Putting the people of Sheffield Hallam before party politics
Six months ago I said to you “I’m going to fight Nick Clegg for the Sheffield Hallam seat. This is my constituency, my home, my neighbourhood and, frankly, I think we deserve better than party politics. I’d love it if you would support me. x”
Obviously, last night’s result was not what I had hoped for. I am disappointed but I am not disheartened: I’ve done my best and stood up for what I believe. I stood because I live here and I care about our home. I still live here. And I still care.
My campaign would have been impossible without you. I am so grateful to you for everything you have done. It is hard for me to describe how your generosity in time, money and effort has made me feel. Your endorsement and encouragement has meant so much – you didn’t have to do it and yet you gave without restraint or hesitation. It sounds like a politician’s cliche but it has left me feeling profoundly humbled. Your trust and faith in me has been remarkable and something that I will always treasure. Thank you. x
Vote for Something You Can Believe In
I will be your delegate in Parliament
If you elect me as your next MP, I will always act in your interests.
When was the last time you saw our MP in person? We seem very important to the parties right now but it’s been five years since the politicians last cared what we thought.
We deserve better. I am standing as an Independent in Sheffield Hallam because I want to change the way MPs work. At the end of this column I will make you a big offer, one that none of the main parties will dare to.
I am a father of two, living in Fulwood. I’m a school governor and a volunteer youth leader at my neighbourhood church. I run a small business from home and teach at Bradford university. Sheffield is my home and I care about what happens here.
I believe MPs should keep their promises. I think our local MP should act in our interests. I believe our government should protect the most vulnerable while working to create a flourishing society for everyone. Our last MP and the Coalition government haven’t done any of these things.
We need change. I believe we should be investing in our future not simply cutting costs. Austerity does not address the causes of our economic problems and it won’t create a sustainable recovery. We need to think longer term if we want an economy that is strong enough to repay our debts and provide decent public services. I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas so we need to work together for the sake of Sheffield, Yorkshire and the UK.
I will let you decide how I act
So here’s my offer. Elect me and I’ll take your views to the Government for the whole time I’m your MP. If there is significant interest in Sheffield Hallam on any issue, I will let you decide how I act. I will do the research, speak to experts and present my findings. Then I will conduct a poll to ask how you want me to vote in Parliament. Where there’s a clear majority that’s how I will vote.
At this election, we have the chance to make history and change the future. I will represent you, the people of Sheffield Hallam, not a political party. I won’t be the absent partner, taking you for granted for the next five years. I’ll stand up for you every single day. Vote for me and we can change politics, make our voices heard and our lives better.
[This article was first published in the Sheffield Star]
Let’s meet up at the Ranmoor Inn
I’m delighted to be holding a Question & Answer session at the Ranmoor Inn, Fulwood Road at 7pm on Wednesday 29 April.
I’ll be chatting about why I’m standing and what I hope to achieve. And I’ll be listening to what people have to say.
It would be great to see you there.
BBC Radio Sheffield debate
BBC Radio Sheffield have organised an election debate on Wednesday 22 April at Nether Green Methodist Church.
The BBC has excluded me from sitting on the Panel because I’m not a member of a political party and haven’t stood for election before. I think that terribly undemocratic and illustrates the uphill struggle everyday people face when trying to make a difference. It’s an attitude that maintains the status quo, a system that I believe is broken and needs radical change.
The BBC has said that I can join the audience. I’ll be going along. You can too. Please join me if you can.
You can book your place on the BBC Radio Sheffield website.
Let’s fight for your democracy and our right to choose.
Listening to people
Again and again, I have found people really eager to talk about the issues they face and their disillusionment with party politics and Nick Clegg in particular. Without the baggage of a political party, it is easy for me to relate to those feelings and to genuinely sympathise.
A couple of conversations today really stood out.
In one, I was greeted with the words “If that is another bloody election leaflet then don’t bother, it’ll go straight in the bin.” Like all the residents in Sheffield Hallam, this lady has been deluged with letters, flyers and ‘magazines’ from the political parties. The Lib Dems and Labour are spending a fortune here. And lots of people are sick to death of it. The lady and I talked for more than 30 minutes at the end of which she said “I wasn’t going to vote but I promise you I’ll vote for you. And can I have some flyers for my friends?”
Listening to people, I turned a “Not another bloody election flyer” into a “I’ll vote for you”
In another conversation, I chatted to a man with a Labour poster in his window. He knew nothing of the Labour candidate or indeed any of Labour’s policies but such was his anger at Nick Clegg that he was prepared to vote for anyone else just to get rid of him. I hear a lot of stories like that. I completely understand where they are coming from – I voted for Clegg too and will never vote LibDem again. But it illustrates a worrying feature of this election here: people are voting tactically against one party or another rather than voting for something they believe in. This runs every risk of leaving people quickly disillusioned with their choice of vote.
When people ask me, as this man did today, whether I am worried about splitting the anti-Clegg vote, I say this – rather than relying on negative voting, I want to give people the option of voting for someone they can trust, someone they can believe in, someone who will act in their interests.
Only an Independent can genuinely represent the people of a constituency. That’s what I intend to do. And that’s why people across Sheffield Hallam are saying “Yes, I’ll vote for you.”
My argument with Nick Clegg
Yesterday I took part in the only debate Nick Clegg has agreed to do in Sheffield Hallam. It’s a shame that Nick Clegg doesn’t feel the same passion for sharing a platform in his own constituency as he does for the national debates, where he’s been scathing at David Cameron’s unwillingness to participate.
Still, it was important that the other candidates and I had at least one opportunity to challenge him about his record in office.
I thought I might be overawed by the Deputy PM or enchanted by his legendary charm but in the end his wilful blindness to the problems facing us because of his Government’s policies just made me angry. I wish I’d said more and not allowed him to repeat the same falsehoods over and over again.
From his home in Putney, Nick Clegg believes that Sheffield is flourishing. But I have to disagree.
Just this week, I have spoken to a local GP whose surgery is losing £100,000s in funding and faces closure, local schools who are having their budgets slashed and, at the School Gate yesterday morning, a plea for extra donations of food from a mother who volunteers at a nearby food bank. There are so many people, a third of them children, who can’t afford to eat that the charity has run out of supplies. These are not the signs of a “recovery”, these are the signs of things going terribly terribly wrong.
As I pointed out to Nick Clegg, it’s impossible to know what’s going on, if you don’t live here.
Time and again in the debate, the LibDem and Tory candidates argued that, because of our national debt, we have to make painful cuts. But of course, the national debt (high as it is) was never the cause of our economic problems, nor is austerity the solution. That deception has been exposed numerous times – here by Oxford Professor in Economics, Simon Wren-Lewis, in the Huffington Post, and by the New Economics Foundation but the Coalition clings on to the myth faithfully. It helps them justify their savagery towards our public services.
We have to tackle the debt, but the debt as a percentage of GDP was coming down until the Financial Crisis when we were forced to bail out the banks. Since 2010, our National Debt as doubled. The Tory/ LibDem policies are not working. What’s more the Coalition’s policies are undermining our ability to tackle or avoid the same problems in future.
If we keep going this way, the Government will have inflicted irreparable harm to the NHS, education, our police forces and our local councils.
We have to stop the cuts and start investing. Only by rebuilding our economy can we afford to pay off our debts and have the public services that make all our lives better.
It’s time Westminster listened to us. I hope they hear loud and clear on 7 May.
See for yourself – you can watch the video of the whole debate on the Sheffield Star’s website
What would you like to say to Nick Clegg?
Tomorrow I will be debating with Nick Clegg about the forthcoming General Election.
In the only local debate that Clegg has agreed to attend, myself and the other candidates will have a chance to answer questions from the people of Sheffield.
Sadly, it’s not open to the public but it will be reported live on Twitter (@SheffieldStar) and later the whole debate will be published online.
You can can find out more on the Star’s website.
In the meantime, what would you like me to say to Nick Clegg?
Education Question Time in Sheffield
The NUT has organised a Question Time event here in Sheffield Hallam to talk about education. Having spent most of my career working in education, it’s a subject close to my heart.
Our ability to thrive as a modern, successful economy depends on a well trained workforce. Sheffield hospitals rely on trained nurses, and the steelworks rely on qualified engineers. Simply put, better education and training leads to a more engaged workforce in all sectors of our economy.
But more than that, learning (in all its guises) is, in and of itself, a good thing.
Education translates into personal fulfilment, a stronger, more prosperous and understanding society; cultural richness, greater creativity and innovation.
I’ll be very happy to talk about these issues with the candidates standing on behalf of the Westminster Parties. It’s an open invite. Please join us.
The event takes place on Tuesday 24 March between 6 and 7pm at High Storrs School, S11 7LH. You can book your place through Eventbrite.
Martin Bell reflects on my Independent campaign in Sheffield Hallam
Trying to be an Independent MP is a brave or foolish thing, depending on your perspective.
Tomorrow (Monday) morning on BBC Radio Sheffield you can listen to Martin Bell consider my chances as I take on LibDems and other Westminster Parties in Sheffield Hallam. The piece will air at 7.20 and again at 8.20am.
Brave or foolish, if you care about something, you have to do something, don’t you?
Out and about
From Worrall to Totley, I’ve been surprised at how much people want to talk about their concerns to me, a ‘politician’. And I haven’t been at all surprised to hear how disillusioned they are with party politics.
People want change.
And people are embracing our campaign to see that change happen. A man we met in Worrall said “I didn’t know who to vote for. I do now. I’m going to vote for you.”
People who care, want to make a difference.
Please get in touch if you want to part of what we’re trying to do.
See you in streets of our neighbourhood!
The need to be heard and understood
Today, I joined Carlton in speaking to the people of Sheffield about what matters to them. We spoke to 38 Degrees volunteers petitioning to save the NHS, and we chatted to people in Stannington too. It was absolutely clear to see how much people feel let down by politicians, and in many cases, powerless to do anything about it. Speaking to the local business owners in Stannington, we heard time and time again how unrepresented they feel, how much politicians don’t understand the needs of normal people. They were speaking about all politicians, regardless of what party they stand for. We heard about how cuts have affected their lives and how the VAT increase affected their business. We spoke to hard working people who love their city, but want to see and feel a system that is fair for all, at every level.
A problem that was raised by many was the lack of community – of young people having no where to go, and the destitution that they are facing. Shop owners mentioned youths hanging around outside their shops with no future, and nothing to lose if they turn to a life dependent on benefits, or worse, crime. They highlighted the massive structural problem that needs to be addressed in our country. The need to enforce a welfare state that is fair, but encouraging people who can work to want to be self sufficient instead. But in order for this to happen, viable jobs have to be invested in. This is an absolute necessity for the future of our country.
If nothing else, what was clear to me today is that people need to be listened to, that is what is really important. Right now, they are angry and want to be heard, and it was great to have the opportunity to listen.
The benefit of voting for Carlton as an independent is that not only can he listen, but he is free to support only the logical policy suggestions for Hallam, and this can be on a policy by policy basis. He isn’t tied to any party, he only represents the views of the people in his constituency. For me, I suggest that is undoubtedly an alternative worth fighting for.
Conviction not Conceit
Tonight I went to a public consultation about a city redevelopment because I want to learn about the processes and issues.
While I was there, I bumped into one of the city’s other prospective parliamentary candidates. After quizzing me for a few minutes, she said “Well, whatever happens, it’ll be good for your profile.”
I had to stop her. I have a job, I told her. I’m not interested in profile. I’m standing because I care about Sheffield.
She was nonplussed. It didn’t seem to have occurred to her that anyone might stand out of conviction rather than conceit.
That’s career politicians for you.
Funny business, politics.
Who do they represent?
Should our politicians represent the interests of the people in their constituency or the big businesses that donate to party coffers?
First we had the revelation that top executives from HSBC had donated nearly £900,000 to the Tory party. Last week we discovered that PwC donated nearly £400,000 to Labour. These are very significant amounts of money. Yet both HSBC and PwC have been implicated in massive tax avoidance schemes. That’s scandalous. Every pound that we lose through tax avoidance and tax evasion costs our public services. This so-called tax gap was worth £34bn last year. Just imagine how many doctors and nurses that would pay for, or apprenticeships, or how much that would reduce the deficit.
So why is it that successive government’s seem to turn a blind eye to such schemes? It would be naïve to think that these companies donate such vast sums of money to the political parties and don’t expect anything in return. These donations buy influence.
When the Westminster Parties accept such massive financial contributions, they cede power away from ordinary citizens. When the parties accept these corporate donations they stop representing the people of the UK. You can see the influence of corporate backers and lobbyists across government policy-making: it is very revealing to see how many of the politicians who decide the fate of the NHS receive funds from private health care providers.
So what should we do about it? I think there should be a cap on political donations and I think finding out who has given money to MPs and political parties should be much easier to find out.
Of course the big party machines need feeding so they’ll keep seeking big money. It’s another reason that I’m standing as an Independent – I won’t be in debt to big business: I will only work for the people of Sheffield Hallam.
I’ve had a number of emails about the revelation that HSBC has helped many wealthy individuals avoid paying tax asking how I would respond.
As the home of HSBC’s predecessor, the Midland Bank, this is a big issue for Sheffield. And it’s important to remember that the vast majority of HSBC staff work with the utmost integrity. For the sake of the diligent and upright staff, and the reputation of the financial sector as a whole, we have to address this enormously serious issue.
If the government was as concerned about tax avoidance as they are about benefit fraud then we would have much less of an issue with inequality than we do now and a much stronger economy. It’s scandalous that so many wealthy individuals and corporations who do business in the UK fail to pay a fair amount of tax while the poorest and most vulnerable are pursued with such venom.
With respect to how we might tackle tax dodging I’d suggest two things –
– that we close the loopholes that allow overseas-based businesses to avoid paying tax on their UK sales and income
– that we stop the ridiculous situation whereby commercial organisations such as banks and accountancy firms are given the responsibility to draft tax legislation and systems only to take that inside knowledge back to their clients. I think our tax rules should be constructed on behalf of the nation and in the interests of UK citizens by experts without a conflict of interest.
I believe a significant part of the problem and the reason that this issue hasn’t been fully addressed is the way political parties are funded (for example, the Tories have received £875,000 from senior HSBC staff) – Parties tend to act in, or at least protect, the interests of their sponsors rather than the electorate. It is one of the reasons that I’m standing as an independent – I want to act on behalf of the people of Sheffield Hallam rather than some corporate paymaster.
Tuition fees aren’t just bad news for students – they are bad for us all.
I’m campaigning to scrap them. For the sake of our young people. For the sake of our economy.
The disgrace of inequality
Inequality is bad for us all. Having wide discrepancies in people’s wealth is not only socially divisive and, emotionally and intellectually debilitating, it is also economically catastrophic. No society can sustain such a massive gap between the richest and poorest.
Sadly, today there is yet more depressing evidence that the Coalition’s Austerity budgets have created a massive increase in inequality in the UK.
We already know that average household incomes are still declining and that a record number of working families are in poverty.
Today’s report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation describes how 8.1m parents and children don’t have the incomes they need. The study says that the number of families with children on inadequate incomes rose by more than the between 2008 and 2013.
The Foundation describes it as “income stagnation” – it is known as hardship and poverty to you and me.
Of course the daily reality of inequality is a long way from the corridors of Westminster. This is how the government responded to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report:
“UK income inequality is now lower than when this government came into office and the recovery is being felt across the country.”
The Coalition is utterly divorced from ordinary lives.
Austerity isn’t working.
Cuts to our public services aren’t working.
If there was ever a desperate need for change it is now.
Being part of Our Fair City
I’m delighted to have become a Champion of the Our Fair City project in Sheffield. Tackling inequality is something that really matters to me – it’s one of the reasons I’m standing in the general election.
Our Fair City is a project that brings together people who “live, work, study or do business in Sheffield” in order to “make our great city a place we can be really proud of.” It’s about promoting fairness for all. The Fairness Commission has established some good guidelines for how citizens and policy makers can make the city a fairer place:
- Civic responsibility – all residents to contribute to making the city fairer and for all citizens to have a say in how the city works
- Those with the most resources should make the biggest contributions
- The commitment to fairness must be for the long-term
- The commitment to fairness must be across the whole city
- Preventing inequalities is better than trying to cure them
- To be seen to act in a fair way as well as acting fairly
- Those in greatest need should take priority
- An open continuous campaign for fairness in the city
- Fairness must be a matter of balance between different groups, communities and generations in the city
- The city’s commitment to fairness must be both demonstrated and monitored in an annual report
Our Fair City is an initiative that seeks to make our home “the fairest city in the UK” and encompasses supporters from across the political spectrum. It’s a great example of what we can do together.
Is swapping one party for another real change?
That’s what an article in today’s Guardian asks.
There’s a growing sense that Nick Clegg will lose his seat in Sheffield Hallam but some can’t see beyond the existing broken system of party politics.
There’s lots and lots of us who want better than we’ve experienced with Clegg – not just on national issues but locally too. I’m hoping people will vote positively for change rather than simply with a protest vote against him.
Just about everyone I speak to is looking for a genuine alternative. Not just replacing one party machine with another but electing someone who represents the people of Sheffield Hallam.
That’s why I’m standing as an independent.
That’s why I need your support.
Share. Donate. Vote.
The Real Alternative
I met with the independent councillor and Mayor of Frome, Peter MacFadyen, today. We talked about the possibilities unlocked by being independent. The success in Somerset offers a model of what could happen here in Sheffield.
Peter (and other local residents) stood for election because the main political parties no longer represented his home town. Not only did they win, they’ve transformed the local council through common sense and collaboration. It’s good to see how non-party politicians can make such a positive difference to their communities.
If they can do it in Somerset, we can do it in Yorkshire. Sheffield Hallam could enjoy the same free thinking, pragmatic approach to government that puts the interests of the local people first.
Whatever Westminster might say, Independents are the real alternative to party politics.
Prosperity with compassion
While 2015 might not deliver Back to the Future style hover boards, let’s hope it gives us a change of heart in government: where compassion triumphs over cuts and where plans for long term prosperity overcome petty party politics.
Let’s stop talking about cuts. Let’s grow. Let’s rebuild our economy so that it can afford the services that make life better for us all.
Standing as an Independent for Sheffield Hallam
I’m standing as an independent candidate for Sheffield Hallam in the 2015 General Election.
I’ll be fighting Nick Clegg and the other Westminster-based political parties because I think there’s a better way of government – one where policies are decided in the interests of the people rather than the interests of the parties.
I’m talking to professionals, experts and stakeholders in Sheffield to determine where the challenges and opportunities lie. I’d love you to be part of the conversation.
We deserve better than party politics. Together we can do things differently.
Would you support the campaign? My crowd funding site is now live.
Otherwise, please get in touch through my contacts page.
I live in Sheffield with my wife and our children. I run a small business here and I'm a university lecturer. I'm a member of the local church and a governor at our nearby primary schools. I care about Sheffield Hallam.
I want to represent our community.
Why I'm standing
I care about our community. I care that we live in a society that is fair and just. I believe we can grow and build a better world together.
I’ve been bitterly disappointed by this Government’s broken promises and self-interested policies.
As an independent, I’m going to fight Nick Clegg for the Sheffield Hallam seat. This is my constituency, my home, my neighbourhood and, frankly, I think we deserve better than party politics.
I am campaigning to:
- restore free higher education
- increase apprenticeships
- protect our NHS from cuts and privatisation
- invest in Sheffield's local services
- collect fair tax from international businesses
- improve MPs' accountability
- upgrade our region's transport infrastructure & services
- devolve power to Yorkshire
Let's grow our economy so that we can afford the services that make all our lives better.
I'm talking to people who care about Sheffield to determine where the challenges and opportunities lie. I'd love you to be part of the conversation.
Please get in touch through my contacts page.