Friday, 3 April 2015

Some policy thoughts...

I was recently contacted by Jack Govier at Candidate Hub to provide responses to ten questions. I am very grateful to Jack and his colleagues for their time -

The questions, and my responses, are as follows.

1. Obviously our goal is to strengthen the relationship between voters and candidates, but what do you plan to do in order to make sure you remain ‘in touch’ with the electorate?

In Shipley, we hold regular street surgeries to keep in touch with local residents all year round. We also communicate directly with local people via our newsletters and, of course, via social media.

2. What makes you the best candidate for this constituency?

As a member of the Green Party, I am part of the fastest growing political movement in the country. The Greens are the only party that has answers to the economic, social and environmental challenges we face as a society and I would be able to campaign effectively for these ideas in parliament on behalf of Shipley residents. I have already served as a local councillor for the past eleven years. This has given me a wealth of experience of dealing with the everyday problems facing our community in Shipley and the wider area.

3a. What has the current Member achieved that you believe has been successful?   (The incumbent will be asked: "What would you have liked to have done differently during your time in Parliament?")

To be fair, Philip Davies has been an active local MP who has kept in touch with local residents and has resisted the temptations of ministerial office in order to concentrate on his political priorities. I would single out his rebel vote against the increase in university tuition fees as one of his best decisions as my MP.

4.  In your opinion, is austerity working? What should we take from the state of the economy during this Government’s tenure?

Austerity is not working. The cuts in public spending have been too deep and too fast. The government has not invested enough in the infrastructure of our country – this is part of the reason for our housing crisis and our continuing over-reliance for energy on imported fossil fuels. The result has been the loss of 900,000 experienced people from our over-stretched public services and greater poverty and inequality. Tory-Lib Dem mismanagement of the public finances has led to the government having to borrow nearly £300 billion more over the course of this parliament than it originally planned back in 2010 and the downgrading of our international credit rating. A much more measured rebalancing of government spending, combined with fresh capital investment in our housing, renewable energy and transport infrastructure, will help to build sustainable public finances, provide our citizens with secure jobs and high quality public services and strengthen our economic and environmental resilience for the future.

5. Does (legal) immigration need more limitations or is it vital for the UK?

There are many economic and cultural benefits to living in an open, tolerant society. Millions of Brits travel and work and live abroad, especially in Europe. Millions of overseas nationals live and work in the UK. Migrants to the UK have contributed to our economic wellbeing and changed our country for the better. Let’s face it,  the UK population was a third lower a century ago, but we were much poorer in those days than we are now. Many migrants bring skills that we need, many do jobs that need doing. Our NHS would grind to a halt without overseas workers. One in seven new British companies are set up by migrants and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are highly skilled individuals. Talk of ‘pulling up drawbridges’ or of Britain being ‘full’ is inflammatory, xenophobic nonsense. Benefit tourism and health tourism are marginal problems. Nearly all migrants to the UK work, most are young and healthy and do not have children. They are not a burden on our doctors’ surgeries or our schools. It’s true that the UK has a housing crisis, but this has been primarily caused by the refusal of Labour and Tory governments to allow councils to build enough new homes or to launch a national house-building programme or to step in to stop developers ‘land banking’ vacant brownfield sites. It’s true that some migrants depress the wages of the bottom five per cent of our most poorly-paid jobs, but the answer is to properly introduce and enforce a Living Wage across our economy and ban zero hours contracts. It’s also worth remembering that half of the population growth of the UK over the past fifty years has been home-grown due to the number of children being born here in the UK. So let’s stop scapegoating migrants and manage the UK’s population levels in a more tolerant and intelligent manner. Where migration creates pressures on our public services or housing, the government should step in and provide additional support. We should also, by the way, remember our international legal obligations to treat the refugees who come to the UK fleeing persecution and seeking asylum with generosity, humanity and respect.

6. Many people are concerned about the cost of living in the UK, with wages having failed to rise in line with the price of food, energy and rent in recent years. How can this be corrected?

First, we need to end poverty wages by introducing and enforcing a Living Wage. Good employers already pay their staff decent wages. Bad employers should do the same. Fuel poverty is a growing problem in our society that can be addressed by a national homes retrofitting programme to boost energy efficiency and install the renewable energy technologies that can cut our gas and electricity bills (my electricity bills have halved since we fitted solar PV to our roof, and our gas use is down 40% since we insulated our walls). The solution to the rent rises in the housing sector is to more tightly regulate our rogue landlords, and to build more homes. We can start with the brownfield sites where there is space for around 1.3 million new homes, and we should ensure that most new housing stock coming on stream is cooperatively and socially managed in order to provide the affordable housing that we desperately need.

7. How would you like to see the NHS change in the future in order to become more successful?

The top-down re-organisation of the NHS has been a disaster of epic proportions. My party would repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act and reverse the steady privatisation of our health care system. We would reform the NHS internal market that has increased NHS administration costs by at least £5 billion per year, thereby releasing vital funds for stretched front-line services. We would invest an additional £12 billion in health care to deal with the current NHS funding crisis. Finally, we would merge health and social care to provide more comprehensive support for our most vulnerable citizens and abolish social care charges altogether for older people. A country as rich as Britain can afford to look after its sick and elderly citizens with dignity and respect.

8. What measures do you think need to be taken to decrease unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and those who have never been employed?

I believe in the value of markets and the free exchange of goods and services. However, where markets fail to deliver the social goods we value, including secure employment with fulfilling work for our citizens, government has a duty to step in to re-shape our economy for the common good. The Green Party believes that the government has a key role to play in stimulating the infrastructure investment that we need to upgrade our energy, transport and housing sectors and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. This intervention must, of course, be linked to an overhaul of our education system and our apprenticeship training programmes so that our young people grow up with the knowledge and the skills they need to make a valuable contribution to our society in their adult lives.

9. Does the lack of diversity in Parliament equate to a lack of representation?

Yes, I would agree. Four fifths of our parliamentarians are men, for example, and the Green Party aims to achieve a 50-50 gender representation by 2025. We need a more diverse range of MPs and Peers to ensure that the concerns of all our citizens are articulated properly and fairly in parliamentary debates about the future of our country. A key element of this process of change would be to reform the House of Lords into an all-elected upper house, as well as lowering the voting age to 16.

10 . If an EU Referendum were to take place, how would you encourage your constituents to vote and why?

I would strongly encourage my constituents to vote so that their voice can be heard, and I would urge them to vote to remain a member state of the EU. The Green Party is the only national party campaigning in favour of an EU referendum AND in favour of staying in. We need a reformed European Union that solves the problems we cannot tackle at a national level, such as energy management, worker protection, biodiversity, food security, cross-border pollution and climate change. And we need a more democratic, decentralised EU in which the economies of the member states become more self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable over time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.