IN the second of a series of pieces, your Echo puts the parliamentary candidates vying for your votes under the spotlight.

We’ve invited all those seeking for your vote in the General Election on July 4 to answer the same set of questions to help our readers make an informed decision on polling day. 

In doing so, we hope you will not only get to know the policies and promises they stand to fight on if elected, but also gain an insight into the person who wants to represent you in Parliament for the next five years. All candidates were set the same questions and deadline in a bid to help you decide in a balanced way. You can also head to to see their video pitch.

On Monday: Rayleigh and Wickford and Castle Point

Social Democratic Party: Simon Breedon

SDP - Simon BreedonSDP - Simon Breedon (Image: Simon Bredon)

Why elect me?

I would like this opportunity to serve the residents of South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Having lived almost my whole life in Basildon and Tilbury, I believe as a local it is important to have an MP that lives in that area who can understand the challenges faced by residents.

I became interested in politics a few years ago because I felt I needed to get out there and help people like myself to change our broken political system. 

I feel we have been failed by the main parties in the past, and I need your vote to let me help you in changing that.

The first past the post voting system no longer meets the needs of so many people in the UK.

I am just a normal down to earth person and I like to think I am very approachable. 

I enjoying chatting and listening to your concerns, and working through them together.

I can often be seen out and about walking my two springer spaniels Ash and Kira.

My biggest achievement 

My biggest political achievement must be gaining experience and meeting like-minded people in my journey. I am a fair, level-headed man and I preach for what I believe in.

My biggest life achievement is being happily married and having children… simple.

My interests

I live with my wife and daughter. My son lives away and we see him as much as possible. I enjoy pubs and restaurants, especially those with live music like The Castlemayne. I enjoy walking dogs, gaming and have explored crypto currency.

Independent: Steven Burnett

Independent - Steven BurnettIndependent - Steven Burnett (Image: Steven Burnett)

Why elect me?

Dismayed with the current political landscape, I decided to stand as an independent in the forthcoming election in South Basildon and East Thurrock, as they are areas with which I have strong personal and professional ties; having grown up on the Chalvedon estate in Pitsea and being educated at Chalvedon School and Basildon College before attending the University of East London and becoming a teacher.

Education is a particularly important issue for me and I have taught at and held leadership positions in a variety of settings across both Basildon and Thurrock, within mainstream and special needs schools – the incredibly poor support provided across Essex and Thurrock for children with special educational needs being particularly concerning for me. 

I now run a small training company, which has given me a good perspective on the challenges faced by small business owners and the types of policies that would benefit them.

I feel the people of South Basildon and East Thurrock, indeed the country generally, are being grossly neglected by our current politicians.

My aim is to give voters the opportunity to vote for someone they can see as one of their own, with a real understanding of what is important to them and an expectation that promises will be kept.

My biggest achievement

This is my first venture into the world of politics, and as an Independent I have had no support from a larger party. I am proud of the fact I have taken the decision to do this as it has enabled me to engage with everyday voters, exchange ideas, and put their views forward.

Funniest moment

The first video I recorded for social media was mocked a little bit with a number of remarks asking if I was being kept hostage or to blink if I needed help! I think they have got a little better since then.

My interests

The first video I recorded for social media was mocked a little bit with a number of remarks asking if I was being kept hostage or to blink if I needed help! I think they have got a little better since then.

My inspiration

In politics I admire those that say what they believe. Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell would be two standouts for me.

My vision

I would like to see all areas being better cared for. Shared spaces including parks, playing fields and streets are often neglected and ignored. Where people live in pleasant environments, they are more likely to have pride in where they live and community spirits better fostered.

The notion of “multi-culturalism” has failed and has led too often to separation within communities. I would like to see everyone within our community celebrating what brings us together rather than the differences.

South Basildon and East Thurrock sometimes seem a million miles apart. I would like explore ways of bringing them closer together through recreational activities, business links and shared events.

Labour: Jack Ferguson

Labour - Jack FergusonLabour - Jack Ferguson (Image: Jack Ferguson)

Why elect me?

I’ve lived in Basildon for more than 30 years and in Pitsea for the last seven. It would be a privilege to have the opportunity to represent my local community in Parliament. 

I think it’s important that the people of South Basildon and East Thurrock have the opportunity to vote for a Labour candidate and to support the policies that will transform our local area and Britain.

I’m an active campaigner and councillor on Basildon Borough Council as the Cabinet member leading on culture, sport and community. 

I have a passion for bringing communities together and everything I do is about understanding the hopes and aspirations of people for the future and helping them with the issues that matter most to them.

Across my career, I’ve worked on projects across crime prevention, mental health, education and employment.

I’ve seen the damage done to the local community after 14 years of a disastrous Tory government which has done so little to help places like South Basildon and East Thurrock. 

I’m determined to change that. I want to give a voice to the hard-working people of this community and fight to make sure that jobs and opportunities are brought back here.

My biggest achievement

Serving as a councillor is the biggest privilege of my life. I came into public service to help people in their most challenging moments. The most rewarding parts come when I’ve helped people directly with problems like crime, fly-tipping and housing.

Funniest moment

I once poured tomato soup over my work Christmas dinner thinking it was gravy and tried to convince my colleagues that it was a great combination for the dinner.

My interests

As a big West Ham fan, I try to get to the London Stadium for every home game. I’m a Nando’s kind of guy but I’m looking forward to visiting the new Enya in Pitsea soon.

My inspiration

My young niece and nephew. They sum up why I’m in politics – to make our community better and provide opportunities for the next generation.

My vision

My vision is all about supporting the local community to be a place where residents feel comfortable and safe. 

Where people have the opportunity and the freedom to do the activities they most enjoy.

To achieve that, the basics people expect need to be restored. We need access to good schools for our children to go to. 

High quality healthcare services must be in place for when people need them and a local dentist able to see them when they need an appointment. 

That’s what a Labour government will be working for and it will be my mission to work day and night to make sure that happens here in South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Conservative: Stephen Metcalfe

Conservative - Stephen MetcalfeConservative - Stephen Metcalfe (Image: Stephen Metcalfe)

Why elect me?

For the last 14 years it has been my privilege to work tirelessly for South Basildon and East Thurrock always putting constituency before Parliament. I have made hundreds of visits and helped thousands of people to ensure that your concerns are heard, a role which with your help I will continue.

I have delivered on what I have been elected to do. We got Brexit done and I have delivered Brexit Benefits for local people by securing the approval of Thames Freeport which would not be possible if we were still in the EU. So far, Thames Freeport has attracted £600 million investment and created 1,000 jobs.

In my time as MP, I have visited every single school in the constituency, written to every headteacher and worked with Government to secure new investment. As a result, 17 schools went up in Ofsted ratings and 88 per cent are now ranked as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’. I was particularly pleased to have secured the entry of five schools into the School Rebuilding Programme, which I want to see come to fruition.

I have worked hard to secure NHS improvements. I have helped secure new CT and MRI scanners for Pitsea, a new Mental Health Unit in Basildon, a new Medical Centre in Corringham, and £40 million capital investment. I would continue to work hard to bring healthcare closer to you.

Above all, I want to be re-elected so that I can remind whoever is in Government that they are spending our money, not theirs; that there is general concern about the level of taxation and that migration – legal and illegal – is too high and needs to be controlled. Please help me do that.

My biggest achievement

The promotion of science across Parliament and chairing the Science and Technology Committee and my Private Members’ Bill which reformed Lasting Powers of Attorney. Also, my family, children and grandchildren, all of whom I am proud of.

Funniest moment

When I had just become an MP, I was introduced to a journalist and I asked them what exactly they did for a living. I then realised that I was speaking to one of the biggest personalities on TV – very cringeworthy!

My interests

Engineering and building things. I have a few Lego Technic creations and like shops that sell Lego. I don’t have a favourite restaurant but I like Indian and Chinese food with beer.

My inspiration

Make a difference so people reach their full potential by improving education, expanding college provision and apprenticeships and investment.

My vision

There are big opportunities – international companies are investing and I want people to have the skills to access them. If I am lucky enough to be re-elected, I will ensure the need for continuing investment in better education and skills training is recognised.

Second, I will continue to work with Essex Police to further reduce crime and support initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour. We have seen double digit decreases but must go further.

Third, I will fight to bring healthcare closer to those who need it through better GP access, better provision of integrated medical centres and more Community Diagnostic Centres like the one approved in Pitsea.

Finally, I will protect our natural environment – opposing inappropriate developments.

Independent: Neil Speight

Neil SpeightIndependent - Neil Speight (Image: Neil Speight)

Why elect me?

People ask: ‘What can an Independent do?’ It’s a fair question. But a more relevant question is what has your MP done for you?

We’ve had 14 years of MPs who have turned a blind eye while Thurrock Council went bust, and Essex County Council has chipped away control of Basildon to the leafy glades of rural Essex.

I’m not vested in propping up a rotten government. I will speak up for the people of our villages, towns and communities.

Rural bus services in Thurrock have been decimated - particularly hitting older people. No-one in high office spoke up for them!

In Basildon, local input has been watered down. 

Public services are managed by county councillors who appear to see the borough as a dumping ground for toxic projects. It’s time to improve local representation!

MPs and the county’s Crime Commissioner constantly talk about more cops. 

Yet local folk live in fear in some communities and see a bobby on the beat as rarely as a white Christmas. All we’ve had from politicians is consent to change, not challenge.

Local health services are appalling, led by highly-paid managers who couldn’t even run a bath. Who speaks up locally about the queues at our hospitals, health centres, surgeries, and dentists? I will!

A vote for an Independent isn’t wasted.

It’s a vote for change and someone who will put the best interests of you and your family first.

My biggest achievement

In 2023, I was so angered by the lack of contrition from Thurrock Conservatives I stood against the portfolio holder for finance, who led the authority into catastrophe. I was mocked by some for doing so. I won by over 100 votes, showing the value of honesty, transparency and integrity.

Funniest moment

Going full Rocky Horror mode for an evening supporting LGBTQ+ groups at the Thameside Theatre. My old footballer’s legs have never looked so good as in stockings!

My interests

Supporting the Thurrock RAF Association and helping veterans.

Favourite restaurant: My own kitchen, I love to cook. 

Favourite shop: Charity shops. 

Favourite hairdresser: Sadly I don’t need a hairdresser any more. A number two with a shaver every few months does the job!

My inspiration

Jim Gooding, the 98-year-old former Lancaster rear gunner. He is still going strong and is a true gentleman. 

My vision

To bring honesty, integrity and decency back to local governance in Basildon and Thurrock. Residents in both communities deserve far better from their councillors, MPs and public servants. And I believe, that as the local MP, I will be in a position to challenge with authority and hold them to account.

Liberal Democrats: Dave Thomas

Dave ThomasLib Dem - Dave Thomas (Image: Dave Thomas)

Why elect me?

I joined the Liberal Democrats 20 years ago, it doesn’t feel that long. 

I know there’s a better way to do things, nothing must be the way it is, we need to have the will to make things happen. I pride myself on making things happen.

I’ve been a district and county councillor, I always try to get an issue sorted, regardless of the issue or complexity. Mostly I succeed, sometimes not – honesty is missing, and I plan to bring openness back so people can regain trust.

Being able to listen and respond, too often politicians talk (like now!) and don’t really engage.

It’s backwards, the public should be able to talk to those in power and then MPs act accordingly where possible.

The Liberal Democrats have a fantastic manifesto:

  • Tackle the cost-of-living crisis and build 380,000 houses a year, including 150,000 social homes.
  • Ensure homes are cheaper to heat and drive a solar revolution for installation of solar panels on homes.
  • Give everyone the right to see their GP within 7 days, OR 24 hours if an emergency.
  • Improving the dental service.
  • Increase funding per pupil above inflation every year and fix the scandal of crumbing schools.

My biggest achievement

My biggest achievement in politics, every issue that I’ve ever resolved. 

I’ve helped local causes gain funding to make small improvements, that in turn make a big difference. And my biggest personal achievement is my daughter, nothing I do will ever match her arriving in the world, and all I do in life is for her.

My funniest moment

Too much not appropriate for print, but I once had to do a pole dance at the Bingo to win a prize for my table that night... cringeworthy.

My interests

I’m a runner, mental-health advocate, father and husband, full-time worker, board gamer and get a buzz from helping others. Not a bad poker player either.

My inspiration

Those who come from backgrounds similar to mine and achieved great things, like Paddy Ashdown. My wife – lots of people.

My vision

Thurrock is an area I’ve visited several times a year for 35 years, as I have family in Corringham and the surrounding area. 

The council has switched between Labour and Conservatives, there is an alternative, that is having a Liberal Democrat MP.

I’d want to see an area that is greener, where people feel more empowered and engaged. Where the communities where they live are safer, cleaner and modern.

Being able to get around with better public transport, high-grade schools, so social mobility is improved. One in five children under 16 are growing up in poverty in Thurrock, and in 2024 that is shameful. Life expectancy is lower in Thurrock than the national average. 

All of these stats can be better, and a liberal vision at the heart of Government can make this happen.

The next generation is the future, I want to leave as positive an environment as possible.

Reform UK: James Murdock

James Murdock is standing as a Reform UK candidate in next week’s General Election.

As the Echo went to press the parliamentary candidate had not responded to our requests and, therefore, we could not include a candidate profile and picture in the full round-up.

Green Party: Elizabeth Grant

Elizabeth Grant is standing as a Green Party candidate in next week’s General Election.

As the Echo went to press the parliamentary candidate had not responded to our requests and, therefore, we could not include a candidate profile and picture in the full round-up.