This year’s General Election is expected to be one of the most closely fought contests in years, and as the May 7 voting day draws closer we are casting the spotlight over candidates in the five seats which cover Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.
Today, we look at the Tory stronghold of Fylde which has been Conservative since the constituency was formed in 1918.
The current incumbent is Mark Menzies, who secured the seat with a majority of 13,185 in 2010.
With the issue of shale gas fracking dividing opinion in the borough between those who fear the environmental consequences and those who say it will boost the economy, there is plenty for locals to focus their minds on ahead of polling day.
Mark Menzies (Conservative)
As MP, I have spent the last five years fighting for Fylde.
I secured £2m Government funding for a new Lytham St Annes M55 Link Road and brought in £50m for a new A585 bypass to help traffic flow on the busy arterial route. I continue to campaign for an extension which would see the bypass continue to the M55.
I helped secure a reinstatement of the Blackpool North to London rail link and have campaigned for improvements to the South Fylde line. I also made sure a working airfield remains at Blackpool Airport following its recent closure and am pushing for commercial aviation to return.
I successfully campaigned for Enterprise Zone sites at Blackpool Airport and in Warton, which will secure employment in those areas, and supported BAE Systems in winning contracts which have protected hundreds of jobs locally.
I have fought for ironclad regulation around shale gas exploration. I recently voted in favour of a moratorium to halt the industry until questions surrounding regulation have been answered and have asked the Environment Select Committee to investigate its impact on rural communities.
While that may seem like a lot of work has been done, there is still a long way to go and I would be proud to be allowed to continue representing Fylde for the next five years.
Elizabeth Clarkson (Northern Party)
I have been fortunate to serve as a Conservative local councillor for 24 years in both Preston and the Fylde.
However, at this moment, neither Conservatives nor Labour looks likely to be able to govern without help from other parties.
I’m standing because I want people in Fylde to be able to vote for taking back from London what the people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London, Bavaria, Catalonia and Massachusetts already enjoy. Home rule.
A vote for our Northern Party will have a very clear meaning. Give us back the things you took from us. We want devolved powers to make our own decisions on our issues.
With Northerners in charge we will deliver positive change and bring empowerment and real improvement to the north.
There are special problems we face on the Fylde and our region, particularly inflicting fracking on our land, lax planning controls on house-building on green fields, and the need to revive our Fylde Coast railway services, instead of spending £80bn on an HS2 line out of London.
Frederick Van Mierlo (Liberal Democrat)
I was born and grew up in the Fylde constituency where my family still live and I now work for an international consultancy in Brussels, focusing on sustainability.
I will campaign to support the tireless, all year round work of excellent Lib Dem local councillors fighting against a conservative ‘cut and shut’ mentality which, for example, has resulted in a dramatic increase in fly tipping due to recycling centre closures.
I will also campaign to bring balance to the fracking debate, while supporting the importance of producing British oil and gas, and work to develop a common ground that supports the national interest of a safe and secure gas supply, while implementing a strategy that safeguards the local natural environment and phases out our dependence on fossil fuels.
Fylde people are quite rightly concerned. I want oversight with real teeth and am prepared to work hard to get it.
We should proceed with caution, but we should not automatically ban the production of British gas on land.
Bob Dennett (Green Party)
In an age of mass disaffection from politics when the agenda seems to be set by the narrow interests of big business, the public needs a party that acts with integrity.
I have been a tireless campaigner against shale gas extraction in the Fylde and the UK for more than three years and the Green Party is the only party with a policy to BAN fracking. If elected I am committed to continuing that campaign.
The Green Party is a party that treats ordinary people with compassion rather than indifference, is courageous in tackling social inequality and injustice.
A party that will work towards the good of all, not just the privileged few.
These values lie at the heart of the Green Party and are the values that we will fight this election on.
We will invest in new homes and renewable technologies that would boost local jobs, and that pay a decent living wage.
We will fight to keep the NHS in public ownership. We will fight to put the rail services and utilities back into public hands.
Jed Sullivan (Labour)
I have lived on the Fylde for more than 20 years. I’m proud to call the Fylde my home and to have brought up my family in this community.
I work as a youth and community worker, helping to support young people and communities across the Fylde coast.
As your MP, my priorities will be clear.
I want to fight for Fylde in Parliament so that we get a fairer share of public sector funding and more control over decisions that affect our future.
I will work to build a society that benefits the many and not the few, protecting the most vulnerable members of our community and addressing the cost of living crisis that is causing hardship for so many people in our community.
In addition, I will fight to bring back the NHS from the brink of collapse, champion more private sector investment in Fylde, promoting our first class world leading industries in advanced manufacturing and fight to prevent fracking, not just regulate it.
Paul White (UKIP)
Cameron or Miliband can only become prime minister by default and other parties, like UKIP, will be influential in the direction our country takes.
Here on the Fylde people want to know where I stand on fracking.
I have been very clear, I stand squarely behind it but I wish to let residents have their say through a binding referendum on the matter
We need the M55 link road. It was presented to us as a done deal last July and yet the plan is still only being talked about.
Our trains need replacing but we are expected to accept London cast -offs rather than new stock.
We can and should do better.
The Tories have fudged their promise of recall to sack MPs, leaving it up to MPs and only allowing recall in certain circumstances.
We will give genuine power to the people to sack their MP.
Mike Hill (Independent)
I am a local businessman, married to Mandy and we have twin sons aged 12.
I am standing as an Independent so that I can truly represent the people of the Fylde at this key time.
No party whip will be able to tell me what issues to raise or how to vote, only you.
As your Independent MP I will have much more power than any other backbencher.
I will set up forums to cover key areas such as the NHS and education. I will invite experts from the Fylde who are active in these areas (doctors, nurses, teachers etc.) to sit on these forums and I will invite the public to participate. As well as the weekly constituency surgeries, I will use the forums and all types of social media to gauge the Fylde’s opinion. I will then act accordingly in parliament.
I have held numerous meetings in Westminster over the last five years as an expert advisor on fracking regulation.
I have tried to educate those in power to the risks faced by the Fylde of unregulated fracking. These risks are still present.
Our MPs have struggled to grasp the complex issues involved and have not been able to articulate the problem adequately on our behalf. Thus, I feel it necessary to stand up for the Fylde myself and not leave it to those that have already failed.