TODAY marks a week until polls open and voters put their crosses in the box of their chosen candidates for the 2024 General Election.

On Thursday, July 4 residents of Penrith and Solway - a new seat contested for the first time following boundary changes last year - will take to polling booths across north Cumbria to decide who their MP will be.

This week, the Times & Star asked each of the candidates to provide a short piece on who they are, what brought them into politics and what makes them tick outside of political life.

Here is what they had to say:

Markus Campbell-Savours (Labour)

Markus Campbell-SavoursMarkus Campbell-Savours (Image: Supplied)

I was born in a political family and saw first hand how valuable the efforts of politicians like my dad were to their constituents. But twenty years ago, when I was considering my options after school, politics was the last thing on my mind. Having been unable find an apprenticeship in Cumbria, I got myself a copy of the London Yellow Pages and spent an afternoon in the Workington Labour Club writing letters to 200 electrical contractors.

Luckily one responded and I've spent most of the following years managing domestic and commercial electrical projects.

At first politics was just a hobby, but I became increasingly angry about the UK’s affordable housing crisis and got more and more involved in local campaigns. I then got married to my wife Karen from Keswick and had two children. I also completed a financial economics degree at Birkbeck University of London, who specialised in evening classes for full-time workers like me.

We moved back home to Keswick in 2018 and in 2019 I was elected to Allerdale Borough Council and later to Cumberland Council. It is the curse of a councillor to feel frustrated at your limited powers, so standing for parliament was inevitable.

Mark Jenkinson (Conservative)

Mark JenkinsonMark Jenkinson (Image: Supplied)

I am a 42 year-old father of four, married to Dawn. I was the Conservative Member of Parliament for the old Workington constituency from December 2019, the bulk of which became the new Penrith and Solway constituency. I have spent the last four and a half years ensuring that I’m the most visible and accessible MP that the constituency has ever seen, and I’ve handled 45,000 individual cases for constituents in that time. So my time up here at home is filled with surgeries, home visits, visits to businesses and knocking on doors unannounced to hear people’s views.

Dawn would say it rarely happens, but if I’m not working you’re most likely to catch me pitch-side at a grassroots football or rugby match or (very occasionally) shooting.

I got into politics at a local level about 15 years ago and got ‘the bug’ of being able to make a real difference to peoples lives. My initial interest was in response to local councillor’s failures on Workington Hall, allowing it to decay beyond repair. I saw it as an opportunity to better represent local people’s concerns. I was twice elected as borough councillor for my home ward, I’ve been chairman of my parish council, deputy leader of Allerdale Borough Council with responsibility for economic growth, Member of Parliament, and a Government Minister.

Julia Aglionby (Liberal Democrat)

Julia AglionbyJulia Aglionby (Image: Supplied)

After working in Indonesia as an economist I returned to Cumbria in 1997 as a land agent. For 25 years I’ve supported farmers to run profitable businesses producing food while delivering for nature and our landscapes.

I was executive director of the Foundation for Common Land until last year and for five years was a Natural England non-exec director. Since 2019 I’ve been a part time Professor of Practice at the University of Cumbria where I develop opportunities for careers in farming, land and nature.

When not working you can find me swimming in the river, riding my bike or walking the fells with family and friends. In 2023 I swam the 80 miles of the River Eden, 'Source to Sea' to draw attention to the dumping of sewage. I live at Armathwaite and am trustee of Susan’s Farm, a charitable care farm that welcomes over 3,500 people a year. My role is to raise funds, balance the books and check the stock at weekends.

Brexit was my nudge into party politics. I stood in the 2019 General Election for Carlisle and then avoided politics to help improve new schemes for farmers. This was a frustrating process with government not listening to what rural communities need to run businesses and deliver for food, climate and nature.

Hence I’m standing again to deliver change and help Cumbria’s communities thrive. I have cycled 350 miles across Penrith & Solway this campaign to listen and learn.

Susan Denham-Smith (Green Party)

Susan Denham-SmithSusan Denham-Smith (Image: Supplied)

I have been living in West Cumbria for 24 years, where I run a small, independent eco-hostel, with permaculture garden and a spinning and weaving studio creating textiles from the local Herdwick wool. I also work in healthcare for the NHS.

I never considered myself political until I read the Green Party manifesto in 2019, where I discovered that my quirky ideas about finding uses for everything normally considered as waste, reducing meat in my diet, cutting out plastic and cycling to work were an actual political position.

I joined my first demonstration in August that year, walking to the top of Melbreak Fell with my spinning wheel in the 'Another Weigh Wainwright challenge' to highlight the need to reduce the use of single use plastics. Being involved made me look seriously at how many unnecessary shampoo bottles I had in my bathroom and I started making more positive steps to change my shopping behaviours and making more environmentally-friendly changes to my whole life.

My political journey and my personal journey are now so intertwined they cannot be untangled. Days in the garden creating bee-friendly flower borders and cultivating perennial vegetables, teaching sustainable crafts, mending my clothes, hosting tourists in my eco-hostel and holidaying using the train instead of flying, are a way of life and a political calling.

Matthew Moody (Reform)

Matthew MoodyMatthew Moody (Image: Supplied)

I’ve never wanted to be a politician. I was happy running my property businesses.  But in recent years, I’ve questioned vociferously this: "Who ARE the government, civil service, quangos, judiciary, police working for?"

They do not appear to be working in the interests of the British public and this is why I put myself forward as a candidate for parliament for Reform UK for one reason: to have Westminster be once again represented by people and parties who stood for the ordinary man and women who is ignored, vilified and blatantly robbed (through extortionate taxation) of their hard-earned wages.

I’m a Yorkshire man and speak directly and honestly - sometimes too much for my own good - but I’ve been welcomed into the Cumbrian family with great gusto, warmth and understanding. Our mission at Reform UK to deconstruct British politics and get things working again is no light undertaking and challenging times are ahead of us.

I live near Abbeytown with my partner Anette and we are slowly renovating our house. Once upon a time, I played in a band but now the dulcet tones of tramping the pavements, a letterbox click and Question Time haunts my dreams.

Shaun Long (Social Democratic Party)

Shaun LongShaun Long (Image: Supplied)

Until relatively recently, I’d never joined a political party, despite having had a longstanding interest in politics. Neither Labour, the Lib Dems nor the Conservatives seemed the right fit for me, and I wasn’t interested in the wilder fringes. I wanted a positive option to vote for, but as there wasn’t one I put myself forward as the SDP candidate rather than simply sitting and grumbling (or, even worse, swearing). Our mainstream parties offer nothing but the prospect of managed decline, and badly managed decline at that; I want to see things improve, not get worse; and they are getting worse. The news is so dismal.

I’m married, and have three stepdaughters and five grandchildren. Home can therefore get a bit lively some days after school. When I have time, and it’s not lashing down with rain and blowing a gale, I like to get up onto the fells, with the day’s walking best rounded off with a pint or two of local ale in a country pub and a bite to eat. I read a lot of history, and have a soft spot for ghost stories. Learning languages fascinates me, with Russian being the one I speak most fluently.

Chris Johnston (Independent)

Chris JohnstonChris Johnston (Image: Supplied)

I'm from Silloth, educated at the local school and Carlisle college, and work as a process operator at Iggesund. I chose to get involved in politics to make a difference, and my experience with this campaign has already shown me that we need real political change.

I like to spend time traveling around historical sites both local and abroad to learn and see the realities of others.

I like to play strategy games, especially Go. Plotting the multiple steps needed to reach my goal.

While I am unlikely to have the highest number of votes in this election, I can see a pathway for the future.

Roy Ivinson (Independent)

Roy IvinsonRoy Ivinson (Image: Supplied)

I am politician because that is what I think about, only God knows why. I am not trying to win but I am trying to be the best candidate that I can be. Immigration must stop, there is no food on this island for these people and we are headed for a global famine created by greenhouse gas emissions. We must create a zero-carbon economy we can afford; this means rebuilding the railway network we once had, land-based wind turbines where the council own the wind and take a percentage of the electricity produced to sell to locals cheaply and finance local government from the proceedings.

Rebuilding the nuclear industry in this country to create a cheap zero carbon electricity.

We are heading for a Labour government who will have a majority. People voting Labour should reflect on that fact and use their vote to say something different, even if it's not going to change the outcome. We are going to get a Labour government, but you are electing a Parliament in which a variety of voices are needed.