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Join us to hear what a Green MP could do for Cambridge

Please join us tonight at the Unitarian Church on Emmanuel Road in Market, at 6pm, for a discussion of what our Green Guarantees mean for the UK and Cambridge.

I’ll be giving a brief talk and then taking questions on our policies and priorities.

Hope to see you there!

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What a Green MP could do for Cambridge

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.

Stuart on Brexit, Cambridge, the NHS and housing

I was delighted to meet Ibrahim Rahman for an interview yesterday evening.

Ibrahim is making a video diary of his experiences during Ramadan and invited me in for a discussion on my campaign and a whole number of issues (including the FA Cup Final).

You can watch the full interview here;

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10154930380772562&id=742272561&hc_location=ufi

Why terror can’t defeat us

May I join so many others in expressing my sympathies to all those affected by the dreadful bombing in Manchester on Monday.

I, like everybody else, am so saddened by these events. The loss of so many young lives and all their hopes and dreams is truly devastating.

May they all rest in peace.

Thankyou so much for the hard work and skill of all in the police and the emergency services who have responded to the events. NHS staff will continue to work tirelessly to save the lives of those affected and help them recover I’m sure.

And thankyou to all those who joined us for the Cambridge vigil yesterday morning to show your solidarity. I am proud so many turned out to show their support.

Bombers and terrorists seek to incite more hatred, this is all they understand. They don’t understand love, forgiveness and compassion, all values we cherish. We have to respond to events such as these bravely, not by giving in to hatred and division. Our response so far shows the best of our country.

We have faced down terror before and we will do so again.

Out of respect for those who have lost their lives we have suspended campaigning for the election for the moment.

Our Green Guarantees to create a caring and confident Britain

I’m not afraid to hope for better.

With politics the way it is right now, I understand that it’s easy for people to despair. With various public services on the brink, with real wages falling, with Brexit putting so many important things at risk, it’s understandable that many people are thinking of damage limitation and picking the lesser of two evils when they vote.

My message is that we must hope for better than that. Recent events and elections in Europe have shown us that the best way to combat rising intolerance and hateful politics is by being bold and having the courage to stand for what you believe in.

And this country can do so much better. Speaking at a recent hustings in Cambridge I was asked about my values, about the values that drive me and make me desire to succeed in politics. I talked about how I value equality, justice and fairness.

What makes me positive about our future is that I believe that most people in the country share these values. The patients I care for, the people whose doors I knock on, the colleagues I work with, share these values. We can build a much better and fairer country together. It’s our broken politics that holds us back. So let’s change that.

We trust people and believe in giving you power over what matters to you.

Which is why we would reform our electoral system to end the scandal that means that the votes of millions of people don’t count, giving you real power.

It also makes no sense to ‘Take Back Control’ and then deny you any influence over what happens next with Brexit. This is why we will offer you a vote on the ‘Brexit’ deal, with the option of remaining in the EU.

We would create an economy which ensures secure, good jobs for people and allows us to bring in the funds we need to sustain quality public services. It’s not ok that in this country the poorest 10% pay more of their incomes in tax than the richest 10%.

We will ensure big corporations and the richest individuals pay their fair share. We would look at creative ways of establishing a solid tax base, by introducing a 2% annual wealth tax on the richest 1% of individuals and extending a ‘Robin Hood’ financial transactions tax.

Rebalancing our economy defeats the argument that we cannot afford to sustain quality public services.

I have seen firsthand the poisonous consequences of this argument. I work for the NHS and have worked in social care. We are one of the world’s richest countries and can afford to care for people properly. But we need to ensure our public services remain truly public and that the money we invest goes where we need it.

This is why we will reverse NHS privatisation by supporting the NHS Reinstatement Bill. We can then ensure funding supports our NHS workforce rather than supporting investors and shareholder dividends. We will scrap plans to cut £22bn from the health budget and invest the funding needed to address years of shortfalls.

We will also answer the desperate calls of teachers and parents by investing properly in education and our children’s futures. We will end the regime of primary school’s SATS testing so our children can are allowed to enjoy their early year’s.

We believe that taking action to prevent uncontrollable climate change is an absolute necessity.

You cannot have a strong and stable economy on a ruined planet.

We already know the majority of fossil fuel reserves cannot be burnt if we are to limit global warming. Given this, the Conservative’s desire to frack our beautiful countryside is horrendously negligent.

Taking action to prevent climate change can also be hugely beneficial for people. We would start by launching a nationwide programme of retrofitting to insulate 9 million homes. This would create good jobs, end fuel poverty and reduce the scandal of excess winter deaths at the same time. We would ban fracking and switch subsidies urgently away from fossil fuels to capitalise on the huge potential we have in this country for renewable energy.

We would end the stranglehold of the Big Six energy companies and hand power, in both senses, back to communities by investing in and prioritising community owned renewable energy schemes.

It’s also vital we protect biodiversity, wildlife and clean air for our population. Which is why we would introduce a Clean Air Act to enshrine people’s right to breathe clean air. We would also champion an Environmental Protection Act to safeguard our right to a safe environment, currently guaranteed through our EU membership.

These are our Green Guarantees to you, amongst so many more. You can read the rest here; https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/gp2017/greenguaranteepdf.pdf

This June, don’t be afraid to hope for better. Every vote for us is a vote for a hopeful, confident and caring future. We want to do politics differently and voting for us supports that.

Thankyou.

Let’s allow teachers to inspire and our children to thrive

Thanks to the campaigning work of many teachers, headteachers and parents, the issue of school funding cuts has been planted firmly on the agenda.

Last week I attended a rally in the North of Cambridge where I heard firsthand about the problems in our schools. I heard from teachers directly about the difficulties they have in managing their workloads or securing the proper resources for teaching.

My own step-mother is a teacher, as well as a some of my close friends, so I’ve heard these concerns regularly. The teachers I know work frighteningly long hours to ensure their work is good and they teach their pupils well.

Their campaign to resist school cuts is gathering lots of momentum and I’m happy to say I support them.

We share a common goal, an inspiring education system than transforms lives and gives children a good, well balanced education.

That can’t be done without adequate funding and the new National Funding Formula being introduced by the government will see real terms decreases in funding per head of pupil in Cambridge. Some schools in Cambridge will see budget cuts of £500 or £600 by 2019 that will force them to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament recently claimed schools are facing their most significant funding pressure since the mid 1990’s.

This is not good enough. Investment in our schools must be protected.

Which is why I’m glad to say today we’ve pledged to invest £7bn in schools to address the funding gap and ensure real terms increases in funding per pupil.

It’s also so important that we allow children to be children without the strain of early year’s testing. Testing at SATS age is an unnecessary stress and takes the enjoyment out of education for too many young people.

We would support the calls of teaching unions to end SATS testing in primary schools. This should not be replaced by testing at an even earlier age, a proposal we already vigorously opposed.

And finally, we would put an end to the Government’s academies programme. There remains little evidence that academies improve attainment for children and there are serious concerns about their accountability.

I am particularly worried by the growth of big MATs (Multi-Academy Trusts) and the lack of accountability to parents and local communities, a concern expressed by the education select committee earlier this year.

At a time of great financial stress for schools it is also not acceptable that some executives and directors of these trusts are being paid lavish wages and expenses (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/23/education-academies-funding-expenses) whilst planning cuts to save money on the front line.

We would bring existing academies into local authority control so they are accountable to local communities and so that we can focus on improvements in all schools across the board.

I am sure these issues will come up at the education hustings being sponsored by the National Union of Teachers, at the Holland Street Social Club on the 30th of May. If you’re interested in discussing education and our policies, please come along and talk with me.

See https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/15/green-party-pledges-to-scrap-sats-and-ditch-academies/ for details.

See my video discussing this at https://www.facebook.com/StuartTuckwoodCambridge/

Labour may wave the white flag on free movement of people, I won’t

Labour’s Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has already accepted defeat on EU migration, stating ‘free movement will have to end’.

I won’t be joining him in waving the white flag.

I am proud to say that I believe in the free movement of people in the EU.

I believe it’s a great thing that we have the freedom to live, work and love in Europe. It has enriched our country that people have been able to travel here to do the same.

There is no evidence that migration to the UK has depressed wages. Migrants also pay more in net taxes than the native population, helping to sustain our public services.

For too long we’ve allowed the far-right and politicians like Nigel Farage, to dominate this debate. Labour have pandered to the sentiment, infamously writing ‘controls on immigration’ on their mugs before the 2015 election and promising ‘British jobs for British workers’ as Gordon Brown did in 2007.

We should be dealing with this rhetoric head on.

I fully understand working people’s anger about stagnant wages and deteriorating public services. I also sympathise with their concerns about a loss of identify and job security. As a society we should be looking at ways of helping restore these to people.

But what really threatens our wages and our public services is a government determined to use Brexit to increase profitability for large corporations at the expense of working people and the environment.

EU workplace regulations ensure there is no race to the bottom on our working conditions and have ensured women and part time workers get more equal pay and pensions. EU directives also ensure companies must protect the local environment and not pollute our water or air.

If the Conservative Party is allowed to drag us out of Europe on their terms they will attack these conditions, turning us into a bargain basement, low tax economy.

Their divisive rhetoric on immigration is also already driving away many creative, hard working people who work in our universities or our public services.

To be fair to our current local MP, Daniel Zeichner, he has integrity and has spoken and voted against Brexit. But he is now dangerously far from his own party’s policy. At our recent hustings at the Junction he said ‘I’m a long way from accepting that we are going to be leaving the European Union.’

But today his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is announcing that the issue of Brexit is ‘settled’. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39852719)

 

The Green Party, in contrast is united and proud to support free movement. I will champion this cause and make it an absolute priority if I am elected and have to scrutinise the coming negotiations. I will also fight hard to maintain and enhance the workplace and environmental regulations we benefit from as members of the EU.

If you believe in free movement in Europe then please join me in campaigning for it over this month. I know the vast majority of young people agree with me on this and I’m desperate to preserve it.

Make your voices heard before it’s too late.