Tag Archives: 2015 general election

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!

Guildford Tories Run Out of Excuses

As regular readers will be aware, Conservative Guildford Borough Council is rushing to war on the Green Belt. Their acceptance of developers’ wishes to build on pristine greenfield sites instead of previously developed brownfield ones has met with huge public opposition. There have been well-supported petitions and marches, and not just from people who normally oppose Conservative policies either.

Hapless, two-time drink-driver Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, who is still Leader of Guildford BC, has blamed central government and the Planning Inspectorate. He claimed that if GBC submitted a Local Plan which did not meet independently assessed housing needs then the Inspectorate would force a change in Green Belt boundaries. He tried to persuade people to accept a reduction in the Green Belt of their choosing rather than have one forced on us, which he said was inevitable.

It turns out he was wrong, either deliberately or inadvertently. The Planning Minister, Nick Boles, sent a letter to the Planning Inspectorate last week (and made a written submission to Parliament) on this subject which couldn’t clearer: Nick Boles letter

He says that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, will prevent the Planning Inspectorate overruling local authorities if they decide not to change Green Belt boundaries, even if it means they miss their housing targets. A link to the statement is here. The second bullet point claims that Boles is:

re-affirming green Belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green Belt and other harm to constitute very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development

This puts Cllr Mansbridge and Tory Guildford Borough Council in a rather tricky spot. I was interviewed on BBC Surrey radio last Thursday about this.

I think it is time for Cllr Mansbridge to listen to the public and scrap plans to change Green Belt boundaries within Guildford Borough. He has claimed that the council cannot live within its budget and needs the New Homes Bonus that building on the Green Belt would bring. He has also raised Council Tax this year by the maximum allowed. However, the cut to GBC’s non-ringfenced central government funding has only been 2.1% since 2010, much less than the 34%+ suffered by some less fortunate authorities.

Under Mansbridge, GBC seem unable to make efficiencies or even meet basic expectations of residents. He recently wrote a very long letter to the Surrey Advertiser grumbling and moaning about how it wasn’t his fault that Council Tax was rising, the traffic in Guildford is impossible, the Green Belt was about to be lost and there was no hope of building the new homes we need.

Guildford needs new leadership. We need to get a grip. Protect our Green Belt. Force developers to use the planning permissions they already hold. Sort out the abysmal traffic and transport problems. And stop demanding ever higher Council Tax from even the poorest families in the borough.

Cllr Mansbridge has had two warnings already. He told the Prime Minister that he expects to lose control of the council along with the parliamentary seat in 2015. People in Guildford can’t wait that long. Mansbridge should go now before extending his record of failure. He has run out of excuses.

Guildford’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate for 2015

On 27 November 2013 I was selected by the members of Guildford Constituency Labour Party to be their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in the next election. I am incredibly pleased and honoured to have been selected and I’m very grateful to the members for voting for me.

The vote followed an evening of speeches by all the potential candidates and questions from the audience. I have addressed hustings before but this was the first time I had applied for selection as a PPC. It was a fantastic experience and a really friendly atmosphere. Guildford CLP is very well organised (and the selection evening went very smoothly) and has many active and engaged members. I really enjoyed chatting to everyone before and afterwards. Members are very well informed about political issues and asked some very testing questions.

The last two days have been a blur of activity. I have been talking to many voters about some of the key issues: the NHS, the cost of living crisis, the bedroom tax, local democratic deficiencies, the living wage, the housing shortage, school places, rail fares, Britain’s place in Europe, etc. The Tory-LibDem Coalition is dismantling the NHS, preparing schools for privatisation, trashing our environment, scrapping social security and attacking workers’ rights.

In Guildford, only Labour can stand up for ordinary people. We have a great dedicated team here. Over the next 18 months we’ll be running an active energetic campaign for a fairer more equal society. I hope you’ll join us on the journey. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take-off!

Richard Wilson and Guildford CLP Chairman Lynda MacDermott

Richard Wilson and Guildford CLP Chairman Lynda MacDermott

Local NHS Campaigning Achieving Results

The one political issue which means the most to me is the NHS. It exemplifies how I believe we, as a society, should look after each other. It is the greatest achievement of the Labour Party and the best-loved institution in the United Kingdom.

While the NHS is a national issue, hence the name, I am committed to local, community, campaigning. Someone asked me recently where I see myself on a scale from the left to the right of the Labour Party. I answered that I’m not on that one-dimensional scale. You have to add a dimension, top-to-bottom, to find where I am. I’m down at the bottom, in the grass roots, fighting for change in communities with real people. You don’t have to be a Trot or a Blairite to realise that, for example, GP surgeries using premium rate numbers for patients to make appointments is morally wrong. The way to end this is through ground-up campaigning.

We’ve got your number

As the Tory-LibDem Coalition races on with the privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS, small but noisy local campaigns can still have successes for local people. The most commented on post on this blog is this one about the premium rate phone numbers used by local GP practices. By highlighting this breach of the doctors’ contract publicly and repeatedly I drew much criticism and even threats of legal action. However, I’m pleased to announce that one of the two local surgeries using the 0844 numbers has scrapped it and is now exclusively using a local number. The other one, Lightwater, continues to rip off its patients by having an 0844 number but also has a local number. This is inadequate, of course, and the campaign will continue until they scrap their premium rate number and apologise to their patients and me for their misleading and derogatory statements.

Ethical or unethical healthcare?

Another promising development, after a long local campaign, is that Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed to consider changes to their constitution proposed by the Surrey Heath members of 38 Degrees. This would help ensure that only ethical providers of healthcare are used and not tax evaders or companies with criminals on their boards. Here is the latest letter I received from Dr Andy Brooks, the CCG’s Chief Officer:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It is important to remember that local Conservatives have opposed any restrictions on the commissioning of healthcare. A local Tory councillor, Denis Fuller, took to the letters page of a local newspaper to vilify me as a ‘hypocrite’ among other names, for trying to keep healthcare providers ethical. He objected to them having to pay tax in the UK.

This is what we are up against: the Conservative agenda is to sell off all of our public services and channel the money from them to private companies which they and their supporters benefit from. This is happening apace in the NHS and is why it is absolutely vital that we have a Labour government after the 2015 election. If I have to take some public abuse from blustering Tory councillors or some legal threats from greedy businessmen to achieve these local successes, so be it.

Message to Labour members in Guildford from PPC selection hopeful Richard Wilson

I am so proud to have been shortlisted by the Labour Party in Guildford for selection as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC). It is a great honour to be in the company of the other excellent candidates who have put themselves forward. There will soon be a hustings meeting for all eligible local members to attend so they can decide which candidate to select to stand for Parliament in 2015. Also, members who cannot attend the meeting can still apply for a postal vote. Any questions about the selection process should be directed to info@guildfordlabour.org

Here is my candidate statement which all members will soon be receiving:

Candidate Statement – Richard Wilson

Dear Guildford CLP Member,

Britain is facing a crisis. The cost of living is rising rapidly and wages are stagnant or falling. Quality housing is unaffordable for more and more families. The NHS is at breaking point this winter as the coalition government privatises and fragments it. Workers’ rights are being trashed and social security stigmatised and undermined. The Tories and LibDems are presiding over a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to a tiny privileged minority at the top.

However, even now there is hope. In 2015, Labour can return to power and repair the damage caused by Cameron and Osborne then build the kind of equal, fair society we all, as Labour Party members, wish to see. This will only happen if we all play our part. You can start by voting in this ballot to select your Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for 2015. By showing you care enough to vote, whoever is selected will have a greater mandate and a kick-start to their campaign.

My name is Richard Wilson and I am standing for selection. I am a 42-year old airline pilot and I have lived in an adjoining constituency for 13 years. I am Labour through and through, having been a member for 17 years and a supporter all my life. I have long experience of campaigning enthusiastically in many constituencies on many issues including the NHS, the environment and education. I was state educated, being the son of two teachers, and I’m a long term member of a union, BALPA. I have been a council candidate five times and have fulfilled a range of CLP and campaign roles.

If selected, I promise a campaign full of energy which will be welcoming to all members and supporters whether they want to make large or small commitments to help. Most of all, I want the next 18 months to be meaningful, effective and enjoyable for everyone involved.

As Labour Party members, you have the right to expect your PPC to throw themselves totally into the campaign. We have a great opportunity to improve Labour’s electoral position in Guildford, at the general election and council elections, but also in the 2014 Euro election. Together, by the strength of our common endeavour, we can force important issues for ordinary people onto the agenda.

If selected, I will take our message into the community. Could you help me do this? Would you like your PPC to visit your residents’ group, your workplace, your hospital, your religious group, your university, your union or your coffee morning, and listen to people’s concerns? I am used to giving media interviews and speaking in public and have knocked on many many doors for Labour. Please have a look at my blog, wilsonrichard.com, to see the recent issues I have been involved with, or phone me at home on 01276 479658.

Guildford CLP is a very friendly, welcoming, active group. This is why I have chosen to stand for selection here. This is the first time I have applied anywhere and this is the only CLP I have applied to. As an airline captain, I know what it means to take responsibility. If you trust me with your vote I will ensure our campaign is energetic, effective and open to everyone to participate in, in whatever way they feel comfortable.

May 2015 will be a key turning point, one way or the other, in the history of this country. You can influence the direction we turn. Please stand up for the many, not the few, and show your support for Labour by voting in this ballot.

Thank you,

Richard Wilson

2015: Should I throw my hat into the ring?

Reader, there’s something I’m very worried about and something else I would like your opinion on.

How many nations?

I’m really worried about how our society, in the UK, is fracturing. The most privileged in society have less and less contact and solidarity with the least privileged. A small number of private schools turn out the country’s leaders and unscrupulous business owners squeeze employees terms and conditions. Large numbers of our fellow citizens are finding it impossible to keep up with rising prices and falling wages and benefits. Once decently-paid jobs are now being outsourced to G4S or turned into zero-hours contracts. People are being enslaved by pay-day lenders. Low income families are struggling to feed their children while the rich get richer.

I believe we should be One Nation, where all people are valued regardless of their wealth, disabilities, race, sexual orientation or gender. Instead we are at risk of being Little England which gets smaller and more narrow with every year that David Cameron’s Tory-LibDem Government is in power. I don’t want to see our great country divided either geographically or financially and I don’t want to see a rump of it cast out from the European and international family of civilised nations.

Our country should be proud of our NHS and beautiful countryside, we MUST preserve these for future generations. We are also citizens of the planet Earth and we should behave responsibly by cutting carbon emissions, increasing aid programmes and fighting for human rights across the globe.

This is what is worrying me and I’m determined to do something about it.

To PPC or not to PPC?

At the last meeting of the local Labour Party here in Surrey Heath we discussed the timetable to select our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for the next general election in May 2015. In the last year or so I’ve been privileged to meet some exceptional Labour activists and I pictured someone like that standing in this constituency. However, I have to accept that Surrey Heath might not be on the national party’s list of target seats. In fact, it’s one of the safest Tory seats in the country. I was asked by a few party members if I would consider standing and I said no.

Since then my worries about our fracturing, unequal society have grown and more people have asked me to consider standing for selection to be PPC. I’m genuinely undecided about whether to throw my hat into the ring. This is an important decision and I want to make sure I get it right.

Decision making is a fundamental part of my job as an airline Captain. I have plenty of time to make this particular decision so I want to make sure I have all the information I need and I want to hear as many people’s opinions about whether I should stand as possible. The Labour MP Tom Watson, the hero of Hackgate, very kindly made time to take me through some of the pros and cons today. What about you, reader, do you think I should stand for election to the UK Parliament?

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

-Robert Burns, To a Louse

Whether you live in Surrey Heath or not, whether you vote Labour or not, by reading this blog you already know a bit about me, so tell me what you think. What do you look for in an MP?

Forlorn Hope?

NO! OK, Surrey Heath is currently a Tory stronghold and if there was a uniform swing across the country for Labour to take Surrey Heath would imply we would have a 400+ seat majority in the House of Commons. This doesn’t deter me at all. I believe people here feel the same responsibility for each other as in safe Labour seats. They are no more grasping and selfish than anywhere else, they’re just used to voting Tory. So far.

If I stand for selection successfully my opponent would be Michael Gove, the Education Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful, who is the Conservative Party’s best debater. He also has just about the best funded local party due to the large donations he receives from various businesses. It could be a replay of the David versus Goliath fixture which shocked political pundits back in the day. Remember in 1997 when Stephen Twigg defeated Michael Portillo in a shock result? Could Surrey Heath be the stage for 2015’s Portillo moment?

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