Local people attempting to shake up local politics
The following questions and answers were compiled by Stephen Germeney for a “Spotted in Ely” article. He has kindly passed them to us following his initial email to candidates on 31st May.
The questions and answers below are unedited and comprise the full question and answer set from the candidates who answered – Huw Jones (Labour) and Lucy Nethsingha (Liberal Democrats). We have not as yet had answers from Lucy Frazer, the Conservative candidate and our MP in the last Parliament.
We extended a further invitation to Lucy Frazer to send answers for publishing with the others, but received only a response advising she would instead liaise with “Spotted in Ely”.
We will strive to publish her answers to these questions if received before polling day. If all three candidates are offered a separate set of questions to answer and these are published elsewhere, we may edit this copy as required.
UPDATE, 7th June 2017: Spotted In Ely have now published a version of this article that includes answers from Lucy Frazer – http://www.spottedinely.com/not-made-mind-yet-3-candidates-se-cambs-speak-spotted-ely/
The wording of the questions seems to have been bowdlerised somewhat. For example, the question that includes to ‘How do you solve the commuter problems’ has been changed to a more Tory-friendly ‘Would you support the upgrading of the A10?’. Likewise, one that mentions “we are a high employment area yet we also have food banks” now just says “How do we stop people relying on food banks?”
Tell us about yourself and how you got into politics?
Huw Jones: I work as a crop scientist, currently working on projects with Philippine and Ghanaian researchers. I’ve been a longstanding governor of Impington Village College and I’m currently a member of the Morris Educational Trust. In quieter moments I help to let off fireworks at the annual village display, raising cash for village schools. In 2016 I was in involved in delivering aid to refugees in Calais.
Histon is my home. I live and work in SE Cambridgeshire and I am proud to represent Labour.
I grew up in a family where politics were the talk of everyday life. It was inevitable that I would be a political animal.
Lucy Nethsingha: I got involved in politics in around 1995, when I felt John Major’s government was so chaotic and mean spirited. I stood for the council in Truro, Cornwall, the town where I grew up. I became a town councillor there in 1999 and have been involved with Lib Dem politics ever since.
Cambridgeshire schools are among the poorest funded in the country, receiving £600 less per pupil than the English Average. The Lantern Primary school in Ely is facing cuts of £125,697 by 2019 which is the equivalent of 4 teachers. Schools across East Cambridgeshire are facing cuts the equivalent of 37 teachers by 2019. Why are our children not getting fair funding and why is their education being put at risk and what will you do to change it?
Huw Jones: Labour will deliver a great school in every neighbourhood. Labour will invest £5bn in schools, paid for by corporations who benefit from a well-educated, well trained nation.
Our schools are facing a crisis. Market driven schools and cuts will mean larger class sizes, fewer options at GCSE, less support for pupils with needs. It will mean more begging letters where head teachers are reduced to asking parents to fund basics in their school.
In 2015 Lucy Frazer promised fair funding for Cambridgeshire schools. At that time we were among the lowest funded education authorities. Now that Lucy and her Tory government have delivered on her promise we remain among the lowest funded education authorities. Before Tory ‘fair funding’ our local schools received £4.7k per year for each child. The local schools where Lucy lives in St John Wood received £8.4k per year. How is that fair? Before ‘Tory Fair Funding’ Cambridgeshire was 137th in the table of school funding, now we’re 130th, the schools in Lucy’s neighbourhood are 5th in the table. How is that fair?
My children went to local schools in SE Cambridgeshire and I’m really proud of the Village College ethos of inclusion and aspiration for all. Lucy Frazer wants to bring back the old, damaging grammar school system of a tiered education system.
In 1997 Labour said we had three priorities ‘Education, Education, Education’. We transformed schools, respected teachers, and, under the ‘Funding Future Schools’ initiative, we mended the leaking roofs or replaced dilapidated schools. We did it before and we’ll do it again.
Lucy Nethsingha: This issue is particularly close to my heart. As a primary school teacher I know very well the impact low funding on children and their teachers. My first teaching job, in the 1990s, was of a class of 36, and simply marking the books for maths and English every evening took me hours and hours every day. It definitely had an impact on the quality of education of the children I taught. I had hoped we would not see class sizes like that again, but my daughter is now in a class of 35, and her school is also facing cuts. We must stop the Conservative cuts to schools funding. The Lib Dems have promised £7 billion to make sure we reverse the Conservatives cuts programme and make sure our children get the quality of education they deserve.
The Brexit Vote in East Cambs was evenly split (50.9% leave & 49.1% remain). How did you vote and what do you see as the pros and cons of Brexit for East Cambs?
Huw Jones: I voted Remain, I campaigned for Remain in Ely and across SE Cambs.
The Tories proposed the EU referendum to hide their party divisions. The LibDems called for a referendum in their 2015 manifesto.
The Labour party did not call for a referendum but we are democrats and accept the result. We will clear up the Brexit mess created by the Tories and LibDems.
The Labour message is clear; we will negotiate to get the best deal for the British economy.
We will not
I am Welsh, British and European. I believe Britain’s place is in Europe and that we will, in time, rejoin the EU. A second referendum in 2018 will set the cause of Britain in Europe back by a generation.
We won’t send Blithering Boris, David Davis and Liam Fox to wreck our relationship with Europe. Labour will send Kier Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardner to get the best deal for Britain and leave the door open for a better relationship with Europe.
Lucy Nethsingha: I voted remain, and continue to believe strongly that leaving the EU will be bad for Britain, and particularly bad for the economy of East Cambridgeshire. As an area we already have full employment, and the inability to recruit nurses or agricultural workers from the EU, or attract research funding for our tech companies, could have very serious consequences.
I do not believe voters were told the truth during the referendum campaign, but even more importantly I think that at the time of the referendum there was no clarity on what leaving the EU would be like.
We were told we could leave and still have access to the single market and free trade with Europe. At the end of the Brexit negotiations in 2019 we will have clear idea of what the impact of leaving the EU will be.
I believe that at that point the British people should be allowed a say, either by a referendum or in some other way, so that there is a real choice once we know what the outcome of the negotiations is, and what our options outside the EU really are.
If elected to the Houses of Parliament will you vote for what is best for your constituents or follow the party line, and how do you determine what is best for your constituency?
Huw Jones: I am a Labour candidate, not an independent. The Labour offer will transform SE Cambs for the better. Within the broad brush of Labour policy I will fight within the detail to ensure that our area gets the best deal. However, there are issues of conscience, such as assisted dying, where I will always vote in accordance with my beliefs
Lucy Nethsingha: If elected to the House of Parliament I would always put what is best for the constituency above the party line. I have lived in Cambridgeshire for 10 years, and know the issues facing this area well. I am particularly concerned at the impact Conservative cuts are having on our NHS and care services. There are real problems with recruiting staff to work in our hospitals and care homes, and Conservative policies are making these recruitment problems worse.
Ely and East Cambs is fast becoming a commuter area with many people commuting to Cambridge & London often resulting in slow traffic on A10 and overcrowded trains. With over 3,000 new homes due to be built in Ely and 6,500 new homes due to Waterbeach the problems are going to get worse. How do you solve the commuter problems and how do you entice more skilled, and often better paid, jobs in East Cambs to enable people to work closer to home?
Huw Jones: I support enhancements to public transport. In particular, I support the Rail Futures proposals to enhance rail services with new stations at Soham, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton. I also support improvements to bus services, and improving public transport links in and around the villages of SE Cambs.
Lucy Nethsingha: The commuter issues in Ely and East Cambs are certainly getting worse, and there is a real need for greater investment to allow people to move about our area more easily. While improving our roads, and particularly many of the junctions on the A10 and on the A14, (particularly the Quy junction and the junction with the A142), I am very worried by the Conservatives attitude to transport, which seems to be all about building dual carriageways. There is no point speeding down a dual carriageway, if you then have to sit in traffic for an hour at the end of it to get to your destination. That is why I am clear that investing in rail and bus services are just as big a part of the answer to the transport problems in the area. I am delighted that Julian Huppert’s years of campaigning for a new station at Cambridge North have finally come to fruition, now we need to make sure that the trains are good enough and stop often enough, which is not the case at the moment.
On the issue of more work in East Cambs itself, I think this will come, especially as broadband improves, (the government’s roll-out has been far too slow), and more people work some of the time from home.
Would you support lowering the voting age to 16?
Huw Jones: Yes. If you’re old enough to pay tax, you’re old enough to vote… No taxation without representation!
Lucy Nethsingha: Yes. My teenage children are very interested in politics, and very well informed. They are considered old enough to marry, join the army, and pay taxes, yet not old enough to put a cross on a piece of paper to express their view on the government. Having the voting age at 18 means that many young people vote for the first time just after they move away from home, and when they are likely to feel lowest knowledge or attachment to the place where they live. Voting at 16 would mean most young people voted while still in the area where they grew up, and where they are more likely to understand and have informed views of the issues at stake.
What is your view on the resettlement of refugees in East Cambridgeshire and would you support the reconsidering of the Dubs amendment?
Huw Jones: I am ashamed that my Conservative MP voted against the Dubs amendment. I believe our community and our council could do more to resettle and support refugees.
My party says “Refugees are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters. Unlike the Tories, we will uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees. The current arrangements for housing and dispersal of refugees are not fit for purpose. They are not fair to refugees or to our communities. We will review these arrangements.”
After the 2015 election I made two trips transporting aid to refugees marooned in Calais. To be honest, I drifted into it having been asked by a friend to borrow our van. We collected tinned food and sleeping bags that had been donated at Daily Bread on King’s Hedges Road. I set off in late September with a friend and another volunteer, not really knowing what to expect.
I saw things that day that I will never forget. It was all the more shocking that it was happening in Calais, a town I’d travelled through many times. I have found it hard to describe the events of that day. There were highs, talking with refugees and volunteers and witnessing a refugee returning a dropped UK passport that one of our group dropped 100m behind on a track. There were lows, witnessing the desperation of the refugees and walking through shanties in a situation with implicit and explicit violence. And I saw young children, though I have no idea if they were alone or not.
My second trip was in late November, the day after a storm. The scene was one of total desolation.
I almost made a third trip in Spring 2016, waved off from Cambridge by Dan Zeichner. We drove from Cambridge, assembled in Whitehall and drove in convoy to Dover, where we were refused entry by the French authorities!
In April 2016 Lord Dubs sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. Alf Dubs was born in Prague, then in Czechoslovakia. Dubs was one of 669 Czech-resident, mainly Jewish, children saved from the Nazis on the Kindertransport. At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe, according to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates. Human-trafficking gangs exploit the children for sex and slavery. When the Dubs amendment came before the House of Commons I wrote to Lucy Frazer. I hoped that she would remember our country’s generosity in the past and vote to protect unaccompanied children by welcoming them to the UK. On 25 April Lucy Frazer voted to oppose the Dubs amendment.
In May 2016 the Conservative government accepted a House of Lords amendment that would allow 3000 children into the UK. In February 2017 the same government reneged on the scheme up having given refuge to only 350 children.
Lucy Nethsingha: I would certainly support the reconsideration of the Dubs amendment. I am disgusted by the attitude of this government towards refugees, and their unwillingness to offer sanctuary to those most in need. In the past this country offered refuge to Jews from Germany and before that to Protestants fleeing persecution in France. The country benefitted greatly from the knowledge and skills those people brought.
The average house price in East Cambs is £303,090 which is well above the national average. While the aspirations of most is to own their own home the prices of property locally mean that many can’t afford to live in their home area. What will you and your party do to make housing affordable and assist the younger generation to own their own property?
Huw Jones: Labour will build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, through public investment. Labour will rebuild and transform Britain by building council homes and homes that first-time buyers can afford. Already Cambridge’s Labour city council is using the ‘City Deal’ to build affordable homes and homes for rent to ensure Cambridge and the surrounding areas will remain an attractive place to work and live.
I was lucky enough to be starting out when homes were more affordable. Many of my friends and colleagues rent their homes. Some of the stories they tell me are shocking. My own children have grown up and left home. They rent and I share their experiences. Private rents are soaring and insecure tenancies are a significant cause of homelessness as people become more vulnerable to rip-off landlords in an unregulated market. Labour will end insecurity for private renters by introducing rent controls, secure tenancies and a charter of private tenants’ rights, and increase access to affordable home ownership
I want young people to have a realistic chance for a home of their own.
Lucy Nethsingha: The Lib Dem manifesto makes a commitment to increase house building to 300,000 homes a year. To make that happen we would free local authorities and government to build the houses we need, not just leave it to developers, who have an interest in keeping prices high. I also believe that many people would want to rent, even if there were enough houses, as for those who are not yet settled renting can be a good option. We must improve renter’s rights, and make sure those renting have much better security from both eviction and rapid rent rises. Everyone deserves to feel secure, and many people who rent do not feel their homes are secure. Both landlords and tenants need to be given better support to improve our housing situation.
Our current first past the post voting system favours the main parties. In the 2015 election UKIP achieved 2.3 million more votes than the SNP but only achieved 1 MP compared to 55 SNP MP’s. Surely this means a huge number of voters don’t have a voice… would you support a proportional system of voting in the future?
Huw Jones: My party doesn’t currently support PR but will make a thorough review of UK democratic processes. My preference is for ‘Single Transferable Vote’ systems. While STV is not 100% proportional it has the advantages of retaining the link of one MP for one constituency and puts real choice and more power in the hands of the voters. STV would put voters, not parties first. Classic PR puts too much power into the hands of the party machines who decide on which loyal party ‘hacks’ get to the head of the queue when the ‘top up’ candidates are selected.
Much has been talked of a ‘progressive alliance’ where parties do deals in ‘smoke filled rooms’ to narrow the choice offered to voters; at the end of the day, I’m more comfortable campaigning for what I believe in.
Lucy Nethsingha: Yes of course. The Lib Dems have been arguing for a fairer voting system for many years.
Who would be your ideal 4 dinner party guests (from past or present) and why?
Huw Jones: Rachael Carson: who laid the foundation of modern environmental politics
Jeremy Corbyn: for restoring my faith in politicians
Joe Strummer: for all the great Clash songs
Jo Brand: who makes me laugh
Lucy Nethsingha: Michelle Obama, Hugh Dennis, Jane Austen and my husband Andrew. I would love to hear how Michelle Obama found being First Lady, and some stories from the White House, she is one of my heroes. Hugh Dennis is always entertaining and would make sure the whole party was a laugh. I would love to hear Jane Austen’s views on our modern world, and I always enjoy dinner parties much more if I go with Andrew!
Would you support the return of the death penalty for murderers, terrorists and child killers and why?
Huw Jones: No. Ian Brady, the Moors murderer, Salman Abedi and the rest turn make my stomach churn but just imagine the injustice if the Birmingham Six, who were later found innocent, had been hanged.
Lucy Nethsingha: No, while I know there are a very small number of people who never repent of their actions, and are fundamentally evil, I believe the risk of miscarriage of justice, combined with the possibility of a bad person learning to be better, mean it is better not to have the death penalty.
If there is a free vote on the return of fox hunting, how will you vote?
Huw Jones: Quite simply, the Labour Party opposes hunting with dogs and even if the party had a different position I would still vote against it.
Lucy Nethsingha: I would not vote to repeal the fox hunting ban.
There are approx. 350 people currently claiming job seekers allowance in Ely which means we are a high employment area yet we also have food banks giving out over 47 tonnes of food to over 5,000 people. Why? How do we stop people relying on food banks?
Huw Jones: The majority of people who use food banks are working and in poverty. Labour will overhaul the benefits system to make it fit for purpose. The Tory LibDem coalition used austerity to punish the poor. Labour will ensure people can live with dignity and security and find ways to help people turn their lives around through life-long learning.
My father grew up in the 30’s, his family subjected to the Means Test. My daughter has been ‘sanctioned’ by the modern benefit system. Different eras, different methodology but the same impulse to make the poor pay for the nation’s economic failure.
Labour will rebuild and transform our social security system. Four million children currently live in poverty, and the majority are in working families. We will commit to a new Child Poverty Strategy. Foodbanks, bedroom tax, degrading disability assessments, brought to us by Tories & LibDems, will be consigned to history.
Lucy Nethsingha: I know from work I did last year on changes to the benefits system that the majority of those living in poverty in this country now are families with young children where one parent is working. Low pay is a massive problem, and it is one which hits families hardest, as the costs of bringing up children are extremely high, particularly when housing costs are so high.
We need to stop Conservative cuts to those on in-work benefits, which hit young children and the disabled particularly hard, and we need to make sure there is a proper safety net in this country for those in need. We could all have an accident and end up requiring help, we need to make sure that we look after those who need help properly!
How do we solve the funding crisis in the NHS and the lack of doctors and dentists locally?
Huw Jones: How do we solve a funding crisis? By reversing the austerity imposed by the Tories & Lib Dems during the Coalition. How do we address the lack of doctors (and nurses)? In the medium to long term we need to train enough to meet the needs of the NHS. In the short term we need to respect the professionalism of our health workers rather than the treatment meted out to them by Jeremy Hunt. This has not been helped by the Conservatives drive towards privatisation of NHS services. We can expect more privatisation within the NHS after Theresa May has confirmed her support for the Naylor Report, which pressurises hospitals to sell off their assets.
Lucy Nethsingha: The funding crisis and the lack of doctors and dentists are fundamentally linked. Doctors and dentists are leaving the NHS because the work-load makes their jobs hugely stressful. My brother is a GP, and comes home exhausted and stressed every day, and also feeling that he is not able to look after his patients in the way he would like to. He considered leaving the profession regularly. We need to train more doctors and dentists, but most of all we need to make sure we appreciate the ones we have, and that they feel able to do a good job at work. British trained doctors are very popular abroad, and we are losing more every day.
What do you love most about living locally and why should people vote for you?
Huw Jones: I’ve lived in the constituency since 1992. My family grew up here, I’ve put down roots and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The best thing about my village is the energy and friendliness in the community.
I’m not running for parliament for a career. I’ve had a great career in science and a good life in a great area. I think I can give something back, with a different way of thinking and a different approach. Our community in SE Cambs is one of the powerhouses of the UK economy. Our kids deserve great schools, our people deserve great healthcare, our older people deserve respect and support. If I’m elected I’ll work with Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to deliver for SE Cambridgeshire.
Lucy Nethsingha: I love that the climate and geography in Cambridgeshire encourages me to cycle a great deal, both for transport and for leisure and I love my bike! People should vote for me because I know and love this area, and have been working to improve our schools and health care services for the past 8 years as a County Councillor. I would like to take that same fight to our national parliament, to make sure that Cambridgeshire’s schools and hospitals don’t continue to be short changed by national governments. The Conservatives have taken this area for granted for too long.
What was the last joke you heard that made you laugh out loud?
My dog asked if I’d make a tweet for him.
“What would you like to say?”
@Gnasher Woof woof, woof woof, woof woof #WoofWoofWoof
“Well, its 140 characters and you have loads left. You could say”
@Gnasher Woof woof, woof woof, woof woof, woof woof #WoofWoofWoof
My dog looks up and says
“Don’t be stupid, that would make no sense at all”
Lucy Nethsingha: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because she wanted to avoid the leader’s debate!