Richard Walker OBE
Business leader, company chairman, charity ambassador, campaigner, broadcaster, author and approved Conservative Party Parliamentary candidate
My aim in entering politics is to make other people’s lives better. To give something back. To serve.
I will strive to bring about positive change for our country in vital areas such as the economy, health, education, farming and food, and national defence; to create genuine equality of opportunity for all; to liberate and encourage wealth creators; and to improve the prospects for our planet as a whole through positive action on the environment.
I will also seek to focus on the everyday things that really matter: meeting cost-of-living challenges, improving access to healthcare, upgrading transport infrastructure, improving local rail and bus connections, providing an electric vehicle charging network that is fit for purpose, and improving broadband and mobile coverage. I recognise that the basics – like filling potholes and picking up litter – have a material impact on everyone’s quality of life.
I back firm action against crime and anti-social behaviour.
I am constantly on the road, visiting 1,000 stores in every part of the UK. I listen to ‘ordinary people’ on shop floors every day of the week, and I understand their priorities and needs.
If I am elected to Parliament, I will make your priorities my priorities and will do my utmost to improve the lives not just of my supporters, but of everyone who lives in my constituency.
I strongly support the NHS as one of the pillars of our national life. My family, like so many others, has relied on the NHS to see us through the worst of times, and we will always be grateful for the excellent service and support we have received from NHS professionals.
While top priority must be given to resolving the strikes that are having such an adverse impact on the NHS today, I believe in the longer term that there is significant scope to improve its efficiency. Funding for the NHS has increased substantially in real terms over the last 12 years, yet outcomes have continued to deteriorate so that the UK lags behind its peer group of developed countries on most measures of health performance.
I do not believe that devoting ever more money to the NHS will resolve these issues in the absence of fundamental reform of the way it operates. I also passionately believe that the funding the NHS receives should be focused on front line doctors and nurses, rather than on promoters of equality, diversity and “lived experience”.
Nothing is more important to the future of our nation than the education of our children.
I am acutely conscious of the challenges facing schools in the aftermath of Covid, and that many children have fallen behind in their learning as a result of the pandemic. In the current cost-of-living crisis, hunger can also impede the ability to learn, which is why I have strongly supported the Food Foundation’s campaign to extend the availability of free school meals to all recipients of Universal Credit.
I believe that the key to improvement in our schools is listening to teachers and parents, and supporting teachers properly in their work both within schools, and in everything else they do for our kids. My own Mum qualified and worked as a primary school teacher and it was only because of her stable job and regular salary that my Dad was able to take the risk of becoming an entrepreneur and ultimately starting Iceland.
I strongly support the Government’s drive to raise standards in state schools, by ensuring that all primary school children achieve the required standards of literacy and numeracy, and by increasing the average grades achieved in GCSE maths and English.
I also support the achievement of greater coherence in state education through an expansion of the proven academies system.
I do not believe that the quality of state education can be improved by taxing or otherwise degrading schools in the private sector. We should encourage private schools in the efforts that many are already making to support their peers in the state sector.
I am sympathetic to the expansion of grammar schools in areas where these are wanted by the majority of parents.
We should recognise that a traditional academic education does not meet the needs of all children, and fight the UK’s ingrained prejudice against technical education. My own company has demonstrated that our award-winning apprenticeship schemes can offer fast-track career advancement as a viable alternative to further education, with the considerable bonus that apprentices earn a salary instead of racking up student debt.
The fact that four of the world’s best universities are located in the UK is one of our greatest ‘soft power’ strengths and gives us world-beating capabilities in scientific and technological innovation. We must ensure equality of opportunity in university entry.
In schools and universities alike, I believe that we should defend freedom of speech and resist the indoctrination of young people by advocates of extremist views, whether of the Left or Right.
I believe our country will always be strongest as a United Kingdom.
I am very proud to be British and have huge respect for our history and our traditional values.
In an increasingly dangerous world, we must invest in the defence of our country and our values as a member of NATO. We need strong, well-equipped and well-trained armed forces to fulfil our responsibilities and I support increasing UK defence expenditure to 3% of GDP as soon as possible.
We must continue our support for the brave people of Ukraine as they resist President Putin’s illegal invasion of their country.
I believe we must take effective control of our borders to curb illegal economic immigration, while permitting the entry of people with the skills we need to support business and public services, and showing compassion to genuine refugees.
Farming & Food
My family business has worked closely with British farmers and food producers for more than 50 years. In addition to paying regular visits to the farmers and food processors who supply Iceland, I have many personal friends and neighbours who are farmers.
As a food retailer and as a lover of the countryside, I well understand the challenges faced by the farming community and am committed to assuring the livelihoods of farmers and agricultural workers while also protecting and improving the rural environment, encouraging an approach to agriculture that is more regenerative, uses fewer inputs, and allows nature to flourish.
Brexit affords Britain a fantastic opportunity to unshackle ourselves from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and export more of our top quality, sustainably produced homegrown food around the world.
Loving Nature is absolutely central to my life. I grew up in the English countryside and am delighted to still live there today with my children.
A key driver of my decision to join Iceland in 2012 was my awareness of its proven track record of being able to punch well above its weight and achieve real change by taking disruptive action on key environmental issues such as GM food and the damage being done to the Earth’s ozone layer by the use of CFCs in refrigeration.
Building on this legacy of ‘Doing It Right’ for the planet, I have been proud to lead Iceland on sustainability since 2018, and launch a series of world-leading environmental initiatives:
I have been passionate about the threat from ocean plastic pollution since an eye-opening surfing trip to Morocco in 2006, and was proud to take world-leading action by making Iceland the first major retailer anywhere to pledge to eliminate plastic packaging from its entire own label range.
A visit to Borneo in 2017 opened my eyes to the devastation caused by the destruction of tropical rainforest to meet booming global demand for palm oil. That’s why I made Iceland the first major UK supermarket to eliminate palm oil as an ingredient in our own label food.
Cutting carbon is easy when it also cuts costs through no-brainers like switching to LED lighting. I have driven Iceland to go further in addressing the real challenges in our supply chain, making us the first food retailer in the world to join The Climate Pledge, committing to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040.
I see cutting food waste as a moral imperative, as well as delivering obvious environmental and economic benefits, which is why I have led Iceland in pledging to achieve a 50% reduction in food waste in our operations by 2030.
One important lesson I have learned over the last four years is the importance of total honesty and transparency about progress towards fulfilling our missions, in the face of a media always eager to make charges of ‘greenwashing’ hypocrisy.
But I have also learned that setting apparently impossible goals provides an unbeatable stimulus to making progress in the face of the most daunting challenges.
Congratulations on all you have done to save the planet and wishing you future success
Sir David Attenborough