Monday, 1 May 2017

Why the Green Party is backing Sophie Walker and the Women's Equality Party in Shipley on 8th June.

Two days ago, I received a letter from a local resident whom I have known for nearly twenty years. She supports the Greens here in Shipley, and votes Conservative in the general elections. She is a wonderful member of our community.

She wrote to me on this occasion, however, to complain about the decision of the Green Party in Shipley to support Sophie Walker of the Women's Equality Party against Philip Davies in the upcoming election on 8th June.

I thought it might be of interest for me to share my response, simply to lay to rest any puzzlement that other residents here in Shipley may have about our decision to back Sophie.

In the meantime, I very much hope that local Labour and Lib Dem activists will also take this opportunity to stand aside, back Sophie and campaign for a progressive MP for Shipley.


My reply reads as follows.

Dear X,

Green Party support for Sophie Walker in the general election in Shipley

Thank you very much for your letter regarding your support for Philip Davies in the upcoming general election. Thank you as well for your very positive feedback about the work that we do locally as Green councillors.

I am writing, of course, to explain our decision to support Sophie Walker of the Women’s Equality Party.

As you rightly say, Philip has worked hard for Shipley since he was elected in 2005. He is very responsive to resident concerns and has supported the local councillors on a number of issues over the years. We have a good working relationship with him and I have nothing against him personally.

I also readily acknowledge the fact that, on some national issues, he has done well. I am thinking, for example, of his brave opposition to the tripling of university tuition fees in 2010 and his steadfast refusal to support the ruinously expensive and unnecessary High Speed 2 rail project.

Unfortunately, from my political perspective, Philip sits in the House of Commons as a Conservative MP. I therefore disagree profoundly with the way he votes on my behalf in that chamber on a very wide range of issues. I outline why in detail below. This is why I stood against him as the Green Party candidate in 2010 and 2015, and why Bradford District Green Party is supporting Sophie Walker’s Women’s Equality Party candidacy against Philip in this general election. In addition, I should stress, Sophie is a very impressive individual who would do a fantastic job representing the people of Shipley in Parliament and, of course, her party shares the same broadly progressive agenda that the Green Party stands for.

Our decision here in Shipley to back Sophie Walker is, fundamentally, a matter of electoral arithmetic. If the Green Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats ALL field candidates against Philip in this election, the progressive vote will split and the Conservatives will win. Even if the Labour Party ALONE runs against Philip, with the backing of the others and without Sophie in the field, Philip will win. Labour cannot provide the kind of broad cross-party progressive platform that will bring enough Shipley residents on board to win the day on the 8th of June. Quite simply, the only possible way to win Shipley back for the progressive politics that I believe in is for everyone to unite behind Sophie and her campaign. That is why I will be voting for her and why the local Green Party is not fielding a candidate on this occasion.

As I mentioned above, I have profound concerns about the way in which Philip uses his position as my MP to back policies I disagree with. In this regard, of course, and despite his track record as a serial ‘rebel’, Philip has on the whole backed Tory policies which I regard as a disaster for the country. These policies have also undermined the quality of life of many Shipley residents.

Philip and his fellow Tory MPs have voted repeatedly for cuts in government spending and investment that have undermined the quality of life for Shipley residents. He has supported budgets that have cut hundreds of millions of pounds from Bradford Council’s services since 2011. These excessive cuts in government spending, for which Philip has voted, have also undermined frontline policing in Shipley and local crime is currently increasing partly as a result.

Philip has repeatedly voted for cuts in welfare support for the poor and vulnerable, including many of the people he represents in Shipley - he has voted at least 49 times to cut welfare spending in the Commons. Here are some examples. He voted to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance in 2011 – you will be aware that the EMA had encouraged many Shipley young people to stay in post-16 education. He supported the introduction of the bedroom tax in 2011.[1] He voted against excluding child benefit from the welfare cap in 2012.[2] He voted to cut local support for people in financial need who struggle to pay their Council tax in 2012.[3] He has repeatedly opposed increases in welfare payments that would have kept them in line with the rise in prices.[4] I disagree with him on all these decisions.

Philip has voted in defence of private health care and in favour of the marketisation, fragmentation and creeping privatisation of the NHS since 2011. He supported the coalition’s top-down NHS reforms in 2012.[5] I would strongly prefer our health care system to be properly managed by the government and fully funded.

Philip has repeatedly voted in support of measures to give schools greater autonomy from local authority control, including the establishment of Free Schools, and has even voted against requiring teachers to be either qualified or working towards a teaching qualification.[6] As a teacher and parent of school-age children myself, I am horrified at the way in which our education system is becoming even more fragmented and am concerned as well at the funding squeeze that is eroding the quality of our education provision.

Philip has repeatedly opposed the imposition of higher taxes on the wealthy. Indeed, in 2012, he supported the reduction in the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% on incomes over £150,000.[7] He has repeatedly voted against proposals for an additional tax on bankers’ bonuses.[8] He has repeatedly voted against proposals for a ‘mansion tax’.[9] He has repeatedly voted in support of cuts in corporation tax.[10] I believe that the better off should pay their fair share in tax to provide all of us with the high quality public services that we expect for ourselves, our parents and our children, and I want to live in a more equal society – more equal in terms of outcomes as well as opportunity.

Philip has campaigned against increases in fuel duty. He therefore shares responsibility, along with his Tory colleagues, for the worsening air pollution produced by our over-reliance on car use. As a result, Shipley residents are suffering the health consequences of illegal levels of air pollution across parts of the constituency.[11]

Philip voted against the smoking ban in 2006 despite the huge health benefits that this has delivered for Shipley residents in the decade since this ban was introduced. Since then, he has repeatedly tried to block further measures intended to protect people from the harmful exposure to tobacco smoke.[12] My view is that government action in this area of policy has led to healthier lives and has been entirely reasonable and justified.

Philip has campaigned for a more flexible minimum wage, to allow employers to pay people with disabilities less – including, by definition, disabled residents of Shipley. He has done so despite of the fact that this would create a situation where some employers will pressurise potential (or existing) employees into accepting a contract that pays them below minimum wage.[13] I worry about any watering down in employment protection for our more vulnerable citizens.

Philip has, of course, always been one of the leading Tory backbenchers who eventually forced David Cameron to promise an EU referendum in January 2013 in order to hold the Conservative Party together. He subsequently campaigned hard for a LEAVE vote in 2016. In doing so, he has ignored the views of thousands of Shipley residents who support EU membership, including myself, and continues to deny the mounting evidence that Brexit will damage the UK economy and undermine our social and environmental protections. My view is that the decision to leave the EU is the worst public policy decision made by any government in my lifetime. My only consolation is that I hold an Irish passport and have recently acquired Irish citizenship for my children, thereby ensuring that all of us will continue to have access to the many advantages of EU citizenship.

Philip was one of only five MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008, and has consistently spoken out and voted against the need for ambitious government action that would enable us to make the transition to a low carbon economy.[14] He has therefore undermined the long-term environmental security of Shipley residents. He also voted in favour of the forest sell-off in 2011 that was later abandoned by the Conservatives in the face of a huge public outcry.[15] He also voted in favour of the badger cull in 2013 (although he subsequently changed his mind in 2014 for some reason).[16]

Philip has consistently supported the renewal of the UK strategic nuclear deterrent and voted repeatedly for this in the House of Commons.[17] He has done so despite the fact that most countries do not regard nuclear weapons as necessary for their security (France is the only other EU member state with a nuclear arsenal) and despite the huge cost of these weapons of mass destruction (it is anticipated that renewing Trident will cost the UK at least £100 billion over the next 30+ years).

Philip supports the restoration of the death penalty in the UK. In my view, judicial killing of this sort is barbaric, unnecessary and therefore immoral, and I find it hard to understand why any Shipley resident shares Philip’s view. Reintroducing the death penalty would also necessitate the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe, something else that would be a huge step backwards for our country. Indeed, Philip has campaigned and voted for the repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act and supports its replacement with a so-called ‘British bill of rights. This would undermine existing human rights protections for Shipley residents and I profoundly disagree with Philip on this issue.

Philip was one of many Conservatives (a majority of Conservative MPs, astonishingly) who tried in vain to block same sex marriage in 2013. Apparently he did so on the ludicrous basis that he was “in favour of equality”.[18] Fortunately, the UK has moved on and Shipley’s gay residents are now able to marry in spite of Philip’s views on this matter.

As you probably know, Philip has repeatedly filibustered private member bills in order to block their progress in the Commons. These include: protection against eviction for tenants requesting that their landlord carry out property repairs; reducing UK international aid; tighter regulation of payday lenders and reducing hospital parking charges.[19] Most recently, in December 2016, he tried in vain to block a bill proposing better protection for women against domestic violence.[20] I wish he would spend his valuable time presenting his own legislation rather than blocking decent bills brought to the Commons by other MPs.

Philip is, of course, notorious for his impatience with ‘political correctness’. For example, he spoke at the August 2016 International Conference on Men’s Issues, organised by the Justice for Men and Boys Party. His comments there revealed his deeply dismissive approach towards making further progress on women’s equality.[21] Another illustration of this is his criticism of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, on which he serves in the Commons.[22] Why he wastes his time in this way is simply beyond me, considering the huge range of economic and environmental challenges facing the country that he ought to be concentrating on instead.

In addition to supporting cuts in fuel duty, despite the pressing need to cut road congestion and traffic pollution, Philip has opposed nationalisation of the UK rail network. [23] He has also voted in favour of higher rail fares.[24] He voted against allowing Councils greater control over local bus services.[25] In contrast, I want an MP who will work to deliver a high quality, publicly-run rail network and decent, well-funded and managed bus networks that meet our increasing need for low carbon and affordable travel.

Finally, Philip has repeatedly opposed the kind of progressive constitutional reforms that I would like to see in this country. He has voted against electoral reform for the House of Commons; voted against an all-elected House of Lords or even the abolition of the remaining hereditary peers; voted against devolving more powers to Scotland and Wales or to local councils; and voted against lowering the voting age to 16.[26]

Bearing all of the above in mind, I hope that you will understand why I cannot support Philip in this election and why I will be campaigning instead for Sophie Walker to be my next MP.

In the meantime, if there is anything I can do to help you in my capacity as your local councillor, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Very best wishes, as ever,


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