A bite-sized guide to the four politicians standing for election in Hemel Hempstead on May 7.
Mike Penning has been Hemel Hempstead’s MP since the 2005 General Election.
“I think Hemel Hempstead is a one-off. We are the first ones to criticise our town, but also fiercely defend it. When I first came here it was a Labour seat with a lot of Labour councillors. Now it is very different and I think that is because it is maturing from a new town – we’re much better off now.
“The biggest change is that people have aspirations – they want to see things in place for their kids and live their dreams. I am immensely proud of our sports and want to see Hemel Town become a Football League club, and for us to create more of the Max Whitlocks of the world.
“The thing that devastated the town the most was Buncefield, but we asked, do we sit back and let the town deteriorate, or encourage people to come here and change things?
“The big businesses here haven’t come by mistake. National unemployment is at 6% and we are at less than 2%.
“We have changed the face of the town with the first new council homes being built in 25 years and the Old Town and Jarman Park being redeveloped, our economy is growing and crime is falling.
“I want people to vote for me because I am here for them, I live here and I hope I have that reputation. They need someone to stand up and say, ‘Right, these are the issues, let’s change them’.”
Former teacher and businessman Tony Breslin hopes to reclaim the seat for Labour.
“The mess of the town centre’s regeneration needs to be dealt with. During the time the Conservatives have been in power Berkhamsted and St Albans have flourished while Hemel has attracted pound shops and pawnbrokers. I’m pleased to see change in the Marlowes but the proposal to add new retail units and restaurants at Jarman Park threatens to suck the life out of the heart of the town. The Tories promised to rebuild the Pavilion by 2005 but instead they’re building new offices for councillors. Nobody voted for that.
“I’m not a business-as-usual politician. I’ve never worked in politics. I’ll be the kind of MP that stands up for the people who live here We have a plan for Hemel: rebuild the Pavilion, bring services back to the hospital, reverse the closure of children’s centres, review major council development plans, protect our greenbelt and cap rent rises for shops. Nationally, Labour will protect our NHS, extend childcare provision, lower tuition fees and abolish the bedroom tax.
“This election will determine the kind of town and country webecome. Do we continue dismantling our NHS, our welfare state and ourpublic services, or do we build a society that is compassionate and inclusive, one that realises we can achieve more together than apart? A vote for any party other than Labour is a vote for more of the same.”
Business consultant and human rights campaigner Rabi Martins represents Lib Dems.
“The demographic of Hemel Hempstead should really lean towards Lib Dems. We stand for small businesses, and the profile of Hemel is an aspirational constituency.
“There is low-level unemployment, however, the type of employment is not really what it ought to be. We need more big names and upskilling is the number one priority. If we have the right skills, the businesses will move in.
“The one thing I would change is to make the town more business-friendly. My focus absolutely will be to improve the community’s business environment, because it will attract more money into the area and more progress.
“We have got young, ambitious people who want to start family life. The infrastructure has got to be right or they will go elsewhere.
“Housing is a major issue for young people – already they are unable to move out because of cost, and government is taking more and more controls away from local governments, taking away the chance for local people to determine their own local environments.
“We put people first. It’s what Lib Dems stand for and what differentiates us from the other parties. We are absolutely passionate about civil liberties – if you take that away, you take away the whole point of being.”
Howard Koch is the UKIP candidate and also a dentist with a business in the Old Town.
“Without doubt Hemel Hempstead hospital is the most important local issue to me. Let us notforget that it was the Labour party who started the closure of the A&E and maternity.
“The current government has done nothing to reverse theses changes. A population such as Hemel Hempstead must have a hospital with these departments.
“I am a real world person, not a career politician. I started as a student in the NHS back in 1978, and have a real working knowledge of not just the NHS but of running a small business.
“I still have sleepless nights and I can truly empathise with people and understand their concerns and worries, as, most of the time they are my concernsand worries too.
“The LibLabCon has had long enough to sort out our country’s issues, but they have failed. The ‘leaders’ have lost contact with the real people of the UK. The vast majority of the cabinet and shadow cabinet are career politicians who have had privileged lives and do not understand the day to day issues facing real people.
“UKIP dares to be different and is challenging the establishment, and they do not like it. We discuss those issues that they would rather sweep under the carpet. UKIP offers a new way forward and a UKIP vote is a vote for change.”