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News | Published December 09 2019

Election Interview: Ian Walker, Conservative candidate for Sheffield Hallam

In the run up to December's General Election, our election correspondent will be creating profiles of key marginal constituencies around the country, combining the key statistics with interviews with the major candidates. In this article, we interview Ian Walker, Conservative candidate for Sheffield Hallam

Having stood in 2017, former engineer Ian Walker is hoping to build on the 23.8 per cent of the vote he attained previously. 

In that election, incumbent Nick Clegg was famously defeated by Jared O'Mara, the Labour candidate, who has since faced controversy after videos of offensive comments he had made appeared online. 

After working and living across Asia and Europe, in 1992 Walker returned to Sheffield, where he grew up, to take over his family business, Rotary Electrical. 

Speaking to The Parliamentary Review, Walker discusses voter's frustration with Brexit and his plans to improve Sheffield's transport system.

How has the campaign been so far?

It has been very good. 

I stood in Hallam in 2017 and nearly doubled the Conservative vote there and at that point, we got back about half of the Conservative voters who had been persuaded to vote Lib Dem to keep Labour out. If we get the other half back, it will genuinely be a three way marginal.

I beat the Lib Dems in the Sheffield Mayoral election last year and I think there is a weariness about the Lib Dem’s message, especially the dodgy bar charts and deceitful letters going out.

On the doorsteps, a lot of people I speak to say they voted Remain but feel disgusted that parliament hasn’t delivered on the democratic decision of the people. 

Moreover, in many of the areas, particularly the traditional Labour areas, people rush at me in the steet and tell me they are voting for Boris, they want to get it [Brexit] done and they don’t like Corbyn.

If we keep the Leave vote together, we will have a good chance of coming up through the middle in Sheffield Hallam.

If we keep the Leave vote together, we will have a good chance of coming up through the middle in Sheffield Hallam.

On a national level, what is your view on how this election has been conducted?

I think there has been a change in sentiment. 

When I was canvassing in the early days, a lot of people were undecided. After the first leaders debate, that changed to “we are confused.” It seems many are waiting until the last minute to see how they will vote. 

More widely, it has been a much more positive campaign than two years ago and hopefully that will resonate with people much more than the previous election.

When I was canvassing in the early days, a lot of people were undecided. After the first leaders debate, that changed to “we are confused.”

According to polls released after the referendum, Sheffield Hallam voted to Remain by roughly 66 per cent to 34 per cent. How has the slogan "Get Brexit Done" gone down on the doorstep?

Pretty well with most people. There is a small minority of noisey Remainers who wont accept the result. I think about half of the people who voted Remain weren’t passionate Remainers and were thinking more “better the devil you know.”

That is the kind of sentiment I get: most people just want to get on with other things.

Rather than having this go on for another two or three years, negotiating another deal or having another referendum, people are thinking they have made a decision and we should get on and do it.

It is causing uncertainty in terms of business investment and people are fed up with it. We had the Brexit debate three years ago and people now just want to move on. 

Rather than having this go on for another two or three years, negotiating another deal or having another referendum, people are thinking we have made a decision and we should get on and do it.

You were director of the Sheffield Health Authority and later became a director of NHS England North. How do you think the problems the NHS faces can be solved?

I think the main thing is catching up with the investment in capital. Beyond this, it is important to ensure the NHS is doing what it does smarter, rather than just doing more of the same.

Things do move on in terms of technology, diagnostics and predictive diagnoses so I think there is a need to have some stability for the NHS so we can start to fund it to the extent that we need to fund it.

Also, I think people recognise that the NHS is safer with the Conservatives than it is with Labour. Everybody wants a good NHS and with the Conservative offering, we have a better chance of a buoyant growing economy to pay for it rather than unfundable pledges. People understand we need realism.

Overall, it’s a mixture of funding, getting better systems and capital investment. 

Everybody wants a good NHS and with the Conservative offering, we have a better chance of a buoyant growing economy to pay for it rather than unfundable pledges.

On your campaign website, you mention your Christian faith. What would be the main way your faith has shaped your politics?

I think its wanting to give back to my community. 

That’s the main thing that’s driven me. I have the luxury and opportunity to give back to my community, which I have done through various charitable trusts for free, and this is something that motivates me as a Christian: to help those who can be helped in any kind of way. 

I have the luxury and opportunity to give back to my community, which I have done through various charitable trusts for free, and this is something that motivates me as a Christian

If you were elected, what would be your key local priorities?

The thing I have been campaigning on, and something which is central to my literature, has been the need for far greater integrated transport.

I have lived in both London and Japan, both places where they have good integrated transport systems. In Sheffield, there are lots of competing bus services and there is no co-ordination. Different routes have different fares and people have to pay again when switching. This is something which has been solved in London recently and so I think there is a lot of scope to have better integrated services.

I have also been lobbying both Transport for the North and the Treasury about getting better funding models for rail investment, both to improve links in the region but also to London. I am keen to lobby that HS2 is not delayed and HS3 gets a move on. I think they will be vital for inward investment.

I am passionate about using technology and I think Sheffield has a great opportunity with nuclear and zero-carbon energy sources to contribute to net zero emissions by 2050. I think we need to get more funding for Sheffield to be able to continue to invest in that and develop the industries and technologies of the future.

In Sheffield, there are lots of competing bus services and there is no co-ordination. Different routes have different fares and people have to pay again when switching. 

Finally, what is your final message for the people of Sheffield Hallam? 

Firstly, a vote for any other party is more likely to let Jeremy Corbyn into No.10, either through a Labour MP or a Liberal Democrat MP propping up Labour.

Secondly, a vote for any other party will cause confusion and delay over getting Brexit done.  


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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
@theparlreview
December 09 2019

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