Category Archives: Politics

General Election 2019: In Conversation With: Luke Pollard

By Tobias Chalcraft

As part of Generation Plymouth’s ongoing election coverage, we asked Luke Pollard some important questions on various topics from climate change to decommissioned nuclear submarines. There’s even a discussion on Jaffa Cakes.

Luke is Labour’s PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, fighting to retain the seat that he only won from the Conservatives in the 2017 election.

“How do you feel you would best represent Plymouth’s young people as the MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport?”

Luke starts by arguing that “the best way to represent any group is to take time to listen and engage” before highlighting his regular meetings with Plymouth’s MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament), with one MYP even contributing articles to his white papers regarding Plymouth’s future on his website. He also mentions his young people’s Brexit summit, which he hosted soon after his election in 2017, and his frequent Q&As in schools and colleges as good ways for him to share his opinions and to learn from Plymouth’s young people. He finishes his point by advocating a lowered voting age, in order for younger people to have a louder voice.

“Do you feel Labour has done enough to promote the fight against Climate Change?”

Luke lists his credentials as a member of Labour’s Environment Team and Shadow Environmental Minister, which ensures that he frequently speaks about climate change. He adds that the parliamentary declaration of a climate emergency was a Labour motion, which was put forward by its leader Jeremy Corbyn. He then says he is proud to support the de-escalation of the use of diesel & petrol engines and hydro-generated power. He concludes his answer by saying “Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet and more of the same won’t cut it, we need transformative change and fast too”.

“Do you believe the vote should be extended to those aged 16 and 17? If so, what do you believe this expanding of the electorate will achieve?”

His answer has a straightforward start: “Yes. I am the only Plymouth MP to have voted for lowering the voting age and I am proud to continue to make the case for young people to be heard”. He then outlines the cuts in public services, including mental health support and education, which have had an impact on young people, before arguing that “If young people had the right to vote I don’t think those in power would be able to ignore them”. He finishes by committing to further support for votes at 16.

“What is the progress of your campaign to have the decommissioned nuclear submarines in Devonport recycled?”

Luke says this is one of his “passions and key campaigns” before divulging into how Plymouth has accepted a “poor deal” through its undisputed acceptance of old nuclear submarines.

“My old man served on many of the submarines that are now retired in Devonport when he was in the Royal Navy. The submarine service is a really important part of the Royal Navy, but we cannot simply tie up and forget about these subs”. Due to previously being an MP outside of government, Luke explains that he used his position in order to spread awareness and propose solutions to the recycling of these submarines. 

He concludes by saying “I’m proud to be the first MP to do this and I am now leading a cross-party campaign to properly fund the recycling of these old submarines. It may take some time, but the first challenge is to let people know they exist – once you know Devonport has 13 old nuclear submarines tied up – then you are forced to think about how to recycle them. I won’t stop until a properly funded recycling programme has begun.”

“As a ‘big fan of cake’ yourself, are ‘Jaffa Cakes’ biscuits or cakes?”

Starting off with the neutral response of “I love Jaffa Cakes”, Luke then moves his response towards taxation:

“Personally, I don’t mind what type of food they’re labelled as long as people can afford them but at the moment Jaffa Cakes are a luxury not every family in Plymouth can afford”. He points out speeches in Westminster and his experience with the soup run as some of his personal efforts to combat food poverty. He completes his response by saying “we need to get real and address the fundamental problem here: people cannot afford food for themselves and their families. That’s shameful in 2019 and something I will not accept”.

GE2019 Opinion: Vote for ‘chaos’ this Christmas

By Mitch Gregory

The year is 2057: the Conservative Party are still convincing the public that Labour caused the 2008 financial crash (they didn’t); Brexit still hasn’t been achieved because of the “Remoaner” Parliament that has been re-elected successively; Boris Johnson still hasn’t faced Andrew Neil, nor has he found an appropriate ditch.

There is a choice, as the infinitely-wise Health Secretary Matt Hancock pointed out to us lately, ‘Between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn’—thanks, Matt. So what does one do in the face of such apocalyptic choices? On the one side you have Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing granddad who just wants to tend his allotment and sympathise with terrorists. On the other you have Boris Johnson, Bullingdon Club bully, compulsive liar, serial womaniser, and strong contender for worst father of the year. This election could not be more dire—or is it?

An alternative way of looking at this election is through policy, which is often overlooked, shocking. On policy we have again quite a contrast: on the Labour side we have nationalised public services, including the railways, the utilities, broadband, Royal Mail and crucially the NHS. Alongside this we have a promise of a second referendum on a Brexit deal, with the option to remain, or to leave with a softer option (potential a Norway style model). On the other side we have the Conservatives who are offering, well, “Get Brexit Done” in order to unleash Britain’s potential. Potential to do what? How has this potential not been achieved before? Looking at this election an observer would think that the Liberal Democrats had been in power for nine years, not the Conservatives. 

The reality is that Boris Johnson wants you to vote for him so that he can pretend to make lives better. 50,000 nurses? 19,000 of them ae already nurses. 20,000 police officers? Still not quite the 21,000 cut since 2010. A football pitch within 15 minutes of every family in England? Why don’t you focus on giving every family in England a home and a local library and a decent school and an efficient hospital before you focus on setting up a five-a-side on every street corner. The Tories want the public to somehow forget that they have been in power for nine years, all of the unharnessed British potential is only unharnessed because of their superficial at best and cataclysmic at worst policies.

I’m not trying to argue that Labour is perfect; their policy on tuition fees could leave Universities with a funding black-hole even bigger than the one they already have. Similarly Labour still don’t wish to overhaul the electoral system even after the instability and chaos First Past The Post has brought us this decade. In fact some of their policies just seem unachievable, as if there are almost too many of them to ever hope to implement in five years. But alas, this is the choice we face: Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.

I’ve never voted Labour. I’ve voted Liberal Democrat twice and Green once. If I wasn’t in Plymouth Sutton & Devonport I’d probably vote for one of those two again. But this time I’m voting Labour, not even because I’m left-wing or a socialist, but simply because we have no other choice. The Conservatives will continue to take us for granted; they hold the public in contempt; and so they need to be shown that they can’t win an election with soundbites, lies, and an avoidance of scrutiny.

This election lets vote for this supposed socialist chaos – lets ruin Boris’ Christmas.

*This article is the opinion of its writer and in no way does it reflect the overall endorsement of Generation Plymouth.

GENERAL ELECTION 2019: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN AND HOW?

By Tobias Chalcraft

Tomorrow the country, and Plymouth, will vote in its third general election in four years, to elect a new parliament. With Brexit, the environment and the state of our union high on the national agenda, this election will be the most important vote in decades. For those that aren’t as politically active as this writer, Generation Plymouth is here to help provide some clarity on everything you should know before the big day tomorrow.

WHO CAN I VOTE FOR?

Plymouth enjoys three constituencies, with the city centre coming within the Plymouth Sutton & Devonport constituency and other parts of the city being represented by Plymouth Moor View and South West Devon. For a list of candidates standing in your area, head to this BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50459517. Be sure to look up these candidates to get a good idea of their individual manifestos.

With many parties standing aside in favour of those with similar Brexit stances, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport is rare in the fact that the Brexit, Conservative & Unionist, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are all competing here for your vote. 

If you are unsure which party you should support, head to https://voteforpolicies.org.uk for a brilliant unbiased survey which tells you which party you should vote for, based on your individual policy preferences.

However, if you feel unable to vote for any of the options on your ballot paper, it is better to spoil your ballot paper than not vote at all. You can spoil your ballot by leaving it blank or writing ‘none of the above’ at the bottom of the paper. These spoiled ballots appear on national statistics and inform all of the main political parties the levels of dissatisfaction with their policies. Note: If you want to spoil your ballot do not draw inappropriate images within a single box next to a candidate’s name, as this may still be counted

WHERE DO I VOTE?

Multiple schools, church halls and even some pubs across the country will temporarily convert themselves into a polling station for voters to cast their ballot. Please note you must be over 18, and registered, in order to vote. 

Not sure where your polling station is? Check out https://wheredoivote.co.uk to find out where you can vote. You may be in for a surprise – you could be voting in your old primary school or local pub. 

WHEN ARE POLLING STATIONS OPEN?

Polls are open from 7am to 10pm. However, if something arises and you find yourself unable to get to a polling station (and you’ve not registered a proxy or postal vote), you can register for an emergency proxy vote before 5pm on polling day. For more information, head to https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/voting-person-post-or-proxy/voting-proxy.

Don’t let anything stop you from voting – this will have a big impact on your life, and you might not have this chance again for up to five years!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

At 10pm, an ‘Exit Poll’ will be released – this is an estimate of the result, judging by voter feedback throughout the day. This poll is often accurate, so it will be worth checking out before you go to bed, if you want some idea of the results without staying up all night.  

Following the Exit Poll, results will steadily come in throughout the night. If you are a politics geek like me, and plan to stay up all night, the most intense results will start coming through after 2am. So, the best time to nap will be 11pm-1am, although it will be nearly impossible with all the hype caused by the Exit Poll.

Pending on the results, Friday won’t offer much respite as plenty of political drama could splash the headlines, as party leaders may resign their position following poor results. There is also a moderate risk that some key figures could lose their seat – which will also pour oil onto the flames of political drama.

HOW WILL MY VOTE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

With many seats not changing hands, and following years of political deadlock, some of you may feel that your vote won’t make a difference. However, we in Plymouth are lucky in that our seat is fairly marginal – with the Conservatives and Labour working hard to win this seat. This means that your vote could make the difference between either side winning.

Also, this election seems to be following the 2017 trend of tactical voting, as those on both sides of the Brexit argument are voting for the more likely to win candidate that backs their view on Europe. This election is a deciding moment for the UK’s relationship with Europe, so perhaps it is time to apply your vote to a different party that ensures your preferred Brexit outcome.   

Even if you don’t care about politics – there other incentives, with BrewDog offering a free drink to voters who have taken a selfie outside their local polling station. You can find your local Brewdog bar here: https://www.brewdog.com/bars/uk.

Happy voting!

Plymouth High School hear from Plymouth’s Potential MPs

By Lacey Mannell

With a general election coming up in December, the political scene in England this year has been, arguably, hectic. With Brexit extensions and re-elections, it’s hard to tell what’s to come of Britain by 2020.

The students of Plymouth High School for Girls were offered the chance to hear from five representatives from the main political parties: Ann Widdecome for the Brexit Party, Rebecca Smith for the Conservative Party, James Ellwood for the Green Party, Luke Pollard for Labour and Graham Reed for the Liberal Democrats. All of them either grew up in Plymouth or had ties. They gave us an idea about what they stand for, as well as the parties they’re representing, with talks of the NHS, the importance of voting, and issues of mental health and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

Starting off with an introduction, the representatives gave us an idea about what they stand for, what they could do for politics, and their parties. Ann Widdecombe stressed the importance of a quick and clean Brexit, a clean up of politics and an NHS that’s fit for the future. Rebecca didn’t give any information on the Conservative party’s policy, yet encouraged people to vote for a woman, as the unveiling of the Nancy Astor statue was coming up. James Ellwood put emphasis on climate change (fitting for the Green Party), and Luke Pollard addressed the importance of Plymouth in politics, and the funding of education, health and transport, whilst getting a dig at Ann about his homosexuality (“there is nothing I need to be cured of”). Graham Reed expressed his worries for our future, the burning of gas and bottom-up politics.

Ann Widdecombe made it painfully clear that the NHS is a big priority for the Brexit Party from the start (perhaps to the point of exaggeration) and how most of the parties were remaining quiet and brushing it under the carpet. It was another issue that came up when regarding the news of the 451 page document released by Corbyn, stating the NHS will be on the table following Brexit. Widdecome insisted that that’s not true, and the NHS will very much not be on the table, however she suggested it might’ve been an original deal that has been scrapped since.

This seemed to be a favourable topic, as it raised tensions with Rebecca Smith, accusing Labour of lying about the Conservatives privatising the NHS, “Labour is trying to con the British public”, whilst Pollard shook his head in disagreement. The whole panel agreed that they didn’t want the NHS sold, but some weren’t convinced it wouldn’t happen under the Conservatives, mainly Luke Pollard and James Ellwood; who found their parties agreed with a lot of points brought up. Ellwood also called out the Brexit Party, speaking directly at Ann Widdecombe, stating that a party without a manifesto or with very few points must have something to hide or is not prepared to get into power.

A question of LGBTQ+ youth and mental health arose, with Smith highlighting the importance of talking to youth services, and how she met with Pride Plymouth, Pollard emphasising working with the Transgender communtiy, Ellwood the importance of youth services and trauma informed policing with regards to mental health, and Reed favouring equal treatment for mental and physical health – like the Lib Dem manifesto. Widdecombe’s focus shifted more towards mental health and how social media and results day pressures can affect teens negatively, not mentioning the LGBTQ+ community at all.

Another topic that came up was refugees. All the parties could agree that it’s our country’s responsibility to help refugees, with Pollard even encouraging an increase of young refugee numbers. Widdecombe mentioned the Geneva 1951 Convention, which she said means a refugee fearing prosecution must be offered shelter by the first safe country they reach. Her issue was that “In this country we are getting people, and I don’t exaggerate when I say by the boatload or the lorryload, who have been in other safe countries”. She was questioned by a student who said that a main route for refugees is through Italy, where people are being exploited in the mafia, and how can that be deemed safe? She shut the argument down by stating that Italy signed the Geneva Convention, so therefore is a safe country.

Each of the representatives ended with a closing statement following the questions. James Ellwood focused on climate change, Luke Pollard encouraged people to vote in an “election like no other” where Reed encouraged us to vote for our future. Rebecca Smith warned that we’d be in debt with labour for the rest of our lives, and Ann Widdecombe ended by stating that all the parties offer change, but the Brexit Party offers something completely new, and to “vote for a future in which Britain will have control of Britain”.

Now it’s up to Plymouth to decide their next MP, and England to decide what party they want in control for a new decade.

General Election 2019: In Conversation with: Rebecca Smith

By Tobias Chalcraft

The Prime Minister has finally achieved his desired General Election, in an attempt to break this Brexit deadlock. Thursday 12th December will be our third national election in four years and political commenters will be glancing at Plymouth, a marginal city which has elected both Conservative and Labour MPs in the last two public ballots, as a potential indication of who will lead our next government. On the night of the dissolution of the 2017-2019 parliament, Generation Plymouth interviewed Rebecca Smith – the Conserative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport.

As bonfire night fireworks went off in the sky, we picked up some festive-themed coffees and started to ask Rebecca some pressing questions.

“If you were elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, what would be your top three priorities?”

Rebecca highlights the NHS, Schools and Business as the backbone of her election campaign. She says that through canvassing she has found the NHS to be the issue most discussed amongst voters in Plymouth. Meanwhile, she would like to see further funding for Plymouth’s secondary schools – especially SEN and for students with Pupil Premium. Although proud of her Conservative values, Smith says that she would not seek to be a ‘Conservative mouthpiece’ because she hopes to press on issues that may not always grab the headlines in order to be a “voice for the voiceless”, on behalf of an often “forgotten city”.

“How would you, and potential Conservative government, champion Plymouth’s young people?”

The main theme in her response is the benefit of Plymouth having a young MP in parliament. After showing some respect to the statesmanship and parliamentary experience of Sir Gary Streeter ( MP for South West Devon), Rebecca argues that she could communicate with Plymouth’s youth at a more suitable level through creative events. For example, her Pizza and Policy nights have been invaluable for offering a space for young Plymothians, who aren’t necessarily politically active, to express their opinions on current affairs. It is these sorts of creative events that she would hope to host in future to gain a good understanding of what young people wish to see.

“My big thing is that I hate talking at people, I think politicians do that really quickly, they’ll go in and tell you what they think you want to hear”. Rebecca separates herself from our current political class by arguing that she would spend more time listening than telling constituents what they may want to hear in order to gain support.

There was also some rare frankness in her answer: “I’m not going to be a people pleaser”, she says, as she argues that its unrealistic for MPs to represent every single voice within their constituencies, but Rebecca goes on to say, “I will definitely make sure that I listen, engage and seek out opinions and views”.

As an MP, Rebecca hopes to prove that the Conservatives are better than they are portrayed to be on social media, arguing that today’s world sees people following too many like-minded politicians in order to create echo chambers and that she would seek to combat this by reaching out to people from across the political spectrum to display some of the positives of Conservative policies.

“Today [5th November] Parliament is dissolving, and it looks as though 1 in 10 MPs won’t be seeking re-election, with a substantial portion of those departing only having less than 10 years’ experience, like Heidi Allen, Justine Greening and Secretary of State Nicky Morgan. What is your reaction to this outcome of the 2017-2019 parliament?”

Rebecca starts with, “I think it’s really sad because they have all been excellent public servants and they’ve brought a real breadth of knowledge, interest and expertise”, however she goes on to dismiss the generalisation of these MPs’ motivations such as social media abuse or gender – arguing that there are a multitude of reasons for why MPs have chosen to stand down. Rebecca says she was unsurprised that MPs that sought to make a real change, but had become hindered by Brexit, had become disillusioned. Although, she hopes the 2019 election may allow for a clean slate of fresh MPs, like herself, to improve parliament’s public image at a time of significant dissatisfaction in our democratic institutions.

When asked how these resignations have affected her decision to run in this election, Rebecca responds with “I’m going in with my eyes open”, as she outlines her previous experiences in politics as providing some expectations as to what being an MP may entail. Rebecca adds, “Politics isn’t perfect, but it’s what I think my vocation is”, before she lists the different measures she has put into place to help guarantee her safety throughout this election campaign such as sharing her schedule with a strong support network and having colleagues attend events alongside her.

“With Plymouth University declaring a Climate Emergency and Plymouth’s Youth going on strike, do you think the Government has done enough to combat Climate Change?”

Rebecca spent longer answering this question than any other, reflecting on her envioronmentally focused work such as her environment-based speech at the Conservative Party Conference this year, or working as a Councillor on Plymouth City Council, in which she has frequently promoted the government’s work when speaking in climate debates and played a significant role in the Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency earlier this year. She then goes on to offer some praise for climate campaigners, arguing that they have a “brilliant part to play”.

Rebecca points out the government’s recent decision to pause fracking as a key example of the government’s environmental credentials and offers the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) credit with their successful lobbying efforts. She is hopeful that this ban will be long term, saying that the government wouldn’t resume an activity that brings negative outcomes to their country. If elected, Rebecca hopes to be a mediator between Plymouth’s environmentally engaged young people and the government, whilst also being held to account on any eco-friendly legislation she votes on.

She then displays frustration at negative responses by media outlets: “one of the most frustrating things as a politician is where you take action and the first reaction is ‘it’s not good enough’”. She believes that change can’t be taken overnight and that the realistic steps that are required to make a positive change for our planet should be acknowledged. On the other hand, Rebecca contends the Extinction Rebellion protests in London as potentially diluting the green message, as they frustrate London commuters which may then lower public perception as a result. Plus, further resentment is displayed for the resources used to keep the London demonstrations organised, such as the use of Devon & Cornwall police in the capital instead of the counties they are designated for.

“Do you support Boris Johnson’s revised Brexit deal? How would it deliver for our City?”

Rebecca supports this deal as a way of delivering on Plymouth’s vote to leave in 2016, saying that MPs should be in-touch with their constituency’s views and that, with a Conservative majority in Parliament, this deal would be easily passed before January 2020, followed by a transition period for an undefined period of time.

She argues that Brexit will reduce the impact of some failing European economies on Plymouth and that she would rather “weather the storm of Brexit than face the climate change of a Corbyn economy”. Though, she compares those with a primary preference of a ‘clean break’ Brexit to somebody getting a divorce and expecting their former spouse to walk away with none of their property or belongings.

Having voted to Remain three years ago, if another referendum was to be called, Rebecca would now vote to Leave – claiming that if Remain had won in 2016, remainers would not have been treated in the contempt endured by those who supported leaving the trading bloc three years ago.

She concludes her response with “the bottom line is that we have to leave”.

We concluded this interview by asking a similar question to one we asked Johnny Mercer (Candidate for Plymouth Moor View) way before this election campaign:

“If you were elected, would you see yourself more as a Conservative MP or the MP for Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport?”

Initially, Rebecca outlines her pride in Plymouth, “Plymouth has always been my home. I was inspired by Nancy Astor – the first female MP – when I was a student, and the dream would be to serve in my home seat.”. She then returns to the reality of Westminster politics, “I would also be elected as the Conservative candidate and so there’s a balance to be made”.

She concludes by saying “my passion for politics and my passion for Plymouth connect. I would be the Conservative MP for Plymouth”. Her aim is to be driven by “tackling social issues and caring for the most vulnerable, whilst also promoting the economy, seeing business thrive and seeing people living fulfilled lives”, adding “It’s all about the people of Plymouth in the end”.

In Conversation with: Johnny Mercer MP

By Mitch Gregory

At the end of last month I had the opportunity to interview the MP for Plymouth Moor View and newly-appointed minister, Johnny Mercer. I met Mr. Mercer – whom every other Plymouthian attending the surgery that morning dubbed ‘Johnny’ – after what looked to have been a busy morning. I was greeted in the reception by Johnny Mercer himself, shaking my hand and jovially leading me to his conference room. I could already tell that the usual Tory-stuffiness didn’t apply to this man and come the start of the interview the tables had already turned when Mercer asked me about my degree and about Generation Plymouth’s recent conception.

Getting onto the questions, I asked Mercer a few questions on the state of politics at the moment, and how he felt about it all.

“What is the Conservative Party doing to help young people, and, if you were on the campaign trail, as you may well be soon, how would you convince someone like me to vote Conservative?”

Mercer acknowledges that policies for young people “Have been done badly in the past – in a kind of patronising way” and that this problem still exists in both parties. Throughout his answer he keeps coming back to the idea that the best way to have won his vote before he became an MP was to enact policies that were “going to change my life”. Mercer admitted that he rarely voted before getting into his political career. At this point he refers to a Conservative policy wherein they attempted to win over young voters with Nando vouchers, denouncing such things as examples of this “patronising” approach to young people.

He accepts that housing is a massive issue for young people, anecdotally telling me that he was only able to buy his own home after he became an MP in 2015. He reaffirms his belief that tuition fees are right and that “people should pay for higher education”, although he adds that the way the interest is calculated on student debt is “incorrect” and that he would prefer a more means-tested system. These sorts of policies, Mercer argues, are the sorts of ones he would happily campaign on. He firmly believes that young people “are not stupid and they just want something to vote for.” An example of which is how Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledge to scrap tuition fees has started an “awakening amongst students” who’ve “had a smell of the Jeremy Corbyn stuff and realised it’s a pack of lies, so they’re looking for something else.” He does also add that “they’re not naturally Conservative voters, I’d say, but they’re not stupid” reiterating the need to focus on policies to attract young people.

I followed up the question asking him for examples of policies that the Conservatives are implementing to help young people. Returning to housing he praises the Help To Buy scheme, but believes it could go further. And of course he adds that we need to build more homes and make planning permission easier. He wants a grown-up conversation about housing. A grown-up conversation would be quite the triumph in these times.

Much of politics and the Parliamentary arithmetic nowadays is about Party – we tend to vote Labour or Conservative, rather than for the specific candidate. So do you consider yourself foremost as a Conservative MP, or as the representative for Plymouth Moor View?

“I’m Plymouth’s member of Parliament, right? For me it’s very, very clear in terms of my priorities. And one of the things I was frustrated about when I came into this was how people seemed to say ‘I’m going to do everything for Plymouth’ and then get in and completely change their mind.” The example he uses for this broken trust is, of course, Brexit. He argues that Plymouth voted to Leave and that vote should be respected. He targets other politicians in Plymouth, saying that they will do whatever they can to frustrate the result. He admits he voted Remain, but says that should a second referendum come about, he’d probably vote to Leave. He thinks that if he were to campaign to Remain now he’d be breaking the trust the people of Plymouth Moor View put in him.

Further on what you were saying about being the representative for Plymouth, rather than just adhering to the Party whip, do you believe it was right to expel the group of 21 independent conservative MPs?

“It’s a really, really difficult issue. I don’t want to expel anybody – well, I say that…I do want to expel some people. You know, those who particularly have unpleasant characteristics in the Conservative Party.” He adds that every Party, being mass-membership organisations, need to abide by rules of decency. He returns to the question and reaffirms that he doesn’t want to see any colleagues expelled, however people like Mercer have been “crying out for leadership for the last three years. This country is in a very specific place, a very contested place, a very angry place, and Boris Johnson has a very clear method to lead us through this particularly turbulent time, and to be honest I support him one-hundred percent.” He says the sadness of seeing his colleagues leave the Party must be put after the state of the country.

Do you believe the prorogation of Parliament was the most sensible thing to do? In terms of supporting the country through this, as you say, contested time?

“I think it’s been quite significantly overblown”, he says confidently, “actually it’s four days extra that we would usually be in session because of the Party Conferences.” But he surprises me when he denounces “inflammatory politics” and adds that if it were him making the decision he’d have laid out his reasons for prorogation far clearer. He praises Johnson’s leadership once again.

Do you believe he [Johnson] will get a deal?

“Yes. I do believe he will get a deal.” No ambiguity there then. As soon as I begin to mention the possibility of an extension he shuts down the question and reaffirms that we will be leaving the European Union on October 31st. He says it’s a matter of trust with his constituents.

Moving onto other issues, there are climate strikes going on across the world at the moment. The Conservative Party policy is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, however UN projections have predicted that by 2050 there will be 200 million climate refugees and a further billion people in vulnerable conditions as a result of climate change. Do you think the Government is doing enough?

“People like me already want to be in a world with net-zero carbon emissions […] we are acutely aware of the effects of climate change and we are living through them.” His tone at this point is very sincere, he’s a man of 38, born into a generation, like ours, who understand the dangers of climate change. Yet he plays it safe, saying that “When a country is trying to realign its economy, there are lots of factors at stake”. He acknowledges that the world as a whole have not taken climate change seriously enough for too long, but “Greenpeace have said that this is the greenest government they have ever seen in the UK.” He wants things to move faster, of course, and he supports the school-children strikes, however he denounces Extinction Rebellion for closing down roads in London and “breaking the law”. A balance is vital for all of these things, according to Johnny.

On the state of the natural world he says he spends “half my life in the sea!” and that fellow Plymouth MP, Luke Pollard’s, work on creating a protected marine reserve in Plymouth is good, adding that he “supports anything great about Plymouth.” He tempers his praise with advice that these things need to “mean something” for the people living in Ernesettle and areas outside of Plymouth Sound. He doesn’t have time for “press releases and bluster”.

I conclude the interview by asking Mercer about his new role as a minister, tasked with setting up a new Office for Veteran’s Affairs, which is his driving force as a former serviceman in the British Army. He hopes it will bring together all areas of government and the third sector to create “world class veterans care to those who served in this country and their families.” I thank him for his time and he responds, in his incredibly enthusiastic, casual manner, “Great! Cheers bud.”

Plymouth Enters Government

By Tobias Chalcraft

After decades of being confined to either the backbenches or the shadow cabinet, Plymouth has now found itself with elected representation working on the government frontbenches.

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, has spent some of the last few months supporting Boris Johnson’s campaign for Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, which saw his preferred candidate secure a victory with two-thirds of the votes.

Following royal ascent to the role, the PM splashed the front pages with his new cabinet, as he replaced a significant portion of ministers from Theresa May’s government with MPs that voted for Brexit in 2016 or, like Mercer, supported his leadership bid.

The extensive media coverage and Twitter trends are hardly surprising, with the new cabinet being one of the most diverse and featuring head-turning politicians like Priti Patel, who has been put in charge of keeping our country secure through her promotion to Home Secretary, after being sacked by Theresa May nearly two years ago for holding unofficial talks with the Israeli government.

However, there is another appointment which hasn’t made as many headlines. The Prime Minister has very recently created a government office for ‘Veterans Affairs’. This comes after pressure from the man who will be leading this department, Johnny Mercer, and his collaboration with the Sun newspaper which resulted in both leadership contenders, Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, promising to create a new department which prioritised our Veterans.

Regardless of if you support him or not, Mr Mercer’s role as ‘Minister for Defence People and Veterans’ is the first time that an MP representing a Plymouth constituency has entered government in decades.

After the announcement of his appointment, the Plymouth MP said on Twitter that he “looks forward” to his role, whilst also pointing out that “It’s taken four years, but we finally have an Office for Veterans Affairs in the UK”. He also offered his gratitude to Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun, for supporting the campaign to establish this new office.

Some of his supporters will also be quick to point out that being an ex-serviceman and possessing a clear passion on this topic, as demonstrated through his declaration to stop supporting Theresa May’s government until the prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans were halted, will provide the Plymouth MP with the qualifications to excel in this role.

Critics of the new government may see this appointment as offering some comfort, with Mercer having previously said that he wishes to see a more centre-leaning Conservative party which reaches out to more young voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Mercer’s opponents may argue that by joining Boris Johnson’s government, and thus accepting the government’s aim to leave the UK with or without a deal, he has abandoned his goal to reach out to younger voters which predominantly voted to remain in the EU.

Overall, will Johnny Mercer keep his centre-leaning position and, more importantly, will he be able to bring Boris with him? Or has the offer of a government position moved his values towards those of his government colleagues?

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