Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Stoke-on-Trent and raised in nearby Newcastle Under Lyme. My upbringing was in a working class family, my Dad is a retired railwayman of over 30 years service (17 on train crews) and my Mum had various part time jobs like working on a stall in Tunstall market. One of my grandfathers was an engineer, the other a signalman on the railways. As a child our family travelled around by train and bus, and didn’t have a car until I was about 12.
I was lucky that I was one of the last students to get their university fees paid for by the Local Education Authority, and I received a student grant. Otherwise I would not have been the first member of our family to go to university. I came to Leeds in 1990 to study Politics & Sociology, and never left! In 1994, after being unemployed for a while and working voluntarily for six months, I got a job at Leeds City council. I’m still there and now I’m a manager in the ICT department. I am currently a full time trade union Convenor for UNISON which involves dealing with serious cases and negotiating with the employer.
I’ve also lived in the USA for 6 months, and I married my American wife in 2010 in Leeds. We live in an ordinary house with two of my three stepsons, three cats and our dog.
What do you enjoy doing?
I love watching and playing football, that’s a major passion. But I like most team sports, and watch rugby (both codes), cricket, and American Football to name but a few. I must confess to being a Stoke City supporter due to where I was brought up, because it certainly wasn’t for the glory! I don’t get back to see them too often these days as it is very expensive, and there are other priorities when raising a family. I do take an interest in the happenings at Elland Road because I live close by, and I think Leeds Utd is a big club and a city like Leeds should have a team playing in the top flight. Plus it would be a close away game for me! I also like grass roots football, and try to get along to Farsley Celtic when I can.
Other passions include music, particularly Northern Soul. I enjoy a good walk in the countryside, especially in the Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, and the Scottish Highlands. We are lucky in Leeds to have so many wonderful green spaces, and I really love simple pleasures like taking the dog for a walk in the local park or woods.
Why do you think you would make a good Member of Parliament for Leeds West?
Thanks to my upbringing and where I was raised I’m an ordinary down to earth person who hates injustice and unfairness, and roots for the underdog. I also think it means I can understand the experiences of people from all walks of life. I am someone who wants to make things better for the majority of people. The very wealthy will always be able to look after themselves, it is the rest of society I am concerned about, especially the most vulnerable members. I am passionate about the things I believe in, and think it is very important to have principles and be honest. Not a trait that most people think of when they think about politicians! I believe if you are going to do something it should be done right, and I’m my own biggest critic, so I’d work very hard for the people of Leeds West.
I have campaigned for the Green Party in the wards that make up Leeds West since 2008, talking to people on the doorstep, delivering leaflets, and seeing what case work the councillors have been picking up. So I think I have a good understanding of the particular issues facing the area, and the problems that people are facing in general at the moment in these times of austerity. I’m not a career politician who has been to Oxford or Cambridge universities. Leeds has been my home for 27 years and I care about the area. I haven’t just been “parachuted in” to stand in a safe seat. I’m just like the majority of the constituents, going to work each day, supporting a family, trying to get by with the rising cost of living and pay freezes. My current job requires excellent customer care. As a trade union convenor I am used to helping members in difficulty. I’ve life experience. So hopefully the residents of Leeds West will recognise someone they can relate to.
What would your priorities be for Leeds West?
We need to get quality jobs in the area that people can build a life on. There is a growing renewable energy sector and huge opportunities to get skilled work improving the energy efficiency of our homes. Building new affordable energy efficient homes, both social and private, will create jobs for builders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other tradespeople. So too would bringing up the older housing stock to more energy efficient levels. As well as creating jobs, it would reduce the cost of energy bills giving people more money to spend, and reduce the carbon emissions to tackle climate change. We need to make sure young people have worthwhile and rewarding careers. Leeds was once a proud manufacturing hotbed, and we need to look to invest in green technologies to create new manufacturing jobs in this area. At the same time we must ensure that public services are properly funded so people get the support they need when they need it.
Why the Green Party?
Many years ago I was a member of the Labour Party because I thought it represented ordinary working people and stuck up for the most vulnerable in society. I feel that is no longer the case and all the three main parties are much of a muchness with little to distinguish them from each other. By contrast the Green Party has policies and principles that put people and the planet first. Green politicians have to work hard for their communities to get and stay elected as we don’t have big backers with lots of money to spread our message. The Green Party cannot take your vote for granted. But politicians working hard for constituents should be the norm not the exception. That’s what the public deserve but often don’t get from the other parties.
I joined the Green Party for two main reasons. Firstly it’s the only party that really takes seriously the dangers of climate change and has policies to tackle it. If we have a planet which does not support human life in a century or so, everything else is irrelevant. The other parties talk about environmental action but then press ahead with things that waste our finite resources and continue to damage the environment. Secondly Green Party policies are also based on social justice, working for the common good to make things fairer and improve the lives of the many not just the wealthy few. The Green Party has a strong emphasis on protecting those people in the greatest need.
The more I looked at Green Party policies, the more I liked. People do like our policies when they hear about them. It is just so difficult to publicise our views as we don’t have millionaire donors, trade unions, friendly media sources, and corporate funding like the other parties do. We rely on local members and volunteers on the doorstep and delivering leaflets. So I encourage you to look at our policies more closely too.
Do you live your green principles?
With two teenage lads it is hard to be green! I’m always nagging them about wasting electricity and following them around switching off electrical items. Plus they can be wasteful which is something Tina and I both can’t stand. But I had the house double-glazed, insulated the loft, and installed an energy efficient combi boiler a few years ago to reduce my carbon footprint and energy bills. I wish I could insulate the walls but as the house is old it doesn’t have the correct wall cavity to be able to insulate it and at the moment we can’t afford other options. Our electricity and gas supplier is a small eco-friendly company, not one of the “big six” and both our electricity and gas comes completely from renewable energy sources.
We compost food waste, recycle things in the green wheelie bins, plus I take glass and drink cartons to recycling points. We have reusable shopping bags to avoid using the plastic bags given by stores. Neither Tina and I are materialistic so we don’t go in for consumer goods in a big way, preferring to spend any money we have left after bills on experiences like going out to the countryside for a walk. We are both fans of independent, vintage, charity and local shops rather than large chain stores. I have been a vegetarian for nearly 27 years and I’m slowly creeping towards being vegan. All our family cats and dogs are rescues.
With a family it is hard not to have a car, but I bought one that has a small engine and gives good fuel economy. However to get to my job at the council I typically walked or took the bus. My current role with the union unfortunately involves a lot of driving. As the son of a railwayman, until my early twenties I travelled around on the train and I have happy childhood memories of rail journeys to several summer holidays in Devon. As a result I love trains and use them whenever possible for longer journeys. I wish they were cheaper as taking a family is way too expensive. I also cycle but not as often as I should, it’s time I got back once more to regularly cycling to work as I do enjoy it and it kept me fit.
We all can and should do our bit as individuals to help the environment and fight climate change. But ultimately it’s governments and big business that can make the real changes necessary to tackle a massive global problem. That’s one of the key reasons why I’m in the Green Party and standing in Leeds West.