Congratulations on being selected as the Conservative Candidate for Holborn & St Pancras. With long standing Labour MP Frank Dobson standing down at the end of this parliament this could be a real fight, what could swing it?
Thanks very much, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the UCL Conservatives newsletter. Next May’s election in Holborn & St Pancras (which covers most of Camden Borough, from Holborn, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, in which much of UCL is located, further north to Kings Cross, St Pancras, Camden Town, Primrose Hill, Kentish Town, all the way up to Highgate Village) is going to be a really close one for a number of reasons. Firstly, Frank Dobson, who’s been MP here since the late 1970s and is very ￼￼ popular with residents, is standing down, and whoever replaces him as Labour candidate isn’t going to gain as much support as Frank did.
Secondly, the Liberal Democrats, who came a strong second in the last election, are now in total disarray here in Camden – they lost all but one of their council seats in May, and haven’t even selected their Parliamentary candidate yet.
And finally, the Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett, is running here in Camden, and is determined to improve on her party’s performance after a disappointing fourth in 2010.
￼￼So there really is everything to play for. The Conservatives have come strong seconds here in the past, and more recently we slipped back to third. But I’m confident that we can improve on our result last time, and really take the fight to Labour. But the most interesting thing is that the next election in Holborn & St Pancras will be decided by students – this constituency has one of the highest concentrations of student populations in London – with plenty of UCL students, but also plenty of halls of residence and students houses dotted around the constituency from Kings, LSE, the Royal Veterinary College to name but a few.
This is a big challenge for political parties – to keep track of the regularly changing student population – and of course many students don’t vote. So I want to say clearly to every student living here, that your vote will be absolutely crucial next May, and could be the difference between victory and defeat for me!
So why should they vote Conservative and more importantly, yourself?
Students should vote Conservative because of the real progress this Conservative-led Government has made in improving people’s lives, despite the strictures of Governing with the Liberal Democrats!
Firstly, youth unemployment is the lowest it’s been in over 30 years, when records began. Over the last year, it fell by 213,000, meaning young people, many of whom are students or recent graduates, have been able to find meaningful, rewarding work. And overall, 1.8 million more people are in work today than when the Conservatives came to power in May 2010, reversing five years of mismanagement by Labour who presided over a shocking 40% increase in youth unemployment during their time in office.
Secondly, I know this Government has had to make some difficult and unpalatable reforms to higher education. The problem is the last Government seemed to think sending 50% or more of the population to university was sustainable, and of course it’s not. My view is that everyone should have the opportunity of a university education, no matter what their background, and the Conservatives have introduced policies that mean students from families with incomes of £25,000 or less are entitled to a more generous full grant for living costs of £3,250 a year, up from £2,906, as well as a loan for living costs of £3,875. This means that 95 per cent of full- time students are better off.
When it comes to repayment, no-one will pay a penny until they earn over £21,000 (under the old system it was £15,000) and in addition, every graduate earning more than £21,000 will pay £45 less each month, £540 less each year, than at present.
And finally, I hope students will vote for me because it wasn’t so long ago that I was one!
I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, and had to work during vacations, and took on a large amount of debt, to pay my way through my time at Oxford. I don’t regret any of it as I had such a happy time at University, but I know how tough it is for young people, particularly finding employment opportunities and dealing with debt once you graduate. Therefore, I want to make sure my campaign has students’ interests at its heart and work hard to campaign for a fair deal for students, young people and young graduates.
Why did you want to stand in Holborn & St Pancras, what makes it special to you?
I moved to this area as soon as I graduated, and whilst on my first job, which was a Parliamentary Internship with Damian Green MP, I lived at the UCL Catholic Chaplaincy on Gower Street,alongside many UCL students! I then moved to Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, and then up to Kentish Town. I currently rent a ￼flat on Kentish Town High Street with my partner, and we’re so happy to have made this area our home ever since.
I’ve made some great friends at UCL through your excellent Conservative Society, which has worked closely with Holborn & St Pancras Conservative Association for a very long time.
If you haven’t already found out – this area is really special. It’s got so much to offer ranging from brilliant museums and galleries in Bloomsbury, excellent bars and pubs in Camden and Kentish Town, a wonderful mini “curry mile” on Drummond Street, at the heart of the Bangladeshi quarter, as well as some beautiful walks on Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park and Highgate Village. It’s a really diverse area in terms of population, and that’s what keeps it so energetic. The only thing that would make it better is a few more Conservatives on Council and as MPs!
If you were successful and got elected as an MP, what are a few issues you are passionate about and would like to push?
My main priority is housing. This area is a great place to live, but unless you have very hefty financial support from your family, or are planning a fast-track career in finance, there’s no way you’ll be able to afford to buy a place around here as a young person.
I’m seven years out of university and no closer to owning a house since the day I left, despite having a reasonably paid professional job, and doing my best to spend and save wisely (usually failing, admittedly). We need more homes, and not just top-end luxury apartments, being built in this area, and further afield, to release the pressure on the housing market, that’s causing this explosion in house prices.
In more general terms, I’m passionate about keeping our United Kingdom together (I breathed a sigh of relief at the Referendum result!) and as an RAF Reservist, I’m equally passionate about securing a fair deal for our magnificent Armed Forces- both in terms of high quality kit and support when they’re fighting in our name, to ensuring veterans are properly cared for and looked after when they retire.
Finally, how can people get involved in your campaign?
I’d love to see UCL students at the centre of my campaign and there are a number of ways they can contribute – from attending fundraising events, coming campaigning with me on my action days, to joining my campaign team to help me with all the practicalities of being a parliamentary campaign. So go to my website – www.willblair.co.uk to sign up to my mailing list, or get in touch directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS – I’m also in the process of hiring a part-time campaign manager, which would suit a student really well, so would be delighted to hear from anyone who’s interested!