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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sarah Webster, Conservative MP Candidate for Brighton Pavilion: GENERAL ELECTION 2024

Jade Montana

ByJade Montana

Jul 3, 2024

Election day, Thursday 4 July, is just a day away. As campaigning is heating up in the final few days, The Badger spoke with Sarah Webster, the Conservative Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion. Webster has lived in Brighton for years; meeting her husband here and choosing Brighton to settle down in to raise her children. 

Why did you choose to run in Brighton this year?

For me Brighton has been home, whenever I’ve lived abroad when people ask where I’ve come from I’ve always said Brighton – and I’m proud to call it home.I studied politics at university and I’ve always had a keen interest in standing for Brighton. 

Admittedly, it’s not an easy seat if you’re a Conservative that’s for sure! I’m not a career politician – I believe in serving the people and serving the place I call home, and I think Brighton deserves a strong Conservative voice. 

What could you, as a Conservative MP, bring to Brighton that is new and different from the fourteen years of Green leadership? 

I don’t want to take anything away from any woman, especially not one who literally broke the glass ceiling for being the first Green MP. I don’t want to disparage any work being done by the Green Party but what I would say is that the Green and Labour run council has let Brighton down. 

The mistakes they have made all over the city are being felt. People are saying “look what a mess the Greens have made of Brighton,” Conservatives are not ‘the baddies’ that [people think]. We need to be a lot stronger and firmer with those running rubbish collection, and we need to have strong policies on how we run the roads.We would all like to see fewer cars, but if we throw in regulations haphazardly – which is what has been done – one minute I’m in a bus lane and it’s illegal, the next minute it’s been moved. 

It is just sensible politics, which is what a Conservative MP can bring to the city. Making life easier is what I can bring for constituents. 

You have in the past labelled yourself as resilient and determined, an MP as an individual is very different to a whole party. How are you going to prove to people that you are any different to the scandalous Conservative MPs we have seen?

There are a lot of people thinking that things are not working, or complain of waiting lists, but we have a whole raft of new candidates that – if elected – will be taking the message that we can’t keep hearing about problems but ignoring them back to our party, whether in government or opposition.

If I got all of my news from social media I can understand why people might not like us, but you’ve got to look at our actual track record and look at what we have done. The Environment Bill for instance, is one of the biggest post-Brexit pieces of legislation and it is all about net zero, air pollution; I don’t think many people know that was us! We’re not very good at banging our own drum and I think we need to get better at that. [If we can get] more young people into the party, then hopefully we can get that message over. 

What about personal values though? How can new Conservative MPs rebuild the Conservative brand to overcome the period of scandals within the party where strong personal values have not been shown?

We’ve had a few own goals, that’s for sure! As a new candidate, that is frustrating, but I am a Conservative at heart and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Conservatism is not [being a] bad person, Conservatism means standing up for yourself, for success, ambition, prosperity. It’s independence not dependence, it means giving people a leg up to succeed. I stand up for all of those policies. 

There is all this scandal out there, but it is only a small minority of people responsible and there are people in all parties that have done something wrong. I don’t stand by anyone who has done something wrong. There are a lot of really hard working candidates that are striving to be heard but the press loves drama. 

How can you enact your idea of ‘not standing by anyone doing anything wrong’ and at the same time support your leader, Rishi Sunak, who has been fined for breaking COVID-19 laws, or missed D-Day celebrations? Is that not a contradiction?

I think we’re all human. I know that might be a get out of jail free card but he did apologise; it was an error of judgement. He did stay for all the UK veteran stuff but there were the pictures and no, it doesn’t look good, but we’re all standing by him in his apology. 

When you do something wrong, if you can be the first one to put your hand up and say you’re sorry, that shows more integrity than someone hiding behind their mistake. 

I’m not a doomster gloomster, I’m a pragmatic, ‘let’s get things done’ person. It’s not great, I’ll admit that, but he’s our leader and we’ve got to stand by him. 

How can you reassure students that their degrees are valuable and not ‘low quality’? And how will the Conservatives’ new apprenticeship scheme give the same experiences as life at university?

Aside from having my children, my best time of life was at university. You get more from university than a degree – you get a sense of community. As part of an apprenticeship you will be spending some time at uni so you will still be part of that. 

My eldest loves academia but my other son was unfortunately at college during COVID and he lost his love of education through that experience. His view is “why get all of the debt when I can go and get a job and get experience?” The good thing about the apprenticeships is that it’s offering a choice. There’s now a choice where you can be paid to learn, so you have work experience, learning experience, and avoid the debt of university. There’s the other choice for those who want the uni life and don’t mind the debt. Under the Conservatives you can make that choice; whatever suits you best. 

What can the Conservatives do to support students better financially and make sure that they can afford to live and provide for themselves at university?

It is really tricky, it’s very difficult, there is not enough housing and it’s about not having enough stock to be able to put prices down. We need to build more appropriate property in more appropriate places for students. We need to be more hardline on bad landlords and how they treat their tenants, we need to have a real look at renting. 

There are student stock properties in all cities, and so we need to look at what stock is available for rent, and make sure that landlords are being held to account as to what they’re offering. That’s another reason why apprenticeships may be more suitable for those without parental or financial support to help with rent. 

I don’t have an instant solution for that, and no party does. The social housing stock we have in Brighton is not being looked after by Labour and Greens here, so we need to make sure we have a government looking after student properties. 

What are your top three priorities for students if you were to become Brighton Pavilion MP?

  1. Choice: allowed to choose how you get your learning. Apprenticeship or degree.
  1. Travel: If I could find a way to make it easier for students to travel, if we could get much better funding that would be very helpful for students to travel to uni or to travel back home to see their families.
  2. Listened to: I want more young people in politics, we have an ageing political environment, you are the future! We need to give them a voice as relevant as ours. 

Image Taken by Brighton and Hove Conservatives

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