Tory hopefuls stress links to Bracknell ForestBy Hugh Fort
October 12, 2009
The fight is on to find the Tory choice to replace Andrew MacKay in the next General Election, due by May. Hugh Fort interviews the candidates.
Iain, 47, stood for the North Norfolk ward in the last election and has had a keen interest in politics since he was at university in the early 1980s.
He says he has business and media experience in a wide range of areas and cites the town centre regeneration and local healthcare as big issues in Bracknell, as well as protecting the local environment.
He said: “I think the town centre regeneration is a huge issue for people in Bracknell.
“I think the decision for it to be demand led is a sensible one but there is no doubt it needs to be done.
“The issue of houses is an important one.
“John Prescott seemed very keen to build a lot of houses a few years ago, that seems to have died down now, but I would be very keen to avoid any large scale-building work without the correct infrastructure being put into place.
“The congestion around this area is well-known for being bad.”
Iain has already been out and about in Bracknell as part of the campaign for the Hanworth by-election and says he is keen to move from his home in Tunbridge Wells into the borough.
He said: “It is a bit tricky at the moment as my current partner has an 82-year-old father who is not well, but ultimately living in Bracknell would be my aim.”
Iain is also a well-known political blogger and a season ticket holder at West Ham United.
He was keen to say Bracknell is the only area for which he put his name forward as a candidate, because of his links to the area.
A regular chair of economic panels and radio shows, Margaret says her knowledge of the financial world and experience in the media make her ideally equipped to be Bracknell’s MP.
She said: “As a journalist, I understand how the press operates. I have presented radio programmes, including Radio 4’s Today programme. I have done hundreds of broadcast interviews, so I would be well able to promote Bracknell on a national and international stage.”
She is a member of Westminster City Council.
She said: “I have experience as a local councillor. I have dealt with the key issues that residents worry about.”
On Bracknell, like the rest of her opponents in the race for the seat, she recognises health and regeneration as major issues.
She added: “There are a few key issues that local people are unhappy about.
“The town centre urgently needs regeneration.
“There is no reason why Bracknell could not be a shopping destination.
“Town residents are keen to have better medical facilities close to hand.
“The council has made huge strides in addressing both issues, with regeneration imminent and funding and services for the new town Healthspace already agreed.”
She is living in London and said she would also have a home in Bracknell.
She added: “What I have heard so far in Bracknell is that people would like their MP to have a home in Bracknell as well as a London base.
“They want their MP to fully understand the constituency as well as working hard and long hours during the Parliamentary year on their behalf.
“My husband and I would plan to live in the constituency while having a London base for my Parliamentary work.”
He lives in Maidenhead and said he will not be moving to Bracknell if elected.
He said: “I live about 10 miles away and I don’t think the people of Bracknell will mind too much if I live up the road rather than in the borough.”
Philip, 39, brings deep knowledge of the NHS and says he has a grand plan for a new hospital, nearer to Bracknell.
He said: “I am very aware of the feeling of people in Bracknell to have a hospital in the borough.
“That isn’t going to happen, but my proposal comes after the downgrading of Wycombe hospital and suggest providing another facility near to junctions eight and nine of the M4 [Maidenhead].
“The focus would be on a state-of-the-art centre which would cater for people from places including Wycombe, Windsor, Bracknell and Wokingham.”
Again, Philip is keen to see Bracknell regenerated, but agrees with his fellow Conservatives on Bracknell Forest Council that any regeneration must be done cautiously.
He said: “I agree with Councillor Paul Bettison that any regeneration needs to be demand-led, but it is also clear to me that town centre needs something done to it.
“But whatever is done has to be sustainable.”
Outside politics, Philip’s main interests are in sport.
He is a keen runner and rugby player, and has recently taken up cricket.
He also waterskis and is a keen follower of Queens Park Rangers.
She highlighted health and regeneration as two of the major issues she would attempt to deal with if she was elected.
She said: “I am delighted and thrilled to have made the shortlist for Bracknell.
“I grew up in Guildford and used to go there [Bracknell] a lot when I was a child, including working briefly as a debt collector.
“I had to phone people up and ask them politely when they were going to send their cheques – I didn’t do it for long.”
Mrs Lindsay’s husband’s grandfather helped design the then-new town in the 1950s.
Despite her family link to the town centre, she accepts regeneration should be at the forefront of her efforts if she becomes MP.
She said: “The town centre clearly needs some sort of regeneration, while it would not be sensible to rush into it, I would work closely with the council and the landlords to try to push the town centre regeneration forward.
“I am very keen on the Healthspace plan (a planned new health facility in the centre of Bracknell) and would work closely with the primary care trust to get that plan off the ground.”
In the wake of the expenses scandal, which led to the downfall of MP Andrew MacKay, a lot of focus has been on where MPs have homes.
Mrs Lindsay said the logistics of uprooting her three children, Thomas, 12, Harry, nine, and Honor, six, might make living in Bracknell initially tricky.
She said: “I need to learn more about the train links, how much time I’d be spending in London and once I know that, I’d be in a better position to decide how practical living in Bracknell would be.
“However, having discussed it with my husband I think it likely we would move here. I know there are some really brilliant schools in Bracknell.”
She has spent 17 years in the health industry and works as an advisor to the Tories on health and new technology.
She also runs her own textile business.
She lives in South-East London with her husband but would eventually move to Bracknell.
She said: “My daughter has just started her GCSEs so it would not be fair to uproot her in the middle of those.
“However, when she has finished them we will certainly move.
“My husband is a teacher and would also need to find a school in Bracknell.”
She said her “number one priority” would be regenerating the town.
She said: “The regeneration is moving forward, but we can’t rest on our laurels.
“There is no reason why Bracknell can’t be a great shopping centre.
“I am a huge supporter of social enterprises.”
She added she had really noticed the cultural diversity of Bracknell Forest.
She said: “I live in south-east London, where it is very ethnically diverse.
“There isn’t that in Bracknell, but there is a lot of cultural diversity.
“It’s really interesting to compare places like Great Hollands and Crowthorne.”
Outside of work and politics her interests include spending time with her family, birdwatching and gardening. She described growing vegetables as “very therapeutic” and added she was very excited about having her own garden if she moved to Bracknell.
He is the director of Bagshot-based DC Leisure, which runs numerous leisure centres for local authorities, and served on Wandsworth Council, which has the lowest Council Tax in the country.
As Conservative chairman of the council, he was heavily involved in the regeneration of some of the most deprived parts of the borough.
He says he can bring that knowledge to the regeneration of Bracknell town centre.
He said: “With regard to regeneration, I was heavily involved in Wandsworth and helped a project transform some really deprived areas.
“We got money and brought new business to the area.
“I see a lot of similarities in Bracknell.
“People are going elsewhere and we need to bring them back to Bracknell.”
Like the rest of the candidates, Ryan sees health services as hugely important.
He said: “If you need accident and emergency care at Wexham Park Hospital (in Slough), it is a long way to travel from Bracknell.
“I think there is much more that can be done locally within health budgets.”
And he has no doubts where he would live.
He said: “I see it as vital the local MP uses the same facilities as the people in their constituency and I’d have no problems with moving there.
“I am passionate about state schools. I’m state school educated and I believe firmly in the system so if I get in, I’d be more than happy with sending my children to school locally.”
Outside politics, he is a keen runner and is teaching his son how to play cricket.
But at just 36, the Harvard lecturer has put together an impressive CV, including work with the military, and has been awarded an OBE for his work as a governor in Iraq.
He has worked extensively in Afghanistan and was influential in regenerating a commercial centre in Kabul, a situation he likens to the regeneration of Bracknell town centre.
He said: “To be selected for the privilege of representing the people of Bracknell is something I am very, very elated about.
“Working in Afghanistan was very exciting and there are some similarities in the work there and the work that needs doing in Bracknell.
“We had to attract business to the town and there were other similarities like improving access to hospitals and working to reduce crime.”
Rory’s father worked at Racal in Bracknell during the 1980s and he believes it is vital for both Bracknell and the UK to be able to keep the town’s big international companies, like Fujitsu and Panasonic and to be able to attract more.
If elected, he would have to resign his position as a lecturer at the famous American university and would buy a house in Bracknell and stay with an aunt who lives in London if his Westminster work proved to be too time consuming. He is a keen walker and said if elected he would spend a lot of his time wandering around Bracknell meeting constituents.
He said: “Walking is something I love.
“In 2002, I walked alone across Asia and I really think it is the best way to take in the area and meet people.”
Rory is a graduate of Oxford University in modern history and politics, philosophy and economics and was at Eton College.
He is originally from Scotland and was raised in Malaysia.