On Friday we had multiple local candidates running for Cheltenham MP. A representative from the Liberal Democrats, The Conservatives, UKIP, Green Party and an Independent whom visited ASA to answer our questions about how their party will respond to the current issues in the UK.
Alex Chalk, who is a local Conservative MP candidate for Cheltenham, is a barrister by day and has previously worked in counter terrorism, fraud and homicide. He is passionate about Cheltenham and his main focus’ is the infrastructure of our hospital services. During the time he answered some of the following questions based on university, the economy and the NHS - particularly the A&E department at Cheltenham General and immigration.
Firstly, we started off with university. One main focus for Alex is that Cheltenham should focus on becoming a tech hub which could offer an exciting place for young people to get involved in the tech side of things. A positive of this is that this could ensure a large amount of high quality tech jobs. Alex also gets that ‘apprenticeships are important’ and that if the ‘economy isn’t strong then the opportunities really aren’t there.’
We then got onto the subject of economy where Alex has a lot he’d like to improve on, focusing on infrastructure much more, Alex believes this ‘matters’, ‘focusing on infrastructure and improving services such as the NHS, Cheltenham Spa Train Station will help to put Cheltenham economically on the map.’ The main question was the cutbacks in the military and cutting army jobs. He is not in favor of this but does feel that it is an ‘important issue” however since the military has received ‘additional funding since 2010’. Places such as GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 have done a good job at harnessing data and keeping us safe, and Alex feels that money could be focused on ‘cyber wars’.
The next question was another issue hard felt by students: the NHS and especially the closing of Cheltenham General Hospital’s A&E - was a glimpse of the NHS being privatised? Alex strongly agrees that there should be a ‘fully functioning A+E in Cheltenham’ that the ‘closing of the A+E is not to do with privatisation’, ‘the NHS is only 5% private’. ‘Help is critical, but to keep it open and supplying the NHS is very expensive’. This ‘costs about £120 billion per year’ to run. However ‘the NHS is treating an extra 2000 patients a day than previously.’ Alex also feels that ‘a strong economy is crucial to getting it back up and running’. He also says he’d ‘die in a ditch’ to save Cheltenham A&E.
Our next question was regarding immigration in the UK. Alex responded that there is a point system within the UK which is used to allow migrants into the UK called HSMP (Highly Skilled Migrants Program). This determines whether a person living outside Europe receives a place to live and work or not. Alex also said that ‘Non EU immigration has been reduced’.
By Reece Payne