Martin Salter’s Final Message to Constituents
After 13 years as an MP and 12 years as a councillor it is time for me to move on and seek new challenges. More importantly it is time for others to pick up the baton and do their best for this wonderful town and its people. A place that I have been proud to represent and which I will always regard as my true home. I moved to Reading over 30 years ago to be beside my beloved River Kennet, to own my first little terraced house in Elgar Road and to walk in the stunning countryside of the Berkshire Downs and the rolling Chiltern Hills. In those far off days becoming a councillor, much less an MP was the last thing on my mind.
I intend to disappear from the public eye for a while and join my wife who is currently working in Sydney before touring New Zealand in a campervan. I hope to earn a living writing and teaching and using what I’ve learnt over the last 25 years to assist various organisations and causes that are close to my heart. I will be coming back to Reading next year and look forward to leading a more normal life.
So what’s to miss? Well it won’t be the late night trains back from Westminster nor, if I’m honest, the endless MP Advice Surgeries at the weekends. I won’t miss the corrosive cynicism which brands politics and politicians all a waste of time, and all the same when palpably we are not. I am sad though, at the slow decline of local newspapers which are very much the lifeblood of local democracy and I really do thank both the Reading Chronicle and the Evening Post for all they have done to promote our town and celebrate the achievements of our people. I wish them both well and am grateful for their coverage of my activities, campaigns and occasional musings.
I might miss the splendour of the Palace of Westminster, the adrenaline rush of delivering a speech to a thousand people waiting to hear the legend that is Jesse Jackson or the incredible excitement of watching the votes pile up at the end of a long and successful election campaign. But I’ve fought my last election, certainly as a candidate, and, having won six out of seven contests from 1984 to 2005 I’m happy to leave the stage to someone else. As one of my constituents said recently - “Son, you’ve done your shift - now enjoy the rest of your life”.
No, what I will really miss are some of the amazingly impressive people with whom it has been my privilege to work. The real heroes are not always rich or famous, they are often the little known champions that keep our communities safe, well and educated. Police officers like Sara Thornton, Dave Murray and Steve Kirk; or magnificent teachers like Charlie Clare, Dawn Cox, Julie Parry, Anne Tanner, Deborah Ajose, Sue Marshall, Sue N’Jai, Sue Farrow, Kate Shaw, Marsha Elms and hundreds of others who didn’t take the easy route of working in privileged, private schools but ply their trade and talents in tough and challenging environments. Then there is our magnificent National Health Service where staff have risen to the challenge set by that great socialist visionary Aneurin Bevan who founded the NHS based on the principle of free universal healthcare for all. I’ve recently paid my own tribute to the retiring (and not at all shy!) Royal Berks boss Ann Sheen but let’s not forget the thousands of doctors, nurses, paramedics, surgeons and ancillary staff whose professionalism and dedication really does ensure the health of the nation.
And I’m not forgetting either the local government workers from the dustman I used to be to the care assistants, parks staff, social workers and everyone else who does their level best to provide all the local services we all too often take for granted. And then there are the vibrant collection of charities, voluntary organisations and community groups who do so much for Reading and the surrounding area.
A big part of my job has been to stand up for our public services and the people who deliver them. For I know that if they are dismantled and thrown to wolves of the market place then those who need them most will lose out and we really will become a ‘broken society’. There’s not a hospital or police force in the country nor a school in my constituency that hasn’t benefited from the support and investment of this Labour government over the last 13 years. Think of that when Mr Cameron and his Eton chums talk of ’smaller government’.
But lastly, if you happen upon a sparkling Berkshire stream or sit awhile beside a foaming Thames weir pool perhaps you might spare a thought for the fisherman who found himself in Parliament and who cares not about statues or legacies but who is profoundly grateful to those who sent him there to do his bit.
Goodbye and Good Luck.