The County Gazette and Bridgwater Mercury has interviewed each of the constituency’s election candidates this week.

Ian Liddell-Grainger is the Conservative candidate hoping for your vote on December 12.

County Gazette: You’ve been Bridgwater and West Somerset MP since 2001, what do you look back on as your proudest achievements during your 18 years in office so far?

ILG: Well I think there are three or four things. The first is Hinkley. It is quite phenomenal and that was a huge team effort, and it is a great tribute to everybody, but I suppose I was able to open some doors.

The second was handling the flooding in 2014 which was a nightmare for all of the people that suffered but a lot of good work has been done since and again huge tribute to all of the people who were part of that.

Then obviously down the other end in West Somerset we’ve done a lot of work on coastal erosion on the railway which has been very tricky and on making sure the rural way of life continues both on Exmoor and on The Quantocks.

And finally I think it is making sure that Bridgwater and West Somerset is known in government - that is one of the most important things any MP can do, and that means standing up and sometimes being unpopular, saying what you have to say to get the job done.

I think the one thing I would be proud of is that everybody in government knows Bridgwater and West Somerset.

CG: West Somerset voted 60 per cent to leave and Sedgemoor 61 per cent to leave in the 2016 EU referendum, how big an issue is Brexit to your constituents and how much confidence does that give you going into this election?

ILG: Oh it’s huge. Brexit is the most important thing, there is no doubt about it.

I follow the mandate of the people who I served as MP.

This constituency voted heavily to leave, I therefore will do everything in my power to get this constituency and the United Kingdom out of the European Union, hopefully by January 31. If we get a majority that probably can be done, but we’ll see what happens.

CG: What do you consider to be the biggest local issues facing the constituency in the next five years?

ILG: Firstly I would take the rural heartland. That is massively important and will have a huge impact. Brexit will cause all sorts of issues, some of which will be very good, some of which will be more tricky but we've got to live with that.

The second thing I think we've got to look at is our schools. We're building a lot of houses, the constituency has seen a huge increase in people and therefore schools, doctors surgeries, accesses, roads, broadband - what I consider 'the issues of everyday living', will be a battle and we'll have to fight that and take it seriously.

Other issues we have to address are long term climate change, obviously we are a coastline - we have the highest point in Somerset, we have the lowest point in Somerset, and all of that is subject to climate change.

And finally I think we have one end which is a heavy industrial end which does an enormous amount through factories and manufacturing, while the other end is one the most rural parts of the United Kingdom, and the two sides, although they may appear very different, have to be brought together, and that will a continuing challenge in the next five years.

CG: How do you respond to criticism that you perhaps don’t get directly involved enough with local issues? You’ve readily dished out insults in parliament to former Taunton Deane leader John Williams and former chief executive Penny James, but does it bother when your critics label you ‘Ian Idle-Stranger’?

ILG: No, not in the slightest. In fact to be absolutely honest with you, if you are not criticised you are not doing your job. I fight the battles that have to be fought for Bridgwater and West Somerset. The creation of Somerset West and Taunton Council, I still cannot see the benefit to West Somerset. I am waiting to be convinced this is a good move.

I am deeply concerned about things that have happened in that council and when I am deeply concerned about any of our local councils I stand up and say so.

I do not think it is right that an MP should just sit back, just pretend everything is sweetness and light. Other colleagues may do that, but I'm sorry, I cannot. I am here to stand up for the people and if I am elected on December 12 I will continue to stand up for them.

CG: Will you be partaking in hustings in this election campaign?

ILG: One, with the National Farmers Union. Farmers are the least accessible group in the constituency. We have two excellent NFU secretaries, one in Bridgwater, one in Williton and I feel strongly, and I hope my fellow candidates agree, that this is a group of people who normally cannot get to the things like we do because of the work that they do and the way that they do it, and therefore I think it is very important that we try and include them.

CG: What do you consider to be the strongest non-Brexit related policies in this Conservative manifesto?

ILG: Well I think the NHS without a shadow of a doubt, I think it is one of the big situations we had here. We got two new hospitals in my time here to Minehead and Bridgwater and we have Williton now as a Stroke Unit, and therefore we are spending a lot of money in this constituency, we've had most of our surgeries upgraded in this time and its very, very exciting.

The second point is - its really about people. Its the jobs, its the everyday living. People want to know where we are going as a country, where we are going as a United Kingdom, and that's not just Brexit, that is a myriad of things: low mortgages, taxation, cost of living, access to good schools.

CG: Do you think economic growth and tackling the climate emergency can go hand-in-hand?

ILG: Oh yes, I completely do. If you take Hinkley as an example, a carbon neutral massive industrial complex. I run the energy studies group in the house. What it will take is we will all have to sit down and be very mature about it, we've done an enormous amount of work through COP 21 and COP 20, which are the big international ones, we've done a huge amount of work with Kyoto, and its not just one government, I think it is important to say. Absolutely in places like Bridgwater we can embrace it, we really can, we've got so much going for our area here and people like Refresco, people like Wiseman's, people like Trig Engineering, the list is huge, are all doing their bit to work within their environment and their framework to make it more efficient and to save the planet.

CG: What plans do the Conservatives have to eliminate people's reliance on foodbanks and can you see a point in the future under a Conservative government when they are no longer needed?

ILG: Not in the near future, I have to be quite frank with you. Foodbanks have been around a long time in one form or another whether that is the Salvation Army or other organisations. I'm a great fan of our foodbanks, they do a phenomenal job but I would prefer obviously that we didn't need them. Can we have a policy which gets us out of having foodbanks easily? No. Can it be achieved in the longer term? Yes. It has to be cross-party, you need to get everybody working together, the town, district and county councils and me. I would love to see a point in my tenure where can say we don't need them anymore.

CG: Central government funding for local councils has been drastically reduced over the past decade, with parish and town councils as well as volunteer organisations taking on more and more responsibilities. Do you see this trend continuing if the Conservatives remain in power?

ILG: No I think that’s it now. I was not a great fan of the cabinet system, never have been. I haven’t been a great fan of cutting to parishes and the smaller councils because I think they are the lifeblood of what we are.

They are the people that do the loos and pavements and all the basic stuff is through them, and County through their collection take care of adult social care and more, and I think that we’ve got to a stage now where it is very difficult for councils to do what they need to do, and government is now having to step in to redress the balance and we’re not really where we need to be. I’ve made my voice pretty well heard over this issue, notwithstanding the problems we've had in local councils here, if you take Somerset West and Taunton and Sedgemoor, they are doing well. I think the thing that worries me is if the County wants to go unitary I think that is absolutely mad.

It will just mean the government will cut more so lets keep what we've got, the town councils, the parish councils, the district councils and the county councils which I think work in pretty good sync. Obviously we have stretches and strains the same as any other large organisation but by and large I think we're pretty good.

Get to know your candidate:

CG: Do you have any pets?

ILG: No, sadly our cat died about two months ago. He did make it 20 years but sadly old age caught up with him.

CG: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

ILG: I love to read, I love walking, I adore going down the coastline, and I am fascinated by the history of this incredible local area from Alfred to the Romans to prehistoric. It is a fascinating area and I collect books on this area. Somerset is one the great old counties of the United Kingdom and we should be proud of it.

CG: Do you have a favourite film?

ILG: I saw that in the question topics you sent over and it got me thinking! What I love - and I know people are going to say 'you old softie' is Love Actually. I adore it, I thought it was just brilliant. It just summed up Britain, it shows that we can have a bit of a laugh at ourselves but it is also a beautiful film about groups of people doing something at Christmas and I rather like that.

CG: And finally, if you could three ideal dinner guests, past or present, who would you have over?

ILG: I'd have the Queen because she is probably the most fascinating person you could ever meet. I would have loved to have met Nelson Mandela because I think he is fascinating. Not just because of the history but because of the man that he was. And I would have loved to have met Churchill - he was a parliamentarian, a soldier, a writer he was everything that you rather admire in a person - yes alright he had a few failings but I think he would be extremely interesting.