1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself biographically and why you want to be an MP?
I have worked in many fields, and have most enjoyed teaching and occupational health, environmental and sustainability management. Academically my background is in psychology. My thre big political drives are in Mental Health, Education and Civil Liberties, but I’ll turn my hand to anything!
I’d like to become an MP to allow people to have input into government policy which they may not normally be able to, and to help give those a voice who don’t feel they have one.
2. Do you feel that the liberal democrats have had a successful time in parliament as part of a coalition government?
Overall, yes. We have had a whole host of policies in place from our manifesto – despite the one item we couldn’t implement, regarding fees (which is an understandable emotional issue for some people, however it doesn’t dissuade from the fact of our other policies being met or exceeded, such as paying less income tax, increasing the priorities of the “green” agenda and the biggest increase in helping disadvantaged children at school, which has made a real difference.
We of course have taken a hit, as we’ve formed a coalition with the Conservative party. Some people claim that “makes us Tories”, which is wrong. After sitting on the side-lines since our party was created in the late 80s, we took the right decision to get our policies enacted, admitting that mistakes have been made too. If someone claims that mistakes make them switch to another party, let me know what that party is because if they always get everything 100% right, I’ll join them!
3. What are the biggest key issues in the UK right now that you feel passionate about? You can give up to three.
Mental Health – improving service provision and reducing stigma – I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t been affected by mental health some way during their lives.
Education – protecting our nurseries, schools and Further Education sector by giving proper resources to ensure we give our children, teens and young adults the best opportunities early in life, where it makes the most difference.
Environment – ensuring that we constantly embed thinking about improving or at least limiting damage to our environment, for our sake, our children and our future generations. Short-term thinking for selfish gain causes too much damage already and we need to keep challenging that.
4. In what way do you think that your constituency can be best improved?
Edgbaston has a lot of proud people, who enjoy their local communities, including many small businesses. We need to ensure the environments are as clean and enjoyable as possible. We also need to ensure that entrepreneurs with good ideas get the best support possible. Also, we have some great schools and a fantastic University, so, again, Education priorities to support these are vital for students – of all ages.
Ensuring high quality health care is also a vital campaign to keep momentum on, such as improving support for carers, mental health issues and access to GPs.
5. Imagine that you can have 30 minutes with a deceased politician and you can ask them about anything- who would you pick?
It would have to be William Gladstone. I would ask about the fights he had to improve rights for people in his time, then, after a (very) quick overview of the last 100 years in Britain – ask what he thinks of things now!
6. Do you feel that the liberal democrats are more likely to lose many of their seats given their performance at the European elections and the decision to increase tuition fees, than before?
We may lose some of our seats (which may happen to other parties too), however we will also likely hold many and even gain a few. The polls never take account for the names of MPs, and incumbency is often helped by the individual in place, not the party label. Also, many people I’ve spoken to who protested with a vote for a smaller party in other elections have said they won’t vote for them in the General Election.
Regardless of which party I’m in – I’m excited as a citizen at the most unpredictable election in a generation – PLEASE make sure you’re registered to vote, look into the policies you’re interested in and go and vote or consider standing for what you believe in.
7. One of the issues on your website that you mentioned that you are passionate about is mental health services. I find this pleasing and am interested to know what strategies you would implement to curb the stigma around the issue?
Stigma is one of the biggest issues surrounding Mental Health (the other large, umbrella issue is the quality of, and access to, treatment services).
We must promote people to feel free to admit they have a Mental Health issue, that it doesn’t mean they are “broken” or somehow bad or in the wrong. We must support everyone who wishes to come forward in a personal and social way, and ensure we have services for them to get help from.
There have been many charities fighting for Mental Health improvements for years, and I’m very proud that LibDems in Government, through people like Norman Lamb, Paul Burstow and Nick Clegg, have finally given Mental Health the platform it needs.
There is just one downside – now the politicians have finally seen it as an issue, thanks to Liberal Democrats – some are understandably wanting all the issues fixed, all at once – which of course is slightly difficult! By promoting people to talk openly, including celebrities and politicians, will help to reduce stigma for all and seek the treatment they need.
8. How do you feel that environmental issues including, but not limited to, global warming can be best challenged. I ask this as you seem to be passionate about this too?
We must convince others of the need to move away from fossil fuels. I have faith that as technology improves and generations pass, we will get less dependent and create new and exciting technologies which harness power from wind, solar and tide, as well as clean power using exciting new applications of physics. We must continue to press on for less reliance on fossil fuels now, however, as otherwise they won’t have much of a planet left to explore these new technologies. Our grandchildren are calling on us to act, and we must, for environmental, social and economic reasons.
9. Do you feel that your past career has prepared you well to be an MP?
I do! And not because I’ve been an MP before, but because I’ve dealt with many different issues, in many different fields and industries and, most importantly, with many different kinds of people with differing needs and approaches. To be a good representative, you have to be able to listen, understand and work with others, that I think is a great skill for the role, and perhaps more MPs should be doing more listening and thinking, and less talking!
Thank you to Mr Lee Dargue for agreeing to take part in this interview. We wish him for May 7th 2015.
By Neil Marathe, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.