After a difficult year following the divisive referendum on the EU, the heightened security issues over increased terrorism and the reactions to the Trump election in the US, the UK goes to the polls next week on June 8th. But it seems that this time round it is more of a two horse race. With the Lib Dems still trying to rally after their crash in 2015 and UKIP haemorrhaging support in the wake of Brexit – will the country back Teresa May’s stance on Brexit and more austerity or vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s increasing embattled Labour Party?
Here in Suffolk Coastal there are five candidates standing. But the constituency has been Conservative as long as anyone can remember – and Therese Coffey – the MP since 2010 – was returned last time with a majority of 19,000.
UKIP has thrown in the towel – feeling it’s not worth standing here – but the other parties and an Independent have decided to field candidates in order to give Dr Coffey a run for her money.
Labour came second last time but don’t seem to be mounting too serious a challenge in 2017 given their candidate is a young first timer who doesn’t even have a background in local politics.
Here is a little bit about each candidate.
Therese Coffey – Conservative
Thérèse has been Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal since 2010. She served on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee till she was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Fallon, Minister for Business and Energy. In 2014 she was appointed Assistant Government Whip.
Thérèse has campaigned on stopping the A14 toll, improving NHS experience for patients and better broadband. Ongoing priorities include fairer share of funding, Sizewell C, Felixstowe Port, preventing coastal and estuary erosion, off gas grid consumers, rail improvements, agriculture, STEM takeup, women in business and educational attainment.
Thérèse grew up in the north west and after graduating from UCL with a PhD in Chemistry, joined the international company Mars. Qualified as a chartered management accountant, she became Finance Director for a UK subsidiary and has also worked at the BBC. She contested Wrexham in 2005 and European elections in 2004 and 2009. Outside politics, she enjoys watching football, gardening, is a CAMRA member, takes care of her rescue dog Rizzo, and enjoys music, especially Muse.
James Sandbach – Liberal Democrat
James Sandbach is an active campaigner on issues of law and social justice, and a local campaigner in Suffolk where he is currently an elected Town Councillor in Saxmundham. James stood for Parliament in Suffolk Coastal in 2015 securing the strongest result for the Lib Dems in Suffolk in the Parliamentary elections, and stood for Parliament on two previous occasions for Putney in 2010 and Castle Point in 2005 – doubling the Lib Dem vote on both occasions. He is a pro-European who campaigned for Remain, and knows about the importance of the EU for peace and prosperity from having been awarded a Doctorate for research on peacebuilding in the war torn Balkans.
For the last 15 years James has worked for national charities and disability organisations such as Mind, Citizens Advice, the Legal Action Group and LawWorks and has led many successful initiatives to change the law to protect consumers from scams, improve life for disabled people, and has led national campaigns against cutting legal aid and social care. James is known for his work on access to justice. He is a qualified lawyer who has worked in Parliament so he knows how Parliament works, but is also closely involved in community issues. James is a an active Christian and goes to church locally in Aldeburgh with his wife Julia.
Cameron Matthews – Labour
A firefighter, born and bred in Felixstowe – this will be the first time Cameron Matthews has stood for parliament – or it seems in any election!
He has said his interest in politics had grown out of a desire to help people.
“Part of my passion to help people was what drove me into the fire service as a career. Having seen the real impact of political decisions on the fire service and the cuts which have impacted on people’s lives, I wanted to get involved further
“My aim is to get the Labour party message out to people, to be a voice for working people in Parliament and to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Mr Matthews will be promoting national Labour policies such as free school meals, free hospital parking and outlawing zero hours contracts, but also tackling local issues such as the feared impact of the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station, improving rail services and coastal flooding concerns.
Eamonn O’Nolan – Green Party
Eamonn O’Nolan, 63, is a Woodbridge town councillor who has been chosen as the Green Party’s candidate for the Suffolk Coastal constituency.
He is a volunteer first responder with the ambulance service and said his “frustration” at witnessing the “effects of government cuts on people who need it most” has prompted him to stand.
Mr O’Nolan, who moved to Suffolk after retiring from his career in technology, is also an opponent of Sizewell C and said it was a “destructive programme, with no justifiable benefits”.
The Dublin-born father-of-seven has pledged to make protecting local A&E services, improving the availability of quality schools in Suffolk, and securing a second referendum on membership of the EU the priorities for his campaign and, if elected, his work as an MP.
“Every day and night, I see NHS workers battling with incredible determination and skill to save people’s lives, when the resources they should have at their disposal have been cut below survival level.”
He added: “Sizewell C is a dangerous and unnecessary project. You don’t have to be green to know that renewables are coming fast. By the time Sizewell comes online, the power it produces will be so unaffordable, it will be irrelevant. In the 15-year construction process, the government will destroy the Suffolk countryside, tourism, livelihoods and wildlife, A destructive programme, with no justifiable benefits. I want to stand up for Suffolk Coastal, against destructive policies which are just plain wrong.”
Passionate about clean air and his surroundings, Eamonn vehemently opposes fracking, and is actively involved in the campaign against Sizewell C.
Rev Philip Young – Independent
Philip Young is a Felixstowe clergyman who is standing as an independent candidate, one of the first clergy to do so since the law was changed in 2001.
A former vicar at St Thomas Heigham in Norwich, he is calling for a new era of politics where love, peace and justice for all take centre stage. He said: “I have learnt during my 64 years of life on earth that love needs to be put at the centre of all that we do as human beings. Love heals us and takes us away from being self-centred to being community centred.’ “On seeking to become Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal I would seek to take love into the heart of Westminster and of our country. I want to be part of a debate as to how we can best love our citizens and look after everybody. How can we best look after our green and pleasant land and hand it on in a good condition to future generations,” he said. Philip has lived in Felixstowe, Suffolk, for the last two years since leaving Norwich. He is now a retired priest in the Church of England and helps out at his local church. He is also a Quaker and a pacifist and believes that to work for a world without war is both worthwhile and desirable. He is also a member of the Franciscan Third Order and seeks to follow the way of Jesus as a Franciscan. Up until 2001, clergy were disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons and therefore unable to stand for election. The House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Act 2001 removed the disqualifications for clergy. The Act also allowed clergy to sit in other elected bodies including the European Parliament. Some bishops of the Church of England continue to be disqualified, as they sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual. Philip says his campaign will focus around three issues: Equality – “There are many poor and disadvantaged people who are struggling with poverty in our country. As an MP I would want to hear particularly from those in Suffolk Coastal who are struggling to heat their houses or feed their families. I would seek to convince people that cutbacks and austerity are hitting the poorest hardest and that more needs to be done to lessen the gap between rich and poor,” he said. Peace – “I would represent all those who long for a world without war. I believe that Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have shown us, in our fairly recent history, that non-violent activism can bring about positive and practical change for the good. We have a problem with war and terrorism and we need to be thinking how we can move away from war towards peace.” The environment – “Suffolk Coastal is a beautiful area and like much of our country very rural and green. I love living here by the sea. Loving and caring for the natural world should be much higher on our list of priorities. Human beings are part of nature and our continued existence depends on us looking after our planet. As an MP I would seek to explore moving the country to be a leader in the Green movement worldwide. Climate change is real and we need radical change to work together in order to protect the environment. Given the right leadership and encouragement we could become pioneers in a Green revolution.”
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