Green Party candidate Ben Loryman talks to The Linc about working for the NHS, the Manchester attacks, and encouraging young people to vote… 

If you could have dinner with three celebrities, alive or dead, who and why? 

Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and William Wilburforce. They all epitomise producing lasting changes in the world.

Being an A&E consultant, the NHS must be something you’re very passionate about?

It’s really why I decided to get involved in politics. The pressure in A&E has just been getting worse and worse, and things like the time it takes to transport a patient from an ambulance to A&E has increased to dangerous times. Getting involved in politics means I can say what I like now, and I’m doing this for the patients. We have significantly low funding of the NHS as a percentage of GDP – it has been flat-lining for years. Even though we’re short of GP’s, and the Conservative promise for 5,000 more GP’s in 2015, this was a promise they couldn’t deliver. Working in A&E for ten years has made me believe that Lincoln’s health service should be self sufficient, and I believe we should have a medical school in Lincoln.

What are the biggest issues for Lincoln going into this election? 

The environment – the Green Party represent this in a way other parties don’t. Climate change as well, and anyone who denies climate change is frankly an idiot. I think, as well, sustainability is a big issue for Lincoln.

One pledge from the Green Party manifesto is to bring mental health care in line with physical care. How would you envision this happening? 

In A&E I see far too many mental health emergencies, students are dropping out of mental health issues, and teenagers in A&E is a regular occurrence. Mental health services are failing us. There needs to be a reduction between the top and the bottom. More support for drug and alcohol abuse, which will pay for itself in the long run when it saves money for physical health care. The Green Party would also like to see therapy waiting time reduced to four weeks at the most.

“Whether or not people decide to vote for me. The important thing is to exercise your right to vote.” Photo: Jamie Sleep.

How would the Green Party represent students? 

Our promise to students is no debt. We will fund this through raising corporation tax on big business, which is currently at a historic low. We also want a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, and preserve the freedom of movement in particular for young people. The ability to study abroad, go Interrailing, or travelling more generally is very important for your generation and we want to ensure this remains.

Your manifesto promises to abolish zero hour contracts. However, many students find zero hour contracts useful and sometimes even necessary for university life. Any comments on this pledge?

I think there should be a review into zero hour contracts, because as you rightly said, they work well for some people. They shouldn’t be abolished entirely, but what does need to be examined is the exploitative nature of them. When it’s someones only source of income, people will turn to food banks and it leads to homelessness. It must be addressed.

What do you think are the big issues for young people going into this election? 

Interestingly, my 18 year old son held a Question Time style event at his school recently where different students represented different parties. They said the biggest issues for them were mental health, as your generation is far more switched onto it than mine ever was. Secondly, reducing the voting age to 16 which is something we have pledged to do. Thirdly, it’s whether Trident should be renewed or not. There’s definitely some anxiety about renewing something worth billions of pounds, but not having enough money for the NHS. Doing door to door canvasing, the main thing we said was ‘are you registered to vote? No? Do it now!’, whether or not people decide to vote for me. The important thing is to exercise your right to vote. Especially young people, where they’re finger-wagged and told ‘you don’t vote because you’re still in bed!’

We’re in a vulnerable place as a country following the attack in Manchester on Monday. Is there anything you’d like to say about the attacks? 

I would like to begin by expressing my most sincere condolences to those affected by the Manchester attacks, and also, I’d like to express sincere gratitude to our security and emergency services – we owe them a great debt. It’s weird to think that my family and I have been there a few times. One time in particular comes to mind, where we tricked my oldest son into thinking we were going to watch Dancing On Ice for my daughter, but really we were watching Dizzee Rascal and Prodigy. We managed to maintain the illusion because Dancing on Ice had been at Manchester Arena the night before, so all the posters were still up, and the look of surprise on his face when they came on stage was amazing.

Another part of the manifesto is the pledge to abolish SATS and introduce non-biased politic education into our schools. How do you think this would best be done? 

My brother teaches at a primary school and he’s fully in favour of this. He believes the tightness of the curriculum is damaging for children. My own daughter, who took SATS fairly recently, she put herself in a real state over the SATS and really they won’t tell her teacher anything she doesn’t already know. As for the political education, I think it should be integrated into PSHE. Teachers are capable of teaching government and politics as a branch of PSHE, from ages 11-16, in a non-biased way.

What are your opinions on the Conservative pledge to have a free vote on fox hunting? 

It’s interesting becoming a candidate, because you get lots of emails and calls asking you to support certain things. When the fox hunting vote was announced we were swamped with emails asking us to battle it, and it’s something we will fight, in the alternate universe where I get elected as well as if I don’t.