Tony Durkin hears from the candidates battling for the Fylde seat held by Conservative Mark Menzies in the last election.
Fylde voters go to the General Election polls next week for what will be a five-way contest in the constituency.
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Gina Dowding - Green Party
“I have lived in Lancashire for over 30 years, and worked in the NHS for Blackpool Wyre and Fylde Health Authority as a health promotion officer before Government privatisation of the NHS took its toll.
“Representing Lancashire residents as a local councillor for two decades, I have worked hard -and successfully -on issues that affect us all: reducing plastic waste, improving bus services and campaigning to keep the NHS from privatisation, setting up new community centres, and measures to protect and improve our environment and community spaces.
“Earlier this year I was elected as the first Green MEP for the North West.
“I have stood together with members of the Fylde community against the fracking industry, and at last the Government has admitted that there is no such thing as safe fracking. I will not stop until the moratorium on fracking becomes a permanent ban.
“These elections are about more than Brexit. It’s a critical time for climate action. Greens have led the way on reducing carbon emissions.
“The good news is that the transition to a low carbon economy has lots of benefits: cheaper energy, better public transport, less pollution, warm homes, and hundreds and thousands of new decent jobs.”
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Andy Higgins - Independent
“The old anchors that once held our society in place such as religion, unions and political parties have loosened their grip. These days more people visit football grounds than all the churches, mosques and synagogues put together. More subscribe to football trusts and clubs than to all the political parties put together.
“Your elected officials are not from your community, so do they really represent you? Rather than criticising career politicians, your media however chooses to demonise the poor and the vulnerable in our communities. This is unjust and morally wrong.
“A love of football and a love of community are the magnetic forces which have pulled together a group of four local people, including myself, standing as independents in Fylde coast constituencies.
“Fifty per cent of my Parliamentary salary will go to community based projects to help young people get a better chance in life. I call on my fellow candidates from the Westminster parties to match this commitment.
“Whoever you vote for government always wins and today Britain lives under a two party tyranny. Over 400 of the 650 parliamentary seats never change colour, which makes our general elections ‘carnivals of democracy’. I support Proportional Representation and the single transferrable vote. People deserve to know their votes count for something. People need to know they can stand up and change things for the better through a democratically elected parliament
“On Brexit, although its relationship with the EU needed reform, I believe Britain had a unique deal as we were neither in the Euro nor in Schengen.
“In 2015 I was 51 per cent remain 49 per cent leave – so I voted to remain. The mandate to leave was given and I now support an orderly Brexit.
“Brexit will not be delivered with the current system, arithmetic and ideological party allegiance. Under Proportional Representation people can vote freely – every vote can be a free vote.
“I also believe football should be reformed. Like the community it serves, football is more than a business and should be treated as such. All owners of football clubs owe a duty of care to the community and supporters. I support the FSA Manifesto and believe the sport and its leaders should serve the supporters rather than themselves.”
Mark Jewell- Liberal Democrat
Mark has worked at BAE Systems for more ha 30 years. He is a Preston City councillor, representing the Cottam area of Fylde together with Ingol.
He joined the Liberal Democrats in 2002, when Charles Kennedy was leader. He says the party’s stance on the Iraq War and the work of a local councillor, Danny Gallagher, influenced him.
Mark was a Lancashire County Councillor from 2009 to 2013, representing Preston West. He consistently voted against fracking and believes we need to invest in other forms of sustainable energy that support meeting our carbon neutral goals.
Mark has campaigned strongly for a confirmatory people’s vote on the deal negotiated with the EU or to revoke Article 50 and remain within the EU.
He said: “This election will provide the democratic mandate on our way forward with Brexit.
“I am standing to stop Brexit because there is no deal better than the arrangement we currently have with the EU.
“Any other deal will make us, as a nation, poorer and less influential in the world.”
Mark is also calling for more Government funding to support rural bus services.
Mark Menzies - Conservative
“It’s time to get Brexit sorted. We have a great new deal on the table that will allow us to make our own trade deals around the world, take control of our borders and our fishing rights.
The repeated delays from Labour and the Lib Dems is for one reason alone - to prevent Brexit. We must get the deal done as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on domestic matters, such as the 20,000 new police officers pledged by the Prime Minister.
“Lancashire has recruited 153 in the first tranche and I’ve called for St Annes police station to be reopened so they have a base here in Fylde. I want as many of those new officers here in Fylde as possible.
“On healthcare, we have a £12m boost for A&E at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, and seed funding for Royal Preston to develop a new hospital, where a new MRI scanner has been bought thanks to the biggest ever cash boost to our NHS, which itself followed a record funding deal for staff.
“On education, I was pleased to see the starting wage for teachers raised to £30,000, and even more pleased to see inflation-beating per-pupil rises for Fylde’s high schools and primaries.
It is vital students, teachers and school staff have the best environment in which to work and learn.
“I want to continue fighting for the Fylde’s employers – both the likes of BAE Systems and Springfields as well as small employers.
“Whether it is supporting our defence industry, something Jeremy Corbyn would destroy should he be elected, or small businesses needing help with rate re-evaluations, I will continue to give them a voice in Parliament.
“I helped secure £12m for the M55 link road and we have all of the required public funding in place – we now await the deal with the developer to be finalised.
“I want to continue working on the South Fylde rail line with Transport for the North, who told me at our last meeting they plan to see services at least double.
“And I want to see through plans to improve our town centres; we have started on a project to bring shops and empty units back into use in St Annes, and I supported two successful multi-million pound bids to help Kirkham’s high street and heritage – that work has now begun in earnest.”
Martin Mitchell - Labour
“I’m tremendously pleased and proud to have been selected as Labour’s candidate for the Fylde constituency.
“There could hardly be a more important time for the future of our country with Labour offering a bold, radical, transformative vision on which to campaign.
“We will ban fracking once and for all, save the NHS, set up a National Education Service and increase rights for people at work so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“At present a Blackpool councillor, I have over 25 years’ experience of campaigning on the issues that matter most to ordinary people.
“I am greatly enthused about the forthcoming campaign and the opportunity to spread Labour’s message among my many friends and family in the Fylde.
“In 2018 I persuaded Blackpool Council to vote unanimously against the Government’s plan to make fracking “permitted development”. A councillor for Layton Ward, I am chairman of trustees at Layton Community House, a charity I helped to set up, which runs a community centre and combats social isolation.”
On fracking, Martin added: “The Conservatives’ announced moratorium on fracking is just what it looks like : a short-term gimmick to get the Tories through the election. Government Minister Andrea Leadsom admitted the ban is only temporary.
“It is over eight years since the first earthquakes and given the Tories’ track record we can have absolutely no confidence they won’t change their minds after polling day.
Labour will immediately ban fracking once and for all: no ifs, no buts.
“Voting the Tories out is the only way to stop fracking.”