Why should I vote for Claire?
As an independent, Claire would be able to vote as an MP in the interests of East Devon rather than having to follow a party line. Claire lives in the constituency and has been an independent town, district and county councillor. She therefore understands local issues and is used to working cross-party to achieve the outcomes we need for our schools, the NHS and the environment. Claire has already been a candidate in two general elections, winning more than 21,000 votes and running a close second in 2017.
What good can an independent do without the backing of a major party?
Claire has already achieved a lot as an independent county councillor. She was a leading figure in the successful battle to stop the closure of Ottery St Mary’s hospital.
In the House of Commons, every Member of Parliament has the right to a vote. MPs who belong to a party are obliged to follow the party line and cannot easily vote with their conscience. Claire would be able to make up her own mind and vote with the interests of East Devon at heart. In a hung Parliament, the vote of an independent could be very significant.
I have always voted Conservative
Many traditionally Conservative voters tell us they feel politically homeless because their party has shifted markedly to the right under Boris Johnson. His Brexit ‘deal’, which is damaging to business, his continuing willingness to risk No Deal and even break up the Union, and his contempt for standards in public life, all mean that there is not a normal Conservative option in this election. The party is moreover cooperating with Nigel Farage’s far-right Brexit Party creating a worrying precedent. By voting for Claire, you will be electing a local candidate who is well known in the local communities and has a ten-year track record of delivering for East Devon.
I have always voted Labour
Labour are not well supported in East Devon and have had no councillors in recent times. Claire won 35% of the vote in 2017 compared to 11% for Labour. She is the only candidate with a credible chance of winning the East Devon seat from the Conservatives. A vote for Labour is therefore, in effect, a vote for the Conservatives.
I have always voted LibDem
The Liberal Democrats only won 2.4% of the vote in 2017. In the 2019 local elections, they were also outperformed in every ward where they faced an independent candidate. A vote for the LibDems in East Devon is a wasted vote and would deliver another Conservative MP.
Can an independent candidate have a meaningful manifesto?
Every MP should have their own manifesto based on local needs not just a copy of a national manifesto. Claire conducted a survey in 2017 to find out what issues people care about in East Devon. She ran a new survey in 2019, to which more than 500 people contributed. The responses have formed the basis for her manifesto in this election.
What would Claire do in a hung parliament?
Claire will not align herself with any of the main parties but will work for cross-party cooperation to achieve the policy changes we need and the best possible government to replace Boris Johnson’s hard-right government. Her priority will always be to achieve the best outcomes for her constituents and be a strong representative for East Devon.
Austerity and cuts to public services
The austerity policies brought in by the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition government and continued under the Conservatives has caused tremendous hardship to the most vulnerable people in society, with swingeing cuts to the NHS, schools, police, buses and other public services. Claire will fight for greater funding for all these services in East Devon.
Devon County Council has lost more than half its budget in seven years resulting in the loss of many services, including care homes, children’s centres, day centres and children’s homes. Roads are now regularly potholed and efforts to improve highway safety and reduce speeding have been compromised due to lack of funding.
Claire campaigned against vivisection, hunting with hounds and other cruel sports, such as hare coursing, in her teens and early twenties. She continues to oppose hunting and would vote against any repeal of the ban.
Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement will leave us poorer, with weaker environmental, animal welfare, consumer and employment protections. Rather than “getting Brexit done”, it will lead to years of trade negotiations, break up the UK and endanger our NHS.
Claire believes that the government should offer the people a democratic say on the agreement by way of a confirmatory vote and she would campaign to remain. She would vote to revoke Article 50 if we were faced with the imminent danger of a No Deal Brexit.
Serious doubts have also been raised about the legitimacy of the 2016 referendum. The government’s refusal to release a report on alleged Russian infiltration in British politics and interference in our political process, including in the 2016 referendum, adds to the case for a wholesale review of the legislation governing the conduct of referendums in this country before running a new vote.
Changes to business rates mean that many businesses in East Devon are now worse off. There is a disincentive to grow and the system is unfair because rates only apply if a business is attached to a property. Online businesses, which include vast corporations such as Google and Facebook, are given a much better deal. A fairer alternative is needed to current business rates; one approach may simply be to base rates on turnover.
Childcare in the UK is more expensive than in most countries and many parents are unable to afford high-quality childcare. Current government support for nursery education begins too late and is not funded at an adequate hourly rate. Claire believes that up to 35 hours per week support for childcare should be available from the age of one and will back any proposals which improve the current provision. Additional support in the early years gives children a better start in life, improving educational outcomes for the high proportion of children whose parents are struggling to make ends meet.
It is important that we have well-resourced armed forces. Claire believes that the money spent on renewing Trident, based on a cost of £100bn over its lifetime, would be better spent on ensuring adequate recruitment to our conventional services and on conflict prevention. Of course we must invest heavily in our armed forces. We live in a constituency that understands that more than most. Claire is passionate about supporting them. This government has let down thousands of our military personnel by failing to take care of them once they return from combat. Too many men and women with physical or mental health scars are left to fend for themselves. We must ensure our military are looked after, both in the field of conflict and when they return.
The Conservatives have wasted billions on free schools and support for new grammar schools while underfunding our mainstream nursery, primary and secondary provision, resulting in the loss of teachers, increased class sizes and fewer subject choices. Claire has supported campaigns for increased funding for Devon schools and will make this fight a priority in the new Parliament.
European citizens’ rights
Immediately after the 2016 vote, the government should have guaranteed the rights of existing residents from other EU countries to continue to live, work and access services in the UK, as Boris Johnson had promised. The system by which people have to re-apply for rights they already have is unfair and risks some being exposed to a crisis similar to that of the Windrush generation. Claire will actively support any constituents struggling with this system.
The biggest issue currently facing farmers is Brexit and the potential loss of vital EU subsidies. Farmers play two very important roles: food production and stewardship of the countryside. It is vital that subsidies are transferred in the form of a government grant to ensure that food security is maintained. The last thing we need is to be importing food from countries that do not share our standards on animal welfare, health and environment.
The government must also ensure that pollinators and other species flourish by maintaining farmers’ environmental stewardship role. We need hedgerows and wildflowers rather than monoculture. Worryingly, the latest State of Nature report indicates that forty-one per cent of UK species are in decline and fifteen per cent are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.
Farmers have a vital role in turning this situation around and must be supported to achieve this. A thriving natural world is in all our interests.
There is an urgent need for more genuinely affordable housing, especially social housing, built for younger people and those on low incomes. This government has made this more difficult by slashing the threshold at which developers must provide affordable housing when submitting planning applications.
There are hundreds of thousands of empty properties across the country that need to be made habitable. Laws should be altered to speed up this process. Also, there are many properties in Devon that are used for holidays and are empty for most of the year, which also damages the local economy.
Claire would like to see these properties subject to higher council tax charges, which would provide more revenue for public services.
Job insecurity, benefits and poverty
Too many people are working in insecure and low-paid jobs, and real wages in Devon have fallen. It is shocking that many people in work need to use food banks to feed their families. Claire will support measures to regulate zero hours contracts, improve low pay and reform the discredited Universal Credit system, including tackling energy poverty.
Claire has always been opposed to discrimination in all its forms and is strongly committed to protecting and extending the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community.
Local democracy and devolution
As a County Councillor, Claire has first-hand experience of how local democracy has been undermined as funding has been removed, and she has been unimpressed with the Local Economic Partnership. She will support a greater role for local councils and believes that a new discussion needs to take place about genuine devolution to English regions.
Migration, freedom of movement and refugees
Claire recognises that immigration benefits the British economy and that services such as the NHS and social care would fail were it not for hard-working staff from overseas who make a valuable contribution to the system.
Freedom of movement has allowed young people from the UK to work and study and many older people to retire in any of the 27 other countries of the European Union, as well as allowing European citizens to live here and contribute to our society. Nevertheless, Claire believes that immigration must be managed so that some of the extra resources generated by migrants’ tax contributions are used to support facilities in communities which experience significant levels of migration.
Claire also believes that we need to take our fair share of refugees from war-torn countries where people are experiencing persecution. She has signed a pledge stating that she welcomes refugees seeking asylum in the U.K.
EU legal protections currently apply to East Devon’s landscapes and species in areas including Aylesbeare and Woodbury Commons, as well as the Exe Estuary. Much of Dartmoor is also protected. Claire successfully proposed a motion at Devon County Council’s full council meeting which called on the government to provide at least the same level of protections to these spaces in a pro-Brexit scenario.
Under the Conservatives, the NHS has suffered from a reduction in annual growth funding, which used to be around six per cent and has dropped to one per cent, along with the removal of nurse training bursaries despite a massive shortage of nurses.
Waiting lists are at their worst ever with many patients having to wait a year or more for operations, many GPs are leaving the NHS and there is a chronic shortage of junior doctors. The Conservative Party’s new spending promises on hospitals do not include anything for the RD&E or East Devon’s community hospitals. Claire will fight to prioritise more staff and shorter waiting times in our area.
The Conservative reorganisation of the NHS in 2012 has caused unnecessary fragmentation and privatisation, including the setting-up of a private company called NHS Property Services which took over community hospitals and were given the power to charge excessive rents and service charges. Claire was the first local politician in Devon to raise concerns over this and will support sensible proposals to restore the NHS as a public service.
Mental health services have been particularly under-resourced and Claire will press hard for improvements.
Nuclear power and renewable energy
Claire is deeply concerned about the massive and escalating cost to the taxpayer of Hinkley C given that it will provide just seven per cent of this country’s electricity needs at an extremely high price to consumers. At the same time, the Conservative government has ruthlessly slashed renewable energy subsidies, resulting in thousands of job losses. While we still need nuclear energy as part of the mix, clean renewable energy must be the way forward and Claire will press for a major programme of support for switching to sustainable energy in all areas.
For the police, cuts have meant the loss of hundreds of officers, the closure of many police stations and the loss of hundreds of police community support officers, who are part of the fabric of communities and deal with low-level crime, such as anti-social behaviour, parking and speeding problems and cycling safety for children. New Tory promises on police officers will not reverse all these cuts.
Successive governments have failed to introduce a fair system of support for the most vulnerable people in our society, old and young. Claire has a close knowledge of the problems of social care arrangements from her work as a member of Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, and she will support proposals for equitable sharing of the cost of social care through taxation so that the families of people with greater needs are not penalised.
Better public transport is key to making economic and environmental progress. HS2 is eating up £70 billion of public funds which should instead be spent on major improvements in railways and bus services as well as repairing rural roads in the South West and other regions.
Voting and Democracy
Claire is very keen to involve as many people as possible in our democratic processes. She would like to see a fair voting system as the current system deters too many from voting. Most people in this country are represented by MPs or a government they did not vote for. Claire wishes to see a system where everyone`s vote counts and everyone’s voice is heard and, to that end, she supports proportional representation.
Votes for 16 and 17-year-olds
Claire has made many visits to schools in East Devon to encourage students to take an interest and become involved in local issues, local government and politics. She has been greatly impressed by our young people’s maturity and social responsibility and supports votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. She believes that if a 16-year-old can marry, join the army and pay taxes they should be entitled to have a say on key issues affecting their lives.