Fringe Box



Candidate Interview: Gerri Smyth – CISTA

Published on: 29 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 1 May, 2015

Martin Giles of The Guildford Dragon NEWS has invited each of the parliamentary candidates for the Guildford constituency to take part in a short, ten question interview. Each response was limited to 100 words.

He has marked each response out of three for the directness and quality of the response as he sees it. See if you agree. Marks have not been subtracted if a candidate appears to have diverged from his/her party policy but this may be mentioned.

Gerri-Smyth1Gerri Smyth

1. Your party wishes to legalise the use of cannabis. Do you accept that there is a link between the drug, especially some stronger types of the drug, such as “skunk”, and psychosis?

CISTA is campaigning for a Royal Commission to examine the evidence. The ‘cannabis as medicine’ argument is well made by the United Patients Alliance who are documenting the facts about the effects, beneficial and deleterious in medical terms, of the different psychoactive compounds in cannabis. There is a growing body of knowledge on treating conditions both physical and mental. Cannabis is a herbal plant that has been hybridised, there are different strains with different properties. The medical cannabis community have found that cannabinoid THC, which excites the brain, needs to be balanced by cannabinoid CBD, which calms it.

Score 1 – All very interesting – but the question was about the link between cannabis, especially skunk, and psychosis. Even if a link is accepted it is still possible to make a case for legalisation and for a Royal Commission but the question was dodged.

CISTA logo2. Do you use cannabis rather than alcohol?

No. I have never smoked or ingested tobacco or cannabis (green) or harder recreational drugs (white). I am a social drinker. I was introduced to cider at twelve and had progressed to vodka by thirteen. I shoplifted and drank to excess to escape an unhappy home. I think we need to look at the language of consume, use and abuse and have better ways of spotting when are into problems with any substance and look at why. To talk about ‘abusing’ a substance puts the blame on the vulnerable. Addiction needs to be a health, not criminal, matter.

Score 3 – A direct, very open answer. The question was asked to see what insight and experience Gerri was bringing to the issue but it is completely fair for her to be a non-user of cannabis and still campaign for what she believes.

2. Isn’t more austerity necessary to tackle the deficit and the huge national debt? Aren’t more cuts and/or tax rises inevitable whichever government we get?

I don’t believe the deficit will be solved by further downward pressure on wages. The poor have been demonised and a wedge driven between the working and non-working poor and the indigenous and immigrant poor. I think the wrong people are paying and every time I hear the word ‘scrounger’ I cringe. The real scroungers are those that hold the country to ransom so as to avoid their fair share of the tax burden and/or who make fortunes out of performing appallingly on lucrative government contracts.

Score 1 – Hmm, the downward pressure on wages, many believe, is more to do with the large scale importation of foreign workers who are prepared to work, often very well, for lower wages. Supply and demand, if you like. But I suspect many would agree that those who are rich and guilty of tax avoidance, sometimes at a corporate level, are far more culpable. Gerri has not answered the question though. Is more austerity necessary?

4. How can we afford to fund the NHS services when there is ever increasing demand?

I think we need to examine the behaviour of pharmaceutical companies. As a pre-menopausal woman I was strongly encouraged by my GP to take statins and strongly encouraged to flush them down the toilet by my diabetes consultant. I want cannabis to be treated as legal herbal medicine, self-funded, with patients allowed to grow a small amount to meet their own needs. Indications are that the pharmaceutical industry will set a very high price for synthetic cannabis to use in the treatment of multiple sclerosis but if sufferers cannot be supplied legally they become criminals.

Score 2  – The cost of drugs (c. £10 billion? 2010 figure) is certainly one of the significant factors in the cost of the NHS (c. £115 billion) but only one. Legal or synthetic cannabis, while it might be very important to some, is a relative side issue when discussing the big problem of future NHS funding.

5. Would you put any limit on immigration or do you think the UK has the capacity to absorb the current net immigration figures of over 250,000, year on year?

I think we need a sensible and flexible system of deciding who can enter the country, which takes into account who is leaving. I believe immigration has been a net benefit and can continue to be so. In the future it’s likely that we will need to accept climate change refugees so we need to get better at balancing the needs and provisions for incomers against the needs and provisions of the indigenous and settled. I am not in favour of sending anyone ‘home’. Employers are exerting downward pressure on wages by exploiting new arrivals and this must be tackled.

Score 1 – How on earth can we even begin to control immigration if we are not prepared to send anyone home? Once again, the question was about the sustainability of the current rate of immigration into this, already, densely populated country. Avoiding the issue is not good enough.

6. Do you think that the UK should get rid of its nuclear weapons even if the majority of the electorate wants to keep them?

I believe Mutually Assured Destruction is mad. A deterrent is only credible if you are prepared to use it.

Score 2 – I presume that is a “yes” then. Gerri explains why she disagrees with nuclear weapons, fair enough, but not why a majority view to retain them, if it is that, should be ignored. We should not pick and chose with properly expressed public opinion. That’s not democracy.

7. Should there be a referendum on EU membership. Would you personally vote to stay in or leave?

I believe in a more Swiss like direct democracy, rather than representative democracy but the last two referendums have demonstrated that the Conservative party are very good at using their very deep pockets, strong relationships with vested interests and alliances with right wing media to scare the electorate to vote their way. I think we need to look at their behaviour in the AV vote and Scottish Independence referendum and put in place some checks and balances before a referendum on EU membership. It probably is time for a referendum. I would vote to stay in, with reform where necessary.

Score 2 – Gerri has answered the question but not explained why. Personally I am unconvinced about the conspiracy theory. My in-laws are Scots and I can’t imagine them or the many other Scots I know being easily hoodwinked, intimidated or coerced.

8. All polls indicate that UKIP will have a higher share of the popular vote than the Lib Dems but, under our “first past the post system”, win fewer seats? Do you think that is fair?

Having lived in Scotland I think proportional representation is a fairer system and giving more power to smaller parties makes for a more robust government. But if we do not tackle the underlying reasons why working class people are voting UKIP and if UKIP ever got a majority or enough influence to implement racist policies I would leave the country.

Score 2 – Gerri’s view on the voting system is clearly expressed but the question was about the voting system not UKIP. They were simply used as a topical example because it is the party likely to suffer most in this particular election. The serious accusation of racism is too easily made. I think most people would challenge the notion that immigration control necessarily equals racism.

9. Do you agree with the Guildford Residents Association that the house building target for Guildford Borough should be between 300-350 rather than the 650 figure put forward by Guildford Borough Council in the draft Local Plan?

We need to look at need versus demand. Children of existing residents need to have secure rent and a path to purchase for those who want it. University students, especially the international ones, bring vibrancy to Guildford and are helping to rebuild the local economy. I think we need to decide if we want to keep expanding as a commuter town or whether it is time for us to focus on building a stronger, fairer, more self sufficient, resilient and integrated community. There are many innovative ways to meet housing need and I don’t think we are being creative enough yet.

Score 2 – Sitting on the fence – but I have generously scored two because there are some good points made in the rest of the answer. I particularly like the point made in the last sentence.

10. How do you rate the performance of Guildford Borough Council over the last four years?

My main engagement with GBC has been to attend various planning events. I think they have lost their way regarding the Local Plan, encouraging high rise, high density developments in the centre of Guildford including 113 on the Guildford Plaza [formerly CEGB] site risks repeating the mistakes of the seventies and eighties. I could say lots more but I think the choices are being well articulated by other candidates.

Score 2 – The council’s performance is about more than just the Local Plan. A parliamentary candidate should have a more comprehensive view of local politics and council performance.

What do you think of Gerri Smyth’s answers and of Martin Giles’ scoring and comments? Your view is just as important. Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

Click here to see other candidate interviews.

These candidates are standing for the Guildford constituency in the general election:

Hustings Notice feature

Share This Post

Responses to Candidate Interview: Gerri Smyth – CISTA

  1. Deej Sullivan Reply

    April 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Isn’t local news supposed to be impartial? What is the purpose of ‘scoring’ the candidates answers if it’s not to influence voters?

    For the record I wouldn’t vote for CISTA, we’ve had Royal Commissions on drugs before and the evidence has been routinely ignored. The Green Party are the only party promising to heed the already available evidence and remove cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act without the need for another costly, time-consuming Royal Commission.

    It was made clear that the scoring was only my view. It was done to encourage respondents to answer questions directly. I have been equally critical of all the responses, I believe.

    It is the role of the media to scrutinise those who hold power or aspire to. Complaints are frequently made that politicians avoid answering questions directly. You will frequently see question avoidance challenged in other parts of the media and I believe strongly that it should be.

    Some parts of the media (by the way, why specify local news?) do make recommendations to their readers as to which way to vote – we won’t be. All readers can read the questions, the responses, my comments and then make their own minds up. They can also make their own comments, just as you have. Martin Giles

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 30, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I welcome this innovation as it stimulates debate. What is more makes people actually think.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    May 1, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I too welcome this unique way of presenting the candidates. All too often what is said verbally does not match actions or the written words.

    Well done to the Guildford Dragon for coming up with the idea.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *