John Gray Interview – Conservative candidate for Exeter MP

Interview conducted by Grace Hart

1.     What are your personal ambitions for Exeter after your potential election?

We have a clear problem with traffic and therefore with the quality of the air we breathe. Exeter has a good carbon reduction strategy in place and the city has done a lot of work on that and I think government has a role to play. Exeter has got lots of really good businesses and has done very well for itself, but I think having an MP from a business background that really understands how business can perform and make a difference is important. State education is really important to me and set me up to go to university, so education is important. Despite public opinion NHS spending has gone up every year under Conservatives but demand has gone up faster, so the Prime Minister is committed to investing nearly £34billion a year. At the other end of the scale, I think that social care needs addressing; I have seen first-hand twice how important that is. As a civilised society if we don’t treat our old people with dignity then we are seriously adrift.

2.     How would you aim to appease all the voters who may not have voted for you as their MP?

I’m not a particular partisan politician, I have no problems at all understanding why somebody might want to vote Labour, I could make case for that. Whenever I come to a particular conclusion, I then challenge it in my head to see how someone could see it different to me. An MP represents all people, if I become an MP for Exeter working with a Labour run council wouldn’t bother me at all, that’s all part of it.

3.     If you wanted students to know about one of the Conservative policies for the upcoming election, which one would it be and why?

Relating to my job, technology is a really good growth area for this country. I think the government’s focus on going down that route, especially its focus on green energy would create lots of interesting, well-paid, good careers and a really dynamic economy for those graduating from this university. Most young people in their 20s change jobs every two years and that’s fantastic, it keeps variety, increases experience but you need the sort of economy that can reflect that and the government’s approach to the economy would give those opportunities.

4.     With the Labour party promising to abolish tuition fees, bringing back maintenance grants, increasing university funding, and widening access to higher education how can the Conservative party appeal to the key student vote in the constituency?

Tuition fees are a good thing. Abolishing tuition fees does nothing at all for young people that don’t go to university. It means that wealthier students and those who eventually earn more money get an unneeded bonus. Also, since tuition fees have come in university funding and attendance from disadvantages backgrounds have increased. Because students are much more aware that it is their cash that is used, they are becoming a lot more demanding which keeps universities on their toes. So, I’d be supportive of lowering the total amount and getting rid of the interest rate which isn’t working but not eradicating fees altogether.

5.     Can you confirm the stories championed by other parties about the Conservatives selling off the NHS to US companies are false?

There’s a well-practised campaigning principle that if you can get the opposition talking about things they don’t want to be talking about then that is to your advantage. The NHS is such a core part of British society that no government would sell it off. They would be out of power at the first election after that and wouldn’t get back into power for generations. It is utterly unjustified. The PM couldn’t be more clear: the NHS is not up for sale.

6.     The Green party have promised that emissions will be eliminated by 2030. Can the Conservatives come anywhere close to matching this?

I find it odd that we have that perception. We were the first industrialised nation to commit to net zero carbon emissions on a time scale recommended by the UN’s IPCC. We have a clean growth strategy for sustainably growing the economy. It’s our fault we are clearly not getting across our message and how much we are doing on this but it is seen as an absolute priority. One of the reasons our strategy is to get Brexit done in January is because this is something where the full machinery of government needs to focus on it. What makes me feel optimistic about climate change is not just the positive view that this country has but that we have really good global institutions and momentum. I don’t see the future as frightening, I am confident that humanity will sort it.

7.     What are your opinions on the Conservative Party Official Twitter Account pretending to be an official factchecking source during the most recent debate?

I think that was very ill-judged. I think the principle of calling out where other parties were misrepresenting things is fine but this backfired and is not useful when we are trying to rebuild trust in politics.

8.     Do you support an enquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party?

If there is Islamophobia, then that should be dealt with urgently. You like to think that society is moving on but if there are people that are experiencing Islamophobic comments then they should register that with the Conservative Party who can then understand if there is a problem or not and if there is a problem then it should be investigated.

9.     Predictions for the upcoming election?

I think we will end up with a Conservative majority of around thirty. Here, the Labour majority is 16,000 and the Liberal Democrats aren’t standing. Conventional wisdom would say that doesn’t get overturned in a single election, but I have been talking to people for weeks and the Labour vote is incredibly soft.

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