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A Spectacular Result for the Green/Libdem Partnership

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Another election fought and another campaign behind us n Cherwell

It was very solid result for the Greens in Kidlington East with a convincing second place well above Labour and a tripling of our 2016 vote. Moreover a spectacular win for my electoral partner, Libdem candidate Alaric Rose in Kidlington West who nearly doubled the Libdem vote and completely wiped the floor with the Conservatives!

It would have been great to have won my seat as well, but with such a short campaign it was hard to get the message out to enough people.  Ultimately it was a total validation for both of us of our decision to work together for the common good.

Slightly galling that the Carmen Griffiths kept her seat as I understand she was hardly seen on the campaign trail. She wasn’t at the count, didn’t make an appearance on polling day (to my knowledge) and instead sat back and let local Tory cult figures like Maurice Billington do all the campaigning for her.

Judging by her attendance record at council meetings this seems to be a pattern of behaviour for a pretty lacklustre councillor.  I think many of the voters in the ward didn’t actually know which blue candidate they were voting for and seemed oblivious to the fact that there were more dedicated candidates on offer who would much more effectively represent them in Cherwell.

Perhaps when Carmen and her remaining Tory colleagues fail to turn up at other key planning meetings and the green belt is concreted over, bringing with it traffic chaos, pollution, and the collapse of local infrastructure, all those that trooped into the polling station to dutifully put a cross in the Tory box, regardless of the candidate, will realise their mistake.  It might be a bit late then though.

One other stark reality from the results is that if Labour had endorsed me (as we suggested) and we had endorsed them in one of the North Oxfordshire wards (as we offered) we would both have easily won our seats, meaning a new Labour, Green and Libdem seat on the council and 3 Tory losses instead of 1. Just imagine what sort of message that would have sent out! Especially on important and urgent local issues like the building on green belt in the area.

Labour really need to wake up to the reality of fractured left politics in this country and work with other parties like the Greens and the Libdems. We need to stop living in the past and embrace the future. There’s more that unites us than divides us and if we’re going to stop yet another Conservative government in 2022 we must start building alliances. If anyone from Labour wants to talk, I’m all ears.

In the meantime I intend to go on being a thorn in the side of Cherwell’s complacent Tory leadership and will be working closely with Alaric as part of our pre-election co-operative agreement.  I may not be able to vote on council matters, but I can certainly speak up in the council chamber and outside in the media.  I’ll be fighting hard on local green belt and conservation issues and keeping a wary eye on the attendance record of my Tory opponent.  The Greens will be fighting the elections in the ward once again next year and I hope that will again be in partnership with the Liberal Democrats.

Finally a big thank you to everyone who voted for me and to the dedicated people who helped us pull together such a professional campaign in such a short time. the Greens made historic gains across the country yesterday and I think it’s a credit to all our members that we can do this stuff on such a small budgets and with small teams. Just think what we could do in government!

Stay tuned and follow this website/blog for updates on what I and the Green Party will be doing between now and the next elections.

VoteGreen#2019

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Save Banbury’s Phone Box Library!

Who’d have thought that a small but effective local community initiative in an Oxfordshire town would attract such global attention?  The Banbury Phone Box Library is one such brilliant piece of local engagement which is now garnering international attention as BT looks towards chopping it off at the knees.

The red phone box is almost as iconic as the red bus as a national symbol of Britain around the world.  You’d think if you were company who owns and operates these highly visible pieces of cultural capital you’d be only too pleased to see them being involved in well supported local campaigns that add value to a service that is perhaps not as loved as it once was.

In that context it seems daft to me that BT are hell bent on annoying small and large communities across the country by removing public call boxes where they’re valued for numerous reasons other than a quick natter on the phone.  It’s even more self-defeating that they’re erasing some of the very symbols of Britishness that have helped them build a world class multi-national company.

It has to be said that the Town Council in Banbury share some of the potential blame if the box is removed, as they are refusing to adopt it (something that BT now allow for the princely sum of £1), if BT go ahead with plans to decommission the phone service in the box.  Previously they struck a deal with BT to adopt the box and save the library and a local steel fabrication firm offered to fix permanent shelves in the box to house the books to assuage BT’s prior objections to the library service on health and safety grounds, as they believed the current shelving arrangements could be dangerous.

BT now claims that it is uneconomic for them to continue to run the service anyway, even though I understand thousands of calls were made from it last year.

The under-story seems to be that BT want out of the call box game at any cost, and most of that cost will be borne by local communities using the boxes for a number of vital social services or simply to make a call when other options are not available to them.

Banbury Town Council now say that they’re not prepared to adopt the box if it is then decommissioned by BT.  Whilst I support taking a stance against the loss of the phone service, I think it would be a sad loss to the community of the box were to be removed as a result of the Town Council refusing to adopt the box itself.

Moreover, If BT are claiming the box is loss making, I think it would be useful for them to provide the figures backing that up. It would at least give us an idea of the likely shortfall which could perhaps be covered in some other way.

It’s also crazy that BT are missing this as an opportunity for some very positive PR. It has to be said that they’re not universally loved as a company, so something like this, that is fairly minimal in cost terms, would seem to be a great way for them to connect with the community.

Going forward perhaps the government needs to bring in a legal requirement on telecoms companies like this to provide a certain number of public call points in an area. Just because most of us carry mobiles now, doesn’t mean that sometimes they might not fail at a vital time, or have been forgotten when they’re most needed.  I know BT used to be obliged to seek permission from local or parish councils in order to remove a box, but it sounds like that requirement has now been watered down.  In very rural areas mobile phone reception is also notoriously patchy.  In those areas call boxes provide a vital service for emergency calls.

In terms of usage statistics, it might also be interesting to track the number of calls made against the minimum price of a call in a phone box, which I understand is now 60p. Perhaps BT need to be reminded of the law of supply and demand.

If you’re on Twitter you can follow and support the campaign to save the Banbury Phone Box Library by following the hashtag