Minor party candidates welcome the big debate

big_debate09:21 Thursday 2nd April 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

JEREMY SALLIS: This morning we’re asking has the day of two party politics vanished for ever? Is this the election where it really is all to play for, even for every party taking part? Well tonight we’ll see all seven main party leaders from across the UK take part in a live two hour televised debate. It will also be the only time that David Cameron and Ed Miliband go face to face before we go, before you go, to the polls in May. Well joining them on the stage will be party leaders from the Scottish National Party, from UKIP, from Plaid Cymru, from the Green Party and also the Liberal Democrats. Well BBC Assistant Political Editor Norman Smith went as far as predicting tonight’s contest will be a ‘visible symbolic demonstration of the death of two party politics’. .. If you’re thinking will it make any difference to the vote, last time in 2010 similar television debates saw the polls surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg of course. So could tonight’s event have a similar effect on one if not more of the seven candidates taking part? Joining me this morning to discuss this is Darren Bisby-Boyd, who’s the Green Party candidate for Peterborough. A very good morning to you Darren.
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: Good morning.
JEREMY SALLIS: WE also have Mary Herdman, who is the UKIP candidate for Peterborough. Morning to you Mary.
MARY HERDMAN: Good morning.
JEREMY SALLIS: And Sebastian Kindersley, who is the Liberal Democrat candidate for South Cambridgeshire. Morning to you Sebastian.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Good morning. How are you?
JEREMY SALLIS: Very good thank you. I think tonight’s debate will be strictly orchestrated, with everyone having their chance to say. I don’t mind as long as you behave yourselves all the microphones being open, so you can pitch in and have your say. But as long as you behave yourselves. First of all, Darren, is this the end of two party politics? There’s a veritable smörgåsbord now for people to choose from.

DARREN BISBY-BOYD: I think that there is, to be honest with you. I think people are disillusioned at politics in general. It’s actually young people, and that’s why we’re seeing a surge with ourselves being the third largest party now in England with over 57,000 members to date. People are desperate for change, and we want to give them hope not fear, with what other parties may do or may not do.
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: We want to give them a real alternative to the establishment.
JEREMY SALLIS: Mary is that necessarily a good thing? It used to be easier, didn’t it? You either pick between Conservative and Labour back in the day, but now there’s so many to choose from. Is choice a good thing?
MARY HERDMAN: Yes I think it’s an excellent thing. People do need choice. We’ve had the three major parties for so long, and UKIP and the Greens actually, all the smaller parties, are offering an alternative choice for the British people. And they’ve been denied these choices for many years now. by the Liberals Conservatives and Labour. And it’s good to see the other parties coming along and letting people. And it’s proving that people are so fed up with the three major parties that they’re liking what they hear from the smaller parties. And it’s very very good.
JEREMY SALLIS: Is that in some way Sebastian music to your ears, being mentioned there as a major party?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: (LAUGHS) I’m not sure if there’s a double-edged sword to that. But I have to say although I agree that people perhaps are a bit more interested in smaller parties at the moment, this is something obviously that the Liberal Democrats have benefited from in the past, the reality is that whatever happens tonight, nothing is going to change. And the reason that nothing is going to change is that while we still have a first past the post electoral system, the bigger parties will take the vast majority of seats. And that is very much to be regretted. If we had a proper system of proportional representation, then everybody’s vote in the country, wherever they lived or whoever they voted for, would count, exactly the same as everybody else’s. But under first past the post it doesn’t.
JEREMY SALLIS: Interesting you say nothing will change. Darren and Mary, do you agree? Does this achieve anything or is this just theatre? This could actually be farce if anything.
MARY HERDMAN: Well the original plan was obviously for several four way debates between Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Nigel Farage, only for the Prime Minister to refuse. So I do think it’s not that good having seven people there. It’s not really a proper debate. But I think it’s better than nothing, and I actually think we will see tonight who comes out on top basically. And I really think that Cameron didn’t want it because he is frightened to death of debating with Nigel Farage. And at the end of the day, if you are pleased with what you’ve done for the country over the last five years, you would want a debate, because you would want to tell everybody. And it’s very strange that he doesn’t, so he can’t think he’s done a good job in my view.
JEREMY SALLIS: Darren, are you a little bit nervous about Natalie Bennett? Because as a neutral bystander, I think quite a few people are, after than infamous radio interview on LBC a few weeks back.
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: Well I’ll come back to the original point you were asking Mary. Basically I think it works in other European countries. I think it works in Sweden, Denmark and all the rest of the Scandinavian countries including Germany. So I don’t see the reason why it can’t work here. I think the other parties want to keep the establishment going, and obviously not give an opportunity for .. you say we’re a smaller party yet we’ve got the third highest membership in England. So with regards to your question you just asked, (UNCLEAR) what Natalie has to say. At the end of the day Natalie has demonstrated that she’s a human being. She’s not a party political machine in that she’s drumming out something scripted by a spin doctor. At the end of the day she had a bad day at the office. She recovered. She has shown basically that she’s led this party from having very small membership to such a high membership. At the end of the day we are improving, and we are getting there. But as your Liberal Democrat candidate earlier said, the system works against parties like ourselves, because no matter how many votes we’ll get, those people voices won’t be heard. But at the end of the day we are determined to be heard and we deserve to be there. And as I said, we are offering something that none of the other parties are offering, which is an anti-austerity agenda.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. Sebastian, let me ask you this question. Because I’m getting a real sense, from people phoning in to this station, from people I meet when I’m out and about across the county as well, that the electorate are fed up with parties just having a go at the other, the opposition. They’re not actually talking about what they stand for. They’re happier just taking a chunk out of the opposition. And I fear that’s what’s going to happen tonight. And that’s going to turn people off.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Well I tend to agree. But that’s not anything new. Five years ago when I was running before we had exactly the same question, and ..
JEREMY SALLIS: Just because it’s nothing new doesn’t mean we have to keep sticking to it does it?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: No no. Absolutely. Which is why I think that all the parties, not just the big ones or indeed not just the small ones should take that into account. There is nothing worse than listening to one politician bad mouth another politician. Some of us simply just don’t do it, because we know it’s completely counterproductive. But if you have a good case to make, whatever party you are, if you have a good case to make and you’ve got a good message to deliver to the electorate, then get on and make the case, and deliver the message. They don’t need to hear why the other parties are so bad. What they need to hear is what you’re going to do, if you’re elected, to make the country a better place for us all.
JEREMY SALLIS: Well what a wonderful platform then to ask you in thirty seconds, each of you, to tell me how your party locally is going to improve the lives of our listeners. Darren, the Green Party.
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: OK. Well today people living in Peterborough are on some of the lowest wages in the East of England. And with the increasing use of zero hours contracts by major corporations who only pay their employees the minimum wage and reduce employees rights and offer no job security, we want to change that. I want everybody in Peterborough to be on a living wage, and I would be advocating campaigning for the abolition of zero hours contracts. As well as that there’s a two-pronged issue where poverty is rife. I want to see everyone have a secure home, and that means building more social housing.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. Thirty seconds up. Mary Herdman. How will the UKIP party locally improve the lives of people here listening this morning?
MARY HERDMAN: Well locally UKIP will put £3 billion into the NHS. We will reinstate all the bus routes that Marco Cereste closed down. I’d like the market to be brought back into the Market Square. I’d like to see a park and ride, so that people can get into Peterborough and then spend money which will help all the small businesses. Also under UKIP we will scrap the income tax on the minimum wage by raising the personal allowance to at least £13,000.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. Thirty seconds up.
MARY HERDMAN: This will help people in Peterborough get back into work.
JEREMY SALLIS: Mary thank you. The LibDems in South Cambridgeshire Sebastian. How will they improve the lives of our listeners?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: So in South Cambridgeshire we’re going to continue the battle that we are already engaged with in making sure that the infrastructure that we need that comes with all of the new housing and new jobs, driving forward the national economy let alone the local economy, is delivered properly. And we’ll carry on the job that we’ve already done, taking millions of people out of tax, introducing things like the pupil premium which has benefited our local schools to such an extent, all good things that we’ve achieved over the last five years in Government, and which I very much hope we continue to do both locally and nationally.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. Thirty seconds up. Can I say well done to all of you. You were very well behaved, and didn’t have a go at each other. (THEY LAUGH). Part of me is disappointed, but it was mature.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: You can’t have it both ways Jeremy.
JEREMY SALLIS: Just finally, who’s going to win?Very quickly, Darren?
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: I think personally it will be one of the smaller parties, and I think Natalie will show that there is an alternative, and I think she will come out on top, personally.
JEREMY SALLIS: Let me guess, Nigel Farage Mary?
MARY HERDMAN: Oh obviously. Yes. And I think the country knows that as well.
JEREMY SALLIS: Nick Clegg Sebastian?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: The country is going to win, because they will see the leaders in action, and they’ll be able to make a proper informed decision.
JEREMY SALLIS: Great stuff. Thank you very much all for joining us this morning here on the Big Conversation. We heard from Darren Bisby-Boyd, the Green Party candidate for Peterborough, Mary Herdman, the UKIP party candidate for Peterborough, and Sebastian Kindersley, the Liberal Democrat candidate for South Cambridgeshire.