by John Shaw on 6 June, 2017
I’ve been asked scores of questions as I’ve been out and about in Basingstoke over the past few weeks, and it’s been enjoyable and rewarding to debate the big issues facing our town and our country as a whole. A few questions tend come up more frequently than others, so I thought I’d highlight them in a Q&A format. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Why are you standing for election?
I’ve lived in Basingstoke for over two decades. Basingstoke is a great place and I’m proud to call it home, but I know there’s an opportunity for improvement.
As an active local campaigner – I served as Councillor for Brookvale and Kings Furlong on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for 16 years and represented Basingstoke North West on Hampshire County Council – I believe I can help make Basingstoke an even better place to live and work.
What issues are you campaigning on?
I’m a passionate campaigner on health issues. I work for a national disability charity, and have been a partner governor of an NHS hospital trust and board member of a local involvement network representing the needs of patients.
When I see what’s happened to health services in our area, it’s clear to me that the current Conservative government doesn’t care about the NHS or social care. 10,000 bed days were lost in hospitals in and around Basingstoke last year because patients couldn’t be discharged into under-funded, under-staffed social care. We need to put that right.
That’s why I’m backing Liberal Democrats proposals to invest an extra £6 billion a year in health services paid for by an immediate 1p rise on all rates of income tax.
What about education?
The message from my conversations with local people is very clear – schools in Basingstoke face significant budgetary pressures and headteachers are going to forced to make some difficult decisions over staffing numbers. These concerns are borne out by figures provided by the National Union of Teachers, which show that schools in Basingstoke will lose a total of £6.4 million of funding by 2019 under current government policy.
The Lib Dems have pledged to invest an extra £7 billion in education over the course of the next parliament, and that will ensure that no school and no child loses out.
What other challenges are facing Basingstoke at the moment?
Housing affordability is a major issue in the area. House prices in Basingstoke are out of reach for many young families, private rents are too high and there isn’t enough social housing to meet demand. After many years of delay, we’re finally seeing progress on projects such as Manydown. But that’s too little too late for many people struggling to afford a home in our town. I want to see increased provision of new homes in Basingstoke using sustainable building technology so that everyone – including young people, teachers, nurses, carers and the police – can afford to live in the area.
As a Liberal Democrat, I assume you’re against a hard Brexit?
Our town and the country as a whole cannot thrive without a strong economy. And a strong economy is incompatible with a hard Brexit. Our trading relationship with the EU creates jobs, increases prosperity and helps pay for public services. I’ll fight to secure terms with the EU that retain as many of the benefits of EU membership as possible. I’ll also back a referendum on the final Brexit agreement, so that you can decide if it’s a good deal for the country.
Can the Liberal Democrats really stand up to the Conservatives?
I’m convinced that only the Liberal Democrats can provide effective opposition to the Conservatives. The Labour Party is in a mess, fighting amongst themselves rather than acting as the effective opposition this country so urgently needs. UKIP doesn’t know what it stands for any more now that the Conservatives have adopted many of their policies.
Can the Liberal Democrats win in Basingstoke? Can you really beat Maria Miller MP?
It’s an exciting time to be a Lib Dem in Basingstoke. We increased our share of the vote in the recent County Council elections and membership of the local party has increased by 50% in the past 12 months. I gave Maria Miller a run for her money when I stood against her in the 2010 General Election and I’m aiming to go one better this time!
Any final message to local people?
On 8 June, we have chance to make our country more open, more tolerant and more successful. Vote Lib Dem and help change Britain’s future.