(1) Why are you a Liberal Democrat?
I am a liberal democrat because I believe in fairness, equality and opportunity for all. I do not believe markets should run rampant but neither do I believe the state should do everything. I am a liberal – I believe that the state has a role. My view is shaped by the 1980’s when I looked around the class room in Lancashire, I saw half of the kids parents, including mine, out of work and I knew that something had to be done. I went home and joined the Liberals and fought to make Britain fairer, more just and more equal.
(2) Which historical figure has influenced your political views the most?
Does Paddy Ashdown count? His passion, determination and vision was essential as he brought us back from near oblivion – he always stood for the liberal cause, no matter the cost. In Charles Kennedy too we saw someone who was prepared to be unpopular in order to do what was right.
But historically I’d have to say Beveridge – he helped create a political consensus and created the welfare state. The Liberal MP for Berwick for just one year but someone who had the audacity to dream the bid idea and shape politics in a more liberal way. Politics nowadays has too many managers and not enough ‘can-do’ visionaries. Perhaps my most lasting influence has been the late Neva Orrell. She was a councillor in Lancashire from 1960 through to her death in 2002 – more than anyone she embodied the practical commitment to community politics, selfless service to the people who elected her and the never-say-die Liberal spirit.
(3) Have you ever doubted your Liberal values?
I don’t walk around with a cock-sure belief that I’m right about everything, but I don’t think I doubt my over all philosophy of the freedom of the individual and a belief in the fullest extent of freedom i.e. not just political and personal freedom, but social and economic freedom to. In other words, you are not free if you are too poor to exercise your freedom.
(4) How do you feel about retaining your seat in 2015?
That’s for people here in Westmorland to decide and I never take anything for granted. In recent years our local election results have been very good. We won 2 seats from the conservatives in 2012 and a further two in 2013. But we will keep working and fighting on the issues that local people care about and our track record of achievements until 2015.
(5) In your opinion, who has been the greatest Liberal British Prime Minister of all time?
This was a tough choice between Lloyd George and Asquith. I think I’d choose Asquith. As Prime Minister, he led the Liberal party to a series of major domestic reforms, including social insurance and the reduction of the power of the House of Lords.
Many of the major reforms popularly associated with Lloyd George as “the man who won the war” were actually implemented by Asquith. He was not a war time leader but he was a fantastic Prime Minister.