Surbiton is a great place to live.
Now this may be controversial - but over my 15 years here, I think it's got even better. Surbiton has seen new restaurants set up and new bars for example - and older ones get refurbished really well. Although I eat and drink in many of them, my patronage hasn't been keeping them afloat, so I take no credit for such improvements!!
And Surbiton has seen great community efforts bringing people together - from the Surbiton Festival to new events ranging from Homage to Fromage, the Farmers' Market, Surbiton Ski Sunday and the rediscovery of the ancient legend of Lefi Ganderson, the goat boy of Mount Seething!
Yet as a politician, my focus is on the perhaps duller but more critical issues of public policy - national and local. And the challenge to those of us who want to represent local people in Parliament is - can we make Britain and Surbiton even better?
Today, Nick Clegg launched my party's manifesto. If you'd like to read it, you can see it or download it at tinyurl.com/yyo9x75 It's emphasis on fairness - from the proposed tax cuts to investment in education and political reform - will have relevance to many local people, fed up with the way things have gone nationally. In Britain's current highly centralised society, where Whitehall controls so much, we need real change at the top, to help us here. With the prospect of a balanced Parliament now a real one, I believe Liberal Democrats have a better chance of implementing our ideas than for over 80 years.
Yet whoever is in power in Westminster, it is possible to make a real difference locally, if you know what to do. My experience since getting elected by just 56 votes in 1997 is that you need to create coalitions of people and organisations, to win your case - even when the Minister is from a different party.
To take just one example for this first posting, it's why I think we've been able to see the improvements in local schools in the last decade. Back in 1997, Surbiton and the Royal Borough has the largest class sizes in the countries for our youngest children - and so we needed more investment than many places to get down to the new legal limit of 30 children, and really had to push hard for it. Yet that happened, and now, for most year groups, the average is under 30.
However, we need to maintain that - which is what the current debate about a new school in Surbiton is all about: and I'm proud to have been the London MP who led the campaign for more central Government funding to bring the much-needed primary school expansion about. If you'd like to read more about that work do visit my website - tinyurl.com/y4a53m2 - and you can see the various parliamentary questions I asked over a long period and the debate in Parliament I won. On that occasion, when the Minister was denying there was a problem, I formed a coalition with "London Councils" - the body that represents all London Boroughs, and together we lobbied hard for extra funding, and won - £270 million across England, with £8.2 million for Kingston.
So, as a father of a young boy as well as a local politician, one of the ways I want to make sure Surbiton becomes even better, is to keep our excellent schools, and help them become improve still further. It's not just about cash, of course. Yet it plays a key role - and that's why education funding is a key issue in this election - nationally and locally too.
Hope to meet you on the doorstep!
Liberal Democrat candidate for Kingston and Surbiton