My apologies for being so quiet on the blog front. I have been beavering away in the background (watch this space for details of my as-yet unannounced media and hustings appearances, and leaflet distribution plans), but my physical efforts in Daventry have been curtailed since the official announcement of my candidacy, due to unrelenting chest and throat infections. I was belatedly diagnosed yesterday, and have been prescribed antibiotics. I should be back to full strength and traipsing around my constituency soon.
I wrote a brief letter to the Daventry Express a few days ago highlighting some of the key policies of the Green Party manifesto, and wish to expand upon them slightly here. I believe that the electorate is tired of the ‘blame game’ and political in-fighting, and would rather read about Green Party-specific policy statements that aren’t polluted by mud-slinging or hackneyed insults directed at other parties. It only makes for wasted column inches, and wasted airtime. So, to our bitesize, unmarred topics:
Britain voted for the triggering of Article 50 in last year’s referendum. This, in itself, was not a commitment to leave the European Union, only a call for negotiations regarding the terms of our exit to begin. Once these talks have concluded, we should be given the final say on whether we stay or go in the form of a second referendum, which will allow us to compare the offer on the table to what we already have as part of the EU. Brexit is a major decision that the country is still divided over, and so, once a deal has been bashed out and the conditions of our exit made clear, we should be given the choice to accept or decline it. This, I believe, is only logical: you would not accept a long-term contract for a phone from your supplier, for example, without parsing the terms of the agreement first—so why is Britain expected to do the same regarding Brexit?
The High-Speed Rail (HS2) programme is a vanity project with a price tag of £56bn. With the crises gripping our NHS, education, and social services, we cannot justify spending an inordinate amount of money on a single railway line that will serve only a select, elite few. HS2 would be scrapped by a Green Party government. It is a time for hard truths: it does not matter how many roads we build and how many lanes they have—they will only become more congested and polluted unless we improve our road and rail infrastructure in a way that makes alternate, environmentally friendly modes of transport more attractive, and, most importantly, viable. The automotive bias in our country must be readdressed through the construction of complimentary cycle, tram, rail, and pedestrian networks. This means investment in bus services that are locally owned; the renationalisation, modernisation, and expansion of our railways (and, dare I hope for it, the recommissioning of old lines); more provisions for cyclists (safer, better-maintained cycle lanes; secure, street-level storage) and pedestrians through a £2bn investment programme; increasing diesel scrappage incentives, and free local travel for under 18s and students.
Our system is failing young people: pre-schoolers, primary, secondary, and higher education students are all suffering. Whilst I was studying for my degree at the University of Westminster five years ago, my tuition fee was a little over £3000, and I had the benefit of a maintenance grant to supplement my income. Now, undergraduate tuition fees have risen to £9250 per year (and will soon exceed that price in line with inflation), and maintenance grants have been dumped. The Green Party would abolish tuition fees, reintroduce student maintenance grants* and Education Maintenance Allowance, and guarantee apprenticeships to all qualified young people aged 16-25. Schools are under enormous pressure at present: between 2015 and 2020, £5.2bn will collectively vanish from their budget. To tackle this, we would introduce a funding model and invest £7bn in the system to increase real terms spending per pupil (not just absolute spending), return all academies and free schools to local authority control, scrap SATs, and reduce class sizes to a long-term goal of 20 pupils per class at both primary and secondary level.
*In the long term, the Green Party would introduce a Basic Income for all British citizens, thereby rendering these grants unnecessary.
NHS and Social Care
You will, by now, be very much aware of the crisis gripping our NHS. My local hospital, Kettering General, has been placed in special measures, as its beleaguered staff are struggling to cope, and a number of the hospital’s services have been deemed ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission as a result. It is the same story across the country. The Green Party would repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and introduce an NHS Reinstatement Act to roll back privatisation, to ensure that all health and dental services are always publicly provided and funded, and free at the point of access. We would also stop the inappropriate sale of NHS assets and further private finance initiative (PFI) contracts from being written up (in addition to buying out existing PFI contracts where viable), provide free social care for the elderly and all those who need it, and bring spending on mental health care in line with that of its physical equivalent.
The Green Party is unapologetically opposed to fracking, much like it is the £110bn Trident nuclear weapons system, which would go on the scrap heap alongside HS2. We would introduce an Environmental Protection Act to safeguard and restore our environment, protect and enhance biodiversity, transition toward sustainable agriculture, and ensure protection for animals. Additionally, we would ensure that carbon reduction is considered in all stages of planning (both at a government and local authority level), ban bee-harming pesticides (neonicotinoids), phase out non-organic synthetic fertilisers, and cooperate with businesses and other countries alike to limit global temperature increases to just north of 1.5 degrees.
An addendum to remind constituents that the Green Party is seeking proportional representation (we received over one million votes in the last General Election, yet only one MP, Caroline Lucas, represented Green voters in Parliament prior to its dissolution), and to abolish the House of Lords.
I intend to write a subsequent post in a similar manner covering topics my letter did not: tax, housing, social issues, animal rights (which is something I have received an awful lot of emails concerning), and migration.
I also have a small blurb on my Green Party General Election candidate page voicing support for these issues, alongside my personal stance on other matters that are not hard-coded into the Green Party manifesto:
“As a Green Party MP, Jamie would oppose HS2, Trident, and fracking, and support the renationalisation of our railways. He would fight to safeguard EU environmental legislation in the face of Brexit—given the catastrophic implications deregulation would have on our wildlife—abolish tuition fees, and strive for an end to the austerity measures and privatisation crippling our social services. He would join calls for proportional representation, the decentralisation of government, and the merging of County and Borough Councils into a unitary authority. Jamie would incentivise green transport and renewable energy solutions, demand investment in our public transportation networks, push for the construction of ecological, zero-carbon housing, and seek to tax unoccupied homes. Additionally, he would fight for the protection of green spaces and nature-rich sites, work to close the gender pay gap, and stand up for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.”
If you agree with our principles and my stance as a PPC of Daventry, I implore you to show your support by voting Green on June 8th.