A11 dualling top priority for Hancock

WEST Suffolk Conservatives have delivered a huge boost to David Cameron and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne by selecting Matt Hancock as the successor to Richard Spring.

Graham Dines

WEST Suffolk Conservatives have delivered a huge boost to David Cameron and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne by selecting Matt Hancock as the successor to Richard Spring.

Hancock has the aura of a person who could go to the very top of the Tory Party and will probably find himself fast-tracked into the Cabinet. As one of the behind-the-scenes architects of Tory economic policy, he will have a main role in keeping backbench MPs on side when, should the Tories win the election, spending cuts come thick and fast.

It seems, however, that Cameron is running scared of voter reaction to severe cuts soon after an election victory, which until now has been the bed rock on which Osborne has based his whole economic policy. While Hancock was wooing Tory Party members in West Suffolk, Cameron and Osborne were in Switzerland at the annual world economic forum in Davos and having a major disagreement on how and when an incoming Conservative government should set about tackling the UK's enormous public debt.


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Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has made an unabashed bid to ensure the military votes swings behind Labour at the election. He has pledged to continue to fund the �5billion aircraft carrier project which will provide the Royal Navy with its biggest-ever ships and to invest in other naval vessels as well as ensure the army and air force are properly funded. So far, the Tories have been eerily silent on defence procurement spending.

As for Hancock, West Suffolk Tories will be expecting him to ensure the completion of the long overdue dualling of the A11 trunk road. If his old boss axes the project when he enters the Treasury, young Matt may have a very short honeymoon indeed with West Suffolk Conservatives.

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IN the run-up to the 1997 General Election, the issue dominating debate in the North Essex constituency was the export of live animals through the port of Brightlingsea. Angry campaigners tried to stop the lorries carrying the animals from reaching the dock gates, leading to some of the most difficult public order policing since the miners' strike.

One international story which escaped my attention just before Christmas was the sinking of the livestock ferry Danny F II off the coast of Lebanon, en route from Montevideo un Uruguay to Syria. It is estimated that as well as 26 members of the crew, up to 42,000 cattle and sheep - that's right, 42,000 - were drowned when the ship went down.

Herding so much livestock onto a ship for a voyage from South America to the eastern Med seems to me to be unbelievably cruel. Given that storm force gales often blight the Atlantic, the conditions that animals on these transporters face are little short of barbaric.

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