The Worldly’s David Wills takes a closer look at one of the most contentious marginal seats – Wakefield – where the battle for who governs Britain will be won or lost. David met Wakefield’s Conservative Parliamentary candidate Antony Calvert to discuss his plans to bring local change for his constituents, the changing nature of national politics and the prospect of another five years under the Conservatives.
DW: The last Conservative victory in Wakefield was in 1931, 84 years ago. What makes you think you can achieve what countless others have failed to do?
AC: The country was a very different place 84 years ago. Certainly, Wakefield was a very different place. Wakefield has changed beyond all recognition. Even in the last 30 years it has gentrified significantly and there’s a much bigger professional base in terms of the workforce. The workforce has gentrified slowly but surely over the last 10-15 years and we have seen that in the results of general elections since 1997. So, this time around, with only 1600 votes to make up, one last push will get us over the line.
DW: According to your website, you’ll deliver “real change to the region, abandoned for so long by the Labour Party”. What does that mean?
AC: The Labour Party, I think it’s fair to say, has taken Wakefield for granted for a long, long time. They’ve controlled the council and had the Member of Parliament for over 80 years. Getting an element of political competition is always good. A few years ago, we took the council into ‘no overall control’ but the Conservatives have since slipped back locally. Yet, what was noticeable when we had a competitive political dynamic was that the Labour Party upped their game. Unfortunately, they’re slipping back again – which is what generally happens when you take an area for granted! I think that having an MP from a different political party will inject a lot of competition and create excitement locally.
The Conservative government has contributed significantly to the improvement of the national economy
DW: What will Wakefield look like after 5 years of Antony Calvert as their MP?
AC: Well, I hope the city of Wakefield itself will be very different. The Conservative government has contributed significantly to the improvement of the national economy, which has filtered down to the local economy. If I win the seat, and on an optimistic uniform swing for the Labour Party, the Conservatives will have an overall majority – and have a national presence locally. Being a Member of Parliament, you have to represent your constituency in Westminster, and their concerns, sometimes fears, and also aspirations. I hope I can do that a lot better than the Labour alternative, Mary Creagh.
It’s good to have a local candidate who has a gut instinct for the local area
DW: You seem to be fighting this election as ‘the local man from Wakefield against someone from the South’. Is that a vote winner?
AC: Whenever you ask peoples’ opinions on politics, you always hear one thing – ‘Who’s the local candidate?’ I’ve heard it a great deal when out campaigning. I’m convinced it’s a vote winner. When talking to people, they hear the accent and recognise it – they know you come from around here. And I think it makes a huge difference. Of course, there’s no substitute for competency or talent. I think it’s good for a place like Wakefield, with its unique challenges, to have a local candidate who has a gut instinct for the local area.
DW: Moving onto the national party that you’ll be representing in Westminster; are the Conservatives a party for working people or just the wealthy few at the top?
AC: Let me just first correct you. I won’t be representing the party in Westminster, I’ll be representing Wakefield in Westminster and its interests to the best of my ability. The Conservative Party, in my view, has always been the party of the working-class. I come from a working-class background and feel that the Conservative Party is the only party that can instinctively understand what working people want. In the past 5 years, we’ve done a huge amount for those who are in work and there are many more in work than back in 2010. In Wakefield, unemployment is down 41% – if that’s not representative of a party which has the working-class in it’s DNA, I don’t know what is! We’ve given every single worker in Wakefield a big tax cut and that lends itself to being a party with the working class at its heart.
DW: But can you see why people think otherwise – when the poor are crippled with the bedroom tax whilst the super-rich enjoy tax cuts?
AC: The bedroom tax is technically the ‘abolition of the spare-room subsidy’. It’s a benefit which has been removed, not a tax which has been levied. During my time as a councillor, I came across many single people living in large council houses. It can’t be fair when people with a much greater need for them are denied the size of house they require. The fact that we have increased the tax threshold has allowed people to move out of council homes and move into private rented accommodation. Or, with the help of the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, even purchase their own homes – I think that’s important.
I hope the average Conservative voter in 2015 is somebody who has a concern about the future of their country
DW: Why will 1 of out every 3 with the capability to vote choose not to?
AC: We’ll have to wait and see. The turnout in 2010 was up on 2005 but people are naturally disengaged with politics because they see politics as being a bunch of middle-aged people down in Westminster shouting at each other. I think the more people like me, other councillors – and you – who are engaged in politics, can do show that we can make a real difference in peoples’ lives, the better. In the end, it’s about education, and getting people to realise that everything they do – from getting out of bed in the morning to going back to bed at night – is dependent on politics.
DW: What does the average Conservative voter in 2015 look like?
AC: I hope the average Conservative voter in 2015 is somebody who has a concern about the future of their country, who recognises that a good job has been done by starting to put the country back together again. We’re growing – we’re the fastest growing developed economy in the Western World – and the Conservative Party needs to finish the job.
DW: Finally, 30 seconds to convince lifelong Labour voter Joe Bloggs from Wakefield to vote for Antony Calvert in less than one month.
AC: I’m the local candidate who wants to campaign for issues all around Wakefield. I need to sort things out that matter very deeply to people in Wakefield. If you vote for Antony Calvert you’re voting for somebody who knows Wakefield, who has got a gut instinct for Wakefield, and will do his best for Wakefield.
DW: Antony Calvert, thank you very much.