Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exeter decides the country

The phony war that is the build-up to the 2010 British General Election continues. We already know the main candidates to be Exeter's MP:

Labour: Ben Bradshaw, Exeter's MP since 1997, a former BBC journalistand current Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport.

Conservative: Hannah Foster, a Human Resources director and (as Hannah Parker) former chair of the party's youth wing Conservative Future.

Liberal Democrat: Graham Oakes, a nurse specialising in care for older people.

: Paula Black, a Devon councillor and former teacher.

The statistics

The race is rather interesting, as can be seen from the 2005 results:
A swing of 7% would enable the Conservatives to win Exeter from Labour. This makes it a key battleground this year. Indeed, the Conservative candidate Hannah Foster has said "The Exeter seat decides the country. If Exeter changes hands, the country changes hands, and if it doesn’t, it probably won't."

Already glossy leaflets from Conservatives and Labour have come through letterboxes. The Labour leaflet is in the style of a news magazine, but consisting mostly of pieces exclaiming how much the Labour Government has done for the country, and Exeter in particular. No mention of Gordon Brown.

The Conservative eight-page leaflet ("People talk! news - life - photos Delivered FREE by your local Conservatives - at no cost to the taxpayer") is in the style of Hello magazine, and contains lots of photos. It tells you all about the life and values of the candidate Hannah Foster. There is also a case study of a couple who feel let down by Labour during the credit crunch, a picture of David Cameron looking stern while studying a document, and mention of Conservative plans to protect jobs and help "hard-working families".

What will be the key issues for Exeter?

It's not clear yet if there are distinctive issues different from those that will be key nationally. I.e. The economy (particularly how to safeguard public services and jobs while dealing with the deficit), Labour's record, and Conservative values.

The current MP, Ben Bradshaw, is well-liked locally (even though the Twittersphere seems to dislike his TV performances), and he came out well from the expense scandal that engulfed many other MPs. On the other hand, as a government minister since 2001, he has never voted against the government. He has voted for student top-up fees, ID cards, the Iraq war, nuclear power, the hunting ban, 90-day detentions without charge, and reductions in Parliamentary scrutiny of new legislation.

It is possible that the abolition of Exeter's City Council may be a key issue should John Denham make the wrong decision about Devon local government.

What I'd like to know

When the opportunity arises, I would very much like to hear the candidates' views on...
  1. What are the main problems facing the country in the next parliament?
  2. How should the deficit be dealt with?
  3. What practical steps need to be taken to improve public services?
  4. What needs to be done in relation to climate change?
  5. How would you revitalise local democracy?
  6. In what circumstances might you vote against your party?