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General Election 2024: Newbury Constituency - meet the candidates: Liz Bell, Labour

There are just over two weeks to go until the country goes to the polls in the General Election.

West Berkshire now straddles two constituencies, the new-look Newbury and then the Reading West and Mid Berkshire. Each constituency has seven candidates standing.

Dr Liz Bell, Labour candidate for Newbury
Dr Liz Bell, Labour candidate for Newbury

Local democracy reporter Niki Hinman has put the same six questions to all of the Newbury candidates and spoken to all of the Reading West and Mid Berkshire candidates.

We will be starting with Newbury and working our way, alphabetically, through the candidate list.

We start today with Liz Bell, 62, who is the Labour candidate for the Newbury seat.

She is a former British diplomat in Russia and is now a director of EdAd Ltd, a higher education consultancy company with three former UCAS colleagues.

1: What made you run for office?

I’ve had a long career in the scientific research and education sector, in roles that required me to be professionally politically neutral. For example being a Civil Servant at the Economic and Research Council in Swindon after graduating with a PhD in Science and Technology Policy, then a British Diplomat leading a Science Team in Moscow for 5 years, and then Head of Policy and Public Affairs in various organisations in the Higher Education sector managing their liaison with Government. For the last decade I have been happily semi retired doing some contracting and consulting. Going into politics was definitely not my plan. But about half way through the years of Tory mismanagement of this country, I simply couldn’t keep quiet any more and had to start doing something about it rather than watching it unfold from the sidelines. I had to give up my previous professional career to be able to do it!

2: Do you have family/partner and what do they think of you running for Parliament?

My husband and I met as students when I was doing my PhD at Aston University. We’ve been together for 41 years. He has been 100% supportive of what I’ve done over all that time, and is no stranger to seeing me tackle big things. He didn’t blink an eye at us moving to Moscow for my work for 5 years in 1997! He has long ago ceased to be surprised by me and sees my standing for Parliament as a natural conclusion to my lifetime work.

3: When did your interest in politics take hold?

In my 20s when I was studying Science and Technology Policy at university, and then applying my knowledge in working with various organisations in the research and education sector. I had to take a strong interest in politics to try to steer things for the organisations I worked for (who were all working for our common good like the Physiological Society and the Institute of Bioengineers at QMUL) whilst staying politically neutral. And I picked up a lot of useful experience including being a Diplomat in one of the toughest postings in the world.

4: Why do you think people will vote for you/your party?

It really is time for change. All the Opposition Parties are saying that, and making promises about NHS reforms, tackling the Cost of Living Crisis, ending sewage pollution in our rivers, bolstering our national security in the face of dreadful international threats, schools, positive win-win action on climate change that generates new economic opportunities and jobs etc etc. The hard truth is that whatever their promises, they won’t be able to deliver them locally without a Labour Government in Number 10 at their backs. Labour is the Party with a robust, pragmatic and fully costed plan to tackle all the issues facing us as a nation, and the energy and commitment to do so. So Labour will be the Party that actually delivers for people in this constituency.

Dr Liz Bell, Labour candidate for Newbury
Dr Liz Bell, Labour candidate for Newbury

5: Beating the campaign trail means you are speaking to people on the doorstep. What are they saying to you?

Gosh they are saying so much about the problems arising from the last 14 years of Tory Government. A few examples that typically come up.

Over the last few years I’ve spoken with many disheartened Conservative voters, who have been appalled by the trashing of their traditional values by a Party that they have voted for all their lives. Often older and sometimes languishing on NHS waiting lists, the Tory Party has taken them very much for granted and failed to deliver the services they expected. And made them ashamed of being associated with them on numerous occasions, including outrageous partying in Downing Street on the weekend of Prince Philips’s funeral when the rest of us were watching our heart broken Queen on TV clearly respecting the rules. She didn’t think herself above the Lockdown rules required of the rest of us. And that disrespect of the Queen was also disrespect towards the rest of us who like her also kept to the rules to keep each other safe. I’ve heard a lot of long term Conservative voters saying that they are now looking to Labour to sort this mess out, and restore standards in public life that we once took for granted and now realise that we have to actively defend. I share their anger and am determined to do something about it.

And many voters of any political persuasion, are terribly personally affected by the failures of the Tory Government over the last 14 years. An out of control Cost of Living crisis making them worried about paying their bills, getting food on the table, and keeping a roof over their kids’ heads. Worries about the reductions in policing over the years that has led to record levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities. And when I talk to them they understand that unlike Sunak, Starmer with his working class background and a distinguished career as one of the best Directors of Public Prosecutions that we have ever had, does understand their worries and will actually do something about it.

6: What does a vote for you mean?

A vote for me is a vote for someone who is dedicated to trying to make a better life for us all. A London girl born and bred, I’ve been a proud villager in our constituency since 1990, including being a Parish Councillor in Great Shefford and Editor of its Parish Plan. I really care about the specific needs of rural areas such as ours which I think have been sorely neglected by Westminster. And I have the skills to deliver, my long career outside politics means that I have the real world contacts and experience to really get on and help fix things. For example, I have many connections with medical researchers and clinicians and am passionate about working with them to help fix our NHS. As former Head of Policy at UCAS, and a long term local Primary School Governor, I am also passionate about fixing our schools so our hard working teachers can get on with teaching our young people, our collective future, without worry. That our young people can then enjoy the opportunities of world class training in Further Education and Higher Education. I have concrete experience and a track record of getting things done with national governments, including the “machinery” of national and international government, dealing with UK and Foreign Government Ministers on a regular basis, and even having once been a representative for the biomedical research sector on the back bench Parliamentary and Scientific Committee for many years. Just think what I could contribute if I was on the benches with a real say!

My pledges to my fellow constituents as their future MP are as follows:

FIX OUR NHS Deliver more medical/dental appointments and support for our Community Hospital.

GET MORE POLICE ON THE BEAT: Get more police on patrol with new powers and resources to tackle antisocial behaviour and rural crime.

SUPPORT OUR KIDS: More teachers and support staff for every school, more childcare provision and breakfast clubs for local primary schools.

GET SEWAGE OUT OF OUR RIVERS: Tough action on polluting water companies including blocking the bonuses of polluting water bosses.

ECONOMIC STABILITY: Sound finances and economic stability are non-negotiable. All of Labour’s plans are fully-costed and fully-funded.

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