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
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.