Our very own Southampton student, Thomas Gravatt, is running as the Southampton Test Liberal Democrat’s candidate for the upcoming general election and I had the pleasure of sitting down and catching up with him.
So Thomas, how do you feel about your new role?
Well my housemate called it the worse job interview in the world, six weeks to earn the votes of thousands of people.
But I guess now more than ever before, is the time for young people to be getting involved in politics and having their voices heard. I’m excited to have the opportunity play a part.
How did you get involved with the Liberal Democrats in the first place?
It was largely a case of being in the right place at the right time. I didn’t become a candidate by walking into the party and say ‘I want to run for parliament now’, it was more the case of coming in and saying ‘I want to hand out leaflets’ and it all kicked off from there.
I volunteered myself as candidate because we all knew there was a chance of a general election. Like any good party does, we prepared long before the announcement.
What policies are most important to you?
Number one for me is environmental change. The world is being destroyed but effectively we are doing nothing about it. During the collation the Lib Dem’s introduced the green investment bank, which the conservatives just scrapped. They also want to tax solar panels for carbon tax, which is absurd.
If I am elected, I will make effective and important changes to our city. I want to introduce cycling paths to encourage cycling and provide cyclists better safety. I also want to build electric car charger ports because although they are the minority of cars currently, this will change in the future and also deal with the pollution by making large ships plug into the electricity on the land instead of running their engines in the ocean and causing unnecessary pollution.
It’s so vitally important that we increase funding to the NHS and social care. But also we desperately need to reevaluate the way this country deals with Mental Health; it needs to be on par with the way we treat Physical Health. It is unacceptable that citizens struggling with mental illnesses have to wait months on end to get the treatment and help they need.
Southampton is very bad for homelessness, I was just feuding on twitter with a local Labour Councillor, who was arguing that my point about homelessness isn’t valid because they are dealing with it. Well the way they have “dealt with homelessness” is through the Public Place Protection Order. This basically fines homeless people £100 for begging. Nothing makes me angrier than when they claim to be doing good work but doing the opposite.
Homelessness is an example of the extremes of inequality in society, and in my opinion, housing needs to be the base line for helping. We need to provide more spaces in rehab and accommodation that is drug free so they can progress and not begin the downwards spiral again.
The homeless are treated like criminals instead of people who need help for their addiction.
How is campaigning going? What has been the most effective way to get through to the student demographic?
I’ll be pushing a lot of facebook/social media and running stalls on campus to try and win the student vote. The other day we registered 200 students here at Uni to vote, which was so fulfilling. However, there is 24,000 students here so we’re not there yet – but we will get there.
I just want to remind students that they can register at both home and Uni and only vote for one. The safe thing to do is register twice so wherever you are you can vote. Obviously, don’t vote twice.
Recently University fees have been increased again to £9,250. New legislation was also passed at the end of April that allows Universities to increase this even further in 2020-21.
What would the Lib Dem’s do to help students that are soon to face this situation?
Personally, myself and a lot of Lib Dem’s would vote to scrap the number entirely, and work towards increasing maintenance loans, particularly for middle earning families who struggle because they don’t get the full loans and their parents can’t afford it. It’s time we just scrape the threshold of not getting enough.
In an ideal world you would let every student take out the full loan, it needs changing.