Tonight I’m giving a talk on our Green Guarantees for the UK (read here, https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/gp2017/greenguaranteepdf.pdf) and what they could mean for Cambridge.
Here’s a preview of what I believe the main issues facing Cambridge to be and why electing more Green MPs will help us solve these problems.
At many of our hustings so far the focus has been on Brexit. What happens next as we negotiate our withdrawal from the EU will undoubtedly have significant ramifications for Cambridge, for our businesses, for the universities, for public services and for the wider city community.
In a seat where 74% of the residents voted to remain and where all of the Green, Labour and Lib Dem candidates are pro-EU it’s right that people should think about who is best placed to defend their interests.
I would argue that the focus should not be on the number of MPs that the candidate’s party is likely to return to Westminster. Labour’s toothless negotiation over the triggering of Article 50, which ended with them failing to win any significant concession, proves that the quality of scrutiny will not necessarily be related to the size of the opposition. The fairly poor polling of the Lib Dem means they are very unlikely to return MPs in significant numbers either.
In which case I believe what will matter most will be the focus of that MP and their party and what they fight to protect. The Green Party is united in defending the free movement of people, which has so benefited Cambridge, and in ensuring there will be no race to the bottom in terms of environmental or workplace regulations. We want the process to be accountable and so will demand a vote be held once the terms of the deal are known, with the option of remaining in the EU.
Importantly I have been very outspoken in favour of the rights of EU nationals and the benefits of migration, we need this said more than ever before.
80% of our environmental protections are derived from EU law and Andrea Leadsom at DEFRA has indicated up to a third of these could be lost during the withdrawal. I will join the campaign for an Environmental Protection Act to ensure that safeguards for nature and the climate are not lost and that sustainable food and farming are promoted.
But this is election is not just about Brexit, there are other huge issues at stake for Cambridge.
The privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS, allowed to expand at an accelerated rate by the decisions of the coalition government, which our former MP Julian Huppert was a part of, has caused huge damage to our local NHS. His party’s promise to increase NHS funding is hollow unless they commit, like us, to reversing privatisation.
This privatisation and underfunding has led to Addenbrooke’s being placed in special measures, to the collapse of the Uniting Care Partnership, to the disastrous running of Hinchingbrooke Hospital by a private provider. Now ‘sustainability’ plans are being drawn up which are asking for a further £543 million worth of savings annually by 2020.
I am the only candidate in Cambridge to have direct experience of these failings and what they have meant for people. I have called personally for the region’s ‘Sustainability’ plan to be scrapped and for urgent funding for the local health service. Only Green MPs will be committed to the NHS Reinstatement Bill, backed by the British Medical Association, which would roll back privatisation and reinstate the Government’s duty to provide a universal, comprehensive health system.
People in Cambridge will also rightly be asking what their MP will be able to do to address the unavailability of affordable housing locally. This is a question I hear very regularly.
As someone with direct recent experience of the private rented sector I understand the frustrations of many people who have no other choice, who face insecure tenancies, rising rents and often poor quality housing. We would aim for a ‘living rent’ through rent controls in high pressure areas, introduce longer term tenancies and support mandatory licencing of landlords to ensure homes are up to the right standards.
Unlike Labour, who had 13 years in Government to do so, I would push for England to follow the example of Scotland and Wales and end the ‘Right to Buy’ policy to stop the sell off of council homes.
This would ensure council and social homes in Cambridge remained an option for young people and those on low incomes in the future.
We are committed to ensuring the mass building of social, rented homes, and intend to balance the housing market by reducing incentives to buy to let and supporting community led approaches to house building.
I’m also often asked what we would do to improve transport locally. Regionally we have put a lot of thought into our strategic vision for the transport system (https://cambridge.greenparty.org.uk/site/Cambridge/files/Transport_Policy_2017.pdf) but there is a lot I would expect our next MP to campaign on nationally which could help improve transport in the city.
We need to deal with air pollution as a matter of urgency, it’s a problem that
causes up to 250 excess deaths in and around Cambridge every year.
We want a Clean Air Act which enshrines people’s right to breathe clean air and would look at fining the large car manufacturers involved in cheating emissions tests, as in America, and using the money to invest in cleaner and active transport. I would campaign to increase vehicle excise duty on new diesel vehicles and use the funds to target a scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles.
And we need a dramatic improvement in public transport to help people out of their cars and make the alternatives more attractive. We would fund free public transport for young people by switching subsidies away from aviation, helping the young get in the habit of using public transport. As your local MP I would campaign for local authorities to be able to re-regulate local buses or even operate their own services. This would end the monopoly held by Stagecoach and improve the affordability and effectiveness of local services.
As the MP for Cambridge I would also stand up for what’s important to local residents. This city shouldn’t be subject to unlimited, uncontrolled growth that drastically changes its character or makes it impossible for local people to live here affordably.
I’ve campaigned against the City Deal busway plans for the West Field and would insist on proper consultation with residents if I was our local MP. We also need investment in resources for communities such as libraries and community centres.
There is so much more that a Green MP could deliver for Cambridge. Hope and help for young people, better support for those on low incomes in the city, real action to prioritise home insulation and reduce fuel poverty. You can read all of these and more in the full outline of our ‘Green Guarantees.’
I know that, as ever, people are concerned about tactical voting. However, with the Conservatives not holding a single council seat in Cambridge there is no fear they can win this election in the City.
Around the country we have been grown up and committed enough to stand down to allow Labour or the Liberals the best chance of beating the Conservatives. That is the right decision to make with our broken voting system.
But in Cambridge you can vote Green without that fear and help us build towards victory. Caroline Lucas would not have been elected in Brighton in 2010 without voters being brave enough to back the Greens in previous elections. She is now extremely popular in Brighton. I am confident we can do the same for Cambridge in the longer term, we have lots of support in this city, but we need people to be brave and vote for what you believe in.