Election 2015 England

Election 2015: South Thanet candidates' local priorities

Ramsgate, Kent Image copyright Getty Images

The fight for the Kent constituency of South Thanet has been one of the most high-profile battles of the 2015 general election.

Scores of political activists and journalists have descended on the seaside town of Ramsgate and the surrounding area over the past five weeks.

The constituency has swung between the Conservatives and Labour since its creation in 1983.

But it was UKIP leader Nigel Farage's decision to "throw his hat in the ring" and turn the battle into a three-way fight that led to the intense campaigning currently being waged on the east Kent coast.

With Mr Farage saying that he will step down as party leader if he loses the election, the contest has national ramifications.

What are the candidates' local priorities?

Ian Driver - Greens

Image copyright BBC news grab

He said South Thanet had some of the lowest wages in the South East, and the area needed "an awful lot of regeneration... investment and new jobs".

"Around Ramsgate, the seafront has got massive potential if we were to develop proper plans for developing and improving [it]," Mr Driver added.

"We've also got good news about the former airport site in that the owners have now announced rudimentary plans about what they want to do in terms of housing, commerce and industry."

He said he had a lot of sympathy with the Save Manston Airport group and the "magnificent work" it had done, "but we've got the laws of economics in operation here and its time to move on".

Nigel Farage - UKIP

Image copyright Getty Images

"Westminster may not be that far away by train, but actually in terms of culture and in terms of what people talk about it could be 1,000 miles away," the UKIP leader said.

He said he was running in the South Thanet constituency as he had worked there since 1999 and previously stood for election in 2005.

Mr Farage said he could not guarantee that Manston Airport would be commercially successful if it was reopened but it needed to be given "one more chance" because the road links to the site were so good.

"All that's missing is the completion of the railway line. That actually is not very expensive and if you complete the railway line and you have Manston Parkway you would then be 47 minutes by train into the centre of London."

Craig Mackinlay - Conservatives

Mr Mackinlay said like the outgoing Tory MP Laura Sandys he would "fight for the local area" and battle to get Manston Airport reopened.

Housing and jobs were also key priorities for him.

"I will protect the local area from inappropriate housing and over-development. I want Ramsgate harbour to be at the heart of a new regeneration plan," he added.

Mr Mackinlay said he also wanted to reduce congestion in Sandwich and keep an A&E at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital. He said he could get things done because he was part of a "strong Conservative team".

Will Scobie - Labour

Image copyright Will Scobie

Mr Scobie said "re-balancing private sector housing" and getting the journey time to London down to 56 minutes to attract investment were his key priorities.

He added: "I was born in South Thanet and have lived here my whole life.

"I am the only candidate who knows the area, the only candidate who understands the issues that affect people locally, and the only candidate with the ability to unite the different parts of the constituency.

"Thanks to Mr Farage this election has seen us thrust into a temporary media circus, but I am someone who is in it for the long run."

Russ Timpson - Liberal Democrats

Image copyright Roger Allen

Mr Timpson said he wanted to make Ramsgate beach and harbour a "desirable destination" with leisure facilities and "desirable housing".

"The Pleasurama beach has [been] idle now for nearly 11 years and has been a derelict site on one of the beautiful beaches at Ramsgate next to Ramsgate harbour, which is also in decline.

"Ramsgate harbour would stack up against the best harbour and marina in the world, and I would want Pleasurama beach to play its part in that, so leaving it idle and derelict is nothing short of a disgrace."

He also wanted to see Manston Airport used as a freight hub as well as providing ancillary services such as training "aircraft recycling and engineering".

Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah - Al-Zebabist Nation of Ooog

Image copyright Al-Zebabist Nation of Ooog

Mr Abu-Obadiah, who is also known as Robert Boaler, said his two main policies were re-flooding the River Wantsum, which along with the River Stour used to form the Wantsum Channel which separated Thanet from the rest of Kent, and "eradicating the South Thanet town of Broadstairs".

He added: "People should not vote for us; our victory has been prophesied."

"We have won the hearts and minds of the Afro-Thanetian [the party's so-called target voters] far more than can be expressed on a mere ballot paper."

Nigel Askew - Reality Party

Image copyright Nigel Askew

Mr Askew said he wanted to see "a fairer and more just society where there is a more even share of the wealth". He is also against fracking.

He added: "We're the only party offering hope, hope out of this system - the present two-party system.

"All the people in our party are about uniting the community, and UKIP are about division."

Ruth Bailey - Manston Airport Independent Party

Image copyright Ruth Bailey

Ms Bailey said she wanted to see "jobs, tourists and prosperity" for local people and her commitment to the area was "second to none".

"I am extremely passionate about Thanet generally and Manston Airport in particular," she added.

"The reopening of Manston Airport could be a catalyst for this regeneration of Thanet."

Grahame Birchall - United Thanet Party

Image copyright Grahame Birchall

Mr Birchall said he wanted people to vote for him as a "vote of no confidence" in the governance of Thanet, which he said had a lack of autonomy, transparency and accountability.

He said that the area should be made a unitary authority with a directly-elected council leader.

"If elected, we would demand ministerial involvement to bring immediate change in local governance in Thanet," Mr Birchall added.

Dean McCastree - Independent

Mr McCastree, a former Thanet district councillor, is standing as an independent candidate. The BBC was unable to contact him for his views.

Al Murray - Free United Kingdom Party

Image copyright PA

Comedian Al Murray, who is standing for election in his guise as The Pub Landlord, said he was offering voters a "British moon on a British stick".

He said it seemed the country was ready for a "a bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions".

Mr Murray said that if he were elected, beer would cost "1p a pint" and Thanet would be made the country's capital city.

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