by Louie Herbert Jun 6th, 2017
The Labour candidate, John Woodcock, had a family emergency and couldn’t attend the hustings. He’s shared his answers to the questions that were asked at the event here:
What first inspired you to get into politics?
Often in the Labour Party there is a competition on who is the most committed, and people tell stories about coming out of the womb singing the Red Flag. However, genuinely I have been involved in the labour party for as long s I can remember. I used to go out and leaflet with my Dad around Sheffield where he was a Labour councillor. This was at the height of the Tory attack on the steel industry and I was struck by the injustice and brutality of the government at the time and I have been active in Labour ever since.
How will you address child poverty both nationally and at a local level?
In my seven years as the member of parliament for Barrow and Furness I have long campaigned for the appalling poverty that blights our town to be addressed. I spearheaded the Furness Poverty Commission study and have continued to press the government on tackling child poverty. One key issue here in Furness is to ensure that young people recognise their full potential and we close the attainment gap between our pupils and those elsewhere in the UK. One way I have done this is to found the Future Leader’s Academy which is an annual summer school for children to raise their life expectations, and is supported by local business. I also strongly believe that we, as a community, need to ensure that the once in a generation opportunity afforded by the replacement of nuclear deterrent, which I fought so hard to get through parliament, is used to improve the standard of living for those who are living in our most deprived areas.
What is your view on scrapping tuition fees?
It would be nice not to have young people having the burden of tuition fees and I will vote with my Labour colleagues to support that but in truth my priority would be to invest that money into better nursery and early years education. Too many children in Barrow and Furness get left behind in the early years and then never get the chance even to be considered for university. That’s totally wrong
What will you do to improve the local transport infrastructure for Barrow and Furness?
Quite simply the whole system needs urgent investment. Our road network is in dire need of investment. It is ludicrous that the main arterial road (the A595) between two nationally strategic nuclear sites, our own shipyard and Copeland’s Sellafield, goes through a farmyard. Similarly the A590 has had improvements, I campaigned hard to get the flooding resolved are the infamous Lindal Dip, there is much still to do to improve the road for constituents.
The new rail franchise has been appalling. I will continue to pressure government to review the franchise and ensure that Furness travellers get a train service that is fit for purpose. I have also raised constituent concerns about the cost of bus travel in the area and will continue to fight for fair fares, particularly for families, young people and children.
What will you do to protect the rights of workers in the low-middle income bracket when we leave the single market?
Fighting for the very best Brexit deal for the constituents of Barrow and Furness would be a key priority should I be returned as the MP. This includes protecting worker’s rights. I have fought long and hard for jobs in the town and have delivered the vote for trident replacement through parliament and it is imperative that we do not let a bad Brexit deal derail the economic growth we have secured for the town.
In a word, would the candidate go down to Westminster and ask for more funding for public services in Barrow and Furness as a rural community?
In one word? Yes! Again, my work to improve the provision of the Broadband service in rural Furness and the pressure I have brought to bear on government to upgrade the transport system across the constituency. I will continue to campaign for greater investment in rural Furness.
What would the candidate do to help the 2.5 million women across the country, and the 4000 women in the constituency, who have had their state pension age changed?
I have backed the WASPI women in their fight to challenge the government on the injustice of the changes to their state pension. Proposals to put an end to the hardship should be brought forward to help us move to a fair solution, and in the meantime support should be given to the most vulnerable. I have committed to continue this fight for pensions justice should I be returned as the Barrow and Furness MP.
What are your proposals for keeping the lights on?
It is imperative, both nationally and locally, for the government to ensure that the proposed nuclear power station at Moorside goes ahead. It is vital for the local economy and for the security of our power needs for the nation. A new generation of nuclear power stations, alongside the continued use of renewable energy are the key to ensuring our long term energy needs are met.
What are you going to do around the use of neonicotinoids?
I have gone on record to state that I support the European ban on neonicotinoids as I believe it is a proportionate response to the evidence that they harm beneficial species such as bees. I will continue to press the government to maintain the ban post Brexit – it is vital that such protections for the environment are not lost in leaving the EU.
How will you retain trading links outside the UK?
It is clear that the way we trade with the other countries will change significantly after Brexit. I am absolutely committed to helping local firms to protect and develop their markets prior to and post Brexit. It is imperative that all existing and new markets are fully exploited and I will continue to promote local businesses to markets and fly the flag for Furness, as I have done for the seven years I have been MP.
Do you think 16 and 17 year olds should get the vote?
I absolutely do. It is wrong that at 16 years old you can serve and fight for your country in the armed forces but cannot vote for your MP. I think we should trust our young people to participate fully in our democracy. I am also acutely aware of the anger young people felt in being denied a vote in last year’s referendum. We need to give these young people a voice in their own future immediately.
If you were elected what would you and your party do to improve the NHS in Cumbria and England?
The NHS is being failed by the Tories. I have fought to preserve and improve local services for the constituents. I am proud to have been a key figure in fighting to retain consultant led maternity services at Furness General, and the new maternity ward being built is an example of why it is vital that the area retains a strong independent Labour voice, who will continue to stand up for our community, and not a Tory nodding dog who will do May’s bidding.
If you woke up as the MP for Barrow and Furness what would be the first thing you would do for the community?
That’s a great question. If I were to be returned as the MP for Barrow and Furness, the constituents of this great area could rely on an experienced parliamentarian returning to Westminster to stand up for the community. I would stand up against the Tories’ vicious attack on the NHS and education. You won’t get that from a Tory yes man. The constituents can rely on me to stand up for them from the get-go. They need a strong independent Labour voice, not a Tory nodding dog.