“Neighbours came to me and said ‘what a great idea, I love Trump’.”
If all Cambridgeshire residents were as impressed by Stephen Goldspink’s publicity stunt as his neighbours in Turves near Whittlesey, then the English Democrat would stand a good chance of representing the county as its first ever elected mayor.
Mr Goldspink caused quite a stir on social media in early February by announcing that if he followed the US President in achieving a shock election victory, then he would formally invite The Donald to visit Cambridgeshire.
The former deputy leader of Peterborough City Council (Mr Goldspink that is, not Mr Trump, although there is still time) is quite open in admitting that his ‘invitation’ to the White House was nothing short of a publicity stunt.
“Of course it was!” he says.
But behind the attention-seeking was a “genuine sentiment,” he claimed, adding: “I do sense there is less opposition to Donald Trump in the UK than you might think if you read your average newspaper, and more interest in what he’s doing.
“I certainly thought it was worth throwing out an invitation no matter how unlikely it is that he will respond to come to Cambridgeshire because let’s be honest, whether you like him or you don’t like him, it would put Cambridgeshire on the map.
“He said some things I think are unwise, but on the other hand, in terms of election promises and keeping them, he’s doing something that’s quite a lot different to other politicians that I’ve seen.
“In that respect Nigel Farage is the same.”
Mr Goldspink describes himself as a “slow convert” to Mr Trump, and he hopes to take inspiration from his campaign as he seeks an unlikely victory in May’s vote.
He said: “I was watching a programme about Donald Trump and I saw early on he was being asked ‘are you in this just to make up the numbers or are you in it to win?’
He said, ‘I’m in it to win’.
“He was always very unlikely to win at the start of it so I have to say I’m in it to win, but I have to be realistic and say if I get my deposit back I can be very pleased.”
Mr Goldspink, a project manager for a software company, was a Conservative city councillor before switching to the English Democrats in 2009.
Aside from being deputy council leader he was cabinet member for business efficiency, community services and education and children’s services, and he was a councillor for East ward until 2012 when he vacated his seat.
And with five of the seven remaining candidates for mayor coming from outside of Peterborough, Mr Goldspink wanted to give voters in his former city another option when they cast their vote on May 4.
He said: “I know quite a lot of what is going on and I’ve always taken an interest in local affairs.
“I note that a lot of the candidates are from the south of the county so I was quite keen to represent the north of the county and the Peterborough area in particular.
“Not to give a bias, but just to give an alternative to someone who lives in the north of the county.
“I feel I can discharge the role well and I understand the issues.”
Mr Goldspink is proud of his achievements as an East ward councillor.
“He pinpoints his role in helping to create a second lane on Bishop’s Road up to the mini roundabout as proof that he can make a difference to the local community.
He now believes he can help more residents as Cambridgeshire’s first mayor, adding: “I will do what I say I’m going to do and make sure I keep in touch with the residents who elected me.”
Fixing life’s everyday problems is a promise from English Democrat
Small improvements that will make a big difference - that is Stephen Goldspink’s selling point to voters.
The English Democrat politician wants to use hundreds of millions of pounds of government funding, if elected as mayor, to put right the inconveniences which frustrate residents every day, such as bottlenecks on the roads.
He said: “I did stand once in the Cambridgeshire County Council elections and I looked at all the things that upset me as a local resident, and I put them all on my newsletter and I found I had an enormous response from people. That’s why I say that residents are a key resource to be used because they know where the problems are.
“Local residents will be aware where they get stuck every night and every morning. I’ll be inviting some sort of consultation exercise from across the whole county to look at ideas where we can make small improvements that will make big differences.”
The mayor and the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - which he or she will lead - will have a devolved transport budget, £170 million for housing (of which £70 million is ringfenced for Cambridge) and £20 million a year for the next 30 years to spend on growth for the county.
Mr Goldspink said: “I’m in favour of the motorcar as the pre-eminent means of transport in our largely rural country. I’m not in favour of vilifying the motorist, particularly when you live in a rural county.
“I would like a fair division of the funds to deal with both motorcar traffic issues and public transport issues.” One specific area he mentions is increasing the number of trains at Whittlesea Rail Station.
With housing, Mr Goldspink wants ‘starter homes’ for people currently living with their parents to move into, and tailored accommodation for the elderly. He also suggested that local authorities which are best at bringing derelict homes back into use, and are willing to give away their land to developers, are more likely to receive a bigger share of the housing pot of money.
Speaking of local authorities, Mr Goldspink is complimentary about the Conservatives at Peterborough City Council, where he was deputy leader. He said: “I think they’re doing as well as they can do in very difficult circumstances. Because there’s less money there’s less flexibility for grand schemes and pet projects.”
As for how Peterborough would benefit if he was elected mayor, he adds: “I hope that people will see a much more co-ordinated approach on transport and on housing, and they would be less inclined to say every morning, ‘oh dear, this still hasn’t been fixed,’ because I would want to see some real progress.
“At the end of the day I want the residents to be the people who provide the ideas and I want the mayor to put the ideas into action, and I want a co-ordinated approach with the councils so that it actually does make a difference.”