Exeposé Features online (23 March 2015)
Following DebSoc and PolSoc’s MP Candidate Question Time, Exeposé’s Hannah Butler, News Editor, and Emily Marsay, spoke to all six panellists – including Dom Morris, Exeter’s Conservative Party candidate.
“I think I pretty much disagreed with everything that Ed [Potts] and the TUSC party had to say,” Morris replied when asked which comments he had most passionately disagreed with in the debate.
Criticising Potts’ claims “that the property-owning democracy in the United Kingdom is a bad thing,” he argued: “I think all of the students in the room are looking forward to getting a job and buying a house when they leave university.”
“It’s a very natural aspiration to want to get on in life and get up the ladder, in this case the property ladder,” he continued. “Who doesn’t want to have a roof over their head and call it theirs?” Emphasising that “the Conservatives have tried to offer that,” he admitted, however, that there was “more work to be done.”
Asked how he felt the debate had gone, Morris said: “it was just phenomenal. There were so many people there. However, he added: “it was pretty hard work in terms of trying to establish a bit of a rhythm because so many different people had to have their say,” concluding: “it’s more for the voters and the students to decide how I performed this evening.”
“I think I set out our stall,” Morris said, “which is: we inherited something pretty messy in 2010, both economically but also in terms of social justice. We’ve done our best to turn it round, and created jobs and an economic recovery.” He stressed the importance of getting people “back into work and the security of a pay packet, and the pride that having a job brings.”
When asked about low student engagement in politics, Morris said: “I’ve spent quite a lot of time at the University over the last year or so, during the campaign, and particularly in the recent elections my understanding was that there was one of the highest attendances in the country. So people feel pretty engaged on campus here.”
“Students care about three things,” Morris explained. “They care about the quality of their education, they care about having a job to go to when they leave and they care about buying a house, and building a home and a family.”
Despite noting that “tuition fees are contentious,” Morris stated that they were “not deterring students,” adding: “more students than ever before are coming to university, and most importantly, we’ve got more disadvantaged students coming than ever before.”
In terms of postgraduate employment, Morris said: “when you arrived as a first year there probably weren’t that many jobs and there probably weren’t that many graduate programmes, and students were looking a bit glum. I would hope that that’s feeling a bit different now.”
Morris also pointed out the success of Help to Buy housing schemes – stressing again, however, that “there’s more work to do, and more houses to build.”
Morris described growing student numbers at Exeter as a “classic town versus gown issue,” adding: “there are always going to be those tensions between students and non-students.” However, he stressed that here were “tremendous positive relationships between students and the people of Exeter,” adding: “students do a huge amount for charities, and engage in the community.”
“My personal feeling is that it’s probably at about right, number-wise,” he said. “Exeter’s a snug, fairly small city, and Exeter is a fairly big university, so I don’t think we can go much higher than we are at the moment without putting pretty big pressures on housing, services and infrastructure.”
He concluded: “I probably wouldn’t go much higher than we are at the moment without risking changing the dynamics of the city.”