Exeposé Features online (23 March 2015)
In the wake of Friday’s MP Candidate Question Time, hosted by DebSoc and PolSoc, Exeposé’s Hannah Butler, News Editor, and Emily Marsay interviewed each of the panellists to explore their take on the event and discuss their student policies. First to be interviewed was Ben Bradshaw, Labour candidate and current Exeter MP.
When asked which comment he most disagreed with during the debate, Bradshaw answered: “Well, I think it’d be difficult not to say almost everything that Keith Crawford [UKIP] said.” He continued: “it’s a classic far-right party that feeds on people’s fears and prejudices,” adding: “whenever he banged on about foreigners and immigrants and the EU was where I found myself bristling most.”
“It’s massively in our national interest to stay in the EU,” Bradshaw explained, adding: “flirting with exit, as the Torys, UKIP and the Green Party are with this referendum, is really not the priority of people. The priority of people is getting the economy right, protecting our public services, and tackling inequality.
“Are we going to spend the whole of the next parliament having an argument about our position in Europe? That’s bonkers.”
Bradshaw admitted it was “difficult to say” whether students had liked what he had to say. However, he noted: “there certainly was a good atmosphere, the students seemed very engaged and there were bits and pieces of applause.”
“There were very good questions,” he noted, adding that in his nineteen years of political campaigning in Exeter, this was “the best attended hustings I’ve ever done, so I think that nails the lie that students and young people are somehow not interested in politics or disengaged.”
Exeposé asked which of Labour’s policies showed that students weren’t being forgotten. Bradshaw first noted the fees policy, which sees Labour promising to cut tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 and increase maintenance grants. He also pointed out minimum wage and living wage policies, explaining: “lots of graduates are finding themselves in insecure employment or zero-hours contracts” – something Labour pledges to ban.
He also stressed the importance of “doing something about the level of private rents, which is a big issue for students particularly in Exeter.” Describing the city as “one of the most expensive rental markets in the country,” Bradshaw mentioned policies of “capping private rent increases, abolishing letting agents’ fees, and increasing the provision of affordable housing.”
The Labour MP then moved onto international issues, and “having a positive, outward-looking country that’s engaged with other countries in the European Union rather than an inward-looking, isolationist country,” as well as “tackling climate change, which has always been a big passion of mine, and making sure that we have a fairer society and a sustainable society for the future.”
“Those are issues, in my experience, that students care about,” he stated.
Bradshaw said he had “no problem” with growing student numbers at Exeter. “The University here has been probably the most important, significant employer and wealth-creator in the city,” he explained, adding that he has “always been a big supporter of the University and its expansion.”
“Students bring in millions and millions and millions of pounds to Exeter every year,” he continued. “I would like to keep more graduates here at the end of their courses, and we’ve got better at doing that in Exeter. We’ve diversified the economy, we’ve got better jobs, and we are keeping more of our graduates here, but I would like to do better still.”
He concluded: “the University’s success has been one of the great joys of my tenure here as a member of parliament,” adding that he “will continue if re-elected to work very closely with it, and to support the University in any way I can.”