Meri O’Connell is the Liberal Democrats candidate for Reading West.

Ms O’Connell moved to Woodley as a child and currently lives in Tilehurst.

She has stood twice previously in Reading West.

She is in her second term in office as a councillor at Reading Borough Council (RBC) recently retrained as a geography teacher.

Below is the Q&A with Meri to find out why he is standing for your vote in Reading West.

Hi Meri. How has this time compared to previous elections?

It is so different. Completely and utterly different.

I’ll be honest with you. In some ways it is not as much as fun. It feels like a lot of issues are being forced to take a back seat over Brexit. This election is all about Brexit.

I guess you didn’t join the Lib Dems to just talk about Brexit?

Up until 2016, nobody had ever mentioned our membership of the EU as being an issue. It did not come up. It was things like the NHS, school, and housing.

Climate change has quite rightly leapt up the agenda.

Certainly, I did not join the Lib Dems to just talk endlessly about Brexit.

One of the reasons I joined the Lib Dems is because they are internationalist and are looking for global working to solve problems that impact on Britain.

As a geography teacher that fits in quite well because we teach people about global development, the positives and negatives of multi nationals and climate change.

I have always believed that global co-operation and working is the way forward so Brexit doesn’t fit in with that.

How did you get into teaching?

I have always believed that education is a way out of our circumstances. Equality of opportunity in education has always sat front and centre with me.

My grandma came over from Ireland at age 13 with no education and she ended up the headteacher of a school.

I started teacher training just after the last election and I love it.

Is education a big part of what you are talking about when you meet people?

I like the Lib Dems education policies. They were always known for a penny on income tax for education. The focus on education hasn’t altered.

Education is pretty important to me but also things that aren’t making it onto this year’s election agenda such as the justice system.

We have an underfunded prison system – too many people crammed in.

My experience working with young offenders is that their first spell in prison is an ideal opportunity – they would willingly take every single opportunity to be out of their cells and in a classroom.

We need to really look at reforming prison to rehabilitate people so when they come out of prison they can become valued members of society.

Which of your party’s policies would improve the lives of people in Reading?

Obviously our stance on Brexit.

Reading did vote to remain and I think we have always been an incredibly multi-cultural society.

When I was growing up it was said that Reading Marks and Spencer’s was a test market for the rest of the country.

We were demographically a perfect example of multi-cultural Britain and I wouldn’t want to lose that.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have come here from the EU and are contributing massively to Reading’s economy and society, who are fully integrated into the Reading community.

They are sensing this hostile environment; they are feeling less welcome than they used to. That pains me. I would hate to lose that openness that Reading has always had.

Are there any local campaigns you would focus on as MP?

An increase in local government funding.

Whilst I don’t agree with all the decisions the Labour group has made in the past and recently, I do recognise the funding from central government to local government has gone.

When people want reasonable changes to Reading there is no spare cash to implement these ideas, which makes residents feel that RBC doesn’t care. We do.

Whoever gets in has to campaign to reverse some of those cuts so we can start doing things for local people instead of shortening library hours further and cutting back further on youth services.

Housing is a massive problem in pretty much the whole of Berkshire. I have long thought it is incredibly unfair that local government workers don’t see the outer London government working allowance.

That is something I think is a reasonably achievable win.

What do you think Alok Sharma has done well and not so well as an MP?

Alok is a charming gentleman and I know when he has had dealings with my Tilehurst residents many of them have found him to be helpful.

My disappointment is with his changing of stance on Brexit. Before the referendum, he wrote a very reasoned and lengthy piece on all the benefits that Reading would get by remaining in the EU.

I thought ‘good for you Alok’. I do not understand, and he has never explained, how he got from that opinion to be willing to crash out of the EU with a no deal with Boris Johnson.

I find that disappointing and it does make me question the strength of his belief and his willingness to stand up for his beliefs.

He seems to have voted whichever way the leader of the Conservative Party wants him to.

Did you consider an election pact with the Green Party?

There was a lot of talk about this. The election pacts have all been agreed at a national level. I don’t believe at any point Reading East or West were part of the discussions.

In some respects, it has been an enormous shame that Labour couldn’t come on board in some seats. I would have liked to see an extension of the remain alliance, however Labour is not a party of remain. That was a barrier to an election pact in Reading West.

Do you worry that Alok Sharma, who is pro-Brexit, might become MP because of a split vote?

I have spent an enormous amount of time thinking about this because the thought that I might enable Brexit really worried me.

However, what is becoming increasingly apparent to me during the election is that people coming to us from the Conservatives would never vote for a Corbyn-led government.

They are more scared of Corbyn than a hard Brexit. If I wasn’t standing they would bite their beliefs on Brexit and vote for Alok Sharma.

Similarly, people have come over due to a lack of clarity of their Labour stance but also because of the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

There has to be a centre option.

We need to fundamentally change our voting system. I would desperately like to see the introduction of proportional representation.

We have proven that first past the post does not reflect the complexity of the modern voting public.

Gone are the days when you voted for the same party all your life because your parents and their parents voted to them.

People now are willing to switch and change on things that matter to them. I think that is healthy.

I don’t want to see the Lib Dems increase in power to the point where we replace one of the big two parties. I want there to be two big parties. I don’t want a further slipping towards a them or us situation.

A lot of people I speak to would vote to the Greens but know, in Reading East and Reading West, there is no point.

I think it is wrong that we are voting against things rather than for things.

Would you support going into coalition with either Labour or the Tories?

I don’t think we would. My understanding is there would be no formal coalition with either leader.

I would be very disappointed if we did because I don’t think either leader is particularly good for the country.

There are other leaders that I think we could have worked with.

Boris Johnson is a proven liar and unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn, he was a good backbencher, but I don’t see the trust from the people in him.

Every morning you wake up and hear how many extra billion the Labour have promised this time. It would be wonderful if half of the Labour manifesto was financially achievable but I don’t think it is realistic.

I don’t think it would be financially responsible to cause the kind of changes to society that are being proposed.

Meri spoke to Launchpad after our interview to discuss her views on housing and homelessness.

You can watch her interview with Launchpad here.