Election Interviews: EU and Local Candidates from the Conservatives, Greens, Liberal Democrats and Labour

Colm Murphy and Till Schöfer 20 May 2014

Ahead of the local council and European elections on the 22nd of May, The Cambridge Student speaks to local representatives from the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clarke is the Chairman of the Conservative Association and former leader of the Cambridge County council.

Why should students vote for the Conservative Party in the upcoming local and European elections?  

Conservatives believe in opportunities for all. We are pro-business. Students are just starting out in their lives and careers, therefore the Conservatives are the party for them.  On local issues, we will focus on Cambridge’s transport infrastructure, for instance we call for the widening of the A14 to prevent gridlock and the improvement of road/cycling networks. We also need to tackle financial mismanagement which leads to an inefficient budget.  For the European elections, there is a democratic deficit at the moment, as the current state of the EU is a political organisation nobody voted for. We are the only party who insist the British people, including students, must have a say.

Will the coalition’s increase in tuition fees turn students away from your party?

Firstly politics is about people, not parties….On tuition fees, a contribution is appropriate as university is not free. However, I wouldn’t advocate the American system, which goes too far.

Are students more apathetic now, and what would you do about it if so?

Quite the opposite, so many young people I bump into have something to say. However, I do accept that people are more apathetic generally in the UK. This is because we live in a well-run country. By and large, most people have a reasonable lifestyle. The various parties are split on finesses, not massive divisions.

 

Rupert Read is a Green Party transport spokesman and lead candidate for the East of England in the upcoming European elections.

Why should students vote for the Greens in the upcoming elections?

A lot of students care about the same things the Green Party and I do. For instance, I want to roll back tuition fees. Education is a right, not a privilege. Also, we think society as a whole should be more equal, so we support a Land value tax, and a wealth tax. A lot of students are very concerned about the future, particularly about climate change. We are the only party who have serious green policies. For our local policies, one that may interest students is our blanket 20 mile an hour limit in residential Cambridge, and improved cycling links.

Would a vote for the Green Party split the ‘Left’ vote, in favour of coalition parties?

In a local seat, a marginal local seat, we would completely understand if students voted tactically for another party. However, in Europe, this would be completely wrong, because we have a real chance of winning. In this situation, consider the Labour party. Many people would question whether Labour really is left-wing anymore. They’re part of a neo-liberal consensus. But also, the Green’s are not just ‘socialism with wind-farms’. Some of our principles have never been taken seriously by socialism, such as decentralisation. Labour, in comparison, is excessively statist.

Do you think students are apathetic, and if so what would you do about it?

The recent budget shafted young people, and was attractive to old people. Osborne and Cameron did this because they think young people won’t vote. Please prove Cameron and Osborne wrong. Please, please vote. A massive student vote would send out a powerful message, as would a large Green vote.

 

Fergus Blair is a third-year Philosophy student at Gonville and Caius who is standing as the Lib Dem candidate for Castle ward in the upcoming local elections

Why should students vote for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming local elections?

‘Students should look at the positive Lib Dem record in the city council which includes keeping house prices low, improvements in public transport and the implementation of a policy for the homeless. The Lib Dems aim to improve the quality of social housing in the city and to reform Cambridge’s infrastructure. Any city is two-tier however past Lib Dem councils have made sure that disparities in Cambridge are smaller than in other British cities, focusing on economic growth for everyone. The Lib Dems support the idea of a living wage and want to work against the emergence of a clear student/resident divide’.

Can students trust a party which didn’t fulfil its promise of abolishing tuition fees after the last election?

The debate about tuition fees is based in part on misinformation. On the local level the Lib Dems are definitely opposed to tuition fees and the party’s inability to abolish tuition fees after the last election is not a good reason to vote against the Lib Dems. As the minor coalition partner in a national coalition government there is a limit to the influence the Lib Dems can have on policy.

Why should students vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections?

‘’The Lib Dems are the only pro-European party standing at the upcoming elections. For the past several months Labour has failed to express a view on the issue of remaining within the EU while the Conservatives have shown themselves to be Euro-sceptic. Britain’s past involvement in EU programs concerning social policy, human rights and education have shown to be major benefits of staying within the EU. The EU itself represents a major power block especially in light of a possible future EU-US free trade deal. Leaving the EU would leave us in a position like that of Norway; we may have economic prosperity however our trade with the EU means that British trade is restricted by EU product and trade laws which the UK wouldn’t be able to influence [if we left].

 

Sam Wolfe is a linguistics lecturer at the University who is standing as the Labour candidate for Newnham ward in the upcoming local elections.

Why should students vote for Labour in the upcoming local elections?

Cambridge’s story is a tale of two cities, of a two-tier city. In a city in which 16% of children are below the poverty line and 4500 food parcels were distributed last year, there is a need for a new council. Such a council would focus on Cambridge apprenticeships, improving cycling/infrastructure and improving social housing within the city. The Labour Party can deliver in these areas and in the medium term aims to make 40% of Cambridge housing more affordable. In addition to this, Labour’s current budget proposals do not envisage a budgetary increase but rather a change of emphasis. The Lib Dem city council has been complacent and inefficient neglecting its responsibility for transport by promoting the private sector ‘Keep Cambridge moving campaign.’ Labour believes that a new council is required.

What is your stance on tuition fees, particularly in light of Labour’s role in introducing tuition fees in 1998 and 2004?

Since Labour was in government the idea behind tuition fees has changed. Now the government wants to develop a strategy for getting the money it lost by tripling tuition fees back via a rise in interest rates. Between 2004 (£3000 p.a. tuition fees) and 2010 (£9000 p.a. fees) there was an 80% drop in government funding for higher education. University education clearly has economic benefits for the nation as a whole and is thus a government rather than a private sector responsibility. I personally am opposed to university tuition fees.’’

Why do you think students nowadays are portrayed as more apathetic and what should be done about it?

Students shouldn’t be blamed for political apathy. It is the responsibility of politicians to inform students of their policies and parties can’t expect young people to simply inform themselves as they currently do. 55% of the Cambridge electorate is comprised of students and young people in this city have suffered over the years. Not voting would simply mean that the council would not listen to you, so I have tried to personally contact as many students in my ward as possible, in order to counter political apathy.