The runners and riders seeking to become the new Southampton Itchen MP have outlined in their own words why residents should vote for them.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked all candidates standing to explain why they were the best person to represent the constituency.

The seat has been held by Conservative Royston Smith since 2015, but he is standing down this year.

YouGov has projected a gain for Labour, with just shy of half the vote share and 27 percentage points more than the Conservatives.

James Batho – Liberal Democrats

James BathoJames Batho

James Batho is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Southampton Itchen. He is a passionate and hardworking campaigner and has the experience that will drive the change we need.

Too many MPs are career politicians with no understanding of the real world. James has a range of life knowledge, working with large technology companies, starting a self-employed business, retraining as a teacher gaining his degree at the University of Southampton and currently a bus driver.

James has also volunteered with Scout and Duke of Edinburgh groups, regularly taking teams of young people on expeditions to the New Forest. As a youth worker and teacher, he saw the effects of inequality on young people and wants to be in position to make a difference in the lives of the families affected.

For James, a fair deal for children and young people is a priority. Giving every child the best start in life by increasing school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation every year, improving the provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and extending pre-school funding to enable all parents to take on regular employment.

Declan Clune – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Declan CluneDeclan Clune

Workers and our families are struggling under the worst cost of living crisis for generations due to Tory austerity while the super-rich get richer. This is no accident. Profits are booming from cuts to our wages. Landlords, many of them MPs, are raking in 50 per cent of our wages through sky-high rents.

During this election, trade union members are on strike at job centres, schools and hospitals in Southampton fighting for a living wage and government funding. Labour say they want change but when it’s our pay or funding for public services they say the money isn’t there. We are the sixth largest economy. Let’s take the wealth off the one per cent and use it to raise wages.

We call for a minimum wage of £15/hour and low rent council housing for the 8,000 on the waiting list in Southampton, invest in public services and reverse privatisation so our schools have enough staff, our NHS can treat every patient and deliver care for the elderly.

We need a bold socialist alternative to deliver real change now. If Labour won’t deliver that, we call on trade unions to launch a new mass party for the working class that will.

Alex Culley – Reform UK

Alex CulleyAlex Culley

I’m honoured to be your Reform UK candidate for Southampton Itchen. My ties to our great city run deep. As a child, I would regularly visit my grandparents who lived in Thornhill, my father’s home before he joined the RAF. Obviously, my entire family is Saints obsessed!

A lawyer by trade, in 2021 I founded a consultancy based near Southampton Airport, helping companies meet their legal obligations. In my spare time, I study at the University of Southampton.

I’m fed up with our city and country lurching from one crisis to another, so I decided to act. Here are three Reform UK policies that would benefit Southampton:

Reducing immigration: alleviate pressure on Southampton’s social housing and health services, halt the surge in rents, improve social cohesion.

Lowering taxation: drive growth, through programmes like our freeport to cut the debt which has afflicted Southampton City Council and caused a near five per cent increase in council tax.

Target zero NHS waiting lists: tax relief to retain frontline staff, pro-rated student fee relief for doctors and nurses after 10 years’ service.

The Tories broke Britain, Labour will bankrupt it. Only Reform UK has pragmatic workable plans to save our country and city.

Neil Kelly – Green Party

No response received.

Darren Paffey – Labour Party

Darren PaffeyDarren Paffey

I’m Darren Paffey, Labour’s candidate to become the MP for Southampton Itchen. I came to Southampton in 2000, becoming the first in my family to study for a degree. I chose to stay here and teach languages at the university.

Southampton Itchen is where my family and I live and where our children attend local schools. I served the city as a councillor for 13 years, including roles as cabinet member for children and education and deputy leader, speaking up for local people and improving our community.

Now I’m standing to be our MP very simply because this is my home and it’s time for change. After 14 years of Tory neglect, Southampton’s public services are on their knees and we desperately need a Labour government to achieve lasting change for the better.

The main issues residents raise with me include the cost of living crisis, pollution in the River Itchen, the lack of police to deal with crime, and pressure on NHS services like GP surgeries and dentists. People want action. And as someone who knows and faces the same issues as the people voting in this constituency, I will fight in parliament for what matters here in Southampton.

Sidney Yankson – The Conservative Party Candidate

No response received.