John Bateson talks about what motivated him to stand for parliament;
You joined the Labour party in 1973 – what prompted that decision?
1973 was an eventful year politically. The Heath government was in conflict with the miners. Massive local government reorganisation had resulted in the establishment of the new “shadow” Cumbria County Council. I spoke to Trevor Cotton, a CC candidate for Labour and he introduced me to Elizabeth Kemp (the then CLP secretary); joining the party seemed a natural next step.
You’ve stood as parliamentary candidate for W&L before – what did you learn from your first campaign?
Just how effective a very focussed and tactical campaign can be. W&L (and the Labour party) were targeted by the Liberal Democrats following the ruthless approach of Chris (now Lord) Rennard. They adopted the strategy of reducing the share of the third party in their key seats by encouraging tactical voting amongst the electorate.
The key election issues may change between now and May – what stands out in your mind as the most important issues identified to date?
- The economy – I think Labour has been too defensive since 2008 (recently even former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King acknowledged that it would not have mattered which party was in government – it was a worldwide economic crisis). We have not emphasised that enough. Whatever minor improvements there have been, this remains the slowest recovery since the South Sea Bubble. Deficit reduction has stalled and is now going in the wrong direction and debt has doubled to £ 1.5 trillion. Austerity has hurt people and it hasn’t worked and what’s more the gap between the rich and poor has widened considerably.
- The NHS is anything but safe in Tory hands. Underfunding and privatisation are taking their toll on health as well as social care. I think it's critical the new Labour Government acts on its promise to repeal the NHS & Social Care Act as soon as possible. Private companies will ditch their contracts if profits can't be extracted as we've seen with Southern Cross and at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
You’ve recently attended two debates at local schools. What issues did the students raise?
Tuition fees, the abolition of travel allowances and the environment. Also the economy insofar as how economic policies will affect their generation for whom retirement stretches into the unforeseeable future
What would you like to achieve from this campaign personally?
To represent and grow the Labour vote. To counter tactical voting and to explain why it is so important to vote Labour – safe Liberal Democrat seats by and large are held by the right wing of the LDs, many of whom will not want to work with Labour.
Finally, what support will you need from members and registered supporters to make that happen?
I’d like to talk to every Labour member and supporter. Everyone can offer something. From helping ensure there is a strong Labour voice at public meetings to writing letters or emails, leafleting, stuffing envelopes, canvassing, giving a donation or just talking to others about why they’re voting Labour. And I’m counting on them to vote Labour of course.