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East Lincolnshire Green Party


Geoff Barnes

Green Party parliamentary candidate for Gainsborough

I was born and grew up on Merseyside during the economic recession of the 1980s. I obtained a degree from Kent University in Politics and Social Policy and I have Masters degrees in Social Research, Environmental Policy and Public Health. I moved to Lincolnshire in 2008 when I was appointed Deputy Director of Public Health for the NHS in Grimsby and I have been acting director of public health for North East Lincolnshire for three of the last four years. I immediately fell in love with the county and its beautiful environment and I now consider this area to be my home.
For me the Green Party has answers to the problems that other mainstream parties cannot or will not face up to. It firmly rejects the marketisation of healthcare which has been pursued by Labour and Conservative Governments with disastrous implications for health and the NHS. It supports the development of an integrated and regulated public transport system which will ensure that people across Lincolnshire should once again have decent public transport services at reasonable cost. Perhaps most important of all it is looking to break our dependence on carbon for energy which will have such disastrous implications in the future due to climate change by investing in new forms of energy and ensuring that our homes are much better insulated. The Green Party is also a party of its members and is not developing policies on behalf of wealthy corporations or individuals who seek to buy influence.
I live in Market Rasen with my partner, two step children and baby Winston. If elected I would campaign for improved public transport improvements in the Gainsborough constituency and more community health services which outreach into people's homes.


Opening and closing speeches by Geoff Barnes at the Market Rasen Hustings, 27th April 2015

Opening

Hello my name is Geoff Barnes and I am the Deputy Director for Public Health in North East Lincolnshire. I was born and grew up in Liverpool and have lived in Lincolnshire since 2008 and in Market Rasen for the last year.

Over recent weeks many people have asked me why I am putting myself through the stress of standing in this election on top of a busy full time job and a baby that will turn one next week, in a seat that has only elected 3 different Tory individuals in almost a century. The answer is that many people have told me that the views I will express in the next few minutes are their views and they don't feel that any other parties in England give expression to these views. But rather all the English parties are signed up to a political paradigm that market is good, public sector is bad and the pursuit of economic growth should be at the heart of government policy no matter what the consequences are to the environment and human wellbeing.

I have much to say about health, housing and transport but I expect that there will be questions related to this in the course of the next hour so I am going to use my 5 minutes to address 2 critical issues that show where the Green party differs from other parties represented here.

The first issue is the great swindle of austerity which has managed in just seven years to transfer vast swathes of the nation's wealth from the middle classes into the hands of the wealthiest people in our country. In that time the wealthiest individuals have doubled their wealth, last year more than a thousand London bankers received bonuses over a million pounds. These in many cases would be the same banks that were bailed out at the cost of tens - or was it hundreds of billions of pounds, with cross party support in 2008. Isn't everyone delighted that banks have returned to their old habits as if nothing had happened? It is the young in our society who are bearing the brunt of this epic failure of government. Our young people are being given a choice at the age of 18, either to try and make your way in the world and if you're lucky get one or more jobs on minimum wage and probably on a zero hours contract in order to scrape a living. Or take your chances in university and emerge 3 years later with 50k of debts and still no guarantee of a decent job. How on earth did we allow things to go so wrong in the space of a generation?

The answer lies in the doctrine of privatisation which was pursued virulently between the 1980s and the mid 90s and at every possible opportunity since then. During this period the wealth of the nation has been hived off. Housing, energy, water, railways, buses, you name it, it all had to go. Former Tory prime minister, Harold MacMillan, who if he was still alive today would be being labelled as a dangerous lefty by the Daily Mail, at the time bemoaned that his Conservative party successors were throwing away the family silver as he called it but was dismissed as yesterday's man by the new breed of Tory MPs that Thatcher brought in.

Truth be told one generation did ok from this firesale in the short term but in the long term it is banks, multinational corporations and the wealthy who have benefited. Today 80% of former council houses are owned by private landlords, many of whom own hundreds of properties, only a tiny proportion of shares of the former nationalised industries remain in the hands of small shareholders. Nothing has been learned, in the last four years we have seen the sale of Royal Mail at a knock down price.

With most young people now having little hope of getting on the property ladder the myth of the great property owning, shareholding democracy has been shown to be just that.

The Green Party will put an end to tuition fees, put an end to zero hours contracts and will ensure that the minimum wage is replaced by a living wage. We will also build thousands of social houses in our towns and cities to give young people access to a good home.

My second issue is climate change. It is depressing that an issue of such importance has played such an insignificant role in political debate ahead of this election. Though many choose to live in denial the simple fact is that almost all the world's leading climate scientists believe that we are on a trajectory that will lead the earth to disaster by the latter half of the century. We have to wean our way off carbon based energy systems or there are people in this room, though perhaps not on this stage, who will live to see this disaster.

Unfortunately this issue is not being taken seriously by anyone up here. Across Lincolnshire nothing quite unites Tory and UKIP politicians like their objection to wind farms, yet just a few miles up the road the councils on the Humber bank are falling over themselves to bring renewable energy jobs to their area. No chance of that happening in West Lindsey with the attitude of the council here.

Then we have fracking. The nightmare of fracking now threatens many parts of Lincolnshire cheered on by home counties MPs who would be horrified of it coming to their countryside but reckon those up north should be grateful. Are we not content with destroying the face of the earth that we are now planning to blast the earth beneath our feet to smithereens leading to minor earthquakes and threats to public health. It is demeaning and ultimately disastrous. We are behaving like a man on the street so desperate for a nicotine fix that he will dive in and scrape the bottom of the litter bin looking for dog ends.

All 6 of us up here were lobbied by Greenpeace and dozens of constituents to make a commitment to fight fracking and none of the other candidates have made that commitment. I make that commitment, the Green party makes that commitment.

So in the course of the next hour I hope I can convince you that if you want a change from the norm, if you want to give hope to our young people and if you care about the future of the planet you'll be voting Green next week.

End

Closing

Opinion polls are suggesting that Green Party ideas including ending the privatisation of the NHS, re-establishing a public railway system that puts the needs of passengers rather than shareholders first, forcing corporations and the super-rich to pay a greater share of their income, re-regulating the buses and building more social housing in our towns and cities rather than opening the countryside to ever more sprawling private housing has widespread support in the population.

The Green Party is also now the third biggest political party in terms of members in the country and it is the members that almost entirely funds the activities of the party, unlike the Conservative and Labour Parties who are funded heavily by corporations, wealthy individuals and unions, all of which expect to get their pay back if when their government is in power.

Unfortunately due to the arcane electoral system that operates in this country there is a perception that in seats like Gainsborough there is no point in voting for anyone except the major parties.

I would argue that it is in seats like Gainsborough which have been ignored by government for too long because Conservative Governments think they'll always win there no matter how little they do for the area, whilst Labour governments think they'll never win there no matter how much they do for the area. I work in Grimsby and it is interesting to see how the possibility that for the first time in 80 years they just might elect someone other than a Labour candidate, has galvanised political leaders and suddenly Grimsby's issues have been brought to the fore and promises are being made.

So - if I have convinced some of you tonight that the Green Parties values are your values, that the Green parties policies reflect what you would like to see happen in the country, then please vote for hope, vote for vision, vote for the common good, vote Green on May 7th.


Geoff's Blog

Until recently I was a public health director in a unitary council with some of the worst health inequalities in the country. It is a geographically isolated sort of area whose economy had been destroyed by 40 years of economic decline and neglect by central government. It was not hard to see that one of the most important issues for the social and economic regeneration of the area was transport. Beeching had cut its most important rail link in the 70s, bus deregulation in the 80s had left the area at the mercy of a single major provider that has quite simply cut routes and priced out a large proportion of the population, rail privatisation led to further cuts to services and overcrowded trains even though fares have risen far above inflation year after year. In addition there has been little investment in active travel so walking and cycling have remained very much a minority pursuit and the substantial benefits to health and well-being that come from active means of transport have not been realised.
The one transport mode that has received substantial investment is of course (no surprise here) roads. For more than half a century road transport has been seen as the panacea for an area's ills. And despite the fact that time and again major roads have failed to bring the economic regeneration that was promised, government (central and local) remains as firmly wedded as ever to the notion that the route to economic prosperity is through ever more road building.
Thankfully the Green Party will offer a different vision at the coming general election. Amongst our proposals are an Active Travel Act, similar to one which was introduced by the Welsh government last year. This Act will ensure that active travel considerations are firmly built into the planning system. Therefore new housing proposals will have to ensure that there is access to public transport and good routes for walking and cycling. Much better urban design will ensure that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are high priorities creating more pleasant and safer environments for walkers and cyclists. There will also be many more 20mph zones in our towns and cities. This will cut deaths and injuries on the roads and also persuade more people to take up active means of travel as fear of accidents reduces.
The Green Party will re-regulate the buses. Ever since deregulation in the 1980s there has been a continuous decline in the number of people using buses except in London which was of course exempted from bus de-regulation! Bus timetables currently serve the interests of the bus companies, not the interests of passengers and many routes have disappeared altogether whilst evening buses are now rare except in large cities. This makes it difficult for people without access to a car to obtain jobs away from their home towns.
Of course one of the most reckless pieces of government legislation in the last 30 years was the railway privatisation bill in 1993. This bill was pushed through a dubious parliament by John Major's government in the 1990s despite the fact that British Rail had by that point become one of the most competitive and cost effective national railways in the developed world. Just as with the recent Health and Social Care Act this piece of legislation was pushed through Parliament despite the fact that almost all experts said that it would lead to a poorer and more expensive service which is exactly what has happened. Today the taxpayer provides a £4 billion annual subsidy to the railways, twice the figure pre-privatisation, and to add insult to injury around £200 million per annum goes into the pockets of railway company shareholders. In addition Britain has the highest fares in Europe, with fare rises above inflation in almost every year since privatisation. As with so many government policies of the last 35 years, railway privatisation has made some people extremely wealthy whilst leading to poorer and more expensive services for the population at large.
Fortunately the Green Party, unlike all the other parties is offering a solution to this. On Friday February 27th Parliament debates the second reading of Caroline Lucas's (Green MP for Brighton) Railways Bill. If successful this Bill would require the Secretary of State to assume control of passenger rail franchises as and when they come up for renewal and would ensure that railway policies and services meet the needs of public and passengers rather than shareholders Unfortunately it will not become law this time as it will not get the support of the Government whilst Labour do not seem too sure what their policy on the railways is. But it has put the future of the railway industry firmly back on the map. At protests held at railway stations across the country on February 27th people are demanding that the railways are brought back into public ownership.
Finally in this blog I wanted to highlight the fact that climate change is likely to lead to the need for more radical transport solutions in the not too distant future. A friend in the East Lincolnshire Green Party has given this issue a lot of thought over recent years. He has a vision for an ultra light railway network which will require minimal energy to run and will be an opportunity to revive some of the community rail links that were lost in the post war era. If you're interested in reading about this then go to Biff Vernon's blogspot and read up about Zing~The Ultra Light Railway.
Caroline Lucas's Railways Bill.


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