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.

The people have spoken, well, some of them have

The 2015 General Election was meant to be the most unpredictable and tightly fought contests in British political history. Neither Labour or the Conservatives were going to get a majority, we were told, and there was going to be weeks and weeks of negotiating over deals and coalitions with all the smaller parties fighting to secure some kind or influence, including UKIP, who were going to make a breakthrough and win seats. What happened was not this.  As we know the Conservatives won a majority, UKIP lost a seat, and the Lib Dems were all but wiped out, in an election that surprised many and disheartened many more. There was one electric shock to the system however, Scotland turned yellow. The SNP managed to win nearly all the seats north of the boarder, sending Labour in particular back to England with their tail tucked firmly between their legs. This result has thrown up some serious questions about our political system, questions that the new Government will need to address.

A Tory majority?

The way our parliament works, and the fact that the Conservatives have a majority of seats, means effectively they can do what they want for the next five years. Fair enough I hear you say, they got a majority you say, well not exactly. In large parts of the country they didn’t get anything like a majority. Scotland is almost a Tory free zone, as are large parts of the north of England, so effectively they have the power to do what they want, even in areas that overwhelmingly voted for something else. This is a problem. It means that whole regions of the UK have zero representation when it comes to decisions that are made that effect their daily lives. If there were more powers at a local level this wouldn’t matter as much, because areas where certain parties are stronger would be able to elect the people they wanted to make more decisions that matter to their lives. This is the case in Scotland where they have a parliament of their own that can counter the fact there is a government in Westminster they don’t like or want, why not give other areas in the UK this opportunity? Many people in England are now starting to ask this question.

#takeuswithyouscotland?

#takeuswithyouscotland has been very interesting, for two reasons, firstly that large numbers of northern English twitter users would seemingly identify themselves with the Scottish more than they do with the south of England and secondly that lots of Scottish tweeters are very sympathetic, some even encouraging the idea. I don’t want the north of England to join Scotland, I don’t in any way feel Scottish, however I definitely feel closer in many ways to those north of the border than I do with many of my supposed countrymen in the south of England, I think the same could be said for Wales, but I also feel English in many ways too. The thing is my Englishness is secondary to my Yorkshireness and I don’t feel like the London based parties understand this. I want my county to have a voice that is listened to, like Scotland, and I think many other regions of the UK agree.

Representative democracy?

I’m no supporter of UKIP, in fact I’m almost the total opposite, but you can’t deny they got over three million votes in this election, and that equalled only one seat, on the opposite of this, the SNP needed less than two million to secure their 56 seats. This isn’t democracy. Some form of PR is needed in the UK to solve this problem and give the people the representation that they voted for. Arguments against PR are mostly rubbish, like the argument that PR gives you weak government, look at the Scottish parliament, a strong system that uses PR. I agree, however, that there is a question around providing local MP’s and the way that is not compatible with straight forward PR, but we are a very clever bunch, the human race, we’ve sent people to the moon, I’m sure we can find a workable system of governance that represents better the votes that people cast.

The system as it is, is broken, we have entire regions of the UK that are under the rule of a government they didn’t ask for, and literally millions of people who voted for parties that have no representation in our parliament, or have no way to influence it at all. In my opinion by giving regions more power over the decisions they make, and making those power making organs democratic and accountable, you give people a reason to vote, their vote would matter, and their regional voice would be better heard. We also need a more representative system of national government. Lots of people vote tactically for people they don’t want to, or don’t vote at all, simply because the system doesn’t work. Of course, we have a majority government in power, so I won’t hold my breath.

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. 

Things in my view this week….1

Second hand trains

I’m no expert on trains, far from it, but I think I have quite a good sense of when someone is trying to pull the wool over. Northern Rail is set to inherit a bunch of old London Underground trains that will be converted to replace the current set of crap trains running on the network. These cast offs are something like 30 years old, and we’re meant to believe this is an upgrade. Are you kidding me? When this was reported on Look North the question was asked ‘why don’t we make some new ones?’ and the answer was ‘well unlike London our transport needs are funded differently, and we can’t afford them’. So here we are, London gets its shiny new trains, and we’re left with the hand me downs they don’t want anymore, typical, once again London first, everywhere else, never. 

Whatever happened to Hull?

Talking about Look North, I sometimes feel like I’m watching a strange Orwellian version of reality, in which parts of Yorkshire don’t exist. Harry and the team bring us the days news from around Yorkshire, but not all of it, has Hull disappeared? The east coast hasn’t, Scarborough and Bridlington still appear on the show, but not Hull, does the BBC not want us to know what is going on there? It’s very strange indeed. When the sport section is introduced, and we hear about the exploits of our region’s clubs, where are Hull City? Or Hull FC and Hull KR? Hull City got to the final of the FA Cup last year, a great reason for Yorkshire to celebrate, but from Look North, silence. 

Calm down dear, it’s only a tweet

Why is Twitter so angry? The more I use Twitter the more worried for the human race I become, even the most innocent and innocuous tweets are often met with absolute rage. Twitter can be a really fun thing to use, and can also be a force for good, but more often than not, it shows up the bad side of our nature. It’s almost like people use Twitter to behave in a way that normal society doesn’t allow, threats, racism, homophobia, and general angry behaviour are everywhere. The hope is that it stays there and doesn’t permeate into wider society, a world where people behaved in real life as they do on twitter would be unbearable. 

Football’s ugly problem

This week was a bad week for football. Two of Europe’s most beautiful cities have witnessed mob behaviour at its absolute worst, first, scumbags in Chelsea colours brought shame upon Chelsea FC, football and themselves when they racially abused a black  Paris metro goer before the PSG match and then PSV fans rioted in Rome causing millions of pounds worth of damage and again sullying the name of football. Being a moron and liking football are unfortunately not mutually exclusive things, and this week shows us how far we have yet to go to rid the beautiful game of such ugly nonsense. 

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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LOCAL PRIDE, ITS A FUNNY THING

WP_20140827_002 (2)I’m a proud Yorkshire man, I’m proud to be many things: English, British, even European, but above all I’m proud to be from God’s own county. So with last seasons FA Cup final featuring a team from London and a team from Yorkshire, you would assume I was cheering on the Tigers, and you’d be correct – but this rule doesn’t always apply. If either Leeds or Huddersfield were in the final I would gladly cheer for any team that was playing against them, even if they were from over the Pennines in Lancashire. Why is this? Surely I should want the teams local to me to do well?
As a Bradford City supporter the next best thing to seeing City win is seeing Leeds or Huddersfield lose, and I suppose because they are our closest rivals (in a geographical sense at least), it makes sense. In all walks of life you want to get one over on your neighbours don’t you?  That sense of wanting to be the best on your patch can easily become a general dislike of those you want to be better than, and this is what makes derby games the most anticipated in the calendar. When I talk to friends of mine that support Leeds about this they dismiss it as jealousy, inferring that living in the shadow of such an illustrious club, we of the smaller club are bitter and green-eyed, to which I obviousy reply with “yeah cos I’m well jealous of a mid table Championship club who have been to less cup finals in the last ten years than us” -almost certainly not helping my cause. But it can’t be just a jealousy thing. For example, we genuinely have nothing to be jealous of Huddersfield for, yet the rivalry is just as keenly felt. For me, more than anything it’s about having someone to be the pantomime villain, the token enemy – Star Wars doesn’t work without the Dark Side, and the opportunity to rub it in with friends and colleagues at work who support the other lot means that the more local it gets the better a rivalry is, and the better that feeling of winding them up becomes.
The silly thing is I can see how childish and unproductive all this hatred is. Let’s face it, when Bradford City was at its peak in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, all the other West Yorkshire teams were doing well also – Leeds were in Europe, Huddersfield were in the Championship, and Halifax were a Football League club. Today only one of those things is still true, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence either. When your local rivals do well it pushes you on to do better yourself and healthy rivalry based on trying to do better is surely more productive than hatred and negativity. The real rivals should surely be those we have least in common with, I mean when you see the money being thrown about at Man City and Chelsea and their flagrant lack of respect for financial rules, they should be enemy all football fans should rally against, but it doesn’t get your juices flowing like a local rival, all it breeds is indifference.
I suppose local rivalry is inevitable, and also important – financially derby games are a massive bonus for clubs, and the supporters get a few games a year that take on more importance than just the three points up for grabs. The problem is that when rivalry becomes hatred, it isn’t healthy for anyone. Nobody enjoys scenes like those after recent Tyne-Wear derbies where emotions spill over into violence and disorder, and surely it’s much better to be able to sit in the pub with friends from the other side and have a bit of banter about the result and enjoy the unique experience of the local derby. Don’t get me wrong I’ll never cheer for Leeds, but let’s just hope the next time we play each other in the league it’s in the same division as the last time we did.
(This post was originally posted on a football blog I contribute to (straightyellowcard.wordpress.com). Bradford city have since played, and beat, Leeds, and my immediate reaction was of it not quite meaning as much as I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong it was great to put one over on Leeds, but I just don’t think I dislike them as much as I used to, maybe I am growing up after all!)