Keith Nevols, the Liberal Democrat who ran for office in Sittingbourne and Sheppey in the last general election, talks to Jill Hurst about the campaign, what he has been doing since May and what his plans are for the future.
-Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have lived in Sittingbourne with my wife, Mary, for six years. I’m 42 and work in Westminster in local government. I enjoy watching football, films, history and travel. I am also involved with church activities as a member of the social committee.
-You ran for MP in the last election in May. There’s been a little bit of time for reflection since then. What are your conclusions?
Despite our very limited resources, we had a good campaign, which increased our vote to get our best local result since 1997. I especially enjoyed meeting people on the doorsteps and the debates with my fellow candidates.
The major issues we came across were the local economy and concerns about immigration. While we came up with a workable policy about illegal immigration I felt we did not put it across very well and should have had a non-policy like our two opponents.
The Conservative win was no surprise. We found that the Tory vote was holding firm while the Labour vote was collapsing.
I hope to stand again at the next election, although I am not sure where.
-How did you get involved in politics and what keeps you interested?
I was first involved in the 1980s with the then SDP. I saw the injustices of Thatcherism all around me while the Labour party were more interested in fighting each other. I also felt (and still do) that the entire political system was in desperate need of modernising.
The SDP offered something new and fresh and policies that I generally agreed with. I am kept interested by the variety of the topic and the motivation that there must be something better for people. I especially want to see a more fair political system and hope the AV referendum will be just the first step.
-What’s your view on the coalition Government – do you think it will last?
I am pleased to see Liberal Democrats in government and that some of our policies are being put in place. We must however ensure our distinctive voice and position get across. Like many Lib Dems I was unhappy with the VAT rise and the free schools policy, but then we are the junior partner. I would be opposed to any form of electoral pact with the Conservatives.
I think the coalition will last at least until 2014, as it is in the interests of both parties to stick together.
-Are you disappointed with party central?
No, the central party were a great help during and since the campaign in keeping candidates informed. Simon Hughes is an excellent deputy as a sort of ‘leader outside the government’.
-The whole of Swale council is up for re-election next year – do you think the Conservative stronghold can be broken?
We will be working as hard as we can and I hope the local Labour party will as well. Unfortunately I think the Conservatives will retain firm control of Swale Council up to 2015 but I hope that the opposition parties will at least make some progress and that we see more Liberal Democrats in the council chamber.
-Will you run for local office yourself?
Yes, I am running for the double-seater ward of Murston with Cllr Dave Banks.
-What are your hopes and fears for the district?
I hope that a rejuvenated council will work at regeneration in the area, encouraging development, and that in a few years we will see a vibrant local economy.
My fears are that the council will continue to stagnate, businesses will continue to close, and the people of Swale face a long and grim future.
-And finally….anything you want to add?
Politicians have a bad reputation but it is a subject where you can do good and make a difference. I would encourage everyone to get involved. A healthy democracy is one in which as many people as possible participate.