‘Your vote matters. It can make a difference’: We spoke to Lancaster Labour MP Cat Smith
Go and vote, hun
Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that there's a General Election on the horizon. With that in mind, The Tab Lancaster thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Lancaster MP Cat Smith to discuss the impending election and what it means for Lancs students.
You tweeted support in favour of keeping The Sugarhouse – how do you feel now that students have overwhelmingly voted to halt sale negotiations?
"Obviously if I'd have had a vote in that then I'd have voted in the same way that 95 percent of students voted, to save Sugarhouse. I was a student in Lancaster, and had lots of really good times at The Sugarhouse. I think it's really good news because I don't want future students missing out on any really good, safe, fun nights out. The vote has been a really clear message to the students' union."
What do you think is the most important message to Lancaster students in this election?
"Most important message is that your vote matters. It can make a difference, and the way things are going now is not inevitable. It shouldn't be the case that poorer students are graduating with £57,000 of debt, that house prices are now eight times the average salary, that you're more likely to end up in substandard housing in the years after graduation, that real wages are still lower than before the 2008 financial crisis.
"We're a rich country, and if we share things out more equitably then you can have a better standard of living and decent public services."
You went to Lancaster Uni – which college were you in, and what do you miss the most about it?
"I was Cartmel College! I miss the freedom. I don't think you appreciate it at the time, but as someone who is now an MP, a member of the Shadow Cabinet and a mum to a toddler, I just don't have the time to do the things I used to be able to do.
"I remember that I used to go to The Dukes three or four times a week and watch random films and I got really into that. I'd love to have the time to do that stuff now. I also met my husband at university, so I should probably mention that, shouldn't I?"
How do you feel about your vote share margin in the coming election? Are you worried, or does it invigorate you to get even more involved?
"I won this seat off the Conservatives in 2015, it's not a safe seat for any party, it's always going to be a tight marginal seat. I've walked every street, knocked on every door, and I campaign all year round – not just election time. Because it's important to be accessible and visible.
"I'm proud to stand on a record of responding to 28,500 contacts and constituents. I'm the MP for this area who has spoken more times than any other in parliament, I've been an active MP and I give it my absolute all."
Millions of young people have registered to vote in this election – do you feel you're offering enough to Lancaster students for them to back you?
"Yes. I've pushed out loads on social media about registering to vote, and I'm really disappointed that our political opponents haven't really done that.
"I feel that the Labour Party offers lots to students, so the National Education Service about education being free, abolishing tuition fees. But also the world of work, we're pushing for an increase in the national minimum wage – Labour would abolish that age discrimination, and ensure that the Living Wage would be the floor."
So how do you feel about international students in Lancaster who aren't able to vote in this General Election?
"EU nationals fall into that category, and we've been really clear that they should have the vote in this General Election. I was one of the MPs who tabled the amendments that 16 and 17 year olds should have the vote and that EU citizens should have the right to vote in this election, too. Sadly, neither of them passed."
Do you think Labour would still support votes for 16 and 17 year olds if the youth vote wasn't with your party?
"It's been a longstanding Labour policy for votes at 16, and that was well before Labour was ahead in the polls in that age demographic. I don't presume that 16 and 17 year olds would always vote the way that they're currently indicating that they would vote. It's the right thing to do, and you can't make policy decisions on what is advantageous to you – you've got to do what is the right thing; and it is the right thing."
This election is about more than Brexit – but what do you think those things are?
"The climate emergency. If we don't act now, it's too late. We have to act now; this government has dragged its feet on the emergency. Our local council rejected planning applications for fracking in Lancashire, but were overridden by Westminster and Whitehall who pushed fracking upon Lancashire.
"Poverty is also another issue. I just don't think that it's right that around 100,000 children will spend Christmas Day homeless, and in B&Bs. I don't think it's right that thousands of kids are getting their Christmas Dinners from food banks."