A Cheltenham man through and through, Martin Horwood not only acknowledged and outlined solutions to problems on a national scale, but also on a local scale, and recognised the distinctive qualities of his hometown that make it worth standing up for.
The current MP for Cheltenham echoed the Liberal Democrat ideology of having a fair and equal society, stating that our town should be the same by narrowing and strengthening its economic spectrum, which will have a knock-on effect by increasing jobs and making sure that there is protection over the jobs that are already there; something that has already been happening, according to Horwood. He said that ‘the work from the coalition and Cheltenham Borough Council has generated jobs’, and also talked about how the Lib Dems had ‘championed’ apprenticeships.
Horwood’s rivalry with UKIP candidate Christina Simmonds was apparent throughout the debate, challenging the business consultant on numerous issues, particularly the somewhat touchy subjects of immigration and the EU, frequently using the verb ‘detonate’ to describe the economy of the UK, should it leave the EU. His political experience stood out in these more heated moments, and was perhaps slightly hyperbolic by playing on the stereotypes of Nigel Farage’s party, but he was able to share some agreement with some of their policies, namely a points system for immigrants.
Something all parties could agree on, however, was that Cheltenham’s A&E service should be fully operating, and insisted that the decision behind its partial closure was down to local management issues rather than privatisation. However, another dig at Conservative candidate Alex Chalk ensued, questioning him as to why he didn’t do more about the decision when it was made. Jack Lane and Jodie Wilkinson, who guided the event, swiftly intervened to move the debate on.
Horwood was certainly one of the more outspoken participants of the debate, but this meant that his views were clearly expressed, showing his determination to remain as Cheltenham’s MP.
By Curtis Mansfield