Candidates focus on economy and environment in campaign countdown

General election
Sir Desmond Swayne with fellow Conservatives at the Lymington market (Photo: Desmond Swayne)

POLITICAL activists were out and about in the New Forest and Christchurch this week as the general election campaign entered the final fortnight before polling day.


The local economy was an issue on the Christchurch battleground with Conservative Sir Chris calling for faster development at the Aviation Business Park at Bournemouth Airport, and Liberal Democrat Mike Cox opening a business centre in Somerford.

During a visit to Parkfield School in Hurn, Sir Chris urged BCP Council to speed up approving schemes at the site, where an international aviation academy is planned.

He was there to hear a talk by Simon Witts, founder of the UK’s Aviation Skills Partnership, a national group aiming to boost job prospects in the sector.

Sir Chris said: “We must grasp this wonderful opportunity to bring training, skills and jobs to Bournemouth. We were once the world’s leading provider of aviation skills.

“We can do it again, with the sort of vision and determination being shown by these skills partnerships. It would be a dereliction not to embrace these opportunities for our young people and the industry.”

Sir Chris Chope (left) with Simon Witts, founder of the UK’s Aviation Skills Partnership

The Tories are the main opposition on BCP Council which is run by a coalition of Liberal Democrat, Christchurch Independent, Poole People, Labour, Green and other independent councillors.

Election rival Mr Cox, who is a BCP councillor for Christchurch Town, was joined by Alex Aitken, chef patron at The Jetty in Mudeford, to launch BizSpace’s new Aerodrome Studios containing 27,800 sq ft of flexible office suites, studios and workshops in Silver Business Park.

Mr Cox said: “Small businesses are vital to our local economy and, with this impressive new centre, BizSpace has created a place for them to grow and prosper.

“Our region is already home to some exceptional small businesses and I look forward to hearing the success stories that will come out of this centre.”

From left are Khalid Aziz, Mike Cox and Alex Aitken at BizSpace’s new Aerodrome Studios

Locally, Tories will be buoyed by a projected result from polling company YouGov, published in The Times today (Thursday), which forecast them a majority in the Commons, including wins in Christchurch, New Forest East and New Forest West – which they already hold by more than 20,000 votes in each.

In New Forest West, Tory incumbent Sir Desmond Swayne took his campaigning to Ringwood and Lymington markets, where Lib Dem challenger Jack Davies was also canvassing.

Earlier Mr Davies announced on Twitter that he was against Southampton airport’s plan to extend its runway to allow bigger planes using flight paths over parts of the New Forest.

He said: “When it comes to roads, I prefer renovating existing highways with investment going into public transport.”

He is one of several candidates publicly declaring they have signed the Friends of the Earth pledge for candidates to make climate change a “deal-breaker” for how they would vote if elected to parliament.

The Green Party’s Chris Rigby has done the same in Christchurch, as has Labour’s Jo Graham in New Forest West. She has also declared she would campaign to remain in any future referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

The Green Party’s New Forest West candidate Nick Bubb, a former Tory, has gained the backing of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the TV cook turned environment campaigner.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said on Twitter: “We need people like Nick to get into parliament and push climate and the environment up the agenda.”

A New Forest West hustings with all four candidates has been organised by Lymington’s United Nations Association at the Lymington Community Centre in the Robert Hole Room at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd December.

New Forest East candidates: Julie Hope (Labour), Bob Johnston (Liberal Democrat), Nicola Jolly (Green), Andrew Knight (Animal Welfare Party), Julian Lewis (Conservative).

New Forest West: Nick Bubb (Green), Jack Davies (Liberal Democrats), Jo Graham (Labour), Sir Desmond Swayne (Conservative).

Christchurch: Sir Chris Chope (Conservative), Mike Cox (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Dunne (Labour), Chris Rigby (Green).