WEALDEN GENERAL ELECTION: True Blue - but will tradition be changed?

The race for a place in Parliament
The race for a place in Parliament

The history of the Wealden constituency shows it to be a safe Conservative seat.

Since the General Election of 1992 the Tory party has finished comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals, the Liberal Democrats.

Charles Hendry, following on from fellow Conservative Geoffrey Johnson Smith, took the seat in the 2001 General Election and in 2010 had a majority of 17,179.

Locally born Mr Hendry served as a Minister of State in the Department of Energy and Climate Change from 2010-2012 following two years in the shadow role in opposition.

He has now stood down and the Tory candidate is Nus Ghani. She was selected at an Open Primary attended by nearly 400 Wealden residents.

Opposing her at polling day on Thursday, May 7, will be Solomon Curtis (Labour), Giles Goodall (Liberal Democrat), Peter Griffiths (UKIP) and Mark Smith (Green Party).

The best result for the Labour Party was in 2001 when Kathy Fordham polled 10,705 votes. She still finished third behind Mr Hendry (26,279) and Liberal Democrat Steve Murphy (12,507).

Approximately half of the population in the constituency lives in the area’s three main towns, Crowborough, Hailsham and Uckfield. The rest of the seat is predominantly rural with many villages and hamlets.

The Wealden constituency profile indicates that a considerable portion of the population is retired or works in London, Brighton or other regional employment bases at a managerial or advanced professional level.

Workless claimants who were registered jobseekers were in November 2012 significantly lower than the national average of 3.8 per cent, at 1.5 per cent of the population based on a statistical compilation by The Guardian.

The candidates are:

NUS GHANI (Conservative):

Since being chosen in 2013 as the Conservative Candidate for Wealden at an open meeting of 400 residents, I have met thousands of voters and campaigned on issues from better train services, broadband, importance of community hospitals and on behalf of our farming community.

My experience outside politics is what motivates me. I believe in the NHS.

I fought for better health care whilst working for two healthcare charities.

The Conservatives have invested more in the NHS and will go on protecting it and provide seven-day-a-week NHS, so we will always have access to a free and high quality health service.

As a parent I know how important it is to provide our children with a good education to enable them to reach their potential.

Under the Conservatives we now have one million more children attending good or outstanding schools.

We will continue towards delivering the best schools and skills for all of our young people – helping them fulfil their potential and secure a better future for Britain.

Wealden has a multitude of small businesses and a proud heritage of farming (where for too long we have undervalued food producers and food security) and the welcome news that the UK economy is the fastest growing in the world has resulted in record levels of employment. Over the last 5 years 1.9 million more people are in work, bringing home a regular pay packet.

Skilling up through apprenticeships is another success story with 2.2 million created in this parliament, giving young people vital hands-on work experience and we are committed to helping businesses create further jobs and apprenticeships.

The Conservative’s believe that if you work hard and do the right thing, you should keep more of your money.

We have already cut taxes for 26 million and will further raise the tax-free allowance from £10,600 to £12,500.

We will raise the 40p income tax threshold to £50,000 and take the family home out of inheritance tax.

But there is more to do and we need to stick to the plan, if we are to create an economy that sustains investment in public services, creates security and opportunities for us all.

A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a secure better future for you, your family and Britain.

GILES GOODALL (Lib Dem):

Wealden needs a strong and experienced voice in Parliament who’ll stand up for the local area, work hard, and get things done. We also need an MP with their feet on the ground, who is in touch with local people and will listen to their concerns. I promise to be reliable, approachable, and proactive.

I was born and bred in Sussex, where I went to the local secondary school before going to university.

I’ve worked in politics, the civil service, the private sector, and at international level, and would use this experience to get a better deal for Wealden.

My priorities if elected are:

1. To protect our Community Hospitals and provide better GP services for residents. We have some top quality local health services, but we need to make sure they are properly funded. That’s why Lib Dems have committed to giving the NHS the funding it needs: £8 billion a year by 2020.

2. To provide commuters with a more reliable rail service and our residents a truly integrated transport system. This includes better bus and train services in the area and campaigning to reopen the Uckfield-Lewes train line.

3. To campaign for more affordable homes throughout Wealden so local families don’t have to move away. We need to make sure enough new housing is affordable, and want to introduce a ‘rent to own’ system, to allow first-time buyers to build up a share in their home.

Lib Dems have shown that we can take responsibility in government and deliver results: we’ve got the economy back on track, cutting the deficit by half. We’ve cut taxes for 26 million working people and taken three million of the lowest earners out of income tax altogether. And we’ve won £5.5 billion in funding for our schools through the pupil premium.

In the next parliament, we will make sure that the recovery continues, but it has to be fair and sustainable. That’s why we would block unfair Tory cuts and likewise prevent unrealistic borrowing by Labour. No lurching to the right or the left, but taking the country forward together, in the centre ground.

I will stand up for the moderate majority, combining a stronger economy and a fairer society. That’s the message I am taking around Wealden, and I look forward to meeting you.

SOLOMON CURTIS (Labour):

At the age of 18 he is England’s second youngest parliamentary candidate.

He was born opposite the Houses of Parliament in St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

He moved to Hastings at the age of two, where he attended nearby Robertsbridge Community College.

He later attended The Skinners’ School where he studied A Levels in Maths, History and Theatre Studies.

He unofficially joined the Labour Party (UK) at the young age of 12 and served as a Member of UK Youth Parliament in East Sussex between 2012 and 2014, where he spoke in the House of Commons chamber in November 2012.

He was later elected as the Vice Chair (Campaigns and Communications) of the British Youth Council in 2013, where he became responsible for the national Votes at 16 campaign.

He currently runs a marketing consultancy company, Project Participate, with three former UK Youth Parliament colleagues.

The Politics student had been combining his studies at the University of Sussex with canvassing in the constituency.

He said his degree has already taught him “a lot about issues in politics, and how policies really relate to the public”.

He said, “The British political history course has been really influential in shaping my campaign.

“With the 2015 election 70 years on from the Attlee government of 1945, which led to the creation of the NHS, I am keener than ever to recapture the mood of optimism, hope and aspiration.”

Speaking earlier this year, Mr Curtis said he wanted to bring something different to Westminster.

He said, “People are critical of how young I am and that I don’t have enough life experience for the job. But my view is that a MP’s job is to represent people and use your own experience to do that.

“We need a variety of MPs from different backgrounds.

“For example I think we need more female MPs and we need more MPs from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. But the one area which people do not mention is having representatives who are young.

“I think I can represent people because I have life experiences of different things.

“I have just gone through the education system so I know the problems in education and I am a student who uses public transport so I know how bad the trains are and other public transport issues.

“These are the types of things where I can represent people because I am living them now.

“I have grown up in rural East Sussex and know the problems people face – because I have seen them myself.”

PETER GRIFFITHS (UKIP):

I was born in Lewes and have lived in Wealden more than 25 years. I am married, with three children. I was an airline pilot, teaching and checking other pilots.

I flew a freighter during the First Gulf War and ended my career running a fleet of 19 B747s.

I am a Governor of a local college and was, until recently, a Churchwarden.

I became involved in politics after gradually realising that, no matter which government was in power, the cosy Westminster cartel just kept on rolling along, with no regard to the wishes of the electorate.

Politicians treat their constituents with disdain, except every five years, when they need our votes.

We require a proper recall bill, to remind them who pays their salary.

These are some of the things UKIP would do, from the only independently verified and costed party manifesto:

The NHS remains free at the point of use and we will fund front-line services by an extra £3 billion a year, dementia research by £130 million a year and social care for the elderly by an extra £1 billion a year.

It takes 10 years to train a GP and three for a nurse, so we have to provide more training places, of all types, now.

One of the first things the Coalition did in 2010 was to cut nurses’s training places by 3,000.

Those nurses would have been on the wards by now.

We will spend 2 per cent GDP on defence and look after our troops better.

We will finally set light to the ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’, and ensure that apprenticeships are rigorous and worthwhile, not just work experience.

Nobody will be forced into a Zero Hours Contract.

Locally, Wealden needs much better infrastructure.

The SE is in line for 300,000 new houses, in part, to take London’s overspill.

Wealden is one of the targeted areas, but we are short of GPs, school places, hospital beds, police, fire services and roads.

The Uckfield-London line is a disgrace. If animals were transported in the same rush hour conditions, the RSPCA would prosecute.

Small businesses, working from home or rural villages, need high speed broadband now, and lower business rates.

They need better access to innovative loans, such as peer-to-peer and crowd funding.

They need regulation of the £20 billion tied up in late payments by large firms to small businesses.

Wealden needs a local MP who cares.

MARK SMITH (Green Party):

I have lived in Wealden for more than 20 years and my children went to local schools and university in Sussex.

I grew up in the Lake District so, as well as having local knowledge, I understand the difficulties facing farming communities in maintaining rural incomes and helping market towns prosper.

I was also the first member of my family to go to university and I believe every young person with ability and the drive to learn is entitled to a university education regardless of their capacity to pay. The Green Party has pledged to abolish university tuition fees.

I am an environmental researcher and Senior University Lecturer, advising environmental and citizen campaigns but known also as a writer, broadcaster and election analyst.

I have promoted the NHS Reinstatement Bill which will end NHS privatisation and the Nature and Wellbeing Bill.

As an expert on linking social and environmental issues, and maintaining community livelihoods, I have worked for many years on promoting environmental responsibility in the UK, across national borders and in many developing countries.

My environmental fieldwork in North America, Asia, South Africa and the Caribbean also provided useful experience of poverty alleviation, international issues and development.

Many local people struggle to find enough work in the area and the property bubble has helped drive up prices in Wealden making housing unaffordable. We could lose a generation of younger locals forced to move away.

Rather than accept that employment in Wealden will become increasingly insecure, part-time, casual and low income, I will seek to challenge the cosy consensus of the Westminster parties and promote a sustainable local economy.

Besides being against fracking in the Weald and the only candidate to sign the ‘frack free promise’ in Wealden, I will seek to:

1. Support small and medium sized local businesses by linking local producers more effectively to local retail.

2. Encourage affordable low energy housing development and improve public transport services for the benefit of local needs.

3. Protect local A&E departments and outpatient support – especially for those dependent on Eastbourne hospital.

4. Stop the cuts to adult social care provision to better support older citizens and people with disabilities or with mental health issues.