Monday, 17 June 2013:
Calder Valley Labour Party: Questions for the candidates
The HebWeb posted seven questions to the candidates shortlisted to be selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party. Here is response by Josh Fenton-Glynn.
Firstly I would like to thank Hebweb for asking me to write this post and get involved in discussion around a set if really important issues. It’s also great to have an opportunity to communicate with both Labour supporters and those who are thinking about supporting Labour about what I stand for and what kind of MP I would make.
1. What steps would you encourage a Labour government to take to bring down unemployment and revitalise the economy?
For the last few weeks I have volunteered at the newly opened food bank at St Mary’s Church Todmorden. It’s simply not on that in 21st century Britain, people have to rely on hand outs just to eat. It’s a critical example of how this government’s policies supported by our Tory MP are failing ordinary people across the constituency.
We need a real alternative that shows people how we will practically create jobs and make those who have the most pay their fair share - and not just because it will help us in an electoral sense but because it’s the right thing to do . A jobs guarantee is the right thing to do – people are better off in work than on the dole. A living wage would mean people who are in work can makes ends meet – I know from my work at Child Poverty Action Group that – two thirds of kids who live in poverty have at least one parent in work.
I want to see Labour talk about a new industrial strategy – especially when it comes to green and sustainable technology. It’s perverse when the second fastest growing area of our economy is environmental sector that the government sits back and watches as our European neighbours invest and we fall behind. We should also be looking to ensure there are a guaranteed number of apprenticeship places with every public sector contract.
Growing up in Calder Valley I’ve seen a lot of people who I went to Calder High with leave the valley to start families because there is not enough affordable housing available. Meanwhile we spend £23bn a year on housing benefit and the Tories, including Craig Whittaker, have responded by bringing in the bedroom tax. A programme of house building – in consultation with local communities – would create jobs, training and secure homes, while lowering the overall housing benefit bill. That’s just a common sense policy to me and should be one of Labour's priorities.
2. Climate change is extremely important to voters in Hebden Bridge. What would you do to urge a future Labour Government to take?
The environment is one of the most pressing issues facing us over the next 10 years. Tackling the issue makes economic sense as well as ensuring we preserve the planet for future generations.
As I’ve said I think we need to focus on environmental technology and renewables – there is no reason why we shouldn’t be a world leader in these fields. We also need to reverse the huge cuts in higher education funding which will make it much harder to drive innovation through research.
The floods show us why we need to take extreme whether associated with climate change seriously. It’s not abstract to people here.
3. The Tories seem to be following the UKIP agenda over Europe. How should the Labour Party respond?
We should have an honest debate about Europe but in my experience, when Europe comes up on the doorstep it’s often more about immigration than anything else. That’s something we can’t shy away from because when we do UKIP and the far right benefit. So I would start by tackling the underlying insecurities in people’s daily lives - the undercutting of wages by unscrupulous employers, a lack of housing and poverty pay. When people are secure in their own lives, they are less likely to be worried about immigration.
And that’s where we have to trumpet the good Europe has done in that respect. I work for a trade union, I see the improvements to people’s lives that European policy has made – from rights for agency workers, the right to guaranteed time off and maternity and paternity pay; I’m pretty sure the Tories don’t want out of Europe to give us more rights at work here!
4. Estimates of the cost to replace Trident vary but it is thought to be in excess of £100 million. Could this money be better spent?
Yes. It could.
As a basic principle, I don’t think the world will be a safer place the more weapons of mass destruction we have. I can’t see a time when we would ever use a weapon like that and it is anoutdated response to the modern threats we face.
We should scrap Trident and invest that money in our economy and in education. That sort of money could provide big infrastructure projects for Calder High and Tod High, for example.
I will add one consideration though. We can’t do to other communities what Thatcher did to pit town and villages. We will need to invest in the local economies of areas that rely on building Trident, people’s jobs and livelihoods are sometimes overlooked in the debate.
5. Britain is now an ethnically diverse nation. How should a future Labour government approach the issue of immigration?
I welcome a more diverse society and I challenge anyone to go into an NHS hospital and leave telling me immigration is a bad thing.
However, as I said earlier, we have to recognise that people are worried about immigration as an issue. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that goes away.
When I first campaigned against the BNP in Halifax in 2001, one of the major themes wasthat people (wrongly) thought ‘immigrants’ were getting access to social housing while they weren’t. That points back to insecurity, lets extend the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority to areas like construction to stop the undercutting of wages; support a living wage so working people can make ends meet; build houses and create jobs – I think that’s the best way to tackle the issue of immigration.
6. To what extent should Britain become involved in the Syrian conflict?
I campaigned against the Iraq war in 2002 and I don’t think anything has happened since to make me think I was wrong to do so. Arming Syrian rebels will lead to more weapons in an unstable region. I would like to think we have learned the lessons of the past.
7. If selected as candidate, and if elected as MP, would you be prepared to engage with your voters on the HebWeb Forum?
If I’m elected as an MP I will engage with people wherever they are. Hebweb is a fantastic resource, I’d be delighted to engage with your readers. If I’m selected, I also want to use social media to build a dialogue with people across the constituency – we can use online and social media to bring politics and elected representatives closer to people’s daily lives. That can only be a good thing.