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Cherwell’s Conservatives Conflicted on Green Issues Yet Again

During Monday’s full council meeting, Cherwell District Council voted unanimously to support a motion calling on the doubling of tree cover in the district by 2045.

I introduced an amendment to the motion calling on the council to be more ambitious in its proposals and to achieve the doubling of tree numbers by 2030 in line with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.

Speaking during the debate, I disagreed with Conservative claims that the 2045 target was the only one that was achievable and that the council should only aim to double tree cover “as far as possible”.

We have declared a climate change emergency.  Emergency measures call for committed and ambitious actions, not vague aspirations and get-out clauses.  The climate takes no prisoners.  It doesn’t care what we think is possible, it only responds to what is needed.  We need to move faster and be more ambitious in our climate change mitigation measures and take into account the impact of all council policies on climate change

My amendment was supported by Labour and Independent members, but was blocked by the Conservatives (as usual).

As if to prove the point, in a later debate on the main modifications to the local plan partial review, campaigners from North Oxford Golf Club pleaded with the council to protect their 103-year-old club grounds from proposed development.  This would include the destruction of a large number of trees.  The Council’s proposals also call for the release of yet more green belt land and the virtual erasure of the previously sacrosanct ‘Kidlington Gap’.

Labour and Libdem councillors opposed the motion along with me for the Greens.  The proposals were agreed with all but one Conservative voting them through.

Yet again we see Cherwell’s Conservatives talking the talk on climate change, but when it comes to positive action they default to business as usual

It makes no sense to anyone other than Cherwell’s Tories to propose a measure to increase tree numbers in the district in one motion and then vote in the very same meeting to destroy hundreds of mature trees in the face of massive opposition from local residents and environmental campaigners.

It’s clear from this, and from the lack of any solid progress on the climate emergency proposals 6 months on from passing them, that Cherwell’s Conservatives simply want to box-tick the climate change issue, whilst pursuing broader policies on unnecessary growth that will be hugely damaging to the environment.

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Thanks Again

So ends my third and final candidacy for the Banbury constituency.

In a way I’ve come full circle in that my result this time was almost identical to my first one in 2015.  I was only 79 votes short of that figure this time with a final result of  2607 votes, giving me 4.1% of the vote share.

In 2015, I received 4.6% with only a slightly higher number of votes, but the turnout was lower then. Sadly this left me about 500 votes short of keeping my deposit this time, which means the Green Party loses £500, but we did our best.

Screenshot_2019-12-13 Banbury (UK Parliament constituency) - Wikipedia

On a personal level I’m fairly happy with that result.  It was more than double the last time I stood and represented a 2.2% increase in my vote share.  That’s the best increase of all the Green Party candidates in Oxfordshire, so that’s nice to have.  You have to look for the positives in these things!

Unfortunately though, positives on a national level are thin on the ground.  With a massive swing to the Tories representing such a shift in our national political landscape, I’m far more concerned about that than I am about my own result.  This is something I’m still processing at the moment as I’m sure many others are.  I have to say I’ve avoided news coverage of the election today as it is just too painful!  Maybe sleep deprivation has played a big part in that as well!

Where we go from here is difficult to say.  I think it’s fairly certain that Brexit will now happen, which I think we will mostly live to regret.  The debate around the referendum has become so polarised now that I’m not sure anyone really knows how we got here.  It’s become an argument about ‘honouring’ a vote that many people no longer really know the point of.  From most of the coverage I’ve seen it’s become about who ‘won’ and who ‘lost’.  It should never have been boiled down to such a simplistic argument.  Especially as I think most of us will eventually be the losers from Brexit.

The “Get Brexit done” slogan is also an absurd reduction of the true impact of one of the most seismic shifts in our fortunes since the second world war.  I still don’t think it’s something we should be treating so lightly.  With so much new information available to us now compared to 2016, we should have had an opportunity to think again.  Just ‘getting it over with’ really isn’t a logical motivation for carrying on with something that I think will be hugely damaging to this country and our economy.  Especially as the poor and the disadvantaged will end up feeling the most pain, which makes it doubly frustrating when so many news reports seem to suggest it’s those very people who voted Tory in this election.

Those of us on the remain side obviously haven’t made a strong enough case to those who seem so eager to jump into the abyss.  Boris Johnson’s lies will, I believe, show themselves to be exactly that when we finally push the button on Brexit.  Sadly it will be too late then to say I told you so to all those who think this will be a positive move.

The climate debate was for me equally as important as Brexit and bound up in the same argument.  This also applies to the other burning issues in the UK at the moment, including the NHS and public services.  I believe we will spend the next 10 years wasting parliamentary time dealing with the intricacies of extricating ourselves from the EU and negotiating disadvantageous deals with countries like the USA, when we should be dealing with the existential threat of climate change and the collapse of our health services.

The other issue exposed by the result is the desperate need for electoral reform.  Westminster has still been carved up by the two main parties who need so few votes to get a seat in the big house.  Whereas parties like the Greens with over 800,000 votes nationally only get on MP.  That really doesn’t make sense and certainly explains why so many people think that voting is a pointless exercise.  Moreover we need to have greater co-operation between parties to achieve electoral reform.  I hope that the one positive that might come out of Labour’s terrible results might be that they will finally be open to talking to other parties about co-operating towards that end.

But I will do what I can to help deal with the worst damage that Brexit and climate change will inevitably do to our society both locally and globally, even though I fear that, with at least another 5 years of majority Conservative government ahead of us, that’s going to be a very difficult task.

It’s not one that I will shirk from though, and I will use my position as a local councillor  to bring as much influence as I can to bear on what will no doubt be many more Tory excesses and attacks on the weakest in our society.  With a Tory dominated District council in Cherwell it’s always an uphill struggle to ‘move the dial’ but that’s not a reason to give up and I won’t be doing that.

Finally, an enormous thank you everyone who helped in my campaign and to everyone who contacted my directly, and through social media, to give me encouragement and support, and of course thank you for giving me your precious vote.  I can assure you that I value it enormously and it was not wasted.

For reasons I’ve explained in another post, no vote you believe in is ever wasted, and in terms of the Green Party it will help us carry on campaigning and, most importantly now, hold the national and local government to account on the environment and climate change.

The fight continues!

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Farming, The EU, The Expressway and Why You Should Vote Green [Video]

Spent the early morning yesterday in Otmoor being interviewed by the BBC about our policies on farming, food standards and stewardship of the land.  Lots to say on this, but as always happens with these things, a 10-minute interview gets condensed into a 10-second comment!

On the way back we passed several signs on field gates warning about how the area is under threat from the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.  As someone who’s been involved in the campaign to stop this ridiculous and unnecessary development I thought I’d add a few more comments by way of a video and also expand a bit on what the Green Party would do to protect our vital green spaces.

This is something I’ve been involved with for a number of years now, right across the county, trying to combat the epidemic of projects that want to destroy these areas in the name of profit and greed.

Yes we need housing, but it has to be the right housing in the right places.  Building on green belt will never be viable in terms of affordable housing as the land is so expensive.  Developers build in a set level of profitability, usually a staggering 20%!  That means that removing protection from green spaces like these just increases the number of high value, unaffordable houses being built.

Not only that, concreting over green spaces means they can no longer lock up the carbon that we need to reduce in our environment, and they also increase the likelihood of flooding as they can no longer absorb the increased level of rain we’re getting as the climate patterns shift.

The Conservatives back all these projects because they are there to help wealthy landowners, developers and investors make a fat profit out of our rural heritage.  As your MP I would resist all these projects, just as I now resist them as a District and Parish Councillor.

Greens CAN WIN

As we’ve just seen in Wallingford, where another Green councillor has just been elected to the county council, Greens CAN WIN and we WILL WIN if people get out and give us their vote.  Even if I don’t win in Banbury, a significant increase in the Green vote there will send a strong message to government that we demand change.  An increased Green vote will be a visible signal of that, whereas another ‘heroic defeat’ for the other parties will get lost in the usual fog of post-election reporting.

Now more than ever we need a strong Green voice, for the environment, for our future and for our children’s future.  Please vote Green on December 12th.