The first ever transgender candidate to stand as MP for Melton launched her campaign in the town on Saturday morning.
Dr Heather Peto is contesting the Rutland and Melton seat at next month’s General Election for the Labour party.
She is under no illusions about the task in hand with Conservative candidate Sir Alan Duncan standing again after 25 years in the post and hoping to build on the near 22,000-vote majority he enjoyed in 2015.
Dr Peto said: “I was planning to stand in 2020 but the opportunity came up earlier.
“I have taken on a seat which is extremely hard to win to cut my teeth and the plan then is to stand for a winnable seat at the next election.”
She was born a man but has lived as a woman for 20 years. Dr Peto is one of six transgender candidates standing in the election across the UK on June 8 - there are also three Liberal Democrats, one for the Greens and another for Labour.
“When I have been out campaigning and meeting people on their doorsteps they do tend to remember you and it gets the discussion moving when I explain that I am transgender,” she said.
“I think it is great that there are more transgender candidates in the General Election because politics needs to be more relective of society.
“I do hope that I am inspiring people from the community to get involved in politics.”
Dr Peto, who is a prominent activist for transgender rights and is spokesperson for transgender issues for her party, says she has encountered some negative opinion of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during her campaigning but says she is supportive of him.
She hopes the lessons she has learned from her challenging life will help get across Labour’s prioritising messages on the NHS and social care.
Dr Peto became a rough sleeper in London as a result of developing a rare illness as a child which gave her various neurological disabilities.
Remarkably, she rebuilt her life to study a PhD in neurological disease at Cambridge University with Nobel prize winner Max Perutz.
In 2010, Dr Peto began studying brain development using stem cells at Nottingham. She is currently not working following a return of her rare illness, secondary Kliene Levin Syndrome (sKLS).
Among the issues she will be campaigning on in Melton, after launching her campaign at the town’s United Reformed Church, will be to protect a local presence for emergency services and help push for greater coverage of 4G and 5G broadband internet coverage across the Melton and Rutland area.
Dr Peto pledges to fight moves to begin fracking in the Vale of Belvoir and would also like to see bridges and crossings on the planned Melton bypass be named after fallen and injured local service personnel who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
SIR ALAN DUNCAN (Conservative)
As Sir Alan Duncan seeks to continue his 25-year tenure as Melton MP, he says he will focus on preserving services at the town’s hospital and ensuring high levels of social care are available to increasing numbers of older residents.
He said: “The challenges of an ageing population mean that we need to look carefully at how we deliver social care to those vulnerable members of our society.
“As we develop future plans for our local health services in Melton and the surrounding areas, I will continue to work with the CCG and other local health authorities to address local concerns.”
Sir Alan also pledges to campaign for fairer funding for schools in the Melton borough and do all he can to see the town’s long-awaited bypass built.
He added: “A relief road is non-negotiable for Melton and, frankly, its time has now come. “I have fought for this for many years now, and am determined to ensure this critical project is finally seen through.”
EDWARD REYNOLDS (Liberal Democrats)
Edward Reynolds is confident of doing well in the General Election after membership of Rutland and Melton Liberal Democrats increased by 20 per cent since Prime Minister Theresa May called the snap election.
Aged 40, he has local roots and his family were tenant farmers in Cold Overton for 50 years.
Married with an 18-month-old daughter, Mr Reynolds lives in Oakham and has worked in renewable energy for the last decade, currently with a biomass company near Melton.
He is hoping to improve on finishing fourth in the Rutland and Melton ballot two years ago, when he garnered eight per cent of the vote.
“Having lived in the constituency for virtually my whole life, I know how crucial it is that we improve our rural transport links and we keep our local hospitals open, as well as upgrading mobile broadband connectivity,” said Mr Reynolds.
“I want to focus my campaign on these types of local issues.”
He added: “After 150 years of Tory MPs in our constituency and 25 years of
Alan Duncan, it’s time for a change.”
ALASTAIR MCQUILLAN (Green party)
Mr McQuillan (31) was born and brought up in Melton and works at The Captain Noel Newton pub in Oakham. A graduate from Northumbria University, he has previously worked in biological research in Latin America and Indonesia.
He is standing for the Greens again after polling 4.3 per cent of the vote in Rutland and Melton two years ago.
He pledges to protect local A&E services and to fight plans to begin fracking in the Vale of Belvoir. Mr McQuillan would like to see a second referendum on membership of the EU.
He said: “I feel it is vital that we fight the extreme Brexit being pursued by Theresa May and Sir Alan Duncan, making sure that our economy, environment and workers’ rights are not put in jeopardy or used as bargaining tools.
“At the last General Election, the Greens were the only party that stood against savage Tory cuts, who fought against the fracking of our landscape and opposed the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
“Many of our flagship policies from 2015 are now mainstream, proving once again that it is the Green Party that is setting the agenda on progressive politics.”
JOHN SCUTTER (UKIP)
Mr Scutter, who joined the UK Independence Party in July 1994, will hope to at lease match the second-place finish achieved in the constituency two years ago by Richard Billington.
He said: “I have worked towards getting our country out of the European Union for some 23 years.
“I am dedicated to this cause and persistent. I can bring the same persistence and dedication to being Melton’s MP.”
He cites six key tests which his party will use to measure whether Brexit really means exit from the EU.
Parliament must resume its supremacy of law-making with no impediments, qualifications or restrictions on its future actions agreed in any leaving deal, he says.
Britain must resume full control of its immigration and asylum policies and border controls and of its maritime exclusive economic zone.
Mr Scutter also insists the UK retakes its seat on the World Trade Organisation and resumes its sovereign right to sign trade agreements with other countries.
There must be no final settlement payment to the EU and no ongoing payments after the UK has left, he says, and Brexit must be complete before the end of 2019.