General Election 2019: this is why Wyre and Preston North's candidates want you to vote for them

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Wyre and Preston North is one of the most recently-formed constituencies in Lancashire, created ahead of the 2010 election.

The diverse urban and rural seat has been held by the Conservative Ben Wallace since its inception. He has strengthened his share of the vote at every election, taking it to almost 53 percent at the 2017 poll.

From top left - John Potter (Liberal Democrat), Ben Wallace (Conservative), Ruth Norbury (Green Party), Joanne Ainscough (Labour) and David Ragozzino (Independent)

From top left - John Potter (Liberal Democrat), Ben Wallace (Conservative), Ruth Norbury (Green Party), Joanne Ainscough (Labour) and David Ragozzino (Independent)

CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARIES

The seat takes in Fulwood, Sharoe Green, Cadley and parts of Cottam in Preston, before heading north along the A6 corridor through Broughton and Barton to Garstang. It extends west as far as Poulton-le-Fylde and Thornton.

CANDIDATE PROFILES

BEN WALLACE (Conservative)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

Getting Brexit done. For the last three years, Parliament has realised that it can’t decide what it wants to do, but it’s been very good at blocking any attempt by the government to get through this, so we can focus on things like health and schools that we all need to make sure we’re prepared for the future.

In channelling the weariness of the country with Brexit, isn’t Boris Johnson capitalising on what he and other Conservatives helped to create by blocking Brexit themselves for so long?

In the end, Boris voted for [Theresa May’s] deal - and I voted for it three times. The Conservative government tried very hard with a minority to get a deal through.

What is the difference between Boris Johnson’s border down the Irish sea - something he once said he could never agree to - and the one offered to Theresa May which she rejected for the same reasons?

Boris Johnson has said some of the regulatory alignment with Northern Ireland will remain and therefore not need such a border and there’ll be a democratic veto after four years. The problem with the last deal was that if you couldn’t come to an agreement, Northern Ireland would forever be rammed into a position - where [the rest of the UK] would follow suit - and couldn’t do trade deals.

Aren’t worsening NHS waiting times a legacy of the spending squeeze you have imposed since 2010?

Labour always say austerity was some sort of political choice. When they left office in 2010, we were spending £148bn more a year than we’d got in income - we’ve got it down to £30bn. Of course the NHS has been under pressure, for a number of reasons - a growing and elderly population. The NHS budget has gone up every single year since 2010.

Austerity’s effects are still being felt by the rest of the public sector - for instance, Lancashire County Council’s budget would be over £160m more today if it had just kept pace with inflation since 2010.

The Labour leadership of the council used to say it was going to go bust and it was impossible to make any savings - but this Conservative county council has made the savings and delivered on many of its services.

Complete the sentence, “Vote for me, because…”

I live, breathe and love Lancashire and because this Conservative government has helped fix the economy, halved unemployment and is going to set this country free on a path of Brexit, deliver it and move on to the future.

JOANNE AINSCOUGH (Labour)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

In this area, it’s the transport problems we have. Everyday Fulwood is chock-full of cars, people struggling to get to and from work and take their children to school - that causes pollution which feeds into children’s health. The green industrial revolution is the policy I’m most proud of standing on, because it will help solve some of these major problems we’re facing.

People hear pledges from Labour like a third off rail fares and free broadband and they just think that they’re fanciful, don’t they?

Our spending plans are actually mid-tier compared to places like France. We’re going to invest in our future and good jobs - so you get tax receipts coming back in.

But is it realistic?

We’re not planning to just dump a huge amount of cash the day after the election and say, “Get on with it”. It’s about investing in the infrastructure of this country, taking it where it needs to be to cope with climate change, automation and child poverty. It's a lot of money - but the country needs it. We’ve had 10 years of austerity - we need to invest in our future and our kids.

Your target date for achieving net zero carbon has slipped from 2030 to the 2030s - why?

The unions were really quite worried that we wouldn’t be able to transition. But our shadow business secretary is determined that we reach that 2030 goal, It’s a challenge, but if we don’t attempt it, we will see the consequences of climate change. There are warnings that we are on the precipice of not being able to turn back the climate change we face. It’s taken too long to get up the political sphere, but we haven’t got the time left. 2050 is far too late.

If Labour is elected and you get the second referendum which Jeremy Corbyn has promised, what is your instinct about how to vote?

I’m a Remainer - my instinct is that it’s the best solution for the UK. But Labour will negotiate a credible deal and bring it back in a referendum against Remain - and I will give that deal good consideration. My instinct is that will probably vote Remain - but it’s not about me or Jeremy Corbyn, it’s about what the whole country decides to do and that is what will be implemented.

Complete the sentence, “Vote for me, because…”

I’ll be an honest, visible, down-to-earth, hardworking MP who wants to connect with their constituents and work really hard for them.

JOHN POTTER (Liberal Democrat)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

We are on the very edge of a recession - and people are promising you all sorts of things, but you’re not going to be able to afford it if we Brexit. Every study shows Brexit will leave the UK worse off. I can’t vote for that - and that’s why the most important Lib Dem policy is to stop Brexit.

So your answer is to cancel the result of a democratic vote?

It’s not undemocratic to have more democracy - if a majority of people vote for the Lib Dems, that’s a new mandate. I know we are very unlikely to get a majority - at which point, we put it back to the people. [Conservative candidate] Ben Wallace is a Remainer and a moderate Tory who is now willing to accept the unlawful proroguing of Parliament to get a hard Brexit done which he knows will hurt people in his constituency.

But haven’t you just been tipping Remainers the wink in the hope of a few more votes, knowing you’re not going to be in a position to implement that policy.

You should always write a manifesto as if you’re going to be in government - you have to tell people what your ideal is.

Shouldn’t the Lib Dems be promising to reimburse councils all the money that was cut from them under the coalition?

The issue in 2010 was that every department, including local authorities, had to bear some of the burden. But times have changed, we only have to look at social care and the ticking timebomb that is going to go off in County Hall. You’re not going to have the money to reverse some of those cuts if you go ahead with Brexit.

Isn’t your carbon neutral target date of 2045 unambitious compared to what the Green Party and Labour are offering?

It’s very difficult to get the balance right on climate change. But I was very happy with what we did in coalition with things like the green investment bank. The climate emergency is front and centre of people’s thoughts, which is a great thing. The Green Party have said they will borrow almost like it’s a wartime issue, but that’s not fiscally responsible. But we are ambitious about insulating homes for the poorest in society and planting millions of trees.

Complete the sentence, “Vote for me, because…”

If you want any new services - better schools, proper mental health provision - you have to stop Brexit so you have the money to do it.

RUTH NORBURY (Green Party)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

The climate emergency and the loss of our natural world. Our life support systems need policies which will help them to regenerate - and we desperately need policies which will combat climate change.

The Green Party is pitching this as a climate change election, but in reality, people don’t see it like that, do they?

I disagree - everybody I’ve spoken to expresses extreme concern. It isn’t just climate change which is the issue. Here in Wyre and Preston North, we have houses being built all over our green land.

But isn’t housing a pressing need in itself?

We do need houses and the Green Party pledges a large amount of social housing over the next 10 years. My main issue is where the housing is being built - because predominantly in Wyre and Preston North, it’s being built on green fields. But there is only so much we can do until we change the national planning strategy to enable local councils to make local decisions about where they put their housing..

There’s a difference between green fields and greenbelt - sometimes the two are conflated, aren’t they?

Yes, but building on a green field has a massive impact on wildlife whether it’s in the greenbelt or not. The loss of species is also catastrophic. In the last 27 years, we’ve lost 86 percent of our insect life. If we project that forward, we’re going to get to the stage where our life support systems aren’t here.

You want to move a proportional representation voting system - but haven’t the difficulties of minority government shown why we should stick with first-past-the-post?

If anything, the last few years have proven that our democracy is fundamentally broken. I look at my area and it seems as though there is a lot of bad feeling on different sides. If everybody felt that their vote contributed towards the number of seats in Parliament, people would actually be incentivised to vote. Proportional representation is long overdue for the UK - we are one of the last that has a first past the post system.

Complete the sentence, “Vote for me, because…”

The UK desperately needs a new start and politicians willing to challenge the status quo - and I absolutely am, whether that’s ensuring fracking doesn't come back into the picture or standing in my local park demanding to know why they are spraying glyphosate. We need someone who will stand for this area and that’s me.

DAVID RAGOZZINO (Independent)

What are the biggest issues in this election?

You can't get away from Brexit - I voted Leave, that’s what this election has been called for and it’s seriously important. The other issue is local crime - I talk to a lot of people about things like knife crime which is a growing epidemic around here even though it’s kept quiet.

On what basis do you say that the full picture is being hidden?

I know a lot of police officers and nurses who know what’s going on - and it’s not out there in the press like it should be. It trickles over from Blackpool and into surrounding areas - like Preston and Wyre. Knife crime is a growing concern of mine, including how it is handled. I see exactly what the local people see.

What are you seeing that concerns you?

Knife crime and abuse of drugs - nobody seems to have a handle on it and they don’t want to talk about it for some reason. There are people coming to this area that are not from round these parts who have seemingly being sent here just to be housed. Crime is rising in areas that are losing jobs - there's not much industry left around Preston and I don’t believe the city has invested its money wisely, certainly to the north. For children growing up, what are their futures?

You recently said on Twitter that you’d vote for any party that would “shut Preston down” and “wipe it from the map”. What kind of a pitch is that to voters in the city?

It was taken out of context. The part about Preston stemmed from a bit of banter over football and it was all a bit of fun, but in isolation it looks ridiculous. It was naive to put it onto Twitter, but I was in a football conversation, having some banter.

You also told Jeremy Corbyn to take his “IRA-loving fun bus out of town” and appeared to threaten the Labour MP for Blackpool South if he came down your street.

The part about Jeremy Corbyn was wrongly worded, of course - but I do see him as a sympathiser of terrorists. The part about [Labour MP] Gordon Marsden was tongue-in-cheek.

Complete the sentence, “Vote for me, because…”

I’d have a voice and be able to make sure people were held accountable about why we aren’t making the problems and issues we face more widely known - and why we’re not dealing with them. I don’t believe the best is being done for our area.

2017 FULL RESULT

Ben Wallace (Conservative) - 30,684 votes (58.3 percent)

Michelle Heaton-Bentley (Labour) - 18,438 votes (35.0 percent)

John Potter (Liberal Democrat) - 2,551 votes (4.8 percent)

Ruth Norbury (Green Party) - 973 votes (1.9 percent)

EU REFERENDUM RESULT (by Wyre Council area)

54.2 percent voted Leave

CONSTITUENCY FACTFILE

Population - 90,213

Ethnicity - White 93.5 percent; Asian 4.9 percent

UK-born population - 94.9 percent (Middle East and Asia - 2.2 percent)

Unemployment benefit claimant rate - 1.7 percent (4.9 percent North West average)

Median weekly wage - £560 (£560 NW average)

Source: House of Commons Library