First Q&A session for prospective Tory candidate
CONSERVATIVES have started their attempts to win Cheltenham in the next general election.
About 40 people gathered at Warden Hill URC on Saturday evening to hear from Alex Chalk, the Tory prospective parliamentary candidate.
It was Mr Chalk's first Ask Alex event and he was grilled on a wide array of topics as party members and voters looked to find out more about the barrister.
Cheltenham specific concerns dominated the hour long question and answer session.
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Mr Chalk was asked about his links to the town, which have already been questioned by Lib Dems.
"Cheltenham is very much my home town and it formed a very big part of my upbringing," he said. "I did work experience at the Playhouse as a kid and was taken to A&E when I fell off my bike."
Speaking about the decision to downgrade services overnight at Cheltenham General Hospital's A&E department, Mr Chalk said the shift had to be temporary.
"We should have heard the warning bells about this a long time before it happened," he said. Mr Chalk described the majority held by current Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood – which was just under 5,000 votes – as "very swingable".
And he added students in the town felt "very let down by the Liberal Democrats".
However, the currently sitting Hammersmith and Fulham councillor said he will not be fighting a personal campaign against Mr Horwood in the run up to the general election in 2015.
"I made a solemn pledge that I am not going to personalise this campaign. But if I get elected, when Cheltenham speaks it will be listened to," he said.
Mr Chalk also compared Cheltenham to Gloucester, stating the city seemed to be "on the march" thanks to "very energetic leadership".
Cheltenham was punching below its weight, even though it is an "infinitely superior" place to live, he said.
The thorny issue of development was raised by a number of people and Mr Chalk accused the borough council of being "asleep at the wheel" in trying to come up with its housing plan.
He was also asked about the plans to pedestrianise Boots' corner and tear up parts of the town's one-way system.
He said he felt as if the one way had been "specifically calculated to put people off from coming in to spend money", describing it as "unnavigable".