An interview with Stewart Jackson Conservative Party Candidate for Peterborough broadcast on Friday 9th April 2010 at 08:10 in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Peterborough.
STAINTON: Now, four days of election talk, has it been enough to persuade you to go out and cast your ballot on May 6th yet? If not, don’t worry. We’ve got four more weeks. Yesterday, Dr Ken Ritchie from the Electoral Reform Society said that under the current voting system, there’s no way the Conservatives would lose their majority in Peterborough.
RITCHIE (TAPE) What are the chances that the Conservatives are not going to hold Peterborough? Look, they won it with a little margin way back in 2005. Back in 2005 the Conservatives were trailing Labour by a mile in the opinion polls. Now it’s the Conservatives that are way ahead. There’s no way, you go down to the bookies, and see what odds they’ll give, on Labour taking back Peterborough.
STAINTON: (LIVE) Well Liberal Democrat candidate in Peterborough, Nick Sandford, said the system was the reason seats were staying the same.
SANDFORD: (TAPE) Across the whole of Cambridgeshire, certainly four out of the six seats in Cambridgeshire do hardly ever change hands, and that is a feature of the corrupt and undemocratic electoral systrem. That’s a system that enabled Tony Blair to be elected in 2005, only getting just over a third of the people supporting him. More people in the City of Peterborough vote against the Conservatives, but we end up with two Members of Parliament.
STAINTON: (LIVE) So could the election in Peterborough be a bit dull? Well Labour candidate Ed Murphy didn’t think so.
MURPHY: (TAPE) I know I’m from Peterborough. Most people know. When the personalities come through, one of the things is true, in Cambridgeshire we’ve got very boring Members of Parliament. Let’s talk to people about the issues, about how we need decent jobs for hard-working folk in Peterborough. There is a change in this election. We’ve got several right-wing parties standing. And it is going to be a very tense time in Peterborough, and very interesting.
STAINTON: (LIVE) Well Peterborough’s Conservative MP Stewart Jackson is in the studios this morning. Good morning Stewart.
STAINTON: So um .. no point really. You’re going to walk it, according to the Electoral Reform Society.
JACKSON: Well Ken Ritchie’s got his own agenda, which is basically to promote proportional representation. And fair enough, that’s what he’s about. But it’s certainly not the case that it’s going to be a boring election. Every election is very interesting in Peterborough. I mean after all we do hold the record as having the smallest majority in British electoral history. In 1966 three votes after seven recounts. So the beauty of our system is every single contituency is a different dynamic, a different culture, different history, different characters and different issues. And I think it’s going to be interesting. And I think there’s an element of taking the electorate for granted by saying, oh it’s a boring election. Because I don’t think it will be.
STAINTON: And your majority is not that big, is it really? So complacency could work against you really, couldn’t it? I mean you want people to come out and vote, don’t you?
JACKSON: I want people to come out to vote. I want people to judge me on my record over the last five years, as their representative, in fact, my record over the last nine years, as their Conservative candidate and Member of Parliament. In fact Paul, you are very kind, but I’m only a Member of Parliament for another three days, and then I’m an ordinary candidate with everyone else. It’s going to be a positive campaign locally. I don’t know what it’s going to be like nationally, but there’s some big issues going to be debated. But I want people to judge me on what I’ve done, and the campaigns I’ve run for university provision, for better funding of the police, for help for places like New England and Millfield, with immigration, being part of the fund-raising committee that raised over a hundred thousand pounds over four years for Sue Ryder locally. These are the local issues for the community that people do care about, and they ask me on the doorstep.
STAINTON: Are you disappointed that nationally the Conservatives are not miles ahead? I mean you should be shouldn’t you? It’s a bit of a failure, isn’t it, as a governmet yardstick? Because this Government has been pretty awful. It’s dragged us into all sorts of dire positions, and the Conservatives should be miles ahead in the polls, shouldn’t they?
JACKSON: Well we don’t take anything for granted nationally. Clearly there are a lot of people that are unhappy with the Labour Party. And quite rightly they’re looking at the different options that they’ve got as between us and the Liberal Democrats and others. What I would say to people is they’ve got a clear choice. If they want five more years of Gordon Brown, then vote for any other party including Labour, other than the Conservatives. Because that’s what they’ll get.
STAINTON: National Insurance has been a big issue over the last few weeks. You’re saying you’re not going to bring in this rise next year of National Insurance, because it’s going to hit jobs, it’s going to hit the economy. You say nationally that you can make public sector efficiency savings of two billion, yet today, people are saying that’s going to cost forty thousand jobs. And yet you’re going to on the one hand save jobs, with the National Insurance, and on the other hand you’re going to slash jobs.
JACKSON: We’ve got some of the most talented entrepreneurial business people in the country saying that the National Insurance rise will impact directly on jobs. One the one hand we’ve got Gordon Brown, who’s never done anything aprt from politics, demonising the Conservative position, and saying that they’re quote deluded unquote. I mean it just doesn’t stack up.
STAINTON: That’s a bit condescending. I find it remarkable that he made those comments. But even so, even is you save jobs there, if you make efficiency savings you will have to cut jobs in the public sector, won’t you?
JACKSON: But we’re up against a government that didn’t even do a comprehensive spending review, that’s got no clear plans for public expenditure, that doesn’t know where any reductions will be made. I mean, for instance, this ludicrous thing of, oh, we’re going to save half a billion pound by cracking down on sickness in the NHS. Well, why didn’t they do it for the last thirteen years? It’s back of a fag-packet stuff. And so to criticise us for ..
STAINTON: To coin a phrase.
JACKSON .. yes. To criticise us for saying we can’t save six billion pounds out of a total spend in public expenditure of our taxpayers money of seven hundred and four million .. billion pound, is ludicrous.
STAINTON: Yes. When do we get the Conservative Party manifesto? And when do we get your personal manifesto? You’re going to deliver an old-fashioned letter, you told me. Is it .. would it be with quill and Quink ink, and ..
JACKSON: Well I’ll be arriving in my sedan chair ..
STAINTON: (LAUGHS) In a smoking Jacket.
JACKSON: .. in Cathedral Square, dressed as a Regency fop. No I will be doing what they call an old-fashioned Letter to the Electors of Peterborough. And I’ll be posting that on my website. But the national manifesto of the party will be launched by David Cameron on Tuesday as I understand. And Labour’s is, I think, going to be launched on Monday. So I think people who are not engaged in the election will be certainly by the middle of next week.
STAINTON: How important is it, in this election, of all elections, in the last two or three generations, how important is it that people get out and vote?
JACKSON: I think it’s really important. One of the things I’ve noticed actually over the last few days canvassing, is that people are really being engaged, younger people. People know it’s an important election. Once every thirty years there is a sea-change election, where it’s vital for the future of the country, for our children, who are saddled with debt, for our young people not in training and education, for people who have been made newly unemployed, to vote in an election, to be part of change, and that’s what David Cameron is saying. Change and hope and looking to the future. And I do think this is a referendum on thirteen years of Labour. It’s also about a vision for the future of our country, to get it back on track, out of debt, and where it should be, one of the top three or four economies in the world.
STAINTON: And just a quick comment on what Julie Fernandez was saying earlier, about disabled access to polling stations. She was saying her polling station in Stilton, they’re putting a ramp in, they’re doing their best, but it’s an old building. She can’t get up the ramp on her own, and she feels she’s being discriminated against. I mean, will you be having a check around to make sure that there’s good disabled access for everybody?
JACKSON: Well I have been contacted by a number of charities about this issue.
STAINTON: Yes. Scope I think.
JACKSON: Yes. Clearly there are ways to help disabled people who want to exercise their franchise. They can vote by post or proxy like anyone else.
STAINTON: Well they want to be part of the experience, don’t they?
JACKSON: They do. And I think it’s right that the City Council does its best to ensure that they can have free and fair access to vote like anyone else. But remember there are hundreds and hundreds of buildings that are being used for elections, where it wasn’t considered as a first priority many many years ago, and it’s a big organisational thing. But I know that Gillian Beasley the Chief Executive and Peterborough City Council will be doing their best to ensure that everyone feels part of the election experience, and they don’t feel excluded from it.
STAINTON: Yes. Are you looking forward to this run-in? Are you looking forward to this election? Are you up for it?
JACKSON: I love elections, because I mean I was out in Bretton. I was out in South Bretton yesterday knocking on doors. I love elections. I love meeting people. Not everyone is going to be friendly, but the vast majority of people in Peterborough are salt of the earth, friendly decent people. They want to give you a bit of a hard time, bend your ear over something, but it’s a fantastic experience. And I just say to people, men and women through the years have been imprisoned, they’ve died, they’ve been tortured for the right to vote. And we’ve got it. Use it. Because one day you might not have it.
STAINTON: Looking forward to the debate, with Ed and Nick on the 22nd? (LAUGHS)
JACKSON: I always look forward to .. I mean I think Ed’s great. He’s very sparky, he’s passionate, and that’s great. And Nick Sandford, you’d go a long way to find a more decent and committed representative. I’ve fought him twice before, he’s a very nice chap, and I’m looking forward to the battle ahead, and the debates with them.
STAINTON: It’s on the 22nd April. It’ll be live on your Peterborough Breakfast Show. All three of your main parliamentary candidates for Peterborough on this show answering your questions, answering a few from us, and doing battle together on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Stewart Jackson, Peterborough’s MP for .. how many more days is it .. ?
JACKSON: Four days.
STAINTON: Four more days.