Monica Harding is the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Esher and Walton seat at the upcoming General Election 2019 on December 12.

Ms Harding was selected as a candidate last year. This is her first time standing to be an MP. She was previously director of a refugee charity called Refugees International based in Tokyo and is an ex-CEO of the Industry and Parliament Trust.

As with other candidates for the seat, the Comet spoke with Ms Harding about her views and policies on a range of topics about Esher and Walton and beyond.

Quotes from her responses are reproduced below:

On connection to Esher and Walton:

I live here in Thames Ditton and have done for about 13 years now.

On reasons for running:

I felt completely disenfranchised. I decided to enter politics for two main reasons. Firstly I’m a school governor and our budgets are being cut so severely. Our school had its budget cut by 17 per cent and that wasn't right for me — the way out public services are being so decimated. After the (2016) referendum result I felt that our MP Dominic Raab didn’t speak for me and those 60 per cent* of people in the constituency who voted Remain and in fact became more hard line rather than moderating his position.

*NB: Esher and Walton voted 58.43 per cent to Remain in 2016

On Brexit and the Liberal Democrat policy to revoke Article 50:

The Liberal Democrat position has been for a People’s Vote and a Second Referendum. We’ve had that position constituently since 2016 and have tabled 18 amendments for a People’s Vote. If we have a majority government we would take that as a democratic mandate to revoke. That would be increasing our MPs from 18 to over 300 so it would be a pretty democratic mandate. If we can’t form a majority government we would still continue to campaign for a People’s Vote. —

On why people voted Leave:

There are myriad reasons why. Some of my family members voted Leave. One of the problems was there was no general consensus as to what Leave looked like. What Brexit now looks like is clearer now and I think people should have a chance to vote on that.

On the Liberal Democrats record in coalition government with the Conservatives:

I wasn’t a Lib Dem during that period (2010-2015). I think the Lib Dems put a break on the excesses of the Tory government and after 2015 the cuts went a lot deeper. There are a number of policies the Lib Dems did see through that the Lib Dems have apologized for. We’ve made the apology and put a plan in place to put money into welfare and to help those who have suffered worst from austerity. We’re moving on as a party.

On maintaining Universal Credit:

It’s not our policy to revoke it. There are elements of it that need to worked out. First of all we would stop the five week wait for payments and make it five days. The problem was that there was enough money in it. I don’t agree with Labour that we should repeal it and start again. We need to get money to people who need it right away and we’re going to increase in-work allowances. A lot of people using food banks for example are in work and in poverty. The two child limit also needs to go, it’s absolutely wrong.

On addressing hunger and the growing number of people needing food banks in Esher and Walton:

It’s crazy that we have this problem in the sixth largest economy in the world. This is one of the wealthiest constituencies but there are pockets of poverty here too, I think out figures are around 22 per cent of children living in poverty. In our manifesto we will make sure everyone has the right to enough food to live on and we plan to raise the minimum wage. The current situation is crazy.

On balancing the need for more housing with the wishes of residents to avoid too many new developments:

This is a problem and the reason public support for new housing is not always there is because the risk is that we’re going to encroach on the Green Belt. We have a massive need for more houses and we need policies that provide homes and protect green spaces. The way to do that is to revisit the very rigid methodology that is used to calculate house building targets. They are imposed on the borough by Conservative central government policy and they were imposed when Dominic Raab was a housing minister. We need to give power to local councils like Elmbridge.

On education:

As a governor I can see the difficulties with attracting for example teachers into this borough because they can go across the river into Kingston and get paid more because of London weighting. The immediate thing we would do is raise teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000. I think we need to take away SATS testing at Key Stages 1 and 2. It puts too much pressure on children and teachers — primary school age mental health problems are up almost 50 per cent and teachers are suffering too. Part of the problem is that local councils budgets have been cut by over 40 per cent and often you can only get funding here when things reach a crisis point.

On the climate emergency:

There is a climate emergency. There is irreversible damage being done already and we’ve got a very short amount of time to actually sort this out. We need to move faster and I’m embarrassed for my own generation frankly that we’ve let it come to this. We’ve been shown up by a 16 year old girl on this*. I’m really proud of our climate plan, it’s pragmatic and ambitious. We want to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2045 at the latest and 75 per cent of the way there by 2030. But we have to take people and businesses with us.

NB: *Reference to Swedish climate activist and founder of the Fridays for Future School Strikes Greta Thunberg.

On personal favourites:

Book: Tess of the D’Urbevilles (Thomas Hardy), A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth), or To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life

Music: Bob Dylan

NB: The Surrey Comet will be publishing profiles on all available candidates in Esher and Walton ahead of polling day on December 12.