General election 2019: this is why South Ribble's candidates want you to vote for them

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The South Ribble constituency has been held by the Conservatives for 23 out of the 36 years of its existence, with Labour securing it during the Blair/Brown years between 1997 and 2010.

After just over four years representing the seat, Seema Kennedy announced in October that she would be stepping down as the area’s Conservative MP. Her successor as Tory candidate is Katherine Fletcher, who contested the Ellesmere Port seat for the party in 2015 and is a member of Knutsford Town Council.

From top left - Katherine Fletcher (Conservative), Kim Snape (Labour), Jo Barton (Liberal Democrats) and Andy Fewings (Green Party)

From top left - Katherine Fletcher (Conservative), Kim Snape (Labour), Jo Barton (Liberal Democrats) and Andy Fewings (Green Party)

CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARIES

The seat stretches from Hutton in the north to Rufford in the south and takes in much of Leyland. It also incorporates parts of the Chorley Council area, including, Croston, Eccleston and Mawdesley. However, it excludes a portion of the South Ribble Council area - Farington, Bamber Bridge and Higher Walton - which lie in the Ribble Valley constituency. Check your constituency at www.members.parliament.uk/constituencies

CANDIDATE PROFILES (in order of party vote share at the last general election)

KATHERINE FLETCHER (Conservative)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

Knocking on doors, it’s Brexit - and it’s not just people who voted Leave. I’ve had people tell me that they voted Remain, but say that this nonsense has got to stop and we’ve got to move forward as a country.

What policies are you most proud of?

Raising the minimum wage to £10.50 an hour and the national insurance threshold over the lifetime of the Parliament to help people keep more of the money they earn.

You became the candidate here just over four weeks ago and it’s not your usual stomping ground - is that really enough time to get to know the place?

I know the area very well - I’ve been coming here since I was a child and have family who live and work here. The question almost makes it sound like I’ve never been to South Ribble and that’s not true at all. And in the time since I was selected, I’ve met some fantastic people and everybody is saying the same thing - “Why are we having this election? I want you to get on with dealing with the issues.”

One of those issues locally is the future of Chorley and South Ribble A&E - a Royal College of Emergency Medicine-backed report concluded that the unit is no longer viable - what do you say?

I can say I think it really needs to be 24 hours, but let’s give the trust the space that allows them to plan what they think gives the best clinical outcomes. I'm pleased the government has recently given them thousands to do just that. If you talk to the doctors about what they think the best clinical outcome is, they say they look forward to being consulted by the trust. I’m allowed to represent what residents say to me - which is absolutely that they want a 24-hour A&E. I think we need to keep politics out of the NHS as much as possible - the people who know best are the people who do the job.

The issue of climate change isn’t given very great prominence in the Conservative manifesto, is it?

I think we’re rubbish at explaining how good a record we have on the climate - we’re the first country in the G20 to have legislated to go carbon neutral by 2050 and we’re a world leader in offshore wind.

KIM SNAPE (Labour)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

The thing that people are most worried about is the big black cloud that hangs over the future of Chorley and South Ribble A&E under this Tory government.

What are the policies you are most proud of?

That the Labour Party has pledged to implement a rescue package for the A&E, so that we can get the 24/7 department that we need.

But there haven’t been any specific details of how that unit would be helped by Labour's wider "rescue package" for the NHS - so it all sounds quite vague, doesn’t it?

The bottom line is we need staff - and I don’t believe the will is there from the management of the trust to find staff for that hospital, but the will is there from a Labour government. A Labour government and a Labour MP for South Ribble will give every inch of support to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals that it needs to open a 24/7 A&E department.

But it was a staff shortage which sparked the temporary closure of the unit in 2016 and subsequent part-time reopening, wasn't it?

There have been various bits of evidence that have come to light that doctors have been for interviews at the trust [who] have been turned down - and the following day they’ve been given appointments at neighbouring trusts. So overall, I believe it’s a pre-determined outcome. I believe there isn’t the will from the trust to recruit the staff that are needed, but that there is the will for staff to go to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals. People want to live in Chorley and the wider Preston area.

Doesn’t Labour’s plan to scrap OFSTED risk unpicking a regulatory regime which has seen standards in schools improve over recent years?

There is no doubt about it, schools have improved. But teachers are quite excited about the prospect of scrapping OFSTED. We do need a regulatory regime to keep an eye on schools, but [OFSTED] is an unnecessary pressure when they could be putting more resource into supporting children to prosper.

Isn’t the biggest hurdle you have to overcome in a constituency like South Ribble Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity?

Absolutely not - I think people look wider than the leadership. They want a local MP that was born and bred here.

JO BARTON (Liberal Democrats)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

Climate change - I believe we are facing a global catastrophe if we do not do something about the issue sooner rather than later.

What are the policies you are most proud of?

As a Liberal Democrat, I’m very proud of two things we did under the coalition - to reduce the taxation rate for three million people and introduce equal marriage. I’m also a local girl, I’m decent and hardworking - and I will do my absolute best for the residents in this constituency.

Are you surprised by the toxic legacy of other aspects of the Lib Dems' involvement in the coalition, even four years on?

The Lib Dems made mistakes and were forced into policies we didn’t want to implement, but the fact is we also did some fantastic things in coalition. I think it’s a real shame that people have only concentrated on the negative.

Haven’t the Liberal Democrats been quite timid with their target date for going carbon neutral in 2045, when the Greens are pledging 2030 and Labour the 2030s?

We are talking about sorting out renewables by 2030. Personally, I’d like to see us go a lot further, I am a green Lib Dem. We should be planting trees across the whole of the constituency and making sure we educate people about recycling.

The Lib Dems have long promised to put a penny on income tax to fund the NHS - it’s not helped you massively in the past and will be even less likely to now Labour and the Conservatives are putting money in without tax rises for most?

I don’t think many people would object to an extra penny in the pound, because we all know the NHS is struggling - that’s because we’ve lost 12,000 doctors and nurses over Brexit.

Leave voters won’t thank you for ignoring their wishes on Brexit, will they?

No, but the referendum was based on a pack of lies. We need a second referendum based on facts. I think a lot of people in this country do want Article 50 revoked, but I think it’s better to go back to the people and get their opinion. So many people have changed their minds now that they know the facts.

ANDY FEWINGS (Green Party)

What are the biggest issues at this election?

The climate emergency. There’s a scientific consensus that we have 10 years to bring our emissions down to within 1.5 degrees of warming - which means we need to get to net zero carbon by 2030 in the UK. This is the last chance we have to elect people with the expertise and political will to deal with the climate emergency.

What are the policies you are most proud of?

Our Green New Deal and selling it in a way that tells people we still have time left to do something - and that this is our opportunity.

Doesn’t the fact that other parties haven’t opted for a fixed date of 2030 to go carbon neutral demonstrate that it’s not a realistic target?

The next two years are crucial in making sure we’re on track to hit that target. Other parties have pushed it back later, because they unfortunately don’t see it as a priority or a vote-winner. They also don’t have the expertise to know whether 2030 is an achievable date or not. It’s a message of hope that if we take the right action now, we can create a big new economy.

The Green manifesto talks about renewable energy reducing our reliance on nuclear power, as well as fossil fuels - but isn’t nuclear going to be needed as a fallback for the foreseeable future?

Hinkley Point C [nuclear plant in Somerset] is a long way off coming online. So even putting aside all the issues of dealing with nuclear waste and the security issues it poses and potential disasters, you can’t actually deploy nuclear power quickly enough - whereas it takes nine months to put up wind turbines.

The Green Party wants half of all farms to be using “agroforestry” techniques - planting trees in between crops - by 2030. Won’t that be a burden for farmers in South Ribble?

I don’t think so - farmers just want certainty about what they need to do in order to obtain financial support from government - and that would need to be involved in order for agroforestry to take place. The Green New Deal is our opportunity to rebalance inequalities in society and bring in a whole new way of living. That would include bringing farmers along, but not disproportionately affecting them in the process.

2017 FULL RESULT

Seema Kennedy (Conservative) - 28,980 votes (52.9 percent)

Julie Gibson (Labour Party) - 21,559 votes (39.3 percent)

John Wright (Liberal Democrat) - 2,073 votes (3.8 percent)

Mark Smith (UKIP) - 1,387 votes (2.5 percent)

Andrew Wight (Green Party) - 494 votes (0.9 percent)

Mark Jarnell (National Health Action Party) - 341 votes (0.6 percent)

EU REFERENDUM RESULT (by South Ribble Council area)

53.4 percent voted Leave