Why even vote for an Independent candidate?

Being a candidate for a political party does not make a person valuable to society by itself. What does make a person valuable, however, is competence, honesty and reliability along with integrity to act in the best interest of the public. It is important to gauge these truly valuable aspects of a candidate otherwise politics in the UK will be unlikely to improve.

As an independent MP I would not be absorbed into the unprofessional culture of not attending important meetings, wouldn’t be bound by party rules, wouldn’t need to toe a party line and wouldn’t ever vote solely to support or reject a party (party politics).  Instead, I would focus all of my time on contributing to policy and discussing issues with the public and other MPs. I would vote in support according to reasonable merit; I understand that when there are 650 MPs all voting on a single issue compromise can be vital.

Summary of my position: The current deal on offer is most likely the best that the Government can negotiate, so I would vote to approve it but would point out that the deal is unfair and weak for the UK (a decision has to be made and re-negotiating for a third time would only induce more delays).  Northern Ireland will experience a border down the Irish Sea, have to deal with burdensome customs checks and are left in the Single Market (which MSPs consider to be unfair for Scotland too). The consequence is a considerable risk that Northern Ireland will vote against the arrangement as soon as they are able and Scotland request independence once again. Ultimately the UK compromised significantly in this deal, more so than the EU, but Ireland got their demands fulfilled. The severe mistakes of Brexit since the 2016 referendum, such as few MPs engaging with experts to resolve and progress Brexit, need to be addressed to improve our democracy going forward.

Full explanation: The indecisiveness of Parliament, and the combative relationship between the Government and Parliament, on the issue of Brexit clearly reveals a major weakness of democracy, the media and politics in the UK. More seriously though, despite Brexit being an issue which has consumed so much time, only a minority of MPs in Parliament (select committee of ~15 MPs) attended and engaged with experts to overcome issues holding Brexit back (e.g Border and customs issues). Therefore much of the debates and votes in Parliament have been lacking in detail over how to progress Brexit with viable solutions. It is plainly not right for MPs to delegate their responsibility down to such a small fraction given the delays.

To explain the errors I’ll use this timeline of relevant Brexit events and facts (analysis of political troubles in the explanation afterwards). Evidence and sources for the facts are provided in hyperlinks.

1) 2014 – 2019 – Unresolved dispute between EU and UK over customs fraud on Chinese goods. This began before Brexit and persisted, this can only negatively affect the Brexit negotiations. UK admitted fault. The UK ranks second last in the EU on quantity of recommended customs changes received from OLAF (2013-17, page 51).

2) 23rd June 2016 – UK votes to leave the EU.

3) 2016 post-referendum – A “Canada+++ deal” is offered by the EU and included perks like the trusted trader system “REX” to lessen checks. This deal was not taken up by the UK (Time on the video: 10:03:40).

4) November 2017 – In an effort to resolve border issues the EU publish a commissioned proposal, using technology to avoid a hard border in Ireland, Smart Border 2.0. The proposal was not taken up by either the UK or the EU. Ireland described the presence of automated technology as physical infrastructure.

5) July 2018 – UK Government publishes the details of its negotiation strategy, the Chequers Agreement (aka Facilitated Customs Arrangement). An EU customs expert said the UK strategy was developed by a firm without customs knowledge and is contrary to international customs practice. The EU rejected it twice saying it was deficient (Time on the video: 09:28:10).

6) November 2018 – A small number of MPs in UK Parliament hear evidence from EU border and customs experts. An EU customs expert says the UK never asked for the in-land customs system in negotiations to avoid a hard border (physical infrastructure is not necessary) (Time on the video: @09:49:00, @09:39:55). The evidence heard does not lead to anything substantive.

7) 4th October 2018 – In the aftermath the UK Chequers Agreement being rejected Donald Tusk repeats the 2016 free trade offer: “From the beginning, EU offer has been Canada+++ trade deal”. Indicating the free trade agreement was still on offer two years on from the 2016 referendum. The deal was still not taken up.

8) October 2019 – The UK and EU agree an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement. The Irish backstop is replaced with a revised Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. This sees Northern Ireland stay in the Single Market with extra checks required to deal with VAT, excise and tariff rebates depending on where the end destinations of goods will be. The specifics of these customs checks are yet to be determined. A trade deal is yet to be negotiated.

Commentary on the basis of the facts

The facts really speak for themselves, there have been plenty of opportunities for solutions and progress, and the final deal isn’t logical or sensible. Why didn’t our Government cure its customs deficiencies if we needed an advanced customs arrangement to avoid a border in Ireland and down the Irish Sea? Why didn’t the UK ask for the in-land customs system to meet our needs? Why wasn’t the Donald Tusk Canada style trade deal explored? Why was the UK negotiation strategy developed by a firm with no customs knowledge? Why did our strategy depart from international customs practice? Given the lack of transparency in the negotiations I do not know the official explanation from our Government for the seemingly irrational outcomes. The public must surely deserve answers.

Commentary on the politics of Brexit

The current deal on offer does not “get Brexit done”; it sets up a transition period (ending 31st December 2020 by default) in which a free trade agreement will be negotiated and customs implemented. It is doubtful a trade agreement will be concluded before then, especially if MPs continue to behave as they have been.

The country being so divided over Brexit, and the referendum not specifying in what manner the UK should leave the EU, means that compromise is vital for the UK to make a collective decision on what our relationship should be with the EU. I believe that a free trade agreement is the best way to compromise as it is in the middle of the spectrum of possible relationships (between no-deal/WTO and Customs Union/Single Market membership). However this compromise has still not happened in our Parliament; Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrats all talk in strong terms about being either in or close to the Customs Union and Single Market. These are so close to EU membership that they cannot reasonably be considered as compromise. Parliament deadlock is at risk of being an issue (once again) in the next bout of trade negotiations. Finally, it does also make most sense to leave with a deal since the UK would eventually want a free trade agreement to reduce tariffs anyway.

The PM behaved inappropriately to acquire the support of MPs and the suspension of Parliament, an option of last resort, was wrong. If MPs cannot compromise or make a collective decision then they can be forced to by using academic surveys and methods (and if they still reject then they should be disciplined and potentially dismissed). This was not done. Lastly the Supreme Court did overstep. The suspension was caused precisely because of Brexit, so how can the Supreme Court say Brexit was irrelevant? It was an unrealistic and hypothetical case, but the judgement was still used as political weapon, and the Supreme Court was wrong to allow this.

In the negotiations with the EU itself compromise didn’t happen for a very long time either. Ireland demanded no hard border, Northern Ireland demanded no border down the Irish Sea and the EU demanded a rigorously defended territory. The solution of the UK using the existing in-land customs system to avoid a hard border was not explored or requested from the EU, and so these demands were impossible to reconcile and ended up stalling Brexit for years. The resulting current deal came to be by breaking the no Irish Sea border promise. Northern Ireland will be in the Single Market (Scotland voted the greatest to remain but were not offered this too, and they now complain as a consequence) and imposing a complicated customs system to deal with tariffs and VAT. The deal creates tensions that have future implications: risk of another independence vote for Scotland and Northern Ireland potentially rejecting the customs arrangement on the first vote.

Historically, capitalism and subsequently neo-liberalism brought significant gains in living standards but the developments of the economy in recent decades have taken a turn for the worse. We have experienced the invention of ultra-high interest loans, the 2008 financial crash, the unregulated offshore banking system, the unhealthy rise of stock market gambling (and other exotic financial instruments), the rise of tax avoidance and evasion, the rise of exploitative/insecure employment and far lower real pay rises for people with lower incomes. Jobs that are necessary and/or provide actual value to society such as teachers, nurses, cancer treatment researchers or policemen have been left behind relative to jobs like financial speculation. Reasonableness needs to be brought back in the form of regulation to correct the damage to living standards. However the risk of over-regulation and/or the UK becoming less competitive in the global market also needs to be managed.

To an extent, the direction of the economy is a global issue because as the world has become easier to move around and trade within, pressure to deregulate has risen. Particular issues like the shadow banking system will need global co-operation in order to bring in reasonable regulation, but the UK could advocate for such change in global forums. For other issues our own domestic laws and processes could be improved in order to begin to resolve them (such as minimising tax evasion).

The policies I would like to see enforced in order to improve the UK economy:

1) Investment in the UK workforce is vitally important to deal with current problems such as the shortage of nurses with its heavy reliance on immigration. This means ensuring that there are enough students being trained as the UK needs by using reasonable incentives (where the taxpayer benefits by receiving a period of work in the NHS as compensation).

2) Small and medium businesses have a very important role in the UK economy. The Government needs to be more supportive to assist with gaining finance (e.g advice on loan process, cash-flow and business plans). Regulation is at risk of being too burdensome to small business and more consideration needs to go into regulation before it comes into effect (e.g GDPR privacy law). 

3) Workers’ rights in the gig economy have been slow to improve and vulnerable workers being incorrectly categorised by companies as self-employed has also been slow to change. Preservation of the minimum wage and paid leave should be a priority.

4) Poor Brexit strategy and support from parliament has resulted in worrying uncertainty and been particularly damaging for some sectors (e.g manufacturing such as British Steel). It is important for this to be addressed urgently.

5) Regulation of larger companies needs to be reasonable and effective to mitigate risk of burdensome fines or interference. The recent proposed GDPR fine of ~10% profits against British Airways, for example, is at risk of being ineffective. Most businesses will use security software supplied by other companies which will end up being the source of vulnerability. Therefore it makes most sense for the GDPR legislation to target the security software developers as many other customers will be using the unsecure software too. It is important to get this right given that internet security is a significant global issue.

6) Equality for women. The gender pay gap is estimated at 17.3% less than men but this is not caused by discrimination (discrimination is governed by unequal pay law). To achieve an equal society and improve pay prospects for women we must improve access to unequal pay law (grant the right to know pay of others in a similar role and provide information and advice on fighting a tribunal case). Additionally, part of why women experience lower pay is because part-time work is often not advertised much, and pay and promotion prospects are lower. This is caused by many business costs (e.g. insurance, subscriptions etc.) not being cheaper for part-time workers and the Government must lead the way to change this situation so that part-time work is encouraged and is more rewarding.

With the UK sitting at a significant level of national debt it is important that government spending is more efficient. Over the past few decades there have been a number of failings that reveal weakness in the way taxpayer money is and has been spent:

1) Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), a way for local councils to borrow money, have often been negotiated poorly resulting in unreasonably large expense. The re-branded “PF2” projects were short-lived and ditched; the problem was public sector employees did not take the time to understand what reasonable prices should be or consider the cost of finance. Taxpayer money will continue to be spent on existing PFI and PF2 contracts until they end (~£199 billion set to be spent by 2040 according to NAO). It is essential these poorly negotiated projects should be terminated or re-negotiated. Thus begs the question: with the Government being able to borrow at far cheaper interest rates than some PFI/PF2 projects accepted,  why didn’t the Government loan money to local councils for an overall saving for taxpayers?

2) The 2008 financial crash and money printing: hundreds of billions of pounds was printed to cancel some national debt, but the overall loss to the taxpayer of money printing is not known to the public. It would have made most sense to print only as much as was needed at the time to save banks and the stock market, and for the Government to spend on useful projects like house building, digitising the NHS, training etc. to stimulate the economy.

3) The role of the Government in the collapse of Carillion shows the importance of having public sector employees that have a good understanding of finance and business practice; taxpayer money was lost and public services were compromised (e.g. The Royal Liverpool Hospital).

4) The amount of spending available to the Government should be increased by tackling tax evasion and avoidance. With more efficient spending and reasonable revisions to avoidance rules this change would greatly help manage the UK’s finances. 

Spending government funds inefficiently contributes to under-performing public and local council services such as social care, education, road maintenance, public transport and much more. Adopting more prudent spending policies and making sure staff are qualified or trained to make good decisions is needed.

The NHS is struggling to meet the demands of public health and the quality of service has been greatly eroded. Although it is important to recognise that government failure is not the sole reason for the struggle: our society has the challenge of dealing with an ever-increasing ageing population, greater mental health awareness and longer life expectancy. Health service demand is therefore at an all-time high and needs considerable investment to meet that demand.

Over the decades the NHS has not received enough support or managerial direction in order to be able to deal with its challenges and retain quality service.  I believe that the major weakness are:

1) Historic lack of investment into the NHS resulting in: insufficient doctors, low supply of hospital beds, patient notes are not yet digital which drags down staff productivity with administration, lack of resources, equipment and inadequate training along with nurse bursary cuts and so on.

2) The culture of unnecessary tests and over-prescribing of medicines has not been dealt with. I believe this issue is caused by: short appointments that give little time to manage patient expectations, misconceptions of the public about healthcare, and a burdensome complaints’ system that consumes a lot of working time. Acting to rectify these issues could ultimately result in large savings and life expectancy gains (e.g. educating the public on common health conditions could mean earlier treatment for problems like heart attacks and minimisation of permanent damage they cause).

3) Improper spending can lead to NHS budgets not being used effectively. Heavy reliance on agency workers, which can cost as much as three times as permanent staff, is highly inefficient. Additionally the collapse of Carillion led to the new Royal Liverpool hospital being unfinished and unable to be used for years. This is the most extreme example of improper spending but overall spending plans need to be more prudent.

4) We live in the era of too many medicines. Patients can end up taking medicines for too long, or that conflict with other medicines they are already taking or take medicines that are no longer necessary. The practice of “describing” can resolve this and the NHS needs to take advantage of it; unnecessary medication is unnecessary expense.

5) It is well known that inadequate social care directly impacts the NHS and creates difficulty for staff to admit and discharge patients promptly and swiftly. Cross-party solutions are required to resolve this issue. Social care also experiences issues with funding, reliance on agency workers and a lack of workers.

6) Performance monitoring in central Government by simply comparing sites to each other is prone to being unable to detect flaws pervading the whole NHS. This may be part of the reason why problems slip through the net and go undetected.

7) Spending more on the NHS, including education, can result in savings by eliminating inefficiency, e.g. catching cancer earlier means that treatment is cheaper and survival more likely. Vision and leadership are required to rectify the problems the NHS is facing; the 10-year plan released this year by the NHS England simply does not go far enough.

Home ownership in the UK is tightly connected with wealth; an outright home-owner in the UK is on average more than 8 times as wealthy as a renter (OECD). Home ownership rates should be going up yet instead they are declining due to affordability and low supply issues. The consequences are significant and affect not just the young but also more and more pensioners who are struggling to support themselves.

1) More new-builds or converting buildings into homes are required, and arguably new towns are needed (with proper infrastructure) to restore home ownership rates and wealth prospects. The countryside should be preserved where possible but only less than 10% of land in the UK is developed. Small sized new-builds are a consequence of keeping housing affordable rather than of a shortage of Land.

2) Financing home purchases is a major issue as first-time buyers struggle to afford deposits in the post-financial crash environment where deposit requirements are more expensive and stricter.

3) Land purchasing and planning-permission investors that sell on to builders at expensive amounts can cause new-builds to be unnecessarily expensive and thus need regulation.

4) One idea to make more efficient use of properties is by offering financial incentives to people that live alone to downsize could help reduce demand. This could help reduce demand but would be entirely optional.

5) The help-to-buy scheme from the Government imposes the counter-intuitive requirement of purchasing a new-build home. It forces people to buy more expensive homes which undermines the purpose of the scheme; it may not help a person to get on the ladder at all because of the increased price.

6) Homelessness is something which the UK should seek to eradicate but to do so we must appreciate the tragedy and complexity of the issue. There can be many reasons why a person is homeless but it is clear that assistance from local authorities simply does not go far enough; homeless people often fear assistance due to risk of harm. Additionally local authorities do not commit available resources as shelter when it is feasible e.g disused and/or empty properties.

The Government needs to monitor house building and house prices to ensure prices do not rise at unreasonable rates. If the private sector does not keep house prices below inflation (around 1% to slowly reverse decades of high rises) then the Government should step in. This would be a profitable venture (e.g. Persimmon made just over £1bn of profit last year), create jobs, raise tax revenue, improve affordability and reduce demand on the benefits system in the future.

I have several ideas how we might improve the current education system:

1) Ofsted inspections and assessment criteria have led to situations where teaching becomes too testing oriented, coming at the expense of a more well-rounded education that includes general knowledge. There is far too much pressure on schools and teachers to deliver certain results and achieve a specific Ofsted assessment outcome.

2) Incorporate education of common diseases, symptoms and importance of early detection into general education. This will help to remove misconceptions and give students a general understanding of symptoms and when it is necessary to see a GP. This could lead to both the saving of lives and unnecessary GP appointments.

3) Financing student loans needs to be reviewed in-depth for better solutions. The proportion of student debt that is not payed back is large and there is also a high interest rate problem for those that do repay leaving students with unmanageable debts.

4) Improve the connection of the education system and the jobs market with careers advice, including information about job availability and salary, apprenticeships and other alternatives to a degree.

5) Improve personal finance education such as teaching students about the link between home ownership and wealth. Raising awareness among students may help improve their wealth prospects and potentially reduce the need for government support later in life.

6) Add more depth to History lessons particularly on the topic of World War 2 and its legacies; teach students about the role of society and how harmful ideas can infect individuals even if they are contrary to basic values. The idea is to raise awareness of the weakness of a human mind to irrationality, so that students independently justify an idea rather than assume it is right because it is popular (as we see with carrying knives and some instances of manipulation by the media).

7) There are many forms of discrimination and it is essential that students learn of them all. It then makes sense to teach the universal definition and principles of discrimination to give students the tools to recognise and deal with all forms when they arise.

Since the UK voted to leave the EU, and unless Parliament decides that we should be a member of the single market, then it is likely that the UK will have more control over immigration policy. Free movement of people is a good ideology but it is not without problems. The Government has been unable, for many decades, to invest in and maintain infrastructure in the UK to keep up with demand and population growth: the UK has the worst road congestion in Europe and overall public service quality has been in decline. Furthermore the Home Office and police have struggled to manage free movement of people properly. It is for these reasons that free movement of people has not been pragmatic for the UK. 

It is argued that there has been a suppression of wages in certain sectors due to factors such as: illegal activity (e.g slavery and other rights abuses), unregulated gig economy (e.g Uber drivers earning less than minimum wage due to too many drivers and forced self-employed status) and even different living standards expectations (e.g migrants living in cramped properties and cutting commuting costs by sharing travel or even living on-site so they accept lower rates of pay and more attractive to employers). Of course many of these aspects are no fault of EU citizens but are caused by: poor integration which makes it difficult for the Home Office and police to discover illegal abuse against workers, tax evasion and breaches of the right to free movement (by employer or worker) as well as weaknesses in our own workers’ rights’ laws.

Regarding the UK economy: we may need workers from abroad in various sectors (e.g NHS nurses and staff, construction, seasonal workers, university academia etc.), but at the same time some of this need has been created by lack of support and training for British citizens (e.g cuts in nurse bursaries).

My overall position on immigration is therefore to advocate rectifying the weakness of government to ensure infrastructure and public service quality are maintained in accordance with population growth, and that the Home Office and policing issues discussed above are dealt with. However, given that the Government is unable to govern prudently, unless and until these issues are resolved, I believe that immigration levels should be better controlled and residence granted on the basis of UK needs.

Before the referendum in 2016 when David Cameron was attempting to negotiate alterations to free movement of people, it was unfortunate that this was half-hearted and not taken seriously enough by the EU. 

I believe it is becoming increasingly important for the UK to be more wary of how it and other states behave due to increasing economic struggles, climate change, the rise of extreme left and right groups/parties, potentially dangerous states such as Russia and North Korea and terrorism.

Examples of where the UK may be going wrong:

1) Climate Change 

The UK has persistently breached gas emissions in the past which has not only contributed towards the dangers of climate change around the world but also been proven to be detrimental to our health. It is only right that we now try to do more to pass on a sustainable world to future generations. We must now focus on reducing energy needs by upgrading energy-inefficient fixtures and infrastructure to increase the viability of renewable energy and reduce. Improving our renewable energy portfolio to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is also needed. 

2) Taxation

The UK has relatively low corporation taxes, high tax avoidance and rising wealth inequality. We should participate in a global movement to create a global economic system which is more fair. There are consequences for the the whole world when states aggressively race to deregulate to attract investment e.g unregulated shadow banking system and offshore tax havens. Breaking this “game theory” environment to create a more reasonable global economy will come from global cooperation.

3) Propaganda 

This is a great risk to the world because it promotes negative beliefs against the UK and other first-world countries by creating indoctrinated populations (e.g Russia). The UK should lead the world in promoting honest and reliable reporting to counter-act propaganda. If this is left unchecked then the risk of violence rises. 

4) Terror

With a high proportion of terror attackers being previously known to the police far more can be done to prevent acts of terror from happening. There needs to be more investment in anti-terrorist policing so that there are greater powers of surveillance and such things as mandatory rehabilitation to eradicate the dangerous irrational interpretations of dogma and propaganda. 

5) Knife Crime

There is a harmful and sadly widespread culture that carrying a knife is “cool” or even necessary for personal safety. This irrationality needs to be dealt with through a better education system involving police forces and social/youth services. Involving reformed persons, who have given up carrying knives, in this process would be an excellent way to communicate these messages to students.

6) The prison system

Borrowing effective methods that other successful countries like Norway use to improve rehabilitation could be hugely beneficial to our society. This means less crime, less assaults against prison staff and more people out of prison contributing to society.

7) Trade

Unethical trade relations with countries such as the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia (which clearly has little concern for civilian fatalities in Yemen) exposes the UK to increased terror threats. The UK can justify the sale of arms any way it likes but the hypocrisy is obvious, and I believe this makes it easier for terrorist organisations to recruit.

Brexit is a good illustration of the pitfalls of democracy in UK politics. Regardless of whether it was “leave” or “remain” the quality of information given to voters before the referendum was of poor value on multiple aspects of the EU. Since the vote, the struggle to implement the outcome of the referendum decision has undermined the confidence of the public in our parliamentary democracy. The media also struggles to bring MPs to account by asking useful questions, extracting relevant replies and ensuring the delivery of clear and accurate information to the public. Overall then, it is not a surprise then that the UK has a government of flawed function and sub-par political participation of the public (democracy index).

There is much room for improvement, such as:

1) Improving the standard of conduct by MPs. MPs have been unable to perform their core duty of making collective decisions for years. MPs have hardly participated and attended select committee meetings (where MPs do the most valuable work); this is not value for money for the taxpayer. Honesty, integrity and competence are of utmost importance and higher standards of conduct should be introduced into the code of conduct for MPs. Disciplinary action, and even dismissal should be consequences that MPs face (just as everyone else does at work). More effective media scrutiny, and MPs challenging their own party line, can also help to improve our democracy. Overall these additions should result should in more effective governance, higher quality information for the public and hopefully higher vote participation.

2) In the 2016 referendum the accuracy of statements made were only subject to the very low standards of the code of conduct for MPs and, as the Boris court case seems to show, it seems to be left to private action to try and aspire to higher standards of information. The reality is that the private sector has many protective regulations to prevent false and inaccurate statements, so there is no good reason why our democracy doesn’t also have these. Since these laws are vital for a competent democracy Parliament must be modernised to ensure higher quality elections and referendums.

3) The Government and Parliament do not work well together. There is a lack of transparency from the Government (e.g. Brexit negotiations being secret from the public) and a lack of co-ordination (e.g. Parliament rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement three times in a row). It would have made much more sense for Parliament to have been engaged in the negotiation process from the beginning rather than requiring extra negotiations. These weakness of our institutions of democracy absolutely must be resolved going forward.

4) There is a disconnect between who acquires power and who voters intend to grant power to. People that vote for parties, leaders or for some specific manifesto pledge actually grant power to a person who may use that power against their wishes. There are no guarantees nor compensation when this happens and so there are many people who have felt cheated and angry seeing MPs use their power contrary to how they voted. Confidence in democracy has already been damaged, but this can be resolved by increasing awareness of what parliamentary democracy means (e.g. add warning on ballot paper or even remove party names from the ballot paper).

5) The taxpayer spends a lot of money on the BBC, yet the impartiality objective often gets neglected and questioning of politicians is often underwhelming. This needs to be addressed without fail.

6) Public enquiries and reports can take decades before being released, cost taxpayers large sums of money, be hundreds of pages long and lead to little justice or change. Unnecessary bureaucracy and incompetence needs to be addressed urgently.

7) The Freedom of Information Act is a vital democratic law that allows for individuals and journalists to discover how well public bodies operate and perform. However this law still protects certain public bodies from scrutiny, e.g. monetary functions of the Bank of England despite the controversial money printing solution to the financial crash in 2008 (which arguably is deserving of a public enquiry itself).

8) Lack of leadership in politics puts core values of society at risk. For example the rise of intolerance and breakdown in communication are contrary to values of free speech, tolerance and rehabilitation that should be part of society. One example of this is the inability of the Labour party to deal with the antisemitism row. Another is the pay gap reporting obligation on large companies that unfortunately has not helped much to eliminate unequal pay and enable women to deal with pay discrimination. All are missed opportunities to reinforce rights and progress towards greater equality.

If I were voted in, I would be committed to assisting the residents of South Northamptonshire with issues they find most pressing. Of priority, I believe, would be: 

1) HS2: The country may need investment into rail for various reasons but HS2 was neither well-thought out nor planned. There are massive issues with the costs being totally unreasonable (climbing hugely since onset) and very poor support for local communities.

2) Northampton Gateway Strategic Rail Freight Interchange: It is disappointing to have learned of the approval. Many pertinent objections have been raised by many parties (Councils, professors, constituents and local MPs) as to the proposed location and impact on surrounding villages, lack of demand and lack of capacity on rail lines. Following the approval decision I would intend to make sure that the commitments to mitigate impact in the proposal are honoured. 

3) Northamptonshire County CouncilThe unsustainable finances of the county council need to be dealt with urgently, otherwise high council tax rises may become more frequent and local services will decline even more rapidly from spending cuts. The proposal for a combined unitary council is only a superficial solution to the problem of huge debt. Simply lumping councils together will not cure the underlying mismanagement and insufficient resources. I would offer my support to identify weaknesses in council spending to bring the finances back to sustainable levels. Otherwise hiring a procurement firm to assist with this would be worthwhile. A more robust procedure of monitoring and accountability is necessary.

The ideas in my manifesto are not an exhaustive list. Being only one person, providing fully costed policies is unrealistic. Comparing me to another candidate, rather than a party, is fairer.