In the latest of our series of features profiling each of the General Election candidates, we meet Mike Sparling, Labour candidate for Torridge and West Devon

How long have you been in politics?

As long as I can remember, I've taken an interest in what's happening around me. As a teenager, I could see for myself how 18 years of Tory rule was holding Britain back.

At the height of the Tory sleaze scandal, it was apparent to me that the Conservatives cared more about money, Labour more about people. In part, this is what drew me to progressive politics.

The reason I'm Labour is because of my upbringing. I was raised with a strong sense of right and wrong, of the responsibility to speak up for those people who need help, and for those people without a voice.

I believe that cooperatively we can build a better society

This is was what made me run campaigns at college and as a student of The University of Manchester, eventually being elected to the national committee of the British Universities North America Club.

I graduated in Philosophy and Politics and studied Legal Method as a postgraduate. I've worked for Labour MPs and also in The House of Lords at Westminster. At the last general election, I stood as Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for South East Cornwall.

Why have you decided to stand for election?

I was born in this constituency and my family live and work here still. It's very clear that politics is changing. There is no such thing anymore as a 'safe seat' and old rules about 'tactical voting' are now defunct. Voters in this constituency should not be taken for granted by the Conservatives, Lib Dems and others. You deserve better than a part time MP.

What's more, after five years of the Tories and Lib Dems, the NHS in under immense strain. On employment, I want more jobs in the private sector, many more apprenticeships and training. I want to see people from every background have an opportunity to get an education, get a job, get a future. For too long the Government has concentrated on opportunity in London and the South East. I want to make sure the South West is seen as an area for opportunity, too and I get angry when I see inequality: tax cuts for the rich when the poor pay more.

We need more full-time jobs not just part-time roles that shrink unemployment figures but don't deal with in work poverty. That means jobs that pay a decent Living Wage to start with and don't need taxpayer top ups to get to a decent level. We need to build more homes. I want to unlock spare public sector land to build more houses, especially affordable homes, part-buy/part-let and social housing. And, as your MP I would vote for the repeal of the Tory Health and Social Care Act that seeks to privatise the NHS in our community. I would also vote to scrap the hated Tory Bedroom Tax.

So I want to be your MP is because I feel that this constituency is being let down. Geoffrey Cox even voted to give less support to low paid agricultural workers. When he turns up to Parliament, he continues to support the hated Bedroom Tax. The Tory cuts have put immense pressure on local services. We need a full time Member of Parliament who recognises the potential in all our local people - not just some and puts them first.

I will be confident about our future and fight for a better deal for all in our community.

What are the major issues facing Torridge between 2015-20 and what would you do combat these?

FARMING, FISHERIES, FOODS AND WATER

We must break from decades of centralisation in England and devolve power to this area, giving rural communities in this constituency the ability to shape their economies:

I will fight to ensure that our food systems work for ordinary people, including those producing it. This will include raising earnings and improving career opportunities in the food and farmer sector where low pay is all too-prevalent with an employment culture often characterised by agency-work, short-term and zero hours contracts. Our Tory MP has made this situation worse by supporting the removal of protections for rural and agricultural workers.

I will champion rural and coastal Torridge and West Devon and deliver for our diverse communities by:

 Tackling the cost of living crisis in our rural workforce

 Unlocking the potential of our rural economy

 Supporting our leading food, farming and fisheries sector

 Protecting and enhancing our natural environment

 Fight for a new deal with South West Water and demand greater affordability and fairness

 Saving our NHS and protecting public services – even more vital in our rural area

How would your party deliver for the people of Torridge and West Devon?

I promise to be a full time MP and to donate any increase in MPs pay to local good causes.

Labour will:

1. Freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and reform the energy market

2. Get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020

3. Stop families that rent being ripped off and help them plan for the future with new long term predictable tenancies

4. Cut income tax for hardworking people through a lower 10p starting tax rate, and introduce a 50p top rate of tax as we pay off the deficit in a fair way

5. Ban exploitative zero-hour contracts

6. Make work pay by strengthening the Minimum Wage and providing tax breaks to firms that boost pay through the Living Wage

7. Back small businesses by cutting business rates and reforming the banks

8. Help working parents with 25 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds

9. Tackle the abuse of migrant labour to undercut wages by banning recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and pressing for stronger controls in Europe

10. Back the next generation with a job guarantee for the young unemployed and more apprenticeships

This is my contract with the people of Torridge and West Devon and I will fight to deliver on my commitments as a full time MP – all of the time, not just some of the time.

How much pressure do you think local services will come under should spending cuts continue? Can local authorities cope with these?

As a local authority councillor, I see at first hand the devastating impact that government cuts are having on local services. Across Torridge and West Devon, vital transport links are threatened, roads are crumbling and social care is being cut to the bone. Even Tory councillors in Devon are conceding that the cuts have gone too far. Yet George Osborne wants to go even further. The most vulnerable are being made to pay for the economic crisis, whilst the Lib Dems and Tories have awarded tax cuts to millionaires.

Local authorities are on a cliff edge. We can't carry on like this, yet the Tories want to take us back to 1930s levels of public spending, when there wasn't even an NHS.

Do you support or oppose further housing and renewable energy developments in the constituency? Why?

RENEWABLES

Climate change is real and it is happening. However, there needn't be a trade-off between protecting jobs in North Devon and tackling the environmental changes we face, such as flooding.

Under the Tory-led government, we risk falling back – UK renewables investment fell by over $1bn in 2012/13. I want to make our area a regional leader in low carbon technology and green jobs and am determined to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the low-carbon economy. This will be an essential part of Labour's strategy to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.

I support setting a legal target to remove the carbon from our electricity supply. At the same time, I want to strengthen the Green Investment Bank, ensuring it is better placed to support investment in small and medium green businesses in Torridge and West Devon seeking to grow.

Labour will also freeze mainstream energy prices so that bills can fall but not rise and reset the market to deliver fairer prices in the future.

HOUSING

Developments need to take account of local circumstances and opinion and associated services need to be able to cope with any additional demand; however, there is a housing crisis in our region that must be addressed. That's why a Labour government will get more homes built.

Britain's housing shortage is part of the cost-of-living crisis, and the Tories are making it worse. Working people in Torridge and West Devon cannot buy the homes they want – today it takes an average family 22 years to save for a proper deposit on a home, and the nine million people who rent privately are finding rent payments increasing faster than wages.

Yet under the Lib Dems and Tories, we are building fewer than half the number of homes we need to keep up with demand. David Cameron has presided over the lowest level of house building in peacetime Britain since the 1920s. If unchecked, the gap between the number of homes we need and the number we build could rise to 1.3 million by 2020, the equivalent of three cities the size of Birmingham.

Labour has a housing plan:

• We will get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. This will close the gap between the number of homes we build and the number of homes we need, as well as providing up to 230,000 jobs in construction.

• We will unblock the supply of new homes by giving local authorities “use it or lose it” powers over developers who hoard land that has planning permission so that they can sell it on for a bigger profit, instead of building on it now.

• We will deliver a new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities, and give a new “right to grow” to communities who want to expand but are blocked by neighbouring local authorities.

• We will tackle empty homes by giving councils more power to charge higher rates of council tax on empty properties, and ensure new homes are advertised in the UK first, not overseas.

How confident are you of a successful election campaign for your party, both locally and nationally?

I believe that this constituency, this region and this country can do better than this. Labour are ambitious, particularly for the next generation and I'm therefore confident of success.

It's very clear that politics is changing. There is no such thing anymore as a 'safe seat' and old rules about 'tactical voting' are now defunct. Voters in this constituency should not be taken for granted by the Conservatives, Lib Dems and others. You deserve better than a part time MP.

What's more, after five years of the Tories and Lib Dems, the NHS in under immense strain. On employment, I want more jobs in the private sector, many more apprenticeships and training. I want to see people from every background have an opportunity to get an education, get a job, get a future. For too long the Government has concentrated on opportunity in London and the South East. I want to make sure the South West is seen as an area for opportunity, too and I get angry when I see inequality: tax cuts for the rich when the poor pay more.

We need more full-time jobs not just part-time roles that shrink unemployment figures but don't deal with in work poverty. That means jobs that pay a decent Living Wage to start with and don't need taxpayer top ups to get to a decent level. We need to build more homes. I want to unlock spare public sector land to build more houses, especially affordable homes, part-buy/part-let and social housing. And, as your MP I would vote for the repeal of the Tory Health and Social Care Act that seeks to privatise the NHS in our community. I would also vote to scrap the hated Tory Bedroom Tax.

I will be confident about our future and fight for a better deal for all in our community.

In one sentence, what would you pledge to offer to the people of Torridge should you be elected?

I am a local man who pledges to work tirelessly for ALL in this constituency, as a full time MP – all of the time, not just some of the time.

Why should people give you their vote?

I want to be your MP is because I feel that this constituency is being let down. We can do much better. I would get to work on day 1 as a full time MP. There are many people in this constituency who desperately need the advocacy of a full time MP and I would represent them too – including those who didn't vote for me and those who didn't vote at all.

I have experience of helping to run a local small business and of working for large, global firms. I can combine this experience with my working knowledge of local government and Parliament, to have a much stronger voice for you and your family.

We need a full time Member of Parliament who recognises the potential in all our local people - not just some and puts them first.

What would you say to anyone thinking about not voting in May?

Since the expenses scandal, the economic crisis and the phone hacking scandal, many people have become disillusioned with the perceived 'establishment', which includes politicians. I completely understand this and share the frustration. However, the remedy is not less engagement, but more. I would therefore encourage everyone to use their vote – so hard won through sacrifice by our predecessors.

As a progressive, I want to see our democracy work for Britain and that's why I support Labour's measures to extend voting to 16yo's and to reform Parliament too. It's also why I want to see an end to paid directorships or consultancies for MPs. To make these changes, however, we need your help.

I would particularly appeal to young people to vote. Less young people vote than any other demographic and so politicians often don't listen to them. This is wrong.

Away from politics, give us a quirky fact about yourself?

I am actually adopted and my birth name is Michael Caine – like the actor!