Saturday, June 22, 2024

Independent candidate in Reading West and Mid Berkshire

Our Democracy Reporter, Niki Hinman, has invited all the candidates in the Newbury and Reading West & Mid Berkshire to answer her questions. We will be publishing the candidates responses as they are received.

Adrian Abbs is an independent councillor on West Berkshire Council and is running as an independent for the Reading West and Mid Berkshire seat.

He spoke to our Local Democracy Reporter Niki Hinman.

1:   What made you run for office?

It became apparent to me, as I spent more time as a councillor, and went through the positions of opposition spokesperson to being on the executive and now being an independent, that many of the issues we face locally can only really be solved by Westminster. The most obvious example is social care (I wrote a letter about this previously).

This, plus seeing how Westminster party politics works and how many MPs simply go for the opposite of whatever the administration says. i.e. they just oppose. No one I speak to likes the shouting they see in Westminster.

I try to scrutinise what is being said, but also try and give solutions via amendments and motions. I also seed ideas which is how I believe an MP should act.  MPs should work for the best outcome of the people of their constituency and for the nation.

2:  Do you have family/partner and what do they think of you running for Parliament?

I am married, have two children and three grandchildren. My wife and I have always supported each other in things we think are important. My family is concerned about the level of abuse that is levelled at MPs and worried how this might impact them. Our conclusion is that if people don’t step forward then nothing will change.

3:  When did your interest in politics take hold?

Like most people it’s been a dinner conversation thing for maybe 25 years plus. Although I became a Greenham parish councillor in 2018, I really don’t think of that as politics. I was independent and other councillors never made a thing about being a member of a party.

When I told my colleagues in late 2018 that having enjoyed doing some good at the parish level I was going to take a stab at getting elected to West Berkshire Council, it was pointed out to me just how difficult that would be without a support network. The people persuading me happened to be Lib Dems. There were two major issues driving me to stand. Sandleford and the football ground at Faraday Road. Having looked at the Lib Dems and what they were trying to do locally I found myself 90% aligned so joined as a member. This was my first and only political membership. I was what is called a floating voter before then.

I have returned to being an independent which is proving very interesting and I really believe an independent MP can work with whoever is in charge instead of just opposing. The public that I speak to seems to echo this.

4: Why do you think people will vote for you?

For different reasons, those that don’t think any party actually represents them, which is the majority of people I speak with saying things like “I really want an alternative”.

Another set is those that have stopped voting because to quote a few of them: “All politicians are the same.” It’s only when they see a viable independent that they go: “Oh I’ll read that, thanks for standing.” There are also quite a lot of people who want an MP who has run a business and who will bring that way of thinking to Parliament. Finally, there are those that have seen me as a councillor, watched me stand up for local issues, and see that I care about them and the environment. If I do as well as David Tully did in Rochdale (21% of the vote) then it’s likely I would win the seat. FYI David was simply a local businessman who wanted to help his constituency. The reason 21% would win is that the rest of the vote is being split between, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Reform and Greens. Just the odd person is saying they are voting a specific way so far.

5:  Beating the campaign trail means you are speaking to people on the doorstep. What are they saying to you?

The number one thing is that they don’t trust the current MPs and specifically the current government. After that, it has been a lot about immigration, housing, the NHS and access to GPs. Many business people have mentioned red tape and how councils are impacting the high street by raising parking charges.

6:  You are representing a minority party – what does a vote for you mean?

As an independent MP, I will make sure that every type of voice is represented in Parliament. Party loyalty constrains MPs. It forces them to vote for the party line even when it is against local interests. As an independent MP, I’m not constrained by these handcuffs.  With its urban and rural mix, Reading West and Mid Berkshire faces unique challenges. Affordable housing, transportation, environmental sustainability, and healthcare access, to name a few.

Independence isn’t isolation. It means I can be nimble and collaborate across party lines. A golden opportunity for me to champion legislation to benefit you all.

Trust in politicians has declined. To change this, my commitment is to principles, not party politics. My belief is that this will inspire confidence that I’m public, and not self-serving.