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.
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.
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.