Elizabeth Jewkes is Liberal Democrat candidate for the general election on June 8th
Tell us about yourself and why you are standing ?
I’ve been interested in politics since I was a child, I first realised I was a Liberal when I was at school, even though they only had 5 MPs. I joined the party in 84 when I was infuriated by Labour and appalled by their behaviour. I believed we needed to treat people with more respect than the local Labour councillor. I’ve been here ever since. I stood for Parliament in 92. I’m standing because its such an exciting election, I really want to represent Chester, I’ve lived here for 27 years.
What are our top 3 priorities for Chester over the next 5 years?
The top priority will be to negotiate the best Brexit deal we can. That’s important for Chester because we have the finance industry, we work at Vauxhall and Airbus. These are international companies, we have MBNA and Marks and Spencer Bank, we have to be a big player on the international stage.
The environment is a big one for me, I am very anti fracking and pro renewables. I don’t want to see money spent on fracking fossil fuels when we should be developing good renewable sources. For the city, the third priority is the NHS.. it’s struggling at the moment. We have said that we would raise taxes because it needs to be funded properly. The other thing we would do is link social care and the NHS because people are in hospital when they don’t need to be because there’s no social care. We need to have the care in place at home and that would take a big burden off the NHS.
How would you describe record of former MP Chris Matheson ?
.. I haven’t noticed him. I have never noticed him doing anything. My understanding is that he said he would vote against article 50 and he didn’t. And then he said he would vote against the dissolution of Parliament and he abstained. I didn’t even know what he looked like until this election.
What do you think Chester does well as a city and what can it do better ?
It’s a great place to live it does lots of things well. One of the things it does is welcome tourists, and it could do it better. We should be the number one tourist destination outside London. We need to tie up with Liverpool airport and with everything, so we become “the stop”. If people are going to London and one other place, we need to make Chester.
How do you think Brexit will affect Chester ?
More people voted to remain in Chester than to leave. A lot of us work for international companies. How are Vauxhall’s gonna stay? How will it impact on Airbus? And if the Finance market moves from London, how will that affect the banking we have here? I will impact us in lots of ways. We have lots of students and I think they really care about us being in Europe. I graduated from university in Paris and I want my kids (4) to have the same opportunities to live and work across Europe. To have that taken away is horrendous. Our policy is that we want the best possible deal and we will give people the opportunity to vote on that deal. We are not rushing into anything. We are up in arms that Theresa May has rushed this Brexit, and Chris voted for it…
Why do you think your party leader is the best choice for PM?
I met Tim when he was a student and he was about 19. I have never been so impressed by somebody giving a speech as I was that day. I can remember what he said, and I can remember seeing someone with real fire, and thinking “you would make a great party leader.” I have been following ever since and I was overjoyed when he put himself forward. He’s a guy with so much honesty, he genuinely does what he says. He will do whatever is best and he’s not following his own agenda. He will admit when he’s wrong and they are great qualities for a leader.
What can we do to encourage turnout from younger voters?
Younger voters feel ignored because politics focuses on people with money, and young people don’t have money so therefore they are not of interest . We need to say to people, “you’re not just the future, you’re the now” and this is your country. If young people voted it would make a huge difference. Would they be voting for some of the stuff we’ve had, the NHS cuts, the education cuts. My inbox is full of horrifying stories of how much schools are being cut. I don’t think young people would have voted for that , they’ve only just left school and they know what it’s like.
The university has 19,000 students and is rapidly expanding. What do you see as the pros and cons of this ?
Would be very hard to find a con. To have so many educated literate young people… and they stay! One of the things that makes Chester really great is that the students wont go home. They get here, and they think its an amazing place to live and they stay. It also makes it possible to elect a Lib Dem MP- you need an educated electorate, a seat which has changed hands recently, so people vote different ways. That can lead to a lib dem victory.
What else can be done to help the homeless in the city ?
I would say two things. One we need to make sure that people don’t become homeless. There are a lot of us who are one argument away from being homeless and we need to put a safety net in place. The homeless people I see are often young people who have fallen out with family, and that seems to be a big cause of homelessness. We could stop that by providing housing for people. I’m working on a charity project to target that group and provide housing for these people.
I meet quite a lot of homeless people because I’m involved with St Peters Church and the night Church. It started up about 7 years ago, opening the Church up when the people were out on the street. People come in, we get a couple of hundred a night. There’s a great need for spirituality, people come in for all kinds of reasons, they come in to talk about their problems, or to light a candle for their dead grandmother. We have had guys from Afghanistan come in talk about seeing their friends killed…
Food bank usage is on the increase. How can the government address this?
I’m appalled by the rise of food banks. Inflation went up again today, Brexit is raising food prices more. If people can’t afford food, what kind of country are we ? We are beginning to no longer be civilised.. We only want perfect food so we throw a lot away and that bumps up the cost. The Conservatives have cut and cut benefits, its terrible.
I have been working with one of the waste charities to stop waste food and I have an ongoing project.. to bring the cost of food down. Food is very expensive here. I am puzzled as to why our food costs so much.
How would you vote in a fox hunting vote ?
I’ve never hunted myself but know people who did. I don’t have strong feelings either way but suspect that quite a few people in & around Chester would like the act repealed. Personally, my only encounter with a fox was the one which killed my daughter’s rabbit in our garden not too long ago. I would try & not be influenced by finding a near headless bunny & would vote according to my post bag. The job of MP is to represent the constituents after all.
What is your personal political ideology ?
It’s to empower people. The people should be making their own decisions. If people know what is the best thing for them… they shouldn’t have someone telling them what they want or need. We should be listening to people. This is what liberalism means to me. This includes votes at 16, that’s a biggie for me.
In terms of developments across the city, Northgate, bus station, Storyhouse, how do balance the historic city with the need for modern facilities ?
We have to balance, but we need to keep in mind that we have to develop. We have to do something else and respond to the way things are. Its been tragic that we haven’t had a theatre or a cinema for years and that has been a shame on Chester. We have this lovely cultural city full of students and we had neither of these things. I am in favour of the Northgate development, but it needs to be in keeping.
Fracking was a big issue in 2015, will it be in 2017?
Last year I went to see the fracking groups to tell them I supported what they were doing. We don’t need fracking. The one that works for Grayling , who’s pro fracking (Wil Gallagher).. yeah.. that’s really interesting isn’t it. The council turn down fracking licenses but it gets overturned by the Tory Government. We are very Green and want to protect the environment.
Would you dig up Deva?
Yeah.. I’d be down there with a paintbrush. I love Roman history and I would dig it up. I think we should really explore our history.
How would you describe the record of the government ?
Shameful. Cuts in education have been the worst. I know they say they are funding the NHS more than ever but it needs a lot more than that. It needs much more money. The way the benefit systems changed, cutting child benefit, was meant to be universal but now its only for the first two children. They aren’t finding the balance. They overrule councils and allow fracking… the terrible Brexit.
Why should people vote for you ?