I’m pleased that all of the candidates for the Conservative nomination to be Salisbury’s next Member of Parliament have agreed to answer a set of questions for this website.

Victoria’s introduction on the party website says:

One of England’s top 100 criminal prosecutors, I work in the real world, speaking up for the decent majority. I will campaign to protect rural life; fight to strengthen local health, education and care services; support Salisbury’s businesses and jobs.

Why do you want to represent Salisbury?

Victoria Atkins - Conservative candidateIt is the quintessence of England: stunning landscape, steeped in history. Although not lucky enough to have been born here, I feel a real affinity with this area. I grew up in a market town in the English countryside, and the nearest city had the third highest spire in the country, so living in Salisbury would be stepping up in the world! I understand the rural way of life and have close connections with the armed forces. My husband, Paul, and I would love to make our home here. This bit of text will hopefully be invisible and so will this and so will this and so will this

What would you most like to change in Salisbury?

I’m a Conservative, and so I want to help conserve the magic of Salisbury. However, one thing which is desperate for improvement is the creaking road network. Salisbury constituency deserves a road network fit for the 21st century, including a city bypass and fewer potholes.

How would you encourage more business and jobs into the area?

I have spoken to local businesses large and small in the last couple of weeks. From Qinetiq to Bird and Carter Delicatessen in Fish Row, they tell me that the private sector needs the next Conservative government to address stealth taxes and business rates to help them survive this recession.

The public sector is a vital employer in the constituency. My priority as Salisbury’s MP will be to ensure that Salisbury gets its fair share of shrinking public spending, to maintain our excellent health and education provision, and the world-class defence industry, securing local jobs in the process.

What do you think of the plans for the Market Place?

I have discussed the Salisbury Vision at length with local councillors, businesses and market traders. The plans for the Maltings and Churchfields Industrial Estate, in particular, are commendable. Overall, the investment is welcome and the revised plans are realistic but attractive – who needs expensive Italian marble?!

And the plans for Stonehenge?

It’s a crying shame that a country so proud of its heritage has failed to protect and present this extraordinary monument. If only the money spent on consultations and fees over the years had, instead, been spent on fixing the problems of preservation, access and visitor facilities! It is good to see, therefore, that Wiltshire Council has now approved a new Visitor Centre. Let’s get on with it!

How could the transport links in and out of the city be improved? What should take priority – road or rail?

Labour stopped Salisbury’s bypass, despite the region’s desperate need for this road. Campaigning for a bypass will be one of my priorities as your Member of Parliament. In terms of rail, the rail links are generally good, but passengers pay high fares, so should receive a first class service, including wi-fi. I don’t see why the people of Salisbury should have to choose between rail and road – I would prioritise both.

Which previous Conservative leader do you most admire? Why?

I am tempted to say Margaret Thatcher, as she was one of the first women to train as a barrister at my set of chambers! However, I most admire John Major. People often forget that he governed the country with a tiny majority, and managed to achieve a great deal. He was decent and honest, and left a golden economic legacy and the foundations of peace in Northern Ireland.

What’s been the worst failure of the Labour government?

Where to start?! Destroying what was a strong pension system; selling our gold reserves at a quarter of the current price; squandering the opportunity to reform public services; it goes on and on. If I had to pick one, it would have to be the £178 billion deficit we’ll have to fix after the Great Recession.

What has been the most significant achievement by the Labour government?

Probably building on John Major’s good work in Northern Ireland. It’s easy to forget how recently we were under sustained serious threat from Irish terrorism. The peace process must continue, for all our sakes.

Should we have a referendum ‘about Europe’? When? What question should be asked?

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown promised us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and we should have had one before it was ratified. This was a terrible betrayal of the British people. Now Parliament has ratified the treaty, it’s too late. But if an ounce of British power is ever transferred again, it must be only after a referendum.

Would you maintain the minimum wage?


What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of ‘Open Primaries’?

I know from my website and lots of my conversations around the constituency that Open Primaries are great for engaging people in politics. It’s definitely good to be open and give people a choice. But perhaps we should ask Simon Cowell to help us stage a more audience-friendly event: for example, a Question Time format would allow interaction between the candidates and really show us all thinking on our feet.

Would you support Proportional Representation?

No. You only have to look at Italy and Japan to see how PR takes power away from people and hands it to party elites. I’d rather that the people of Salisbury decide who they wanted to represent them, rather than a set of backroom deals in London. And PR enabled the election of the BNP to the European Parliament last summer.

Is ‘big business’ spoiling football? Should the government be more involved?

Well, football is big business and has been for a while. It’s attracted rich men as owners and investors, and always has. Some of them invest serious amounts of money in their clubs, for the long term, others less so. I don’t think that government should intervene. It’s a private industry.

What is your favourite piece of music?

Fly me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra

What is your favourite film?

The Thomas Crowne Affair, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo

What is your favourite book?

The Code of the Woosters, by PG Wodehouse

What is your favourite view of the Cathedral?

The view across the meadows from the cottage I am staying in, here at Stratford-sub-Castle.

I’m afraid I won’t accept comments on any of these political postings. The main reason for this is that there isn’t now time for the candidates to reply. If you do want to take something up with any of them, I’d suggest either the candidate’s own website or the meeting on Sunday 31st. Sorry.

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