1) Tell us a bit about yourself and why you want to become an MP?
Truth be told when I was younger I wasn’t fully sure what I wanted to do. But during University I went along to a great lecture where the politics professor said something to the effect that if for no other reason than to get involved in politics it is because you will learn a great array of skills and meet a lot of interesting people from all walks of life and afterwards you will have the experience and skill-set necessary to do many other things whatever it may be.
This sort of approach and environment suited and interested me at the time and after University I worked briefly in children’s television where after some great experience and enjoyment I decided to move into politics because I got the feeling that Plymouth was getting a bad deal and I could either sit around thinking or moaning about it or I could do something about it myself. Although it sounds horribly cliché I believe many people enter politics to make other people’s lives better and the world around them better and I believed that Plymouth deserved a better deal than what it was getting.
2) What are the three main issues closest to your heart? Local or national.
For me the three main issues closest to my heart are probably the ones we campaign on the most here in Plymouth and they are the NHS, housing and jobs. These three issues though are more widely connected to the greater issues of equality, fairness and social justice which I think are crucial to solving the problems we face.
Equality is integral to how we see and act towards each other and unfortunately the world and even Britain can sometimes can be an unequal place and I wanted to fight the inequality that exists just because of a person’s background, skin colour or sexual orientation and for me that is something that has to change and continually be fought for. And fairness and social justice are the keystones to improving people’s lives and I want to be in a position where I can affect positive change and influence others to make a contribution to ensuring the continuity of those three big issues for our society.
3) How much commitment and effort does a parliamentary campaign require from you? What is a daily schedule like?
The thing is really is that it is kind of up to you and you can choose how much time you want to commit to the campaign. Research of course does show that the more work you put in and the more you do, the more likely you are to win. That’s why I gave up my job. My belief is that if I want to win, I’ve got to be out there every day knocking on doors and meeting with local constituents. Not just to inform people of the latest party position or policy but more to the effect of restoring a link of trust.
Rightly so politics has taken a beating over the last few years and people have a strong feeling that it doesn’t make a difference who you vote for. People who work in politics though know this isn’t true, there Is a big difference between the parties and it’s my job to articulate that difference so voters can choose what they think is best for themselves which
is what we are really meant to be doing for them, it’s their vote and I’m doing my best to articulate how I think that vote could best be used to improve their lives.
In terms of a daily schedule, every day is different apart from the fact that at some point during the day I will banging on doors! And that is important in order to understand people’s lives and represent their interests.
4) What is the most difficult aspect of being a parliamentary candidate?
Surprisingly it’s not the abuse you take on the doorstep from people who don’t like you very much which comes with the job. Probably the most difficult aspect for me is when someone raises a problem and you can’t do much to help them. I can raise issues and highlight their concerns but ultimately it is the people in power who have the remit to change their lives. As a candidate there is only so much I can do so that sort of issue really motivates me to work harder in order to get to the position where I help change and improve people’s lives.
5) The 2015 general election is shaping up to be a hotly contested one. How has the surge of support for UKIP affected the way you conduct your campaign?
I don’t think it has affected the way I campaign to be frank. The reasons why people are angry with politicians is because they feel that their representatives are out of touch. They didn’t put the effort into being amongst their community, didn’t do the door knocking or hard work on local issues and that was a big mistake.
I’ve always been of the mind-set that as an MP you have to represent the interests and views of your constituents as much as possible which is why I campaign and door knock every single day. I believe in positive politics and putting effort into solving issues in the best way possible. Being negative and doing the easy thing of just blaming immigrants for everything takes our focus off the key underlying issues and concerns like higher wages, sorting out the NHS and building more houses. I don’t intend to out kip UKIP in my campaign.
6) What in your opinion will be the single most crucial issue in the 2015 general election and how do you think it should be addressed?
The economy. It’s the foundation upon which everything else is based and it will be crucial to having the resources to build a better Britain. The economy means different things to different people. The deficit, wages, taxes, they all relate differently and getting that balance right is a tough job. As Bill Clinton’s campaign poster said ‘It’s the economy stupid’.
And in a larger sense the public know that without a credible economic strategy then the other things you promise won’t happen so it’s the main issue that has to be done right.
7) Do you think the voting age should be lowered to 16 years of age? Why?
Yes I do. I havn’t always thought so but what really changed my mind was witnessing the passion and engagement of young people in the Scottish referendum campaign. Young people are capable of informed and clear political opinions and Westminster has mistaken that with party political lines. Young people are very focused on issues and they are the ones who will be the future backbone of this country so it’s good to get them involved early.
16 year olds can marry, pay tax and join the army, so it only seems right that they should be able to vote as well.
8) If you could make any law for a day what would it be?
I think actually I would be inclined to get rid of laws! Things like the bedroom tax, the ban on gay people giving blood and all those laws that stop people getting on in their lives need to go. The idea that politicians should only be there to make laws shouldn’t always be prominent. Politicians should simplify some of the laws like tax and allow people the room and scope to develop freely and without legislative burden.
9) Your stuck on a desert Island and you can only have one party leader with you. Who would it be and why?
As a good Labour candidate I would say Ed Miliband but in all honesty it would have to be David Cameron so that when I leave the island in a boat I can personally make sure he stays there and doesn’t get off it!
By Connor Smart, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.
With thanks to Mr Luke Pollard for agreeing to the interview.