Northampton Votes: What do Northamptonians want from their MP - and are the candidates in tune?

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With just a week to go until polling day, the Chronicle & Echo has hit the election campaign trail to get your final thoughts before the big vote.

In 2017, the polls suggest it’s going to be a straight battle between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, Conservative versus Labour.

But the new party leaders are offering a far different political future than those put forward by Cameron and Miliband in 2015.

The Labour party has done away with the centre ground, unveiling a manifesto that pledges to increase spending on the NHS, on social housing, the police and welfare.

The Tories on the other hand are trotting out the “strong and stable” mantra at every opportunity, pledging to offer stability by cutting net migration to 100,000 a year and raising the cost of care threshold from £23,000 to £100,000.

If the recent local council elections are anything to go by, the General Election could be a real watershed moment for UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

But the former polled well in Northampton in 2015 and Tim Farron’s Lib Dems will be hoping to hoover up a portion of the country’s dissatisfied remainers.

So what are the main issues facing people in Northampton?

We’ve been asking members of the public what they think - and all 10 parliamentary candidates have been given a chance to have their say too.

For all the talk of questionable manifesto funding, policy U-turns and Brexit, the battle of personalities between two wildly different party leaders has typified the 2017 election so far.

So much of this year’s campaigning has focused on whether Labour’s left-leaning leader has what it takes to be a PM.

Here in Northampton, even the Labour candidates Kevin McKeever and Sally Keeble have previously voiced their lack of support for Jeremy Corbyn but the 67-year-old socialist has enjoyed a recent surge in the polls among youngsters.

Among his fans in Northampton are students Arter Artemiou and Kelsey Clarke, who the Chron met at an election debate at the Boughton Green Road Park campus.

The Northampton South constituents, who study at the town’s university, say the Labour leader is doing just fine “being Jeremy”.

“He has been a backbencher for 30 years, so he hasn’t been bred like a Tony Blair or a David Cameron,” said Arter, a phd student in applied performance, aged 28.

“We haven’t had a left-wing prime minister for years and years - then Jeremy Corbyn comes along and people are up in arms.

“Why? Because he doesn’t do PMQs properly?

“But they don’t realise he has a better chance of doing what’s right for this country.”

In last week’s Peston on Sunday interview, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the Labour leader “could not be trusted” to lead the Brexit negotiations.

But the latest batch of opinion polls shows Theresa May’s lead diminishing.

International development undergraduate at the University of Northampton Kelsey Clarke, 22, said: “A lot of people don’t like the Labour party because of him.

“But with young people, Jeremy Corbyn is what they like about the Labour party.”

But he has his detractors in Northampton too.

On Facebook, Peter White said; “I could never vote for disastrous Dianne or car crash Corbyn,” referring in part to Dianne Abbott’s now infamous LBC Radio interview.

With all the personality jousting between the main party leaders, the Blackthorn Good Neighbours breakfast club members have been left wondering whether to vote at all.

Speaking to the Chron this week the mums, who began meeting on Tuesday morning when their nearby children’s centre opening hours changed, have been left feeling a little flat by the party pledges so far.

Mum-of-five Stephanie Thornton, 36, feels Labour’s pledge to drop university tuition fees is too costly - and sounds like more than a slight echo of a similar failed pledge by the Lib Dems in 2010.

“I don’t think they need to scrap them, but they need to make university more affordable,” she said.

“I want my kids to go to university, but I can’t afford the £9,000 a year.

“Why can’t they just make us pay a bit - rather than giving us a choice between thousands or nothing at all?”

While she has always voted for Labour, this time round she is considering opting for UKIP.

Mum-of-three Teresa Key welcomed moves by all the parties to build more social housing, but feels they should be prioritised for ex-servicemen and women.

“It is alright them spending that much on social housing as long as they look after people who have served their country,” she added.

Kim Martin, who lives in Goldings, was glad to see the Conservatives and UKIP pledging a cap on immigration.

But she said the condition of the Eastern District, often a hotspot for fly-tipping, has left her feeling dissatisfied with politics altogether.

“I think there is so much wrong, not just here, but other estates as well,” she said.

“No matter how much I moan about it nothing ever happens.”

While the Whitehills and Spring Park Residents’ Association (WASPRA) does not have any political affiliation, they were hoping whoever their next MP in Northampton North would be willing to attract some much-needed roads funding to the town when the Chron caught up with them.

In the south of the town, as in 2015, debate is likely to focus on the increasingy out- of-date Northampton General Hospital and the calls for a new site to be built.

But with the traffic around Northampton consistently raised as a major gripe by townsfolk, this year’s hot topic in the north is likely to be calls for a fit for purpose ring road.

Chairman of WASPRA Patrick Cross, who has been campaigning for such a route for years, has issued a challenge to the winners of the Northampton north and south seats to see the project through.

In March, the Government announced a funding package of nearly £8 million to start the first phase of the project - between the A428 Harlestone Road and the A5199 Welford Road.

But Mr Cross has called on the incoming MPs to ‘champion’ the entire project, allowing a dual carriageway route around the northern hemisphere of the town.

He said: “Having looked at the manifestos for the county and for the General Election, there is a lot of reference to the bypass and the orbital road and people pledging support for it.

“But now we want to know what they are actually doing to make it happen. The people in Kingsthorpe are absolutely fed up with the traffic now.”

That’s what the public wants. Read the opposite page to see if the candidates are in tune with the electorate.

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