Saturday, 31 December 2016

Endings & Beginnings

RIP 2016 tshirt
Goodbye to all that.

2016 RIP

The end of another year is inevitably a time of thoughtful reflection.

It's been an interesting year, hasn't it? Our worlds have been rocked by a succession of 'celebrity' deaths and the EU Referendum resulted in a change of prime minister and months of confusion and uncertainty about what BREXIT will mean and when it will happen.

Closer to home, graffiti, drifting, vandalism, long grass, dog poo, litter, flytipping and dangerous driving were just some of the issues that brought you into contact with me.

But is wasn't all bad. No year ever is.

2017 will also be a challenging year. It's worth taking a moment to reflect on all that was good about 2016 and to make a special effort to notice all that is good in the year ahead.

Here's a list of some of the things that I've appreciated in the past 12 months:

Natalie Bennett with Peterborough Green Party
Green Party (then) leader Natalie Bennett came to visit us in May

The Start of my 'Green Adventure'
On 20th March my life changed beyond measure when one of my fellow parish councillors suggested that I might stand in the Peterborough City Council elections on behalf of the Green Party. 'What's the worst that could happen', I remarked as I agreed to do the 200 or so Green voters of Orton Waterville ward the 'favour' of providing a name for them to vote for on the ballot paper. Little did I know that Orton Waterville was on the cusp of becoming the 'Greenest' ward in the whole of Peterborough. I came to the election very late and with no experience of standing as a candidate. With the help of Peterborough Green Party volunteers, I managed to put a leaflet out to 4200 homes, but not before many had already returned their postal votes. Coming any better than 5th place seemed an impossibility.

No one was more surprised than I was to learn that 565 residents voted for me, your Green Party candidate, on 5th May. The Green Party came third in our ward, just 42 votes behind UKIP! The warmth of your support and the level of your engagement with me was overwhelming. I did not expect it at all. A 'simple' act that began as a favour quickly became a cause to which I am now pleased to dedicate all of my time. In the months since, I have met so many of you and struck up true friendships, laughed and cried with you, shared in your frustrations and your joys. It has been the greatest privilege to serve you and now I cannot imagine life any other way. Thank you. I wonder where you'll take us next.

Steve is one of our invaluable Green Leafleteers
Steve is one of our invaluable Green Leafleteers

My New Team
You received four leaflets from me this year. But how did I manage to deliver 16,800 leaflets to doormats across Orton? I just write the leaflets. The delivery is done but a small but faithful army of 'Green Leafleteers'. In all weathers and without a single complaint, this gang of hardy letterbox-stuffers march on Orton Waterville ward to get my message to you. All are volunteers, driven solely by their desire to help me to reach you. In all my years, I've never seen a team like it. In fact, I've never worked with a team like Peterborough Green Party. We don't have the money or the resources of the larger political parties, but in no way does this restrict anyone's beliefs about what it is possible.

Life as a local politician is very bumpy, with high highs and low lows. It is as exhilarating as it is exhausting. What you need more than anything is a team that has your back, that will turn up on your doorstep just to ask how you are and will get stuck in with your latest mad idea with lots of great questions but no complaints. In September, they made me joint coordinator of Peterborough Green Party, along with my outstanding colleague Roger Proudfoot. And while I can't tell you about everything that goes on behind the scenes (as our political opponents avidly read my blog!) what I can say is that our team is my energy and it is they who make it possible for me to help so many of you by quietly and conscientiously getting on with doing the various essential tasks that free up a politician to do what matters most: listening to residents.

Julie holding a litter pick stick
When it comes to litter, we mean business

I don't appreciate litter. However, I do appreciate the efforts we're all making to clear it from our streets. This year, I took part in countless litter picks around Orton. Some were arranged by Peterborough Green Party, others by local residents and there was even a litter pick around the Lynchwood Business Park organised by staff of the Marriott  Hotel (accompanied by 13 4-year-olds from a local nursery). None of those who joined in the effort to pick the litter up was responsible for dropping it. You may believe that it's the council's job to pick it up anyway. You're right, it is. But so much litter is being dropped around Orton that the council cannot possibly keep up with it. Imagine how pleasant our surroundings would be if we all picked up litter that we didn't drop. I've stopped seeing litter as simply a nuisance and started to take pleasure in helping to remove it from our streets. Why not join us on one of our litter picks in 2017 and share in the feelgood.

Julie holding vote Green banner
Thank you for voting Green

Writing for you is a pleasure. I receive a lot of emails and phone calls from residents who have enjoyed my leaflets and my blogs. It is my pleasure. I like to keep up my writing (I'm a published author and write for Nene Living magazine about the exploits of my dog!). I love conversations too and I'm looking forward to many more conversations with you in 2017.

May the 4th be with you
2016 is about to be behind us and 2017 lies ahead, full of possibility and a little bit of trepidation. There's another election on the horizon. On 4th May 2017, you will be asked to choose a mayor of the new Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Combined Authority. Although the EU Referendum resulted in a lot of turmoil at least one positive has come out of it: many people used their right to vote for the very first time in their lives. It is my dearest hope that new voters will continue to exercise their democratic right, a right that was hard won in our country and a right that continues to be denied in other counties around the world. May the 4th. I'll remind you.

Happy New Year!

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