Monday, 7 June 2010

Signing Off

Well a month has passed since the election and it’s probably time to bid farewell to this blog and return to other blogs such as Mancunian Green which has been very much neglected recently.

Despite the low vote I received (798 votes and 1.8% well down on the 1595 votes of 2005), I have been struck by the favourable comments I have received both during the campaign and since. The response bears out my own opinion, that I was particularly squeezed by tactical voting; in many cases, people were voting Liberal Democrat to achieve a change in the system (particularly the voting system). A second group of tactical voters, worried about the return of a Tory Government, were backing my Labour opponent.

In several respects the election reminded me very much of 1992, where my vote count and percentage were similar but I also received many favourable comments. In those far off days of course the squeeze was between Labour and Tory.

It is some consolation that my fellow Greens were squeezed across most of the country, the big exception of course being Brighton Pavilion where Caroline Lucas made the breakthrough becoming our first Green MP!

Well, we now have a Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government, and we will soon see how much things change, and in what direction.

I will keep a close eye on what happens.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The concerns of the Voters of Withington

The concerns of the Voters of Withington...

according to my inbox:

I have just done a check on the number of emails I've received from voters in the constituency since campaigning started and its nearly 300 now. Thank you for keeping me busy!

I talked about the type of subject that was dominating the inbox earlier. The subjects have stayed pretty much the same - according to my rough categorisation I have received at least 20 emails on each of the following areas:
- Human Rights 33
- Climate Change 31
- International Justice (including Robin Hood Tax) 29
- Democratic Reform 27
- Trident and other defence issues 24
- Health 22
- Civil Liberties 20

Other environmental issues and concerns about other public services also featured strongly.

This is an admirable reflection of the concerns of the voters of this constituency.

Here are a couple of replies to a couple of the most frequently asked questions:

On concern about climate change:
I agree with you that climate change will be one of the most important issues for the incoming government. The Green Party has consistently led the way in stressing the need to tackle this massive threat. I also agree with you that the measures we need to take to address this problem will provide other rewards for our society in this election the Green Party is particularly promoting those benefits.

A key part our manifesto is a 'Green New Deal' (the name is taken from the USA 'New Deal' of the 1930s) to take over the management of money from the broken banking system and use it for a a massive programme of investment to create jobs in areas like insulation, public transport, social housing and renewable energy, thereby moving towards a sustainable zero-carbon economy.
It is essential that we focus on this investment, instead of the cuts threatened by other Parties.

I totally agree with the contraction and convergence principle, as does my Party, and I would very much back an international deal on this. It is the people in the developing world who are bearing the brunt of climate change.
Given the need to keep the rise in temperature to under 2 degrees and the need for us to cut more deeply than developing countries, we need tough targets. We would commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10% per year, aiming for 65% reduction by 2020 and 90% by 2030. Tough targets indeed, but we believe they are achievable with political will.

Regarding renewable energy, the Green Party wants to see at least 20% of our energy being met by renewable resources by 2020. We believe this can be achieved via a range of technologies – wind, solar, wave, tidal, geothermal and hydro. This country is fortunate in its ability to access many of these sources of energy and it is a scandal that governments have failed to invest sufficiently in these sources up to now. We have long supported the use of feed-in tariffs to encourage domestic renewable energy use, and see this being used as well as larger schemes to meet our needs.

I would also like to state that I believe our top priority is to reduce the amount of energy we use in the first place. Amongst other measures, the Green Party would introduce free insulation for all homes which need it, delivering a triple benefit of tackling climate change, providing jobs, and reducing fuel poverty. We have already run a scheme along these lines in Kirklees, in Yorkshire, which was driven by Green councillors there.

On the Digital Economy Act rushed through Parliament just before the election:

Both I and my Party are opposed to the Digital Economy Act and are outraged at the way it was rushed though Parliament, against expert advice. It adds a further dimension to the increasingly authoritarian hold this Government seems to want to place on us.

The Act breaches fundamental principles of British justice in that it assumes guilt and punishes, then puts the onus on people to prove their innocence. It also punishes people for actions which may have been carried out by a relative.

Disconnection should not be used as a punishment for allegations of copyright infringements. I would oppose this and any similar powers of interference if elected. I would also oppose the introduction of new website blocking powers, and would be pleased to attend Eric Joyce's parliamnetary meeting should I become an MP.

A brief video of Green Party leader Caroline Lucas expressing he view on the Digital Economy Act an be seen here:
D E Bill Opposition

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Global and Local

Two events yesterday (Sat 24th): The first was a protest organised by the World Development Movement outside Royal Bank of Scotland in Chorlton. The protest was against the appalling tar sands exploitation in Canada, which is being funded by RBS amongst others. They invited the Withington constituency candidates; however the only two who came to express their support for the campaign were myself and Lib Dem John Leech; in fact as Margaret Westbrook the Green candidate for Stretford and Urmston joined us there were two Greens and only one from every other Party put together - the 3 of us are pictured below.

My statement for the protest:
"I strongly support the campaign by the World Development Movement and other groups against the Canada Tar Sands exploitation and the role of British Banks, including RBS, in funding it.

This is arguably the most damaging project on earth at the moment. As well as devastating the environment in Canada and destroying the health and culture of the native people, it will cause a major increase in the world's carbon emissions. Far from being just a local impact, that will affect humanity worldwide, including in Manchester.

Banks, including RBS, have benefited from a bailout using our money. Rather than the Banks cleaning up at our expense, we need to clean up the Banks."

So although this is the 'Global' half of the post, it will also have local implications.

Gorton Candidate's Cycle Ride.

Justine Hall, the Green candidate for Manchester Gorton did a 'round the constituency cycle ride', yesterday. Amazingly the 'Gorton' constituency stretches as far as the border of Chorlton, so I accompanied her from the end of the Fallowfield Loop as far as Alexandra Park. I did something similar in the 1989 European election; part of the idea is to highlight issues along the way - in this area that includes the Metrolink extension work (this deserves a post of its own), and the availability of housing.

Picture of me with Justine taking a short break from campaigning at 'The Hilary Step' (and thereby supporting the Campaign for Real Ale)

Busy Night Tonight

Another hustings event - this time at Chorlton Central United Reform Church,7.30 pm organised by 'Faith in Government'. Questions on inequality, refugees, and debt (plus others).

This means I will miss most of a special gig by famous comedian Mark Steel (plus supporting acts), being put on for 3 broadly-progressive candidates standing in the area including the Green Party's Gayle O'Donovan (Manchester Central) Facebook event here

Friday, 23 April 2010

On the Campaign Trail + Links and events

On the Campaign Trail

Thurs 22nd April - 2 notable events; a Rally for Older People and the long-awaited 'Unlock Democracy' hustings.

The Rally for Older people, which was organised by CSPA and UNITE Federation (not the Trade Union) was strange (I don't mean that in an insulting way) - given the significance of the campaign I was expecting a wide spread of MPs and candidates, particularly given the fact that older people were more likely to vote. They were noticeable by their absence, indeed I was quite possibly the only general election candidate there. Maybe 'The Three Main Parties' are embarrassed by what they are offering older people. It is one of many areas where the Green Party is out in front - see this earlier release on the Manchester Green Party website.

Although I was unable to stay for the whole meeting, I found it very informative as a candidate. As I slowly approach retirement age, it was informative for me as an individual as well.

The second event I attended was the Hustings event organised by 'Unlock Democracy' and Power 2010 (see earlier post). In my past experience the people of South Manchester have done this sort of live hustings debate proud. They still do. Regarding the audience size I lost count at around 150, all 7 of the Parliamentary candidates were there, while the South Manchester Reporter staff used all modern technolgy devices to record the evening. It lasted well over 2 hours and I think both candidates and most of the audience would have been happy to go on all night.

The audience size was particularly welcome given that the second Leaders Debate was on TV last night. As I said on the panel, the audience had made the right choice seeing the 7 people they can vote for live, rather than 3 people they can't vote for on TV. Whilst the focus of the meeting was democratic reform, there was plenty of opportunity to pose questions on a range of other subjects. For coverage of the debate (a la SMR) see here

Some Links:

What do the Parties / Candidates think on particular issues?:

- Regarding Unlock Democracy, here is their rating on the various Parties on the democratic reform agenda: I look at the Green and Lib Dem scores and the phrase 'It's a Two Horse Race' comes to mind.

- Greater Manchester Friends of the Earth have compiled a record of the views of Greater Manchester candidates here

My third link is slightly different - The following site invites the public to take a blind test to see which Party they should vote for on the basis of whose policies they most like: the results are interesting - see here

Upcoming Campaign Events

Sat 24th April - the World Development Movement (WDM)are leafleting outside RBS at Chorlton's 4 Banks to protest against RBS' support for the devastating tar sands exploitation in Canada - for information here's information from a meeting I attended some time back on this here
I and hopefully other candidates will be there to show our support for WDM#s campaign at around 11 am.

Sat 24th April around 2 pm - I'll be meeting up with Manchester Gorton Green candidate Justine Hall, who is doing a cycle ride round the boundaries of her consituency (which despite the name now includes Whalley Range).

Sun 25th April - Another Hustings event, this time at Chorlton Community Church (junction of Barlow Moor Road and Zetland Road), starting at 7.30 pm. The title is 'Faith in Government'

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Don't Mention the War and a Thank you to the Health Service

Don't Mention the War

I should have written this yesterday - now the Independent on Sunday('Sindy') has got in before me. The famous Fawlty Towers line came to me as I prepared for a Hustings Event organised by GM Stop the War and CND. It's a good question - the death toll of British troops last year was higher than in any year since the 1982 Falklands War.
With good timing Radio 4's Today Programme covered a brief piece with 'The Three Main Parties (henceforth abbreviated to TTMP) Defence Speakers, plus the SNP's Alex Salmond, yesterday. I was particularly incensed with Lib Dem Nick Harvey's statement that 'If you're looking for a Party in England that's against the War in Afghanistan you'll struggle to find one!'.

Anyway on to the debate - The Labour and Tory Parties were noticeably absent. You would think they would want to defend their defence policies, but perhaps they are indefensible. The Lib Dem's at least were represented, along with more Parties opposed to the war in Afghanistan than Nick Harvey could shake a stick at.

Trident and the Afghan war are two issues where there are broad differences between the Parties:

- The Green Party would decommission the existing system and definitely not renew it.
- The Liberal Democrats don't want to pay £97 billion pound for a replacement but seem happy to retain our existing weapons of mass destruction for 20 years
- Both Labour and Tory Parties are committed to spending £97 billion on a replacement (whilst cutting public services) and having a threat to commit genocide as part of our defence policy.

The Green Party recognises that this war compromises our security and calls for a return of our troops.
The Liberal Democrats want a return of troops soon, but support the current 'surge' which is continuing to stoke the cycle of violence
Tories and Labour seem content to fight on there for years or even decades.

The 77% of voters who oppose the war(according to the 'Sindy') don't need to struggle to find a Party to vote for in Manchester Withington - I'm here!

Bitten Candidate Praises NHS

I suppose it was only a matter of time. After 27 years of Green Party leafleting I suffered for the first time one of the fates that political activists fear. As I pushed a leaflet through a letterbox (in Hulme where I was supporting fellow candidate Gayle O'Donovan), a set of canine teeth closed down hard on my fingers.
As I withdrew I noticed the word 'Rottweiler' on a sign in one of the windows.

Following some useful first aid from one of the staff at 'Kim by the Sea' a colleague took me to A&E at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
I was seen promptly and efficiently; the nurse dealing with me was friendly and reassuring and gave me total confidence, and when I emerged I felt almost sufficiently recovered to go back out leafleting. Almost.

It was a reminder of just what a great institution our NHS is and how essential it is that we retain a publicly funded and publicly provided Health Service of which we can be proud.

On publicising my injury on Facebook, I was intrigued to discover that a Green Party couple I have known since I first joined the party all those years ago, actually met as a result of a dog attack whilst leafleting!. And they are still together.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Why I won't be watching the TV Debate Tonight

Today's the day that all the media hype about the Party Leader debates comes to a head, as the first one is Televised tonight on ITV (from Manchester no less). Given the pre-publicity it may well attract a large number of viewers - I won't be one of them.
There are two reasons for this:

- one is that I will be at a meeting with fellow Greens promoting our own campaigners here in Manchester

- the other is that I do not consider this a fair and appropriate debate, and I do not want to encourage it.

The ideas comes from the USA (like so many things) and it may be more suitable for a presidential debate but we do not have a President. Our constitution for what its worth effectively gives us 650 mini-presidential elections, including one here in Withington constituency. To date there are 7 candidates declared for Withington, all of whom should have in theory an equal chance; these 'Leader debates' straight away discriminate against 4 of those candidates.

The debates will be tightly controlled - no less than 78 restrictions have been placed by the Three Main Party machines on what can and can't happen, and audience participation is being kept to a minimum. Three impeccably groomed white males behind their lecterns giving us a half-hearted political equivalent of X-Factor.
The focus will be on things like appearance, body language, and possible gaffes; it is part of the elevation of personality over policy, and I do not see it as the solution to re-engaging the public with politics.

There are in contrast some opportunities coming up for people in Manchester to engage live with their potential representatives:-

Hustings Events

Sat 17th April Central Hall Oldham St. 2 pm Stop tthe War + CND have organised hustings for candidates in Manchester to answer questions on Afghanistan, Trident, Gaza, Islamophobia and Civil Liberties - I will be representing the Green Party at this - see here for more information

Tues 20th April, Friends Meeting House, 7 pm The Council and Climate Change - what next? Hear what candidates for the local elections for Manchester City Council have to say about climate change and what is/should be done in Manchester. My fellow candidate Gayle O'Donovan will be speaking for the Green Party - more information here

Thurs 22nd April, Hough End Centre Mauldeth Road West, 7.30 pm Public Hustings featuring all the Withington constituency candidates, organised by Unlock Democracy and Power 2010 - more details to follow.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Email Engagement and Don't Forget the Locals

Trial by Email

As a historical note I fought this constituency for the Green Party way back in 1992; there was no email in those days, but I did receive a number of letters from voters asking for my views and from organisations asking me to pledge support to their campaigns.

Fast forward 18 years and the printed communications have largely disappeared; they have been replaced by email. I have received well over a hundred emails from electors in the constituency, and organisations, seeking my views - our electronic age has made communication so much easier, and whilst it also makes it much easier to reply it is taking me a while to work through them.
So if you've emailed me and not yet had a reply, I haven't forgotten you, and I won't - it may just take a little bit of time. I'm sure my fellow candidates are in the same position.

Even given that it is good to receive so many. It shows a healthy interest in the elction and concern for important issues, certainly in this constituency. The main areas of concern which are being raised are also ones I share. In descending order the topics about which I have received most emails are:

- Climate Change
- Political reform (connected with Power 2010 in particlular)
- Lobbying transparency
- ID Cards
- A voice for Nature
- World Poverty / Justice (also some good linkage with climate change here)
- Save the BBC

If this is a good reflection of the concerns of the people of Withington constituency, than I am indeed proud to be part of this community.

Don't Forget the Locals

With the massive emphasis on the general election it is easy to forget that there are elections to Manchester City Council happening at the same time. There has been a gradual removal of power from local authorities under the Governments of the last 30 years and it is easy why elections to these bodies have such a low profile. You will see little mention of ward candidates from the other Parties at this time, particularly in wards which they consider 'safe'.

Nevertheless the make-up of our City Council is important, and I'll have more to say on this as the campaign progresses. We certainly want some real Green representation in there.

As well as being Parliamentary candidate I am the council election candidate for Chorlton ward. The other candidates who are standing for the Green Party in Withington consituency are as follows (and they all live in the constituency).

Burnage - Dan Collinson
Chorlton Park - James Alden
Didsbury East - Richard (Gerry)Gee
Old Moat - Rowan Smith
Withington ward - Laura Bannister