Candidate: Craig Martin
Why did you decide to run for Durham City MP and can you tell me some of the challenges that come with going for a relatively ‘safe’ labour seat?
Well the main reason is because I thoroughly enjoy politics. I got a bug for it at university and I decided to pick a side, I picked Lib-Dem because I felt they best represented my views. I came back to the North East after studying away at York University and just felt that, I could do a better job that the people currently doing it, so I put myself forward. The local Lib-Dems liked what I was doing in the local elections and asked me to stand as their candidate for Durham City. In terms of the ‘safe’ labour seat, this seat isn’t safe labour! We’re only 3000 votes behind the Labour Party. No one knows what’s going to happen at this General Election, it’s going to be the weirdest one, in our lives, probably our parents’ life times, so anything can happen. We’re going out to win this seat, not to come second, for a win.
What do you personally feel are the most important issues for Durham City in this election and how do you aim to tackle these ?
Generally the big issue is housing. The issue of student housing is an important issue for local people particularly, a lot of locals feel like there are too many students coming into the city, what we really need to do is to set up a better dialogue between the university, students and residents. One of the biggest problems is that we don’t have an overarching policy on student housing and that’s what’s causing all the problems and the county council needs to step up and do that. I wouldn’t agree with capping rent prices for the simple reason that it would be a nightmare to regulate, we’d end up with landlords going off and offering people all sorts of deals under the table. What really needs to happen is a strong student union, university and county council, to get involved with the rent situation. Vetting landlords, making a list of the best rated landlords, and making sure that the authorities publicise the quality so that students can make an informed choice on what they’re getting.
How would you respond to the criticism that ‘the Lib-Dems are just the weak part of the coalition’, and that, in light of the tuition fees issue, you go back on your word?
Don’t judge us on the one policy we couldn’t deliver, judge us on the many policies that we have delivered. If you look at the front of our manifesto from the last general election, the one thing that we didn’t deliver as the minor party in that coalition, was the tuition fees. In actual fact we delivered a system that is more progressive, which is better for when students leave university, and provides more grants for the poorer in society. We are not a weak party. Eighty percent of our manifesto has been enacted as part of the coalition government. We’ve done a very brave thing, joining in with the Conservatives to make sure that this country is being put in the right track with its economics.
Political apathy amongst young people and students has become a problem in recent years, as evidenced by embarrassingly low voting turn-out figures for under 24’s, and encouraged by personalities like Russell Brand.
Why do you think this is the case, and how would you tackle the problem?
Generally people just feel like their vote doesn’t matter, because we live in a two party state. Three quarters of the people who live in county Durham live in a safe labour seat, and believe that their vote doesn’t make a difference. Fundamentally we need a change in the political system, but we also need to educate young people more in the electoral system, and in democracy and voting and politics. Votes at sixteen – that will give a real boost and rejuvenation and hopefully we’ll get more people voting that way.
As a candidate for a seat a long way north of the ‘Westminster bubble’, how do you feel about the idea of Regional Devolution for England and even the possibility of a parliament in the North?
We definitely need more devolution of power away from Westminster. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we need a regional assembly, or some form of North/North East parliament, I think that really the devolution of power should go to the things that we already have, which is Durham County Council, giving them more power. That to me would be the fairest way to do it. Instead of creating another layer of bureaucracy and more politicians – which the public do not want, let’s devolve power down to local authorities.
Photograph: www.twitter.com, @CMartinLD