Thursday, 24 May 2018

The spectre of Section 28 still lingers on but there's hope for better LGBTQIA+ equality in the UK...

Today marks 30 years since Margaret Thatcher decided to enact Section 28, a draconian and discriminatory piece of legislation designed to stop education professionals in schools across the UK from discussing non-heteronormative sexual orientations in the classroom (with a specific focus on stopping gay and lesbian people, including teachers from talking about their sexual orientation and life experiences with students) with the ultimate aim of reducing the “promotion” of LGBTQIA+ lifestyles. Local authorities were also prevented from such “promoting”, with libraries being forced into not stocking literature or films that contained primarily gay, bi or lesbian themes, although Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (1985) was a notable novel read by students and studied for GCSE and A-Level exams which allowed young people to read about the life experiences of a young lesbian growing up in a deeply religious (Pentecostal) community.

I feel I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the LGBTQIA+ campaigners who fought against the introduction of this despicable clause from the off. For example, Joe Summerlad in his article for the Independent mentions the three amazing lesbian activists, calling themselves the “Lesbian Avengers” managed to gain access to the public gallery of the House of Lords and abseiled down to the chamber, an act which gained them and the anti-Section 28 cause national attention ( Mancunians also made their feelings towards the legislation clear with the “Never Going Underground” demo which took place on the 20th February 1988, and which attracted at least 20,000 demonstrators from around the UK and had speakers including Jimmy Somerville (

Thatcher used her Christian conservatism to attack openly gay and lesbian people. She never acknowledged publicly (to my knowledge) the existence of bisexual people and I don't even want to contemplate what her views towards openly non-binary trans people like me would have been. The Tories pretty much backed her all the way, claiming that it was Labour who were determined to bring pro-LGBTQIA+ books into school to challenge “traditional values”. The Tories capitalised on
on the fear rhetoric perpetuated by the right-wing press, just like the social conservatives and trans-exclusionary radical feminists do today with regards to their attitudes towards trans activists and further trans equality. As Ruth Hunt points out in her very pertinent article, “shocking levels of misinformation and scaremongering are cruelly attacking trans people's right to exist, as well as publicly questioning their identities. Deeply misleading headlines about the GRA (Gender Recognition Act 2004) and young people “being turned trans” echoes exactly the way LGB people were talked about under Section 28” ( Editorial teams based at The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express, New Statesman and The Spectator in particular need to look very carefully at the way they choose articles to include in their newspapers but I'm guessing they probably won't reform their processes given their desire to provide clickbait for the right-wing masses.

I went to primary school, junior school and the first 3 years of secondary school with Section 28 still being in place in England. It's no wonder that teachers, teaching assistants and pastoral staff were reluctant to talk about being gay, bi or lesbian to students like me in front of other students because they had not had the freedom to do so in the years before I entered the state education system.
Homophobic and biphobic language was commonplace in the junior school playground and I never heard such language challenged by the playground assistants. I have no doubt that young people I knew in my classes at secondary school internalised feelings of fear and believed the stereotypes being perpetuated and it made them feel they could not be proud of their sexuality, even after they decided to come out.

LGBTQIA+ rights have improved somewhat since the repeal of Section 28 under Tony Blair's Labour Government in 2003, not least with the introduction of the Equality Act in 2010 and the Same Sex Marriage Act 2013. However, the legacy of Section 28 still lingers on today. Just Like Us, an organisation who recruit LGBTQIA+ students to go into schools to champion LGBTQIA+ equality and that has created Schools Diversity Week to “empower schools across the UK to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia” have recently reported that “almost 90% of young LGBTQ people still hear homophobic language in schools and 50% self-harm” ( The Stonewall School Report 2017 found that 45% of LGBT respondents (and 65% of trans respondents) have experienced bullying at school and the statistics highlight that LGBTQIA+ people of faith and people of colour are more likely to experience bullying and hate incidents whilst at school ( Meanwhile we have radical feminist dominated organisations such as Transgender Trend who claim they are “gender critical” advocating for trans people not being given the opportunity to talk about their life experiences in school for fear of “turning children trans” (an out and out lie on their part) and we have some education professionals who have a socially conservative mindset still fiercely resisting calls to introduce LGBTQIA+ Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) into all schools in England. They cite freedom of conscience, religion and expression as a legitimate basis for their objections. Yet in their efforts to defend “traditional British values”, they fail to acknowledge the liberal, modern values that we should all possess, either as British Citizens or residents of the UK or as I like to think, as Citizens of the World. Compassion and love of diversity are values central to a liberal, progressive outlook. So are tolerance and reverence for the Rule of Law. Any programme that can reduce instances of hate incidents and hate crime motivated by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia should be endorsed wholeheartedly. Any programme that promotes love and understanding for one another over misinformation and mistrust is one that I cannot help endorse as a Lutheran Christian. Yet worrying evidence collated by Dr Laura Watt and Professor Mark Elliot from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles carried out by 1990 and 2010 have shown that acceptance of same-sex relationships percentages has slowed down since 2000, with 60% of 16-44 year olds who attended at least 1 religious service a week viewing homosexuality as always wrong when asked in 2010 (only down by 8% from 1990 figures) (
Demonstrating freedom of conscience and expression, the things that religious conservatives bang on about so often means that every student has the right to explore diverse life experiences through finding out about LGBTQIA+ role models. Students of all ages have the right to explore their own feelings towards sexuality and gender through access to age-appropriate RSE sources. Just as students should have the opportunity to find out about multiple faiths in their Religious Education lessons, free from teacher judgment/bias. To me therefore it is illiberal for social conservatives to even object on the grounds of conscience or religion to LGBTQIA+ people being encouraged to come into local schools and talk about their life experiences, just as it would be illiberal to object to faith representatives coming into schools to talk about their experiences.

Numerous organisations have highlighted the lack of LGBTQIA+ RSE within the PSHE curriculum post the repeal of Section 28. A survey by Stonewall found that only 13% of respondents had learned about healthy same-sex relationships, 1 in 5 had learned about consent law in relation to same-sex relationships and 20% have learnt about keeping themselves safe in same-sex experiences. Fewer students have learned about trans people's experiences of sex. As for exploring asexual (ace) experiences in the classroom, very few teachers have the awareness necessary to facilitate discussions, despite more young people coming out openly as ace whilst at secondary school (although much more research needs to be conducted to highlight this).

There are increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ graduates entering the teaching profession and education sector as a whole and an increasing number of teachers coming out. Teach First has collated data on the number of LGBT+ teachers between 2014 and 2018 and found there had been a 4% increase. The Independent (who has really led the way on coverage of LGBTQIA+ issues I think) has an article where several LGBT teachers who have been part of the Teach First programme talk about what actions they have taken to improve awareness inside the classroom. For example Laura, a teacher based in London decided to hold LGBT+ assemblies, run clubs, and taken her sixth form students to London Pride to march. I love Laura's passion for empowering her students to be positive about their own sexuality and gender identity and agree with her that her students “will continue to strive for a more accepting and equal society (

It's great that we now have more role models like Laura for students to look up-to but there still needs to be changes to attitudes in the workplace to ensure that trans, non-binary, genderqueer, gender-fluid, and agender people feel they can enter and thrive in the teaching profession. A real-time poll, carried out by the NASUWT of attendees at their LGBTI Teachers' Consultation Conference, held in Birmingham ( found that:
  • 43% of respondents have experienced discrimination, bullying, harassment, or victimisation in the last 12 months because of their LGBTI identity
  • 29% of respondents stated that levels of anti LGBTI bullying and language have increased or stayed the same in their school in recent years
  • 86% of respondents said they do not believe that the Government is doing enough to communicate the importance of LGBTI equality to schools and colleges
  • 56% of respondents said their school wasn't committed to LGBTI equality for staff and pupils
  • 4% of respondents said their school had a programme of activities to mark LGBT month
  • 1/3 of respondents said their school or college wasn't a safe space for LGBT teachers
  • 49% of attendees said they wouldn't recommend teaching as a career to families or friends.
In the same vein, a 2018 British Social Attitudes survey found that whilst over 8 in 10 British people described themselves as not being “prejudiced at all” towards trans people, only 4 in 10 had said that trans people who had the qualifications needed to become a primary school teacher should “definitely be” employed in that role ( This is concerning and highlights the work that needs to be done to debunk stereotypes that have pervaded about trans people and the interactions they may have through positive engagement work with governors and parents in schools.

It must be remembered that schools and colleges (and local authorities for that matter) are bound under the Equality Act to help improve LGBT+ equality. Under the Public Sector Equality Duty, schools must ensure they pay “due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any conduct that is prohibited under the Act; to advance equality or opportunity between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not and to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not” ( If schools and colleges do not adhere to this Duty, they can face enforcement action brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. So what more could be done by schools to further fulfill the Public Sector Equality Duty? Well for starters, every school needs to check their Equal Opportunities/Equality and Diversity policy to ensure they are trans-inclusive. A specific commitment to tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying should be contained within the Anti-Bullying policy. Forms should be reviewed to ensure students can reflect their identity openly but only information that is absolutely necessary should be collected. An Equality and Diversity steering group with student representatives would be a great way of reviewing and amending such policies.

Teachers should feel empowered to follow clearly defined procedures in the event of students using persistant transphobic language in the classroom and address that language as soon as they hear it. There should be LGBTQIA+ clubs available to students to attend at lunchtime or after school with activities, support and advice being offered.

Access to training on trans awareness should be available to all members of staff and volunteers as part of their Continuing Professional Development, with that training being delivered by qualified and experienced people. Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence are examples of organisations that have offered very effective training but there are a diverse range of trainers located across the UK, including those who are trans, non-binary, genderqueer, gender-fluid or agender who could be counted upon to deliver appropriate training. Members of the community who are LGBTQIA+ should be invited to deliver assemblies, attend RSE/PSHE lessons and/or work with students on Pride celebrations.

RSE and PSHE leads should have the opportunity to attend LGBTQIA+ specific conferences and network with organisations so they can have access to the research and support network they need to deliver truly LGBTQIA+ inclusive RSE. I hope more conferences will be created for RSE professionals as the subject is made a statutory part of the curriculum from next September.

Making provisions to celebrate key awareness days and awareness weeks would also help to raise the profile of LGBTQIA+ people in schools (aside from LGBT month in February).
A list of key dates that I'm aware of are listed below:

  • Zero Discrimination Day: March 1st
  • International Transgender Day of Visibility: March 31st
  • Lesbian Visibility Day: 26th April
  • International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: May 17th
  • School Diversity Week: July 2nd-8th
  • Bisexual Visibility Day: September 23rd
  • Asexual Awareness Week:
  • National Coming Out Day: October 11th
  • Hate Crime Awareness Week: October 15th- 22nd
  • Intersex Awareness Day: October 26th
  • Intersex Day of Remembrance/Intersex Solidarity Day: November 8th
  • Transgender Awareness Week: (Second week of November)
The results of the LGBT survey, commissioned by the Government last year and which has had over 100,000 responses is due to be released in a few weeks time. PM Theresa May has promised to create a strategy designed to reduce the prevalence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and advance LGBTQIA+ rights. I hope that such a strategy will include more funding for trans awareness training in schools, statutory LGBTQIA+ inclusive RSE guidance and a move towards self-identification of legal gender. A bold approach is needed if society is to continue the fight to improve LGBTQIA+ rights and equality in the UK. Let's hope those changes I've highlighted above will spearhead that bold approach.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Thoughts on The Industrial Strategy and The "Grand Challenges" PM May Speech

Industrial Strategy: Grand Challenge Missions: Is it such a grand vision for a potential Post-Brexit Britain??

Today PM May unveiled the Government's new approach towards the facilitation of an Industrial Strategy for the UK, one which the PM and others within the Conservative sphere of political influence believe will address some of the key issues affecting people living in the UK today. The 4 Grand Challenges highlighted are meant to be solved with core British industrial sectors being at the centre of each plan with the implication being that encouraging further innovation in these sectors now will lead to a higher quality of life in the future. PM May, in her speech at Jodrell Bank certainly sung the praises of the UK research and development community: “We are ranked first in the world for research into the defining technologies of the next decade, from genomics and synthetic biology, to robots and satellites” ( The Government has already made a commitment of 2.4% of the UK's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) going on research and development by 2027, equivalent to an extra £80bn-certainly ambitious. PM May was also right to highlight the need to ensure regulation does not stifle innovation and creativity (wherever possible) and I was glad to hear her reiterate the fact that scientific research can be “a noble pursuit and public good whether or not it leads directly to a commercial application” but I hope that would equally apply to Arts based research, something totally missing from her speech today.

The 4 Grand Challenges are briefly outlined below:

  1. Artificial Intelligence and data
The Tories believe that it should be a key mission of Parliament to “use data, Artificial Intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases (e.g. dementia, cancer, diabetes) by 2030”. They estimate that better use of AI technology and medical data could lead to “over 50,000 more people each year having their cancers diagnosed at an early rather than late stage” so that 20,000 fewer people dying with 5 years of receiving their diagnosis. Early diagnosis of ovarian, prostate and lung cancers will save lives and this mission will have broad cross-party appeal but will involve investment in equipment and personnel expertise over the next 10 years to come to fruition, which will need to come partly from an increase in government expenditure on science and innovation and health. It'd be great if some Lincolnshire organisations will become involved in this area and receive direct investment to expand to fulfill research demands. It's also important that NHS data is accessible to help with the creation of algorithms that can be used by GPs although I am sceptical about allowing private companies to use NHS data to make for-profit products (

  1. Ageing society
The Tories have set a mission target of people enjoying “at least 5 extra, healthy, independent years of life by 2035” whilst also narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest people. This will again require significant investment in social care provision to allow people with physical and learning disabilities to live independently in their homes, as well as older people whose physical health may have declined for example due to arthritis. One cannot deny the social care system is already under strain and is facing a £1.5bn shortfall by 2020. Lincolnshire is going to take part in a £1m pilot project alongside Nottinghamshire to help improve the service provided (to ensure that every user of adult social care will have a joint health and social care assessment and care plan) over the next 2 years Lincolnshire County Council voted to add 2% to council tax bills to pay for social care which came into effect in April but that increase will not help to offset funding challenges forever. Current funding plans suggested by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt, which will mean means-tests for personal home care as well as residential care will include taking the value of homes into account have been branded “costly and unfair” in a joint report by the Kings Fund and the Health Foundation ( The report argues there should be a cap of £75,000 on the total amount one person will need to pay for care. Another recently published report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), states that the Government is significantly underestimating the challenges the social care sector is currently facing, with care packages having to be prioritized and packages which support older people who have falls taking longer to put together. Age UK has already stated that 1.2m older people in the UK have unmet social care needs ( There is also a challenge to safeguard the welfare of care workers, who are among the lowest paid workers in the UK and whose self-esteem levels are lower than that of other workers within the healthcare sector ( We'll wait to see the Green Paper on Social Care in the summer for updated details.

Community organisations who develop intergenerational projects to reduce levels of social isolation and loneliness and thus reduce potential for people to develop depression or other long-term mental health conditions need to have access to sustainable funding pots at local authority level and not just rely on donations and community foundations for support. I agree in principle with the idea of developing strategies to help older people access a wide variety of workplace opportunities beyond the official age of retirement as I believe in the principle of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace environment. But I think it's a mistake to purely focus on this and on the development of consumer products and services offered primarily by private sector businesses. Our social carers and care home providers need support to deliver high-quality care to clients and that is where I feel money needs to be spent urgently through increases to local authority budgets and to NHS Trust budgets where there are a high number of patients over the age of 65. That would include East Lindsey which is ranked 2nd highest in the UK for the highest number of carers caring for 50 hours or more per week and has the highest proportion of people aged over 65 in the UK ( We need to ensure sufficient support is provided to carers of all ages to help improve mental health wellbeing. 6.5m people currently care for an elderly, ill or disabled relative. Lincolnshire has one of the fastest growing rates of carers (a 27.5% increase was recorded between 2001 and 2015 when the UK general rate was 6.2%) and the number of people aged 65 and over in Lincolnshire is projected to increase by 25% by 2022. 84,000 carers have been recorded as living in Lincolnshire according to the Joints Strategic Needs Assessment for Lincolnshire on Carers: Innovative strategies should help reduce physical and emotional pressures on them as well as on the person/people that need to be cared for. Yet Lincolnshire County Council are looking to make savings (i.e. reduce) the Carers budget by £0.415m in this financial year and a further £0.0075m in 2019/20 due to reductions in funding (

  1. Clean growth
The Tories have stated a commitment to a target of a 50% reduction in the energy use of new buildings by 2030 in the hope of reducing energy bills for public sector organisations, businesses and families. They aim to do this by ensuring new buildings use “clean heating”, encouraging the development of “innovative techniques” to reduce carbon emissions and introducing even smarter technology to help consumers control their energy use. The money to support the fulfillment of the target is coming from a £170m Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and anticipate that this will be matched by a £250m investment from the private sector.

It's also great to hear that the Government will be encouraging organisations to explore how housing alterations can be made to improve the lives of older people who currently live in unadapted housing. The Centre for Better Ageing report Room to improve: The role of home adaptions in improving later life found that more than 90% of older people live in mainstream housing but providing adaptations such as providing wet rooms on ground floors, stair-lifts or even basic adaptations like hand-rails and monitoring equipment to help people living with dementia can make a difference in helping to prevent falls (a 26% reduction in falls that need medical attention and savings of £500m a year for the NHS and Social Care systems) as well as improving mental health (

  1. Future of mobility
Once again the Tories have centred the motor vehicles industry within their plans for Post-Brexit Britain, with a commitment to “Putting the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles with all new cars and vans effectively zero emission by 2040” ( This is all well and good in that it will probably help reduce carbon emissions but I am sceptical as to whether voters want to see taxpayers' money invested in electric vehicle companies when the Government is not investing enough money into social care or youth services or even existing travel services. That being said I agree that it is prudent to invest some money towards innovation in this area -e.g. providing £1bn over 10 years to develop low carbon powertrains (provided there are trains created for use on East Midlands journeys) and grants to help early-adopters to buy ultra low-emission vehicles.

Overarching Thoughts:

I guess I consider myself a sceptic when it comes to the delivery of promises, especially by this particular Government. I am concerned that the targets will not be met without developing truly holistic strategies involving organisations from different sectors, not just the science and research sector or construction and motor vehicle sectors. Encouraging conversations that lead to collaborations to address key challenges will drive change at a local level.

The Government's focus on Technical Skills to boost talent is welcome but we must not promote such skills at the expense of creative arts subjects in schools and colleges. Rigorous Science GCSE's are all well and good but there will need to be tailored support in schools to help students who might struggle to achieve a Grade C at GCSE. I remember having to work extremely hard to remember the scientific concepts and terminology for GCSE Applied Science and that my Physics based papers would always come back at Grade D no matter how hard I tried. If it wasn't for the determination of my Science teacher to provide extra Biology and Chemistry lessons I would not have achieved a Grade B. I understand why the Government wishes to promote Science A-Levels and put more money into attracting science graduates through offering tax-free bursaries but they must remember that innovation doesn't just come from those who study scientific subjects at school.

With Brexit impending, it is vital that researchers from the EU involved in industries across the UK, not just in the science and technological industrial sectors feel they can enjoy the exact same benefits of living in the UK post-Brexit as they do currently. PM May is right to highlight the amazing contributions that researches from around the world have made to improve our quality of life. Yet some EU researchers have decided to leave the UK following the Brexit vote: in January it was reported that there had been a 19%  increase in the level of departures of EU staff compared to before the EU referendum ( so it's important that PM May makes it clear their status will remain unchanged under the current terms of the Brexit deal. I also think that paying for membership of existing EU research programmes, including Horizon 2020 and future programmes is important and that this financial contribution has been mutually agreed with all EU member states. The UK cannot just pluck a number out of thin air and then stick to it rigidly or walk away as the ultra Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg would have us do.

A progressive, liberal vision for the UK would for me be one where we had decided not to leave the EU. However, a Brexit where a deep partnership with the EU on research and development, including arts and social research is vital in helping us to continue to innovate and improve overall quality of life in the UK. Yes we should be excited at the prospect of change driven by innovation, whether you fit into PM May's definition of being “curious...inventive and determined” or not because the UK's been a hub for innovation for hundreds of years. Yet a top-down approach to innovation, driven only by those with expertise in specific fields will not work. We all have a part to play in this, regardless of qualifications or type of job that we do. Carers can be innovative in the way they engage with their clients, care homes can put on social activities with the help of enthusiastic volunteers, community organisations can look at creating intergenerational projects, using recent research to guide practice and administrative assistants can look at ways to promote office exercise or hold meetings to talk about building emotional resilience. Research can also be conducted at a local level by volunteers who want to look at tackling levels of anxiety/stress caused by social isolation and could work with organisations to help fund and promote such research. 

PM May wants her Government to work towards achieving 4 ambitious targets designed to help transform the lives of people living in the UK. Time will tell whether Brexit, if pursued will inhibit chances of achieving those ambitious targets.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Reflections on the Local Elections in Birchwood Ward, Lincoln May 2018

Gosh it's been a long while since I've written a blogpost (some of you may have been relieved) but it's certainly been an interesting period in British politics and following the Local Elections results, there is a need for a period of reflection for all the major political parties, not least Labour. Whilst it's true to say that Labour have gained council seats in England and managed to take Plymouth and Kirklees (West Yorkshire) councils and have managed to elect Dan Jarvis as the first Mayor for the Sheffield City Region (massive congrats to him btw!) in Lincoln it has been a truly mixed picture. On a total voter turnout of only 30.33% (very low but not particularly surprising given only 1/3 of the City Council seats were up for grabs and it was mathematically impossible for Labour to lose overall control of the council) Labour held the central Lincoln wards where the electorate contains younger voters who are more progressive and tend to be more engaged with politics – Carholme ward, for example, Lincoln MP Karen Lee's former ward, saw the election of the incredible and very knowledgeable Laura McWilliams as a Labour and Co-operative councillor who comes from a very similar background to myself- working class, willing to speak Truth to Power and willing to provide a platform to those who often feel they are voiceless in local and national politics. I thoroughly recommend reading her Wordpress blog as she has written pertinent and thought-provoking posts on the nature of the modern Feminist movement, loneliness and unemployment ( I see Laura as a potential future MP, whether that be representing our amazing constituency of Lincoln or another constituency where her talents would be very much appreciated!

Unfortunately my home ward of Birchwood swang from Labour to the Conservatives. The full result is displayed below:

Birchwood Ward (Lincoln) Results:

Alan Briggs (Con) - 786
Adam Carnie (LD) - 68
Paul Gowen (Lab) - 654
Dr Ben Loryman (Green) - 49
Warde (UKIP) - 100

In some respects this result comes as no surprise: Birchwood was an area where Brexiteers were particularly vocal during the 2016 EU Referendum and the amazing campaigner for community cohesion and youth empowerment, Rosanne Kirk lost her County Council seat to the Tories in last year's Local Elections (although she still holds a City of Lincoln council seat). It was great to have Lib Dem and Green candidates standing in the ward and from what I managed to find out about their platforms, I was interested in their ideas, especially Adam Carnie's suggestion to set up a “tidier neighbourhood scheme” which would include promoting vegetable growing schemes ( I hope that the newly elected Tory Councillor may work with Adam to help create community gardening projects to ensure green spaces are maintained as well as providing opportunities for people from different socio-economic backgrounds and life experiences to come together, facilitating conversation and reducing levels of social isolation. There was a small UKIP vote in the ward, which I must admit given the history of voting here, wasn't very surprising. I have to say that Paul Gowen has been and continues to be a great anti-poverty campaigner for Birchwood whose personal story, of being a carer in the city and understanding the challenges that carers face in their day-to-day lives is inspiring. I hope that he will continue to campaign for better local authority services for the people of Birchwood in the future.
Yet Birchwood is exactly the kind of ward where Labour should be looking to gain votes at the moment, especially amongst hard-working families who have been described by the Tories as “Just About Managing”. We are an area where levels of deprivation remain high: data from Lincoln electoral wards for Jul-Sept 2017 showed that the percentage of children defined as living in poverty when housing costs are taken into account is highest in Glebe (34.13%) followed by Birchwood (34.12%). To hear that 788 children in my ward are living in households where getting adequate food and clothing is disappointing to say the least. I appreciate the situation in Lincoln could have been much worse, were it not for the Labour-led City of Lincoln Council's Anti-Poverty Strategy, which has been in place since 2014. The Strategy has a number of objectives, including “increasing money management skills and confidence, supporting families to feed and clothe their children and helping those facing poverty due to illness” ( Campaigns that have been run by Lincoln Against Poverty, the organisation overseeing the implementation of the strategy include The Living Wage Campaign (encouraging employers in Lincoln to pay their employees and workers at least the Living Wage, with employers being recognised and recommended by the City Council for doing this) and the Helping Hand Campaign, which is designed to get debt and budgeting information and advice to residents who need it ( Projects delivered by the City Council included running 5 “Survive the School Holiday” sessions which provided adults in Birchwood with information about debt, welfare and jobs. I myself have never heard of local Tories talking about this scheme and yet it is a scheme all councillors should be promoting in a positive light. Equally the promotion of the Living Wage Scheme and provision of help for families who are being affected as a result of being put onto Universal Credit are policies that Labour councillors should be proud of.

Only a few days ago I heard of the decision to close Birchwood's only Youth Club, Generate, which has provided a number of much-needed support groups and activity groups to disadvantaged children and young people for years because the County Council cannot seem to attract an alternative provider to run the centre. The assistant director for Children's Services at the County Council has said that any gap in service should be kept to a minimum but with the County Council having made cuts since 2011 to youth services funding and there being no statutory requirement for the Tory controlled County or City Council to provide such services, it may be very difficult to attract a suitable provider.I was glad to hear our Library won't be closed, although Greenwich Leisure Limited are quoted as willing to provide only temporary assistance. ( It's a disgrace: our library services and youth services should not be subject to such uncertainty but at least we still have Birchwood Boiler Community Hall running youth groups and perhaps there is room to facilitate more groups at this venue in the coming months.

I don't know how many Birchwood residents were aware of the Generate closure but perhaps it wouldn't have made much of a difference to the final vote tally if they had. Birchwood residents were particularly interested in Tory promises to scrap green bin charges (currently £36) and provide one hour's worth of free parking for city centre car parks. My Dad, who's never been political in any way (other than on Brexit) told me that neighbours on our street wanted to see green bin charges being scrapped and were clearly drawn in by such a promise because they believe it is money they should not be paying out. Birchwood residents who are lucky enough to have front and back gardens, like me and my parents, are incredibly keen gardeners. However I don't think Labour adopting the policy would have gained the extra votes they needed to retain this council seat.

Tories also promised residents that they would “only support future housing developments which come with school places, better roads and health facilities” ( yet they didn't seem to have much to say as to how they could guarantee this in areas like Birchwood where services such as Generate are closing and residents now cannot use the Lincoln Walk-In Centre when they need medical help out-of-hours
because the County Council supported the decision by Lincs West CCG to close it despite respondents to their consultation being overwhelmingly against the decision. Neither has there been much discussion in Birchwood about the set-up of a council owned construction company or the investment plan being put in place to build new council homes: policies that residents should be fully aware of when they go to vote in local elections. It's also important to note that some Birchwood residents were aware of the council's decision to invest £13m in the new Travelodge Hotel being built in the centre of Lincoln, which was done with the hope returns will go towards maintaining council services and suffice to say, they were not happy with such a decision being made ( I'm a sceptical voter at heart so the newly elected Tory councillor, Mr Briggs will have to demonstrate to me and other Birchwood residents how this particular promise can be kept. His answers to questions in the Lincolnshire Live piece were in my view a bit vague and “management speakese” to say the least but let's see if he does actually manage to secure more funding for Birchwood for more community projects and whether he will work with representatives from Labour, Lib Dems and Greens to campaign for this funding.

Residents I've spoken to also said they wanted to see street-lighting turned back on at night in our streets and pot-holes being repaired on our roads. Street-lighting is unfortunately currently out of the City of Lincoln Council's remit and well nearly every party in Lincoln promises to fix pot-holes as they know the state of some of Lincoln's roads are not exactly ideal. The parties also had broadly similar policies when it came to reducing anti-social behaviour in order to reduce instances of crime and to raise the issue of dog-fouling on Birchwood streets. So even making residents aware of these policies may not have made much of a difference to the final vote tally.

Much is being made of the impact of voters' opinions towards Brexit on their choice. I remember speaking to two residents who were undecided at the time but were floating with the idea of voting Conservative in the local elections because they believed (rather passionately) that doing so would help send a signal/message to the City Council not to ignore the wishes of Leave voters. Whilst it is true to say that Local Authorities have very little say over how Brexit will be delivered and have been somewhat quiet about the impact certain versions of Brexit may have on their ability to deliver services, especially if the Local Authority budget is cut centrally in the months following Brexit, these voters were determined to send their message and for that message to be heard. This made me very nervous in the days leading up to Polling Day and did in some respects convince me to vote Labour because I knew, based on past experience, how tight the seat may be.

The national policy platform may have an impact, especially when the attitude towards the platform creates a desire amongst local residents for radical change in the make-up of a council or constituency. One can see that in Richmond-upon-Thames, Kingston-upon-Thames and South Cambridgeshire, where the Lib Dems managed to gain control of the council and decimate the number of Tory councillors on it. I have no doubt that Labour have the ability to enact such dramatic change at the next local elections, but I hope that in Lincoln at least, the City Council will remain predominately Labour at those elections and takes back seats from the Tories in wards such as Birchwood. Time will tell.

A number of residents have talked to me in the past about language they have seen being used on social media accounts in particular to describe floating voters who do not necessarily agree with all of Labour's policies or indeed with Jeremy Corbyn's leadership style. Calling life-long Labour moderate supporters or floating voters or indeed even Labour MPs “Red Tories” is not really going to help improve Labour's reputation. Thinking the worst of voters who have had to choose another party this time round because of the appearance of lack of inaction by the leadership to tackle Anti Semitism or the party's ambiguous approach to Brexit, especially if they have decided to vote Tory isn't going to win them back either.
Policies designed to appeal to working class voters also definitely need to be better promoted, both local and national policies. For example, most of the residents on my street had no idea that Labour were on course to build 350 new homes by the end of 2018/19 and only a few had heard of Labour's national policy to cap the total amount of money that people will pay in overdraft fees or interest repayments, “imposing a limit of £24 per month per £100 borrowed” ( That being said, I would guess that residents would be interested in hearing more detail. Momentum activists, Labour activists and members of the general public who are pleased by the policy platform all have a role to play in the dissemination of information, as evidenced by council seat gains for example in Wandsworth and Westminster. I don't want to see the passion for progressive policies lost but at the same time, there needs to be a real clarity of position from the Labour leadership regarding Anti-Semitism and Brexit. I am socially liberal and I do not define myself as a socialist but I do like most of the elements of the Labour policy platform that has been established and I have been willing to listen to those who are proponents of socialism hence why I decided put my cross in the box for Labour.

Labour has always been and should always be a broad church, especially in marginal constituencies and councils. Lincoln Labour relies on socially liberal, progressive voters who would ordinarily vote Lib Dem or Green in a strong Labour constituency (e.g. Islington North) to vote Labour to ensure they keep hold of seats. Labour also relies on Tory-Labour swing voters to make a calculated decision to back them, based on local policy and whether they are enthused to vote for a local candidate. A number of political commentators and activists, including Owen Jones, have pointed to the need to engage younger voters, who are more likely to be Labour supporters, to consider voting in local elections. I
admit it would have been wonderful to see more young residents in Birchwood (and more residents generally) coming out and voting in the Local Elections, as they did in Carholme ward. I think it's important to read papers and listen to others on how to increase voter engagement from a non-member, apolitical stand-point. I certainly feel and I want to engage with more non-voters and floating voters in Lincoln more generally and use my blog as a platform for them to discuss concerns but also promote the positive things that are happening in Lincoln. Sometimes accentuating the positives and talking about progressive and innovative policy ideas can be much more effective in helping a particular party to gain votes.

The BBC 's projected national vote share places Labour and the Conservatives on even-stevens at 35% a piece. Labour activists should be proud of the gains they have made nationally, especially in Wandsworth and Westminster but there is no room for complacency. The main tasks are to rethink youth voter engagement in local elections and rebuild trust amongst voters who have turned to alternative parties for both local elections and general elections to come. These tasks are far from being hopeless and should be tackled with gusto and with the input of all who share a vision for a country that is progressive and inclusive and fair.