THE County Gazette and Bridgwater Mercury has interviewed each of the Bridgwater and West Somerset candidates ahead of Thursdays elections.

Bill Revans is the Liberal Democrat candidate hoping for your vote on December 12.

County Gazette: What experience do you bring to the table that would make you a good MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset?

BR: First of all, I have lived here all my life. I grew up in the Quantocks in a small village, and after moving to North Petherton I became a councillor here and have been for 18 years.

I taught in local schools for 22 years, 14 of those at secondary schools in Bridgwater.

As a councillor I know a lot about the local issues, and I am also a member of the Exmoor National Park Authority and that gives me a unique perspective of this constituency.

I have a lot of experience in the education service locally and I know a lot about the health service as a carer and also two of my children work in the NHS, one as a paramedic, one as a doctor.

I am also particularly concerned about the environment and the impacts we are seeing on this area. For example if you look at the cliffs at Blue Anchor you can see the impact of coastal erosion there, we know about the floods that affected the Somerset Levels in 2014, and a 110cm sea level rise in the Bridgwater area sees an awful lot of people’s houses underwater, and these are important issues politicians need to be addressing – not just Brexit.

CG: You are relatively well-known in the Bridgwater area, but how confident are you of getting through to the people of West Somerset?

BR: I’m very confident, we have a fantastic campaign team in West Somerset. We have taken control of Somerset and West Taunton Council, we have four cabinet members that represent wards in West Somerset and we have made tremendous gains there.

CG: Liberal Democrats have set out their stall as the party of Remain voters. In Bridgwater and West Somerset around 60 per cent of people voted to leave in the 2016 referendum – have people told you they want to vote for you but can’t because they disagree on Brexit?

BR: Oh yes, I have quite a lot of friends who say they are not going to vote for me! That’s fine, we disagree, we’re still mates.

One of the big things I want to try and get across in this election is that we’ve got to respect each other’s different points of view. That being said I have met a lot of people who have changed their minds and would now vote differently, I have also met younger people who didn’t get the opportunity to vote three years ago so there are plenty of people who haven’t yet nailed their colours to the mast.

Once you look at the detail of the Brexit deal you start seeing the impact that it might have, in farming, in tourism, in manufacturing and distribution, and I think that will have a bigger impact on this area than people realise.

CG: What do you say to people who argue the policy of immediately revoking Article 50 if you get a majority government would be undemocratic?

BR: I voted against that policy at conference, and I can see that argument. It would be the first majority Liberal government since 1906, and even though I am a perennial optimist, I will be quite frank, I don’t think we will quite make a majority Liberal Democrat government. It is a position to clarify we are against Brexit but the reality is it will probably be a lever to extract a second referendum in negotiations if there wasn’t an outright majority.

CG: What do you feel are the key, non-Brexit-related policies the Liberal Democrats are putting forward at this election?

BR: The importance of tackling climate change and how important it is to invest in our public services, particularly the problems we see in the NHS and education.

Also we must tackle the social care crisis in West Somerset.

That penny the Liberal Democrats would put on income tax to pay for health and social care perhaps would be absolutely key for us.

CG: Independent candidate Diogo Rodrigues dropped out of the race, stating the chances of Ian Liddell-Grainger being ousted would be improved with less candidates standing – given Labour gained 10,000 more votes than Liberal Democrats at the last election, does a vote for you increase the chances of a Conservative win?

BR: That was three years ago, we’ve seen two sets of elections since then. The Labour Party came third in the local elections and fifth in the European elections. We see ourselves as the clear challengers to the Conservatives in this constituency and the fact that we’ve selected a strong local councillor if I might describe myself that way and I believe the Labour candidate lives in London, that perhaps suggests we are taking it a little more seriously.

CG: Do you think you might be better at representing people on local issues than Ian Liddell-Grainger? How would your approach as an MP perhaps differ to his?

BR: I think having that perspective of being a local person who has lived here all my life, who cares passionately about the local issues is really important.

I stood against Ian Liddell-Grainger’s predecessor Tom King in 1992. Going around the constituency Tom King was highly respected as a constituency MP. He did the work, he held regular surgeries even when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he kept in touch with local people. I disagreed with him politically but he was a good constituency MP – I don’t hear the same things about Ian Liddell-Grainger.

CG: Do you think tackling the climate emergency and economic growth can go hand-in-hand?

BR: It will be a challenge, that being said, doing things differently doesn’t necessarily mean we will be worse off. If we eat food that has less food miles then that food will just be locally produced rather than imported. Perhaps we do need to look at changes in our diet, we do need to look at using cars and fossil fuels far less but there are alternative energy sources that are lower in carbon or carbon-free. Lets be honest about this, tackling climate change means some pretty fundamental changes in how we behave everyday.

CG: As a former schoolteacher, what do you believe to be the foremost priorities the government should be targeting to improve the education system?

BR: First of all I think we need to change the system of inspection, I don’t think the Ofsted service is fit for purpose in improving education. Secondly I would invest heavily in early years education, that is when people learn the most and we need to make sure the basics are there as a foundation for the next stages in education. I also think we need to re-establish professional respect for teachers, teacher workload has become unmanageable and I know many of my friends have been broken by the system.

Get to know your candidate:

CG: Do you have any pets?

BR: Two dogs, Barney and Bailey, a golden retriever and a beagle. They are rescue dogs I adopted two years ago.

CG: What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

BR: I love playing and watching cricket. I do a bit of umpiring too.

CG:Do you have a favourite film?

BR: My nickname at East Bridgwater School was Shrek – which was a well-meant and lovely nickname, and I do love the film as well.

CG: If you could have three dinner guests, past or present, who would you invite?

BR: WG Grace, he is one of my cricketing idols and was supposed to be a really great character, my political idol which is David Lloyd George, and the great suffragist Millicent Fawcett who did massive amounts to forward the rights of women across the board.