Mark Reckons interviews Lib Dem PPC Bridget Fox

Last weekend, I took a trip over to Islington to meet Bridget Fox, the Lib Dem candidate for Islington South & Finsbury.

I had got to know Bridget a little bit via Twitter and blogging but I thought it would be interesting to meet her. She seemed like a strong campaigner from what I could tell and with the Labour incumbent Emily Thornberry only having won against Bridget by 484 votes in 2005, the seat is one of the party’s main targets at the next general election.

I helped out during the day with some leafletting and canvassing. In between the morning and afternoon sessions I took the opportunity to interview her outside the Market Cafe on Whitecross Street.

An edited version of the interview appears below. The full version is available on my blog here.

Mark Thompson: What first sparked your interest in politics?

Bridget Fox: Well, I grew up in a political household. My dad was a local councillor when I was a small girl and a local campaigner in the Labour Party. Both he and my mum were very active in all sorts of community groups and single issue campaigns like anti-apartheid and the world development movement so I grew up kind of thinking it was a normal thing to do.

MT: So was it the Labour Party that you initially got involved with then?

BF: I helped my dad out with his campaigns when I was still too young to vote. Then when I went to university, I always assumed that I would join the Labour Party but I ended up joining the Liberals because I found they were closer to my own views. Still committed to social justice but much more interested also in the individual and in the environment, two things that I was increasingly concerned about.

[…]

MT: I noticed one of the issues that you feel very strongly about is tuition fees for students. What do you think about the latest noises from the Lib Dem party leadership about this?

BF: Well there have been various sets of noises. Firstly I think for me it is an absolutely touchstone issue because it is about whether you think education is something worth society paying for as opposed to the individual paying for and I think it is. It is also about whether you want the life changing experience of higher education to be availble to all on the basis of merit, not ability to to pay and I do. So for me it’s a no-brainer. Having said that, I was alarmed when it looked like the party might be changing its opposition to tuition fees and I am glad it’s been seen off…

MT: But has it been seen off though?

BF: Well, I think it was seen off in the policy thing and we had Stephen Williams came to one of our pizza and politics evenings to debate the issue with us and I was confident it had been seen off at that stage. I think now the position we’re in is that we are looking at a situation where the next parliament which I hope and expect to be a member of is going to have to make tough decisions because there isn’t going to be enough money to go around. In a context where at the moment people do pay tuition fees, I think it is understandable for the party to say of the things we may want to change, spending a lot more money on this now may not be something that we are able to do immediately even if it is something that we want to do. To me, it’s not a cut, it’s can’t spend more money yet which in a time of recession I think is understandable but it is still something I believe is right in principle and I hope we would do when the money is there.

[…]

MT: What would you say is your number one political passion?

BF: Oh goodness! It’s very mean to ask somebody for one you know!?

MT: You can say more than one then!

BF: I’ll give you three then. Education, the environment; fighting climate change and civil liberties. I think that’s a pretty good Lib Dem mix!

[…]

MT: What is it that makes you a Liberal Democrat?

BF: Well I joined the party because Labour’s method of social justice was not acceptable to me. I do not want to trade freedom for equality. Also, I could see the havoc that the Tories were wreaking. I have never doubted that it was the right choice. I think we have the right balance and I have seen how good we are at a local level, especially where poorer people have lost out because of Labour’s approach. The rich can buy themselves out of these problems but the poor can’t.

[…]

MT: You are very active on Twitter and you also maintain a blog. How do you find using these sort of technology helps with your campaigning?

BF: They are really useful but it would be lazy to just rely on the technology. There are still a significant minority of people who are not online but I think that as a politician to not use it would be wrong. It is a way of communicating that I do like, I really like the genuine interactivity but it is part of the mix.


* Mark Thompson blogs at Mark Reckons.

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6 Comments

  • Paul Convery 8th Sep '09 - 9:27am

    Thank you for publishing Bridgets’ tortured admission that the Lib Dems will renege on the policy to abolish tuition fees. One of the funny things about current politics is that, in recent years, I have found some of the Liberals’ policies appealling. Not so appealling as to get my vote, however. But it’s remarkable how, when seemingly faced with real choices, these superficially attractive policies get ditched.

  • For those not in the know, Convery is an Islington Labour councillor who spends much of his time stalking Bridget around the internet. I sincerely hope the internet represents the limits of his stalking.

    Convery, I suspect that what you’re finding appealing is the notion of principle – for example, a party that recognises the constraints of a particular economic situation on its policies, and while maintaining them as commitments accepts that they may not be immediately achievable is principled if it does so publicly before an election. A party that, say, puts aspirations into its manifesto that it knows will not be achievable (but puts them before the public as policies regardless) is not.

  • Paul Convery 20th Sep '09 - 8:30pm

    And who is Adam Bell? Just for the record, I do take an interest in what Bridget says and does. After all, I am a Councillor in Islington South and Finsbury. She presently declares herself to be the constituency’s “shadow MP” a term which takes some chutzpah, doesn’t it? In about the last couple of years think I have posted half a dozen comments either on Bridget’s own blog or on Libdemvoice. I don’t think that’s obsessive is it? Just “engaging in debate”. Perhaps I’ll not bother, then.

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