Here is a link to the piece I wrote for the Campaign for Science and Engineering: http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=16376
Category Archives: Democracy
This is the fifth in a series of posts about the 2014 Labour Party Conference in Manchester.
I am writing this a week after getting home from Manchester and a few hours after watching David Cameron give his speech to the Conservative Party Conference. In Manchester last week, there was great excitement for Ed Miliband’s speech and I made new friends in the queue to get in and in the conference centre and the bars afterwards. We all could see that this was one half of showing the British people what the choice is next May. The other half was today.
I have met Ed a few times now. As a PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) I have an equal chance to speak to Ed and the Shadow Cabinet as other candidates throughout the country. My honest opinion is that Ed is a good man. He is not cynical or driven by calculations of popularity like in The Thick of It. On the contrary, my experience is that he thinks deeply about the real issues affecting people in the UK, and the world. He can see what the moral, ethical and decent solution is to these problems and he pursues it. He took on Murdoch because it was the right thing to do. No other party leader has had that moral bravery in my lifetime. He is a threat to the right-wing establishment so they smear him continuously. Is anyone surprised by that?
Cost of Living
Only Ed talked about the failure of the economy to provide for ordinary people. Cameron cannot touch this subject. This is what I hear on the doorstep and in the street when I speak to voters. 9 million people, including 2 million children, live in private rented housing. The numbers doing so in Guildford have rocketed since 2010. Only Ed is on their side.
Only Ed and Labour can intervene in the energy market to freeze utility bills. Cameron can’t touch this, his donors would blow a fuse.
Wages are stagnating and more and more people find themselves on zero-hour contracts or earning below the living wage. Only Ed Miliband and Labour will stand up for those people. Disabled people have been targeted by the cruel Tory-LibDem Bedroom Tax. Only Labour will scrap it.
A fair society is a strong society. People should be fairly rewarded for work and protected from predatory corporations. Ed can do this, Cameron cannot.
The Next Generation
In Ed’s speech there was a vision for how the country could be. If the economy worked for working people and we did more for each other, together, then the next generation need not be worse off than their parents.
Ed spoke about climate change and its threat to our world. Cameron forgot that section of his speech, if it ever existed. Rampant climate change will wreck large parts of the globe. It will bring poverty, famine and mass displacement. We have an obligation to our fellow world citizens to play our part in combatting it. Ed will, Cameron won’t.
Ed’s vision is one of hope. Hope, that our country can change to share the proceeds of globalisation with everyone, that we can keep our planet liveable for all peoples, and hope that the next generation can have the opportunities that their parents did.
Cameron’s vision is one of fear. Fear, that other countries will betray us, that entrenched privilege will be threatened, and fear that new ideas and culture will reach us and challenge us.
Does fear trump hope? If it does then the next generations will live a less fulfilled existence than their ancestors. This is The Choice.
The National Health Service typifies how British people want to care for each other. I am old enough to remember how Thatcher ran it down so that patients were waiting for hours on trolleys in corridors. Labour rescued the NHS then and will need to rescue it again. Cameron and Clegg are selling off our NHS. Everything is up for grabs.
In Ed’s speech he set out how we will combine health and social care and provide the funding required to secure the future of Britain’s most loved institution. Cameron didn’t.
I told BBC Surrey about Ed’s speech here:
Ed offered carefully costed plans to save the NHS and clear direction on the environment. He offered hope to the next generation and a way to make the country and the economy work for everyone, not just a small elite.
Cameron offered an excuse to bash the most vulnerable, austerity without end and a massive pile of cash to the richest in society.
The choice is clear. The election is on 7 May 2015. Which will you choose?
This is the second in a series of posts about my experience of the 2014 Labour Party Conference.
One Nation, My Nation
I have lived in Surrey for many years, since about the year 2000, but I have travelled, spent time and made friends all over the United Kingdom. I grew up just outside Glasgow, I have lived in Liverpool and I go to work in London. Arriving in Manchester for the Labour conference last Saturday I felt very much at home. Everyone was friendly: at the airport, at the hotel, on the streets and at the conference itself.
The great thing about being a PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) in the Labour Party is that I can press the case for my constituents on an equal footing with all the other PPCs. I can tell Ed Miliband about the aspirations of people in Guildford. I can discuss domestic violence and policing in Surrey with Yvette Cooper. I can put the case for preserving the Green Belt directly to Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, the Shadow Minister for Planning. Labour is the One Nation party and will govern for all constituencies. I wonder if Tory Party PPCs for Sunderland, Manchester or Glasgow get access to David Cameron, I doubt it.
What about Surrey?
People in Surrey are the same as people in the rest of the UK. They have the same fears and aspirations. They care about their neighbours, families and their future in the same way. Electorally, however, Surrey is the height of Tory-dom on Earth. The reason for this is that people have got used to voting Tory, but this can change. It is already changing.
I speak to voters on the doorstep regularly and hear about their struggle. It is the same struggle that people across the country face: insecurity, living standards squeezed, fear for the future. They don’t believe anyone is on their side. Labour under Ed Miliband understands this and only Labour can have the answers. Only Labour will intervene in energy, housing, transport markets to make them work for people instead of corporations. Only Labour will rescue the NHS. Only Labour can turn despair into hope for the next generation in Surrey.
Thank you, Conference
Looking back at the last few days, there were many high points, which I will write about over the next few days. However, the pinnacle for me was addressing the entire conference of thousands of people to stand up for Surrey’s working people, its families, its children and its pensioners. Labour is truly a party which listens to all the people of the United Kingdom and I am greatly privileged to be speaking for Guildford and the whole of Surrey at such an important forum.
Here is a clip of my speech to Conference, one of the proudest moments of my life:
I have just returned from the 2014 Labour Party Conference in Manchester. It was stimulating, inspiring, energising and sometimes mind-blowing. This is the first in a series of posts about what I did, what I saw and what I felt when I was there. I haven’t got any particular order in mind for these posts but since the largest number of constituents contacted me about this event I thought I’d start with this…
Keeping it real
This event was organised by 38 Degrees. Regular readers of this blog will know I have been involved with many 38 Degrees campaigns before, including being bundled out of a door on film by Michael Gove’s bouncer. But I digress. This event was about how the public can hold MPs to account between elections. I spend much of my life doing this so it matters greatly to me. Recall means forcing a by-election in a constituency before the normal end of a Parliament (every five years).
All three parties committed to this in their 2010 manifestos and it was in the Tory-LibDem Coalition Agreement. So why haven’t we got a right of recall yet? Well, it’s the same reason why MPs are getting a big pay rise and why chairs of council committees in Guildford interupt me when I’m trying to speak up for public opinion. MPs have the power and they don’t want to share it. David Cameron is proposing a system of recall where MPs would sit in judgement of other MPs and decide if they should be recalled. This is a predictable response from the Conservative Party, of course. They don’t want ordinary people to have any say at all. This is why this event was called, we demand a real system of recall where MPs who have betrayed their constituents can be forced, by their constituents, to stand before them again and explain themselves.
38 Degrees don’t just put on events and expect the right people to turn up. Some of my constituents in Guildford sent me emails asking me attend. This was organised through 38 Degrees but their words and feelings were genuine. Helping people contact and lobby MPs and prospective MPs is an invaluable service. This is why I personally donate a small amount to 38 Degrees every month.
The room was packed, at 8.30am, and it was a fantastic opportunity to press the speakers on all aspects of recall.
Lisa Nandy MP
Lisa Nandy is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Civil Society. She told us that Cameron’s proposals for recall were worthless and even his own MPs, like Zac Goldsmith and David Davies, will not stand for it. Labour’s priority is to “push power outwards from Westminster”, she said, not have MPs stitching it up again in cosy committee rooms at the House of Commons.
Lisa described the potential dangers of recall if it is not legislated for carefully. She told us about a recent debate in the House of Commons about international aid. Just about the only MP in the House opposing international aid was the Conservative Philip Davies. His arguments were abhorent, about leaving the world’s poorest and most down-trodden to suffer, about refusing any human feelings of fellowship, about fear, greed and isolationism. Lisa said she felt like throwing things at his head while he was speaking. However, she said he must have the right to stand up in Parliament and say these things because some people, a small number, in this country feel that way. Recall must not hound out MPs for representing minority views.
I’m a big fan of Owen’s and it was great to hear him speak. He answered my question about MPs who are found to have committed awful misconduct, to have betrayed the trust of the electorate, and find reasons not to do the decent thing and resign. He agreed that some do but many don’t. He said that there is a real problem with the representation for ordinary people in Parliament, working class MPs are scarce now. The Tory-LibDem Lobbying Act is designed to make political campaigning and organising more difficult. Lisa Nandy was applauded for confirming that Labour will repeal this law.
I really enjoyed chatting to Owen afterwards and telling him about our campaign in Guildford. It is great to meet famous people who turn out to be really nice people in real life. He was very encouraging about how important it is to take the fight to the Tories in Surrey. Owen described the LibDems’ betrayal of voters here and across the country as “doing a Clegg”. The Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg’s seat was there to. Oliver Coppard stands a great chance of beating Clegg and delivering the LibDem leader’s punishment he deserves for breaking his pledges on tuition fees, the NHS and many others. I have met Oliver a few times and I know he will be the great MP that the people of Sheffield Hallam deserve after being failed so badly by Clegg.
Recall that works but doesn’t oppress
There were other interesting speakers, Joe Cox from Compass and Jonathan Isaby from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The event was expertly chaired by Blanche Jones from 38 Degrees. The Taxpayers’ Alliance is a right wing pressure group whose message is “you’re on your own”, so I don’t warm to them, to put it mindly. However, they are in favour of recall which is good, although I have my suspicions about the kind of recall they would prefer. Lisa Nandy put her finger on it when she talked about the danger of big corporations funding campaigns against MPs in marginal constituencies to have them recalled for opposing their interests. I fear the Taxpayers’ Alliance may have that future in mind.
A revealing comment from Isaby: “Police and Crime Commissioner elections increased democracy”. PCCs have been a failure of democracy and need to be abolished, in my opinion. On the other hand, what 38 Degrees does is real democracy.
I’m in favour of recall for MPs who have lied, stolen and grossly abused the trust of their constituents. I believe this should be driven by voters, not MPs and not big corporations. The Scottish referendum campaign told us what we already know – people are disengaged and disillusioned with Westminster. A real recall system can be part of forcing Westminster to start listening and finding answers to the questions people are asking.
As a Scotsman who has lived in Surrey for many years, I find myself torn about the independence referendum. My Scottish friends and family are evenly split between Noes and Yeses. We all share the same objectives but some people see voting No as the means to that end and some will vote Yes as a way of reaching the same goals.
I grew up in a town outside Glasgow near the birthplace of Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party. Like nearly all Scots, I was state educated. Politically, I have always believed everyone has a responsibility for each other and this leads to a better society than individuals trying to grab as much as possible for themselves. Personally, I feel a strong Scottish national identity, like all Scots, especially those who have left Scotland to live and travel all over the world.
So, I would vote Yes, right? Well, No, actually.
If I had a vote, I would cast it for the outcome which would most benefit the ordinary people of Scotland, especially the worse off. National identity is important but Scotland already is a nation with an identity to be proud of. We should be confident enough that we don’t have to define ourselves by separation from our neighbours. Every election should be used to “kick the Tories” as David Cameron put it last week but this is a referendum on breaking solidarity with all working people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too, not just the despised, grasping, rich Tories.
I believe staying part of the UK would provide the strength, stability and solidarity that would lead to a fairer, more socially just Scotland. The world is becoming more interdependent. Scottish workers should make common cause with English workers and workers everywhere or we risk running a race to the bottom in corporate taxes and pay and conditions. People cannot be governed without their consent and if there is a No vote, the Scottish government must be given powers such as to abolish the Bedroom Tax and to renationalise its railways.
Whichever way the vote goes this week, the United Kingdom will be changed by it. The vast majority of people in Scotland will show they believe voting matters. They will be voting for the right reasons whether they choose Yes or No.
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, wrote about solidarity across nations and this is my personal hope for the referendum:
Then let us pray that come it may
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a’ that.
For a’ that, an a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That man to man, the world, o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.
[This piece was requested by a local newspaper for publication on 18 September.
Richard Wilson, airline pilot from Windlesham, Surrey and Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Guildford in 2015]
On Thursday, voters will be able to elect the next Members of the European Parliament to represent the UK. The proportional representation system means that every vote will count. The more votes each party gets, the more MEPs it will have.
If the opinion polls are correct the largest party will be either Labour or Ukip. Unfortunately, Ukip have gained popularity by whipping up fears about foreigners. Their representatives have said some ugly things about people from other countries. Political parties have used these tactics before to attempt to gain votes but the British people have always been too sensible to give in to fear and hatred. However, fewer and fewer people are voting in elections and it is tempting to give voting in EU elections a miss. If the turnout is low and Ukip MEPs are elected in large numbers it will send a message to the world that we want to stop cooperating with other countries, and isolate ourselves.
I believe Ukip does not share British values. British people want to keep rights at work like paid holidays and maternity pay. We want the millions of jobs that are dependent on our EU membership. British consumers are protected from big businesses by EU law but Ukip want to end that.
Events in Ukraine have shown that the European Union is seen as a beacon of peace and prosperity. Ukip want to end the EU and have countries competing in a race to the bottom: lower wages and low skill jobs undercutting our neighbours.
This is not what the people of Britain want but if Ukip end up with the most MEPs, this is what they will try to achieve. The only way to stop Ukip leading Britain out of Europe is to vote Labour on 22 May. Please remember to vote and show that British people do not share Ukip’s fear of other countries.
Guildford Labour Party
Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF
Originally posted on Cranleigh Labour Party:
As the largest village in England, Cranleigh has the advantages and disadvantages of both villages and towns. The roads cannot cope with the current traffic levels, never mind projected future car traffic. House prices are unaffordable for young families. Household bills like electricity, gas, rent and child care are rocketing but wages can’t keep up. Our environment is under threat from unsustainable development and now dangerous fracking for gas. Like everywhere in England, the…
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