Nick Boles: Public meeting proves action must be taken

Stamford and Grantham (Bourne) MP Nick Boles.
Stamford and Grantham (Bourne) MP Nick Boles.
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One hundred and fifty years ago politics was conducted through public meetings.

One of our greatest Prime Ministers, William Gladstone, rose to prominence in large part because of his extraordinary public oratory. In the now legendary Mid-Lothian campaign of 1879, it was estimated that he spoke to 86,000 people in a fortnight.

In the last half of the 20th century, public meetings all but died out. Television and radio gave politicians access to far larger audiences and, crucially, took them right into people’s living rooms.

But last Friday I was reminded me of the power of a packed public meeting, even now in the age of YouTube and Twitter.

It was a wet and stormy night in Thurlby but that did not stop hundreds of local residents, young and old, cramming into Lawrance Park Village Hall (although I am sure that all of them would have preferred to be somewhere else on Valentine’s Night).

They were there to demand the installation of pedestrian crossings over the A15 following the horrifying accident in which two girls were hit by a van after they got off the school bus. They were both seriously injured but, thankfully, are now out of hospital.

This was not like a public meeting in Gladstone’s day. People were not there to hear politicians make long speeches. They had come to ask questions, make arguments and, above all, to deliver an uncompromising message to the county council that controls the spending on our roads.

Nothing has greater impact on decision-makers than the sight and sound of a community speaking with one voice.

When you look into people’s eyes and sense the righteous indignation coursing through their veins, that is when you know that the people’s will is clear, and that something must be done. I am sure that Lincolnshire County Council will have got the message. I certainly did.