Last Friday marked the day of my first hustings. It was an event I was eagerly anticipating, and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. I want to thank Moulton Club for their warm hospitality, and for accommodating me and my fellow Parliamentary candidates. Hustings are an extremely important part of any election campaign, as they present an opportunity to meet constituents en masse, test one’s public speaking skills and knowledge of party policy, and learn which issues are murmuring loudest in the collective local consciousness. It was a pleasure to participate in a hustings as a candidate, and I left Moulton Club at the close of play with greater confidence in both myself and Green Party policy than I entered with.
As a taster of how events unfolded, I enclose my one-minute opening address:
“The Green Party believe in an economy for all, not the wealthy few, and investing money in services that need it most: our healthcare and public services, our educational system, transport, and the environment.
We believe in putting our country back into the hands of the people, in affording young people the chance to prosper, liberating the poverty-stricken, and guaranteeing a higher standard of care for the elderly and disabled.
We must not let Brexit cast a veil over the creeping privatisation of our public services; the threat to our environment posed by our departure from the EU; the injustice of our benefits and pension systems, and the cruel taxes targeting the most vulnerable members of our society.
It is time to be granular, not grand. Time to invest in rail networks, buses, cycle and walking routes nationwide, not HS2. Time to spend money on our NHS, not nuclear weapons. Time to empower our local authorities, and ensure wealth is distributed amongst communities, not corporations. Time to focus on renewable energy, not fracking and fossil fuels.
We must create a safer, less polluted society for the next generation. It is time to turn Parliament, and our environment, Greener.”
Over approximately the next two hours, my fellow candidates and I were questioned on a range of issues: housing (specifically, renting and buying a home), Brexit, abortion and assisted dying, support for disabled young people, schools and education, and fox hunting. I am sure my readers will not strain themselves imagining which of the aforementioned topics were the most hotly debated. I received some encouraging words regarding my performance, and head to this Thursday’s count buoyed by the experience, which was the most enjoyable of the campaign thus far.
With less than three days to go until the polls open, this will likely be my last major blog entry before the General Election. Now that I am approaching the final act of my first Parliamentary campaign, it only seems logical to return to the start–to why I became involved in politics in the first place, which I expounded on at the hustings, prior to my opening address. Bluntly: the environment and transportation. My ratiolate for the former is obvious, the latter, perhaps less so:
I fostered ideas regarding the reopening of long-decommissioned railways lines in my early 20s, long before I became involved in politics in on official capacity, or learnt that the Green Party desired to expand our existing rail infrastructure. I have melancholically wandered along countless dormant gullies and elevated rides with my beloved Border Terrier, my mind ablaze with Rain, Steam and Speed, thinking it a catastrophe that the great rail exodus of the Beeching Axe was allowed to occur. Given the enormous rate of development in Northamptonshire, it would be a challenge (if not impossible, as is the case with the Nene line, due to the A605 that supplanted it) to resurrect decommissioned lines on their original footprints. Nevertheless, there is justification for investing in rail: from doorstep to destination, a journey from Kettering to Northampton presently takes me in excess of 1hr 15mins, and to Daventry, approaching three hours.
The East Midlands line presently runs from Kettering to Wellingborough en route to St Pancras, but, once upon a time, it whirled off west in the direction of Northampton. What a joy it would be to make that same journey by rail (and perhaps beyond to Daventry), now that I can safely lock up my bicycle at Kettering station, thanks to the secure–and very much welcomed–bicycle storage facilities East Midlands Trains now offer. If we are serious about improving the viability and convenience of public transportation, and reducing congestion and pollution on our roads by shifting both the general public and freight to rail, we must reverse the mass closures of the 1960s, and revolutionise our railways. But we must not get ahead of ourselves–the first step is renationalisation, and providing more affordable travel for commuters.
In recent years, I have used buses more and more frequently, in conjunction with a road bike I purchased last spring. I have a passion for improving public transportation, as it, along with renewable energy, is key to improving our environment, reducing congestion, and essentially streamlining people’s lives. I want Britain to return to a Golden Age of public transportation. My recent journeys to Daventry have given rise to some potential approaches to improving our bus services: with the threat of automation in mind, we could create thousands of jobs in the sector–and improve the efficiency of bus travel and the comfort of passengers alike–by reintroducing wardens to all services. Wardens would free up drivers to concentrate on driving (rather than collecting fares at stops, thereby improving journey times), answer queries regarding routes, police the behaviour of passengers, and maintain a clean service. Buses have a less than stellar reputation, and we must overhaul the fundamentals of the service to make it more attractive to potential clientele.
In regard to our environment, habitat fragmentation is something I have become more aware of since I became a member of Butterfly Conservation, began to volunteer for the Wildlife Trust (my apologies to the Wicksteed work party, as I was unable to attend last Friday’s surveying effort due to campaign commitments), and grew passionate about lepidoptera. With urban development and road-building a pressing issue, we must work to ensure that our resident wildlife is not threatened by shrinking–and progressively more isolated–habitats. We must enhance biodiversity in the countryside by investing in enviro-argicultural schemes post-Brexit and existing nature-rich sites, as well as establishing new reserves. Funding for conservation projects is always welcomed, but once cash flow ceases (typically after a few short years), projects quite predictably grind to a halt–often after good progress has been made with land management and stabilising populations. Funding models wth longer ‘tails’ must be considered, to ensure volunteers’ hard work is not squandered in the long-term. The Chequered Skipper butterfly became extinct in Northamptonshire in the 1970s due to changes in woodland habitat and land management, and will soon to be reintroduced to Rockingham Forest as part of the £4.6m Back from the Brink project. Let us hope it is successful.
Christopher Hodnett has generously supplied me with a lovely image of him accompanying his bespoke hoarding, erected next to the A43 in Moulton village:
Its construction is as follows: “The bottom post, bolted to the fence, is part of gigantic coffee table that my son’s in-laws passed on to him and their daughter and which eventually ended up in my garage. The upper mast (which can be rotated through 360 degrees) is from an old rotary washing line. The notice board backing is from one of the children’s cheap MFI desks, the framing from some old racking and the glass (from recycled glass itself) is a piece left over from the old greenhouse before I refurbished it completely and replaced all glass panes with large plastic panels. Even some of the U-clips are from my modification on my trusty old Nissan Almera’s exhaust (which served me for 19 years) to avoid the high expense of having to replace the whole system.”
Do look out for his work of improvised engineering excellence–made from nearly 100% recycled materials–if you are in the area. I doth my cap to Mr Hodnett for his wonderful contribution to the cause. If anyone would like a Green Party poster (at no cost), please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this late stage in proceedings, they are, unfortunately, ‘collection only’!
My thanks to you, the reader, for glancing at this blog, and for your continued support: I received an email from a constituent only today praising my campaign for its visibility in Daventry (which I am extremely pleased about given our limited resources and manpower). I have enjoyed reading responses from petitioners regarding my stance on a range of issues these past few weeks, had some great conversations with residents on the leafleting trail, and met some wonderful volunteers along the way. I am endlessly grateful to have been granted the opportunity to stand as a Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in this General Election. It has been an extremely positive, fulfilling experience, and one I would recommend to anyone. I have run my own campaign on a shoestring budget without the human resources of my competition, and done my very best. Now it is time to go for a run, and to reflect on what a great journey this has been so far.
I believe in the Green Party and our policies, and I hope that you will put your faith in us on June 8th, too.