John Kennedy, Brexit Party candidate for Portsmouth South, gives his answers to the five questions recently submitted by S&C readers to all local candidates in the 2019 election.
We recently asked S&C readers and social media followers what one question you would ask all the candidates in Portsmouth North and South in the General Election. From the many – and diverse – answers we received, we selected five questions, which we sent to all the local candidates.
To choose the top 5, we took into account the number of times questions were asked on each topic, whether questions were suitable for all candidates (i.e. some related to individual candidates, or to either Portsmouth North or South), and whether we have seen the topic or question covered in other local reporting (e.g. we didn’t include a question on Brexit for this reason).
Q1: What amendments would you make to the Gender Recognition Act to advance the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK, and what steps will you take to ensure all public bodies serving the area comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 as they relate to single sex exemptions?
All public bodies should comply with Acts of Parliament and as MP for Portsmouth South, I will want to know if public bodies are failing to follow their legal obligations, regardless of which law is in question. I am not aware of amendments to existing legislation that need to be made and have not had representations from constituents suggesting that areas of current legislation needs revision, but will look at any such issues with an open mind. People have a right to express themselves in a way they feel suits their own personality and individuals. Elected representatives must champion the freedom of the individual.
Q2: The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently reported that the worst-off 10% of households have lost 7% of their income since 2019, rising to 18% among families with children. The highest earning 10% have seen their incomes fall by 4%. How will your party ensure that the social security system is fair and compassionate, and that the benefit system lifts families out of poverty – closing the vast disparity of income and wealth in our country?
Our Social Security system needs to be fit for purpose. Universal Credit should to be reformed so as not to detach people from essential income because of bureaucracy. We need to create a route out of welfare dependency for those who can become self-sufficient and people should never be worse off in work than out of work. People who are unable to provide for themselves should not be left vulnerable to a support system that is not fit for purpose.
Q3: What will you do to help homeless people in Portsmouth, with particular regard to the housing shortage and cuts to services, e.g. for mental health, for trauma survivors, and for people suffering from problematic drug and alcohol use?
We need to recognise people who face challenges from mental health or addiction dependency and can’t cope with the welfare system or a one size fits all housing policy, especially if this leads to them slipping through the net. This includes an increasing number of ex-service personnel. Social housing, affordable housing and municipal housing are matters for Central Government to prioritise and for a local MP to champion where resources or regulation are getting in the way of provision.
Q4: Portsmouth residents have told us they are unable to book a GP appointment within 3 weeks, and are referred to a walk-in service, which one resident described as ‘a stressful experience in itself’. What is your plan to improve and protect the NHS? And how will you improve public health in the city, including with regard to mental health and obesity in the city?
Preventative care is an important part of the general provision of health services and involves working with the community to advise, inform and encourage personal responsibility in addressing ways of avoiding future chronic illness, something that is an increasing burden on the NHS. The system of health care, in particular access to GPs, involves reform of how the GP service operates. Currently we are seeing A&E taking the burden for what should be GP lead provision, meaning A&E staff are under intolerable strain, waiting times in A&E are unacceptable, particularly at peak seasons such as winter, where bottlenecks become the norm.
Q5: In terms of both policy and funding, how will you improve support to Portsmouth schools, including meeting the needs of vulnerable children with Special Educational Needs?
SEN often involves substantial additional cost and additional stress for pupils, including long-distance travel to some educational facilities. The current system is more process than results driven and many of the cost incurred are not actually for education provision. How we provide SEN services needs a fundamental review, looking at both resources and outcomes. The current system does not meet current needs nor is it up to date. Solutions are neither simple nor easy, given the fluid nature of needs from year to year, in any particular local authority, but what people don’t want is politicians spouting statistics.