Your guide to the candidates who want to be the next Harborough MP

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Have your say

It’s easy to put your policies across in an election leaflet. But what did the five candidates for the Harborough seat in parliament say at a public meeting in the town on Friday, May 28?

The Harborough Mail went along to find out; along with more than 100 other people of every political persuasion and none.

It was a “hustings” organised by the politically neutral Harborough Churches Together, and the questions were all from members of the public. We have highlighted the answers from the five candidates (in alphabetical order by surname) below.

We should also say the Harborough Mail - unlike most national newspapers - has no opinion about which party you should vote for. We just think that you should vote...

ZUFFAR HAQ

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Opening remarks: I live in Oadby and Wigston (part of Harborough constituency) and my family have been linked with Leicestershire since 1919.

My child with special needs taught me to value the NHS, and got me into politics.

I want to be the MP for

Harborough to help people and try to change things - that’s what drives me.

This election is not just about Brexit, it’s about the NHS, social care, education, the police force and the prison service. All the public services need strengthening.

I also want to be an MP who will put the people of Harborough first always.

Immigration and the health service: Nurses are under immense pressure 24/7. Their pay rise is under the inflation rate. We need to retain our NHS people by looking after them better.

Education: Schools are competing with each other instead of doing the best for their children. Invest in our children; they are our future.

Public spending and taxation: Invest in infrastructure; invest so it boosts the economy.

The Lib Dem Secretary of State for Industry invested in the British car industry in 2010 - and now it’s thriving.

Social Justice: I’m opposed to grammar schools. Keep free school meals - I was a free school meals child. And I think it’s a tragedy how many people go to Food Banks in Britain.

Leaving the EU: I’m a Remainer. I’d like to see that £350m for the NHS. We need to keep a working relationship with Europe - both Europe and Britain must walk away happy from Brexit talks.

Local schools: It’s not acceptable that schools are losing money. We want a system that works for everybody.

Closing remark: We need change.

Strong point: Stood twice before in Harborough. Impressive 17,000 votes in 2010.

Weak point: 2015 - national Lib Dem slump; 7,000 votes.

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TECK KHONG

UKIP

Opening remarks: I was born in Malaysia and came to Britain in 1972 to attend medical school. I became a GP, first in York and in 1982 in Leicester.

I became a police surgeon and saw how victims of crime are dealt with; also a Regional President of the British Medical Assocation (BMA).

But it became obvious to me that unless you’re in politics in parliament there’s very little you can do.

Meanwhile the education system is failing, and an awful lot of money is going on foreign aid, when countries like Malaysia say ‘we need assistance not money’.

I have a range of experience which leads me to offer my services to Harborough.

Immigration’s effect on health service: We don’t need to ‘pinch’ nurses from developing countries. We have a lot of talent here but are short of training places. We need to take away the student cost of science subjects too.

Education: I’ve noticed poor leadership in the health service. There’s poor leadership in education too. We need to invest in and listen to professionals on the front line.

Public spending and taxation: We must make sure there’s no backsliding on Brexit and build up ties with the Commonwealth. Less regulation will help small businesses flourish.

Social Justice: Invest wisely - £49m given to Braunstone in Leicester was badly spent. We must invest in schools, invest in small businesses and have stricter rules on pedlars.

Leaving the EU: We had gradually lost our rights to the EU, which wants to become a federal state. We need to take back control of our borders.

Local schools: I confess I’m not very familiar with the local school situation. I’m not a resident of Harborough.

Closing remark: Britain was great - Britain will be great again.

Strong point: Health.

Weak point: A couple of ‘brain freezes’ on the night as he lost his way while answering questions.

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NEIL O’BRIEN

CONSERVATIVES

Opening remarks: I want to be a great Conservative costituency MP for you. My wife Gemma is a GP and I have a daughter aged 16 months. For the last five years I have been working in Downing Street, for George Osborne and Theresa May. I want to change our broken planning system, support local schools and get a better infrastructure on the roads and in internet connectivity.

I will fight hard on the big national issues too, including fiscal policy. The Conservatives have a good record on jobs, the NHS, crime and education.

Jeremy Corbyn is the wrong person to run our country.

Immigration and the NHS: I’m an overall supporter of controlled immigration. For some services like the NHS it is appropriate we allow people to come here as nurses and doctors.

Education: We must ensure that’s our top priority. Education spending is at a record high and we (Conservatives) are very proud of that.

Public spending and taxation: Opposition parties can promise, but you can’t spend money that you don’t have. Nor can you save money by spending more. But unemployment is down to its lowest level since 1975.

Social justice: We’ve got child poverty down, but more needs to be done. We’re tackling the root causes of poverty - unemployment down and education investment up. Get tough on drugs and gambling.

Leaving the EU: Ultimately I voted to leave because of EU control over borders and laws. But we must continue to work with our friends and allies in Europe.

Local schools: Make all schools good schools. The academy programme is a brilliant programme. We will find a fair school funding policy.

Closing remark: I will fight hard for this area in Westminster.

Strong point: Works in Westminster; knows Theresa May.

Weak point: Inexperience made him abrasive. Got worst reaction of the night for attack on Jeremy Corbyn that audience considered out-of-place.

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ANDY THOMAS

LABOUR

Opening remarks: I am one of the three candidates who lives in this constituency.

In this general election there’s a straight choice - a Labour government is the only real alternative to another

Conservative one.

There have been unprecedented cuts in public spending under the Tories. That affects everything from Harborough schools to Gartree Prison and Leicestershire Police.

We must accept Brexit, but it’s not a licence to withdraw from the single market or lose all the rights we gained under the EU.

Finally, do you want to leave your house to your children or Theresa May’s government? Immigration and the NHS: The Conservative government has stopped a training scheme for nurses in England - Labour will put it back. But European nurses are welcome here. Education: My three children all went to schools in Market Harborough. I believe there’s undue pressure on children and on hard-working staff as they try to meet targets and rise up league tables.

Public spending and taxation: We do not believe we should be reducing Corporation Tax for multi-national companies. And why do companies like Starbucks and Amazon avoid paying tax in this country? The Tories are the party of big business - they ought to act.

Social Justice: At the moment under the Conservatives there are five million children suffering from child poverty. I consider that to be unacceptable.

Leaving the EU: I’m a Remainer. We need to ensure that Brexit doesn’t become our most stupid action since Suez in 1956.

Local schools: What we really want is proper funding for all the schools in Harborough.

Closing remark: If you want a better Britain, then you should vote Labour.

Strong point: Highlighting the Tories’ ‘dementia tax’.

Weak point: Labour hasn’t got more than 25 per cent of the vote here since 1997.

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DARREN WOODWISS

THE GREEN PARTY

Opening remarks: I have lived in Market Harborough since 1991. I’m a software engineer, looking at practical problems and finding solutions.

I’ve always been an environmentalist and am involved with (environmental groups)Transition Town Market Harborough, Harborough Energy and edibLE 16. I don’t have to sit back; I can do things myself.

The Green Party has a holistic view of what kind of country we want to live in, what sort of world, and how do we relate to our neighbours?

We are a party that trusts in our common humanity, and puts rights of citizens over business and environment over economy.

Immigration and the NHS: We haven’t been training enough doctors and nurses. That’s why one in four doctors and one in six nurses are immigrants.

Education: Children today are profundly anxious about education. Part of that is due to exams. The Green Party would abolish SATS.

Public spending and taxation: The Conservative Government doesn’t want to collect the tax we are owed by big businesses who want to avoid paying it. They collected £17m from Apple in back-tax; Italy got 318m Euros. The Tories have closed 137 tax offices.

Social justice: Housing benefit cuts mean families now have to go without to meet their housing needs.

Leaving the EU: Europe has many faults, but we all recognise it protects human rights and the environment. Nobody knows what Brexit will mean. It takes an average 10 years to negotiate a trade agreement.

Local schools: One of the problems academies face is they have to become businesses. There’s no place for grammar schools in the Green Party.

Closing remark: I’m going to vote Green because that’s the future I want for my children.

Strong point: Good detail on taxation.

Weak point: Fifth last time out.