1. Simple one to get going – what’s your full name and what do you like to known as?
My full name is Benjamin Harvey Locker. My middle name is after an eccentric old friend of my dad’s. I prefer Ben.
2. What do you like most about the Ward you are standing for, and what made you want to stand this time?
3. You do live in the Ward – what do you think about candidates standing in Wards they don’t live in?
It’s up to each person, but when the ward boundaries were redrawn recently I preferred to stay in Mile End rather than stand for a ‘safe’ seat. I’ve been putting myself forward for Mile End since 2012 and I’ve built up so many good relationships locally.
4. What political party are you aligned with, if any, and why?
I’m a Conservative. When I lived in Hackney, I hated the one-size-fits-all politics of the council there. It got me thinking about which party my views most broadly aligned with, and I realised I was a Conservative. So I joined and spent several challenging years campaigning in some of London’s most deprived areas.
5. Do you think your political party’s actions at a national level will have an effect on you locally?
To an extent, but there’s nothing you can do to change national policy. All you can do is keep ploughing your own furrow locally – residents who know you respect that.
6. Everyone needs a break – what are your favourite hobbies?
I have an old Triumph Herald I love tinkering with and slowly repairing. When the sun’s shining my first instinct is to head down to my allotment – it’s a couple of minutes from my back gate. And throughout my life I have adored classical music and have read voraciously. My degree is in Medieval History, but I’m getting absorbed in a lot of reading about 20th Century history at the moment. Sadly, society seems determined to repeat so many of the mistakes of the past.
7. When not doing politics, what does your day usually consist of?
Writing for my clients (I’m a copywriter), looking after my children and putting off domestic chores until the last possible moment.
8. How do you feel Colchester Borough Council currently performs for Colchester?
I think the current Council has pretty much run out of steam. I also think it has got complacent and has got a long way to go before it is seen as transparent. Whatever your political outlook, I think most people would agree it desperately needs fresh ideas and fresh blood.
9. What is the best thing about Colchester and what one thing would you change tomorrow about Colchester if you could?
There’s so much that’s good! I particularly like the grassroots work and enthusiasm of people like Ben Howard and Marc De’Ath. Without them, Colchester would never have seen brilliant things like the Free Festival or the Waiting Room. If I could change one thing, it would be for the council to give much more support to grassroots work and help more people who want to do good things for our town and borough.
10. Who are your heroes?
Politically, William Wilberforce for leading the movement to abolish the slave trade and for being very much his own man. Musically, Bach. Professionally, David Ogilvy. And in literature, Evelyn Waugh – not a nice man, but an incredible writer.
11. What would you do to promote disabled rights if you are a Councillor after the election?
I think the first step is to learn how I can best help, and that means learning from people who are disabled or care for those who are. Until I suffered from mental illness myself, I had no real insight into the way it damages relationships, families and careers. I have promoted this issue by writing in the Guardian and elsewhere. In the same way, I need to learn about the problems facing people with disability before I can help them more as a councillor.
13. What is your view on the spread of fines for the rough sleeping and homeless?
I think it is morally repugnant. I would never vote to introduce it in Colchester.
16. What is the biggest problem in the Ward you are standing in?
Lack of investment. The council has taken millions of pounds from the Government in New Homes Bonus as thousands of houses have been built in Mile End. But instead of investing that money in community facilities, most of it has gone elsewhere – with a substantial portion propping up the council’s base budget. That is wrong and stores up major problems for the future. Mile End’s Lib Dem councillors have not fought for this money to come back to the ward, and it’s beginning to show.
17. Which green and ecologically-wise policies do you think Colchester borough should instigate?
I think it’s the little things that change people’s behaviour that are most effective. So things like recycling bins, rather than just litter bins, on our pavements; work in our allotments to inspire others to grown their own food; bringing farmers’ markets into town, so people can more easily source local food (hats off to the East of England Co-op for their work on this). One of the things that worries me most is our food chain – the more we opt for local food, the more we support local businesses, cut food miles, get a stronger connection with our local agriculture and enjoy much better produce.
18. Tollgate Village, Northern Gateway… views?
I think both have been handled shamefully. I thought the way that pro-Tollgate Lib Dem councillors conveniently didn’t sit on the second committee put the council in a terrible light. I want good developments in Tollgate and the Northern Gateway, but the council mustn’t only be impartial – it must be seen to be impartial. To date it hasn’t, and it is paying the price.
19. Do you think our current government and electoral system is fit for purpose?
I think the current Government has achieved a lot and made some bad mistakes. Most governments do to a greater or lesser extent. I think first-past-the-post is the best of an imperfect range of electoral systems, and I like the local connection with a constituency MP. I would, however, change the Borough Council elections so we vote once every four years, not spend 3 out of every 4 years going to the polls. It’s expensive, it puts residents off local politics and it means that councillors spend too much time electioneering rather than working for the borough.
20. Are you having second thoughts?
I have had second thoughts every year since 2012. But there’s something great about local democracy. When I don’t get elected, I know I’ve given it my best shot and residents wanted someone different. When I do get elected, it means I am in a position to help my ward and the borough in more ways. Either way, I don’t take it personally!
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