Fringe Box



Candidate Interview: Richard Wilson – Labour

Published on: 29 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 29 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.

Richard WilsonRichard Wilson

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 if we are to balance the national books?

The deficit created due to the worldwide financial crash does need to be eliminated before the end of the next parliament. We will do this in three ways. Firstly, every year spending on unprotected departments will be cut while we still have a deficit, e.g. winter fuel allowance for the wealthiest 5% of pensioners. Secondly, some taxes on those who can most afford it will have to rise. Thirdly, we will raise living standards of working people so they can spend more, claim fewer benefits and pay taxes by raising the minimum wage and banning exploitative zero hours contracts.

Score 2 – It is good that Richard recognises the need to eliminate the deficit and it is true that the 2008 crash was a global phenomenon but the Labour government had not been as prudent as they could have been in the years before. Cuts in unprotected departments might adversely affect public services and scrapping winter fuel payments for some will not raise a great deal – but he admits that some taxes will rise.  A VAT raise has been ruled out so will it be income tax, other than for those who earn more than £150k, and, if so, by how much? Raising the minimum wage will be welcomed by many but it might push some prices up if the costs are passed on.

Labour logo2. How can we afford to maintain ever increasing demand on NHS services?

The future of the NHS can be assured despite rising demand. We need to find the money to fund many more staff: 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 3,000 more midwives. Instead of taxing working people or borrowing, we will use a mansion tax on properties over £2m. This is not enough though, we also have to bring social care into the NHS and join up healthcare from home to hospital. The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement because it typifies how British people want to care for each other. This election is about saving the NHS for future generations.

Score 1 – I hope Richard is right but the first sentence sounds glib to me, especially as the amount of extra cash required could be huge. He admits that the mansion tax alone won’t do it so where will the funding come from? Encouraged by the SNP are they going to borrow more, increasing the already huge national debt for future generations? The IFS report said that they had been “considerably more vague” than other parties about their borrowing plans. The extra staff posts listed sounds impressive but won’t it take years to train these people? And surely the last sentence is scaremongering: none of the main parties are planning to scrap the NHS.

3. 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 annually?

I would not put an arbitrary limit on immigration. However, my priority is to represent working people so I am concerned about migrant workers being used by employers to undercut British workers. We pass a new law to prevent this from happening and not pay benefits to immigrants for the first two years. Overall, immigration is a good thing for Britain. It enhances our society economically, socially and culturally. To maintain our standard of living we require a steady stream of skilled migrants.

Score 1 – Another candidate dodging the question on whether the current rate of immigration is sustainable, especially for those of us in the most densely populated parts of the UK. Labour’s policies of re-introducing embarks checks and lengthening the benefit qualification system will not have a significant impact: most migrants come to work, not scrounge. But they all need housing, health care, school places and they will have an increased carbon footprint. Why won’t our politicians face up to this?

4. Would you vote to retain Trident?

I would vote to retain Trident and replace it at the end of its operational life. I would like to see a world with no nuclear weapons but I do not think unilaterally disarming now would help to achieve that. I am an airline pilot and recently I heard London air traffic control on the emergency radio frequency attempting to contact a Russian bomber in their airspace which was testing our defences. I hope I live to see a time when the world is safe and free from nuclear weapons but that time has not yet come.

Score 3 – Clear answer and an interesting example of the threatening behaviour the country faces. Horrible though they certainly are, perhaps nuclear weapons have already helped to deter aggression from some world leaders.

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

The United Kingdom is still very much in charge of its own destiny. However, the EU should be reformed to put working people first. It was never a socialist project, quite the opposite: big companies have a lot of say in Europe. Despite that, I believe that Britain’s future is within the EU. Every day in the news we see that people throughout the world see Europe as a beacon of freedom, prosperity and peace. We do not need to give further powers to Europe but Britain should be leading the EU not walking away.

Score 1 – Richard says we are still in charge but we can’t control our borders fully, make commodities zero rated for VAT, prevent foreign fishing in British waters, run our own agricultural policy, or make final judicial decisions. The Common Market that we voted to remain a member of in 1975 has morphed into far more of a political union than was ever envisaged by most at the time and the changes, especially the Lisbon treaty, have been made without the explicit consent of the electorate. If we voted for it fair enough but the lack of a mandate on this needs to be faced up to.

6. Given that neither the Conservatives or the Labour Party is likely to muster more than 40% of the votes cast do you think that “first past the post” is still the best and fairest electoral system? Under the current system isn’t voting Labour a waste of a vote in Guildford?

I am not going to defend the first-past-the-post system for Westminster – I voted for AV. In Guildford, no Labour vote will be wasted. It is clear that many Labour supporters voted tactically for the Lib Dems in 2010 but it is equally clear they will never do that again. None of them expected Nick Clegg to enable one of the harshest right wing governments in our lifetimes. People tell me that the privatisation of the NHS was something they can never forgive them for. We will find out how many Labour voters there really are in Guildford on 7 May.

Score 3 – Straight answer and I suspect Richard is right, in as much as Labour supporters who voted tactically to support the Lib Dems, and try and prevent a Tory win, will not do so this time.

7. As a Scot yourself do you agree that a Labour/SNP coalition or any working arrangement between the two parties should be out of the question?

A Labour-SNP coalition is totally out of the question. Ed Miliband has ruled it out. The SNP have very little bargaining power – they cannot support a Tory government because that would be toxic with the vast majority of voters in Scotland after the destruction wrought by Thatcher on their communities. If they want to vote against a Labour Queen’s Speech then their MPs have a democratic right to do so but they won’t have any say what’s in it.

Score 2 – Another straight answer but what will happen if a minority Labour government required SNP support would there be no discussions and no trade-offs? It is a big question. English voters might not be happy if 50 or so SNP MPs, elected by just a couple of million voters, have undue influence while wishing to break up our union.

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?

The housing crisis is desperate. We need many more new homes and a radical government intervention in the broken housing market. I would side with the number obtained by the most qualified independent experts and I expect that would be the higher one. Planning matters are rightly decided by local councillors but as MP I would ensure they remember to look after the interests of all constituents, not just those who already own property. We need at least 200,000 new homes per year in this country and I would vote to achieve that.

Score 2 – It is a clear answer but Richard has more faith in these “independent experts” than some of us, we can’t vote them out if we don’t agree. Neither can we vote out the Planning Inspectorate who will have the final say over Guildford’s Local Plan. Richard, a member of the Campaign to Save Rural England, is on record as saying that we should not use the green belt for these new houses, so how does he imagine we are going to squeeze them all in to the 11% of the borough that is not green belt?

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

Abysmal. The local plan process was a debacle and wasted huge sums of public money. Meanwhile, Guildford is still incredibly badly planned – through traffic is brought into the centre of town and held there for as long as possible. They have pumped up council tax repeatedly and hit the poorest hardest. It is a stain on this borough that we have foodbanks in one of the wealthiest parts of the country. Tory and Lib Dem councillors voted against a Labour motion to end evictions of families hit by the bedroom tax. Disgracefully wrong priorities. 0/10.

Score 2 – Richard’s 0 out of 10 – is too harsh in my book. Many council services have been delivered to a good standard over the last four years and I am not sure that we can lay all the blame on the council for the existence of foodbanks. But many would agree with Richard’s criticism over the Local Plan.

10. Why should anyone trust the Labour Party to manage the national economy given the track records of recent Labour governments?

In 2008, before the worldwide financial crash, Britain had the lowest national debt to GDP ratio of the G7. Unbeknown to anyone, we were hosting some international banks which had speculated wildly on the US secondary market in sub-prime mortgages. When this all blew up, we rescued the economy by taking over much of the banking system and supporting mortgage holders and small businesses. It was not Labour’s spending on schools and hospitals which caused the worldwide crash. Labour would build an economy for the many, not the wealthiest few. That is the choice on 7 May.

Score 2 – It is true that the 2008 crash cannot be blamed on the Labour party but they could have been more prudent when times were good and deregulating the banks might have been a contributory factor. “Labour would build an economy for the many, not the wealthiest few,” perhaps – but the rich got a lot richer in the UK between 1997 and 2008 under Labour too. To some of us, longer in the tooth, it does seem that Labour has shown, over the years, while sometimes talking tough, a greater propensity to borrow and spend. Could we afford more of that?

What do you think of Richard Wilson’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:

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Responses to Candidate Interview: Richard Wilson – Labour

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    April 30, 2015 at 8:10 am

    I think that Martin Giles is very kind to give the pathetic response to question 3 a score of plus 1. I would mark it as minus 10. It is easy to see why Surrey is a socialist free county.

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