1. Mrs May said, on accepting the leadership of the Conservative party, that addressing inequalities would be her top priority. What concrete proposals does your party have for reducing inequalities both within the UK and in the rest of the world?
I will answer for myself throughout and not hide behind party policy. I have to be honest that we cannot have good public services and a caring society without paying for those services. I favour paying once properly through proportional taxation and proportional inheritance taxes instead of paying low headline rates of taxation and then finding people are exposed to extra costs and all the insecurities that go with them. For example I think it is far better that we all pay a little extra tax and that we provide proper care for the elderly than that we leave the individuals who happen to have expensive care needs in old age to worry about exactly how much they will have to pay and whether the value of their home will have to be used to pay for it.
2. Following the London and Manchester tragedies, what steps does your party propose to combat the threat of Islamic fundamentalism without compromising community relations within the UK and good relations with the Islamic world more generally? How far do you see the Israeli government’s support for illegal settlements in the West Bank as a threat to our good relations with Arab states and what can/should the UK do about it?
The blame for terrorism lies with the people who carry out the act, those who help them to do so and anyone who remains silent when they hold information about a potential target.
The blame for fostering terrorism can most directly be traced to Saudi Arabia which has funded the spread of Islamic ideology and made us all more vulnerable. I cannot be proud of my country when I see us supplying arms to a regime which was the home of the vast majority of the 9/11 bombers and where women are treated as if they are incompetent by birth. Nor am I proud when that regime imposes terrifying bombing raids on Yemen using British weapons.
My concerns over Israel are simpler. I am a supporter of the existence of the state of Israel as a society where people are free to earn their living and exercise their full human rights. I happen to believe exactly the same thing about Palestine. I am not convinced that the UK foreign policy has been driven by my equal respect of these rights for all and certainly not convinced that is in the best interests of the UK.
I opposed the Iraq war at the time - as to their eternal credit did the Green Party and the Lib Dems. We all took a lot of criticism at the time from the two main parties who voted for the war. Looking back now does anyone seriously think that their judgement about how to make this country safe was better than ours?.
I am no pacifist and fully recognise the need for well organised and funded police and security services. I find it hard to see how sacking police officers achieves that. Nor do I think that making troops who came back from Iraq redundant in order to pay for Trident missiles which are utterly useless in messy localised modern conflicts makes for a sensible strategy for dealing with terrorism.
3. What are your party's policies on immigration, distinguishing if appropriate between economic immigration and resettlement of refugees and their families? What steps might be needed to mitigate the potential impact on sectors of the UK economy which have traditionally depended to significant extent on non-UK workers? Is the UK doing enough to meet the challenge of the refugee crisis?
In an unequal world I fully understand why there have to be sensible planned controls over immigration. I don't for one minute accept that immigrants are the cause of our problems. We don't have a housing crisis because of immigration. We have a housing crisis because we haven't built enough council homes for 30 years, we have allowed developers to build 4 and 5 bedroom executive homes across green fields instead of 1 and 2 bed starter properties, and we haven't regulated tenancies intelligently. The result is young people trying to bring up families in rented accommodation on six month tenancies with no realistic prospect of ever joining a home owner democracy without family help
The one country that has had no immigration of significance since the Second World War is Japan. The average age there is 47 and they are desperately worried about who will look after the elderly. We cannot afford to lose the brilliant doctors who work in the NHS. One of my friends was an NHS doctor in Keighley for over 20 years working flat out with dedication in challenging circumstances. She now has no guarantee of being allowed to remain in the UK because she kept her Dutch passport. Is that the best we can do as a society?
Compare the utter generosity of spirit in Germany where one million refugees were taken with the very welcome but tiny contribution of the UK. They have done 50 times as much as us and we have allowed ourselves to opt for Cameron's policy of paying others to keep refugees out of Britain. Many of these people, like the Ugandan Asians, have skills and energies that would have been an asset to this country. I do not claim to be as generous in the policies I would adopt as the Conservative German Chancellor but I think we might manage to do rather better than the far right British Prime Minister.
Finally a simple point. Every student who comes to study in the UK brings in more foreign currency than selling a luxury car abroad. May's policies aren't just mean spirited. They are bad economics.
4. What are your party’s policies on public health and health services? How would you ensure a balance, and effective co-ordination, between the different components of the system (health education, preventative measures, primary care, acute services, services for people with long-term conditions including mental health)? Do you accept the principle that access to (expensive) treatments should depend on clinical need and ability to benefit, not on ability to pay?
As someone who has successfully run large public sector organisation employing 400 people I am the first to accept that careful financial management is an essential part of providing an effective service. We cannot pay for everything in every circumstance. I therefore have a great deal of respect for the work of those in the NHS who try to determine which treatments currently represent value for money in the face of intense lobbying and mis-information from some drug companies and even some charity campaigners.
I want evidence driven objective scientific fact to determine how we use the resources we can make available to the NHS. But I do want those resources to be more than adequate enough to pay for a properly integrated service that recognises care and mental health as being every bit as important as say cancer treatment. I want treatment to be free at the point of use and for the judgement of the doctor to determine what happens to me and my family not the judgement of the accountant or the US hedge fund who runs that part of the service.
I don't want to see the NHS reduced to a rump service that only provides the bare minimum for the very poorest whilst the better off are subjected to random and unpredictable charges. There will never be a day when the government announces that it is going to abolish the NHS. Instead we risk voting for them to do it quietly and steadily day by day. I think if this government gets back in then we will see the NHS weakened stage by stage as the easy profitable things are sold off slice by slice to American hedge funds leaving a basic rock bottom available for those without insurance. If we don't want Donald Trump style health care then we have to fight for what we have got, fund it properly and stop constantly re-organising and tinkering with it.
5. How should the UK best reduce its carbon emissions and honour its obligations under the Paris agreement? How would you encourage/incentivise a lower use of energy, including energy for transport, without unduly penalising rural areas? In the context of a low-carbon economy, is there any need for fracking?
The first intelligent move any government should make over energy is to subsidise simple measures like insulation so that use is cut. This is the cheapest, most effective and quickest action. It would cut bills for customers, cut emissions and help us to stop sending quite so much money to Saudi Arabia and Russia for oil and gas.
Aside from recognising the need for much improved local bus networks, I favour rail transport locally and regionally. I want to see the Skipton to Colne line built before the next election and a robust plan for a station back in Ripon. I want to see a proper northern powerhouse rail service resembling the London tube network and linking the huge employment opportunities up across the north so that our children don't have to head south in order to prosper in their work. At the last election there was much good talk about a Northern Powerhouse. Afterwards it was all forgotten as a pathetic £100m was devoted to progress up north whilst a £15,000m Cross Rail project was completed in London.
I have no ideological problem with nuclear power. I just have huge practical objections. Hinkley Point for example is planned to provide 8% of our energy needs sometime in the future. A giant clumsy power plant of almost exactly the same nature as the ones in America which drove Westinghouse to bankruptcy because they couldn't be build on time and on budget. We have committed to borrowing money from China, to pay the French, to provide energy at 3 times the market rate for 20 years via an unproven technology. Not my idea of sensible economics. Especially as we still don't know how to clear up the mess if it all works perfectly and are subjected to horrible risks if it doesn't.
I want to see us invest in being at the forefront of the next phase of technology not the back end of fossilised policies. Going for fracking is like investing in a better mechanical calculator when computers have just been invented. Any responsible government would be moving us away from fossil use and plastic use and using our science and technology skills to secure a sustainably prosperous future for us economically and environmentally.
Put simply my biggest problem with the government is that they talk about safety and security but they are gambling with the ecology of the whole planet. Not my idea of responsible government.