11 February 2014

Wythenshawe and Sale East - eve of poll

The Green Party doesn't generally do very well in by-elections. The Labour Party and UKIP will have spent ten of thousands campaigning here and I think that we will have spent around £1,000 after paying for our £500 deposit. Indeed, we have only ever held our deposit twice in by-elections, at Haltemprice and Howden in 2008 and at Norwich North in 2009. Therefore to save our deposit in an election where we've not stood a candidate since 2001 and where our local election would be an exceptional result.

What I am very proud of is the campaign that has been run by Margaret Westbrook (2009 Euro candidate, Trafford Greens), Nigel Woodcock (candidate) and their team. With very few resources they have been vocal and fought for media time, often in a very uphill struggle. Despite the floods and climate change being right at the top of the news agenda now, more often than not, Nigel has been bracketed in with the BNP and MRLP, rather than the other four. However, he was able to take part in the hustings and put the other candidates on the spot about fracking and climate change.

The current floods in Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset are entirely commensurate with climate change caused by global warming. It is what we – and climate scientists – have been expecting and predicting for years. And now the shocking reality is upon us. This isn’t just happening in the UK. Australia has just had its hottest year ever with appalling bushfires. Other parts of the world have seen the same. 10 out of the 16 years since 1998 are ranked as the hottest years ever recorded globally.

Now that the flooding threatens the home counties and fields of Eton, David Cameron has said that “money is no object”, but this is a problem that is the result of a failure by the Conservatives and Labour during their years in power. For deprived communities in the north, money has not been on the table and I can't help but get the feeling that communities in the south west must be angry that it is only when the home counties experience the flooding too, that this government even takes notice. So far our governments have failed to invest in renewable power technology on an industrial scale, and continued to support our addiction to fossil fuels.

What we need now is a promise to rule out fracking, which threatens to poison our water supplies, wreak havoc in our countryside, and pump more greenhouses gases into our atmosphere. That is before we mention yesterday’s explosion in the United States at a fracking well which has caused the loss of at least one life. Who stands against this? The Greens.

We need a promise of investment in energy efficiency, insulation and warmer homes for the least well off, rather than tinkering with the price freezes and expecting privatised companies to sell less energy. We need brave policies like a re-nationalisation of the energy market. Who stands in favour of this? The Greens.

The people of Wythenshawe & Sale East know that they will wake up on Friday morning with a Labour MP. UKIP have thrown the kitchen sink at this campaign, but a candidate that took money from the EU and whose bankrupt business owed you and I (via the taxman) £22,000 was never going to seriously challenge here.

So on Thursday people will vote for business as usual, a protest vote with no coherent policies other than ranting against the EU / immigration or do something really positive by voting for us. The Green Party has consistently raised the alarm on climate change and our need to tackle this in a way that ensures social justice. Nigel Woodcock has been the only candidate willing to oppose fracking, as he did again at the hustings on Monday, at St. Paul’s Catholic High School in Wythenshawe. When he asked the other candidates to comment on the link between climate change and the floods, they all chose to remain silent.

People in Wythenshawe and Sale East can vote Green tomorrow for the Common Good. Our big challenge is the European Elections, where 8% or more should be enough to win our first Euro MP seat in the North West (we got 7.7% last time). Thanks to the efforts of the team there and the media coverage they have generated, we'll have moved a little bit closer to that.

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