Who is the best Prime Minister of all time?
Favourite Prime Minister? You know what, I feel like everyone in the Labour party says this, but it’s Clement Attlee, because the NHS for me. That’s everybody’s favorite public institution and I thinks its everyones favorite Labour achievement, so I suppose it has to be Attlee.
Whose been the best Labour leader for the last 30 years?
In the last 30 years? So we’re looking at; Starmer, Corbyn, Miliband, Brown, Blair. You know, I mean look, they’ve all got their advantages, especially the ones who have won elections, but out of the them, I’m going to say Keir Starmer. I think that he is someone with good political judgements, I think he reflects the country that we are in, and I think the policies we are putting forward now are really out there and connecting with people. He’s got a way of speaking with people out there, with the electorate that I don’t think we’ve had before in at least, this past decade.
In the press release of when your candidacy was announced, you said “I’ll be putting forward a new plan with fresh ideas” could you name some of these ideas?
First off, public transport. Railways in particular, I’m from Oswestry and we have to be one of the biggest towns in the West Midlands which doesnt have a railway station. And for me, it’s the opportunities that come with that, so we want more railways stations and we want better bus services. Opportunities are also about, not just ways people can connect with the rest of the country, its about bringing good quality, high skilled jobs to the area. So there’s two big employers here; there’s BT in Oswestry and theres Muller in Market Drayton, and both of them are cutting jobs at the moment. So I think the challenge for the people who are standing up for our area, is to bring those kind of jobs, not just to defend the jobs are on the front at the moment, but to bring new jobs, exciting jobs. So you know, it’s a combination really of infrastructure and jobs, but we’re somewhere at the least the last few decades, has never had anyone stand up for us. Thats what I’m trying to do. I’m a local lad, and I’m running a local campaign. It’s about bringing opportunities to the area.
Would the train station be something you’d consider for a first Private Members Bill?
I wouldn’t commit to that now. The reason being, im not sure that the kind of… basically what I’m saying is, I will do everything in my power to get Oswestry a train station, but I’m not sure a Private Members Bill is the right way to do it. The reason being, that you need support from across the house on a Private Members Bill and so usually for, I guess, national policies I suppose.
Right now, there is a lack of trust between the electorate and MPs. With all parties contributing to an extent, what will you do to combat this?
You know what, it’s a sense of decency. I’m a local candidate in this by election, I grew up in Oswestry, I went to school here, I started working life here and I think your absolutely right, we need to rebuild trust with people. And in part, that means, having in North Shropshire, someone who represents people. It goes right from the bottom, right to the top. So, at a local level we have, I wont go into depth here but if you google Vince Hunt, as a councillor, a Tory councillor a few years back who basically, as a councillor… well i wont go into detail because I don’t want to start libeling people but if you Google Vince Hunt you’ll see it. But it goes right to the top of government as well, and in Kier Starmer, we have a clear alternative to the Prime Minister. Thats exactly the kind of politics I believe in, a sense of decency.
This is a very historically Conservative seat. Are you worried that there will be a split in the vote with yourself, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens?
No, I’m not actually, I’m quite excited. I’ll tell you the truth. We’ve spoken to around a thousand people, and one person is thinking about voting Lib Dem, I think one or two Greens. Its a two-horse race between the Labour and the tories, and it always has been around here. In 1997, we were a few thousand votes from winning, and we’re not far off that political climate today, so people are wanting change and theres only one way to get that in North Shropshire, and thats to vote Labour. And I’m a local candidate, and that message is cutting through. People understand that im from the area, and I want to fight for the area.
I mean, you say that it’s a climate similar to 1997, but in many ways it is also very different; in ‘97, Labour were ahead by a lot. Does that not concern you a bit?
It doesn’t concern me in the slightest. Look at how much progress Keir Starmer has made in the last few years since he became Labour leader and look how much progress has been made in the past 12 months. It was always going to be difficult during the height of the pandemic, when Keir and members of the front bench couldnt get out there and put forward Labour’s programme for government. But now that we’re doing that, and now we’re managing to run local campaigns across the country, like the one we’re doing in North Shropshire, the message is getting through. And you know, I’m really excited about the future.
Going to the 2019 election, theres a worry among various different people that Labour still quite understand what went wrong. Do you feel like you understand why traditional voters moved away from the party?
I do in North Shropshire. Look, the last election, Labour had a terrible result. It was brutal. And we’ve all got lesions to learn from that, and the first thing we need to be prioritizing is speaking to people, and thats why im aiming to knock on doors in every single house and market town in North Shropshire within the next few weeks because if we want to understand people, we’ve got to speak to them, and we’ve got to know were Labour has gone wrong in the past, and we have to provide an alternative which reflects that. Thats what we’re doing. In North Shropshire, that means looking forward to that fresh and exciting plan that we were just talking about, like the railways, and the jobs and opportunities in the area. And you know, I’m excited about the future.
Coming onto that, obviously North Shropshire is a very rural area with some big towns, but I feel like theres a growing sense talking about Labour, in these kind of areas and in towns, across the country, that they feel as if the party is very metropolitan and student-politics centric. Are are you finding that feeling when talking to you? Whats your opinion on that feeling?
No I haven’t found that at all. We are running a local campaign, I am a local candidate and we have local policies to build local opportunities and defend local public services, you know all of that. Thats all we’re trying to do. Labour needs to have a sense of authenticity and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. The Labour Party is at its best when it’s built into communities it’s trying to serve and thats exactly what we’re doing. We have nurses and all sorts that are, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble here, but we have all sorts of people who are coming out and campaigning for us. I’m proud that Labour is built into the communities we are trying to serve, and thats what im trying to do in North Shropshire.
Former candidate Graeme Currie has accused the NEC for blocking him to be able to be on the shortlist. Is there anything you want to comment on, or could that be something that impacts the campaign?
No. I mean look, it was a free and fair selection process, I put my name forward and I was very pleased to win the support of local members. But I will say briefly that the publication of the EHRC report was a day of shame for the Labour Party. And theres a lot of work to do as a party to become a safe space for Jewish people. And that means having an independent complaints process and engaging Jewish people in the development of that, but as I say, it was a free and fair selection process. I put my name forward, and I’m really pleased that I have the confidence of the local party.
Whats your thoughts on Insulate Britain?
All I will say is this, we are facing a climate crisis but the way to deal with that is exciting opportunities, not with sacrifice and so my kind of politics and the politics I would lead into the response in the climate is is not just talk about the sacrifices we have the make but talk about the opportunities available to us. You know, in terms of the Green New Deal, in terms of investing in public transport, in terms of greener new houses and greener new jobs, and thats the kind of politics I believe in.
How do you think your career and life have led you to the values you uphold today?
Well you know, my first job was selling tiles in a local hardware shop, and its that kind of work ethic that im trying to take with me to this day. And I’m a local lad from North Shropshire and, I have this sense of community and its really exciting I’m able to knock on doors and speak to old friends and old family, and those are the kind of values I believe really resonate with people around here.
What are your political ambitions if elected?
Priority is a constituency MP. I’ve got a lot of respect for anyone who serves on the front bench, because the Labour Party is the party of the politics of place. We believe in community, we believe in representing places, and you can often do that best through having a position on the front bench but right now, I’m in the midst of an election and I’m fighting for North Shropshire and thats all I’m asking of people.
Whats your view on Corbyn not getting the party whip reinstated after he was reinstated as a party member?
I think it’s the right one, for as long as he, at least, apologizes. As I say, the publication of the EHRC report was a day of shame for the Labour Party, and we have to do everything we can to make the party a safe space of the Jewish community.
How do you think Labour can position itself to be in a place to get itself back in power?
Well we need to be stuck in the communities that we wish to represent. And we need to be a serious party of government and propose exciting opportunities and thats exactly what we are trying to do at a local level. Bringing new public transport to the area, bringing new jobs to the area and just offering a future, because thats not what we’re getting from this government. And we have a government who is out of ideas, who have no plans for the future and the onus is on us to offer an exciting alternative