Meet the candidate

This has been bubbling along behind the scenes for some time now – in fact, for what feels like an eternity – but at last it’s finally official. And you’d better know as a reader of this blog.

I’ve been picked as one of the three Green Party candidates to run for Peninsula ward at the next Greenwich Council elections in May. You can read the official confirmation on the Greenwich Green Party website.

Firstly, I’m going to try my best not to let it affect the quality or style of this blog – it’s not, and never will be, a party political blog. You’d have got bored of it months ago if it was. I would have done as well. However, what I will be doing in the coming weeks is setting up a Green blog for both Peninsula ward and Greenwich borough as a whole – we’ve three parliamentary candidates and we’ll have other council candidates too, and they all (I hope) should have things to say and contributions to make to the debate about how to improve this borough.

Secondly… why am I do doing it? I joined the Green Party just over a year ago, having flirted with the idea for a year or more before that. When I worked at the BBC, I thought it’d be wrong of me join a party, but when I knew I was on my way out, I filled in the form, set up the direct debit, and that was it. I’ve never been a member of a political party before. My first vote was in council elections in 1994, when I voted Liberal Democrat. I swung to Labour in 1997, but had my “never again” moment when Tony Blair’s government introduced university tuition fees and declined to renationalise the railways. The Iraq war sealed that for me.

I first voted Green in the 2005 general election, and was pleased to see the party campaigning in Charlton in the 2006 council elections. Shortly after this, I got to know Sue Luxton, a newly-elected Green councillor in Lewisham’s Ladywell ward. She put me in contact with the Greenwich Greens, and a long process of umming and ahh-ing about joining started. When Boris Johnson was elected London mayor, it made my mind up.

(Deep breath.)

Nationally, the government’s indulgence of those who exist solely for profit and riches angers me. There is no way we are going to combat climate change with policies that discriminate against public transport users, cyclists, and people who generate their own energy. We must learn to become a great deal more self-sufficient. It’s possible – but no other party is going to take on the private interests who would lose out. And we’ve had three decades of politicians seemingly determined to kneecap the chances of our young people. It’s a scandal that the likes of Jack Straw and Gordon Brown were educated for free at the taxpayers’ expense – but today’s 18-year-olds are funneled into university, to emerge with five figure debts and less hope of getting good work. This is supposed to be progress? In the economy, in the environment, we are suffering from the decisions of a selfish baby boomer generation which robbed the country of all that was valuable, and left their children to pick up the pieces. Labour is as guilty of that as the Conservatives – even more so, because we expected better, and got nothing.

(And relax.)

But the forum where you, and I, can hope to force change is locally. And for me… well, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is.

Greenwich has been run by Labour since 1971. Its current leadership doesn’t listen to residents – or even its own councillors. It can’t even collect the rubbish properly, and many of its functions seem to run to make life easier for itself, and not for the benefit of local people. The opposition is unable to make a convincing case for change, and struggles to appeal to voters beyond its Eltham, Kidbrooke and Blackheath heartlands. The Liberal Democrats have a couple of decent councillors, but are more or less invisible. Voters in the borough’s riverside areas, Greenwich, Charlton, and Woolwich, clearly want a different sort of change to Labour. And I think the Green Party, which its record of being excellent community campaigners in Lewisham, should, and will provide a home for them – and should be able to help deliver that change, to stand up for local people. If elected, one of our main tasks will be to keep local people informed about the decisions that affect them, up to the Olympics, and beyond.

It’s not going to be easy. But Greenwich Council needs to be forced to open up, to engage with local people properly. On a wider level, that’s why I’ve started going to council meetings, and writing them up, and I’m going to carry on doing that, because I think local people deserve to know what’s being done and said in their name, whichever party their councillors belong. (I’m still more than happy for other parties to contribute in the comments – we need this kind of discussion.) The problem of having a weak local media is made worse by the all-smothering embrace of Greenwich Time, a propaganda newspaper you’d laugh at if you didn’t live round here. It’s a dangerous situation.

Thirdly, why Peninsula ward? It’s a massive ward stretching from the Royal Naval College to The Valley and up to the river, taking in the eastern side of Greenwich and the north-western corner of Charlton. I live about 500 yards outside the ward, in Charlton, and have done so for nearly 10 years. Before that, I spent about 22 years living right in the centre of what’s now Peninsula ward, by the flyover in east Greenwich – it’s the area I was brought up in, and it’s still the area where I shop and socialise. It’s the ward where the Greens performed best in the 2006 election – coming 250 votes behind council leader Chris Roberts. Obviously we’re also standing elsewhere, but Peninsula is where it starts. As it happens, many of the issues affecting Peninsula ward directly affect my little corner of Charlton anyway – transport, litter and so on.

So that’s that, and I hope that’s the last overtly political piece you’ll see here for some time. The election is on 6 May 2010. If you want to help me, then pop here and get in touch. If you’d rather I shut up and talked about something else… well, alright then.

22 comments

  1. From a former resident of the yuppie village (now in your prospective ward) – good luck. This also sounds like a really exciting opportunity to reach out the residents in a way that it sounds like the council never did, through a digital medium. I look forward to following your campaign.

  2. Thanks, Josh. Trying to get the Millennium Village better connected to the rest of Greenwich (in all kinds of ways) is something that needs doing; at present it just sits out on a limb, which doesn’t help perceptions of the place.

    It’s going to be an interesting few months…

  3. Way to go, all the best with that.

    I await some inevitable Labour ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’ ‘only one progressive party than can deliver change’ comments.

    I actually discussed your blog with one councillor who, other than him conflating all Greenwich bloggers as one entity, accused you of ‘inventing problems that don’t exist, just for the sake of it’ etc.

  4. Thanks Anon… interesting to hear a councillor say that. All party stuff aside, that’s quite sad to hear some are so isolated from the outside world, they simply can’t accept criticism as being valid. Shows what happens when you’ve been in power for nearly four decades (and that could apply to anyone).

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get some history books out because the Greenwich Phantom needs updating 😉

  5. I wonder how many potential voters from GMV will remember the negative sterotypes you gave of the people who live there? I never got the misguided ‘yuppie village’ tag you gave the place. As a Green Party member, I would have thought you would stay away from stereotyping areas / people in such a broad way. Still, good luck and I hope you get to develop a more informed opinion of a large part of your potential new ward.

  6. Hello Canz – well, when the facts change, I change my mind. Yes, I was certainly rude about the Millennium Village as an angry young blogger. And, to be honest, I wonder if anyone involved in developing GMV would have done it now the way they did it then – those early stages weren’t John Prescott’s finest moment.

    But the place has changed, the balance of it has changed, and it’s clearly a much more balanced community these days – the odd Porsche whizzing up John Harrison Way aside. Back then, the cost of moving in was prohibitive to many local people, and large developers’ signs advertising daftly-named flats for enormous amount of money was a bit of a slap in the face for people caught the wrong side of a housing market that’d clearly gone insane.

    Times change, and being an angry young blogger wasn’t enough. Over the years, I concluded it was a better idea to break cover and try a different tack. I wouldn’t have joined the Greens last year, and I wouldn’t be standing if I didn’t have a desire to make the local area a better place to live, and that includes the Millennium Village, which clearly now has issues of its own. I’d like to see the barriers between GMV and the rest of the area broken down. GMV needs facilities, shops, reasons for other locals to come and visit. For that, we’ve all got to work together, put the past behind us, and look to the future. I’m up for it – and I hope you are too. In fact, I’m happy to come up and say hello and hear some informed opinions about GMV.

    Max – thanks for the kind words; and good luck with yours too. I’m sure we’ll have to have a Lib Dem/ Green barney at some point 🙂

  7. Blimey, and good luck! You’d do ’em proud.

    My top ‘Peninsula’ niggle is the idiotic traffic light phasing between the Odeon cinema and the Dome. Any chance of campaigning on that? More green please!

  8. It’s a massive, massive bugbear. The busway was a bit of a balls-up from the start (the original buses to the Dome were meant to be “guided”), and we’re lumbered with it and its stupid lights; nobody yet has thought about changing things. Well, apart from me every time I’m stuck at a red on a 486.

  9. I hope also that your blog doesn’t become a party platform (which says 0.00000000 about my own political persuasion), but I am afraid the rest of this “post” might belie that hope.

  10. An honest, open local politician, using the modern interweb to engage – blimey!

    Good luck with your work. Reading the above post was a welcome relief from the posturing of local politicians. Caring about your area and environment seem to be the main pre-requisites to being a successful councillor.

    I think you’ll do the people of the Peninsula proud.

    Go for it!

  11. While I appreciate that the votes of those who remember Ned’s Atomic Dustbin on the top floor of the Venue might be the tiniest franchise in existence, you must appreciate that you have a substantial mountain to climb in the charisma to beat stakes versus Chris Roberts…

  12. Now that you don’t have to vie with the denizens of GMV for space on the 472 of an afternoon it was a logical change of opinion, eh?!

    Seriously though, bigup and good luck. And yes, sort out the lights.

  13. Oh dear, I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t offended by the caricaturisation (?) of GMV as yuppie village. I mean, it was exactly that! I liked the refreshing firebrand approach of that-blog-that-must-not-be-named and you’re pretty well-balanced in the long-run (as has been shown by the latest post).

    I was just pointing it out 🙂

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