Tessa Munt Liberal Democrat candidate

Burnham-On-Sea.com is profiling the local General Election candidates in the run-up to December 12th and here we speak to the Liberal Democrat’s Tessa Munt…

Tessa was previously MP from 2010-2015 in the Wells constituency, which includes Burnham and Highbridge, and she is hoping to win back the parliamentary seat.

“It is going really positive out on the streets – people are very interested in what we have to say,” she says.

“There is a lot going on nationally and my sense is that people have become a lot more interested in politics over the last three and a half years for all sorts of different reasons.”

She adds: “There are lots of local issues that people care about. People are really concerned about housing, planning, education, the fact that schools and hospitals don’t have enough funding, along with issues like crime and general disorder. And, of course, the inevitable ‘B-word’ comes up in everything.”

Tessa says that her personal stance on Brexit has “always been absolutely clear.”

“I voted to ‘remain’. Why? Well, I’ve lived all my adult life as a citizen of this country and therefore as an EU citizen. I’ve seen some of the benefits of that – I’ve been a beneficiary of things like maternity leave, employment rights and all sorts of other things that the EU has brought us.”

“I recognise that a lot of people voted in the referenedum for us to leave Europe, and that was the simple reason why they voted. Others feel that Europe drains us of money, but I think our goverment has been pretty poor in explaining how much money we get in Somerset and how much of that goes into the local economy, helping jobs, agriculture and all sorts of local businesses.”

“I voted to remain and I’m confortable with my party’s policy of having a people’s vote and a confirmatory referendum. I think in the last three and a half years we have all learned a lot more about Europe. I know that for some people it drives them crazy because they feel you are being stubborn, I can understand that.”

“But my position is that we should have a confirmatory referendum so people have a chance to say ‘yes, we definitely want to go out with no deal’, or ‘we want to go out on Boris Johnson’s deal’ or ‘we want to remain’. We need a people’s vote and that’s the way we should go.”

“For those who criticise the lack of democracy in that, we are now in our third election in four years and everyone is entitled to change their vote in every election. I don’t think it’s a ‘crime’ to change your vote in either direction if we have a people’s vote.”

Revoking Article 50 has been a party pledge by the Lib Dem and we asked Tessa what has been the reaction to that on local doorsteps.

“That’s us being absolutely clear on what would happen if you get a Lib Dem majority government. We were criticised massively for the tuition fees debacle when we said that if we were in the government we would say ‘no tuition fees’. What we should have said was ‘if we were the majority government there would be no tuition fees’. Well this time, we are making it perfectly clear that if we are the majority government, we would revoke Article 50. It would be obscure and obtuse if that wasn’t our position.

“People have a choice. It’s right that people should have a choice. We have been very clear on this policy and consistent for 30 years. We believe that business and individuals are better off, on the whole, when we are inside Europe where we can shout and reform it, rather than being outside of it and moaning about it.”

She adds: “The UK has a completely unique deal in Europe – there are nine different opt-outs that we have gathered from the years when Margaret Thatcher and John Major were in power. It’s nothing like the deal that France or Germany have in Europe. No-one has a deal like ours and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a 10th or 11th opt-out. This is the way we have cut our swathe through Europe and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do that again.”

With election day approaching fast, we asked for her confidence level on winning back the parliamentary seat on December 12th.

“I never say that I’m confident – I’m always optimistic and I’m hopeful that it will be the case this time,” she responds.

“There were a lot of things that I started between 2010 and 2015 that I managed to achieve and I managed to help get for this constituency. Overturning the caravan tax at Brean was one of them. Stopping the government from selling off ancient forests was another. We were a ‘break’ from the Conservatives when we were in coalition. It wasn’t perfect – I had to vote for some stuff that I didn’t like.”

“Now, we also face a lot of difficult issues such as the climate emergency. Whether you are concerned about climate change or not, there is so much that we can do together to address this issue.”

“So, yes, I am hopeful to have a position back in Parliament to represent local people. It was something I absolutely loved doing.”

“I would love to be back in Burnham and Highbridge holding my regular MP’s surgeries again so that I can listen to local people’s concerns and work for them on achieving positive results.”