Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Paul Kennedy says a few words to Effingham and Mole Valley Residents

As the Elections approach Effingham Residents Association website editor invited local candidates to say a few words about themselves and the issues.  Here is the response from: 

Liberal Democrats Party Parliamentary Candidate Paul Kennedy

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Standing for Parliament is very different from doing a ‘proper job’ or even working in the City. I’ve worked for over 30 years in the private and public sectors, as an actuary and lawyer, and there’s nothing like it.

One moment I’m campaigning to defend the Green Belt against the Conservatives’ local plan, the next I’m campaigning to secure community hospital services at Leatherhead Hospital as part of a major review, or supporting a campaign for road repairs or a 20mph speed limit in a residential road outside a school.

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Although my daughter is a teacher, and I believe the Howard has been let down by Michael Gove, I have come out strongly against the Berkeley Homes scheme. If elected I will seek to find a compromise solution which suits both the school and local residents – for example through the Effingham Neighbourhood plan – and protects the Green Belt.

Actuarial issues at the door

There are plenty of actuarial issues for me too. Nearly a quarter of Mole Valley’s population are pensioners, and there is considerable debate about the coalition government’s reforms. I helped develop the policies being implemented by pensions minister Steve Webb, so feel relatively well prepared. But it was still sobering to receive a half-hour critique of FCA guidance from a pensions manager at a major insurer when I knocked on a door in Leatherhead recently.

Another issue is the cost and availability of insurance. The River Mole was badly hit by the 2013-14 floods, and a number of residents have found it harder to get home insurance. Many elderly residents are loyal policyholders disadvantaged by inertia pricing.

Actuaries could help improve healthcare too. There are no acute care services or walk-in centres in the constituency, and it’s difficult to receive care at short notice. One man who needed a nurse to change a dressing on his finger was sent to Tooting in London, where he had to wait for eight hours in A&E.

Psephology

For all its faults, the disproportionate impact of ‘first-past-the-post’ makes for fascinating campaigning. Mole Valley is a ‘safe’ Conservative seat, with Liberal Democrats second. In 2010, the result was Con 57%, Lib Dem 29%, Lab 7%, UKIP 5%, Green 2%. So I have three main challenges. First is to identify my supporters so we can remind and encourage them to vote, checking for example whether they will be away and need a postal alternative. This is the purpose of ‘canvassing’ by political parties – to achieve enhanced ‘differential turnout’ by their own supporters.

Second is to identify and persuade Labour and Green supporters to continue to vote for me as the best chance of beating the Conservatives (‘squeeze’). UKIP supporters have a variety of motivations, so you often need to talk to them at length to work out which of the two main contenders they would vote for.

Lastly, in order to achieve the 14% ‘swing’ to win, I need to persuade moderate Conservative voters – who are willing to consider voting Liberal Democrat on an issue such as electoral reform, staying in Europe, concern for the environment or saving a local hospital – to ‘switch’ on the basis that there is no danger of ‘letting in’ Labour here.

Other constituencies have different dynamics. In Labour-Conservative marginals, both parties are trying to ‘squeeze’ Liberal Democrat voters and ‘switch’ each others’ supporters. These results tend to vary uniformly in line with national opinion polls.

Contests where the main challengers are the Lib Dems are more volatile. For example, in September Lib Dem Colin Cross won the Lovelace ward by-election in Ripley, Ockham and Wisley with a staggering 47% swing against the Conservatives, thanks to our opposition to the Guildford Local Plan. The Tory candidate said he opposed the local plan too but you don’t fight the Tory local plan by voting Conservative!

Politics is local

We have a close contest in local elections too, with 17 Lib Dem to 25 Conservatives on the two councils in my constituency. There are many ‘split’ voters who back Liberal Democrats locally but Conservatives in national elections. I need to keep them thinking locally when media attention is on the national contest.

In rural seats, an integrated election campaign is a series of local battles.

A parliamentary candidate uses their higher profile to support, encourage and recruit local candidates and campaigners. Last summer, I signed up Colin Cross as our candidate for the Lovelace by-election. Now as a new Lib Dem councilor he is persuading his supporters, many former Conservatives, to back me at the general election.

Published and promoted by M Watson on behalf of Paul Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats, 27 Highacre, Dorking RH4 3BF  www.mvld.org.uk.