WHAT I STAND FOR
Above all else, I believe in a politics that listens to people. Over the past 15 years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of local people about what we want to see happen here in our city and communities. Everyone has a different piece of the puzzle, and something unique to contribute; we urgently need to get better at harnessing ‘collective wisdom’.
And since entering the ‘political’ world in 2015, I’ve done a lot more listening. At a local level (ie relating to my city council election campaigns in 2015 and 2016), I’ve pulled together and worked on a giant, ever-evolving local ‘manifesto’ for the City and Hunslet council ward. Click here to have a read of the latest version – and to get a sense of my rootedness in and commitment to this city, and my approach to politics.
But what about policies?! Click here to find out more about the Greens, their 2017 manifesto, their wide-ranging and crowd-sourced policy framework, and their policies that are most important to me.
Further to that, I’ve also written below a series of personal notes: on those Green policies (eg where I perhaps feel some tension with core party policy), on key issues that voters have brought up, and also on big issues that are particular to Leeds Central. Please get in touch if you wish to discuss any of these any further.
Finally before that, I wholeheartedly endorse the principles proposed by former independent MP Martin Bell on the expected conduct of politicians. They essentially commit to transparency, openness, independence from party control, and the ethic of public service. Click here to read them in full.
Policies and priorities (in alphabetical order):
Aspiring Communities (aka Icepak) is a controversial planning application in Beeston. I know the team behind the application, believe their intentions to be honourable, and have been on their local advisory board since 2013 (before the controversy). However, I also recognise the very strong feelings against the scheme, and have repeatedly discussed those concerns with local residents. As previously stated on the Save Our Beeston website, I believe it would be incompatible with the spirit of elected public service to continue to support the scheme in the face of such opposition – so I would step back completely in the event of becoming elected MP.
Brexit. This is a pretty big issue (!), so it’s worth being 100% transparent. I’ve always been ambivalent about the EU – recognising the great things it’s done, and the great flaws. (That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the Greens: they were/are critical of the EU, whilst recognising its positives.) In the light of the 2016 referendum, I believe it would be utterly immoral for Westminster to block Brexit on its own terms. However, I sense that the Conservatives are looking to force through an extreme Brexit that burns our bridges with the EU – and leaves us a deregulated, divided, and poorer country; I don’t believe that’s what the vast majority of Leavers want. I therefore believe the Green Party proposal to give power back to the people in the form of a second referendum – once the Brexit negotiations are complete – is the fairest solution on this hugely divisive issue. We the people will therefore have the opportunity to sign off or knock back the deal on the table.
Crime. I’m especially interested in Green policies to push police forces out of ‘mega-stations’ like that at Elland Road, into community cop-shops (eg in empty shops). But the Police are actually a pricey and clunky substitute for well-funded youth and community work – so the Greens would fund local residents in hard-pressed communities to act as community workers. Prisons are similarly expensive and ineffective: we’d push for a more restorative justice system. (Eg in Portugal, they part-fund businesses to employ drug users, and it’s been hugely successful.) And long term, we’re pushing for a four-day working week – to create a more community-centred (and therefore safer) society.
Extremism. Short–term, we’re hugely fortunate to live in a country with robust and (largely) trusted police and intelligence services – who are working very effectively to stop extremism of all sorts in its tracks. However, they cannot sadly be expected to stop every attack (eg the tragedy in Manchester, or Jo Cox’s murder). The government clearly needs to support the police and intelligence services – for instance, by stopping any further cuts. Further to that, we need to empower police forces to become more community focused again (see Crime, above) – and the Greens are similarly committed to ending the ineffective and costly ‘Prevent’ anti-extremism programme. I also don’t believe it would would be effective or worthwhile to sacrifice civil liberties in the fight against extremism, eg in the form of the Snoopers Charter. Medium term, a vibrant society with well-paid employment opportunities and well-connected communities will be less susceptible to extremism – people are less likely to fall for extremist brainwashing if they have plenty to live for. (See above for Green plans to fund community work in hard-pressed areas.) Health provision (and especially for mental health) is also key. Looking to the long term, we have to reflect upon the way in which Western military interventions in places like Iraq and Libya have undoubtedly fanned the flames of extremism – and, contrary to the rhetoric, made us all less safe. We need to learn from past misjudgments, and work with others to build a more peaceable world, and to help rebuild trust and local capacity especially in conflicted zones (eg funding an ‘army’ of local peace-makers across the world). Finally, as many others have said, the power is in all of our hands: we can each help to create communities less susceptible to extremism, where diverse people know one another, talk, and collaborate. My neighbourhood Beeston was hugely scrutinised after the horror of the London bombings in 2005 – but stood together, and (whilst still far from perfect) came back stronger, and is I believe better connected and safer.
Flooding. Leeds Central has been badly impacted by flooding, most recently in December 2015 – January 2016. Short term, we’d be daft not to push ahead with the conventional infrastructural flood defence schemes that are lined up for the city. However, long-term, we’d be equally daft not to look at low-tech options upstream (ie in the countryside): eg reforestation of riverbanks, deliberately introducing meanders and bends into rivers, impelling landowners to create ‘sinks’ to soak up excess rain (too often landowners seek to channel rainwater off their land – even when all they’re using their land for is grouse shooting etc), installing ‘leaky dams’, and overhauling the industrial approach to farming which makes farmland incredibly inefficent at absorbing excess rainfall.
Fox hunting. Just in case it’s not apparent from Green Party policy, I and the party are 100% opposed to reinstating it.
Fracking. I have to admit: before I did any research, I wondered if fracking wasn’t perhaps a necessary evil, whilst we transition to a low-carbon fuel economy. I was wrong: it will be hugely environmentally destructive, generate very little energy and very few jobs, and have almost zero impact upon consumer fuel costs. It’s daft and worth resisting at every corner. It is particularly relevant to Leeds Central, as proposals are afoot to ship very large quantities of post-fracking waste fluid into the Knostrop water treatment site in Cross Green for processing – then release into the local water table. Not good.
High Speed Rail (HS2) will cost £50bn+, massively disrupt communities up and down the country, will be of disproportionate benefit to the high-income people who can afford to use it, and (according to several influential pieces of research) serve primarily to concentrate wealth in London – not spread it around. The Greens would scrap the scheme, but use the same amount to massively upgrade rail and bus infrastructure across the North and other regions. (Eg on rail: widening pre-existing tracks, upgrading freight lines, and full electrification.)
Homelessness is a growing issue in Leeds Central, and – whilst some progress has been made – it feels on some fronts like we’re going backwards. Of course increasing the supply of housing generally will help – and the Greens would support communities and local government to build 10,000s of new homes per year. However, the causes behind homelessness are clearly more complex. We would massively increase mental health provision. We would seek to liberate charities from stifling controls and regulations, that have forced many to become increasingly corporatised. We would incentivise commercial landlords to release empty properties as pop-up shelters (overseen by charities or local government). We would decriminalise squatting. And we would look to focus pilots for the Universal Basic Income with those who are homeless – previous pilots have demonstrated this to be (surprisingly?) very effective.
Migration has been an immense positive for UK society over the past centuries up to the current moment (eg a third of NHS staff are foreign-born). However, in the absence of proper infrastructural developments to keep up with population growth, migration has had a disproportionate impact upon low-income communities including several in Leeds Central (eg a squeeze on schools spaces, GP spaces, etc). I absolutely believe that Britain needs to retain a welcoming and open approach to people wishing to move here to join our society – especially refugees and people seeking asylum. However, I do believe that we can best meet the needs of new and established communities by introducing an ethical but managed approach to our borders.
Prostitution + the ‘Managed Zone’ in Holbeck. Green Party policy is to decriminalise prostitution, and I believe that that is both the most practical and responsible approach to this contentious issue. However, the rights of those engaging in sex work clearly need to be better balanced with those in nearby established communities. The ‘Managed Zone’ approach in Holbeck has or at least had (I believe) considerable potential – but it has apparently been underfunded, and lost a good deal of confidence amongst established local communities. I will continue to talk with agencies involved in that programme, and local residents, to try to find a way forward; I would for instance be keen to explore the possibility of shifting the zone across the other side of the A58 to the Gelderd Road area.
Transport. Does Leeds need a mass transit system to justify its claim to be a major European city? The trolleybus was a poorly conceived scheme, and I was actively involved in the campaign against it. What now though? As touched upon above in the HS2 section, investment should be spread out as widely as possible – eg to upgrade local and regional rail provision, and boost bus transport. This would have a much bigger impact amongst a far wider range of people, rather than large scale vanity projects.
Tyre fires have been a rumbling issue in inner east and south Leeds over many years, and it’s impacting the air we breathe! I would fight for greater resources and powers for the Environment Agency to better hold tyre disposal businesses to account.
** More to follow. And if you have questions about any of these, or if you have an as-yet-unanswered query, please be in touch: click here.
(Image from a big ‘One Love One Leeds’ event we held in Beeston in 2011. That’s me at the back in yellow!)