Category Archives: Democracy

If I should become a stranger…


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]

Vote This Thursday


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.

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Richard Wilson

Parliamentary Candidate

Guildford Labour Party

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Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF

 

Ukip Don’t Share Cranleigh’s Values


Originally posted on Cranleigh Labour Party:

photo RW My name is Richard Wilson and I was recently selected to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Guildford which includes Cranleigh. I am a 42-year old airline Captain and I have lived in Surrey for 14 years. In 2015 I will be asking voters here to trust me with their votes to be their next MP. It is a great honour for me to represent Cranleigh albeit only as a candidate at this stage.

1743520_10151948116012411_838760583_nAs 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…

View original 378 more words

Europe’s far right and why voting on 22 May matters


Fascism, racism and anti-Semitism are growing all across Europe. In French local elections recently the National Front made huge gains. In Greece the Golden Dawn draws support from inside police stations and not just from the occupants of the cells. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands “says what everyone is thinking” according to one of his supporters I spoke to. The True Finns, now known as The Finns Party, got 19% of the vote in 2011. Far right parties in Latvia and Poland are members of the same grouping in the European Parliament as the British Conservatives since David Cameron took his MEPs out of the more moderate EPP grouping. Some of these MEPs hold an annual commemoration of the Latvian Waffen SS of the Second World War.

Here in the UK, Ukip and Conservatives are pushing the same buttons, whipping up anti-foreigner sentiment, blaming economic austerity on immigrants and the vulnerable. Since 1945, Europe has been largely at peace because we have cooperated with each other. Increasingly now nationalism and xenophobia are returning.

On 22 May, the UK will elect its Members of the European Parliament by proportional representation. Every Labour vote will count, wherever it is cast. Now is the time to stand up against the rising fascism and racism. In a few years time it will be too late. I’ll be pulling out all the stops for this election. The general election is just over one year away. Next month’s election will be the most significant electoral event here this year. It is absolutely vital that all Labour supporters do everything they can over the next 5 and a bit weeks to ensure we elect as many Labour MEPs as possible to counter racism from the UK and the other 27 members of the EU.

Join me (and ‘like’ this) on the campaign trail and let’s make sure we leave it all on the field!

Be part of the Guildford Labour election campaign!

Be part of the Guildford Labour election campaign!

Euro Hustings in Camberley 28 March 2014


The European Parliament elections are on 22 May 2014, less than two months away. It is vital that all Labour supporters, wherever they live, come out and vote. The election uses proportional representation, so every Labour vote will count.

One of our candidates, John Howarth, will be speaking at a hustings meeting in Camberley. I know John well and he is an excellent public speaker. He will be a brilliant MEP but he will only have the chance to represent us if Labour supporters remember to vote on 22 May.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing John make mincemeat of his opponents at the hustings. See you all there!

Euro Hustings in Camberley

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Surrey Heath


Last night I attended the selection hustings in Camberley where the Surrey Heath Labour Party chose their candidate to be MP in 2015. There was a very strong field of candidates, which was fantastic to see. Each candidate gave a five minute speech and then answered questions from the audience. I was able to ask a question to each of them. Having been through this process recently, I appreciated it from the candidates’ point of view as well. It is a challenging time for potential PPCs but the members and the voters of Surrey Heath would expect nothing less.

At the end, we all voted by ranking the candidates in order of preference, 1, 2, 3, etc. This is how the selection process was run in Guildford too. There were a similar number of postal votes too. The process was overseen by a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee.

The winner was Laween Atroshi, who I thought answered the questions from the floor particularly well. He has a great commitment to the party and the people of Surrey Heath. I think members were impressed with the work he has done researching the constituency and we were all pleased that he chose to apply here.

I think the Labour Party is really lucky to have candidates of such a high quality as Laween. He is energetic, talented and committed to working for everyone in Surrey Heath. As the PPC in a neighbouring constituency, I look forward to working with him on the many issues which affect voters in both our constituencies. Michael Gove will have a fight on his hands in 2015!

Me congratulating Laween Atroshi after the count

Me congratulating Laween Atroshi after the count

Debate: What future for the European Union?


Last night, I attended this debate between European Parliament election candidates at Royal Holloway University of London in Egham:

debate

There was a large audience, mostly students, who were very engaged with the subject. It started late because some candidates had been delayed by the extreme weather conditions and flooding nearby but it continued about an hour after the published finish time, so we weren’t short-changed. Also, the Conservative representative was actually Richard Robinson MEP.

An unusual aspect of the upcoming Euro election is that all of the candidates at the debate might well be elected. It is a proportional representation system, so every vote counts for the party it is cast for. For example, Labour votes in strongly Tory areas are added to Labour votes in strongly Labour areas to give a total for the whole South East. This is then compared to all the other parties to determine how many of the ten MEPs come from each party.

This is very different from Westminster elections where there can be only one winner in each constituency and there are no prizes for second place. There were many issues which united most of the candidates at last night’s debate. In a first-past-the-post contest candidates might have aggressively disagreed with each other more. In the European Parliament, MEPs cooperate more with each other than we see at Westminster, where punch-and-judy contests are more common.

However, as Labour’s Anneliese Dodds said, the centre of gravity of the European Parliament at the moment is on the right and this election can move it towards the centre-left. One questioner objected to cooperation between MEPs. He complained that four of the five candidates would probably agree on 70% of votes. The party that doesn’t like to cooperate is UKIP.

What has the EU done for us?

Three main categories of achievements spring to mind:

  1. Social Rights. For example, paid holidays – although British companies might have given workers paid holidays outside the EU, they would still have to compete with foreign companies who didn’t if the EU hadn’t mandated it.
  2. Consumer Rights. For example, the European Parliament voted 506-6 in favour of improving rights for disabled air travellers. Since this applies across the EU, airlines and countries cannot undercut each other and compete on a level playing field. Incidentally, only UKIP voted against.
  3. Environmental Protection. Outside the EU, Britain could work to clean up our beaches but without agreements with our neighbours their rubbish could be washed up on our beaches and vice versa. Working together benefits us all.

By cooperating on issues which affect us all, everyone in the EU can gain. The EU Solidarity Fund was discussed last night. If Britain applied, we could receive funding to cover 5% of the cost of the current highly-damaging floods in England. At the time of writing, David Cameron has still not requested this from the EU. This goes to the heart of the problem with the EU “debate” in this country: inherent xenophobia of the right. Cameron used to tell his party to “stop banging on about Europe”. He position is too weak in his party to tell them that today. Tory backbenchers froth at the mouth when they rant about foreigners. UKIP has given them permission to let loose and reveal their irrational fear. They are suffering from a phobia.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate… 

UKIP exists because of fear. It is part of their orthodoxy. Julia Reid, their representative last night, started by exhibiting xenophobia. She tried to revive fears of 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians coming “over here”. The reason Keith Vaz didn’t find any at Luton Airport was, she claimed, that they all arrived by bus, being too poor to afford air travel. There was no evidence for this, of course.

Her party has underlying homophobia and other fears too. She displayed paranoia when claiming climate change didn’t exist and it was a conspiracy of the scientific elite. She actually said that other scientists had disproven climate change but their work was censored by publications and the media. This sort of delusional rubbish can be read on some internet forums or heard from Daily Mail readers in pubs but this audience was mostly educated students, so eventually she was treated with contempt and laughed at, I’m pleased to report.

Nobody knows what UKIP’s policies are. Nigel Farage says their last manifesto was “drivel”. However, abolishing the NHS seems to be one of their plans. Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall and their PPC in Guildford, Harry Aldridge, have both said publicly they would prefer an insurance system instead.

Julia Reid even said that Britain should halt military cooperation with other European countries. She implied that France’s export of Exocet missiles to Argentina in about 1980 was a casus belli. UKIP is not just an amusing home for deranged bigoted pub-talk, people could actually get hurt if they achieve the electoral success they seek.

I saw two elderly UKIP supporters who had accompanied Reid marching the university corridors afterwards thunder-faced attempting to give leaflets to students. They caused bemusement and mirth here, let’s hope the rest of the country leaves them talking to themselves too.

Back in the land of the sane

UKIP was a distraction but the rest of the debate was very interesting. The EU helps countries come together for the good of their citizens. Improved fair trade agreements give Britain influence on the global stage it could not achieve on its own. Measures to reduce carbon emissions and prevent animal cruelty all have to include cross-border cooperation. Without the EU these important achievements would not be possible.

It is vital that we have capable, committed MEPs representing us in Europe. The Tory MEP, Richard Robinson, is anti-EU and, like the other Tory MEPs, is no longer part of a mainstream grouping in the European Parliament. If our country is marginalised we cannot influence the direction of the EU and we will all lose out.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour candidate, showed that she understands the issues in Europe and has the talent and ability to fight Britain’s corner and win for the people of the South East.

Sophia James

Labour Councillor for Katesgrove Ward

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