The Boar talks to Chris White, Conservative Party candidate for Leamington and Warwick in the 2015 General Election.
The Boar (Rebecca Myers): I imagine one of the hardest things for a local MP like yourself in an area where there is a high student population, but also a local community – and I think the interests don’t always align – for example, student housing has been a big issue around here. I was just wondering how you think you’ve managed that balance over the past few years between the interests of the student community and the interests of the wider, actual local community, particularly on those issues where sometimes we jar?
Chris White: I think it’s important for an MP to be sensible, and it is about balance. People sometimes forget that they were students, and they also forget that their children are students or their grandchildren are students. And sometimes they might have left rubbish out at the end of the year – but I don’t think you can say ‘this is awful’, and my job is not to say ‘rah, rah, rah, aren’t students terrible’. I would not want to pick a battle with the student population because – particularly – I want this to be a positive experience.
People sometimes forget that they were students, and they also forget that their children are students or their grandchildren are students.
Students have a massive amount to offer. There are good and bad in every community, I think in terms of just looking at it on the economic benefit alone – the number of jobs you provide, the pounds you spend – is to me nothing but good news. And I think you add to the diversity of our community.
Boar: One of the most pressing local issues in recent years has been the switching off of the street lights – I know you’ve spoken about this before, but I think it is a real concern for students – students don’t feel safe, and there was the death of a student not so long ago. What is your current stance on switching off the streetlights?
CW: I think the local council is looking at the options in terms of local funding, so we’re in a position to revisit. Hopefully we’ll be in a place where the lights may well go back on. I think it was a better place when the lights were on and if money can be found to make that possible again, I think that’s a good thing.
Boar: There have also been a couple of big, national issues, which have concerned students at Warwick, one of which is the NHS, and privatisation of the NHS. There was recently a big protest in the town centre, run by students, against privatisation of the NHS. What’s your stance on the NHS and the challenges we’re going to face next parliament?
CW: I’m glad you brought that up. I mean first: the business of privatisation – you must have seen the statistics. The rate of privatisation has slowed.
if we look at the A&E department in Warwick, it’s one of the best performing in the country.
You say that there was a big protest and I don’t doubt that there was – but people need to look at the facts. People need to recognise that more money has gone into the Health Service in the last government, that since the NHS was formed so many years ago, Conservatives have been in power for 40 of those years. We’re going to have a situation where it’s going to be, before every election “24 hours to save the NHS!” – all this pretty much scaremongering which I don’t think there’s any resemblance to reality. As I say, more patients than ever before are being treated – patient satisfaction is higher than ever before.
Boar: So you would consider yourself against privatisation of the NHS?
CW: We need to remember that if we go to hospital, we will be treated, for free. That has been the case – it will be the case. I cannot imagine the prime minister wanting that to change, I cannot imagine any government wanting that to change, whatever particular makeup. The NHS is a magnificent institution.
Boar: Another issue students are quite concerned about and are signing petitions about is the taxation of sanitary products, which are currently taxed at 5%, while things like crocodile burgers and edible flowers aren’t taxed. Do you have a stance on this and would you consider making a stance on this in future?
CW: This is not a luxury item, this is a necessity, and to me it seems to be – however it managed to fall into the VAT bracket in the first place, god only knows. It’s a very good campaign to raise the issue of something half the population use on a regular basis. Yes, I think if you want to say one campaign that I’d be absolutely, fully supportive of, that would be one.
how do we make that good thing better? … whether it’s bringing together Stagecoach and Rob and your sabbatical officers, whether it’s finding money from a business to put into a festival, that’s very much what I do.
Here is a good thing, how do we make that good thing better? And if there’s a way I can facilitate that – whether it’s bringing together Stagecoach and Rob and your sabbatical officers, whether it’s finding money from a business to put into a festival, that’s very much what I do. And I think we’ve made incredible progress over the last five years. I appreciate there’s a lot more work to be done, but I think together we can do that.
Read interviews from the other candidates here;