THE LIVE DEBATE
On March 25, the candidates for Mid Dorset and North Poole took part in a live radio debate for YourElection15 in Canford Heath, where they discussed topics ranging from housing and the price of milk to how to win over pensioners and young people.
The rural constituency of Mid Dorset and North Poole has been identified as one of three key marginal seats that could decide the outcome of the election. The Liberal Democrat Annette Brooke won by just 269 votes in 2010, meaning that a swing of just 0.6% could see it turn to blue. Though popular among voters, Brooke is now retiring after 14 years as the constituency’s MP.
The area includes the picturesque market towns of Wareham and Wimborne, and tourism and farming are key industries. Pensioners and retirees make up a large part of the demographic and there are relatively low levels of social housing and economic deprivation. Despite this, in common with the rest of the country, lack of affordable housing remains a significant issue. In addition, nearby large renewable energy projects and poor transport links are hot topics.
The constituency was instituted in 1997 and since then has been a battleground for the LibDems and the Conservatives. Annette Brooke first won the seat in 2001, and managed to greatly increase her majority in 2005.
The last elections were the closest yet, and according to the polls the (former) coalition partners are set to be once again the main contenders in the race. Lord Ashcroft’s last survey, conducted in November 2014, puts the Conservatives ahead at 38%, with a six-point lead on the Liberal Democrats. The projected loss in support is in line with national trends, as the party’s record in government comes under scrutiny even in its traditional heartlands. If the latest predictions come to pass, UKIP would score a surprising 19% and almost quadruple its vote, and the Greens would reach 3% in their first attempt to field a candidate in the constituency.
“Poole IS a beautiful place, but some people just haven’t realised it yet!”
Vikki Slade – Liberal Democrat
Vikki currently sits on Poole council for Broadstone Ward where she has worked on improving standards in children’s centres, formulating an anti-bullying strategy and improving provision for victims of domestic abuse. She is also a leading voice on environmental and renewable energy issues. She is an active supporter of small businesses and owns the popular Molly’s café on Broadstone’s Broadway.
Michael Tomlinson – Conservative
Michael has lived in Mid Dorset for ten years and was former candidate Nick King’s campaign manager in the 2010 election. He is a practicing lawyer, representing small businesses and local government departments in court. A regular church volunteer, he places a keen emphasis on family values and enjoys playing hockey and cricket outside of the workplace.
“People are fed up with business-as-usual politics.”
Mark Chivers – Green
Mark has been a Green Party member for five years, is former chair of the local party and stood unsuccessfully in the European elections in 2014. A qualified engineer, Mark spent much of his career working in financial services. He is a founder of Zero Carbon Dorset and a member of both the all-party Parliamentary Climate Change group and former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality project. He campaigns on fracking and for further developments in green technology.
Richard Turner – UKIP
Richard is chair of UKIP’s Christchurch branch and has had a varied career. He worked in London as a motorbike mechanic, in healthcare and electrical wholesale before moving to the Dorset coast in 2004 to open a marina business. Consequently one of his key interests is fisheries, and he argues that the EU’s regulations are damaging the UK’s fishing industry.
Patrick Canavan – Labour
Patrick was a candidate in the 2010 general election and is former regional officer for Unite the Union in the South West. He is a strong supporter of the NHS and set up ‘Healthwatch’, a consumer rights organization which seeks to advance patients’ concerns to local and national authorities. Patrick is also a a keen advocate for further devolution from Westminster to give more power to regional authorities.
nb: Hover on the icons to get more information on a specific topic