Family Horwood headed for Portugal for a week or so. As a good environmentalist, I’ve always tried to persuade everyone to go on holiday by train whenever possible. We’ve managed to get quite far in recent years but training it all that way proved cripplingly expensive and fantastically time-consuming and this time I gave in and we took the plane. I’ll plant a tree in mitigation for the resulting damage to the environment and keep campaigning for better faster international rail travel links.

While we were in Portugal I couldn’t help noticing what a fantastic local public transport system they have. Good local train and bus services and loads of trams, which were hugely popular. There’s something about trams that put them one step ahead of buses. Buses are great but they are traffic. Trams share enough of the status and predictability of trains to set them apart and wherever they’re being restored they prove really popular. I’d like to see something like that back in Cheltenham – not big chunky clanking trams as they have in Lisbon but modern ‘ultra light rail’, virtually silent, green, cheap and quite capable of sharing roads and other routes with cars, pedestrians and cyclists. So I came back from holiday with a list of ideas on which to lobby ministers, councillors and policymakers. It was good to get away!

To contactMartin, call 224889, email or write to him at:

16 Hewlett Road, Cheltenham GL52 6AA.