We had a chat with our local Parliamentary candidates ahead of last Tuesday’s hustings. There are five candidates running to be Loughborough’s next MP, and four of them were on campus to make their cases and answer your questions. Here’s what we learned …
The Green candidate, Philip Leicester, works at Loughborough University where he (very aptly) researches renewable energy. Given that we had a limited time for our interview, Leicester had a lot to say – keeping his answers more concise could have allowed us to cover more ground. In policy terms, the Greens are offering a deal for students which would lead to abolished tuition fees and also reduce the price of train tickets. In the debate, Leicester came across as humorous (he quipped “of course” when asked if he expected to win, despite his party taking only 3.5% of the vote in 2015) though his use of jargon – including a rant about marketisation – may have been lost on some viewers.
Andy McWilliam, the UKIP candidate, did not attend despite being invited to do so. He would likely have faced some tricky questions scepticism about his Party’s purpose, given that Brexit now apparently means Brexit. The answer, I believe, is that they want to ensure that Brexit is performed in a certain way and, importantly, as quickly as possible. My primary question to him would have been what he would commit to do to help the students of Loughborough if elected. Given his Party Leader’s recent comments on the burkha (he wants to ban women from wearing it) and the death penalty (he’s a fan), it would have been interesting to hear McWilliam’s thoughts on those topics too. DM us (@Labelonline) if you want to chat, Andy!
Labour have selected Jewel Miah as their candidate. Miah grew up in Loughborough and works in the town. Labour have made plenty of commitments to students, including abolishing tuition fees, re-introducing maintenance grants and banning zero hours contracts and unpaid internships. Sound too good to be true? That’s the argument against it from those who question Labour’s costings. The Labour candidate incurred the wrath of Ed Radford (the event’s presenter) at times due to giving overly-long answers. Miah didn’t explain the concept of a ‘National Education Service’ in terms that I could understand in our interview, though he did receive a round of applause once he finished his closing remarks down in Room 1.
Nicky Morgan was our MP prior to Parliament being dissolved last month. As the incumbent, Morgan has a record to stand on and she said that she’d been proud to work in partnership with our university and union, as well as offering internship opportunities to our students. Morgan emphasised that Theresa May and the Conservatives were, in her opinion, the best people to negotiate Brexit. Morgan struggled to rule out further rises in tuition fees during the next parliament, as she conceded that new rules would allow high performing institutions to charge more. Morgan faced a tricky query from the audience about her expenses, but gave the assured response (to paraphrase: money is needed, and you can find out how it’s spent online) which you would expect from somebody who was a senior member of David Cameron’s Cabinet.
The Lib Dem candidate, David Walker, used to work in the University’s Geography department. In our pre-debate discussion, he anticipated that tuition fees would come up, and offered a defence of the Liberal Democrat half of the coalition government which introduced them, before explaining his Party’s pledge to review fees and reinstate maintenance grants. Walker made plenty of comments that were hard to disagree with and the high point (if you’ll pardon the pun) was an explanation of why the Lib Dems plan to legalise Cannabis. His Party will continue to face opposition on the grounds of their opposition to Brexit, and whilst he conveyed their nuanced view well, dropping names such as Guy Verhofstadt may have meant little to those who don’t consider themselves to be politicos.
None of the candidates had a bad night. In fact, they all came across as personable and had a good grasp of their policy platforms. But let’s be honest, the winner of this election will be either Jewel Miah or Nicky Morgan, based on the results last time around. Nicky Morgan will be hoping to win again with an increased majority (as she did in 2015), though Miah will be buoyed by the fact that Loughborough had a Labour MP from 1997-2010 and are doing well in the polls at the moment. We’ll know for sure on Friday. Keep an eye on Label for our reflections on the result.
– By Liam David Hopley, Head of Design