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Introducing Simon Thorley, our Paliamentary Candidate for the next UK General Election.

Simon Thorley portrait

Simon Thorley, 37, says a radical, long-term plan to rejuvenate the town centre - prioritising better public transport, the creation of well-paid jobs, and improved cycling infrastructure - will be at the heart of his campaign to become Darlington's next MP.

Simon, who is also standing for the Lib Dems in Park West in May's council elections, was born at Greenbank Maternity Hospital, and went to Abbey Junior School, Hummersknott Academy and Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College before studying politics at Edinburgh University.

While at university, he spent a year in Hong Kong studying Chinese politics and, after graduating, he moved to Taiwan to study Mandarin.

He returned to Britain in 2011 and lived in London until 2020 when he moved back to Darlington, where he lives with his wife, Nicole, and children, Clara, five, and Jack, three.

SImon, who also speaks French, is managing director of InTuition Languages, which specialises in language immersion training.

"Having lived away and come back, it's clear that Darlington has some very positive things going for it - excellent transport links, a relatively well-educated population, established industries, and a diverse economy," he said. "It is also incredibly warm and welcoming to incomers, as my Canadian wife has experienced. She says we should have moved here years ago!"

"However, we are missing opportunities in the way we bring about town centre improvements. Innovation and creativity are sadly lacking."

He wants to prioritise the development of a more "joined-up" cycling infrastructure on all main routes into the town, saying: "Darlington is too large to walk everywhere, but small enough to cycle everywhere."

Simon is also calling for a standard 20mph speed limit with exceptions for major roads, as well as an Oyster Card-style system for local bus services.

"Having lived in London I've got used to frequent, easy-to-use, and relatively affordable bus services. Why can't we have that in Darlington?" he asked.

The Liberal Democrats aim to create a "Town Centre Neighbourhood" by converting empty retail units into offices and housing.

"Online shopping isn't a fad. Times have changed and we have to change with them, so Darlington's historic core needs to be a living community," he said.

At a national level, the ongoing crisis in the NHS is Simon's and the Lib Dems' top priority. We're siding with the people; the nurses and paramedics on strike, the public who are paying more tax for less public services. We're worse off under the Tories' more-for-less Britain. These are clearly massive issues that need compassionate and serious attention, not the endless confrontation and theatrics we see from the Conservative government," he added.

More locally, Simon accused Tees Valley's elected mayor, Ben Houchen, of failing to ensure the public is getting a fair deal from public ownership of Teesside Airport.

"It's not clear how much public money has gone into the airport, but we know it's at least £70m with no prospect of any return. Knowing when to cut losses is a fundamental part of being in business and Ben Houchen just doesn't care about getting value for our money," he said.

He added that Mr Houchen also had questions to answer about "how 90 per cent of land at the Teesworks site was given away to companies with which he has close political contact".

Simon branded the Government's Levelling Up campaign as "pork barrel politics", adding: "They've cut councils' funding by 20 per cent, then made them beg for money from funds that are controlled centrally. It stinks and needs to be replaced, with the money returned to the councils. We need less bureaucracy, not more."

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats will campaign to rejoin the single market as a route back to the EU, arguing that Brexit has been "a self-inflicted disaster". "Rejoining the Single Market will provide a huge boost to the British economy, enabling us to put vital additional funding into the NHS, police, transport and other core public services," he said.

The party is also planning to establish a Skills Fund that people can dip into throughout their lives for educational purposes.