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“I don’t think a coalition is the only way Labour can win”: an interview with Matt Western

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As the June 8th general election fast approaches, the Boar took the time to interview Labour Councillor Matt Western. Matt is the current County Councillor of Leamington Willes and is running to be the next MP for Warwick and Leamington. He was endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to Leamington Spa last week.

I begin by asking about the upcoming elections and whether he thinks Labour stands a real chance. “I think the call for a snap election is a defensive tactic and they should have called the vote in Autumn after the Brexit vote. The government keeps harping on about austerity but then it finds the money to pay for an election, which is extremely expensive.”

Despite this initial pessimism, he concludes: “But here we are, we have an election and so we’re going to contest it.”

The governemnt keeps harping on about austerity but then it finds the money to pay for an election

I bring up the media’s speculation that Labour will face an overwhelming defeat, with The Sun labelling it ‘Blue Murder’. “One thing we’ve learnt from the last couple of years is that the opinion polls can’t be trusted as they are frequently way off the mark. But that’s not to say there isn’t a job for Labour to do.”

Matt was also sceptical of the claim that the only way Labour can win the election is through a coalition with several other parties. “I don’t think a coalition is the only way Labour can win and I don’t believe coalitions are necessarily good things. We witnessed that between 2010 and 2015, where the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition actually did the public a disservice. It also did a lot of harm to the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 outcome.”

One of the biggest struggles the Labour party currently face is the apparent dislike of Jeremy Corbyn, even amongst its own MPs. However, Matt was clear this should not be the reason people choose not to vote for Labour. “A party is a party, it’s not one person. People should be voting for a set of values or principles they believe that party stands for and what sort of society that party will serve up when in power.”

One thing we’ve learnt from the last couple of years is that the opinion polls can’t be trusted as they are frequently way off the mark. But that’s not to say there isn’t a job for Labour to do.

The conversation moved on to Matt’s plans for the local area. He begun with a criticism of current Conservative policies. “People need to really be aware of where the Conservative party are taking us in terms of their attack on public services. The county council have seen our budgets halved in seven years, meaning funding for repairs to roads, children centres and integrated disability centres has been dramatically cut. There is the money in our society, but increasingly that money is being held by fewer and fewer people in larger amounts and they keep this money where it is tax free.”

Matt explains that one of his priorities during his time as a Labour Councillor has been working on developing a new energy supply company to compete with the ‘big 6’ energy companies. “We are setting up a Warwickshire energy supply company that is not-for-profit, which means immediately the consumer will be offered preferential tariffs and lower rates to what the ‘big 6’ offer.” This scheme  would save on average  £300 per year for a household of 4 people, benefitting not only local families but also students.

When asked about his main policies regarding students, Matt placed great emphasis on accomodation and transport. “There are a couple of things I’m working really hard on including the quality and security of accommodation. The unregulated housing market is not to students’ advantage, there has to be greater control over this market because it is being exploited. There are stories about deposits being detained for little or no damage and the student body feels powerless. I would bring in far greater regulations for that sector, something the Labour group has been working very hard at on the District Council.”

There are a couple of things I’m working really hard on including the quality and security of accommodation.

Recently, Stagecoach altered their terms and conditions so that if a Student loses their bus pass, they have to pay the original fee of £301 instead of a small replacement fee. Whilst Stagecoach says this is to prevent fraud, Matt has been campaigning for a better system to prevent this. “I am pressing for a pass introduced this coming September/October with a microchip like an Oyster Card. If it is lost they can immediately shut it down so there is no chance of fraud, but likewise students don’t face the risk of losing £300 of cash just like that. Additionally it will give us data on times and frequency of travel so we can start building a better quality of service in terms of frequency at certain times of the day.”

My time with Matt showed that he is confident that a Labour victory in the general elections will be a victory for Britain and the economy. “There will be a very succinct choice on June the 8th between Labour and the Conservatives and it’s down to Labour to make the arguments of why people should vote for us and I think we will. I’m very clear about what we can do.”

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