At a national level, the main choices for PM seems lacklustre for those amongst us who consider themselves centrists and moderates. Theresa May has got very few leadership qualities of note and her questionable record as Home Secretary is being exposed for all to see. Jeremy Corbyn has been portrayed by the mainstream media as a Marxist, "terrorist apologist" when he can only really be accused of possibly being too much of an ideological dreamer, choosing to pursue expansion of trade union powers and mass renationalisation in what still strikes some as a attempt to bring back 1970's style socialism. Now I certainly have not been a super Corbynista (I have more affinity with the Harriet Harman/ Jess Phillips/ Yvette Cooper side of the Labour party) but I've read the Labour manifesto (evidenced by the number of blogposts I've recently done on manifesto comparisons) and I'd say that the majority of it doesn't strike me as being particularly radical. I may not yet buy into the virtues of mass renationalisation yet (especially with regards to utilities) but even I agree that there is a need to review Sustainability and Transformation Plans and reduce the amount of privatisation in our NHS by repealing the Health and Social Care Act. The NHS was designed to ensure that every person in the UK could receive free treatment at the point of use. As investment hasn't kept up with an increase in population, this aim has been increasingly difficult to achieve. We need more funding, we need more staff and we need to ensure that the NHS is accessible to all and I believe Labour's plans, including pumping in an extra £30bn of investment, scrapping the public sector cap and reinstating the Nurses Training Bursary will help to address issues of under resourcing and help recruit more UK nurses.
Yet the Labour manifesto isn't just strong on the NHS. Some policies that never get any attention on the national news have convinced me to consider voting Labour beyond tactical reasons. For example, Labour have pledged to bring in a Commissioner to ensure that the police, local authorities and organisations adhere to at least a minimum standard to tackle domestic violence and sexual violence. Funding will be made available through central government to help stabilise the budgets of women's refuges and rape crisis centres. Although I'd have liked to have seen a general commitment to helping all survivors of domestic abuse, violence and coercive control, regardless of their gender it is a promising start. This policy has not been discussed in the Sun, The Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail but it's one that makes me believe that a Labour government will truly work towards improving the lives of the majority of people in this country and not the few. Plus Corbyn has done extremely well with his campaign, making the effort to meet voters of all ages and talking about the need to foster creativity amongst young people. He has a message of hope that is resonating widely amongst the electorate and we still do not truly know what the effect on the vote will be on June 8th.
At a local level, my choice has even more difficult but for positive reasons. We've been fortunate in Lincoln to have had two talented, amazing, progressive women running in this election both of which deserve recognition:
- Caroline Kenyon, a successful businesswoman (running a food photography business) and who worked as a journalist and magazine editor and PR guru who has worked with homeless charities and food organisations has truly inspired me to think about what more I can do to help fellow residents in my ward. She's organising a Food Summit that aims to look at sustainably providing food for Lincoln residents who find themselves in difficult circumstances that will take place regardless of whether she wins the election or not. Equally Caroline is working with the University of Lincoln to help establish a Primary Schools programme designed to help lift the aspirations of working class children in Lincoln. I know that it's incredibly important to have access to positive role models who can encourage children to think about their future in an age-appropriate way. I was fortunate to have teachers who saw through my Dyspraxia and encouraged me to read widely which fostered a love of books, especially History books that has never left me. Without that early intervention I would not be writing the blogposts like the one I am writing today. And I want other children, especially those with disabilities, to benefit from positive reinforcement technique and having access to role models they can identify with in the educational sector.
- Karen Lee has been involved in Lincoln politics ever since 1994, when she became a Labour party member. She was elected as a City Councillor for Carholme Ward in 2004 and has successfully defended her seat at every local election since then. Karen served as Mayor of Lincoln in 2012-13, the 12th woman out of 13 in 811 years. Karen is a nurse and has worked diligently and passionately for Lincoln County Hospital for many years. Karen wants to increase the number of affordable homes in Lincoln by securing additional funding to expand the planned housing programme as well as fully supporting Labour's plans to bring in safe staffing levels in NHS wards and reintroduce Nurses Training Bursaries. Karen is described by the City Council's Labour Leader Ric Metcalfe as a "tireless and passionate local campaigner", which is true given as she was part of the successful campaign to save Lincoln South Fire Station from being downgraded.
Karen mentions specific Labour policies in her campaign poster leaflet, including:
- the proposed rise in Carer's Allowance that would directly benefit 1,629 carers in Lincoln, giving them more than an extra £500 a year to spend on helping them and their dependent(s) with food, heating and clothing bills.
- scrapping the bedroom tax which will help 749 people in Lincoln and insulating homes may help some of the 5,089 homes who are classed as being in fuel poverty.
- protecting the Triple Lock because getting rid of it would affect 17,919 pensioners in Lincoln, one of which would probably be my Dad.
- reversing cuts to Universal Credit and stopping other tax changes proposed by the Tories so that working families do not need to worry about losing £1,400 a year or have to prove that their third child was conceived as a result of rape through the despicable Child Benefit "rape clause".
An issue that I've heard discussed in the pub and around Lincoln generally is that of funding; funding schools, funding social care, funding recycling services, funding leisure centres and sports facilities, funding libraries and funding Lincoln County Hospital. What has been clear to me over the past few months is that Lincolnshire County Council needs more funding from local government. According to (shock horror) a UKIP leaflet that I received during the Lincs CC elections in May 2017, I found out that Lincs CC is the third lowest funded council in the country. £88 per head (the figure given in the UKIP leaflet is not enough to deliver the services we need as our population begins to age. Council Tax had to go up in Lincs (http://thelincolnite.co.uk/2017/01/council-tax-rise-proposed-as-lincolnshire-police-face-10m-funding-gap/) to help pay towards policing (1.97%) and the Police and Crime Commissioner's Office (we have a Conservative PCC here, Marc Jones) stated that we'd need to see an increase in funding from central government otherwise we'd have a gap in the budget of £10m between 2018 and 2020. This demonstrates to me that Labour are right to highlight that there is a need to increase policing budgets generally to help pay for equipment and the pledge to fund a police officer increase of 10,000 will probably mean that Lincs will see an increase in frontline staff which would be welcome! Yet another reason to consider voting Labour. The total Council Tax rise for those in Lincoln has also included a 1.91% rise in Council Tax precept for the City of Lincoln Council and 3.95% for the Lincs CC precept, estimated to be an extra £53 a year (http://thelincolnite.co.uk/2017/03/council-tax-rise-approved-for-lincoln-residents/). Let's hope the increase may go towards turning the streetlights back on our street or providing decent social care for disabled young adults (that's what a Labour controlled CC would have done). In his time as Lincoln's MP, Karl has been very quick to ask for money to help complete transport infrastructure projects but has been unable to secure more funding for local government services such as for our police force. Instead Karl blames the lack of influence on being a backbencher and because we rejected a devolution deal Lincoln has harmed its chances of receiving more government investment. In his The Linc interview, Karl said:"it (the devolution deal) will not be quickly forgotten in Westminster and I think we'll be forced to the bottom of the pile for it in the future" (http://thelinc.co.uk/2017/06/the-lincoln-candidates-karl-mccartney/). Such a statement comes from a man who says in his leaflet that Lincoln is "the most loved City and jewel in the crown of the East Midlands". Does Karl think I and other voters and constituents were born yesterday? How are we going to improve local services with an MP with such a defeatist attitude? I want to see an MP who will fight for us and not moan about being a backbencher.
Equally in The Linc interview I can still see that Karl remains as gender stereotypical as ever: "give a boy a solder and iron and he can do anything"...what about if that boy wants a thread and needle? Doesn't look like Karl believes that creative subjects are good enough for men does he? Epic facepalm moment once again for an MP who says that he cares about education but is far too quick to play into gender stereotypes and offers few concrete policies to help disadvantaged boys. I mean he talks about establishing a vocational scheme but would that be in addition to Conservative plans or a part of them? There are schemes out there which can help young boys foster a love of reading and writing; perhaps Karl if he's returned as our MP (somehow) could look into getting more Lincoln fathers to read to their sons like my Dad did with me and my brother. Has has he spoken to The Fatherhood Institute directly about their Fathers Reading Every Day Scheme? I'd like to see Karl promote awareness of it (see more here: http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/training-and-consultancy/fathers-reading-day-training/).