Alex Payton is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North West Hampshire in May 2015’s elections.
A barrister that lives a stones throw from the boundary of the North West Hampshire area, Alex is a quiet, intelligent and seemingly thoughtful man who has great experience in local politics.
I met up with Alex at the Bourne Valley Inn in St Mary Bourne.
Aav: I put a plea out on our Facebook page for anyone to put forward questions to ask you in this interview. We only received two: one from a Conservative Councillor and one after I paid to promote the post. When I asked for questions for the UKIP candidate, there was a huge response, not all positive, but why do you think that is?
Alex: I think if you look at any polls or information on UKIP, it does seem to be that people either love them or hate them. They are a very polarised party.
Aav: Someone referred to you as a nice, young man the other day. How old are you?
Aav: You have a hefty, cool job, how will you maintain that if you win the seat?
Alex: I will become a full time MP and will give up my work.
Aav: Why Liberal Democrat?
Alex: At 18 when I got the vote, I bought every party manifesto and read them all thoroughly. I decided that Liberal Democrat looked the best. They had taken in evidence and thought about their policies, because they were the right thing to do, rather than what they thought people wanted to hear.
The Lib Dems were the more genuine party and I had really good MP’s: David Rendel and Paddy Ashdown.
Policies have come and gone with the party, but the underlying philosophy stays the same – our strap line is Stronger Economy, Fairer Society and this has been a continuous thread in the party history.
Aav: A Facebook user wants to know why the Liberal Democrats have left them with no credible alternative?
Alex: Liberal Democrats are in politics to do the best for their communities, in ICN Questions, people were asked what they thought of their constituency MP. Liberal Democrats were the only MPs who had a net positive rating – we had no net negative ratings.
The reason for this is because we are in it to serve the community the best we can, not like careerist Tory or Labour politicians, Liberal Democrats have no expectation of becoming Prime Minister. Liberal Democrats join the party to do the best they can for the community.
Aav: A Conservative Councillor asked through our Facebook page, why the Lib Dems are fielding so few candidates in the local elections? Have you given up?
Alex: We have a strategy in place for the area that comprises not only Test Valley Borough Council, but also Basingstoke & Deane.
We have put up a good showing for the local elections and I am confident candidates will be elected.
Aav: A Facebook user asks, why has Nick Clegg not done the right thing and stepped down after he lied about tuition fees?
Alex: I think it is important to remember that tuition fees have been troublesome for all the major parties. Labour said they wouldn’t increase them and then they did. The Conservatives made a similar pledge in 2015 and raised them as much as we did.
The party, as I understand it, got into office and had to make a choice between a cut in uni funding or make people who don’t go to uni lose out.
There was a difficult decision to make and they made the decision that was best for the country.
Aav: What do you think about the local Liberal Democrats lying on an election leaflet about not being aligned to a political party?
Alex: I think the Andover Town Council is still finding its way, after only being set up in 2010. I think the feeling is that it’s very like a Parish Council in a village and perhaps it wasn’t the right arena for party politics.
Aav: But my question is about the lie on the leaflet?
Alex: I haven’t seen the leaflet in question or spoken to any of the people involved, but I will ask them about it.
They are good people, and if there was anything misleading in the leaflet they aren’t the kind of people who would do that intentionally.
Aav: As a non-Andover resident, what are you going to do for Andover and the surrounding villages?
Alex: What Andover really needs is a lot of work on its infrastructure. A lot of houses have been built in the area without the supporting infrastructure, which has left services flagging.
Shops, NHS Provision, Schools all need to be built alongside the developments, but this isn’t being done and the town is struggling to catch up.
For some reason, Hampshire County Council has an enormous level of reserves and this could be put into the community to help bring the provision back up to what it should be.
Aav: What do you think about the other candidates?
Alex: I don’t like negative campaigning and I am reluctant to get into any kind of character assassination. We all put ourselves forward, let the best man or woman win.
Aav: Do you have a partner?
Alex: I don’t really want to bring my family into my election campaign.
Aav: What can you offer to the voters of North West Hampshire?
Alex: I have lots of experience, having been a Councillor for West Berks for 4 years, Thatcham for 4 years and Newbury for 2 years. I have also been elected as Mayor.
In my role as Councillor, my main aim has been to help people, advising on issues and helping people to overcome them. Also involved is the day to day business side of running the council.
My work as a barrister means that I am dealing with people and helping them on a daily basis. I often meet people who are going through a bad patch, often through no fault of their own and I help them deal with that.
Lots of my work is about advice and I will bring that experience with my to the role as MP.
I am the most local of the major party candidates. I live a stones throw from the border of the area, Kit Malthouse lives in London, Sue Perkins in Yateley and Andrew Adams is around half a mile from the area border.
AaV: What about Dan Hill from the Green Party. He lives in Andover?
Alex: Ofcom don’t consider the Green Party as one of the major ones.
Aav: What other objectives do you have for the Andover area?
Alex: I would like to work to keep the High Street looking vibrant and alive, to see what we can do to make sure empty shop units are quickly filled.
Public transport is an issue in the town. People have told me that they are unable to get back home from a night out in Andover, and businesses are missing out because of poor infrastructure.
The Great North Field in Overton is subject to a planning application for a large housing estate, as there is no local plan at Basingstoke & Deane the developer can propose what they like, for where they like.
We need to bang heads together to protect local heritage.
Children in Overton are not able to get a place in the Overton Primary school and are having to travel to Basingstoke. This needs sorting out; it’s another infrastructure issue.
Aav: Would you move into the area if you win?
Alex: Yes. Somewhere around Overton or St Mary Bourne.
Aav: Do you think you will win?
Alex: Yes. I think we have a good chance in the area with Sir George stepping down. We have a much better chance than pundits would have you believe.