Saturday, 11 February 2017

I'm Standing For Green Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Vote Julie Graphic
Graphic created by Twitter supporter Tin Can Storm

This blog you're reading right now is my personal blog about life as a Green Party politician living in Orton Waterville ward in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. As well as being leader of the Green Party in Peterborough with my esteemed and very wise colleague Roger Proudfoot, I'm a parish councillor in Orton Waterville and also in Orton Longueville and I'm also the membership secretary for Peterborough Neighbourhood Watch.

How do I manage to keep so many plates spinning at once? By giving up my work (I'm a confidence coach) for a couple of years to concentrate fully on community work. You may also have picked up from my other posts that I've had multiple sclerosis for 26 years. While not a 'job', MS is something I must also factor into my daily life.

My life to date has been rich in varied experiences while I've dedicated myself to furthering disabled people's rights and improving life for everyone in my community. This year, the richness, variety and nature of my life hit a new peak when Cambridgeshire Green Party members chose me to be the Green candidate to stand for election as Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough on 4th May 2017.

I'm not new to elections, pressure, representation, community work, listening or any of the traits and qualities that a politician should have. For me, this is an opportunity to do exactly what I've been doing in my local community, but even more so. That said, as responsibilities go, this is a huge one. It promises to be a bumpy ride and one that I'm very happy to share with you. I'm also keeping a detailed diary of the entire experience. I've only been writing it for a few days and already it's a ripsnorter.

Why a Mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

As part of a 'devolution deal' struck between central Government and the six Cambridgeshire councils and Peterborough unitary authority, the position of mayor has been created. You can find out more about the Mayor's responsibilities on Cambridgeshire County Council's website.

The Mayor will be selected by an election on 4th May. If you are registered to vote then you can vote for your choice of Mayor.

Important: In this election every vote will count. It is not like a general election where the county is divided into wards. This is one Mayor for the whole county and when you vote your vote counts as one vote towards the selection of that Mayor. You really do have the power in your hands this time.

There are (at time of writing) seven candidates.

I'm standing for the Green Party and there is one independent candidate plus a candidate from each of the following parties: Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservative, UKIP and English Democrat. I encourage you to find out more about what each candidate stands for before you vote.

Mayoral candidates on the cover of Cambridge Independent
There has already been some local press about the election

Why am I doing this?

The Green Party is the political arm of the 'green movement' and as such the party exists to fight elections. Our parties in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough talked to one another about this election and decided that we would stand a candidate for this reason. There was then a 'call for nominations', during which I put my name forward, a hustings (where candidates answer questions from Green Party members) and then a ballot. In the event of this election, I was the only nominee, although members had an opportunity to vote to 're-open nominations'. At the end of the process, 97% of members who voted chose me and so I was officially declared the Green Party candidate.

It's important to note that there are council elections right across Cambridgeshire this May but not in Peterborough (which is a unitary authority and has local elections in 2018). I live in Peterborough, hence I have the time and energy to devote to the campaign where colleagues elsewhere in the county at present do not. That said. I warmly encourage more people to stand for elections. It is daunting, I cannot tell a lie! But the county needs more Green voices. So if you're wondering whether you'd make a good Green Party candidate for future elections, come and speak me.

Any election gives us additional opportunities to bring the public's attention to green issues - not only issues about the environment, but social justice issues too. You already know how much I care about human rights and fairness. I'll be campaigning for these as well as campaigning strongly for environmental issues during my campaign.

Julie with Jonathan Bartley
At the launch of my bid to become Mayor in Cambridge  with Green Party leader Johnathan Bartley

What do I stand for?

The Mayor will have specific responsibilities for housing, transport and growth as key areas and the list of responsibilities is likely to increase over time. For now, you will find the list of responsibilities on the Cambridgeshire County Council website.

However, a Green Mayor will stand for much more than this. 

At the launch of my bid to become the Green Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, I listed out just some of the things that a Green Mayor stands for.

Whenever you vote Green you vote for fair treatment of
  • older and disabled people and people with long-term conditions 
  • doctors, nurses, residential care workers and people who care for family at home 
  • migrant workers on whose contribution Peterborough and Cambridgeshire depend 
  • people from ethnic minorities who are our communities 
  • people living with spiralling debt who can’t see a way out of a situation they didn’t create 
  • people who work in our public services and local small businesses 
  • single parent families 
  • people who want to get to work safely, on time and without harming the environment using publicly owned transport and transport networks that work 
  • people who live on council estates and those waiting for a suitable council house
  • people whose housing is not appropriate for their needs
  • people living on new housing estates with little in the way of community resources 
  • people who fear that are our police, fire and ambulance services are underfunded and unable to provide the level of support our communities need 
  • people who believe the current government is getting away with murder in our countryside and rural areas 
  • people who are still on the wrong side of the digital divide and people who are being isolated and left behind by new technology 
  • people on our society’s margins who are struggling to find belonging 
  • people who, for whatever reason, are forced to sleep rough 
  • people who understand that Mars is not a viable second inhabitable planet and understand why we must preserve Earth’s natural resources 
  • people of every description of sexual orientation 
  • people who wish to be married and people who don’t 
  • people who want their children to be able to attend high quality, local state-run schools 
  • people who want their street to feel safe 
  • people who want an end to death on our roads including cats, dogs and wildlife 
  • people who want a tree strategy that works for trees as well as councils and developers 
  • people who voted out and people who voted in 
  • young people who want real jobs and apprenticeships, not unpaid, dead end internships 
  • people who care about how we treat animals 
  • people who don’t want houses to be built on flood plains 
  • people who want an end to modern day slavery and sex trafficking across our region 
  • people who don’t want to pay additional charges for so-called ‘extra’ council services like brown bins 
  • people who have had enough of council inaction over fly tipping and noise nuisance 
  • people who want to get from one part of the county to another via safe, affordable public transport 
  • people who don’t want to lose our trees and green spaces to new housing estates when former council office buildings stand empty 
  • people who experience change in their mental health and deserve flexible ‘whole person’ services to support them 
  • people who are unable to buy their own home due to lack of available housing 
  • people in council or social housing who need to change accommodation but are told nothing is available 
  • people who live in streets where HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) threaten to destroy the sense of community 
  • people who live in residential homes who no longer feel part of the wider community 
  • people who prefer to cycle but don’t feel safe on our streets 
  • people affected by climate change (that’s everyone) 
  • people who are concerned about what poor air quality today means for their health tomorrow
I could easily go on but I hope this gives you a sense of what I feel this election is all about, which is making the right decisions for Cambridgeshire for all of our residents.

We will publish our full manifesto in the coming weeks. Three of the key areas are we are most concerned about are:

Accountability Greater accountability and the creation of an assembly much like the London Assembly to scrutinise the work of the mayor. We want a proportionally elected cabinet for Cambridgeshire overseen by a proportionally elected county council. We want representatives of local communities, small businesses and union reps involved to scrutinise and to make policy suggestions. We want meetings to be widely publicised, open to the public and webcast with minutes available online. As the mayoral budget and powers increase, so should the level of scrutiny and democratic involvement.

 A sustainable transport system for Cambridgeshire that works for people with two wheels and two legs or two wheels and no legs and is not all about the car.

Housing A housing strategy that doesn’t condemn people to live cheek by jowl in accommodation that fails hopelessly to meet their needs, harms the environment and makes community impossible. An increase in council and social housing in villages so that people born there can afford to continue to live there.

Where can you follow my progress?

I'm keep to keep this blog for very local matters, although I expect I will mention the Mayoral Election here from time to time. If you would like to keep abreast of my campaign to become Mayor there are better places for you to look:
Twitter:  @HowellOWGreens

How can you help?

If you agree with what I stand for then please vote for me! It would also be extremely helpful if you would 'like and share' my posts on social media. I worry that few people know about this election and even fewer care. You should care, because what the Mayor will do will affect all of us.

I also need your help to raise money stand in the election. Politics should not be only for the rich. However, there is a deposit of £5000 just to stand. I don't have that kind of money and neither does Cambridgeshire Green Party. So I have started a Crowdfunder campaign to raise the £5000. I would be extremely grateful if you would support the campaign by donating what you can and sharing the link as widely as possible:

Crowdfunder graphic
I need to raise £5k for my deposit

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