1. Are you in favour of Britain renewing its Trident nuclear weapons system?
I believe that the principle of nuclear deterrence, while uncomfortable and unpalatable, has deterred conflict between the major powers and Britain’s role in maintaining that virtuous stalemate has been important.
I do not favour a like for like replacement of Trident because I believe it is too expensive, overkill and too dependent on the US. However I do favour Britain retaining a cost effective lesser nuclear deterrent option, preferably one which is not so dependent on US technology and costs less.
2. Do you think our country is right to be involved militarily in the Ukraine, even if in a training and support role?
The Ukraine is the front line of, on the one hand what is perceived by Russia as an expansionist European / NATO zone of influence and on the other a zone Russia wishes to annexe to re-
I believe it is the right of the people of the Ukraine to determine their own future allegiance, though I accept that may lead to partition. I would prefer that to be a civil democratic process rather than a military conflict and would welcome any process that deescalates the situation and demilitarises the conflict. However, if there is a danger that military might is going to be used to subjugate any part of the Ukrainian population I believe the advice necessary, or the means, to prevent that should be provided.
3. Do you give full weight to the urgency of minimising global warming? In the light of this, do you accept that much of the known fossil fuel reserves should be left underground, especially the most environmentally damaging such as tar sands and Arctic oil?
I see man-
4. What is your attitude to fracking?
I have an open mind in relation to fracking. I do not believe that the safety or effectiveness of fracking, in the UK context has been proven so I do not believe that any licences should be granted for commercial fracking operations until their safety has been fully established and the environmental impact assessed and found to be as low, or lower than other clean carbon and renewable alternatives.
However I think the concept of fracking, with the necessary environmental safeguards does need to be investigated. We are already dependent on very much more dangerous and environmentally damaging carbon based fuels, which cannot be quickly replaced by renewables. If fracking has the potential to safely substitute for, and replace those damaging sources of energy in the short to medium term I believe it must be fully investigated.
5. Many people can’t afford to heat their homes over the winter. We can’t afford to ignore climate change either. How would you tackle fuel poverty in a long-
Through my involvement in Housing Associations this is an issue that is close to my heart. I have worked hard to ensure that we do as much as possible to insulate existing and new homes, install solar panels and energy efficient heating systems. I am concerned that the need to build more homes fast is sometimes traded-
I think current energy tariffs are very unfair to those suffering from fuel poverty with the poorest users, often those on pre-
This combination of investing in energy saving and renewable energy measures for those in fuel poverty and bringing in a more progressive and re-
C. ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
6. Do you think our economy can or should go on growing indefinitely?
I do not believe that the economy as measured by GDP or GVA can or should grow indefinitely, or that that is the route to maximising happiness. We already fail to distinguish properly between those parts of the economy that satisfy human needs and wants, and those that are based on exploiting consumers by forcing them to consume and pay for goods or services they do not want. Both contribute to GDP even though the former satisfy human needs while the latter simply exploit people.
I support Ellen McArthur’s Foundation which campaigns for a ‘circular economy’ where all goods are re-
7. Are you opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? If so why; if not, why not?
I believe in the benefits of free trade and of competition. But ‘free’ must really be ‘free’ and competition must be real and not artificial or predatory. TTIP is highly controversial because sceptics believe that it is an agreement that will allow multi-
However I do not believe that the European Union will enter into TTIP if it undermines the continent’s essential social democratic instincts. I believe Vince Cable, who is to the left of my party and a strong believer in the NHS, when he tells me that such institutions will be fully protected and that the version of TTIP the EU will agree to will not undermine public provision, or the freedom of the EU nations to provide public goods for the common good. If those freedoms of national choice are preserved then the facilitation of easier trading terms between Europe and the US has the potential to create jobs and improve living standards.
I do not share the nostalgia for closed centrally controlled state monopolies, which a rejection of free trade and treaties such as TTIP implies, but TTIP will only work if the sanctions against companies trying to exploit it to gain unfair advantage or monopoly status are strong enough to prevent them from doing so.
8. Do you intend to help shrink the yawning gap between rich and poor and check the extraordinary concentration of wealth in very few hands? If so, how?
This can no longer be achieved entirely through taxes on income and expenditure. I see the introduction of a range of wealth taxes as inevitable. I see international action to prevent the abuse of tax-
All taxes are unpopular and wealth taxes are no exception, however, if the intergenerational accumulation of disproportionate wealth cannot be controlled, inequality can only rise.
I do note however that when equality was at its highest in Britain and much of the EU during the mid-
9. Do you recognise that low wages and benefits, plus harsh and arbitrary stoppage of benefits, is causing serious and unjust hardship? Do you want to restore the safety net which ought to protect British people from serious want?
I do, but to use that old cliché, I believe that the safety net should act as a trampoline not as a hammock. It has proven too easy in the past, out of a kind heart and sometimes perceived political advantage, to give up on making individuals or communities more self-
During the Blair years Housing Associations were strongly encouraged to introduce programmes to help their tenants transition from welfare into work, but the dis-
The transition to Universal Credit and the welfare changes in general are proving to be extraordinarily difficult and are probably not being introduced as fairly or effectively as they might be. However with a growing economy and far more jobs the transition from welfare to work needs to be fully supported.
Those genuinely unable to work, or in need of education, training, social or medical support must be fairly treated and given the help that they need. For those with none of those needs a combination of ‘guaranteed jobs’, sometimes less flatteringly termed ‘workfare’ and supported job search, as at present should provide the right combination of pressure and incentive to help those able to work out of welfare.
Those with disabilities should be helped to work, if that is appropriate for their situation, and provided with appropriate sheltered or protected work, or therapeutic settings. It is hard to distinguish between the two sometimes as was the case with some Remploy settings.
It is important that those with disabilities share the same opportunities, if possible, as those who are physically and mentally able bodied and can choose whether to join the mainstream labour market or work or live in protected settings. It is a problem however that ‘disability’ has been used in the past by both employers and employees as a mask for redundancy, or early retirement for those who remained fit to work or to work in a less demanding role.. This has rebounded on those with genuine needs but distinguishing between genuine and non-
Benefits should not be stopped ‘arbitrarily’ or ‘harshly, and certainly the system should not intentionally be punitive. However a ‘yellow card’ system that more formally warns claimants of the consequences of not working within the rules of the system, before sanctions are applied, would be helpful.
There does appear to be very widespread support for a system of welfare which is seen as a temporary ‘safety net’ and not one which encourages permanent welfare dependency for those who are capable of work. Delivering a fair and compassionate system to achieve that should be the aim of any fair government.