With the Snap General Election drawing ever closer, Wessex Scene sat down with Southampton Test’s Conservative Candidate, Paul Holmes to find out what he has to offer for Southampton Test constituents if he was elected as MP and his views on national issues such as Brexit.
So Paul, I think the first thing to ask is why did you get involved in politics and why you are running as the Conservative MP for Southampton Test?
Growing up, I became very passionate about the direction that the country was heading. I grew up in quite a deprived part of London, saw what was going on there and did not necessarily like the direction from which Tony Blair was taking the country. You hear a lot from politicians about getting involved for public service but for me it genuinely was that. I stood in quite a deprived part of Southampton in 2008 for the Southampton City Council elections while I was a student and won that seat and worked to improve the area. I want to improve an area I love and have an affinity with.
I am running in Southampton Test because I have spent most of my working life in the constituency. I served in the Council for four years and have an affinity with the area. In accordance with my records for elections, I only stand in areas where I have an affinity and where I care about. I only applied for Southampton Test as a seat on the national list and gave up my job for it.
So did you ever run for office in London where you were from and first motivated to get involved in politics?
I ran for Mitcham and Morden in 2015, and you can tell by the fact that I am sat here today that I did not win. But London has similar issues to Southampton with huge pockets of deprivation, under-performing schools and infrastructure issues. I think my background gives me a fresh set of eyes and a new impetus into making sure that the area gets better.
I think our readers will want to know what your stance on University tuition fees is and whether you agree with them rising with inflation?
This is a difficult one, because you’ll probably say that the Labour party have pledged to scrap tuition fees. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have tuition fees as Labour like to play on with their pledge to scrap them. Unfortunately, however, we do not live in an ideal world and we face a lot of challenges over the next five years. Labour’s manifesto has £58 billion of blackholes and in an ideal world you would not have tuition fees. I was in the first year of students to start paying tuition fees for instance. We need to make sure that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, like myself, are not deprived of access to University.
With regards to rising with inflation, I think that is a sensible thing to do. Inflation is quite low at the minute and there does need to be some kind of benchmark. If we want a University system that is among the best class in the world then we have to pay for it. I think it’s irresponsible for Labour to promise things that they cannot afford.
So you said that you got involved in politics through your own dislike towards Blair’s policies, was the introduction of tuition fees a factor that got you involved in politics?
It wasn’t a big factor for me to get involved in politics. I do, however, remember at the time that it was a genuine worry coming from a council estate in London with £3000 a year as a loan for University tuition. But with the maintenance loans we were supported and actually people who took £3000 loans pay more of their monthly income back into these loans than those who took £9000 loans.
You talked about the importance of maintenance loans for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, what is your stance on the Government scrapping the maintenance grant?
It’s a tricky one, in an ideal world the maintenance grant was a good thing, but what has been put in place with the maintenance loans is a decent support structure. It is not ideal and I accept that many of your readers will think that it is not ideal but there are still mechanisms to which people can access University education.
I am aware that there are 15,000 students in my constituency and that this is an important issue and if elected I will expect that this will be at the top of my inbox and something that I will be working with the Students’ Union and the students on.