You wait for by-elections and then two come along at once. Copeland will be very interesting and given the issues close to my heart, I have contacted CCHQ to put my name forward as a candidate.
This article is my unsubtle pitch to be Copeland's next MP. My agenda is clear: nuclear first with commitment to protecting vital public services and delivering on Brexit which I have always campaigned for.
The constituency may not even exist at the next general election but the people and local economy will need a MP who will stands with them, fighting for their issues and not looking over their shoulder at boundary change proposals. In short, it does not need a career politician dependent on politics for their livelihood. No one can deny Jamie Reed's support of nuclear energy and his input into seeing the Kirkup report into Morecambe Bay delivered. He has been a very hard working representative and his new employer will have an ally for prosperity in the nuclear sector.
I am a passionate believer in nuclear energy. That does not mean I want to give Moorside's proposed AP1000 a nod and move on. It means I believe the only way credible way the UK can source its power in a way that is clean, sustainable, reliable and independent of imports from dubious regimes is a full revamp of nuclear power in the UK, from the front end of the fuel cycle to the end.
I make no apology for detail. This is big and it is of national importance.
You cannot get this on the agenda with a few sloppy speeches and a lack of vision. Sellafield is paying the price of decades of trundling half-truths and quaint ideas. If candidates don't like their nuclear energy they should consider standing elsewhere. There are over 600 seats out there that don’t require commitment to nuclear power.
I also back our steel sector as much as we can without breaking WTO tariff rules. We cannot promise things that breach our international obligations. We voted Brexit to make our own laws, not break them.
So, I would campaign for:
· A new UKAEA as the driver of the nuclear sector with a mission statement to develop and deploy the most advanced reactors technically proven. This would mean the NDA would be a subsidiary to UKAEA with its focus on decommissioning being discrete and part of the overall process of nuclear power, not the sectors core mission.
· Reinvestment in THORP and rebooting fuel reprocessing at Sellafield. This would mean a fuel cycle that removes ALL heavy elements from the waste stream and actinide recycle. There is no other option with dealing with transuranics as the farcical situation at Yucca Mountain in the USA demonstrates. France has done a lot of work on new ways of removing hard to treat elements from waste. Let's cooperate. The choice for safe nuclear waste disposal is reprocessing or denial. Thousands of jobs have been lost in nuclear power already, ending reprocessing is not a credible option in the long term. At best we delay the inevitable and lose the capacity to do it ourselves. This is the case even if we shut every nuclear power plant tomorrow so opposing reprocessing is believing in a flat Earth. I say this is detail because we need to build a case to protect your jobs and develop your expertise so it stays world beating.
· Magnox Pond Cleanup is perhaps the biggest battle for the next five years. I am on board and would fight for the resources to get this boxed off. It should never have come to this, what Labour were going for 13 years bewilders me. This issue is sore but it will be solved. No slacking from Westminster would be allowed under my watch. A bad past is no barrier to a bright future for Sellafield.
· All water cooled fuel to use British stainless steel cladding, including Sizewell B and proposals at Hinckley Point C and Moorside. This steel cladding is technically sound, safe and a form of it has always been used in the UK's current gas reactors. It was also used at Dounreay. It was used in early reactors in the USA and uranium enrichment costs have dropped enough that it's worth using again for safety. I'd find it less easy to support new build water based technology that insisted on using Zircaloy clad oxide fuel built in the UK. The reasons for this are technical but very clear: safety margin. Any reactor currently using Zircaloy could switch to stainless steel without modifying the reactor.
· The Integral Fast Reactor or its variant, PRISM. For waste disposal and for the chance to have a self-sufficient fuel cycle I will push the case for building PRISM evolved from the Integral Fast Reactor programme. The opportunities it offers are immense. Every cost quoted for fast reactors is in the form of jobs, there is essentially no cost in the raw fuel. We have so much depleted uranium in the UK we'd never have to import uranium for centuries. It has been approved for its technology to be sent to the UK and offers a chance to make us an exporter of nuclear power rather than merely a customer for other countries.
· Experience and evidence overhaul of the regulatory framework for nuclear power plant licencing. This is 2017 not 1967. We have a lot of technical experience from across the world. Standards, thresholds, licencing requirements should be reviewed so they are as cautious and focussed as evidence requires them to be. I have spoken with Prof. Wade Allison and support his focus on reforming legislation in this field. It is not always about how much money you can spend but how and why.
· Accept deep repository of waste is inevitable though the volume and time needed for storage will vary. My vision is about reducing the length of storage and volume of waste to levels that are well within technical feasibility. This is why we need THORP.
· Encourage development of offshore mining of coking coal to support our British steel industry. Coke is needed to produce iron and there is no real escaping it. I will fight to ensure carbon taxes do not touch coking coal as there is no substitute.
My background gives me a passion for healthcare. Good, credible and sustainable healthcare. We have seen a focus on centralising A&Es in the light of higher standards, demands and through reviews and accounting. This looks good until you see the obvious. Closing branch lines in the 1960s was meant to save money for British Rail. It didn't because we lost a lot of passengers to mainline services from these feeder routes. We are seeing effects on emergency care similar to the Beeching Axe that befell rural and remote rail services.
This is happening across the UK and has for a long time. It's not a Tory or Labour or Lib Dem or SNP or DUP or whatever thing. It's not a party political agenda and it takes a realisation that perfection is the enemy of the good and that distance to your nearest A&E matters as much as quality. Every party has closed A&Es suddenly after dripping denials of any plans to do so for months prior.
So I would fight for:
· A cross party vote to list every A&E, including Whitehaven, for five years. Councils list buildings so why can't the NHS? This would lock in services for five years after a decision night be taken to close the department. Services do need at times need redesigned and we should not shy from that. Sudden abrupt announcements to close departments without the assessment of the impact of closure has happened far too often. Five years is time for adjustments to be planned or to realise such adjustments are simply unacceptable. This means decisions can be overturned.
· Integration of our rural and remote unplanned care into the ambulance service so that a single directorate would cover all forms of access to unplanned care. No passing the parcel. No blaming out of hours GPs for cramming Whitehaven A&E at night. This would mean having out of hours GPs salaried for this service through the ambulance trust.
· Consultant led maternity care in Whitehaven. I responded to the Kirkup report last year into the deaths of babies and mothers in Morecambe Bay. It's sensitive and too easy to sensationalise. I will work with every professional, every victim and with the DoH to make this work. We have to the best, and we have to have it local. The unit at Whitehaven has a very strong case to continue.
· Primary care as the first priority. Without good GPs and community pharmacies and nurseries a community will literally die. We need positive and firm support of primary care. I will always argue in favour of diverting more money from elsewhere into our GP network. I respect the right of all to be treated as they wish within the scope of clinical practice. My own experience of mental illness and those of others leads me to believe primary care investment is the best investment for mental healthcare.
· Investing in the role of employers and education in mental health and to help them proactively manage risks that lead to mental illness from a workplace perspective. Mental health is a community issue, nor just a personal one. I think a look into how employer's National Insurance can buy great services for workers is warranted.
· Cracking down on unpaid health tourism through a system that works. Too much lazy rhetoric has been thrown around by both sides saying how important or non-existent the problem is. It is actually rather small compared to many issues but it is significant and crucially it is avoidable. Let's sort this out properly and then move on to bigger issues in the NHS. I would support a combination of prepaid insurance and modest transfers from the aid budget to fund this.
· Making patient safety paramount. I will never use "bad management" as a throwaway comment for safety failings. It's easy and it's demotivating and it solves nothing. It's weak if I am honest. There have been serious issues including some very recent decent deaths that have made the newspapers. The MP must work to get things right, not to get even. The only points I want to score are those that show we are finding problems and dealing with them. Labour brought us Mid Staffs and we took it on and dealt with it.
I will not tolerate bullying of staff inside the NHS or outside because an open culture cannot thrive in fear.
I have been firmly Eurosceptic since I started being involved in politics because I believe in democracy. For me Brexit does not mean Brexit. Brexit is the process by which we make our own decisions as to what is best for us in the world.
We are leaving because we said we wanted to.
· Respecting democracy is more important than calling for rerunning referenda. Scotland chose to stay in the UK and then UK voted to leave the EU and this is our settled British will.
· If you reopen one referendum you reopen BOTH. I would challenge anyone who believes they claim a right to unsettle it and I would not shrink from this.
· Brexit will take time and will be full and I support fully leaving the EU through a managed transition. It was always going to be so and it will mean we leave the institutions of the European Union. Freedom of Movement of people has gone. Those EU citizens here now need welcomed and valued. They will integrate fully with our support.
· Britain is going global...again! We are going to have to redevelop every major diplomatic relationship we have. That means we must be able to speak freely with every other country. Britannia will rule the waves, opponents of Article 50 can get in the sea.
· No personal attacks. I am not interested in candidates personal or professional lives as long as no threat of corruption is seen. I won't engage in them as they degrade the process and show desperation. If a candidate can slur another in public then think what they say about you in private.
Education is one of the most important roles our society has. I have previously campaigned for supporting grammar schools. I did this because it is right and I continue to do so. This may involve new schools, assisted places in private schools or redesign of current services. We have to get this right with the tools we have.
· I support selective education in West Cumbria
· We must raise the bar based on higher standards, not the drawbridge based on higher school fees.
Caring for the elderly and vulnerable, protecting life, is core to a conservative society. I support the government’s programme on Universal Credit and ensuring social services focus on frontline services. I would however focus on four areas where we can do better.
· Continued review on the effects of benefit sanctions so the balance struck is right. Many believe it is not and I will hear their stories and respond. I am open to what some campaigners have called a yellow card system.
· Campaigning to raise the threshold at which care allowance is terminated for workers to 16 hours wage at the minimum wage and pegging this to the minimum wage as it rises. There are carers who have to choose between losing allowance and cutting their hours when the minimum wage rises. As your MP I will fight to fix this. It would mean the threshold rising to around £115 a week.
· Improving access to mental health care for all women seeking a termination and to divert state funding of terminations without demonstrable clinical need to maternity services. I cannot support the use of NHS money to fund interventions without objective medical evidence.
There are many issues to cover in Cumbria including transport and how upland farming and inshore fishing are managed post Brexit. Nuclear energy as a whole and public services will be the mainstay of this by-election. Some will bring the referendum into it. They really should get more, a clear majority of the UK voted for it.
Wish me luck.
Dr. Jon Stanley is Health Research Fellow at the Bow Group, a Junior Doctor and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons