LEE Dillon, 36, running as the Liberal Democrat candidate, works for the housing association Sovereign. While it’s his first time standing as MP in Newbury, he has been a town councillor in Thatcham since 2007, and district councillor for many years too.

Being born and raised and living in the area means he shares the ‘same day-to-day issues’ as voters. “I sit in the same traffic jams, my children attend the same state schools, we use the same hospital services, my children were born at Royal Berks.”

He said as the longest serving councillor on Thatcham Town Council, at age 36, shows ‘although I’m young, I’m also backed up with years of experience’. 

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Mr Dillon is campaigning against Brexit, and his party said it would revoke article 50 if winning a majority. But without a majority, they would work with other parties on supporting a second Brexit referendum.

He said Brexit has already caused the UK’s economy to shrink and halted business investment, whereas remaining in the EU would lead to a stronger economy with which we could better fund public services.  

Mr Dillon said people voted to leave ‘because society was becoming unfair’. He said there wasn’t much anti-EU sentiment before the referendum, but ‘once the question was put on the paper, people will often vote for change — as I hope they vote for change this time in Newbury’.

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Defending the decision to go into coalition in 2010, he said ‘we wouldn’t have had a stable government’, and the Liberal Democrats ‘curtailed the worst excesses’ of the Tories. “The markets that were due to open on the Monday morning, it was widely considered they were going to tank if a government wasn’t announced.”

He admitted some decisions in the coalition were ‘wrong’, and said the bedroom tax was ‘crude’. On the tuition fees U-turn, he said: “The mistake was to pledge it in the first place, not the decision that we then took.”

Mr Dillon said voters have forgiven the party for the coalition, and pointed to strong results in recent local and European elections. “I’m the only one that can beat the Conservatives here in Newbury. Any vote that’s not for me increases the chances of a Conservative winning this seat.”

He said the Liberal Democrats have a ‘clear plan on how to tackle climate change by 2045’, including insulating all low income homes by 2025, stopping new diesel and petrol cars from 2030, and generating 80 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2030. 

Green and Labour supporters can also ‘get behind’ policies like investing £11 billion into mental health and hiring 20,000 new teachers. 

The Conservative party is now backed by Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and Tommy Robinson, and is not a one-nation Tory party, Mr Dillon said. But Tory voters in Newbury are ‘moderate, one-nation’ Conservatives, not ‘right-wing ideologues’.

He said it was ‘crucial’ for MPs to live locally, and he wouldn’t support a candidate from his own party if they didn’t live in the constituency. “That’s how important it is for me. If you live in Wantage, then you might go from parliament on the M40 home every night. You might not ever step foot in the constituency apart from to do your surgery on a Friday afternoon.”

Defending criticism of Jo Swinson’s constituency office taking a donation from a director of an energy company involved in fracking, Mr Dillon said: “We are an anti-fracking party, but we took money from somebody who was pro-fracking. The money doesn’t indicate influence on policy.”

He questioned how the Green party would afford spending £100 billion a year on climate change. “Where are they going to find that money, without damaging public services?”

Mr Dillon said his proudest achievement has been in response to the flooding in 2007. He set up a flood forum in Thatcham, and worked with West Berkshire Council and the Environment Agency to get funding for flood defences. 

“The first rule for any politician is about protection, and I’m proud to say that I’ve helped protect Thatcham from flooding.”

On housing, Mr Dillon said: “We need to get back to the housebuilding levels of post-war. In a civilised society and a overall wealthy society, we shouldn’t be seeing people sleeping homeless, it’s a reflection of where as a society we’ve failed.”

Because of the high land value in West Berkshire, people moving back after university ‘really struggle to be able to buy’, 

“A three-bed house in Thatcham to rent is £1,100 a month, same cost as a mortgage. But if you’re having to pay rent, how do you then also save for a mortgage deposit?”

The Liberal Democrats would work closely with residential landlords, like Sovereign, and stop developers from land-banking, and make sure ‘all public land is sold at a rate that reflects its real value, rather than its built-up value’.

“Out of the five candidates, I’ve got the most experience, being able to represent my residents, work within that political environment, to know how to draft motions how to win votes, and how to build consensus. 

“They’re really important skills that you need when you’re an MP, and my 15 years of elected experience, being the mayor of Thatcham twice, being the leader of the town council there, being the leader of the opposition here at West Berkshire, gives me the experience and the credibility to be a good MP.”