In the run up to the 2015 General Election, Wessex Scene are interviewing the candidates running in all three Southampton Constituencies. Here, I interview Liberal Democrat Candidate for Southampton Itchen Eleanor Bell.
In general there are so many things that it’s difficult to make it one only, but I would say public services, health, social care, housing – all of those together. You really can’t have a cohesive society going forward without all of those things… Obviously that’s combined with the economy thriving, a vibrant economy for Southampton and jobs available for everyone… It all goes together towards wellbeing.
What can you offer to students?
I personally would like to see education being free and funded by taxation, but I can’t guarantee that. Many members I’ve spoken to want no tuition fees or small tuition fees, but I don’t know if it’ll be reflected in our policies. It was actually Labour who introduced tuition fees in 1997, which wasn’t in their manifesto either. With regards for tuition fees, its hard to say what we would do. You have to remember that tuition fees fund universities – labour haven’t said where they’ll get the extra funding from if they cut them.
Lib dems are proposing subsidies on travel – I think a discount of 2/3. We also want to improve the situation for mature students.
What are the Lib Dem policies on climate change and renewable energy?
Liberal democrats in Southampton and nationally are very interested in all renewable energy. We want houses insulated properly – they have good standards in Scandinavia and we want to catch up with that. All new builds have to reach a certain standard of energy efficiency for new builds.. sadly (I will blame the conservatives for this), those standards have been watered down in the interests of business.
Specifically to Southampton, I will be looking at trying to build on the potential for tidal energy off the isle of Wight. This could be a big advantage for everyone, bringing a lot of jobs to the area. Each area of the UK could have its own forms of renewable energy that are suited to it.
Could there be any disadvantages to tidal energy in Southampton?
The main disadvantages to this are visual. My impression was from the conference I went to on the subject that it was very high on the agenda that there wouldn’t be any changes made that would disrupt shipping or the local wildlife.
What was your opinion on the channel 4 documentary Immigration Street?
I’ve seen that from the outside because it wasn’t in my constituency, but I think it’s important to the whole of Southampton. The people of Derby road were very angry and so were wider communities in Southampton. They felt it was painting a biased picture. I saw the one hour that was shown and I saw a lot of aggro, but this was caused by the film crews being there. My understanding is that there is much more cohesion and friendliness between communities than would have been depicted in that documentary. The documentary makers seemed reasonable but they seemed to have a failure of communication – people were probably worried after the ‘Benefits Street’ documentary that something similar would happen there.
Do you see any party other than Labour or the Tories holding the majority of power this election?
It’s very likely that either the Labour party or the Conservative party get the most votes, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the only party in parliament. Some parties come and go. For example, the BNP have come and now arguably gone from British politics entirely. UKIP haven’t been around for a long time, but are getting very popular; at the moment they’re a party of protest – this used to be the Lib Dems! The Green party have been around for a long time, but have had a lot of attention recently – they have a very different agenda to UKIP. I like a lot of their green policies, but they don’t really have much experience of power and I think some of their policies beyond environmentalism reflect this. Whether in many years – as they get more experience and things change – we are governed by the Green party (or another party) I can’t say.
In the event of a hung parliament, where are the Lib Dems likely to stand?
A hung parliament seems very likely… more so than the last time – almost inevitable. The Liberal Democrats will stand for holding left and right to account. It’s fair to say that the conservatives were not be our natural partners, but it was a matter of arithmetic in the last election. We were negotiating with both of these parties last time, but our negotiations with Labour broke down.
If there is a hung parliament there are two options – a coalition, or something called confidence and supply agreement… This is where a party works with the minority party with most seats indirectly by voting with (or against) them on their policies on a case-by-case basis.
Which party will you side with this time?!
Either Labour or Conservatives will have the most votes but maybe not a majority. We will look very seriously at a coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour. In the past we would have been more ideologically more tuned with Labour, but they’ve done some strange things like deregulating the economy and bringing in tuition fees in 1997. If considering a coalition, we will hold an emergency special conference with all of our members to discuss and vote for the options.
A list of all candidates running in Southampton and Winchester can be seen here.