THE GREEN Party candidate standing in the general election has called for environmental issues to be recognised with the same importance as the economy.

Bridport councillor Kelvin Clayton is standing as the Green candidate in West Dorset next month, and is passionate about "redefining our whole approach to the economy".

Mr Clayton believes prime minister Theresa May only called the snap election to further her support within the Conservative Party.

He said: "Brexit negotiations are important but I think there's a huge chance here that focusing only on the negotiations, we are going to have our attention taken away from a whole host of other issues. Focusing solely on Brexit is a distraction.

"I joined the Green Party originally because I thought they were the most socialist party I could find. While being a member, I seriously thought about the green aspects of their policies.

"For me, the green aspects are far more important then any socialist principles - all of that stuff is inter-related."

He added: "I think, if we are being honest, I'm not doing it because I think I stand a good chance of winning in West Dorset. It's a chance to talk about green policies and values and give supporters a chance to vote for a green voice. But let's be realistic, Dorset is about as blue as you can get."

Mr Clayton, who played a leading role in a trust saving Bridport Youth Centre from closure, believes housing, education and lack of funding for services are key issues across West Dorset.

He said: "Lots of people are being asked to pick up, on a voluntary basis, services that should be given by central and local government - we have taken on the youth centre, for example. It is a constant battle to find funding.

"As well as a loss of public services, there's a whole round of reorganisation, which is cuts dressed up as improvements to services. If all the predictions are correct, I think the situation is only going to get many times worse."

Mr Clayton put forward a proposal to the Liberal Democrats and Labour for only one candidate from a 'progressive' party to take on the incumbent Oliver Letwin in West Dorset - but a deal fell through.

He said: "The idea of a progressive alliance that I put forward was that the parties put forward one candidate in an election primary and we let the public choose.

"As soon as the general election was called, I wrote to the chairmen of the parties about holding a primary. Labour said they would consider it but then said no. Andy Canning of the Lib Dems said they would consider it and at the last minute he emailed me with a suggestion that Labour and the Greens stand down. That was a suggestion that I considered a bit unfair and I felt a bit miffed."

Mr Clayton believes his party is the only group that takes the environmental impacts of the economy seriously.

He added: "My main point is to campaign to have our economy changed from a focus on economic growth to meeting the needs to everyone. We want that environmental focus to be recognised as the second side on the same coin as the economy.

"I would like to think that Bridport can become a real beacon for green values."

The candidate said he respects Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's integrity but was critical of his stance on the environment.

Mr Clayton added: "I think he talks about a socialism that is past its sell by date. The issues are relevant but he's missing a huge element and that's our relationship with the environment.

"Labour only pay lip service to environmental politics and it is only mentioned in passing."