With just a week to go until Melton people vote in their next MP we have been quizzing the five candidates to help readers make up their mind on who to back.
Five key questions were put to each of the contenders - Sir Alan Duncan (Conservative), Dr Heather Peto (Labour), Ed Reynolds (Liberal Democrat), Alastair McQuillan (Green party) and John Scutter (UKIP) - and this is how they responded.
What are the key issues people talk about when you are campaigning in the Melton area?
AD (Sir Alan Duncan): People are concerned about the challenges that Brexit will bring, but also eager that we take advantage of the new opportunities that will now be open to us. They are looking for a Prime Minister and a party that has the strength and capability to tackle this head on. Locally, those who live in and travel through Melton are desperate for the bypass – something which I have been fighting for over many years, and am determined to see through.
HP (Dr Heather Peto): The Dementia tax is concerning most of the elderly voters I speak to.
They planned to leave their house to their children to help pay off mortgages or help them further on the housing ladder, now they worry that the house will be sold off to pay for care. Our food and agricultural workers are worried about the effect of hard Brexit on their jobs.
ER (Ed Reynolds): People in Melton are very concerned about the hundreds of houses being built (which is a good thing), without the infrastructure and amenities being built, leading to overcrowded roads and overcrowded schools.
Also the town centre is an issue – Melton Mowbray has less and less decent retail outlets and, consequently, all the new residents are heading off elsewhere to spend their money, causing a further downward spiral in the local economy.
AM (Alastair McQuillan): In this election people have been raising concerns about the planned large Conservative funding cuts to every school in Melton and Rutland, that will see class sizes grow and teachers made redundant.The difficulties faced by disabled people to access ever decreasing support and services as social care budgets have been slashed over the past seven years and the chronic Lib Dem and Conservative under-investment in our NHS since 2010. And the environment and the threat of fracking in the vale of Belvoir if the Conservatives win.
JS (John Scutter): The two leading issues are the NHS and Education, followed closely by housing.
Other issues include, assistance for small businesses, VAT, bank charges for small businesses, immigration control and, latterly, security, following the dreadful terrorist attack in Manchester.
Has there been a lot of interest in the General Election, given that it was called at short notice, or do people seem ballot box-weary following the other recent polls?
AD: On the doorstep I have found that people have recognised that this General Election is very important in this crucial point in Britain’s history. As we enter into the negotiations with the EU it is it critical we have strong leadership to secure the right deal to control our laws, borders and money. We need a Prime Minister who is up to the job and ready to deliver – only Theresa May is capable of that.
HP: Voters are certainly election-weary and fed up with Brexit. There has been a lot of interest in me being a transgender candidate, mostly positive. This has certainly got people talking to me which gives me a chance to put Labour’s positive vision for government.
ER: Most people seem fed up with a political process that ignores them, and career politicians who don’t listen, and as a consequence they are becoming disengaged from politics. Trust in politicians is at an all-time low, and the public is fed up with MPs who don’t seem to live in the real world. If elected, I would work to reverse this, and always listen to my constituents, and make sure their views come first.
AM: If anything, it is the opposite, people are hungry for change. 250,000 young people registered to vote on one day alone in May and are determined to have their voice heard on June 8. After young people overwhelmingly voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU they are now, in increasing numbers, ready to turn out and vote for a positive future for a more caring Britain.
JS: I have found no evidence of people being ballot box-weary. Quite the contrary, people are extremely enthused when expressing their concerns.
What could you provide in Rutland and Melton that none of the other candidates could provide, if you are voted in as MP?
AD: I have 25 years of experience in defending the interests of constituents in Rutland and Melton, and know how to get the job done. I will continue to take up matters of local and national importance at the highest levels of government, as I have done recently on a wide range of issues from school funding to the business rates revaluation, things we have seen real improvements on. As part of a Conservative government I will help build a stronger economy – only this can help our local towns and businesses to flourish.
HP: As a former rough sleeper, I know that people find their problems are ignored unless they are rich enough to hire an expensive barrister for court, or have a vigorous MP who will name and shame in the House of Commons. I will use my maximum permitted weekly written parliamentary questions to take on the powerful for my consttuents, that is what ‘For
the Many, not the privileged Few’ means to me.
ER: As a local person from a family who lives, and has both older and younger family members, in the area, I have genuine first-hand knowledge and care deeply about the local issues that affect us all.
Working for a biomass company near Melton, I know how crucial it is that we improve our rural transport links, as well as upgrade our mobile and broadband connectivity so that local businesses can thrive and provide good local jobs. I also care about the farming community, having a family who were tenant farmers for many years, and would advocate for more support for farmers who need it across the constituency.
AM: An MP who is allowed to speak their mind, who can put their principles first and always hold power to account. No party whip, No party line, just a bold independent voice for a confident and caring Britain. Unlike the other parties, Greens can always stand up for their constituents’ interest, not co-operating donors or union bosses.
JS: I am the only candidate who is a conviction supporter of Brexit, always regarding the lack of transparent democratic accountability of the European Union as unacceptable. I will never support any ‘leaving deal’ which might allow foreign-born nationals convicted of violent crime being able to use ‘human rights’ as a means to prevent their removal from this
country. If elected I will fully support Theresa May on Brexit provided she works honestly for a quick and clean break.
Why should your party be backed in the General Election above the other parties?
AD: The Conservatives are the only Party who have put forward a sensible and realistic plan to tackle the challenges in the years ahead. The Conservatives will back those who want to work hard, by helping businesses create more and better-paid jobs, with new rights and protections for workers. A vote for Labour could deliver the chaos of a hung parliament – with weak leadership and propped up by the SNP and minor parties calling the shots on Brexit and tax rises.
HP: I hate to say Brexit, but the Labour Party is the only party committed to fixing the grievance of ‘Leave’ voters and maintaining most benefits of the single market and customs union, including protecting Rutland & Melton’s food & agriculture industry. The Tories will not get a good EU deal because they insulted EU leaders by falsely claiming immigrants were
responsible for pressure on housing, education and the NHS, but in reality, it was the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition cuts to these services that caused the pressure. Labour will address the voters grievance by investing to grow these services and stop undercutting of wages, we will explain that we cannot have complete free movement while we fix them but we appreciate the hard work EU nationals do in the NHS and farming. This is a far more effective form of persuasion than name-calling, and will get us a better deal.
ER: We are the only party that is offering real solutions to urgent issues ie. £6billion to NHS/Social care and £7billion to education. Having used health care facilities in the area, I am passionate about making sure these are properly funded and able to carry on the good work they currently do, and this can only happen with more investment alongside better efficiencies. I also want to ensure that our children have a good education that does not get diluted by funding being diverted to more free schools and the promotion of grammar schools. We are the only party opposed to a ‘hard’ Brexit and want to save us from all the negative ramifications that will mean for our, and our children’s, futures.
AM: The Green Party has big, bold ideas to create a confident and caring Britain that we can all be proud of. We aren’t afraid to hope for a better future or to be honest about how we get there. We believe in being brave, in speaking our minds, and in standing up for what matters. We are proud to do politics differently.
JS: Because UKIP has a full manifesto of straight forward logical solutions. Which provides a clear, sound new direction for the country, including ‘Defending the NHS’ education in the form of ‘A Brighter Future for our Next Generation’ and ‘Solving Britain’s Housing Shortage’ to name but a few. The £35 billion we will use to finance our pubic spending has come from reasonable cuts to the foreign aid budget, scrapping HS2, amending the Barnett Formula and savings from EU budget contributions. See UKIP.org Manifesto 2017 Britain together.
What would you say to people who are considering not casting a vote on June 8?
AD: Wherever you’re from, whatever line of work you are in or what your current situation is, you will have a stake in this election. It is crucial that you exercise your democratic right.
HP: The NHS is in the voters’ hands. Last year the Tories said they wanted to close hospitals and beds to look after patients at home. This election they say they want to charge people for home health care, which is backdoor privatisation. Labour believing in taxing the tax avoiding big companies and richest to keep healthcare free.
ER: After 150 years of Tory MPs in our constituency and 25 years of Alan Duncan, It’s time for a change.
AM: The politics we have seen up until now has not been good enough, and it can seem that we have no influence and events are completely out of our control. We get that politics is off-putting. We get that voting sometimes seems pointless and that it’s not always easy to tell one politician from the next. And we understand that after you’ve been told you can’t change anything about politics, well, you’re going to start believing it. We know sometimes those kind of statements come true or that we seem to take one step forward and two steps back. At times like these we have to dig deep. We have to think big, bright, bold and know that hope will triumph over fear and together we can all change Britain to a more caring and loving place.
JS: It is your choice and I respect it, but please remember, you may not take an interest in politics but politics will take an interest in you.