1) What is the most pressing issue in Oxford East currently, and how will you address it?
Big issues like the NHS, immigration and the economy are just as important to people in Oxford as they are to people from anywhere else in the country. But Oxford is particularly badly affected by government policies on housing and homelessness. UKIP would create a national brown field site map and subsidise the decontamination of brown field sites with the aim of building 1 million new homes on brownfield sites by 2025. We’d create a National Homeless Register to make it easier for homeless people to claim welfare entitlements and access health and support services. We’d also address the demand side of the equation, tackling immigration. This is vital because we currently would have to build a house every seven minutes to meet demand – no matter how many new homes the other parties promise, if they fail to address the demand side, the housing crisis will continue. Our housing policy was very highly praised by the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors, demonstrating that only UKIP have real, credible solutions to the housing crisis.
2) What can UKIP do for students and young people?
We would scrap tuition fees for students studying courses in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. We would also enable students to opt for an apprenticeship in the place of four non-core GCSEs and tackle the idea that you have to be academic to be successful. In addition to this, policies such as scrapping income tax on the minimum wage and ensuring under 25s will still be eligible for housing benefit, will also benefit young people.
3) Do you think the national media gives a fair representation to UKIP?
Absolutely not. Despite an OfCom ruling that UKIP are now a major party and should receive the same air time as the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour in the election period, Nigel Farage has not been invited to participate in the BBC Question Time leaders special, apparently some bloke called Nick Clegg has…?
All mass organisations have people who hold unpleasant views. I do think that when politicians say repugnant things the public has a right to know. It also helps us as a party identify and weed out unsuitable people who managed to slop through the net. And yet when Labour or Conservative politicians say outrageous things, they barely even make local newspapers, let alone the front pages of national newspapers. If you think UKIP have a monopoly on people who sometimes make stupid comments I’d suggest checking out a group called ‘Nope, Not Hope’ who demonstrate that while UKIP expels such people, the other parties more often than not fail to take action.
4) What is the worst thing about Britain today?
Our broken democracy. We in UKIP want real recall, allowing voters to force their MP to face a by-election if 20% of the local electorate demand it. We want to see open primaries, allowing local people and not just party members to choose their candidates. We want to introduce citizens initiatives enabling binding referenda to be triggered on important issues decided by public petition. We want to ensure that only English MPs vote on matters that only affect England, ending the injustice of MPs from devolved nations voting on issues that do not affect their constituents. And we want a more proportional voting system to more accurately represent the views of the British public.
5) What do you say do Oxford’s ethnic minority student who think that UKIP is racist?
Firstly I’d challenge the assumption in the question. Most of those who seek to portray us as racist are not part of ethnic minority groups and are usually middle class and white. From doorsteps and campaign stalls across Oxford East we know that many people, particularly those born outside the EU, agree with us that our current immigration system is unfair. We would prefer a system that does not discriminate against a highly skilled Indian doctor in favour of someone from France on the grounds of nationality. Our proposed Australian style points based system would be completely blind to race, religion, ethnicity and country of birth. That message is resonating with ethnic minorities (and the population as a whole) despite what our opponents would have you believe.
6) Do you think freedom of speech is under threat in Oxford, and in other universities?
Yes. I think no-platforming enables people to be portrayed as victims of censorship. Debate exposes them for who they really are and challenges people who might otherwise be persuaded by their views. I didn’t go to university to only hear views I agreed with, I went to challenge and be challenged. Students are mature enough to debate tricky topics or avoid such discussions altogether if they prefer, but we should not stop anyone from speaking, whatever their views, it’s counterproductive.