Why I’m Standing For Election

This year I have decided to stand for election to the local council as a candidate for Yorkshire First. I have never done this before and I want to outline why, and what I intend to do in the unlikely event enough people vote for me to win.

Anyone who has read my blog will have a good idea of what I politically stand for, in case you haven’t, here goes. I believe there is a great democratic deficit in this country, our vote doesn’t always count, and the power in the country is concentrated too centrally, in too few hands. The Westminster government, based in London, is too far away from the rest of the UK, and its decision making process often ignores the needs of the different regions. At Yorkshire First we see a future where Yorkshire is able to stand up for its self, and make more decisions to be able to affect local communities, without the say so of national government. We also believe in the Bell Principles, a set of beliefs that politicians should be more open, honest and prioritise the needs of their voters over themself or their party. This is something I am passionate about.

So why stand? Well I suppose its about time I put my name next to the things I believe in, and the more people that I can tell the better. Do I expect to win this time? Honestly, no, but I felt I really wanted to give the people of Northowram and Shelf a different option to what they’ve had before. The ward currently has three Tory councillors, is this a good thing? Only if you are a Tory supporter. I believe in more voices being heard in politics, and would love a more representational voting system, but unfortunately we dont have that, so giving people as much choice as possible is essential.

So what would I do if I won? Well, the short answer is, I’d listen. I have only lived in Northowram for two years now, and in that time I’ve just about got to know my neighbours, where the pub is and what the bus timetables are, but it didn’t take me long to know I wanted to make this the place I settled and raised a family. So I’m a new comer to the village, and a total outsider to Shelf, therefore I’m not going to pretend that I know everything that needs addressing in the ward. What I’d see my role as councillor would be that of someone who listens to the people who know best, the people who live and work here, and represent them, addressing the concerns they have and not serve any narrow agenda a central party could impose.

If you’re sick and tired of the same old parties, and the same old politics, and you fancy something different, then I’d love it if you voted for me in the upcoming local election. A vote for me is a vote for Yorkshire.

Time to shout a little louder

You have to hand it to the SNP, not so long ago they were seen as nothing more than a bunch of nationalist nutters, popular with some, but ultimately on the fringes of UK politics. Fast forward to 2015 and they are now a real force in Scotland and may well have a massive impact on the coming General Election. 

The SNP were very clever in the way they made the referendum on Scottish independence an issue of Westminster or us. People weren’t just rallied to the call of an independent Scotland they became supporters of an SNP that they saw as anti UK, and most importantly anti establishment. This is important. In England those who have become disenchanted with the ‘Big Three’ have been offered an alternative in the shape of UKIP, and people who wouldn’t have voted for them have, just to stick two fingers up to the establishment. Where the SNP has Scottish independence, UKIP has Europe, both these issues might not be at the forefront of everyones minds, but they have been effectively used to galvanise support for the respective parties. 

One of the over spills from the Scottish referendum was the issue of Devolution within England. The trouble is there are many different views of what a devolved England looks like. Some would have an English Parliament, some propose City regions, personally I think we need to be more radical and have regional governments, that support a much wider level of devolution so that people have more of a say in the decisions that actually effects their lives. I think the UK needs it. I don’t agree with the SNP’s calls for independence, I think we are genuinely better together, but if central government ignores the issue and continues to fob the regions of the UK off with second, third and fourth rate devolution then it will begin to fracture and split. 

At this moment in time the SNP is forcing its agenda upon Westminster because it is shouting loudly and voters in Scotland are listening. Wouldn’t it be great if Yorkshire had a strong voice like this that could really challenge the powers in London and deliver much more for the county? Well it does, by voting for Yorkshire First you would be sending a message to Labour, the Tories and everyone else that it’s about time the interests of Yorkshire were taken as seriously as other parts of England. 

And so it begins…..

Things are moving, it’s now only a few months until the General Election and campaigning for most is in full swing, and for the first time ever, I will be joining in. 

As I’ve written before I’m a supporter of Yorkshire First, and this is the first General Election we’ll fight. To fight a general election you need people to stand before the electorate, and joining our first candidate Paul Salveson who is standing in Colne Valley, we also have candidates in Leeds, Shipley and now Calder Valley. Rod Sutcliffe is a retired GP who lives in Cragg Vale (read more here), and I’ll be doing my best to support his campaign. 

I’ve never been involved in canvassing for an election, so this year is all new to me. I suppose the aim for me isn’t to ram my views down anyone’s throats, I just want to let people know who we are and what we stand for. It will be good to hear the views of people and gauge what interest there is in the election.  We’ll be in Brighouse this Saturday (7/2/15) spreading the message, and probably freezing our bits off, so if you want to learn a bit more, or just have a chat then come down and see us! 

Time to end panto season for good

When was the last time you watched Prime Ministers Questions? Or any debate in the House of Commons for that matter? Never you say? You turned it on and realised what a huge mistake you were making and turned it over? I don’t blame you, I’m a politics graduate, and even I don’t watch it. In fact I bet the only time most people see it is when snippets are shown on the news, and what do we see? A bunch of mostly public school/Oxbridge educated over grown children loudly arguing and insulting each other. Yawn.

Every time I see Prime Ministers questions on the news I’m struck by how silly, petty and childish it appears. The two sides sit opposite each other, shouting, gesticulating, insulting and behaving like a class of 6 year olds arguing about who kissed who in the playground. Whenever someone makes a crap joke or comes up with a ‘hilarious’ put down the whole house erupts like a bunch of drunken apes, any grown up watching this show can’t help but think ‘yeah that’s not for me’. I know politics is very emotive, and the people in there care about the things they discuss, but can they not do it in a more civil, grown up manner? Why is one party pitted against the other? Why can’t they work together?

There’s no denying politics has a massive image problem, people are increasingly turned off by it. When people ask what I did at uni and I tell them I did politics, the most common reaction is ‘why? It’s boring!’ when I then relate politics to their daily life they suddenly become engaged and have an opinion again. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people feel detached from it, like it’s not something they can get into. The confrontational style mud slinging may appeal to supporters of the parties, but they are losing the interest of everyone else.  Its time we ended this pantomime style politics for good. We need politicians to have a grown up debate, and engage with people on an adult level, unfortunately I can’t see it happening any time soon.

This week signalled the start of campaigning for the General Election, and predictably it followed a very negative route. Labour said ‘don’t vote for the Tories, they’ll take us back to the 1930’s!’, then the Tories came out and said ‘don’t vote for Labour, they have all their sums wrong and are going to ruin us!’. Claim and counter claim seem to be the way this election will be fought, the ‘everything we say is right, everything they say is wrong’ attitude is so depressing. If this turns you off, like me, then I urge you not to just give up your vote, instead engage with people who want to have a positive, adult debate about politics. I’m a supporter of Yorkshire First, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re putting together a positive vision for Yorkshire and one that is free of traditional party squabbling. Let’s leave the children to their games and leave politics to the grown ups.

The alternative to the alternative

Clearly people are sick of the main political parties in the UK, UKIP made huge strides in the European elections, and have recently done what many people said they’d never do. The peoples of Clacton, Rochester and Strood have elected to parliament two former Tories who now stand for UKIP.

UKIP are a party of againstists, they’re against the EU, they’re against a public NHS, they’re against gay marriage, but it’s very hard to see what they are for. This is depressing. In an age when millionaire politicians are forever telling us what benefits and public services they are cutting, because as a nation we are too poor, surely we need to look to a more positive answer to our problems. The turnout for the European elections was really poor, it was around 35%, and the recent by-elections weren’t much better at about 43% with UKIP gaining about 60% and 38% respectively. Is this proof of the publics disgust at the political status quo? Yes, is it an endorsement of UKIP? No. Nigel Farage claimed that the  European election wins were proof that people were sick of the established parties, and they wanted a change, a UKIP led change, but the fact is that only about 10% of eligible voters actually voted for his party, more just didn’t vote at all, apathy was the winner, not UKIP.
As you may be aware, this summer saw a Scottish independence referendum, which the no campaign won, just. In the end it was a really close call, much closer than most people expected, indeed in the last few weeks of the contest Scottish independence looked like a real possibility. I believe the reason for this lies with the way in which both campaigns were viewed. The yes campaign was seen as positive, offering voters a vision of how they could change the system and be better off, whereas the no campaign was seen as negative with scaremongering, and playing on voters fears about the pound and oil. Many of the people who were asked why they shifted from a no to a yes claimed that the negativity of the no campaign was a strong factor.  In stark contrast to recent elections in England, the referendum in Scotland had an incredible turn out too of around 85%, are the Scots politics mad people who love voting? Of course not, the difference here was that the people of Scotland had a real decision to make where the opportunity for change was real.
So what happens if UKIP get 10-15 MP’s at the general election? Will we see dramatic change? No. We’ll still have a Westminster government dictating to the rest of the UK, the only difference will be that with UKIP possibly holding the balance of power there will be a shift to the right. The thing is it’s not the the colour of the tie that needs changing, it’s the whole way in witch the political system works for people. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, perhaps that should read England, for if you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales there is at least some degree of devolved decision making, England, however, is ruled by the iron fist of London. The regions of england have to go cap in hand to Westminster every time they want anything, and since regional development bodies like Yorkshire Forward were scrapped, it’s become even more like begging. It’s no coincidence that 9 of the 10 poorest areas in the whole of northern Europe are in the UK, whilst the richest is Inner London. Power, money, the media, almost everything is concentrated in the capital and I think it’s about time that changed.
We need to devolve power within England. An English parliament, favoured by the Tories and UKIP, isn’t the answer, all you do is replace the words UK parliament with English parliament, essentially it’s still the same thing, a South East dominated body detached from the other regions in the country. What we need is regional devolution, but not watered down devolution being offered by Labour. LEP’s, city regions, or what ever you want to call them, are both unelected and ineffective, nobody asked for them and nobody really knows what they do, and in my opinion if you base decision making around a single city, all you’ll do is drag the money to that city. Leeds for example is the centre of the Leeds City Region, which is designed to benefit the whole of West Yorkshire, but as the most dominant part of this partnership there is surely the danger of Leeds coming first, ahead of Wakefield, Calderdale, Bradford etc.. The other problem for me is what if you don’t live in a city? What city region does the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District fit into? Surely it would be better to have a democratically elected body that can represent all the different parts of a region, fairly.

Yorkshire has an economy and a population easily big enough to warrant its own assembly, indeed it’s population is similar to that of Scotland and it economy is larger than that of Wales. This is a positive solution, giving power to people over the region they know best will make a real difference. By standing for this, Yorkshire First has given the people of Yorkshire an option, if you’re sick and tired of Westminster, if you want a change, and you don’t want to vote for negative parties that don’t have the interests of the region at heart, then vote for Yorkshire First. I would urge everybody who wants change for Yorkshire to sign the Yorkshire Pledge,  www.yorkshirepledge.org.uk, and if you have the opportunity to, vote for Yorkshire First. A few UKIP MP’s here or there won’t make a difference, but one Yorkshire First MP would send a real message to those in charge that it is time for Yorkshire.

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