Friday, 18 May 2018

More reflections on the 2018 Kirklees Elections

The headline news was that Labour has taken control of Kirklees Council as well as Plymouth. In reality Labour has pretty much had control anyway in any meaningful sense due to a politically divided opposition. Some times we have used our votes to influence Labour but generally the Cabinet System gives them a disproportional amount of power over the day to day running of the Council. This is of course compounded by the electoral system which means that Labour with 43% of the votes gets 100% of the power.

So what about the notable individual contests. We know Labour had higher ambitions than their achievements which of course is not a bad thing. Certain currently high ranking Labour Councillors had said they were going to win Newsome but of course that didn't happen. More surprising to me was Almondbury. You really got the impression from social media that Labour had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Almondbury. Shadow Ministerial visits, lots of activists flooding the place, a personable candidate. I mean with a slogan like 'Peace for Almondbury' how can you not win? They didn't and I guess all credit to the Lib Dems for holding on. I remember bumping into a now former Lib Dem Councillor who expressed what I thought was undue confidence about Almondbury, clearly he was right. So my former Kirkburton Parish Council colleague Alison Munro is the new Councillor for Almondbury. She must have worked and walked her socks off, so much respect to her in what must have been a fairly tough contest.

We heard rumours about Crosland Moor and Netherton Ward and the challenge from Mike Forster of TUSC and 'Hands off HRI' but the challenge from him fell short and he came 3rd. A consistent, dedicated campaign from a Party willing to put 2 to 3 years of quality work into the ward could take it off Labour I would have thought, as things stand given their level of visibility in the ward. But a short term campaign is not the way these sort of things happen.

A word or two about Kirkburton and Denby Dale. The Conservatives got re-elected to both with less than 50% of the vote. In Kirkburton Greens are the main challengers and in Denby Dale it is Labour. We had at one time sought an arrangement with Labour on this but culturally &/constitutionally this does not seem possible for Labour so no 'Progressive Alliance' here. Not entirely sure I like the idea anyway. Commiserations to our Kirkburton  Candidate,  Derek Hardcastle who was unsuccessful on this occasion.

Holme Valley North Ward, where I live, proved to be an interesting contest. The Labour Candidate was definitely putting the effort in and was door knocking earlier in the year than is common among many. I was disappointed to get a letter from her with an endorsement from the Independent Councillor Edgar Holroyd Doveton who said he was supporting the 'person' not the 'label'. The only problem was that he didn't reveal that the person was his partner. When I pointed this out on Facebook. I got a bit of abuse from Labour folks who equated what I was saying with 'anti Corbyn smears'  and the other bizarre comment was about a person 'not having to be defined by who their partner was'. Sure but not revealing the relationship and trying to appear objective when you simply couldn't be was obviously a mistake.

Labour won, and the Lib Dems lost both Colne Valley and Golcar Wards, which is where Labour got their Council majority. It was very close in both and the Lib Dems will be kicking themselves over what they could have done. I guess these will continue to be hotly contested Wards.

From a wider Green Party perspective I was pleased to see us achieve 8% of the vote in Greenhead and Holme Valley South Wards with no campaigning. This does make you wonder what would happen if we actually were able to put in a decent effort there. Worth thinking about.

Of course in many of the wards in Kirklees the toughest part is getting selected usually by the Labour Party and there are unfortunately no real contests in those wards. Labour had a leaflet go out in  North Kirklees wards which had an unfortunate reference to the 'Tories shitting on us' due to a bit of cut and paste from a website so I understand. Happy to agree generally with the sentiment but it just shows how unprofessional Labour can be and still get away with it. 'No one person should be blamed' for this error apparently according to the Labour Agent who was responsible for producing the leaflets. Now who was that?






Green Mayors Aplenty!

Cllr Magid Magid Lord Mayor of Sheffield

With the new Municipal Year starting it's a time for ringing the changes in our local Councils. New Leaders perhaps, new people on Cabinets and or Committees and also the role of the Civic (as opposed to elected) Mayors. Now most Greens I know never went into politics thinking of wearing the chains of office, the bling, the robes, the ceremony, the function after function hectic schedule for a whole year but most people regard it as a valuable and unique experience giving an insight into the vast amount of work carried out by volunteers in the community. Then of course there is the fundraising for the Mayors Charity.

Our very own Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner was an enthusiastic and memorable first Green Mayor of Kirklees. Where Julie and others trail blazed we now have a clutch of Green Party people taking up the Civic role this year. This reflects the growing presence and longevity of Greens in Local Government. Headlining most, and virally on social media, is Sheffield's Cllr Magid Magid, a young muslim from Somalia who came here as a refugee and most importantly is a really nice guy. It's been a turbulent and punishing few years for Sheffield Greens but this month they have notched up 1 hold with Alison Teal and 2 new  Green Councillors making a new high of 6 Greens on Sheffield City Council. I've already had a request
Magid with Sheffield Green Cllrs
from a Huddersfield School wanting Magid to speak which would probably upset a whole load of protocols about Mayors being on each others patch. So I'm guessing its not on really.

Also in Yorkshire we have our own long standing Councillor Dilys Cluer who is Deputy Mayor of Scarborough who I've worked closely with recently in Scarborough election campaigns. I doubt she thought much about civic office in her years of campaigning but next year she will no doubt step up to the top job.

In the rest of the country, outside 'Gods Own' , there are quite a number of others. Cllr Cleo Lake will be the Lord Mayor of Bristol. Cllr Susan Murray will be the Mayor of Lewes. Cllr Alex Phillips Deputy Mayor of Brighton City Council. Cllr Martin Schmeirer in Norwich. Elfreide Brambly-Crawshaw, Mayor of Beccles, In Oxford Cllr Craig Simmons is taking on the role of High Sheriff. Ron Gaffney will be Mayor of Knowsley and Cllr Linda Baxter of Stowmarket.

One light hearted theory I heard today for why we have this conjunction of Green Mayors was that the other parties are trying to tie up all our Councillors in ceremonial duties to keep us off the streets. That's not going to happen. If anything they'll be out and about seeing even more people. Good luck to them all. Enjoy your years and enjoy the adventure.


Friday, 11 May 2018

Green Councillor calls for prosecution over Newsome plastics fire


Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has called for a prosecution over a toxic fire on the former Newsome Bowling Green

"I received several phone and text messages from residents around 9.30 on Saturday 14th April morning regarding a fire and acrid black smoke from the site of the Bowling Green at the rear of the former Newsome Working Mens Club where building works are being carried out. When I arrived I saw a huge bonfire with white plastic material and an awful smell. I and a local resident took close up pictures and video from a number of locations around the site. One of the workmen approached us and asked us to stop filming as there was a 3 year old child on the site. He then pointed towards the Bowling Club where Stuart Smith was standing holding a young child. This appeared to be a bizarre attempt to stop us gathering evidence of the fire. I pointed out that this was no place for a young child or anybody with all these toxic fumes. I have approached Kirklees Environmental Services and asked them to pursue a prosecution. It is straightforwardly against the law to burn this toxic material in this way and I have had a number of people living nearby tell me they have felt ill following the fire. Mr Smith needs at some point to be accoutable for his actions. He should not be above the law."

Monday, 7 May 2018

Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Campaign reflections


I enjoyed the Newsome Campaign. There was lots of exercise delivering leaflets, we spoke to thousands of people and we had a great Candidate in our sitting Councillor Karen Allison who was defending her seat for the first time after a packed 4 year term. From an Agents point of view Karen was a dream candidate. Very active in the local community, well known and a definite 'mucker in' with lots of community activity. We had a great team of people helping us. There was the 'formal' canvassing and delivery teams but a much wider team of people from right across the communities in Newsome Ward who help us informally. There were lots of opportunities to visit cafe's and pubs following canvassing/leafleting which was pleasant and helped offset any potential benefits of hours of exercise.  So my thanks to Newsome Nosh, Scar Cafe, Cafe 8, Global Diversity, The Star at Lockwood, The Grove at Springwood and Bar Maroc (Huddersfield's Premier Moroccan Theme Pub) in the Town Centre. If you've not been to any of these places please do. We liked them.They are all generally locally owned and managed and so all the better for that.


Polling Day Fitbit report
Elections are pretty much a 'full on' experience. Lots of leaflets to write, produce and deliver, thousands of doors to knock on and people to speak to, posters and stake boards to get to your supporters, poster boards for lamp posts to put up and handling all the additional casework your activity generates. Of course none of this activity happens in isolation, there are other people in other Parties doing pretty much the same things to a greater and lesser degree. Some of those people are going about their activities in a positive fashion and some others are prepared to use any means to try to beat you and have malevolent intent. We've had a bit of the latter in this election in the Newsome Ward The wilful misrepresentation of our budget amendment in the Labour leaflet was particularly disappointing but had little impact. One person contacted us about it. We explained in detail why it was woefully inaccurate and he said he would vote accordingly.

Another tactic Labour used was to put out a last minute 'attack' leaflet the day before the election entitled 'Greens waste your money'. This leaflet referred to a project to carry out wildflower planting on Whitehead Lane and said the money would be better spent on services for vulnerable/poor children. It also commented on the fact that children in poverty in the Newsome Ward were having to be supported by voluntary organisations to pay for meals outside school term times. Our Candidate Karen was very aware of this having spent many hours helping out with the Worth Unlimited project in Lowerhouses which we guess they were referring to. This valuable work has been succesfully supported by a range of sponsors such as the Town Foundation and philanthropic local companies. You could argue that it shouldn't have to be, but it is. The wildflower project itself was much more than Labour described in their leaflet. There are links to a project helping people with mental health difficulties. The money itself could not be spent on services as it was 'one off' funding. There was also an ongoing benefit as the land itself, on a roadside verge would no longer have to be on a grass cutting programme and so would reduce ongoing revenue costs for the Council. The point of putting out an inaccurate knocking leaflet the day before the election is that it cannot easily be responded to. They knew what they were doing.
Some of the Newsome Green Campaign Team

A particular annoyance this time was the
'trolling' of myself and Karen by a particularly obnoxious Labour Canvasser on Twitter. His general theme was that we were rubbish Councillors because there was lots of flytipping in the Newsome Ward and yes there is and yes we report it and we get involved with and organise large scale community clean ups to try to deal with it. He could equally have gone across the ward boundary into Crosland Moor and taken pictures of flytipping there and come to the conclusion that the Councillors there were rubbish as well. The only problem would be that they would be Labour Councillors and that wouldn't fit his rather twisted narrative. We were also supposedly 'in it for ourselves' and they were 'doing the Greens job for them' (I have screen grabs) I've got to say that if I was motivated by money I wouldn't have joined the Green Party and I wouldn't be involved in local politics. This guy doesn't know me, has never spoken to me and all he has his own beliefs and prejudices to 'inform' him.

We got reports from several people about their encounters with Labour Canvassers on the doorstep who were 'bad mouthing' us on a regular basis. All the potholes were the Greens fault as we were spending money on wild flowers not the roads (see earlier point) they also seemed pretty nonplussed on local issues on the doorstep themselves when asked about them. The problem they had was that many people had quite a positive experience with us and yes there are always going to be some people who are not our 'fans' as in any Ward in Kirklees but people across the communities of Newsome Ward generally thought we are doing a good job. Hence the result I guess.

We weren't short of social media opportunities to comment on the Labour Campaign in Newsome but generally resisted the temptation. A Labour Councillor's tweet about their Candidate litter picking in Rawthorpe - no comment from us. Even when the ink fell from Labour Candidate's posters in the rain did we say 'Labour Campaign fades' or 'Running for office'  no we didn't.

There was quite a roll call of Labour Councillors (at least 7) who got involved to a greater or lesser degree in the Labour Campaign in Newsome including Councillor Mus Khan (Dalton) who seems to have been the 'brains' behind their operation, and of course Barry Sheerman MP and his team. Now they are perfectly at liberty to do so in a democracy like ours and yes we were flattered by the attention but if I was in the Labour Party I would have thought twice about putting my name to a campaign like this.

Of course some of the characters involved in the Labour Newsome Campaign are big fans/disciples of Jeremy Corbyn and given some of his predecessors you can understand why. With any Messiah though you can't pick and choose which 'Commandments' you do and don't follow. One of his earliest lessons to the faithful was to "treat people with respect" and to "Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics". I've been around in the political world for some time and I am more than happy to take on these sort of people but I don't see why my colleagues like Councillor Karen Allison should have to. So some of our team were not particularly looking forward to encountering these Labour activists at the count. I decided not to engage with them at all which seemed the most sensible thing to do (and not like me at all!) 

Now I'm not daft enough to think that the actions of these particular Labour members represent the Labour Party as a whole. There are Councillors and activists in the Labour Party who I respect and who would not behave as poorly as these people did. I like to think that the Labour Candidate has just been poorly advised about what is an acceptable way to behave by certain individuals and that perhaps she might have learned from the experience. The decisions made in  Labour's Newsome campaign were made by individuals and the campaign they ran reflects their own 'values'.  Principally that 'If you're not with us you're against us' or more specifically if you're not in the Labour Party you must be wrong or have suspect motivations.

Despite all this I did enjoy the campaign. We did a lot of things differently and better than we have done before, we built on our already strong links in the community and we were better organised and we involved more people. So onward, and finally here's the sense of satisfaction you get when you decide to block a social media troll.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Local Election Message from Karen Allison


A Local Election Message from Karen Allison

Newsome Ward - Thursday May 3rd

Dear Neighbour,

Thank you to everyone I have met during this election campaign for the warm reception I & the Green Party Team have received. It is great to know we have so much local support.

Whether it is standing up against sky high rises in burial fees or standing up to those people who seek to profit from the destruction of community assets such as Newsome Bowling Green, it is Green Party Councillors who stand up for and by local people.

I have lived in Newsome for over 20 years & I work with a wide range of groups in the Community such as Worth Unlimited in Lowerhouses, Newsome Ward Community Forum, Newsome Scouts & I am also a School Governor at Hillside Primary School. In my role as a local Councillor I have taken up hundreds of individual concerns on behalf of local people.

Kirklees is a hung Council with no Party having an overall majority. This means Green Councillors can use our influence on Kirklees more effectively on behalf of local people. If Labour get a majority on the Council then local people will have less leverage over decision makers on issues such as development on our local green field sites.

Other parties may claim to ‘work all the year round’ but only the Green Party Team locally really does, with our regular newsletters, advice surgeries & New Year’s Day Bus Services.

Please use your vote to re-elect me to Kirklees Council on Thursday May 3rd.

Yours sincerely






Karen Allison


P.S. – It is the votes of local people that ensure we can work effectively on your behalf. Please use your vital vote to help us keep working as a strong team for our area.


promoted by Andrew Cooper on behalf of Karen Allison of 76 Brockholes Lane, Holmfirth HD9 7EB

Thursday, 12 April 2018

We’re backing Karen Allison! - Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Ward


A message from Caroline Lucas Green Party Leader


I urge the people of Newsome Ward to vote again for Karen Allison as one of your local Councillors. Karen is a strong advocate for the local community. Her hard work and dedication as a local Councillor for the past 4 years and as a community activist for over 20 years mean she’s invaluable as a champion for local people, and her voice on the council really makes a difference.
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party Leader


I’ve known Karen for over 20 years & was so pleased when she was elected in my place 4 years ago. The last 4 years have shown Karen take to the role ‘like a duck to water’. She has got stuck in with local activities and taken up 100s of local concerns. She really deserves your vote on May 3rd.
Graham Simpson of Taylor Hill
  

Karen is not the sort of Councillor who just sits around in meetings. She has put a pinny on & got stuck in helping with our lunch clubs in Lowerhouseses regularly. We need active people like Karen who do positive things for the community representing us on the Council.  
Wendy Marsden of Lowerhouses

  
The Green Party are the only people who really get involved in local issues. We know we can rely on them and they don’t just appear at election times 

Karen Hobson of Primrose Hill





Karen has adapted to the role of Councillor extremely well, and
taken her responsibilities very seriously over the past 4 years.  Karen has a deep affection for the Newsome Ward, having lived here for over 20 years. She has a great passion for all the communities she represents.  Karen has a good balance of intelligence and creativity, which means she gets good results for people who ask her for help.  She is a pleasure to work with, and I hope the people of Newsome Ward will support her to continue her great work.  - Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner


Karen is really active in the Newsome Ward and has helped lots of
people in the local community with all sorts of problems. She is really approachable and committed as a local Councillor. She is involved in loads of local groups and we can always rely on her to support and get involved in local events. We need to see her re-elected on May 3rd
Danni Jones of Newsome

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Statement by Cllr Andrew Cooper on misinformation in the Labour Election leaflet in the Newsome Ward


There is a disappointing and misleading attack on the Green Party in the Labour Party Election leaflet in the Newsome Ward.

There is a statement in the leaflet which says,

“I would rather the elderly and disabled were cared for than £4.5 million spent on electric vehicles as was proposed by Newsome Green Councillors budget amendment”

The £4.5 million we identified in the Council Budget was not being used by the Labour run council to fund services for the elderly and disabled nor could this particular source of funding be used in this way.


The Labour Cabinet said that this funding was to be spent on Regeneration projects mostly in this financial year. Officers informed us that there was no way that that Labour could spend the money they had allocated in the time they had identified.

The Green Party proposed to use the funding to replace Kirklees vehicles which were reaching the end of their useful life and would have to be replaced anyway.

The £4.5 million was Capital (non recurring) funding which could only be used once and so could not be used to fund council services for the elderly and disabled anyway.

As Electric vehicles require less maintenance and have lower running costs the Green Party amendment would actually save the Council money against the ongoing costs of continuing to use petrol and diesel vehicles.

With Air Quality being such a hot topic in the Huddersfield area this was a way of Kirklees showing leadership on reducing air polluton. So this was very much a public health issue as much as it was an environmental one.

The Labour Deputy Leader who was leading on the Kirklees Budget had indicated that the electric vehicles part of the Green Party amendment would be acceptable should Labour not get their budget passed in the Council’s Budget meeting and should they need Green Councillors support to get their budget through.

We are aware that the Labour Councillor for Dalton and Cabinet Member Mus Khan is involved in the Newsome Labour Candidate's campaign and we believe she has been poorly advised. Labour Cabinet members should be well informed about the realities of the Council finances and so we can only assume that this attack is a deliberate attempt to mislead electors.

It is disappointing when these sort of tactics are used. It doesn't help people's faith in politics and politicians as a whole when some parties have to resort to misinformation in pursuit of votes.