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Candidate Interview: Kelly-Marie Blundell – Liberal Democrats

Published on: 27 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 27 Apr, 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.

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat

Kelly-Marie Blundell

1. 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?

Voters are being presented with a false question at this election – with Labour’s proposals, we will spend ourselves into another recession, and with the Conservatives, we will see public services and welfare cut to the bone. We, the Lib Dems, say it doesn’t have to be that way, we can pay back the deficit, but fairly, ensuring we protect public services and still don’t land future generations with mountains of debts.

Score – 2 The middle way is the Lib Dems normal policy position and it does have an attraction but will they really be able to maintain their desired level of spending without increased borrowing or taxes?

LibDems logo2. How can we afford to maintain ever increasing NHS spending?

I’m proud of the NHS, and we have to protect it. With an ageing population we need to ensure the elderly are well cared for, and it is inevitable costing priorities will change. The Lib Dems set out in January plans to increase NHS spending by £8bn, raising money not from cuts but from cracking down on tax avoidance. The IFS has said our plans for funding the NHS are the most workable out of all manifestos.

We must ensure that the NHS remains free at the point of use and that quality of care is protected for all patients.

Score 2 – Whether £8bn will be sufficient is uncertain. Even so, the IFS report also said: “They [the Lib Dems] have failed to spell out details of how they would achieve much of their tightening, relying heavily on unspecified measures to reduce tax avoidance and evasion ([by]£7 billion)…”

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

The problem with large figures being banded about is we do not have facts on immigration. Labour removed ‘exit checks’ from our borders, and as a result, the figure cannot be truly ‘net’. The coalition re-introduced exit checks just before the election, so figures will be come clearer. The Lib Dems are committed to stronger borders, ensuring we have facts on immigration.

We should be proud to be a country people come to. We have large numbers of British people who live both in and outside of Europe, and migrants to the UK contribute significantly to our society and taxes.

Score 1 – Ducked the question, head in the sand. The decision to remove embarks checks, which did not produce stats on emigration, was taken by the Tories in the early 90s and finalised by Labour after 1997. The large numbers “banded about” are ONS figures. Of course there is always a margin of error. The ONS had to revise their figures upwards after the 2011 census because the returns showed a greater increase in the national population than their earlier net migration figure could reconcile. There is an issue and it needs to be faced.

4. Would you vote to retain Trident?

The global stage has changed significantly over the last twenty years, and nuclear threats to the UK are no longer as prolific as they have been. Instead, the more insidious threats of terrorism and cyber criminals need to be tackled more forcefully.

The Liberal Democrat policy is to work towards multilateral disarmament, removing nuclear weapons from the world in consensus with other countries. We would therefore support a reduction in the current Trident system, from four nuclear warheads to two.

Score 1 – Nuclear threats less prolific? Within the last 20 years Pakistan, India and North Korea have developed nuclear weapons. Israel is strongly believed to possess them and some suspect Iran of wanting to. Unfortunately, it is impossible to “un-invent” a weapon. Ending the 24hr Trident patrol cover could be seen as seriously weakening our deterrent.

5. Hasn’t the UK ceded too much sovereignty to the EU to be truly in charge of its own destiny anymore?

We have 74 elected MEPs in Europe, many of whom vote and decide policy on our behalf. Far from being top-down interference, we have elected our MEPs and must engage with them about our concerns.

Let’s not forget, the European Union arose out of the second World War, and as a result we have seen peace across the continent.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, but we can only exact change from the inside. Britain is the gateway to Europe for many international countries, and without this, we will lose alliances and significantly trading opportunities that the European Union provides.

Score 2 – There are 751 MEPs in total. The 74 from the UK include 20 Labour, 19 Conservative, and 1 Lib Dem. UKIP who want to leave the EU have 24 MEPs and secured the largest share (27%) of the popular vote at the European elections. But even if the UK MEPs voted en bloc they cannot necessarily control what goes on in the UK. However it is true that there might be economic disadvantages to leaving the EU and that changes to the union, however unlikely, can only be achieved from within.

6. 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?

The Liberal Democrats have always been committed to electoral reform, hence we ensured the AV [Alternative Vote] referendum would be held in the coalition government. However, this was unsuccessful.

Indeed, the Liberal Democrats had 25% of the vote in 2010, yet very low levels of seats. The Conservatives only held 33% of the vote share.

We need a commitment to electoral reform, including the right to recall MPs.

Score 2 – So I infer that Kelly-Marie thinks it will not be fair if UKIP has a higher proportion of the vote but less seats than the Lib Dems. (The SNP vote might skew the result even more.) The Lib Dem manifesto, more explicitly, says: “We want to introduce proportional representation at national and local levels, with MPs and councillors elected by the Single Transferable Vote system. We will also lower the voting age to 16 and move to an elected House of Lords.”

7. If necessary, would you prefer the Lib Dems to form a coalition with the Conservatives or the Labour Party?

The Liberal Democrats will always act on interests of the country, rather than putting party alliances first. The outcome of the general election is most likely to be a hung parliament, and voters need to decide whether they want Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage or Nick Clegg as the Deputy Prime Minister.

We will commence negotiations with the largest party where there is a clear chance to form a majority.

Score 3 – The last sentence is clear enough, even if it does not reveal Kelly-Marie’s preference. But, of course, it might not be the voters that decide proportionately who is the largest party, in terms of seats won.

8. 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?

This goes to the heart of this election. Guildford Lib Dems worked incredibly hard during the consultation periods to meet with as many different communities as possible. The problem is now being painted as a town-vs-country debate. We must make sure that the local plan puts forward
solutions for all our communities.

We have always said we will promote brownfield first, ensure infrastructure is sufficient and only develop proportionately to existing areas.

The housing number is based on low development in the last decade, as well as predictions based on birth rates, business growth and capacity in the local area.

Score 1 – I am still no clearer which figure Kelly-Marie favours and I am not convinced by the claims that the debate is town v. country. I think many in the town want to maintain our green belt too. Of course brownfield development is preferred but sites cannot be developed, at present, without the consent of the owners. Migration from other countries and other regions is likely to be a far bigger factor than the birth rate.

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

In 2011 local Conservatives said they’d protect the green belt and keep council tax low. Yet last year, they planned to develop the green belt and have raised council tax repeatedly, despite the availability of government subsidies to avoid this. The New Homes Bonus was put into reserves, not used for communities, while vanity projects like £1m ‘Visitors Centre’ in Stoke Park were proposed.

Lib Dem councillors have fought hard but with a strong Conservative majority, we are always defeated with an unbalanced council. This is why we proposed a return to a committee-style system and delivered action on this.

Score 2 – So unsurprisingly Kelly-Marie does not rate the performance of the Tory council but she has given some reasons.

I understood that the Lib Dems at GBC had reached agreement with the Conservative group to recommend a hybrid version of governance not return to a committee system.

10. How can voters trust the Liberal Democrats after your failure to deliver your manifesto promise on tuition fees after the last general election.

Tuition fees was the hardest decision of the coalition. The Conservatives wanted uncapped fees, Labour supported the Brown Review which demanded uncapped fees. We made sure there was a cap, and that no student paid a penny up front. We also provided loans for part-time students, helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds study.

This election will almost certainly be a hung parliament, and therefore change how all manifestos are produced. I will continue to stand up for my values and ensure we work towards a stronger economy and a fairer society, with opportunity for everyone.

Score 3 – It is true that pre-election promises can not always be kept when in coalition. The electorate have been unreasonable in blaming the Lib Dems on this. Of course, given the likelihood of another coalition or minority government it means that all manifesto promises should be regarded warily. I am not sure if that is what Kelly-Marie means when she says: “This election will almost certainly be a hung parliament, and therefore change how all manifestos are produced.”

What do you think of  Kelly-Marie Blundell’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.

Tomorrow we will be publishing our interviews with UKIP candidate, Harry Aldridge and Susan Parker of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG).

Click here to see other candidate interviews.

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

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Responses to Candidate Interview: Kelly-Marie Blundell – Liberal Democrats

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 27, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Regarding Ms Blundell’s answer to Q10, can the Lib Dems be trusted when they are prepared to allow building in the green belt and “Zone 3b” flood plain and they believe the link road has already been approved. They don’t know what its truly going on.

    Quote re. link road “I discussed the issue with the Guildford Lib Dem councillors as I know many people have approached us about it. I have taken on board your comments on flooding. However, given the Environment Agency approved it [They haven’t. In fact they have stated “Do Not Build on the flood plain!”], when they refused several applications directly beside the River Wey in town, makes me more comfortable that this is not a significant risk. [Except flooding to Bowers Lane and Burpham Sewers.]

    I understand the link road has now been approved.(it hasn’t, unless predetermination is now permissible!) I do hope this does not fuel the desire for green belt development (the link road is in the Green Belt!). I have always been clear on this, we should promote brownfield sites first.” end quote

    As the second most likely to win in Guildford, I am extremely concerned Miss Blundell is either not in control of the full facts or is suffering Greenbelt belt, flood plain blindness – not good for the future…..

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    April 28, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Re question 7, the suggestion that we will have to choose between Sturgeon, Clegg or Farage as deputy PM (a non job if ever there was one) then it is clear that between that lot the last named is the only possible one.

    At least he might make Dave keep his promise on a referendum to get out of the hated EU.

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