Ahead of the UK general election on 8th June this year, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Flick Drummond, the Conservative candidate for the Portsmouth South constituency. She has been the MP for the constituency for the last two years, ever since the 2015 general election and is looking to be re-elected this summer. She is likely to be successful, what with the 5,241 vote victory she got in 2015 and the recent collapse of the Labour party, so I may have just got an exclusive interview with the MP for the next five years.
Drummond campaigned for the Remain side in the 2016 EU referendum so it was unsurprising that one of the topics which came up was the role Brexit will play in this election. I asked her how important she felt it was that other Remain voters from the referendum vote for the Conservatives – in favour of getting a good Brexit – rather than for the Liberal Democrats so they can pursue hopes of a second EU referendum. She replied “the Lib Dems have no voice in Parliament; they have very little influence so it is vital to vote Conservative to ensure a strong government. The UK can’t loiter between being in the EU and out by holding numerous referendums so we need to press on and ensure the UK gets as good a Brexit as possible rather than voting for the Lib Dems for a second EU referendum. At first I would have wanted a second referendum but now I feel that we should accept the result from last year and turn our attention to getting the best Brexit possible.”
Sticking with the theme of the general election, I asked her whether she was worried that low turnout might be a problem in this election, with voters feeling that the vote is a foregone conclusion. Predictably, she outlined how important it is for Conservative supporters to get out and vote rather than taking the election result for granted. She said “absolutely, it is vitally important that people vote because apathy could be a real problem in this election. Recent votes have seen that the polls can’t be trusted so people can’t just assume there will be a Conservative victory.” With a turnout in 2015 of just 58.5% in her constituency, Drummond will be worried that the turnout will drop even lower, although I have to say that she could get enough support to be comfortably re-elected, no matter what the turnout.
Considering I am a 17 year old who was interviewing an MP, the subject of the voting age was always going to come up. Personally I am not in favour of lowering the voting age as, although I feel I am responsible enough to make an informed decision when voting, it is not the case for the majority of 17 year-olds. The 18-24 category is consistently the lowest turnout out of any group at elections and that would only become more apparent if 16 and 17 year-olds were able to vote as well. Flick agreed with me wholeheartedly, saying “there has to be a cut-off point for when people are able to vote, and 18 seems reasonable because most people are finishing their education and moving into the adult world at that point.”
The next question I asked was whether Flick agreed personally with Theresa May’s decision to call the snap election on 8th June. Considering she had come to my school in the middle of her campaign around the constituency and was preparing to rush off afterwards to visit more constituents and hand out leaflets around the city, I was half-expecting her to bemoan May’s decision because of all the extra work it has caused her, not to mention the possibility of losing her seat. However, I was surprised to hear that she agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision. She told me “I think she had to [call the election]. There is a strong Remain contingent within Parliament which would have made her life hell and tried to obstruct the Brexit process as much as possible if she did not secure a mandate. It is worth noting that the same thing would have happened if the EU referendum had gone the other way, with those who supported Leave trying to obstruct the government. Nigel Farage said ‘there would be blood on the floor’ if the UK had voted to remain in the EU so a general election would probably have been required whatever the result of the referendum.”
To round up the interview, I asked how Drummond’s personal campaign to secure free wifi for the armed forces was coming along, after she previously mentioned it when I heard her speak at the House of Commons. She seemed pleased with her campaign so far and said “it’s going very well! I’ve taken the campaign to the Prime Minister and she was horrified when she found out about the current situation in the forces. It should succeed soon and it will be a huge victory if and when it does.” This will be a further reason for Drummond being extra keen to retain her seat in the Commons, as she clearly wants to be in Parliament to see through the cause she has championed. It could be argued that she is pursuing the cause in her own interests as her son is in the Royal Navy, although it is also an issue for many of her constituents with Portsmouth being a naval city. Either way, it is surely a positive thing that Drummond is close to achieving success.
My first interview in politics was rather short, I admit, but I found it very informative to be able to speak to a Parliamentary candidate so close to a general election. Although Flick Drummond did not really say anything I could not have predicted before the interview, it was still interesting to see exactly how she went about answering my questions considering she will have been wary of avoiding the same fate as Andrew Turner, who has recently had to withdraw from the running to keep his seat on the Isle of Wight after expressing homophobic views when speaking at a school. Personally, I feel sure that Drummond will be re-elected despite her fears of complacency of voters and that she will deliver free wifi for the armed forces in the coming months.
Hopefully I will get an opportunity to conduct further political interviews ahead of the election but, for my first experience, I felt my talk with Flick Drummond went as well as could have been expected.