Why do you want to represent Salisbury?

I care about Salisbury, I was born and brought up here. I believe politics can make a difference to people’s lives in Salisbury, when I went back to speak at Bishops, my old school, I got lost because it had been totally rebuilt, with money from a Labour government. I want to protect investment in our excellent schools, Sure Start centres and hospitals. It’s also easy to think that because Salisbury is so beautiful that we can on pretty well without political action but there are a number of problems in Salisbury, such as low wages and a lack of affordable housing, which I believe Labour has the policies to solve.

What would you most like to change in Salisbury?

More affordable housing to buy and rent.       

What do you think of reducing the tax take on veterans’ pensions? (David Bruce (davembruce) on Twitter)

I’m not sure. I suspect that, for example, spending money on ensuring that soldiers leaving the forces have the best possible housing is much more important. It’s absolutely right that payments through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme are tax free and that Labour increased the amount of money paid out.
Do you support boundary changes? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)
Could I ask a question regarding boundary changes? It would be interesting to find out when it happened and why we haven’t been informed. (Ann Robinson, Donhead – via email)

As populations change obviously it is necessary to make some alterations to boundaries and even for areas to gain or lose constituencies to try to ensure the election is fair so I do support boundary changes and I think the new boundaries for the Salisbury constituency are sensible.

What seems to be the main objection is perhaps not about the specifics of the decision but how the public were involved and consulted. The final report was in 2007 and it details that 765 people made some objection to the proposals, which were reconsidered in light of this (p. 466). Having read a bit of the report it is pretty complicated and, more importantly, formidably boring, unfortunately this presents quite a problem to getting voters engaged with the process.
The report is at: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm70/7032/7032.pdf
if you have nothing better to do than read it.

What are the best and worst things about Salisbury council? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

Apart from our two excellent Labour councillors Iris Evans and Ian Tomes, the best thing is probably the way in which it functions as a valuable part of local democracy.

The worst things, apart from there not being enough Labour councillors, are the council’s lack of powers. It would be better, for example if powers to run the City Hall and more leisure services had been devolved. I think, and I hope these are just teething problems, people in Salisbury are unsure about what functions Salisbury Council are responsible for and what are the responsibilities of Wiltshire.

If you win, will you be singing on the balcony of the White Hart? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

I’m a terrible singer so you won’t want me to but I suspect I probably should.
What’s your position on the Digital Economy Bill? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)
Do you think that there are more questions to be asked about the Digital Economy Bill and its new powers ? (StuRobson (StuRobson) on Twitter)

I think there are still questions to be asked. There are some good provisions in the bill particularly with stronger demands on Channel 4 having to support “innovative content”.

However, and I would have thought this is the main thrust of the question, I believe there are serious problems with the provision for cutting off people’s internet connections and blocking internet sites, we should be able to find a better way to ensure that people are paid for their work. Much more thought is required about how we think about property (and theft) in the light of technological developments. I’m also disappointed that the levy to fund rural broadband provision was lost.

How do you plan to engage with young voters? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)

I think that social networking like Facebook and Twitter obviously plays a role. However, politicians sometimes rely far too much on the medium and not enough on the message. It’s much more important to address the issues which affect young voters in Salisbury. The point is perhaps to try to get across to young people that they can benefit from engagement in politics. Age Concern, quite rightly, when lobbying politicians make a lot both of the number of older people there are but also how likely older people are to vote, the situation with younger votes is not the same.
The current illogical situation of charging nothing for alterations to listed buildings but charging VAT at standard rate on repairs and maintenance is not in keeping with the pressure for a sustainable approach to building. Do the candidates support removing or reducing VAT on Building Repair and Maintenance work? UK MEPs from all parties backed a VAT cut in February last year but no obvious action has been taken on this. Are any of the Parties committed to this? (Jill Pearce, Publisher, Donhead Publishing)

To be honest I don’t know a great deal about this issue. VAT is always a complicated issue with many anomalies; hence the interminable is the Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit VAT case. I’ll look into this in more detail if elected.

What’s your stance on the closure at Porton Down? (Cliff Sullivan – Cliffsull’s Blog)

I don’t support the closure and I am sure that the other candidates feel the same. If elected I will work hard to keep it open. The point with Porton Down is not just about the jobs that will be lost at Porton Down itself if it is relocated but also the jobs that are supported by the spending of workers at Porton Down.

What actions will you each take to minimise your individual cost to the taxpayer? (Anon. from Twitter)

Quite rightly the expenses rules have been tightened up a great deal. Unlike many MPs I believe that an MPs’ salary is more than adequate so I won’t use expenses to top it up or take jobs outside Parliament. However, some expenses are justified and I believe what is more important is being as good value an MP as possible. Some expenses are quite clearly justified, indeed better MPs will often be spending more money on some expenses than lazy MPs. For example, expenses ‘Saint’ Ed Miliband spent far more on stationery and postage than Jim Devine, who is one of the MPs on trial for expenses fraud.

I will commit to making sure that every pound I spend as an MP will be in my constituents’ interest.

I would like to know how far reaching the support for small business really is – will it all vanish once elections over? (Tracy Ronan, Gaggle Gifts)

They certainly will be and we are promising more support for small business in the manifesto such as introducing the Small Business Credit Adjudicator with statutory powers to ensure banks lend to small businesses. Small businesses are obviously going to be a huge part of helping us to emerge from the recovery. We will for example be keeping the ‘Time to Pay’ scheme in place for as long as necessary.

Crucially, we will not be taking money out of the economy if re-elected. Premature Tory spending cuts risk, by increasing unemployment, a collapse in demand throughout the economy including demand for the services of small businesses.

Do you think the city of Salisbury should show more involvement with the football club, i.e sponsorship etc. ? (Michael J. Hill (MicKarchie) on Twitter)

I’m not quite sure what form this involvement would take. What I think should happen though is that, using the provisions in the Labour manifesto, the possibility of the fans buying some of the club could be looked at.

How would you encourage more business and jobs into the area? What do you think of the plans for the Market Place?

For me it makes sense to take these questions together as the Market Place plans, the Salisbury Vision more generally and the Core Strategy should do a great deal to help with encouraging businesses and jobs into the area. I think we do however need to make sure that the Fair can stay in its traditional location in the market place.

And the plans for Stonehenge?

I think they’re fairly good. At the moment when I’ve taken school trips to Stonehenge the students have often been disappointed, not by the stones themselves, but because of how much the roads and the inadequate visitors’ centre detract from the dignity of the stones.

The new plans respect the dignity of the stones far better, the removal of one road so Stonehenge so it is no longer at a fork in the road will fit the stones better into the landscape and having a better visitors’ centre in a simple building at a relatively long distance from the stones should impact less on the stones.

Are ‘Open Primaries’ a good thing?

I’m not convinced by Open Primaries. There are clearly advantages in engaging the electorate as a whole in the choice of a party’s candidate. In Salisbury the Conservative choice to have an Open Primary was clearly inspired by the belief that Salisbury is a safe Tory seat and that choosing the Tory candidate was the main opportunity for the electorate to decide on their MP.

What worries me though is whether Open Primaries marginalize party activists. Many voters, reasonably, expect candidates and parties to make an effort to get their vote and all of this is only possible when supported by party activists. Given how integral they are to the democratic process, I believe it’s vital that party activists are satisfied with their candidate.

If elected would you continue to communicate via Twitter?

Yes, I would.

What is your favourite….

….piece of music? It varies but at the moment I’m obsessed with James Carr’s ‘Dark End of the Street’.

….film The best film I’ve seen recently was ‘The White Ribbon’.

….book Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’.

….view of the Cathedral I like the Cathedral up close because of the amazing attention to detail in filling every available space with a statue of a saint or bishop or a gargoyle whilst maintaining this incredible harmony.

Is there anything in the Salisbury Festival that you’re particularly looking forward to?

Lots, I’m looking forward to seeing Battleship Potemkin and Stalker on the big screen. Billy Bragg’s always brilliant so I’ll be going to see him and I hope the opening is as good as the Doctor Faustus on stilts with fireworks that opened the festival a fair few years ago.

The main theme of http://salisburyandstonehenge.net is the meanings of Salisbury’s road names. If you were asked to choose the name of a new road, who or what would you name it after?

As far as I can think of the two greatest people from Salisbury are Colin Newman from Wire and John of Salisbury, I’m not sure how you could get much of a road name out of either of them though. I’m not convinced by ‘John Road’.

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