It’s not everyday you flick through Heat magazine to see a local politician grinning back at you. Especially not from the “Hot men in pants with babies, cute dogs and other stuff” section…. However Belfast South Westminster candidate, Ben Manton of the NI Conservative Party, managed to be that politician. But before you get your hopes, we should make it clear that he was fully clothed!
Last week the so called “waiter by day, political master mind by night” attended the School of Politics, International Studies and philosophy South Belfast Hustings event in the Great Hall at QUB. Our reporter, Eugene Tinnelly, managed to grab a quick chat with Mr Manton to get his views on some local issues, particularly those which affect students.
As a recent student himself, Mr Manton should have his finger on the pulse when it comes to student issues. With this in mind, what does he believe is the top concern for students today?
“Well, the biggest thing that students must be worried about at the end of their degree is where will they get a job?…I want to see a programme in Belfast, specifically focused on getting people into employment….I don’t believe that university is necessarily the only way to get a job, so I’d like to see an equal opportunity for all young people in Northern Ireland so that they can get a job at entry level and at post graduate level as well.”
Most of the electorate in Northern Ireland tend to lend their vote towards local parties rather than national ones, so what incentive does Mr Manton believe the Tories can offer to encourage people to put an X on their polling card?
“What we’re offering voters is a say in who forms the Government. We’re the only national party standing in Northern Ireland that has the opportunity of getting the keys to Downing Street and we want to bring local views and values with that government.”
Mr Manton may well have joined the Conservative Party for that reason, but what does he think of politics in Northern Ireland more generally?
“The strange thing in Northern Ireland is that we have Irish nationalism and Ulster nationalism. I wouldn’t call any party other than the Conservatives a unionist party. We’re a pro union party, that offers people a say on the UK, and all the DUP and UUP are worried about is…which party can give them more money to spend and waste on Northern Ireland. As it is, we get 23% per head more spending in Northern Ireland than the UK average, and they just simply waste it.”
In recent weeks, opinion polls are suggesting that a hung parliament is on the cards at Westminster. There has been much speculation that the Conservatives will form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). However with ever increasing media coverage of Jim Well’s comments about the LGBT community, does Mr Manton believe that such a coalition would be a good thing?
“At the end of the day we are looking for an outright majority. We do not wish to court the DUP and we hope not to have to court the DUP. They don’t represent Conservative values; David Cameron was the one who introduced equal marriage into Westminster. We would hope to secure that record on civil liberties, and the DUP simply spit in the face of that.”
You can hear Eugene’s interview with Ben Manton in full by clicking on the following link.