Bedminster, Bristol Politics, Green Politics

Why I’m Standing for #Bedminster

Growing up in an impoverished area of rural Lincolnshire, dependent on my Mum’s disability benefit (and the full time carer’s allowance my step-Dad got for looking after her) as our only household income, made me acutely aware of the inequality and poverty that blights our society (and the harsh reality of what living on benefits actually means).

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With my Mum and Dad (standing slightly awkwardly on the left) at graduation in 2013, a proud day with the people who supported me and got me there

This has left me with a lifelong desire to do what I can to redress some of the wrong and imbalances in our country, and to attempt to make things better for ordinary people.  That’s the key reason I want to be a Councillor.  To use the (limited) powers and influence of the position to do what I can to help people and to contribute to the creation of a more equal and sustainable society.

This would inform my priorities as a Councillor, where I would attempt to use the limited resources of local government to, as far as possible, oppose and mitigate the harmful influence of austerity (currently driving inequality), and its associated scapegoating of the most vulnerable in our society; and stand up for local people.

I’m one of the main organisers of the Bristol People’s Assembly, and spend most of my time in politics helping build up local resistance against austerity and cuts.  A big part of this involves lobbying and pressuring councillors to vote a certain way in council meetings – predominantly against the cuts budget’s we’ve had passed onto us these last few years.  Becoming a Councillor myself would help cut out the middle man.

budget protest 2015

Me giving out placards at the start of the Bristol People’s Assembly protest against Osborne’s emergency budget last year (where £12 billion was cut from welfare as £12 billion was added to defence spending, and £83 billion of tax was simply uncollected)

On top of this, I was very alarmed to discover the average age of a councillor in the UK is 60.  Young people like myself are often maligned for failing to engage in politics – especially local politics – and for not voting (acutely so in council elections).  But is it any wonder when politics seems so remote from us, and our local representatives are unrelatable grey old predominantly white and predominately male politicians.

Whilst many of our elderly representative bring valuable expertise, and can be very sympathetic to our concerns, they can never truly understand what its like being young in austerity Britain.  They’ve been saved from the current experience of being young, with the mountains of debt attached to trying to get an education; of having to live with your parents (or a house share) well into your adult years due to the impossibility of saving for a deposit and the astronomical cost of rent; of being told the value of your labour isn’t even worth the fake ‘Living Wage’ the  Tory’s are brining in for the over 25s; the knowledge that we’ll probably live long enough to see the environmental disasters and climate change our elders have prepared for us; etc.  I want to be elected to try and end the chronic under-representation of young people and put my generations concerns back on the agenda.

broken promises

Me, at a student demonstration against fees and cuts in 2012, highlighting the Liberal Democrats broken promises that betrayed my generation and did so much to disillusion so many

For the last two and a bit years I’ve lived right on the border between Windmill Hill and Bedminster (next to Bedminster train station that oddly isn’t in Bedminster ward) and spend more time in the ward then I do in my own.  Bedminster has a rich history, and is home to a vibrant community, with bustling high-streets of independent shops, business and fantastic pubs.

As well as being a welcoming and integral part of our city, Bedminster has its problems.  There is poverty and deprivation throughout the ward.  There are few parks and green open spaces.  Public transport is extremely poor, nearby residents parking schemes have exacerbated endemic parking problems, and cycling provision is woefully inadequate  Housing is also a central issue.  We have a high percentage of people living in the private rented sector, many in insecurely rented and poorly maintained buildings at a very high cost.

Redevelopments can offer good opportunities, but without any provision for social or affordable homes they risk becoming the tools of gentrification that push up house prices and force out local people, many of whom have lived here for generations.  This is exacerbated by the unscrupulous practices of letting agents like C. J. Hole who sparked outrage last year when they wrote to landlords encouraging them to switch to C. J. Hole to raise their rents (and C. J. Hole’s profits); and Taylor’s who use discriminatory practices to prevent people on benefits for renting homes (see petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-discrimination-against-benefit-claimants ).

To tackle these problems Bedminster needs Councillors determined to take a stand and fight for the ward and its residents, and willing to work with the community and local campaigns.  I will be such a Councillor.

 

 

 

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Bristol Politics, Railways

#TempleMeads #NotForSale – Protest 7th March

In a fresh bout of privatisation the international bankers Citigroup have been brought in to help Network Rail sell 18 railway station that it manages directly – including Bristol Temple Meads.

If stations are sold off for a quick buck, we’ll lose future profits and we’ll lose control over these public spaces.

66% of the UK public want rail in public ownership. Network Rail needs to listen to passengers, not bankers. No more privatisation, no more fragmentation!

Bring Back British Rail and We Own It are organising to stop this latest attempt to privatise public space and sell off another one of our cherished national assets.

We’ll be organising with local activists, unions, and political parties from across the spectrum to halt the sale, and will be launching the campaign with a demonstration, leafleting and petitioning outside Temple Meads on Monday the 7th of March at 9-9:30 am, and 5:30-6:30 pm.

Labour Councillor Mhairi Threlfall who’s supporting the campaign said: “I’ll be there for the evening sessions, have publicised on Twitter and Facebook, and let colleagues friends and family in Edinburough/Glasgow who might want to get involved know.”

Green Mayoral candidate Tony Dyer who’s also on-board says: – “As we seek to rebalance our transport network away from the car towards alternative transport, Temple Meads should be treated as a community asset for the whole city. We need an integrated approach to our public transport; selling off what is probably the single most important element of our transport network to an unknown private owner could seriously undermine efforts to create a more sustainable transport system.”

Contact – Julie Boston campaigns officer for FOSBR at campaigns@fosbr.org.uk, or rail activist Will Quick at whquick@outlook.com

Notes

1. WeOwnIt have started a national petition against the sell off here – http://weownit.org.uk/act-now/stop-bankers-selling-our-stations

2. This local campaign has been launched by the Friends Of Suburban Bristol Railways with support of We Own It, the Bristol Labour Party, the Bristol Green Party, the Bristol RMT and TSSA rail unions and the Bristol People’s Assembly.

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Bristol Politics, Green Politics, NHS, Protests, Railways, Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes, Uncategorized

The Green Heart of #Bristol’s #SocialMovements

I joined the Green Party back in October 2014 at the start of the ‘Green surge’. I’d became increasingly aware that they were the only party consistently talking about restructuring the economy in the interests of everyone to tackle not only climate change but also the spiralling inequality infecting our society.

Within a month I’d been co-opted into being the parties Trade Union Liaison Officer, and was busy organising support and ‘Solidari-Tea’ for the NHS strike that winter. Me and my colleagues in 13 different unions across the NHS were striking after the government refused to give us even the miserly 1% pay rise recommended by its own pay review board. After more than 6 years of a freeze on NHS pay, things are becoming increasingly tough for more and more health workers. Green comrades got up at the crack of dawn and came to join me and other staff on the picket lines bringing flasks of hot Soladari-Tea and coffee for everyone (very appreciated on a bitterly cold winters morning). The hot drinks and support helped contribute to the vibrant hopeful mood of the picket, and I knew I had found my political home.

In the little over a year I’ve been involved with the local party since then it has consistently put itself at the heart of movements for social justice across Bristol.

Anna on Workers Memorial Day

Green councillor Anna McMullan highlighting the plight of Bangladeshi Garment workers at the International Workers Memorial Day event in Bristol April 2015

We’ve brought Solidari-Tea to picket lines across the city. Joining the men and women of the FBU striking against unfair and unsafe pensions that would see 60 year old running into burning buildings, and the RMT fighting to protect jobs and services on the new Inter-City express trains. Most recently we’ve been out in force to support Junior Doctors fighting against unfair and unsafe contracts that could see them working more than 70 hours a week without unsocial pay enhancements for working on Saturdays or into the night.

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Junior Doctors and their supporters (including Green councillor Carla Denyer front and centre) picketing outside the BRI

We’ve sent support to workers at the sharpak Yate food processing factory fighting against the imposition of longer contracts, to teachers at the Winterborne academy fighting against unmanageable workloads and bullying management, to staff demanding their fair share from wage stealing bosses at Café Amore and much more.

Action for Rail

Greens campaigning for the Public Ownership of Rail at Temple Meads in Feburary 2015

We’ve joined the Bristol Trades Council in campaigns for the Living Wage, worked with Bristol Stop the War to build opposition to the bombing of Syria, and have been at the heart of the Bristol People’s Assembly and its resistance to cuts and austerity. We’ve taken to the streets to call for the public ownership of our railways with the Action for Rail group, and campaigned against the exploitative practices of rogue landlords and letting agents through ACORN the Community Union.

 

Rob ACORN

Green councillor Rob Telford at an ACORN picket of Tobie Holbrock who was refusing to repair unacceptable mould in his rental properties

Its been my great honour to be at the centre of most of this activity, but it was my leading role in organising the Bristol rally against the Trade Union Bill last November that was one of the most fulfilling actions. This brought Greens, trade unionist and members of the local Labour Party together with hundreds of ordinary Bristolians for a rally and demonstration in the fountains against the draconian bill, and imbued us with the spirit to resist these unjust laws.

 

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Concord Health UNISON branch officer Mandy Robinson takes to the mike against the TU Bill, with me and Green comrades in the background. November 2015

Unlike the Labour party that won’t support strikes because it thinks it has to appear to be neutral to look like a party of government, the Green party is unashamed in its support of ordinary people trying to protect their rights and improve their lives.  Just as it is unashamed of its support for all groups trying to enact positive social change. On picket lines, marches and demonstrations across our city the Greens are an increasingly regular and prominent fixture. Both in the council and in the streets of our city the Bristol Green party is taking a bold stand for people and planet, and I’m proud to be a part of it

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Bristol Greens joining the thousands braving the wet weather for the Bristol Climate March last November.

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Some of the Greens at the Bristol People’s March for the NHS 2015

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Greens protesting government plans to Scrap the Human Rights act and other things at the Bristol Makes Some Noise against austerity protest last year

Some videos: –
me speaking at the Don’t Bomb Syria rally-  https://www.facebook.com/BristolPeoplesAssembly/videos/1678031245741863/~

Anna speaking at ‘How do we Stop the Tories in their Tracks’ –

Green Party deputy leader Shahrar Ali speaking at the Scrap Trident rally –

 

 

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Nonsense

Responding to BristolRed: dealing with a troll

Several years ago I tried twitter, but lost interest fairly quickly.  Having recently gotten more involved in the old politics game I thought I’d give it another go.  Twitter is great for a political activist, you can quickly get updates on all the latest news, you can get involved in campaigns through hasghtags, and keep in touch with political allies and personalities across the country.  Its format of 140 character micro-blogging also destroys any chance of having serious rational debate, which may have contributed to the platform being a hotbed of spite and bigotry (that and the ability to directly send messages to celebrities, and politicians, and people who you might generally want to attack).  The phenomenon of the twitter Troll is so common place it’s almost cliché.

The local Labour party (and anyone involved in politics in Bristol) is cursed with one such troll who goes by the alias of BristolRed (I say cursed, as even Bristol Labour party member admit he’s an embarrassment for their party).  Many of us in the local Green party have been on the receiving end of spiteful messages and attacks from this individual.  Instead of attempting to critique our actual policies or our record in parliament and councils, his usual modus operandi is to shamefully misrepresent Green policies and try and berate us with them, or to go in for some personal attacks.  His favourite line is that we all support ISIS and terrorism, due to our policy of no longer having a list of organisation the state deems to be terroristic. Its quiet funny that his tribal loyalty to Labour is such that he’ll wholesale reproduce this lie started in the Telegraph and other mouthpieces of the right wing Tory press to undermine the Green Party; when you’d think that as Labour are often on the receiving end of such attacks from those exact same papers he’d be more sympathetic.  The enemy of my enemy is still definitely not my friend if your name is BristolRed.

For the benefit of my fellow Greens who have had to endure interactions with this individual, I reproduce our exchange below which ended (in part) with him telling me he’d block me if I continued with our conversation.  That is my advice to anyone who gets attacked by BristolRed, respond calmly and in good humor and get him onto some facts and he’ll flounder, as despite being a barrister (a strange job for someone who loves to go around telling people they’re not working class enough) he’s surprisingly bad at arguing.  There’s a reason the Labour party has declined from a peak of just over 1,000,000 members in the 1950s (and a relative peak of 400,000 in 1997 before Blair’s victory) to less than 200,000 today – it has many many flaws, and you can easily point them out.  BristolRed as a long standing member of the Labour party is no doubt aware of this, and that’s probably why he’s so bitter.  I bet he can still remember when the Labour party actually stood up for ordinary people, instead of just being the more human face of neoliberalism.

I personally find BristolRed’s puerile remarks and the childish manner he chooses to behave in very amusing.  So actually fairly enjoy engage with him.  When last he decided to spout his nonsense a couple of weeks ago I called him out on deliberately misrepresenting our policy.  He didn’t like this and demanded I come to the pub he goes to and call him a liar to his face (I told him I’ll be calling him a misrepresenter to his face, and that he doesn’t get nuance).  Unfortunately as a night shift working theatre porter quiet caught up in the election campaign I haven’t had the chance to meet up with him and tell him the error of his ways face to face, so jovially let him known I hadn’t forgotten his demand and that as soon as possible I’d be fulfilling it.

Here is our twitter exchange,

*edit storify won’t embed properly so here it is on a link
https://storify.com/willhquick/notorious-troll-runs-from-facts *

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Bristol Politics, Green Politics

Why socialists and opponents of Austerity in BristolWest should vote Green

Why did I, as a socialist, go Green?

The Green Fist of eco-socialism

The Green Fist of eco-socialism

I’ve always considered myself a socialist, a non-dogmatic fairly unorthodox one, but a socialist none the less.  Marx’s seminal analysis of our economic system may now be dated and the language in places ungainly and jarring, but it offers innumerable perpetually relevant insights and is a great conceptual entry point into analysing our society.  As such though I had been supporting the Green Party in local and European elections for some time – as they are the only electable party in Bristol that supports many of my own core beliefs like health care being too important to be subjected to the profit motive, the need to renationalise the railways and the energy sector, and the living wage, etc – I had never felt comfortable joining them, until quite recently. 

Since Labour have abandoned even the pretence of Social Democracy and standing up for ordinary people – instead wanting to be the party of Neoliberalism with a human face – there has been a greater and greater need for a party to the Left of Labour.  I have great sympathy to the Left Unity project and had thought about joining it (I just don’t think it’s going to be able to exert any kind of influence soon enough – if at all), before eventually going Green.  One of the many things that influenced this decision is the amazing surge in membership the Green Party has experienced in Bristol (and across the country), and the real chance it has of winning in Bristol West.  In Bristol West we’re lucky to be one of the few places in England where we can elect an MP opposed to austerity – a Green MP – and that’s a really worthwhile task.  If we ever want to move the political discourse of our country back to the left we need more people in positions of societal influence (no matter how small) advocating leftist politics.  This should be an end in itself, and could create the political and social space needed for more explicitly socialist movements to develop – if that’s what you want.  In the more immediate future, if we want to build a real opposition to austerity electing as many MPs opposed to it as possible is very important.

Why others haven’t

Now from conversations I’ve had with TUSC supporters and from friends of mine in Left Unity, I know many of the socialist left don’t like Darren Hall.  They see him as too right wing – his job in the RAF, engineering and civil service being brought up – and don’t think he’ll consistently oppose austerity.  On this latter point the deficiency of Greens on councils like Brighton in implementing cuts (and some Bristol Green councillors feeling they had to vote for cuts in past budgets) is referenced (though our only MPs fantastic record of voting against austerity budgets isn’t).  As such they intend to support their respective parties, saying we need a principled party to push both the Greens and Labour further left.  On a more long term basis, they think the Greens are too focused on elections and aren’t active enough in social movements and the community, and don’t like that we don’t have much in the way of theoretical analysis of the state, political power, or social class, and think that there’s too many middle class lifestyle change types within the party.  

I can sympathise with much of this view, and it would be very undemocratic and sectarian of us to say they shouldn’t stand or campaign or vote for the explicitly socialist left.  But if you want to elect an MP opposed to austerity in Bristol West, you really should vote for Darren Hall.

Austerity budgets are a ‘Red Line’ for Green MPs

At the Green Party’s last conference we passed a motion outlining what any elected Green MPs should do in the next parliament.  It states the likelihood of a hung parliament, and how in such a situation our priority should be to remove the conservatives from power, but without entering a formal coalition, and instead negotiating on an issue by issue basis – probably in some form of confidence and supply arrangement.  It goes on to state the very important part, that, ‘Rejection of an austerity budget would be a clear and objective ‘red line’ in any such negotiations’. Even if you have misgivings about Darren and his commitment to the anti-austerity movement personally, he is bound to follow Green Party policy, and here is the clear commitment for our MPs to vote against austerity.

So long as Darren follows the party policy adopted democratically by our conference, he is the only candidate that can win in Bristol West who is committed to voting against austerity budgets.  Obviously there’s the possibility that he might not, and you might feel betrayed.  But if we do manage to elect him, and that does happen, it would probably be very beneficial to the socialist Left of the UK.  

What if Darren doesn’t follow the policy?

When Darren had a high pressure interview on the BBC Daily Politics show last month, he was quizzed on what Red Lines we might have in any post hung parliament arrangement.  Darren failed to mention our above policy (easy to do in a high pressure interview), and despite instead focusing on how we reject neoliberal ‘trickle down economics’, this omission generated considerable angst amongst some people on our members forum, and with Green trade unionists I communicate with via email.  If we do manage to elect Darren, and then he doesn’t follow the above policy and votes for austerity it seems extremely likely to me that vast swathes of the Greens new members would become very disillusioned with the Green Party and leave (I know I would). 

Both TUSC and Left Unity  who are standing in Bristol (Left Unity in Bristol West) have their stated aim as building a new mass party of the left.  If Darren is elected and then discredits the Green party by voting for austerity, the exodus it would cause could contribute a lot to turning these tiny fairly insignificant left wing projects into larger parties.  For there to be a significant Left realignment they’d need as many of these more left wing Greens to join them as possible.

Conclusion

To conclude socialists and those opposed to austerity should help elect Darren Hall as he’ll either join the burgeoning anti-austerity parliamentary bloc of SNP, Plaid Cymru, left-Labour and Green MPs and vote against austerity or by voting for it he’ll discredit the Green Party and help you create a left party that will.  Either one seems to be a win win scenario for the radical left.  We’re on the cusp of an electoral breakthrough here in Bristol, and as a progressive I felt obligated to help and call on my comrades to do the same.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could return an MP to parliament who’s backed by the RMT, supports policies much to the left of the Labour leadership like renationalisation of public transport and essential services, the implementation of a living wage and rent caps, and opposition to Thatcherite anti-trade union laws and both neoliberalism and austerity? At the end of the day its up to each individual to make her or his own organisational and voting decisions and live with them, but these are the reasons why I think you should vote Green.

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Green Politics

My Green alternative platform for Hengrove

So that the people of Hengrove at least have the ability to vote for the Green Party should they want to, I’ve agreed to be the candidate in the coming local council elections.  Unfortunately in the past support for the Greens within Hengrove hasn’t been very strong, and as the Green Party is supported primarily through contributions from its members it sadly doesn’t have the resources to campaign hard in every ward.  I’d love to be able to go and try and speak to every resident and directly make the case for the Green alternative to the austerity business as usual politics of the establishment parties face to face, but we’re just not able to.  So instead I thought I should at least outline my core politics here so that if any Hengrove residents want to know about their local candidates and manage to find this site they can see what their Green option is offering them.

Obviously there are many many ways the council intersects with the lives of Bristolians, and many important issues that I would campaign on and attempt to address if elected.  To stop this post being too long I’m going to concentrate on four key areas that I personally think are going to be vitally important for any elected councillors to deal with.  The Bristol Green Party has a whole host of policies to deal with local issues, which I would broadly follow (as well as consulting with my constituents) to help me make these decisions and attempt to make a difference for local residents. 

Cuts and the economy

Some of the 50,000 people who marched through London 21/06/2014 Demanding the alternative to cuts and austerity

Some of the 50,000 people who marched through London 21/06/2014 Demanding the alternative to cuts and austerity

Cuts to public services and in particular the savage cuts to council budget are transforming the nature of both our welfare state and our local government. Regardless of which of the main parties forms the next government were going to be forced to endure another £30 billion of cuts by 2017.

Aside from their odious social impact cuts are flawed economically. Most economists agree that cuts have held back economic growth. On top of this austerity has greatly depressed wages, and with them tax returns. That is why the government has consistently missed its own targets; and why they have only cut the deficit by a third in numeric terms (a half as expressed as a percentage of GDP) when they said they would have eliminate it by now.

Services have already been cut to the bone.  Where this next round of devastating cuts will fall, and attempts to resist them will dominate the political landscape of the next few years.

We need our local politicians and our local communities, their organisations, trade unions, charities and campaigners all to work together if we are to have any hope of resisting. If elected I promise to fight for the people of Hengrove and Bristol and try to use the limited powers of local government to get a fairer deal for local residents.

I would never vote for ‘austerity’ council budgets and would instead press the council to demand a fairer alternative. I would use my position to amplify the voices of local residents and of campaigns and resistance to austerity and its social ills. This is work I already do as a volunteer organiser for the Bristol People’s Assembly, and as the Bristol Green Party Trade Union Liaison Officer. I would make this, and directly representing my constituents, central to my work on the council.

I would campaign for the Living Wage to be adopted across the city.

I would campaign to make council tax fairer and less regressive. 

I would campaign for the council to (like more than 60 other councils across the UK) call for the implementation of a ‘Robin Hood’ or Financial Transaction Tax (a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions made by banks, hedge funds and the financial sector) and any other progressive measures councils can promote to rebalance our economy in the interests of ordinary people.

The NHS and Public Services

Our public services, the people who provide them, and the people who depend on them are all being attacked to pay for the bailout of the banks.  The NHS in particular has been undermined by privatisation and being artificially run as a fragmented market system. Staff have had their wages depressed, and pensions attacked, whilst there are 35,000 less of them (and 10,000 less hospital beds) then in 2010 treating ever growing numbers of patients.

Everywhere there are campaigns attempting to resist these cuts and privatisation.  Last year I was proud to go on strike with my union and colleagues to fight for fair pay.  Just as important as anger over poverty pay was staff anger over creeping privatisation. I was privileged again this year to join the People’s March for the NHS in Bristol. Everywhere there is great anger among staff, patients and our wider communities as people see the damage being done to our health service.  We need to unite these campaigns if they are to be effective. And we need our representatives in local government to join us.  This is as true for the NHS as it is for any and all of our public services.

William Quick TULO, Tony Dyer Bristol South Parliamentary Candidate, and Deb Joffe Windmill hill ward candidate supporting the picket

William Quick TULO, Tony Dyer Bristol South Parliamentary Candidate, and Deb Joffe Windmill hill ward candidate supporting the picket

If I elected I will press the council to campaign for all local NHS services to be provided by the NHS and not the private sector. I will support all campaigns for fair pay for staff and all efforts to resist privatisation. In particular local campaigns to support the NHS reinstatement bill which is gaining support from across the political spectrum.  I will also fight to ensure all other public services, remain public, and be active in local campaigns to restore public ownership to public transport, energy and communications.

Housing

We’re facing a housing crisis in Britain, and particularly in Bristol. Short sighted housing policy (particularly right to buy which has reduced Bristol’s nearly 50,000 council homes of the 1970s to less than 30,000 today) and a lack of investment have left affordable homes in short supply.  Between 2011 and 2014 annual rents in Bristol increased by £1272; whilst wages fell by £1730 in real terms. Is it any wonder that homelessness is increasing?

Me and Darren Hall protesting against C J Hole's attempts to profiteer from the housing crisis and push up rents

Me and Darren Hall protesting against C J Hole’s attempts to profiteer from the housing crisis and push up rents

Me carrying my placard with C J Hole's unethical profiteering letter quote, filched from the BBC news website

Me carrying my placard with C J Hole’s unethical profiteering letter quote, filched from the BBC news website

I would press the council to make better use of its compulsory purchase orders to bring properties back on the market and object to any developments that didn’t contain a considerable proportion of affordable homes. The councils own requirement of 40% is not enough, but even this modest measure is far too infrequently followed.

As the sale of social housing and the encouraging of ‘buy to let’ have concentrated the ownership of property in the hands of an ever smaller number of people; tenants have been increasingly getting a bad deal. Their rights are frequently ignored, they face insecure tenancies, rip off letting fees and properties that are all too frequently poorly maintained. Across the UK 1/3 of privately rented homes now contain unacceptable levels of mould and damp

I will support campaign for tenants’ rights (like ACORNS ethical lettings charter), the abolition of letting fees, and the introduction of rent caps (as they have in Scotland); and I will campaign for longer and securer tenancies for renters.

Environment

Aside for the crises of inequality and poverty, the looming environmental crisis is the most series threatening our society (and species and planet as a whole).  I would encourage sustainability in everything the council does (especially energy, and procurement).  I would oppose fracking which is extremely damaging to the environment, is the completely wrong direction our energy policy needs to be taking, and puts private companies’ profits before the rights of home owners and communities.  I would be a vocal voice on the council for the campaign to divest from fossil fuel companies and make Bristol fossil free.  Finally I would join other Greens in campaigning for better air quality throughout our city (nationwide over 50,000 people die prematurely each year because of the polluted nature of our air).

Vote Green

We need strong alternative voices, prepared to fight for what they believe in and for ordinary people representing us if we are to have any chance of tackling the problems we face.  I believe I could be that voice for local people. If you want a strong independent alternative voice that’s committed to standing up for ordinary people and advancing social and environmental justice than I’d urge you to consider voting Green.

 

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Bristol Politics, Green Politics

Hengrove’s search for an alternative and UKIPs immigration rhetoric

Hengrove is an interesting ward. In 2010 in the council elections (which being at the same time as the general election had the highest turnout of any of the council elections of the last 5 years) the Lib Dems won a large majority. In keeping with the experience of voters across the country – general revulsion at the Lib Dems record in office – their vote steadily plummeted. Then suddenly in 2014 UKIP came out of nowhere to win the council seat. This says to me that Hengrove is a ward where most people are tired of the establishment parties and are looking for an alternative.

The search for an alternative

Many people across the country are now increasingly seeing UKIP as this alternative. It’s easy to see why. Despite their constant gaffs and scandals, the ability of UKIP spokespeople – especially Farage – to speak their mind (no matter how controversial) marks a striking contrast to the focus group crafted sound bites coming out of the two and a half party establishment. The EU is a very flawed institution. It’s overly bureaucratic and undemocratic. That’s why the Greens advocate fundamental reform and a referendum on membership. Denying the undoubted flaws of the EU just strengthens UKIPs hand. On top of this as inequality has exploded over the last three decades in many ways things have been getting worse for ordinary people.

But UKIP offer no real alternative. Other than an opposition to the EU, UKIP support all the same basic economic and social principles of the establishment parties. Namely the undermining of public services and the rights of working people, and the channelling of wealth to the elite.  They used to support a flat rate of tax for all at 31%, but had to settle for just lowering the top rate of tax to 40% (and raising the amount of money you can earn tax free) in 2014 as the party attempted to look ever more populist. This tax cut would be paid for by even more savage cuts to public services then the ones promised by any of the three establishment parties. They support further deregulation of the financial markets (the same deregulation carried out by Thatcher, Blair and Brown that largely contributed to the crash). Many of their spokespeople are extremely hostile to public health care (despite policy u-turns because of the unpopularity of NHS privatisation). Many of them are extremely hostile to workers’ rights – unsocial hours pay, holiday entitlement, maternity and paternity leave, union rights and sick pay.  The majority of their policies represent a more extreme version of core Conservative policy.

More Conservative than the Conservatives

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That’s why most of their elected representatives, key party officials, and donors are all ex-Conservatives or prominent Conservative supporters. Farage himself was a conservative activist for 16 years before leaving the party to found UKIP, who describes Thatcher as his political hero and UKIP as the only party truly keeping the spirit of Thatcherism alive. Their policies support the wealthy and the elite, and that is why they are mainly funded by some of the dodgiest tycoons and hedgefund manager in the country. Farage, a privately educated former financial sector worker (not a banker but a commodities trader) has done very well to pose as an anti-establishment figure.

Falling living standards and the scapegoating of Migrants.

Things have been getting worse for ordinary people these last few decades (especially in these years of austerity). The reasons are largely the result of macroeconomic ‘neoliberal’ policies. (Neoliberalism is the set of free market social and economic policies followed by Thatcher, Blair, Brown and the coalition. Broadly it is the idea that the public sector and state is automatically inefficient, and that private ownership and competition naturally drives efficiency, this advocates privatisation, deregulation of financial markets and cuts to public services).

But it’s hard to blame academic sounding impersonal economic forces for changes to your own life. It’s easier to blame a scapegoated ‘other’.  Migrants are frequently cut off from us, both culturally and linguistically. Though going through similar social and economic experiences (though from a much more marginalised perspective) they are frequently newcomers and easily become this ‘other’ to many.

The main problems people blame on immigration is a shortage of housing, the overcrowding of schools, and the extra pressure on hospitals. These are all problems that immigration may slightly exacerbate.  But the main problem is government policy and a lack of investment.

The Housing Crisis

The UK is facing a housing crisis. Under ‘Right to Buy’ council houses have been sold off at discount prices (whilst councils have been prevented from building anymore). House building in general as at an all-time low; the few houses that are built are increasingly luxury apartments to service the rich. Buy to let mortgages and tax breaks for landlords have allowed a very small (and increasingly amateur) group of society to dominate the UKs housing supply.  Private Landlords have even now acquired many of the houses sold off under right to buy (passed on from their original owners) and are now collecting a huge subsidy through the housing benefit needed by their tenants. It’s not just that immigrants and asylum seekers have stolen all our houses – as some would say – but that they’ve all been sold off by the government and they haven’t built anymore.

The Strain on our Public Services

There is great pressure on our schools at the moment. But this is largely government cuts not simply the extra capacity of migrant children.  Immigrants contribute through taxes and economic activity far more then they take out in benefits and using the public sector.  Funding just needs to follow the changing population. Immigrants are younger and usually hold a higher level of qualifications then the average Britain, and are less likely to be receiving benefits and make a positive contribution to both our workforce and our society. As an aging society we need the injection of youth and vitality immigration provides to run our public services. The NHS is completely dependent on this vital function they provide. You are far more likely to be treated by an immigrant in the NHS then be waiting behind one.

Inequality and Austerity, not poor people from abroad

Our public service and living conditions aren’t being undermined by immigrants. The main problem is inequality, privatisation, and cuts to public services.  The period roughly from the end of World War II until the advent of Thatcherism wasn’t perfect, but we had a much more equal society; in which full employment and a generous welfare stare guaranteed a decent basic standard of living for almost everyone.  Throughout the later 1970s (the period of greatest income equality), the top 1% controlled less than 5% of wealth in the UK. Today they control 15%.

Control of the global supply of labour, the flooding of the domestic market with cheaply manufactured goods in the Far East, and the ballooning of the debt based credit economy, have masked the decline in living standards necessary for massive transfers of wealth to the elite like this. But there is only so far this can go. More money for the already extremely wealthy means less money for everyone else. Less money for wages, housing, schools, health care, public services and ordinary people.

A Real Alternative

As I have outlined in previous posts, the Green Party has policies that go a long way to addressing the inequality (and the establishment politics that fuels it) that so blights our society. Instead of acting as an establishment Trojan horse to implement even more hard line free market policies; the Green Party would stand up for ordinary people, and offer a real (and far smarter) alternative to business as usual austerity politics. I ask the people of Hengrove who revolted by our corrupt and exclusive political elite have voted UKIP in the previous election to look at the record of UKIP MEPs and councillors, and really scrutinise their policies. Contrast that with the record of Green representatives and the focus of Green policies and ask yourself who is a better champion for your interests, and a better option for punishing the establishment parties at the ballot box.

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