General election candidates for Coventry South quizzed

-Credit: (Image: Liam McBurney/PA Wire)
-Credit: (Image: Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

Coventry goes to the polls next week, but have you decided who will get your vote? In Coventry South nine people are standing to be MP for the area which now includes Lower Stoke instead of Binley and Willenhall.

One of the candidates is incumbent Labour MP Zarah Sultana who was elected in 2019. The Conservatives' Mattie Heaven will once again be challenging her for the seat.

Others in the race include Stephen Richmond of the Liberal Democrats, Chris Baddon from Reform UK, Anne Patterson from the Greens, Social Democratic Party candidate Alastair Mellon, Mohammed Syed of the Workers Party and independent candidates Joshua Morland and Niko Omilana.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) wanted to get to know the candidates better and see what they think the big issues are in the city. Here's what seven of them said when we sent them the same 10 questions.

HAVE YOUR SAY: General Election 2024: Have your say on key issues

Tell us about your background and connection to Coventry

Mattie Heaven: I moved to Coventry at the age of 11 and attended Sidney Stringer School, followed by Stoke Park School. My family set up a small business here, and I have been living in Coventry for over 35 years. Although I was born in Iran, Coventry has always been home.Growing up in Coventry and being part of this community for so long has given me a deep connection to the city's culture and history. Serving my community and giving back has always been a part of my DNA. This dedication led me to become a City Councillor for the Wainbody Ward. Now, I believe we need an MP for Coventry South who truly represents the voice of the entire community and serves as a local ambassador in Parliament.

Alastair Mellon: My family moved back to Coventry in 1969 when my father was appointed the first headmaster of Cardinal Newman School. We grew up in Earlsdon and my brother, sister and I attended Bishop Ullathorne School. My father passed away in 1999 but my mother who had taught at St Thomas More school continued to live here until her death last October with her last six years being Earlsdon Park Village where myself or my brother or sister visited her every weekend. Because I’ve been coming back to Coventry virtually every fortnight for the last 25 years I’ve maintained the friendships I made at school 50 years ago to this day.

Joshua Morland: My name is Joshua Morland and I have spent the last 3 years in Coventry whilst studying mathematics at the University of Warwick. I became a follower of Jesus at the age of 9, and at university have been seeking to put God at the centre of my life, in everything I do, say and feel. I still fall so far short of the standard that Jesus has set in this, and yet praise God that my sins can be washed away not on the basis of what I have done, but by the blood of Jesus himself.

Anne Patterson: I grew up in Sheffield and moved to Oxford at the age of 18 to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. I have lived in Earlsdon since moving to Coventry in 1991 to study Occupational Therapy at Coventry University as a mature student. I have worked in the NHS for over 30 years with a particular interest in older people and dementia. I have lived in Coventry for most of my adult life, it has its challenges but it is a great city to live and work in.

Stephen Richmond: I moved to Coventry for secondary school having previously lived in a little village called Old Arley, just north of Cov. I will confess to living in London for five years during and after university but I've since come to my senses and come home! After university I got an internship working on how to better engage the public and hear their views on politics and I've kept in that field since working with an organisation called The Social Liberal Forum on community engagement and public policy. I'm now back in Coventry living in Earlsdon.

Zarah Sultana: It was the honour of my life when I was elected as the MP for Coventry South in December 2019. The past 4 and a half years representing the constituency have been a huge pleasure and privilege, and I am determined to continue serving the people of this city. Before becoming an MP, I worked as a community organiser in the West Midlands, with family in Coventry and my dad worked in the city. Before that, I worked in H&M and Primark in Birmingham, which is also where I went to university and where I grew-up (in Lozells, specifically!)

Dr Mohammed Syed: My first experience of Coventry was back in the 90s when I did a Masters degree at the University of Warwick. In 2015 after my PhD study I returned to Coventry to start working at Coventry University and I have continued to live here since then, it’s now my home.

How do you like to spend your free time?

MH: In my free time, I enjoy practising music as part of an ensemble on the Persian frame drum called ‘daf’. Music is a great passion of mine, and it helps me stay creative and connected. Going to the gym, walking, running in our local parks and spending quality time with family and friends are also very important to me, as they provide support and balance in my life.

AM: I'm a serial entrepreneur so I don't have a lot of free time. My main line of works is development and construction and I've secured planning for 10-12m sq.ft of commercial office space and residential apartment blocks and I've built everything from factories to railways to refugee camps to multi building office complexes like Paternoster Square or Chiswick Park to Residential complexes like Grosvenor Waterside. I’m fortunate to love my job which combines design, finance, planning, law, construction, sales and marketing. I sit as an advisor on a number of start ups I invested in so that takes up plenty of time in the evenings and weekends. I am a student of history and am slightly addicted to Youtube!

JM: My church (Emmanuel church, Leamington Spa ) is like a family to me, as are the many Christians at the university. One thing I love to do is opening up the bible with those who are considering what it would mean for them to become a follower of Jesus. I usually have people over for food and discussion on one of the biographies of Jesus’ life written by John or Mark every week. I am also a keen runner and triathlete, and enjoy competing regularly for the university. I love the atmosphere and have made lifelong friends with my training partners in the athletics club.

AP: When I am not working or campaigning I enjoy walking, wildlife watching and photography. I don’t have to go far for great wildlife such as the spectacular starling murmurations that can be seen at Brandon Marsh nature reserve in the autumn and winter. I enjoy cooking, making the most of seasonal produce. I enjoy drinking real ale, we are blessed with lots of great real ale pubs in and around Coventry. I enjoy reading a mix of current affairs, non-fiction and science fiction and watching programmes such as Springwatch, Masterchef and Doctor Who on the television.

SR: When I do manage to get some time off from politics, which is important for anyone's sanity, I have been keen to get back to my teenage routes in theatre and creative writing. As a teenager I acted at Playbox Theatre in Warwick and the Criterion in Earlsdon. I do miss having the opportunity to be creative so I'm using my free time to try and fit in some writing projects.I think it's also worth saying that covid made many of us feel that we weren't spending enough time with friends and family, so I've also been making sure to use free time to just have a coffee with friends rather than cramming in too many hobbies.

ZS: My family and friends mean a lot to me, so I spend as much time with them as I can. I inherited my dad’s love of football and so I am trying to make sure to watch the England games between campaigning. When I get the chance, I love binge-watching a TV series and going to the cinema (watching both classics and new films), and I am a bit of a foodie (though not much of a cook!) so I love finding a good “hole in the wall” to eat at.

MS: I seem to get less and less free time nowadays, but when I do have some I tend to spend it with my wife and kids, sometimes going to different places in the West Midlands, sometimes just staying indoors and enjoying their company

What ‘luxury item’ would you take to a desert island?

MH: When I read the question, my first instinct was my phone, as I feel like I could not live without it. But the more I think about it, I would rather step away from it than having it become the only luxury item in my life. I would take a good-quality portable music player with a powerful sound system and a solar charger, and of course, access to Spotify :)

AM: I think it would be a surf board and/or a guitar. In an Alternative Universe there is a chilled version of me who focused on music and sports.

JM: Deuteronomy 8:3 says, ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’. This certainly rings true in my own experience. Therefore, I would bring with me my favourite old bible, that I have had since it was bought for me 3 months before I became a believer. This word is able to thoroughly equip me, as Paul says in his first letter to Timothy: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

AP: An encyclopaedia. It would be a great reference source for information I might need to help me survive and would also give me plenty to read to keep myself occupied.

SR: A satellite phone to call for help seems like the correct, if slightly cheating, answer.

ZS: I am sometimes known for carrying hot sauce in my bag for emergencies. Since the food on the desert island might need a bit of spice, I would probably have to take that with me!

MS: That’s a tough question. If I were staying for a long time I suppose a luxury mobile home would come in quite handy.

Locals enjoying the sunshine at War Memorial Park
File picture, University of Warwick

Where would you go on a day out in your constituency?

MH: When the sun is out, my go-to location is War Memorial Park. It’s a beautiful space where I love spending time with friends and family, taking long walks, running, and listening to music.

AM: It is a toss up between the Memorial Park and Coombe Abbey (I realise I’m stretching the boundary of the constituency to the limit with that last one!) so I guess it has to be The Memorial Park.

JM: For me, a lovely day out on a Saturday in Coventry South would be to head over to War Memorial Park to join in with the parkrun at 9AM, then move into Earlsdon for a lovely brunch in one of the cafes, before walking over towards the city centre to visit the stunning Coventry cathedral. Or, if you’re looking for a once-a-year opportunity to enjoy the best of Coventry, I would highly recommend MotoFest, a weekend festival in the centre of Coventry designed to reconnect the people of Coventry with their roots in the automotive industry, and bring joy across the whole city through the car displays, drift track, food trucks, fairground rides and more. It was my pleasure to help out in a small way with the running of the event this year, and see the way it lights up the faces of everyone in attendance.

AP: One of my favourite days out in Coventry South is to walk to Canley Ford via Hearsall Common and back via Stivichall Common woods and the City Arms in Earlsdon for a pint or two of real ale. I was involved in a campaign in the 1990s to save the meadows at Canley Ford from being swallowed up by Hearsall Golf Club. The campaign resulted in the formation of the Friends of Canley Ford and the Ford and neighbouring meadows being given Millennium Green status, which means they are protected for the future. I love seeing the changing seasons at Canley Ford, there is always something to see even in the depths of winter.

SR: If I'm introducing someone to Coventry I like to take them round the historic section of the city centre. St. Mary's guildhall is a relatively unknown gem in my view. My favourite spot for myself though is probably Canley ford. It's a wonderfully calm spot in an otherwise busy city.

ZS: I am incredibly lucky to have (what I think are!) the best bits of Coventry in my constituency.So if I was showing someone around Coventry South, I would start the day at the Cathedral – probably my favourite building in the city – where I would check-out what exhibitions they have on. After that, going around the stalls in Coventry Market is a must. One of my favourite restaurants in the constituency is Hadramud Mindi on Lower Ford Street, which offers delicious Yemeni dishes, and so I would go there for lunch. I would then head to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, saying hello to Dippy the Diplodocus (who we have in Coventry until 2025!) before heading to Coventry Transport Museum. To finish off the day, I would catch a play at either the Albany or the Belgrade – two fantastic theatres in the heart of the city.

MS: I would go and spend some time with the morally courageous students of Warwick Stands With Palestine at the University of Warwick.

Who is your political hero?

MH: My political hero is Winston Churchill. His leadership and strength in standing up to Hitler during World War II were monumental. Churchill’s actions need to be judged within the context that it was during one of the darkest times in our history. I always advocate for a Churchill-like strong leadership policy as opposed to Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. Especially as a Muslim woman, I have been vocal about standing up to Islamist radicalisation, and I feel we need to take stronger action against such threats that are growing on our soil. Churchill’s resolve and decisive action in the face of adversity are precisely what we need in today's world to address contemporary challenges effectively.

AM: Ernest Bevin - tough minded and patriotic union leader and wartime Minister of Labour in Churchill's cabinet who helped Britain outproduce Germany during WWII and who insisted that Britain acquired the atom bomb as a deterrent when the Americans refused to share the secrets of the bomb despite the UK helping to design and build it.

JM: As I have set myself down the path of this exciting and scary political venture, one of my biggest inspirations is William Wilberforce. In 1780 he came into politics at 21, just as I have, and was elected as MP in 1784. In 1787, Wilberforce experienced the life transforming power of becoming a follower of Jesus and this led him to dedicate his political career to campaigning for the abolition of the slave trade. Two of his key methods in doing this were rehumanising the victims of the slave trade, and distributing graphic imagery to expose to the British parliament and public what was really going on. In every year between 1789 and 1806, Wilberforce presented a bill for the abolition of the slave trade, but it wasn’t until 1807 that Parliament finally abolished the slave trade.

AP: Caroline Lucas, our first Green MP.

SR: Charles Kennedy and Lloyd George both stand out politically. Neither of them perfect people but the politics they stood for of believing each and every person genuinely matters and deserves a good life is inspiring.Introducing pensions stands out for Lloyd George as a moment of recognising everyone deserves dignity in their old age. Kennedy meanwhile led my party to it's highest number of MPs and provided the counterweight we so desperately needed, and need today, to the two largest parties.

ZS: I can’t pick just one. From a very privileged background, Tony Benn spent his life campaigning to redistribute wealth and power towards ordinary people. He rejected a hereditary peerage and became a champion of the anti-war movement. Working in sweatshop conditions at the Grunwick film processing factory, where bullying and racism were rife, Jayaben Desai led a strike in 1976 when a colleague was unfairly dismissed and built a mutli-racial working class campaign against exploitation.Imprisoned for standing up against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa – and described as belonging to a "terrorist organisation" by Margaret Thatcher – Nelson Mandela’s moral courage is still an example to people around the world.When women were a tiny minority in the House of Commons, Diane Abbott became the first black woman ever elected to Parliament. A trailblazer who has inspired me and countless others, she is still a powerful voice for social justice

MS: The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who not only spread the teachings of Islam, but as a statesman established justice, equity and compassion.

What are the biggest problems residents in your constituency face and why?

MH: : As part of a local survey which I conducted, the feedback I received was very clear.

  1. Crime, Vehicle Theft and Anti-Social Behaviour: Residents, especially around the city centre area, are deeply concerned about the rise in crime and anti-social behaviour, coupled with the lack of police presence.

  2. Illegal Immigration: There is significant worry about the rise of illegal immigration and its impact on our social services. Additionally, there is a heightened concern about safety and security, particularly in cases involving radicalised individuals spreading anti-Western values that undermine our democracy.

  3. Other problems that come up especially after the pandemic is the long NHS waiting lists and difficulties in securing GP appointments in some areas.

AM: (answer to 6 and 7) I've made it a central plank of my candidacy to try to bring high value-add, high paying jobs back to Coventry to help support family formation and to solidify and increase wealth creation in the city. I hate the idea of begging the government for money - I want Coventry to bootstrap its way to success like a start up. In the 21st Century resourcefulness, ideas and attitude are more certain indicators of success than cash. Once the money and optimism start to flow back into the city we can fix most other problems. Mark Robins and the Sky Blues have shown us that great leadership changes everything. For example, while campaigning, I got chatting to Robert Moon - an automotive engineer/entrepreneur and Coventry South voter. Rob's vision is to build a globally recognisable automotive brand headquartered in a state-of-the-art 50,000 square foot production facility, employing >100 people in the design, development and production of up to 1,200 high-performance zero-emission vehicles annually. Rob has assembled an incredible team and it makes perfect sense for him to build his business in Coventry. Success likes speed, and within a week we’ve identified several opportunities for new R&D facilities in the city that could serve to accelerate Eclipse's growth, hosting a range of skilled and semi-skilled jobs, whilst also supporting young apprentices. Eclipse is exactly the type of new employer we want to attract to the City to support high skilled, high value add, high wage jobs. If we could find 50 new entrepreneurs like Rob then the city's economic ecosystem would be transformed and the city's renaissance assured. If we can make these connections on the campaign trail just imagine what we could do if elected MP for Coventry South? I am committed to the re-industrialisation of Coventry.

JM: The leading cause of death in the UK is abortion, with 251,377 babies’ lives being lost in 2022. In that year, the second leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer's disease, with 65,967 deaths. In the city of Coventry, there were 2,278 abortions in 2022, which works out at more than 6 per day across the city. This is a humanitarian crisis of fearful scale and can hardly be disputed as the largest issue facing our constituency, and all others. Not only are we seeing such a mass scale of children’s lives being lost, but also so many women are suffering in silence from the effects of abortion. By the age of 45, 1 in 3 women have had an abortion, and many of these women feel they have no one to turn to for support and healing.

AP: - Housing - There were 2.6 thousand people recorded as homeless in 2023, there are 1.5 thousand children living in temporary accommodation and there are 7.5 thousand people on the social housing waiting list in 2023 in Coventry.

- Deprivation. Coventry is one of the most deprived local authority areas in Britain, being placed at 13th on a list of local authorities with the highest rates of destitution published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in October 2023. In 2020, Coventry was one of the worst affected authorities for fuel poverty in the country, with 20.3% of households in fuel poverty.

- Health & wellbeing - overall health in Coventry is below the national average and there are significant health inequalities that continue to impact the lives of those most deprived in the city including mental health. 11.9% of Coventry residents were on GP registers as diagnosed with depression in 2021/22.

SR: The issues that come up the most nationally are NHS and social care. We just can't continue with waiting lists like this and NHS staff are transparently exhausted. I'd add locally that while Coventry is mostly safe we have had some problems in the areas I've been in with car crime especially. The police need to be in a position to meaningfully respond to crime rather than just giving a crime number and hoping. They are stuck trying to do two jobs, policing and admin assistant to a police officer and there are only so many hours in a day. We can do much better on this.

ZS: After 14 years of the Conservatives in power, people in Coventry South are facing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis . Bills have sky-rocketed, mortgages and rents are soaring, and the weekly shop is more expensive than ever. The average household is now almost £6,000 worse off than in 2019 and a record number of children are growing up in poverty. Wealthier than the King, Rishi Sunak doesn’t understand the challenges ordinary people are facing. And the Conservative government isn’t just to blame for its failure on the cost-of-living crisis. They have slashed funding for public services. Our schools and hospitals are crumbling – often literally. Staff are overworked and underpaid. NHS waiting lists have hit record levels and our vital infrastructure is broken: Water companies pump sewage into our rivers and trains are extortionate and unreliable. It’s time for change.

MS: Coventry South has a mixture of problems which need to be addressed including: accessibility to general healthcare and mental health services; housing affordability and homelessness; poverty, job opportunities and right now as I write this, yet another round of redundancies in the university sector; school budgets and equality of opportunity for child educational attainment; the quality and accessibility of public transport; the condition of the roads (mind those potholes); like many other constituencies across the country, crime is always an issue of concern as with air quality and the protection of green spaces.

How would you help tackle these problems as an MP?

MH: I would lobby for more CCTV installations, especially around the City Centre where people feel vulnerable and unsafe. Also, while the government has added more police officers, mismanagement by the Labour West Midlands PCC has left areas like Coventry underserved. I will ensure that Coventry receives its fair share of police officers and that our police stations remain open and fully operational. I will push for stringent measures to prosecute human traffickers who exploit vulnerable individuals and undermine our immigration system. I would also work towards a cross-party approach in combatting the issue of illegal immigration. I will advocate for continued investment in additional health and diagnostic centres in Coventry and better use of Pharmacy First. This will help reduce waiting lists and ensure residents have better access to medical care. I will ensure that funds allocated to healthcare are spent wisely, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health services.

AM: [See above response]

JM: As an MP I would continually plead with parliament to vote on whether to repeal the 1967 abortion act. Furthermore, I would consider bringing a heartbeat bill whereby the abortion age is reduced to 6 weeks, so that babies with a heartbeat cannot be aborted. I would also strive to roll out Post Abortion Support for Everyone on a larger scale and will be asking parliament to increase the financial and emotional support available to struggling women who bravely keep their children. Finally, I will be seeking to use my contacts in the churches within the constituency to encourage more and more Christians to consider adopting, and especially adopting disabled children. It is currently legal in the UK to induce a heart attack on disabled children with down syndrome, a cleft lip or club foot all the way up until the baby is born.

AP: As a Green MP I would push for actions such as: - Providing 150,000 new homes for social rent a year and ending the right to buy social homes. - Ensuring that housing developments are supported by infrastructure such as access to GP surgeries, nurseries and schools, bus services and cycling networks. - Ending no fault evictions. - Introducing a Fairer, Greener Homes Guarantee to ensure homes that are well insulated and cost less to heat. - Increasing the NHS budget to cover fair wage settlements for NHS staff.- Increasing the budget for primary care. - Putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health care, so everyone who needs mental health care can access it when needed. - Increased pay rates and a career structure for social care workers to rebuild the care workforce. - Increasing Universal Credit and other benefits and abolishing the two-child benefit cap.

SR: My party has actually done a brilliant job on health and social care this election and I encourage everyone to read our manifesto. However, my personal commitment that comes from talking to NHS workers, police officers and also teachers, is that I'd like to work on getting them the support they need. Politics is rightly concerned about too many highly paid managers but I'm worried that we've not done enough for front line staff in terms of providing them the logistical and administrative support they need. I think that's worth working on and could do the most good in the shortest time!

ZS: As the MP for Coventry South, I have been a leading voice in Parliament demanding action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and calling for investment in our public services. I proposed a law to ensure every child gets a free healthy meal in school and co-sponsored the Green New Deal Bill – a plan to protect our environment and provide investment to create well-paid, sustainable jobs. And to pay for it, I led the calls for the wealthiest to pay their fair share of taxation. And I put words into action: I raised £13,000 for Coventry Foodbank and rejected the £2,200 MP pay rise, donating mine to Coventry charities instead. I stood alongside Coventry teachers and nurses when they demanded fair pay rises and I led campaigns to save Coventry nurseries. During the pandemic, I secured an extension of free parking for NHS workers at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

MS: The problems Coventry South experiences are not particular to the constituency, they are common issues across much of the country. A lot of these problems emanate from inappropriate central government policies and the unsuccessful implementation thereof, so you have bad policy design and bad policy implementation. I anticipate things across the country are going to get much worse before they get better. With my training in highly applied Development Economics and the Social Sciences, I intend to work with researchers, third sector organisations, the council, and community and faith groups to design and implement bottom-up community driven development interventions to both tackle Coventry’s problems as well as insulate it as much as possible from the inevitable problems arising from top-down central government policies. I want Coventry to be in a position of resilience and self-sufficiency, not to rely on others, regardless of who is in government. What do they know?

What are the major challenges and opportunities for Coventry in the next decade?

MH: Coventry faces significant challenges due to its rapid population growth, which strains public services like healthcare, housing, transport, and road infrastructure. However, this growth in population also presents several opportunities. Securing a Gigafactory could create 6,000 jobs, boosting employment. With two universities, Coventry should aim to retain students and foster a skilled workforce, supporting economic growth. Bringing in investment and creating apprenticeships will further strengthen the city's economy and provide opportunities for its residents. By addressing infrastructure needs and enhancing and preserving green spaces, Coventry can ensure sustainable growth and improve the quality of life for its residents in the coming years. On a personal note, with the Sky Blues under new ownership, there is a great opportunity for Coventry to advance towards the Premier League. This potential achievement would not only elevate the city's sporting prestige but also enhance its global visibility and economic prospects.

AM: The issue we'll all have to learn to live with is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It will change everything. It is in a real sense our final invention as in future most inventions will be generated either directly by AI or in combination with AI. Most people have no idea how close this is. I suspect within 3-5 years an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will emerge that is human level across a wide group of domains. After that by working on its own design we’ll see an explosion of Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) very rapidly. This could be dangerous for humanity so we need to show a good example and get along! The winners in the future will learn how to adapt their societies to the new reality of being the second most intelligent species on earth.

JM: The abortion crisis was up by 17% in 2022 in the UK (most recent year of statistics), and up by 22% in Coventry. How far are we willing to continue walking down this road before we recognise this issue requires urgent action? Furthermore, under a labour government it is highly likely that we will see a bill put forward to legalise the killing of unborn children in all cases up to birth. If the decriminalisation bill is put forward, it appears unlikely Sultana will vote in favour of protecting these children. I feel residents of our constituency should have the opportunity to stand against this by putting their vote to the name of life

AP: The population of Coventry is growing, so we need to provide the necessary infrastructure and services to support this population. We need more affordable housing with access to health services, schools, public transport and green spaces. We face the twin challenges of the cost of living crisis and the impacts of climate change. We have the opportunity to address both of these through action to move our homes, businesses and transport networks from dependence on fossil fuels to clean, green sources of power. We need to make it easier for people to walk & cycle around the city and improve public transport provision across the city. This would provide significant opportunities for developing new businesses and growing our local economy which will bring investment into the city. There are great opportunities for innovation and development of new technologies to support the green transition in partnership with our two universities.

SR: Coventry is well placed to be an innovation hub and for the money coming in from that to move out to the community at large. As an opportunity that's huge. The risk and the challenge is that can not work without investment in two key ways. One is in the innovation itself but the other is in the basics. We will not succeed locally in Coventry or nationally in Britain as a whole if the basics don't work. The economy is built on top of good education, effective healthcare, working sewage plants that aren't discharging waste into the environment, good roads, local services, batter pavements to walk on! These are not separate and unconnected issues but instead they are the foundation on which everything else is built. We must do better.

ZS: 14 years of Conservative chaos has resulted in huge challenges in our communities. Four in 10 children in Coventry are living in poverty. Foodbank visits have more than doubled in the West Midlands since 2018. Ambulance response times in the region are up by more than an hour in that period and NHS waiting lists have hit record levels. The Conservatives have slashed funding for local authorities, cutting more than £1 billion from Coventry City Council ’s budget and putting huge strain on local services .It is time for change and I know Coventry can rise to the challenge. This city has huge potential and rich traditions. We rebuilt after the devastation of the war and we can rebuild again today. In Parliament, I have called for investment in the city so that we can once again be a manufacturing powerhouse – this time making green technologies for the future.

MS: Well, the challenges as outlined above come from having to swim against the stream of ill-conceived top-down central government policies and poor implementation. Have you ever heard a researcher guarantee results? Some have spent decades on a particular issue, they are world experts, yet they never guarantee an outcome. In contrast our politicians always seem to, election after election, make these promises. What actually ever gets delivered? The opportunity for Coventry is insulation and self-sufficiency to the maximum extent possible. We can make our own future by working together.

Tell us 3 things you would aim to achieve as an MP in the next parliament

MH: In addition to my answer to question seven, I aim to promote Coventry as a vibrant and attractive city, leveraging its two prestigious universities to attract more investment and tourism. I will advocate for a direct train service between Coventry and Leicester, enhancing regional integration and economic opportunities. I will work to ensure that Coventry receives its fair share of policing resources through effective oversight of the Police Crime Commissioner. This includes advocating for increased police presence and resources to enhance public safety and address community concerns. Finally, I want to break the trend of politicians talking more and instead listen to my community, understand their concerns, and bridge the gap to improve their lives and put Coventry South residents first.

AM: I want to put Coventry back on the map as the No.1 location for high value added engineering and technology companies to grow. The City Council has wisely approved a planning application to build a Battery GigaFactory on the site of Coventry Airport right next to the National Battery Catapult Centre. However, right now there is no tenant and I want to encourage Tesla, the dominant player in the electric vehicle market, to build their second European site in Coventry. The City Plan for the renewal of the town centre has to be accelerated. The City Centre needs to be safe, welcoming and friendly to encourage the people of Coventry to spend their money in their own city. Finally, I am proposing an International Celebration of Peace and Reconciliation in Coventry on the 14th of November 2040. We will invite every one of the 26 cities that we are twinned with to build a pavilion in Coventry to celebrate the enduring spirit of humanity to overcome conflict and our ability to come together. These dual-use buildings will stimulate the economy in the short run but serve the people of Coventry in the long run.

JM: Firstly, I would campaign with all my effort to bring a bill before parliament that protects the lives of unborn babies in the womb. I would also strive to make all women who have had an abortion aware of the support that is available to them for the trauma they have gone through, with a particular emphasis on Post Abortion Support for Everyone. Finally, I would seek to change the narrative around the adoption system by encouraging more families to compassionately take in children who need a home, and removing any judgement on women who courageously carry their children through to birth, whatever they decide to do once the child is born.

AP: - I would aim to be a voice against austerity which has devastated our public services and for properly funding our public services and welfare benefits by introducing a wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires, who can afford to pay more to support our country.

- I would aim to highlight the importance of action on the cost of living crisis and climate change by investing in a green transition away from fossil-fuels by rolling out a national programme of insulating our homes, fitting heat pumps and significantly increasing renewable energy capacity.

- I would aim to raise awareness of the need to properly fund assessment, treatment and care for people living with dementia and their carers. We have increasing numbers of people living with dementia in Coventry and across the UK, who face long waits to get a diagnosis and find it difficult to access treatment and support.

SR: -I want us to invest and spend properly. I'd like to see a National Investment bank and I'd like us to end the ridiculous practice of having random pots of government money available for very very specific things without any flexibility. I want us to be able to negotiate amendments to the rules on those pots of money to use them efficiently and effectively for our specific wants and needs in Coventry. This is perhaps ambitious but I'd like to see a net negative target for CO2 emissions. The Liberal Democrats successfully enshrined a net zero target into law but pushing further makes it far more likely environmental policy will succeed for its own sake while, in addition, being a great opportunity for the kind of industrial innovation that Coventry is great at! Moving tax from small businesses to commercial landlords. This would push landlords to get closed shop fronts open again, forcing landlords to compete for customers. It would also help fix the budget problems Coventry faces by enabling us to tax the commercial landlords who own all the student accommodation in the city centre.

ZS: I dealt with more than 28,000 inquiries and issues on behalf of local constituents as the MP for Coventry South. Without a doubt, one of the most rewarding experiences as an MP is helping to resolve problems on behalf of local residents.If I am re-elected, my first priority is to continue being a dedicated constituency MP. My second priority is to continue to call for the redistribution of wealth and power. Britain is a deeply unequal society, with a small minority hoarding vast wealth and power while the majority struggle to make ends meet. I got involved in politics because that injustice needs to be challenged. So I will continue to champion policies to eliminate poverty, tax wealth to fund public services, and strengthen workers’ rights. And my third priority is to demand the bold policies needed to tackle the climate emergency – the biggest threat to our future.

MS: First, for Coventry resilience and insulation from adverse central government policy impacts as much as possible. Second, for Coventry, bottom-up community development.

Third, I will work towards the elimination of injustice, exploitation and oppression, in all it’s manifestations, in Coventry, across the country and internationally. The outcome I would aim for is observable movement in the right direction.

What national issues are not being talked about at this election that you think are important?

MH: One crucial national issue that deserves more attention is the destabilising activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The regime funds proxies and extremist groups that threaten our democracy and security. They are significant backers of antisemitism and support and fund groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which pose serious threats to global stability. Moreover, Iran's efforts to radicalise youth and export Islamist extremist ideologies on our soil must be addressed with urgency. We need stronger measures to counteract dictatorial regimes that undermine UK security and endanger the safety of our citizens. It's essential to confront these challenges decisively to safeguard our values and protect our nation from external threats.

AM: When I was younger British Identity was still largely synonymous with being English, Scottish, Welsh or irish. Today we need a new understanding of what it means to be British. There is a need to belong and a country divided can not stand. I don’t know anyone who thinks that the percentage of melanin in your skin should be the determining factor in your worth. I worry that the dissemination of bad ideas like Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory have escaped the academy/universities and are poisoning our institutions and organisations and the minds of our young people. As the son of a Scottish Father and an English mother I was never a fan of devolution and I hope that we can push back against those forces which would tear us apart.

JM: The issue of abortion is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, and yet none of the major political parties have outlined any plans to put an end to over 200,000 children dying per year. I believe that this has to be a voting issue. I am running for MP to give the constituents of Coventry South the opportunity to vote for a candidate who will campaign against this, and to give a voice and face to these children that have no voice, and whose face is hidden from view.

AP: - Climate change and the impacts of climate change. Climate change is already having huge impacts across the world including in the UK. These impacts are set to get far worse over the years to come as we are not doing nearly enough to bring down fossil-fuel emissions and transition to renewable energy. Our natural environment and biodiversity. We are one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Access to nature is essential to health and well-being, we need to protect our green spaces for the sake of wildlife and humans alike. - Our democratic system. The majority of people in this country want more investment in public services and action on climate change but this is blocked by vested interests who have undue influence on power. We need a fair voting system and action to make our political system more democratic and truly representative of our society.

SR: How much the government's restrictions on trade have pushed up prices and held down wages is an under discussed issue. It's been a completely unnecessary drag on the economy and everyone's wallets. We need to fix trade with Europe if we want to fight the economy quagmire we're in. The less discussed issue I'd like to end on though is how much we leave people behind in the UK. It's not necessary and unless everyone benefits from a thriving Britain it will be very difficult to build a better future. Giving everyone a stake in the nation's success is part of building that success. That's true for people in the middle but also those with the least. We need to find a way of having that discussion if we want Britain to succeed.

ZS: The national issues that are being focused on in this election are vital: How do we rebuild our country after 14 years of Conservative chaos? How do we guarantee people’s security and improve their living standards? How do we restore trust in politics? What should our relationship be with Europe and the rest of the world? But there has not been enough focus on the government’s complicity in the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. Tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed, more than a million people have been displaced, and famine has broken out. As we speak, Palestinian children are dying of hunger.This is not something we can ignore: Israel is using British-made weapons in Gaza. When we see images of children blown to pieces by Israeli bombing, we should be asking the Prime Minister: Was British-made equipment used to kill those children?

MS: One big one is Net Zero. A lot of the researchers I work with, who work on Net Zero, question the viability of achieving Net Zero targets. Whenever there is a transformational move in society towards achieving particular targets, we have to ask who will benefit and who will lose – there are always issues of where the advantages and disadvantages fall, upon whom. Only just recently have the research councils in the UK started asking this question. We need impact assessments for any major transformational move in the UK, we cannot just implement without questioning, because usually it is the already advantaged that secure the advantages and the already disadvantaged that pay the price.

Sign up for our FREE daily newsletter here for all the latest news about Coventry .