15 questions for the candidates in the East Wiltshire constituency at the 2024 general election

Shortly after the election was announced, we sat down and came up with fifteen questions to ask of all the candidates in this constituency (and also the three others in the area we cover – Newbury, Reading West & Mid Berkshire and Didcot & Wantage). You’ll find the questions and the answers below. These are arranged alphabetically by the candidate’s surname, colour-coded by party and identified by initials as per the list below. A blank space means that the candidate has yet to supply their responses: these will be added as soon as possible, if they do so.

  • PF: Peter Force-Jones, True & Fair
  • EH: Emily Herbert, Green
  • DJK: David James Kinnaird, Lib Dem
  • DK: Danny Kruger, Conservative
  • RN: Rob Newman, Labour
  • ST: Stephen Talbot, Reform UK

Each candidate will have their own preferred method of contact and this will be displayed on any election material they produce and, if they have them, on their websites. None have been provided here. You can also visit the Who Can I Vote For? website for details of the contact details each candidate is prepared to publicise.

1 Please list the main jobs that you’ve had outside politics and also a brief summary of any main elected positions you’ve held, or currently hold.

PF: Au pair, foreign language assistant, teacher, assistant teacher, teaching assistant, ad hoc translator, customer-service roles in retail and travel.
EH: Waitress, teaching assistant in nursery, primary and secondary schools. I am now working in HR & Recruitment for a nursery. I’ve also done internships in journalism and charity work. 
DJK: I’ve been an Army officer for 15 years, then an IT Director and a Chief Operations Officer (COO) of a Flexible workspace company. I launched a UK software and networking company into the US. I’m now fully committed as a candidate – I’m all in!
DK: I set up and ran Only Connect, a charity working with prisoners and ex-offenders, for 12 years. I’ve also been a journalist at the Daily Telegraph and a civil servant.
RN: I currently work at a trade body which represents British advertisers, advising them on what political changes mean for them and helping them meet challenges like advertising sustainably and getting talent from kinds of ages and backgrounds in front of the camera in the ads you see on TV and online. Before that I ran my own small consultancy business.
ST: Commissioned Officer in the Royal Navy Warfare Branch, relationship manager in the financial services support sector, defence and technology consultant and currently a Head of Operations in the maritime sector.

2 What do you think is the biggest single challenge the country faces?

PF: Longer term, the impacts of climate change. With higher average global temperatures, we’re facing more turbulent weather events that were once considered “freak” (droughts, heatwaves, and torrential downpours) becoming far more commonplace. As we’ve seen recently across the UK and more locally, the associated costs, damage to homes, disruption to transport, businesses, farmers, and our food supply and food security should not be taken lightly. More short-term, the broken economic model. Both can be tackled if we act quickly.
EH: That’s a very difficult question when there are so many priority issues! I will select the climate crisis as the country’s biggest challenge simply because it affects so many other issues. The climate crisis is not only bad for our animals and environment, it will also cause more health issues, decrease crop yields, and displace lots of people across the world.
DJK: International instability coupled with strategic isolation. Global challenges feed each other – wars are effecting everyone’s economy and fuelling a refugee crisis,. Climate change will make food scarcity and clean water critical challenges. There are no easy answers, we’ve got to stop trying to solve these problems in isolation. We’ve got a real issue with our inability to confront the reality of the impact of our departure from the EU. I’m prepared to talk about that – I’d challenge others to do the same. The lack of public and private Investment is hampering productivity and growth with huge knock impact to tax revenue, public services -we’ve got to get back to making the UK a great place to live and invest in.
DK: Security – our defences, food supply, energy supply, the strength of our society. 
RN: Our stagnant economy, which has led to British families being thousands of pounds worse off than they would have been, had we grown over the last decade and a half. Getting growth back in our economy is fundamental to raising wages, bringing down bills, and getting the public services that we all rely on back on their feet.
ST: A democratic deficit – we have a governing class that has an agenda of its own, executing policies it has no mandate for, breaking Britain and making all of us poorer.

3 What do you think is the biggest single challenge the constituency faces?

PF: Where to start? Access to quick local medical care, raw sewage in our rivers and waterways, the lack and infrequency of public transport links (especially at weekends) all pose huge challenges. Given it was a problem years ago, and still is, I’d suggest the provision of truly affordable sustainable housing remains the biggest challenge. I don’t believe we should continue to increase the financial burden facing young adults (and others) who are currently (and have for many years) had to rack up minor mountains of debts to afford their own home.
EH: Housing is a big issue everywhere in the UK, but especially in a desirable rural location like Wiltshire where prices are skyrocketing for both renters and homeowners. We would give power back to local authorities to implement rent controls where needed and built good-quality social housing.
DJK: It’s a vast and varied constituency with different towns and villages many with their own unique challenges.  High property prices and a shortage of affordable housing options coupled with sparse public transport means having a job, and somewhere commutable to live is a significant challenge. That’s why I’ve chosen to get out on my bike and cycle 176 miles to see people and listen to their views across our new constituency. I know there are different challenges in different locations so I’d encourage people to have a chat.
DK: How to grow sustainability. We need more houses, more jobs, more transport but we also need to preserve and enhance the environment and the wellbeing of communities. 
RN: Fixing how we get around. We have a large number of communities across a wide area, with inadequate public transport and roads which are suffering from a lack of investment. This affects both individuals and businesses. Repairing the roads, having a meaningful local bus service and improving our railways are crucial tasks.
ST: An enforced agenda which is punishing rural communities by ignoring generations of experience in favour of misconceived bureaucratic policies and regulations. Energy and environmental policies have seen supply-side costs increase and therefore more expensive food.  Anti-drainage policies have exacerbated flooding.  Motorists, when able to avoid the potholes, are being punished at the pump and by insurance premiums. Broadband connectivity is laughable and rural pursuits are in the crosshairs.

4 What would you like to change about the UK’s political system, nationally or locally?

PF: Nationally, to have an electoral system where seats won in parliament match votes cast, tougher, enforced rules to combat political corruption and nepotism, tighter limits on donations to political parties. Voting in parliament that is near instantaneous and doesn’t waste 20 minutes each time the speaker calls “division”. Locally, where it doesn’t interfere with national programmes, to see more powers devolved: I like the principle of subsidiarity.
EH: Proportional representation would make a massive difference to the UK’s political system because currently votes are not fairly represented in parliament. This means that people feel they have to tactically vote for the person or party they dislike the least rather than the person they want to vote for.
DJK: It’s got to be proportional representation.  If we had this we would get cross-party, longer-term decision making, not just grandstanding over a five-year period and an end to the blue/red pendulum. The country is crying out for more joint working in parliament and collaboration to help solve challenges. Short-term fixes aren’t working. PR is about letting everyone’s voice be heard. If we have to compromise and change ideas that’s okay – let’s get democracy and government working again to make the lives of the people better.
DK: I’d have much more decision-making at a more local level. We are far too centralised.
RN: I’d like to end the chronic short-termism which has led politicians to try sticking plasters over gaping problems. From housing supply to skills and from planning to prisons, we have consistently failed to face up to fundamental challenges and our leaders have talked big and failed to deliver. Government is serious business and it’s about time we had people who took it seriously.
ST: I would like to see the national government’s interference in everyday life reduced.  To govern effectively it needs to focus on fewer areas. We have the technologies available now to easily deliver greater democratic accountability at a local level and I would like to see powers returned from quangos and other arms-length bodies to centres of gravity closer to those who feel the impact of the decisions.

5 What is the most important thing that you would try to change about the UK if you were elected (in addition to your answer to the question above)?

PF: To see our economic system transition from one that too often seems designed to feed and fuel greed (and thereby leaves too many struggling to make ends meet) to one that has the wellbeing of everyone living here at its core: so decent wages for all workers, ideally more flexible working practices, a system that encourages smarter working hours and a healthier life-work balance for all, not longer working hours.
EH: If I were elected as part of a different party’s majority government, I would back the Climate and Nature bill brought in as a cross-party collaboration with Caroline Lucas. I would form part of a group of Green MPs that could pressure the likely Labour government to answer to its progressive voters on issues such as housing, the NHS, and clean water.
DJK: I’d love the nation to look backwards less and look forward more. Only look forwards, only better would be my mantra. This will come from giving the next generation the skills and wisdom they need with more equality of education and opportunity. Every child can achieve great things – they deserve the best possible start in life. Adults need to be supported with our new Skills Wallets, giving them £10k to spend on education and training throughout their lives. My own children went to good local schools – we need to really invest here and make sure investment is above the rate of inflation every year and that our teachers are invested in and respected so they begin to love their vocation.
DK: I’d make young people less vulnerable to mental health problems.
RN: The cynicism and apathy about our politics. Politics touches every aspect of our lives, but people are understandably sick of it and distrustful of those who go into it. I’d seek to be the best kind of representative I could possibly be, by putting in place the mechanisms which would maintain a two-way conversation between me as MP and the electorate: voter conferences, a commitment to get to each village and town in East Wiltshire over the course of every twelve months, and advisory councils to keep me informed and in touch.
ST: I would wish to undo the constitutional vandalism wrought by the last Labour administration, and embraced by the Conservatives and coalition governments, that politicised formerly neutral bodies and sought to bind the actions of future administrations, thereby diminishing democratic choice.

6 Do you feel enough attention is being paid to climate change in the campaign so far? What is your party’s response to this threat?

PF: Not by the big parties, who perhaps see it as an optional extra – certain parties and candidates need to start to acknowledge mainstream expert scientific wisdom. True & Fair would like to see ecocide recognised as a serious crime, those wilfully causing it should face far more than slapped wrists, (or stern letters). We’d re-introduce the Green Homes Grant and create a ‘green fund’ through carbon pricing of highly polluting non-renewables. We’ve signed the Climate & Nature Bill pledge. Effectiveness needs to be prioritised over optics.
EH: I don’t think there has been enough emphasis on the climate crisis! It is a global challenge that needs to be acted on immediately, in new, meaningful ways. I’m standing for the only party which takes the climate crisis seriously, by proposing to investing billions in new green infrastructure which will protect us from rising sea levels and disease while also creating new green jobs and saving money on energy.
DJK: No. 60% in recent YouGov polls rate the Government as handling the environment badly. 66% are worried about climate change – if there was ever a call for action we’ve seen it here – floods, changing weather patterns, higher food costs. Its hitting everyone in Wiltshire and is an existential global threat. The Lib Dem manifesto commits us to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 but with real practical measures that will save money too by making homes warmer and cheaper to heat with a ten-year emergency upgrade programme.  Rooftop solar incentives and ensuring that all new homes are zero-carbon. It’s incredible that gas boilers are still being fitted to new houses right now. It has to stop.
DK: We are committed to major reductions in carbon emissions and in fact lead the developed world. I want to transition to green energy in a way that is affordable for ordinary families. 
RN: Climate change is the existential challenge of our time. We are at several tipping points on which this generation will be judged. Labour is fully committed to international agreements to help arrest catastrophic warming, to transforming our energy mix to renewables (including creating Great British Energy to help drive that investment) and to decarbonising the grid. We need to work with farmers on land management, energy and high standards of animal welfare to help us meet the challenge.
ST: Reform UK cares deeply about the environment and accepts that the climate is changing – it has always been dynamic. Sacrificing industries and voters’ hard-earned pay on the altar of net zero, however, is not the answer.  Personally, I feel we should follow the example of generations that have gone before on how best to adapt to and overcome such challenges. Change always brings opportunity so, while negative impacts can be mitigated, we should not neglect to see the positives that can be derived from such change.

7 What is the most difficult question you’ve ever been asked in your political career (and how did you answer it)?

PF: See the answer to Q12 below…
EH: “How will the Green Party pay for such generous policies?” We will tax the wealth of the super rich, which is only those who have tens of millions of pounds, by a small margin. More importantly, we will save money by spending it. For instance, by investing in preventative measures in the NHS, we will save billions on treatments down the line.
DJ: At Bishopstone on day one of my bike ride, I was asked about whether I’d vote on party lines if I disagreed with a Lib Dem policy. In the discussion it was evident that underneath this was the issue about trust in politics which is at an all-time low. My answer was that, in essence, I agree with all the policies, but let’s face it, things change over time. If faced with a decision that won’t sit with my conscience and beliefs, I’ll do what I think is the right thing. At 57, I’m clearly not a career politician so I don’t believe I’m there to parrot everything I am told – that’s not the way to restore trust and belief in democracy.  
DK: “Why are you in politics?” It’s hard because at least part of the answer is that I enjoy the power and the glory (though there’s actually not much of either). But I can also answer that I love our country and get a deep fulfillment from being able to serve.
RN: Less of a question and more of an accusation: “you politicians are all the same and all in it for ourselves.” I grew up in Wroughton, in East Wiltshire and have put myself forward because I care deeply about my community, county and country. I’m not interested in second jobs or outside interests but in making sure my home has a voice in the next government. People across politics from different parties go into it because they want to serve the public.
ST: This is my first foray into the political arena.

8 What question do you most enjoy being asked as a politician (and how do you answer it)?

PF: Why are you bothering to stand?. The answer is because I believe people deserve a different option (and one I would hope people find better) to all too often failed current status quo. I’ve had enough of poor behaviour by our politicians, enough of culture wars, and enough of politicians deliberately avoiding elephants in the room (amongst others, Brexit). Why here? As a Wiltshireman, I don’t want to stand anywhere else. Since I am seeking to unite the vote, and was first to declare, is it not subsequent candidates who split the vote?
EH: “What is your favourite Green policy?” I think the one that is all-round agreeable is our investment in home insulation. We waste a crazy amount of energy in the UK, by letting so much heat leave our homes. Investing in home insulation would reduce both our carbon emissions and household energy bills dramatically, and it would pay for itself within a few years. 
DJK: On my bike ride I’ve frequently been asked about the NHS.  It’s my number-one issue. I suffered a severe stroke in 2021, aged only fifty-five. It was a near run thing – the professional and quick action by the NHS literally changed my life. Without them, I’d have been unlikely to be able to write this. I want to give people a fair deal on being able to see a GP within seven days or 24 hours if urgent, recruit and train more doctors and nurses, put mental health on the same footing as physical health and address the 112,000 vacancies. That’s more staff needed than everyone in this constituency. In a nutshell – be brave, vote Dave. Let’s not have more of the same.  
DK: “Did you ever meet the Queen?. Primary school children ask this question every time. I have to answer, sadly no (but I have met the King…).
RN: “What’s the one issue you’d like to be remembered for having played a part in solving?” – to which my answer is homelessness. It’s a moral stain on the face of one of the richest economies in the world and it’s been a political choice not to solve it. Homelessness in Wiltshire increased by 70% from 2022 to 2023. I’d like to play my part in ending it once and for all.
ST: This is my first Q&A, but I have enjoyed them all so far!

9 Regarding the growing problem of disinformation of various kinds, what advice would you give people trying to get accurate information during the campaign?

PF: Don’t listen to just one source of media, be it BBC, GB News, the Mail, the Mirror or other. Use a variety of TV, newspaper, and social media, Some quality international press often gives a less biased account. Listen to word of mouth and always question claims you hear. Use your eyes, ears, and experiences and don’t believe everything you’re told without doing further research. Shock and fear tactics are often used to stoke division and sell policies that suit someone’s own political or financial agenda. 
EH: Read news sources from different sources, online and print. Talk to people you disagree with and hear them out. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and consider what journey they have taken to think that way. Approach each ideology with a pinch of salt.
DJK: Use trusted sources. When using social media like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram just check a little more widely. Be curious.  Do your own fact checking from reliable sources. We’ve seen electoral interference by unfriendly countries – keep politicians honest too by looking at fact checking from say, the BBC, which does a good fact checker.
DK: Try to meet the candidates in person.
RN: Get your information from a multiple set of sources – don’t take everything you read at face value. That goes for what gets said about the election here in East Wiltshire as much as it does the national campaign!
ST: Debate has become increasingly polarised in recent years, but it’s best to look at both, or all sides, of a debate as life is complex and seldom binary. Candidates will be advocating views that they consider to be the best for the country and local community, they will not be putting them forward out of some form of malice or for personal gain. I would highlight that while there’s a big difference between subjective views and objective data, that data can easily be refined and modelled to support or counter most views. In essence, have an open mind and be prepared to delve into the detail rather than be taken in by oft-repeated slogans and mantras

10 What measures is your party taking to ensure that the UK is better prepared for a recurrence of a pandemic event?

PF: The next government will need to ensure we are in a position to quickly provide care workers and medical professionals with sufficient high quality PPE from recognised reputable suppliers (not just the mate of a friend you met once in a pub). Investment in scientific R&D and working closely with our international neighbours such as through the EMA (European Medicines Agency) should be a given. Cooperation will help us identify and act against a threat of a future pandemic. Clearly True & Fair is unlikely to be leading the next government but we can still press whoever is very hard to ensure as a country we are much better prepared in future.
EH: As previously mentioned, the Green Party’s climate mitigation policies would help to reduce further pandemics. We would also majorly invest in the NHS, helping to nurse it back to health. The bottom line is paying NHS staff properly, investing in training, and encouraging doctors and nurses to migrate here.
DJK: The Coronavirus Act flew through Parliament in just three days. As a country we really knew very little about the huge threat we faced, the resulting act restricted freedom excessively. Yet 10 Downing Street ended up as the most fined postcode in the UK. As Lib-Dems we’ve led on working out how to manage the risk of future pandemics. Layla Moran is Chair of the cross party committee to learn the lessons and report back in November. Its right that this is cross party – collaboration is key, its national security issue – people lives are at stake. We aim to prioritise the NHS; it made a life-changing difference to so many then and will do so in the future with our support.
DK: We are reviewing the decision-making processes from last time. I hope next time we put more trust in people, and in local communities, to manage any crisis locally. 
RN: The discharge of patients infected with Covid into care homes was a disgrace, so firstly we need to take steps over the next decade to build a functioning and well-resourced National Care Service which can properly look after the elderly. Our new deal for workers’ rights will mean access to statutory entitlements like sick pay from day one. We should also work internationally if we have another pandemic to get vaccinations out quickly and prevent another scandal like the “VIP lanes” for PPE by proper sourcing and storage of essential equipment. 
ST: I am not aware if we have a specific plan for future pandemics. The government did have a plan last time but decided to jettison it and we are still coming to terms with the full impact of that. Whatever the plan is, the costs cannot be allowed to outweigh the benefits.

11 What do you feel ought to be done to address the well-publicised problems of the privatised water companies?

PF: Effectively we have privatised monopolies owning important national assets such as water. This seems to me, a massive anathema. As consumers we have no choice available. I would be happy to allow the water companies to fail. We should then see central government step up to the mark and inject the type of large scale investment into the infrastructure that has been absent for 30-plus years. Big developments should only be granted planning permission if they factor in the extra waste that will be generated and contribute to dealing with it. Engineered solutions will be necessary to keep sewage and run off separate given the archaic state of the current infrastructure, but more natural solutions should also play an important role in future.
EH: The Green Party would push for water companies to be brought back into public hands to stop the harm being caused to our rivers and coastlines. The UK is haemorrhaging money by paying so much to these private companies and this would be doubly beneficial.
DJK: I’m passionate about stopping the sewage and have locally taken on Thames Water after sewage backflowed into people’s houses. Privatisation has failed – it has been profitable for the companies to keep polluting and the regulator OFWAT has been toothless, lacking resources and legislation to make it stop. The companies have paid billions to shareholders, have not invested and are now laden with debt. We’ll ban them from dumping sewage and transform water companies into public benefit companies. We’ve got to ban bonuses for water company bosses until discharges and leaks end. Our chalk rivers are really at risk, let’s do something about it. We’ve all had enough!
DK: We have already imposed unlimited fines for sewage spills. I think we need to break up the huge companies like Thames Water. They should not be bailed out by taxpayers for their corporate failures.
RN:
Regulation has clearly failed to stop water companies from taking money out of the system and handing it to shareholders in dividends, when they should have been reinvesting it in our ageing infrastructure. Water bosses’ bonuses should be banned, companies should be forced to monitor every outlet and there should be severe and automatic fines for the kind of discharges that we have seen into the Kennet. The water companies need to be put in special measures until they’ve cleaned up the filth. 
ST:
There should be ample scope for them to deliver for both their customers and their shareholders. My view is that, as they are essentially an oligopoly, the government would be within its rights to take a golden share in them to ensure they do their duty by the customer, investing in infrastructure while keeping bills low. Any fines levied for the raw sewage scandal should not be funded through increased utility bills.

12 Imagine, if you can, that I’m Lauren Laverne and that this is Desert Island Discs. What would be your one must-have piece of music?

PF: A very tough question…OK, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
EH: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.
DJK: There May be Trouble Ahead by Nat King Cole.
DK:
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
RN:
Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto.
ST:
Thunderstruck by AC/DC.

13 And your choice of book (you already have Shakespeare and the Bible, remember)?

PF: The scripts of Blackadder 1185 to 1917.
EH: Anne of Green Gables by Maud Montgomery.
DJK: How to be a Liberal by Ian Dunt.
DK:
Middlemarch by George Eliot.
RN:
A complete set of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R R Martin (if he ever finishes writing them…)
ST: Flashman (omnibus edition) by George MacDonald Fraser.

14 And – not an option offered by Desert Island Discs – your choice of film?

PF: Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others).
EH: Little Women.
DJK: JoJo Rabbit.
DK:
The Leopard.
RN:
Any Marvel film.
ST:
Kind Hearts and Coronets.

15 And finally, your choice of luxury item (which can’t be used to mount an escape)?

PF: A radio to listen to sports coverage.
EH: My diary (and a pen).
DJK: A radio to stay connected with what’s going on.
DK:
A Swiss army knife.
RN:
My border terrier, Marvin.
ST:
A sufficient quantity of gin and tonic.

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