Election Special: Liberal Democrats, Rebecca Hanson interview

Rachael Grealish: Going back to the beginning, why did you get into politics? And Why the Liberal Democrats?

Rebecca Hanson: I attended national level education policy consultations as a teacher, a Head of Maths in West Cumbria and a Lecturer in Education.
In 2010 Michael Gove ‘happened’. His profoundly ignorant policies were clearly going to hugely damage to our children’s education and cost a fortune.
He shut down all the consultation processes so the only way to challenge him was through politics.
The Lib Dems were the only political party which contained a group of people who clearly understood how policy impacts on our classrooms so I joined this team and worked hard with them to hugely damaging Tory education policy.
During this time I was inspired by the quality and dedication of the Lib Dems I was working with and by the very excellent work done by Lib Dem Councillors in Cumbria so it has been my pleasure and privilege to become a Lib Dem County Councillor in West Cumbria.

RG: You were the Lib Dem candidate for the Copeland by-election, but you were unsuccessful, why come back for the general election?

RH: What’s being offered by the Tories and Labour is utterly dismal.
The Tories have totally abandoned any right they ever had to claim they were working for our national interest by becoming ‘more UKIP than UKIP’ in a grab for power they will clearly use only for their own interest.
Despite this massive grab for UKIP votes their by-election vote went down compared with 2015 as many of their regular voters looked at them with disgust.
Despite losing votes, Labour handed the Tories victory on a plate by pursuing 1970’s policies that clearly won’t work and supporting a leader who sticks to his own view no matter what the evidence says.
In the by-election I was the only candidate who increased their party’s vote.
The Lib Dem vote nearly doubled and we returned to 3rd place even though, initially, we got no BBC coverage at all.
Voters deserve to have the opportunity to elect a suitably qualified MP with a strong track-record of delivery on local issues from a party that works relentlessly in the interests of society and which has a credible and costed manifesto.

RG: In the by-election there was a big focus on nuclear, the NHS and education, what issues will you be highlighting and focusing on in the general?

RH: The Liberal Democrat Manifesto is an intelligent document full of tremendous detail on how we will work to deliver economic growth, improved road, rail and fibre-optic broadband infrastructure, reduce inequality, improve our environment, generate employment, rebuild our infrastructure and ensure our UK and international affairs are wisely managed.
However I know that in Copeland voters will still want to focus on nuclear issues and on our commitments to properly funding the NHS and education.

RG: Brexit is a big issue nationwide, but how would intend to represent your constituency on the Brexit front?

RH: The Tories launched a hugely damaging and badly constructed Brexit referendum on the public.
We should never have been asked whether or not we supported the EU as it currently is because most people naturally only focused on their frustrations with the problems of the EU rather than comparing our current situation with an alternative.
For context, when the SNP wanted Scottish Independence they were required to produce a dossier of what independence would look like long in advance of their referendum so the public could compare two ways forward.
As usual these days the Tories didn’t bother to think beyond their own party interests in the actions they took.
And now they’ve become ‘more UKIP than UKIP’ in their latest grab for votes.
Only the Liberal Democrats will give the public real choice and will allow them to choose whether or not they want to leave Europe when they can see what that means.

RG: If the Lib Dems are successful in the election, how do you think implementing the points in the party’s manifesto will affect the people of your constituency.

RH: The result of this election will have a huge and lasting impact on the Copeland Constituency in many ways.
The Tories are collapsing our health services not just by starving them of funds but also by brutally mismanaging them.
We are only just beginning to see the health chaos of a Tory government which is unrestrained by Lib Dems. We are also only now beginning to see the impact of Michael Gove’s terrible education policies.
Tory education cuts have not yet had an impact but will soon as Cumbrian Schools make huge cuts this year.
The Tories are acting entirely in their own interests and will pursue an extreme form of hard Brexit which concentrates power in their own hands without allowing time for any proper scrutiny of what they’re doing.
We can change this, we must change this and, if you elect us, the Lib Dems will change this.

RG: In the manifesto the Liberal Democrat party is pledging a new EU referendum? How successful do think this would be?

RH: The referendum on the Brexit deal should be successful because it will make our next government focus on delivering a Brexit they can defend to the country rather than on one which acts entirely in their own interests and it would give the public the ability to reject a deal which is not good for the UK.

RG: How would voting for you differ from voting from other parties and how would it benefit the constituency?

RH: The Tories are pursuing only their own interests.
Their ‘policies’ are written in the press office to deliver the headlines that will secure them the most power in the short term and they don’t care about the consequences of what they do.
Liberal Democrat policies are consulted fully and are clearly grounded in our constitution which sets out how we will build stronger communities in a fairer society.
Our manifesto (which will properly fund the NHS and education) is properly costed and doesn’t contain hugely expensive 1970’s policies no-one wants like the Labour manifesto.
In voting for me people will be voting for an MP who has a proven professional and political record at local and national level.

RG: Why do you think the Copeland seat should change, again, within such a little time, to Liberal Democrat?

RH: Copeland needs an able and credible MP with a proven track record of campaigning effectively on our issues.
Local voters look with envy at how well South Cumbria is run in comparison with West Cumbria.
Our Conservative MP has consistently demonstrated an eye-watering lack of understanding of our key issues and there appears to be little or no local party infrastructure to educate her.
This is hardly surprising as the Tories have so few members and weren’t showing any interest in our issues before the by-election.

RG: How confident are you, in yourself and in your supporters, that you can win this seat? And why?

RH: My recent County Council election result and our influx of new members means that it is entirely possible to achieve a Lib Dem win in Copeland. The key challenge we face is in communicating with voters. As a roots-based party we need to raise funds locally and deliver leaflets by hand.