Jeremy Moulton, 38, is the candidate for the Conservative Party in the Southampton Test constituency, a constituency that includes Highfield campus, Portswood and Swaythling. A few weeks ago I was able to track him down and quiz on his parties policies for students and the campaign in general.
What might be of particular interest to readers is Jeremy’s plea to voters not to be taken in by the Liberal Democrats, who were yet to make their big splash in the debates, and his interesting views on the future of Southampton University.
WS. On the Conservative Party website it says that you aim to create an extra 10,000 university places, is this a target of yours?
JM. Definitely, it’s particularly important for a university town like Southampton. It will be funded by the early repayment of student loans. There are people who have graduated and have good jobs, and can probably afford to pay back their loan, but they are just keeping it ticking over. If they are incentivised to pay back their loans the extra money that we will have coming in nationally we can use to fund extra places in the next academic year, so starting in September an extra 10,000 places.
This is specifically because of the economic doldrums that we are in, and so there is a lot of demand for student places because people are struggling to get jobs.
WS. At the moment there is a lot of talk about cuts in Education. Here at Southampton sports studies and foundation education courses are being cut. Do you agree with this?
JM. I think they are between a rock and a hard place, higher education has been cut by £1bn pounds, in the last six months. Now you can’t take £1bn pounds out of higher education funding and expect universities to continue as if nothing has changed.
I think Southampton University needs to consider its position vis a vis Southampton Solent. Solent is a much more vocational based university with 1500 sports studies undergraduates. The question is, is it sensible for Southampton to spend its resources on a similar sort of course but with only 10 or 15 people on it?
WS. There is also talk of cutting staff numbers. Would you say that in general the university is too big?
JM. No, I’m keen that the university grows. The university is a huge part of the local economy, and a lot of people are employed through the university, I myself did my masters degree here and so I’m keen that the uni thrives.
But I do think that all public sector bodies need to seriously think about their funding positions because going forward there isn’t going to be a lot of extra money around. So the things that they need to think about are how to bring in extra money from business? And postgraduate courses as well.
Future [increases in]student numbers are going to be in postgraduate courses, masters courses, overseas student perhaps. I think that the number of undergraduates, realistically, is not going to grow that much because of those funding pressures and things like business funding can fill the gap. Certainly with my conversations with the vice chancellor they are the sorts of things he is thinking about.
WS. Students in general don’t tend to vote for the Conservative party, there is a big following for the Lib Dems and to an extent the Labour Party. Why do you think this is firstly, and what is it that you are offering students that other parties aren’t?
JM. That has not been my experience. Certainly there was a huge Conservative society when I was there and the Lib Dems have always been the smallest on campus, though that may be different now. And I’m getting really good responses when I go around visiting people.
WS. But the Lib Dems are offering to abolish tuition fees [over a six year period]and that has helped get a lot of the student vote, whereas there is not a lot of eye-catching polices from the Conservatives aimed at students.
JM. I think the main difference between the two main parties and the Liberal Democrats is that they can say what they want because they are never going to form a government. If in a few weeks time there is a Conservative government the sorts of things I’m telling you now, they will expect us to implement. The Liberal Democrats know that they are not going to be in government so they can make lots of unfunded promises telling the things that people want to hear knowing that they are not going to implement them. We are realistic with what we can and cannot do and I think that the Liberal Democrats in the last six months have been all over the place. Are they going to scrap them [tuition fees], are they not.
WS. So is the lack of success due to an image problem for the party?
JM. I don’t think so, maybe in the past, but with David Cameron as leader I think we’ve got a young vibrant leader who is very in touch with young people and my own experiences on campus is that we are making huge progress.
I’m certainly hoping to get a lot of student vote conservatives in five weeks time, because they could swing the election result. My message to students in my constituency of Southampton Test is do not vote Liberal Democrat because if you do that you’re going to get Gordon Brown back in.
WS. Why is David Cameron the best man to run the country?
JM. Well compare him to Gordon Brown, who whenever he is criticised on Prime Minister’s Questions becomes aggressive and retreats in to his shell. I think Cameron is the opposite, he is relaxed, calm thoughtful. He’d be the sort of Prime Minister who would go home in the evening and despite all the worries of the world would actually be able to spend time with his family and relax and then go back to work the following day refreshed.
I don’t think Gordon Brown is like that. He is a tormented man, buffeted by the winds, rushed around, getting angry with himself and his colleagues, making bad decisions. I think that that Osbourne is the same as Cameron in that regard, they are quite cool heads. And with the tough decisions that are going to have to be taking over the next few years they are the sorts of traits that you want.
WS. And finally what sort of a conservative are you?
JM. I would say I am socially liberal in that I believe in live and let live… in economic policy I am fairly liberal. It’s private business that creates wealth, that creates the taxes which then pay for public services and I think that if you have a bigger state that quashes the wealth creating part and means a lower standard of living for everyone.