Last night I had my first hustings for the Westminster campaign. I’m standing in Edinburgh North and Leith for the Greens – my first time running for elected office. It was a great night and huge thanks are due to the Pilton Community Health Project who put it on. Check out their brilliant work here.
I talked about the Scottish Green Party’s vision for an economy for the people and a society for all, and set out our three big themes for the election;
- Equality not Poverty: £10 minimum wage by 2020 and a citizens basic income for all
- Public services in public hands: nationalise the railways and protect public services like the NHS from privatisation, including through TTIP
- Power to communities: more powers for Scotland and for local communities to have greater control over energy, land and public spending
You can read my opening gambit here if you want to hear more about Green ideas.
A few things struck me about the evening, on the place, the people, the questions and the candidates. The place was amazing – the Royston and Wardieburn Community Centre. It’s a stunning new building which was hard won by local people after about a decade of campaigning. The centre is home to local food projects, sports and community health and education projects as well as events last night. I was hugely impressed with the place and with the people who were so passionate about what they’ve built there.
The people were a good solid North Edinburgh crowd – politically aware, pretty left wing, anti-cuts – but what really struck me about them was their passion for democratic change and their determination to protect the local community projects from cuts. Like many other great projects, a lot of local work will face funding cuts and other changes following City of Edinburgh Council’s horrendous £28 million of cuts to next year’s budget. (for what Greens would do differently, see our alternative budget here)
There were some great questions, from the opener of “I’m a socialist and I’m against Trident. Do you agree?” to how we’d push forward local democracy and from how to tackle food poverty and get away from blaming immigrants for everything to TTIP and the dangers lurking in this shady trade deal. (By the way, I’m also a socialist and against Trident, for local democracy and against centralisation, totally opposed to TTIP like all Greens, and reckon anti-immigration rhetoric and policy is a misplaced reaction to poverty which has to be tackled through more better paid jobs, a living wage and a citizens income for all)
Interestingly, there was no Lib Dem on the panel tonight but we were joined by the UKIP candidate, Alan Melville. His presence surprised me, not because I hadn’t expected the party to take part in hustings but because I hadn’t previously put a face to a name. It was only upon walking in to the room on the night that I realised that Alan Melville is the very same guy who, over 10 days in September, swore and spat at me on an almost daily basis as I ran the Green Yes Tardis on Leith Walk. So the next few hustings should be interesting!
Anyway, it was a good start to the campaign proper. Thanks to PCHP, the good folk of Pilton and the other candidates for keeping it civil and interesting!