Coventry South
Image: Robin Stott / geograph.org.uk

GE2019: Coventry South candidates on Brexit, crime, climate and more

For this month’s general election, The Boar interviewed the candidates for Coventry South to provide information for students at the University of Warwick who are voting in the constituency.

The Boar asked candidates to answer five questions, relating to the topics of Brexit, higher education in the UK, the climate emergency, local crime and healthcare. Candidates were also offered a 10-minute phone interview on questions related to the aforementioned topics.

The Coventry South candidates who responded to The Boar‘s enquiries in time were James Phillip Crocker (Brexit Party), Becky Finalyson (Green), Ed Manning (Independent Party), Stephen Richmond (Liberal Democrat) and Zarah Sultana (Labour). Mattie Heaven (Conservative) did not participate.

James Phillip Crocker (Brexit Party)

The Boar: How will you work to mitigate the effects of Brexit on the local economy and jobs in the industrial sector in the constituency?

JPC: True Brexit is a massive opportunity for business and cutting the cost of living. New trade deals without the protectionist tariffs the EU imposes will mean clothes, food and footwear will be cheaper. We will be able to cut VAT as this is a sales tax determined by the EU. By not spending £12bn+ a year subsidising other countries we’ll have money to support strategic industries, such as EV technology in Coventry, fund bursaries for nurses, apprenticeships, and those looking to reskill and retrain.

Evianne Suen (for The Boar): You mentioned that £12 billion will be diverted to support strategic industries in the UK. Will this make up for the loss in funding from EU countries, and will this loss impact the local areas?

JPC: The effects of Brexit are all very talked about in monetary terms, but there are other side effects which are quite difficult to talk about. Getting to the minutiae of what the numbers are is something I’ve always been very, very loathed to. All I can say is, and this is what I really want to get back to, mitigating the short term effects, I think is easier. It’s so difficult for me to hypothesise very much. All I can say is that the whole reason for me standing is to take the longer term view of the benefits that it will bring, by having a more international reach, having a more international view, you know, to be able to deal with countries outside of the EU more directly that we cannot do at the moment. And the potential costs that may be involved if we have to see the EU struggle in any kind of economic downturn, which we are going through at the moment. And if it worsens, if it deteriorates, then I can only see us supporting various institutions to a greater degree or a lesser degree.

The Boar: What do you think is the biggest problem facing higher education right now and how will you help tackle it for students living within the constituency?

JPC: One of the key Brexit Party policies is to abolish interest on student loans and this confronts one of the major issues in higher education today. Furthermore, we are concerned that not enough is being done to fund those from less privileged backgrounds in the first place. We would look to encourage grants from the private sector as well as government to relieve the financial burden on these students. This will help students in securing jobs after leaving university. Ultimately, students will benefit most if the economy is run properly and has a demand for highly skilled individuals.

ES: If more students are able to secure jobs in Coventry South after university as a result of the Brexit Party’s policies, how will you mitigate the impact on the local employment market?

JPC: I am arguing that post-Brexit, there will be greater opportunities for everybody to varying degrees. The word “mitigate” feels a bit loaded here, because there is going to be a transitional period that’s going to be good for some people, and may be not too good for others, but time will tell, so I’m struggling with the word “mitigate”. All I can say is we’re focussing on the long term benefits that that brings. It’s not just for students, it’s for everybody. One of the things that I have a more personal interest in, one of my personal goals, would be to try and improve the quality of jobs in and around Coventry, to try and attract people with degree-level education. The types of jobs that can satisfy them could very well be in technology. It seems to be particularly about renewables, that kind of thing. So I’m struggling with the word “mitigate”, ‘encourage and help’ would be more of the line I would take there.

The Boar: A recent poll by ClientEarth indicated that almost two-thirds of people agreed the climate emergency was the biggest issue facing humankind. How will you ensure that the climate crisis is addressed in the constituency?

JPC: Make no mistake, climate change is one of the biggest global issues that will affect each and every one of us. It is incumbent on us to listen to our scientists and respect their expertise on the topic. As a country we need to set an example and locally we seem to be making great strides in our recycling centres. We can become world leaders in promoting innovative sustainable technology – one of the most financially efficient ways to invest against climate change – and we can build on what we have already achieved with EVs in Coventry.

ES: What particular policies against climate change will you introduce in Coventry South?

JPC: One thing that I have become more aware of is that the existing policies in Coventry by the council and related groups have a lot of credits. They’ve done a lot already over the last few years. And I think that may well have been overlooked or maybe not spotted, a lot of what they’ve done is in incentivising. One thing that I talk about a lot is incentives. People respond to incentives. I am always inclined to try and make these positive incentives, certainly in the case of renewables, and the greener agenda, is that things like incentivising taxi drivers to the tune of – I think – £2,500, to drive electric vehicles is a very powerful factor, and it seems to be working. And also the elements of electric buses, streetlights, etc. What I’m trying to say is that there is already a body of activities that’s being taken by local authorities. It just needs to be encouraged, and really, funded better. I’m not sure that we can raise a policy that can necessarily bring a magic wand to this. But I have to give lots and lots of credit to the existing policies, not sponsored and overlooked by lots of people. One thing that I’d like to throw in at the end though is that one of our policies that is related to this, a straightforward, national policy, is about the export of our own waste. The fact of the matter is, you cannot trust whose hands it is going to end up in, and that’s how you end up with plastic Tesco bottles all over Thailand and Malaysian beaches, for example. That is one very big national policy that we’d look to try and push through.

The Boar: There has been a significant rise in both knife crime and hate crime in the local area. How will you tackle this, and how will you work with the police to do so?

JPC: In discussions with local police it is clear they are under-resourced. On a more practical level, they feel that current stop and search powers are inadequate and we would look to put pressure on Parliament to get this issue addressed. Crucial factors, such as education, communication and general public awareness can be improved. We need to be more creative if we want to change things for the better and we are going to have to think about these issues affecting Coventry in a different way. Maintaining constructive dialogue with our stakeholders will help to achieve this.

ES: How will you ensure the safety of students in Coventry South, especially given the hate crime incidents and break-ins international students living there have experienced?

JPC: I can see that there have been a noticeable increases in violent crimes, hate crimes, crimes of all sorts. Across Coventry, and I think this is related to everybody, I think there are pockets with really outmoded and outdated attitudes. I can see it. But I think that the way to undo that is to ‘throw money’ at the problem, for the lack of a better word, the only way to do that is through education, through dealing with schools, through dealing with youth groups, that is essentially the starting points. I don’t see a quick fix, to be quite honest. I’m just very conscious of one or two projects elsewhere in the country or certainly in Glasgow, where basically, education, going into schools and really, really thinking differently, does seem to have had an effect. And it’s not all about punishment aspects, obviously. It’s not about punishing perpetrators, although that was obviously critical. It’s prevented it happening in the first place. It comes back to education. And there are lots of different ways to doing it.

The Boar: In an area densely populated by students, how will you tackle the increasing waiting times at A&E and healthcare centres in the constituency, especially during peak times such as flu season?

JPC: The fundamental issue is that we need to adequately fund our NHS. Unless we run the economy properly, we will not have adequate resources. It is that simple. Coventry has seen an increase in population size of 60,000 people over the past decade, and is set to grow. Not enough long-term thinking was in place in the 1990s and we are feeling the effects today. Having spoken to nurses, we understand that it may be possible to ease the capacity constraints at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire by making Rugby Hospital a medical outlier. Rugby Hospital has three wards and lots of unused space that could be utilised for stabilising patients. This would free up bed spaces at UHCW for more urgent cases.

ES: Is rendering Rugby Hospital an overflow area for Coventry South patients a long-term solution? If so, how will you implement this plan in the future? If not, what long-term solution do you propose?

JPC: Clearly the longer term solution is either extensions or more hospitals, it’s really not more complicated than that. You know, every aspect of the hospital is not just more doctors, more nurses, more space. It is sorting out the car park, which of all the things I’ve come across, is a continual issue. There is clearly a short-term solution to short-term capacity issues. But if you look at the population growth over the next six years, you’re probably expecting another 50 something thousand people and that’s for lots of different reasons. We’re just out of capacity now. And at least one thing Boris has promised us, magically, are these new hospitals. I think it would be good if some of this money was actually spent on hospitals that we have existing, to expand them and make them work properly, rather than just pretending that they’re building new hospitals. There’s a lot more to it than that. If we do have one policy that I can shout out at this moment, it would be about the car parking charges in Coventry because it drives everyone crazy, and it cannot be that much of a revenue generator.

Becky Finalyson (Green)

The Boar: How will you work to mitigate the effects of Brexit on the local economy and jobs in the industrial sector in the constituency?

BF: Firstly, I hope we will get a government that offers a second referendum but if we don’t, I would put pressure on the government to ensure that they financially support businesses and jobs in the local economy if they are affected by Brexit. The Green Party also wants to introduce Universal Basic Income which enables everyone to support themselves if they are in work or not.

Luke James (for The Boar): Universal Basic Income (UBI) is mentioned 34 times in the Green Party’s manifesto, at an estimated cost of £86.2 billion. However, critics argue that UBI have inflationary impacts on the cost of living. What is your response to these concerns?

BF: I don’t think it should have an impact on the cost of living. The cost of living is already higher than what people are able to pay for through wages at the moment, as seen through the increased use of food banks. So, having universal income, the cost of living shouldn’t be too much higher because UBI doesn’t replace people going to work, it’s basically just that extra security net to replace welfare.

The Boar: What do you think is the biggest problem facing higher education right now and how will you help tackle it for students living within the constituency?

BF: The biggest problem facing higher education is the cuts – a combination of higher tuition fees and cutting for universities is making for a toxic combination. Green party policy is to get rid of tuition fees and write off existing student debt.

LJ: Your manifesto pledges to “write off existing debt for former students who studied under the £9k tuition fee regime” and to scrap undergraduate tuition fees. How will the Green Party help pre-2015 fee-payers?

BF: I don’t think there is a current plan for that at the moment. I, myself, am in the pre-2015 tuition fee payer, but my hope is that paying off tuition fee debt would be easier given the introduction of Universal Basic Income, because that is given to every person regardless of what income they have. So, even though there isn’t a plan to write-off the pre-2015 student debt, as with the £9k scheme, the introduction of UBI should be able to help students and graduates to pay that debt off more easily.

The Boar: A recent poll by ClientEarth indicated that almost two-thirds of people agreed the climate emergency was the biggest issue facing humankind. How will you ensure that the climate crisis is addressed in the constituency?

BF: I would halt all new house build programmes on greenbelt sites – I would do a thorough reassessment of housing needs and focus on brownfield sites. I would also embark on a huge tree-planting programme. I would also seek funding to improve cleaner methods of transport in Coventry, like cycling lanes, restricting cars in the city centre and funding more public transportation. Most ambitiously, I would seek to transition existing transport (like buses) into electric-run vehicles.

LJ: What are you views on the introduction of a Coventry congestion charge zone? Can policies of this kind help tackle the climate crisis?

BF: It depends how they are rolled out because with the congestion zone charge that is currently being proposed for Coventry city centre, the worry, that certainly the local Green Party has had, is that it would just increase congestion in other areas of Coventry. So, you’re sort of replacing pollution in one area to another area. So I think what’s more important, what is more effective, will be a better investment in public transport, and car-sharing schemes and things like that, eventually, just the roll-out of more electric vehicles. But as it stands, the current congestion charge, I don’t think will work. I think it will just make things worse in another area.

The Boar: There has been a significant rise in both knife crime and hate crime in the local area. How will you tackle this, and how will you work with the police to do so?

BF: I believe knife crime is linked to austerity. What I would want to do is to restore youth services that have been cut from the city, as well as holding public reconciliations/mediators between at-risk youth, police, and people from outside Coventry who have been involved in knife crime. I want to see a spirit of community cooperation between all vested parties to restore common ground, and less of seeing each other as enemies. But I think the most important thing is to restore youth services in the city and improve education about both knife crime and hate crime.

LJ: You said that you would like to see “a spirit of community cooperation” to tackle knife crime in Coventry. If elected, how would you achieve this?

BF: So, part of the Green Party manifesto is to reopen youth centres, and to employ more Community Engagement Officers. I think the important thing is that because of cuts and various things that have happened over the last few years, there has been an increase in gangs because there has been no provision for young people. So, if these youth centres are reopened, they become a centre for the community again, and having stakeholder meetings between different members of the community – like police, parents, and young people – having a sort of mutual meeting place where people can listen to each other, kind of like a restorative justice meeting, where all people’s views are held, and people getting to know each other more. That’s one of the ways we can tackle that together.

The Boar: In an area densely populated by students, how will you tackle the increasing waiting times at A&E and healthcare centres in the constituency, especially during peak times such as flu season?

BF: I would press for more funding and staff in A&E and healthcare centres in Coventry. This is all entirely dependent on the new government and their spending, but my priority would be, whoever the government is, to press for more staff and funding for the constituency. I would also request extra locum staff during times such as flu season to cope with the increased demand.

LJ: The Green Party has pledged to abolish the internal market and increase funding by at least £6 billion per year for the NHS. How will this improve healthcare access for students?

BF: So, with the increase in funding, this will mean that it would open more surgeries, and it links in with the Green Party’s ideas on the European Union, because we want to Remain. We know at the moment that there are thousands of doctors and nurses that work in the NHS from the EU, but currently those doctors and nurses are quitting and going back to their home countries, even if they’ve been here for years and years. So, our vision for the European Union, being part of Europe, would hopefully encourage that migration from the EU and other countries as well again. Because it is all very well saying we’ll introduce 20,000 new doctors or something, but they take a long time to train and we might not be able to fill it with British doctors and nurses. So, we would encourage migration and freedom of movement to ensure that we have enough staff to cover the shortfall at the moment. And particularly looking at student areas and universities, which have higher concentrations of students, we would look to increase the numbers of surgeries, GPs and nurses in that way.

Ed Manning (Independent Party)

The Boar: How will you work to mitigate the effects of Brexit on the local economy and jobs in the industrial sector in the constituency?

EM: Businesses like certainty and stability. Breaking the two-party stranglehold with independent, sensible and caring people independents would create a more stable country. I am proposing an elected constitutional assembly to determine Brexit presided over by a judge which could negotiate with the EU and put the final deal to the public.

Whatever happens with Brexit we need a culture of respect, respect for one another and respect for our international partners. If Brexit does go ahead we need to get to the next steps of building new trade deals as quickly as possible. Politicians on all sides need to be responsible and to not promise what they cannot deliver.

Anushka Suharu (for The Boar): In your answers that you sent to us, you are proposing an elected official assembly to determine Brexit. So can you elaborate on this Constitutional Assembly, and what you plan on doing through it?

EM: The idea, which has been talked about previously, is that you vote for an electoral assembly, which would be about 60 people. And those people would then make the decision. And it will be led by judges rather than people who are able to say whatever they liked. It will be controlled by judges who could ensure that anything that was not true is thrown out of order, and they can negotiate with Europe and have conversations there and bring together a proposal. That would be a full proposal for either a full Brexit or to Remain, whichever they thought was best, and then to put it back into the country.

The Boar: What do you think is the biggest problem facing higher education right now and how will you help tackle it for students living within the constituency?

EM: There are a number of challenges facing higher education today. Funding is a key issue people care about, funding to ensure universities provide high quality degrees and that money does not stop those who are capable and want to gain a degree. Thinking like a poor nation, that cannot afford anything, leads to poverty of thought and poverty of opportunity. Education is investment and we should invest in it. I don’t have a problem with some fees as long as everyone can afford it, but the current level of costs for students is unacceptable.

Coventry City Football Club used to be in the Top Division, but went for cheap rather than the best, we need to invest in staying in the topflight as a nation.

AS: In your answers, you also spoke by investing more into education. Where exactly do you propose on sourcing this sort of investment?

EM: I think some of it is just paying higher taxes. And it’s interesting, the economists, which you might see is quite right-wing, were saying that we need to pay more taxes. And actually, we can afford to pay more taxes. So it’s the right thing to do. I will be more than happy to pay more taxes, and that money will be invested in and will generate future income. So it’s an investment in higher taxes now for a better society today, and a better society tomorrow.

The Boar: A recent poll by ClientEarth indicated that almost two-thirds of people agreed the climate emergency was the biggest issue facing humankind. How will you ensure that the climate crisis is addressed in the constituency?

EM: The 100 Year Plan for sustainable cities proposes sensible but radical solutions for greener Cities. Revitalising the housing to cut carbon emissions and fuel poverty, re-engineering cities so people can enjoy walking, cycling and public transport while strengthening communities and local democracy. We need to think radically differently, redesigning cities for people rather than cars would be great, and that needs to be a national conversation.

AS: In terms of the environment and thinking radically to redesign cities, what sort of redesign do you mean and what would it entail?

EM: I think for the future, we need to think about how we’re going to change Coventry, which is all based around the car. Travelling by public transport is quite slow, you know, you get in your bus from Warwick, and it takes ages. You get stuck in traffic. Putting in, you know, modern mass transit, trams, light rail and investing in that. If you’re going to do that for a 20-year plan, it is going to be phenomenal, expensive. But if you thinking about over 100 years, it’s such a right thing to do and would really, you know, liberate the city. It would encourage more people to walk as well because you’d walk to your tram stop, get your travel, travel fast, and be much greener, but it would also, you know, free the cities from being caught up by cars.

The Boar: There has been a significant rise in both knife crime and hate crime in the local area. How will you tackle this, and how will you work with the police to do so?

EM: We need to increase social cohesion, that we belong to one another, that the good things of life are for everyone not just the haves. Secondly, we require sufficient policing, policing integrated in communities. The police need to win hearts and minds, we need more youth clubs and we police who both on and off duty would work with youth. We also need a greater focus on wellbeing.

Speech and action are related, we are all responsible for the words that we say and the impact that it has on others, fighting talk leads to fighting people. Toxic politics does not help.

We need to focus on turning lives around. Investing in prison based rehabilitation is essential to stop people re-offending. We need to focus on turning people around.

AS: In terms of knife crime and youth, you spoke a lot about youth clubs. What do you propose for keeping young people out of crime?

EM: It is interesting because I have friends who ran youth clubs and worked with children who are not in education or training. And so, you know, I know people who’ve lost their jobs years ago because of all the cuts that there’s been, and there are people who are passionate about working with young people who would call those people, and there’s a lot of evidence that says that when you engage with people, they’re less likely to commit crimes.

The Boar: In an area densely populated by students, how will you tackle the increasing waiting times at A&E and healthcare centres in the constituency, especially during peak times such as flu season?

EM: Over 10 years ago I worked on care out of hospital and admission avoidance. We need an integrated care service and better accommodation for older people. Better housing for older people means that they can move out of homes which can be freed for younger people. Nothing is free, I believe in paying more for better public services, and those who have the most should pay the most – that’s fair. We also need to invest in primary care and encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives. I believe the NHS is worth paying for.

AS: You spoke about an integrated care service, what exactly does that entail and what measures will you use to increase care?

EM: An integrated care service means a national government that gives social and primary care. There used to be old cottage hospitals that helped the elderly and gave primary care, but we don’t have those anymore.

Stephen Richmond (Liberal Democrat)

The Boar: How will you work to mitigate the effects of Brexit on the local economy and jobs in the industrial sector in the constituency?

SR: Firstly by not having Brexit. That seems the most sensible way forward whether it is simply cancelling article 50 immediately or calling a referendum on the final deal.

Other than that it is very difficult to mitigate the effects of Brexit if it were to happen but I would be fighting for strategic investment in research and development in Coventry. That investment can help fight climate change, support our universities and keep our manufacturing industry alive. Of course this can and should be done regardless of whether we leave or remain.

The Boar: What do you think is the biggest problem facing higher education right now and how will you help tackle it for students living within the constituency?

SR: Cost of living for students. I’d be fighting for the return of maintenance grants as well as tackling our housing crisis of high rents and poor quality student housing. The solution is investment in the housing crisis more generally to build more home and hold bad landlords to account.

The Boar: A recent poll by ClientEarth indicated that almost two-thirds of people agreed the climate emergency was the biggest issue facing humankind. How will you ensure that the climate crisis is addressed in the constituency?

SR: The Liberal Democrats have committed to ensuring 80% of our electricity being generated by renewables in just ten years. We will also be planting sixty million trees a year but I think there are some powerful things we can do locally in Coventry.

Coventry is are hub of both manufacturing and innovation and I want to use schemes like the catapult investment centres, that Liberal Democrats have are ready fought for and made into a reality, to drive research and development investment to Coventry. Warwick university is already working on new green public transport solutions and Jaguar Land-Rover is developing it’s electric cars here. By developing the new green solutions to problems Coventry can not just help decarbonise Britain but help decarbonise the word.

The Boar: There has been a significant rise in both knife crime and hate crime in the local area. How will you tackle this, and how will you work with the police to do so?

SR: Sadly the Conservatives have cut 21,000 police officers and that does have an effect. We would restore them but more is needed. The Lib Dems manifesto does more for those worst off in society than any other major party, including Labour, according to independent analysis by the Resolution Foundation. This is important for crime because there is a well researched link between people feeling under strain financially and increases in crime. Hate crime is often driven by anger and resentment, one of the many steps towards fighting that is a more equal society and more opportunities for all.

The Boar: In an area densely populated by students, how will you tackle the increasing waiting times at A&E and healthcare centres in the constituency, especially during peak times such as flu season?

IS: The NHS is worryingly underfunded and we will be asking everyone to chip in just 1p more on the basic rate of tax to fund a substantial increase in funding. We have managed to achieve that extra funding while being independently assessed by the Resolution foundation as making almost everyone better off and being more progressive than Labour while at the same time being he only major party to have plans that the Institute of Fiscal studies describes as credible.

The Liberal Democrats will do more to help everyone, while also stopping Climate Change and Brexit, in a way that is viable and financially sound. No other party can claim that.

Mr Richmond did not respond in time for a phone interview with The Boar.

Zarah Sultana (Labour)

The Boar: How will you work to mitigate the effects of Brexit on the local economy and jobs in the industrial sector in the constituency?

ZS: In government, we will negotiate a Brexit deal which protects workers’ rights, environmental protections and vital sectors of the economy like our car industry here in Coventry. We’ll hand power back to the people giving the public say a final say on Brexit, with a vote between this credible deal and Remain. I’ve been listening to local people’s concerns about Brexit on the doorstep over the last few weeks and if elected, I will be consulting with local businesses, and constituents, to ensure I can take their voices to the table. I will not support any Brexit deal which threatens working people’s livelihoods here in Coventry. Securing the future of industry is about much more than Brexit however. We need to see a Green Industrial Revolution to decarbonise by 2030 if we’re to secure the hundreds of thousands of well-paid high-skilled green jobs we need.

Nell Savoni (for The Boar): With regards to your first question, how would you respond to Coventry South constituents who voted for Brexit, of which the majority did in 2016, who don’t want to see a Remain option brought back onto the table?

ZS: I completely understand where they’re coming from. I’ve been working in Leave constituencies in the West Midlands, in Halesowen and Stourbridge, parts of Black Country, so among those people who want to see us leave the EU, to that I would say, we need a deal that protects jobs, that protects industry, that doesn’t sell the NHS in a US trade bill, that protects environmental protection and consumer standards. So we need to leave with a plan essentially, and what we have with Boris Johnson and the deal that was presented would really, really harm people’s livelihood. So what the Labour Party is saying is that we will get that credible deal that, you know, ticks the boxes that I’ve just outlined, and to go on and make a decision again, reaffirm it if they still wish to leave. And this way, there’s actually a process that’s outlined for three months. Within three months, the Labour Party in government will get that deal from the EU and within six months, we will put it to the people and should the country vote to leave, then we have a way out. And should Remain win, I think that’s a different situation that we can discuss on what that would look like but there’s people who still want to be this way. The policies actually, you know, it’s got a timeframe. With Boris Johnson, we could be negotiating deals with other countries for years, so it actually prolongs the situation rather than deals with the situation. It also puts out something I would say everyone in the country cares very deeply about, regardless of Leave or Remain, Tories or Labour: the NHS. And that’s the real harm.

The Boar: What do you think is the biggest problem facing higher education right now and how will you help tackle it for students living within the constituency?

ZS: Higher education has become a sector which treats students as numbers and revenue streams and has lost sight of students’ education and welfare. We need to reinstate a free, public and depressurised higher education sector. Labour will scrap tuition fees tripled by the Tories and Liberal Democrats and bring back the maintenance grants and EMA scrapped by them. With £50,000 of student debt myself, I will be pushing for a write-off of the mountain of unpayable student debt. We need a higher education system free in every sense, free of the stark class and racial attainment gaps and barriers to learning, free of the pressured focus on grades above all else, free from the mental health crisis, free from cultures of misogyny and racism and free from the exclusion of particular intellectual traditions. If elected as your MP, I will hold regular surgeries for students to ensure that I can address students’ concerns. This is just the first step in ensuring genuine equality of access to higher education because we know it’s not designed for working class students and students of colour, in particular.

NS: With regards to your answer, could you expand on how you intend to make higher education available to all in the region and why you think this is so important?

ZS: For me, being able to access education is something that I believe is a human right and also a social good. All of society benefits from people being able to access education. And the way we do that, and the way the party is, so that we will be able to do this, it starts off right at the very beginning, right. So by re-establishing centres by allowing people to have childcare support for their kids when they’re younger, from funding our school to ensure that they’re not starving or teachers are filling the void. There are funding shortfalls at the moment.

What we’re talking about when it comes to higher education, specifically, or just before higher education, is bringing back EMA, supporting especially working class students, financially supporting them while they’re at college and sixth form and then not saddling them with debt, should they decide to go into university, and then also providing high quality, well-paid apprenticeship for those people going to seek vocational studies. So this way, it’s saying that education is for everyone, It’s not for people who can bear the burden of debt – it’s saying that regardless of where you come from throughout your life, education is for you. And you can use that to pursue your potential and study, and enjoy the pursuit of study, rather than seeing it as just a way of getting a good job at the end of it, which I feel is, as I was just saying, about universities and people being able to study and want to study rather than what they think will allow them to get a job at the end of it. So the kind of ability to pursue knowledge and education for one’s own personal fulfilment, rather than, like, thinking about careers in the future.

The Boar: A recent poll by ClientEarth indicated that almost two-thirds of people agreed the climate emergency was the biggest issue facing humankind. How will you ensure that the climate crisis is addressed in the constituency?

ZS: I’ve been a campaigner with Labour for a Green New Deal and I’m incredibly proud that, taking a lead form the Youth Climate Strikers, our party has committed to a Green Industrial Revolution to decarbonise by 2030 and deliver hundreds of thousands of good green jobs. With our historic car industry heritage, Coventry has both a responsibility and opportunity to lead the transition to green transportation. I want to ensure that workers at JLR and other industries in Coventry are at the heart of this transition.

NS: Why would you argue that the Labour Party is the party to tackle the climate issue, rather than, say the Green Party?

ZS: The Labour Party is the party to tackle the climate emergency because it, alongside, you know, green activists and a Green Party MP, it was the one that led the fight to get parliament to recognise the climate emergency. It has one of the most comprehensive green-related manifestos and policy pledges. About the climate emergency, it is talking about how we can use this opportunity to really rebalance and transform the economy, as well in terms of creating jobs and tackling inequality. And what the party’s also saying is that the transition to that zero carbon economy that we need to get to by 2030, it has to be led by working people, and working people need to have that sense of ownership, that this is something that is going to be for them, led by them, and especially in Coventry where we’ve got JLR and other major manufacturers. They play a crucial role and they need to be part of the conversation to trade unions, communities, workers. That’s where the Labour Party has a completely different dynamic approach. It is able to engage people from all different backgrounds around a conversation that often people feel like doesn’t really involve them. So this, the way we’ve used our Green Industrial Revolution, the way we’ve had meetings across the country, where people have actually talked about what green investment looks like for them, it’s allowing people to think, well, this is what we need, we need better buses, we need affordable buses, we need better train infrastructure, bringing in the concept of re-nationalisation and what that means. For us, the £250 billion green transformation fund is giving power to the people to say this is what we need in our communities. And this is how we can also address the climate emergency at the same time. And I don’t think any other party has that approach. Nor does it have that same agenda at the moment, and in the way that it’s playing out prior to the General Election, but also during the General Election as well. Especially the Tories. I mean, we’ve got the climate debate on Thursday, Jeremy signed up to it as well as all the other party leaders, but Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are nowhere to be seen. So we are the party that’s really leading on this, I would say.

The Boar: There has been a significant rise in both knife crime and hate crime in the local area. How will you tackle this, and how will you work with the police to do so?

ZS: Knife and hate crime are things I have personal experience with. I know the tragic cost of these violences and I desperately want to see them ended. No amount of policing will fully alleviate social problems with complex social roots. We desperately need the public health approach to knife crime that has been so successful in Glasgow, focusing on prevention and rehabilitation. Labour will establish a Universal Youth Service to do just this, investing in youth work axed under Tory austerity and building a society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish in safe communities. As your MP, I will work to ensure that the police protect marginalised communities from hate crime, and ensure justice and accountability as far as possible on the serious issues of institutional racism and infringements of civil liberties. The rise in knife crime and hate crime is really saddening, and my thoughts and condolences go out to everyone who has been impacted by knife crime in Coventry.

NS: Could you expand on the plans you’ve laid out to replicate a public health approach on knife crime in a way which is similar to Glasgow?

ZS: So when we are talking about a public health approach, it’s saying that rather than dealing with knife crime, we’re supporting young people throughout their lives. You know, through youth centres, through funding schools, looking at the ways that sometimes schools offload students, or keep them on the register while excluding them, and then they’re unable to access education. So it’s about looking at knife crime through a social lens that says that there’s different ways of tackling it. And that’s investing in our communities and investing in young people. And in Glasgow, we’ve seen how, you know, using public health, and not saying that this is a crime and people will always commit these crimes, but saying that, actually, there’s interventions that can take place much earlier on, to stop it getting into that position. So yeah, youth centres, investing in schools, just bringing back youth workers as well within communities that take certain indices in terms of socioeconomic indicators, and providing them with the resources to build stronger communities.

The Boar: In an area densely populated by students, how will you tackle the increasing waiting times at A&E and healthcare centres in the constituency, especially during peak times such as flu season?

ZS: Tory austerity has left our NHS in a state of disrepair. Underfunding, privatisation, fragmentation have lead to long waiting times and staff shortages and it now it faces the threat of sell-off in the Tories bargain basement Brexit deal. Labour will never allow our NHS to be broken up and privatised and upon taking office, we will implement a £26bn rescue plan to restore NHS and bring down waiting times for A&E and other services. We will invest in mental health services on a scale never seen before and restore student nursing bursaries.

NS: With regards to mental health services and the NHS, what plans does labour have specific to the region and to students?

ZS: As someone who actually had a mental health breakdown, I would say, while I was at university, this is something I feel really passionate about. So the Labour Party is saying that we’re going to invest in mental health services and see them completely on parity with the way people talk about the way we approach one’s physical health. So it’s about investing in mental health services on a scale we’ve never seen before, counsellors in every single school. And also, it’s part of our £26 billion rescue package for the NHS and also refunding children and adults’ mental health services, so it’s really putting money where it belongs in addressing an issue that affects at least one in for us in our lifetime. And I think there’s data to show that people take time off work because of mental health problems, where people are having those conversations. So we need to really banish the stigma of mental health, and also the high-pressurised environments that exist in pretty much every industry. So even with UCU recently, with the strikes that are taking place, there’s a lot of conversations around what that pressurised nature within academia, the mental health implications of that but also within schools, within, every other workplace, so the Labour Party is really seeking to put in money to help people get the help that they need.

Written answers from the candidates are presented as they were given to The Boar. Interviews with candidates for Coventry North East and North West, Kenilworth and Southam as well as Warwick and Leamington are linked accordingly.

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