January 30th will mark a year since far-right thugs and violent anti-fascists turned Dover into a warzone.
Families were forced to hide inside their homes as chaos broke out along Folkestone Road. Bottles and bricks were hurled across the street. Market Square descended into mayhem.
Seeing these ugly scenes developing, I knew immediately this must never be allowed to happen again.
The officers on the ground had bravely tried to contain these thugs. Yet they did not have enough support and lost control.
Fast forward to April last year – and many of the mindless louts who had come to Dover simply to cause trouble in January were back, hoping for another fight. Yet following my demand for Dover to be protected, this time there were more than 600 officers waiting for them. Unsurprisingly, the thugs stopped coming back.
And Kent Police have kept up the good work since then. More than 60 people have been charged and several jailed. This is exactly the sort of no-nonsense response the people of Dover and Deal demand. Kent Police should be applauded for their swift and effective crackdown.
Booting these thugs out of town was one of several problems we worked hard to fix in 2016. Let's not forget that last year also saw Burlington House come down, the Calais Jungle dismantled and the Dover to Folkestone rail line fixed.
This was all vital work which we must now build on. And it's clear there are businesses in Dover, Deal and Kent that are desperate to expand.
On Friday, I chaired a Kent summit where we discussed the roads, rail and skills investment needed for our area to thrive. I was joined on the panel by fellow Kent MPs in front of more than 75 business leaders. This Kent and Medway Economic Partnership Summit set a clear strategy on the things our county needs to grow.
We need investment in Kent's roads and railways. The A2 must be dualled – and we need to get on with building the Lower Thames Crossing. We must act now to prevent gridlock and delays – which would affect the whole country, not just Kent.
Meanwhile, we must increase capacity on our train services to meet demand. And it's vital to support East Kent College in providing the lifelong learning needed for a modern economy.
Everyone knows Brexit will present challenges – but there will also be real opportunities to build the sort of Britain we want. A Britain where we take back control of our borders. Where we become the new business centre of the world.
If we make the right investment decisions now, I'm confident the entrepreneurs of Dover, Deal and Kent will lead the way. We must work hard to ensure that this time next year, we are moving forward with the renaissance of our region.
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