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?