Vote Jesmond 2017: Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Ahead of the general election on June 8th, JesmondLocal will be profiling each of the five candidates standing for election in the Newcastle East parliamentary seat. Continuing our five days of profiles, Morgan Ayre meets Lib Dem candidate, Wendy Taylor.

Dr Wendy Taylor works part-time as a consultant at the Freeman Hospital, specialising in breast cancer treatment. This is the third time she has campaigned to become an MP. “I was born into a political family, my parents were very active, my brother’s been a councillor and my niece has been an MEP,” she says. Dr Taylor says that being an MP would be a “great honour” and notes that it’s very important to represent all areas, to give a service to everyone – “and while they may not be the same issues from area to area they’re still important.”

Why should people vote for the Liberal Democrats?

We’ve got some very strong policies on a lot of different issues. Taking the obvious one which is Brexit, we believe that the EU has been good for Britain and we would be better off staying in the single market. We also have to protect the rights of EU nationals who are working here. Hundreds of people are feeling quite uncertain at the moment and they don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s not acceptable. We would want a unilateral agreement at this stage that says they can stay and all their rights would be protected.

There are a lot of EU laws that are very important to this country such as workers’ rights and environmental standards. At the end, there should be another vote. People have chosen to depart but they haven’t chosen the destination and the destination could be awful. If it isn’t a good deal, we should say so and stay in the EU. We’re not saying we’re ignoring the result of the referendum, but people should have a second vote when they know exactly the deal we’re going to get.

How would the North East benefit from Brexit?

I don’t think it would: we get a lot of European money in the North East. We get money for our universities for research, students can travel abroad and work abroad as part of their courses and that could all go. I can’t really see any advantages to it. I think we’re going to see more companies pulling out of the UK; it’s already starting.

Are there too many students in Jesmond?

On the doorsteps, I haven’t heard many complaints about students, most people say they get on quite well with the students in their area. We’re very pleased with the “Leave Newcastle Happy” Campaign. This scheme is providing a lot of money to the British Heart Foundation and seems to be working very well.

The biggest concern seems to be these massive house parties that go on and they seem very dangerous and I think we need to clamp down on those but I think most of the students are getting on well. It is a problem if you have too many students and they all leave, it can make the community bare if more than half the houses are empty. We have to be careful with numbers but I’m very happy for students to be here, they contribute a huge amount to the economy.

What’s the biggest issue facing Jesmond?

There’s a lot of concern about traffic and road safety, Osborne Road and Jesmond Dene Road are quite dangerous and there’s concern about inconsiderate parking and difficulty crossing the road. Any scheme that goes ahead needs to be scrutinised to see that it achieves the aims intended because we want the roads to be safer for all users. We want to encourage more people to cycle but to cycle safely.

People haven’t mentioned local issues a lot, it’s been more about national issues and the NHS has to be the biggest national issue because it is in crisis. There are so many trusts in deficit and there’s a huge nursing shortage. We’re the only the party being honest and saying if you want decent health and social care you’ve got to pay extra tax. We would a penny on a pound of income tax and that would raise £6 billion a year. £1 billion of that would be spent on mental health services.  We need to give it investment, better integration of health and social care and prevention to keep people out of hospital.

Is there a problem with bins?

Some people like communal bins, some people don’t, and we don’t want to force them on people who don’t want them. There are some areas where it has worked but it should be a choice. It can also increase crime if people are using bins to climb over fences. If bins start to overflow and the streets aren’t being kept clean people do start to lose pride in their neighbourhoods.

 How do you think your party will fare in this election and in a post-Brexit world?

It’s difficult to know. It’s disappointing the polls haven’t moved a lot but we’ll do reasonably well and I’m hoping we’ll make some gains but we’ll just have to wait and see. You can never really predict anymore what’s going to happen but we’ve got some excellent policies in our manifesto. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet which is very important is climate change. Nobody is talking about it in this election and we think we need to invest more in renewable energy. It’s just being ignored and it’s so important.

How would you improve transport in the area?

It was the Liberal Democrats in the last government that ensured we got all this extra money for cycling but we need to invest in infrastructure to improve roads and pavements. We need to spend more on rail and get more freight onto rail. Another thing we want is to reduce travel costs for young people like a bus travel pass, which would give them a discount of two thirds of the cost of their travel. The local Metro had a lot of funding in the last parliament to try and improve services and obviously their privatisation didn’t work. Whether we get more money for it depends on Brexit.

If we had a say in government there would more funding for it because it is very important and a superb service. We need to get integration between bus and Metro services.