The Eastleigh Conservative candidate for the 2015 general election, Mims Davies, has kicked off her campaign with a swipe at Eastleigh’s Liberal Democrat administration, describing MP Mike Thornton as “no great shakes” and Council Leader Keith House as “incredibly complacent” accusing them of “taking voters for granted.”
In an interview Davies told Eastleigh News she thought that under the Lib Dems Eastleigh Borough Council had overextended itself in building a property portfolio and that the council could soon be forced to start selling assets, including council owned land to developers, in order to service its debts.
The general election may still be nine months away but Eastleigh Conservatives have been hitting the campaign trail in Hedge End – a key area they must win to regain the seat and a task that Conor Burns and Maria Hutchings both failed in twice.
Hutchings’s defeat in the 2013 by-election was largely due to the huge swing to Ukip.
Although Hutchings had started out as the bookies favorite the Conservatives ended up in third place for the first time, even though the entire Conservative front bench had descended on the town during the campaign.
Davies will have her work cut out convincing Conservative defectors to return to the fold but she believes she can do it.
“The by-election was a very toxic time and a different time in politics.
“When people are looking to form a five year government next May they will be looking for something different.”
She added that the economy wasn’t doing so well in 2013 and believes that the Conservative record on the economy will sway voters.
If not for the Conservatives said Davies, the UK “would have become another Greece.” The Conservatives were “the people who have kept the economy going.”
David Cameron, she said, had delivered on the Scottish referendum and could be trusted to deliver the promised EU referendum in 2017.
She said disenchanted Conservative supporters who may have switched to Ukip last time over concerns about Europe or immigration would be disappointed if they voted Ukip in the general election as it would result in a Labour government.
She warned Conservatives that if they voted Ukip “you won’t get the say on Europe that you wanted.”
Mims (short for Miriam) Davies is a mum of two from Sussex. A former BBC journalist she is currently a Mid Sussex District councilor and describes her occupation on her register of interests as “housewife”.
Husband Mark is the financial director for a commercial property management company and has also been out campaigning on Hedge End doorsteps.
Davies said the family would move to Eastleigh if she won the seat and would immediately resign her council seat. She criticised Mike Thornton for not giving up his seat on the Borough and on Bishopstoke Parish council.
“I don’t think Mike Thornton realises he is a member of this government setting policy.”
(Thornton has indicated he will be standing down from his council seat next year)
She admitted she didn’t have strong local links but believed her experience as a councilor would stand her in good stead because she said, the people she represents in Sussex face the same kind of problems as people in Eastleigh -“There is no brick wall into Sussex.”
In particular Davies said her experience in planning matters would be of practical use – she described EBC’s current local plan as “opaque” and said people she had spoken to on the doorstep “did not understand it.”
Immigration had been a major issue in the by-election but Davies said the government had cut immigration by a third and that people wanted to migrate here because the UK is a prosperous country while British citizens also enjoyed the opportunity to work abroad.
She said immigration was a personal issue:
“If you are struggling got find work then immigration is an issue but if you are trying to grow your business but can’t find the right people to come and work for you, then perhaps immigration isn’t such an issue.”
One local issue Davies agrees on with her Ukip counterpart is the cost of parking in Eastleigh town centre, which Davies says, is more expensive than Southampton West Quay – she also says it’s unclear where Eastleigh’s parking revenue is going.
Of course the level of parking charges or planning decisions are not decided by MPs but Davies has promised to bring “a fresh pair of eyes” to the borough as a “community politician who has made a difference” and said her main priority would be to hold the local Lib Dem administration to account.
Indications are that the 2015 will be a just as much of a tight, three-way fight as it was in 2013 with Ukip, the Lib Dems and Conservatives all vying to squeeze their opponents core vote.
Listen to full interview here:
Read interview with Ukip candidate Patricia Culligan