Middle Yellow: An Interview with Local Lib Dem Candidate, Jo Waltham

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Now I know what you think; I’ve got red on me, politically speaking. Really! I’m just trying to know what’s best for everyday people, and my family. Truth is I could clash an orangey colour (no, not skin tone, do I look like Trump?!) I’ve added a hint of yellow in the past but they sold my vote to the Tories! It’s unforeseeable today the Lib-Dems would form a coalition with the blues, being their opposite position on Brexit; which blows my primary concern, and angle of this interview. Do I care? I’m going to ask about coalitions anyway, intending to question the name “Democrats,” when their stance on Brexit is to remain, and well, that’s hardly democratic being the slight majority voted to leave, but most importantly, the scope and support for this middling party in a left-right divide epoch.

Yep, I’m having a cuppa in New Society again, politically flirting with another candidate. This time I’m somewhat cagey, considering the Nick Clegg era, only to find myself thoroughly supportive of another pleasant, and local lady, Jo Waltham. Meanwhile pressure amounts in messages about interviewing Danny. He seemed up for it via email, so I fired some questions and await his response. Though have you noticed a fantastic number of little yellow signs this election, perhaps more than usual, and on land too? It’s getting exciting, as far as politics does, when our landowners seem keen to make a change.

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Rurally then, does Jo think they offer the best deal for small local businesses and agriculture, as generally they’re the safest Conservative slices in previous years.

“In previous times yes, I think they would have been,” Jo stated, “but I think the Conservative Party of 2019 is very different from previous years.” She suggested there was, “a lot of in our manifesto for small businesses.” Jo herself runs a small website design business in Marlborough, “so I certainly understand the sort of issues small businesses have. I know the changes in the IR35 legislation are creating a lot of concern, and trading with the EU. The power of the internet means it’s been easier to trade internationally, so leaving the EU will impact small businesses as much as bigger companies.”

“With regards to rural affairs, I think for the farmers, naturally they’re equally concerned about leaving the EU and losing the funding they rely on. They worry about lowering of food standards in a trade deal with the US, and how that might impact them,” she expressed, and I had to drone about the dreadfulness of that outlook. “It is a major concern, so obviously the Lib Dems are fighting to stop Brexit.” Jo predicted at tomorrow’s NFU hustling the majority of questions will be what will happen when we leave? “My simple answer is let’s not leave!

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It all boils down to Brexit doesn’t it, the anger in confusion when we should really be prepping for joy to world and the peacefulness of Christmas. I stressed purposes of being here was to keep issues local, but suggested we get the big one out of the way. “I feel there’s two big ones, or maybe three,” Jo interjected, “it is about stopping Brexit, it is about climate change, and it is about investing in public services.” Time then to throw in my sold my vote to the Tories whinge and see if Jo thinks the Lib-Dems would consider a coalition with anyone else. “Andrew Neil was pressing Jo Swinson on this point again and again, and I think she was incredibly clear, that if we end up in hung parliament territory, we will vote on those policies that we agree with and won’t on the ones we don’t. So, we would vote on for any policies that come through, like the people’s vote, votes for sixteens, allowing EU nationals to vote, all of those things we agree with we would vote with, whatever party get them, but I don’t see us in a formal coalition with Boris or Jeremy Corbyn.”

Here’s the point in our nice chat when I questioned this “democrat” namesake hardly being democratic when the slight majority voted to leave. I’m asking for it, I know; time to munch the freebie biscuit! “It’s a fair question, lots have been asking it, it’s absolutely fine,” Jo laughed it off. “Basically, when you write a manifesto, you’re writing for what you’re going to do if you win a majority government. If you don’t win you can’t do those things. If we won, we would take that as a mandate to do what is in our manifesto, that’s why we revoke, because we’d take this new mandate as being acceptable to do that. Obviously, it’s sadly unlikely we’d get a majority government, but who knows? Still a week to go, otherwise we continue to campaign to get a people’s vote. We would have to think what would we do if we did get a majority government, would we then go back to negotiate a new deal, which we don’t believe in, and don’t want, we couldn’t, it’d be a mockery of the whole system. So, the idea is if we did win, we would need fifty percent of the vote because the first-past-the-post system and that would be a mandate to do what we said in our manifesto. Any majority government would.”

“Also,” Jo snapped, “I find it frustrating it’s regarded as the remain parliament which is stopping Brexit, when isn’t it the ERG who voted against Theresa May’s deal, isn’t it even Boris Johnson himself who voted against her deal? If they voted for it way back when, we’d be out by now! It’s not the remain parliament, you can’t expect people who don’t want to leave to enable leaving, but you should expect people who do want to leave, to enable leaving, and they didn’t!” She is critical of this first-past-the-post system and used the confused reasoning behind the referendum result as an example, stressing a key Lib Dem policy is to change to a proportional representation system, “so every vote does matter, and people will be engaged with the process.”

I have to wonder if the importance of Brexit to the masses or to the party is the reason why it’s above environmental issues on the manifesto guide on the menu of the Lib-Dem website, but it’s time to quote our previous interview with Emma Dawnay, who said no mainstream party is doing enough to tackle the issue. Jo agrees with this, so I asked for the party’s stance. “We need to get started now,” she expressed, well, we needed to get started thirty years ago, but c’est la vie!

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“There’s talk about the Conservatives saying 2050, Labour is saying sometime in the 2030s, and Lid Dems are saying 2045.” I had to chuckle despite being the fate of the planet we stand on, as it’s symbolic of this straight down the middle approach. I mean, I like if it’s multiple choice on a TV quiz show to opt for the middle question, but this is a smidgen more serious. There is no date, there is only speculation and scientific evidence, and it’s not good news. Much as I’m enjoying our chat, here’s the issue, just as Labour and definitely Conservative, where I quiver at pondering the divide between talking the talk and walking the walk.

“What is critical, the Lib-Dems have introduced some interim targets,” Jo explains, “because it’s not only about how much CO2 emissions we have each year, it’s the cumulative total. So, since the industrial revolution we have emitted about 1,500 billion tonnes of CO2, which has led to 1% of warming. Which means if we want to limit it to 1.5% warming, we’ve got about 750 billion tonnes of CO2 left to emit. We’re currently emitting it at about 50 billion tonnes globally. So, if we rapidly start reducing that now, get it down to say, 30, even, that gives longer before we get to that 1.5. So, that’s why it’s about the cumulative total, and getting started is more important than that net-zero. By reducing now, it gives longer to solve the things which are more difficult to solve. One simple Lib-Dem policy is to have 80% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. That will be challenging, but it’s doable. It’ll make a huge difference because if you think about our energy, everything else comes onto it, like electric cars, the only point in switching to them is if we getting electricity by the renewable sources. Then there’s also reducing the gas and electricity we’re using to heat our homes and public buildings, so we’d retrofit insulation, particularly people on income support.” Jo suggested it’s a win-win, for environmental and poverty issues.

Jo stressed encouraging more to use public transport is tricky, locally, “but there’s things we can do to improve that, Lib-Dems are investing to improve our bus and rail networks, we’ve a fund earmarked for it.” It’s a point I need to return to, but Jo continued about encouraging local government to take more action. Proudly she cited Wiltshire Liberal Democrats who implemented a zero-carbon strategy together, and who proposed a climate emergency motion to the oppositional Wiltshire Council, “and much to our surprise, it passed! But they’ll need money to implement the changes we need, and a Lib Dem government would help fund local councils to take part in those local initiatives.” This led onto us both criticising the Conservatives for lowering buying tariffs, signing of fracking, “they’re doing the wrong thing about climate change,” Jo exclaimed.

Locally, I asked about the tactical vote being a grey area, being while Lib Dem come second more regularly, Labour did last time. Why would anyone risk their vote on yellow? “If you take Wiltshire as a whole, we have twenty-two Lib-Dem councillors and three or four Labour ones. So, there is a strong Lid-Dem vote in Wiltshire, you only have to look at the five 2019 local by-elections, Labour stood candidates in only two, Lib-Dems in all five, Conservatives won two, Liberal Democrats won three. Where Labour did stand, they came fourth. The Devizes Town Council election in February, won by Conservatives, we lost by something like seventeen votes, it was quite close, then Iain Wallis, then a tie,” she contemplates, “wasn’t it, between The Guardians and Labour, but the main point was, they were fourth or fifth.” If your response is voting is different in general elections, Jo offered, “Yes, they do, but we can only go with the information we’ve got.”

More stats about EU elections followed as I refilled my cup! Given these, Jo pondered, “I think, we’ve got a good bit of data which suggests Lib-Dems are the tactical vote here. I was encouraged to look closer at the local demographic, and who we need to change their vote, suggesting they need to switch the Conservative voters. “Moderate conservatives, probably voted that way all their life, are remainers, and actually have a lot of liberal core values; who are they most likely to vote for, Labour or Lib-Dem?” Yet Jo stressed their growing numbers include some who switched from Labour, which was fortunate as her campaign manager joined us moments later, who I happen to know was a former Labour supporter!

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I asked about the Lib-Dem stance on our gypsy and travelling community, after Priti Patel’s recent proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments which to me, sounds like legislative cleansing. Plus, of course, would put further strain on housing. Jo stressed she was unaware of a particular policy, and although she circled the question, the result expressed a Lib-Dem vision of tolerance and equality for all, “helping everyone live their life in the manner of how they want to live it, regardless of race, gender and sexuality.”

This point brought about discussing the LGBTQ community and the terrible trend in opinion regressing to abhorrence, generally. I asked how they’d deal with making them feel safer and more respected. Jo was firm on this, “we don’t tolerate it. We should not tolerate the intolerant, at the end of the day.” This change in values, which we both saw as corrupting raised Jo’s thoughts of the 2012 Olympics, “how as a nation we felt so different, to how we feel now, and that’s due to Brexit, and popularism and hatred coming into our politics.” Interestingly, and allowing a little background on our Lib-Dem candidate, Jo expressed this was her reasoning for coming into politics. “I’m standing because I’m standing up for the reasonably-minded, ordinary person. If you’d asked me five years ago if I’d stand for parliament, I would have really laughed, really laughed!”

“Basically, it’s a case of I can’t stand what’s happening, not just Brexit, it’s about the tolerance, openness. Therefore, I find myself standing in what seems to be the craziest thing for me to do, but here I am. All it takes for evil to flourish is for the good people to do nothing.” I agree, it was an eyeopener for me to read right-bias critical of the celebration of the NHS portrayed in the opening ceremony. See, I like Jo, I like the way she opened up about her motivation; all three candidates I’ve talked with have convinced me politicians are human. I confess, if many see me as a leftie, as I begun this article, I’m just hunting for what’s best. I accept conservative theory has its place in the debate. That there’s nought wrong with upholding the pleasanter sides of tradition and hierarchy, but I honestly cannot see this ethos inherent in the current cabinet.

Then I suggest, if you cannot stomach leftism, you could at least meet in the middle, a Conservative-lite! Rather than this far-right leaning, of which I challenge you to find me an example, historically, where its ever done anyone any good, ever. And that’s reason to consider yellow this Christmas, I think.

In this middle-ground defying moment, I returned to the notion of Devizes Parkway train station, which all parties seem in agreeance in supporting. Reason being, Labour manifesto calls for scrapping the HS2 in favour of fixing and opening local lines, and nationalisation would make it rail travel affordable, while the Conservative are gung-ho on HS2 and give little response to improving local lines. The Lib-Dem manifesto states they’d cap ticket prices, which would retain price, and support both the HS2 and the repair of local lines. I find it symbolic of this middle-ground ethos, and question the expression; you can’t please everyone. Where would the budget come from to go ahead with both rail propositions? “We had this £130 billion budget which is coming from borrowing, because interest rates are low, we may as well do the investment. As long as you’re borrowing to build something it’s okay, so we’ll use the money to invest, because we need to; to negate climate change, to boost the economy.”

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We certainly do, and with the election date coming upon us like the speeding train that never was here in Devizes, Jo Waltham and the Lib-Dems thoroughly deserve your consideration. I sincerely thank you for your time Jo and Lisa, it was a pleasure to meet you and wish you the very best of luck.


For our interview with Racheal Ross, Labour: Click Here. 

For our interview with Emma Dawnay, Greens: Click Here.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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An Interview with Green Party Candidate Emma Dawnay; from Dinosaurs to Economic Bubbles!

Ah Silbury Hill, mound of mysterious meaning. Yet most plausible, visually, is the pregnant belly of Mother Earth. A burial mound akin to the womb-shaped West Kennet Long-Barrow, both symbolic of the body returning to the earth, at a time when we worshipped the physical things we could see; the sun, moon and Earth. Science proves we decompose; we’re a product of the planet. Yet with climate change we argue if we’re responsible, or nature; as if we’d sue if she did it! Why have we detached ourselves from nature, it cannot be justified by the laws of man? Why are we even wasting time debating this while implementing doable solutions should be the priority? Is there something we could learn from our ancestors? I put it to my elevenses invitee, it’d be a no-brainer for ancient pagans, they’d vote for The Green Party!

Poor Emma Dawnay, our Green Party candidate, she thought she’d come to New Society for a standard campaign interview, instead she got my insane ramblings! But she nodded, “yes, most people, I think,” she approved, “feel we’ve disassociated ourselves with nature, that we can somehow control nature and manipulate it, but actually that’s not the case, we are part of it, and if we don’t change our ways, it’s going to get the better of us.”

I’m liking Emma already; she accepted my folly. After an hour of discussing environmental issues on both international and local levels, I reckoned I could’ve chewed her ears off for another few. I even took it to the next level in suggesting if dinosaurs could’ve known their fate, and had the means to prevent the asteroid hitting Earth, they wouldn’t think twice, or argue about it, they’d stop it, because that is nature’s way, a defence mechanism. It’s as if humans have lost that basic mechanism, we have to sort this problem out regardless of the political things, or costs in our way.

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“We managed to develop the scientific understanding of how things work enough to see we now have a problem. We have solutions, it’s so frustrating we cannot implement them,” Emma reacted, “we have been doing a little, but not enough. With the 2015 Paris agreements, those commitments needed to be five times higher to stay below the 1.5% warming, we’re not on track to reach our 2023 target.”

So, let’s rewind this back to the beginnings of our interview, because we’ve received a few whinges that Devizine is getting political, despite you know no one locally will cover this election in quite the same bizarre manner. And I apologise for not attending the husting, through fear of either dosing off or spouting some rubbish about dinosaurs! I’m not politically motivated, you see, but confess I’m enjoying one-to-one chats with our local candidates; let’s see how I fair with Danny next week!

So, it’s another cuppa with another candidate; I’m such a political flirt! Emma though, from a hamlet near Marlborough is perhaps the most intriguing character among our chosen four. For I spend our time trying to decide if it’s politics or environmental campaigning which drives her motivation most.

 
The extent of my scrutiny was to breeze through their manifesto, from it I asked Emma if when the party makes such claims as they’d have 70% of the electricity via wind power by 2030, have they been researched fully and ensured it’s possible. “Yes,” Emma responded, “We absolutely believe that we need to decarbonise as soon as possible, and the IBCC reports have given us lead when this needs to happen by, we need to turn the economy around in the next ten years. We have some amazing experts to work out what we need to do, they are looking at what’s possible offshore and on shore. I think the big problem is going to be training up enough people to do the work. You can’t just say let’s build, without the people trained to do it.”

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Does Emma think any of the other parties will achieve the needed targets. “The other parties are either totally thinking the old way of thinking, that we can only do it if the economy is working, or else they’re, like Labour, coming around to our way of thinking,” Emma replied, stating she was unsure if they were “completely there yet. The Liberal Democrats want to make sure the deficit stays down. If we only do what’s possible from the economy point of view, you end with climate destruction. We think we need to do what we need to do from the climate, or planet’s point of view, so we don’t get devastation, and if that means more borrowing then so be it. But let’s make sure the future of the planet is saved, rather than an economy.”

Unsure how she’ll take my notion that in an ideal world we shouldn’t need a green party at all, that all parties should be putting environmental issues as top priority. Not worth having policies if you’ve no planet to conduct them on; that’s the logic. Emma was concerned Labour have “watered down” their targets, once similar to the Greens. I asked if this was pressure from the oil and gas companies. “Might be pressure from the unions, worried about losing jobs in old industries,” Emma interjected, “but our argument to that is actually, the amount which needs spending on building renewables, insulating people’s homes and electrifying transport, that is going to generate many new jobs.”

We talked over lack of funding for companies creating renewable plastics. “We want to get more localised banking enabling lending to these sorts of enterprises, because that’s really important too.” I asked Emma if she’d like Claire Perry’s job, or if it’s a scapegoat position! I mean, it’s not for me to sing Claire’s praises, as she sings her own on these apparent climate triumphs, then she signs off fracking, but I wonder how much her arm was pushed to do that, from these companies. Emma agreed, “a lot of the large donors to the Conservative party have interests in fossil fuels, and that makes a difference. She had meetings with the fracking companies off-record, what’s that about?! Why are we allowing these companies access to our governing ministers, it doesn’t make sense to me?”

Still unconfirmed if she’d like Claire’s job (!), but my aim for asking was building to the question of coalition. I mean, if, god forbid, I was in charge, I’d reason The Greens are the climate experts, allow them to take that ministry role. Emma explained they don’t have a whip, their MPs are allowed to vote with their conscious, probably making it difficult to join a coalition formally, because I can’t imagine our MPs following a Labour whip. So, we’d certainly support any party which is doing what we believe is important to do, but it’s more likely to be informal.”

 
Keen to know if Emma cringes when the focus is on other issues, like Brexit. After all, Mother Nature is not going to spare us if we leave, or if we stay in the EU! “We’re wasting so much time discussing Brexit,” Emma clarified, “when we should be turning our economy around, to be low carbon. It is such a pity, and horrible the way it’s made people so polarized. It is a big distraction. Personally, I think if it happens, and the Conservatives are in power, we’ll end up losing sovereignties to the United States because we’ll be making trade deals. They’ll insist on us accepting their agricultural products which are made with much more pesticides and hormones, and lower animal welfare standards, and also insist we sell our NHS, and it’s all very well at the moment as we have the Conservatives saying, of course we won’t do that, but actually, they’re a big economy and if they say they’re not going to sign on the dotted line until…. At least with the EU we do have elected MEPs who could do something about it, in the US we wouldn’t.”

We rapped about influencing on a grander scale within the EU, Emma pointed out the Green Party is strong there, the third block of about seventy MPs. “We can actually do stuff there, which we are doing, we are pushing to ensure big companies pay their taxes, which is far easier at an EU level than a national level.” The scale of the operation concerns me, I mean, how important is it, really, that I fish out one plastic bottle that I’ve accidently thrown into my bin, as that’s trivial compared to the massive issues with Greenland controlling their waste, and if you can fit Britain into just Texas two and a half times, well it doesn’t bear thinking about coping with the global operation necessary.

Still though, I note some locals’ harsh reactions to Extinction Rebellion, seemingly taking it personally, or patronised by Greta, when surely, it’s an attack on the governments of the world to make it easier for the ordinary person to adapt to the changes? “In reality for most people,” Emma said, “so busy in their lives , put under such financial stress, because inequality is getting worse, lack of wage increases, they don’t have the money or time to work out how best to do things, therefore it needs government regulations to come in, to enable people to do the right thing.”

Emma accepted organic produce is more expensive, I added while the wealthier have driveways to park and plug in an electric car, if you live central in a town or city, you’ll consider it lucky to have found a spot to park, let alone close to a charge point. This got us nicely onto local issues, lack of public transport, electric charging points were key to the tangent. How does Wiltshire compare with other counties in reducing our carbon footprint? “I think we do fairly well on solar,” Emma enlightened, “obviously we’ve got lots of trees, on some measures we do well, transport is essential.” I pointed at the garden waste, well, not directly, not in the café! It’s an extra cost we cannot afford, and recycling in other counties is much more efficient. We need a food waste bin; I can’t eat it all!

Emma highlighted the Westbury incinerator plans sends out the wrong motivation, “to make it finically viable, it’s venturing into wanting to go on producing the waste, otherwise it doesn’t work and waste will be shipped in from other places. So, having huge incinerators means there’s no pressure to change, or it becomes too expensive to run it otherwise.”

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It was a lovely and meaningful chat, not helping with my dilemma of where to put my X; can I do two at least? Need I also spoil it towards the end by stating if there’s one greener change I cannot bring myself to consider; becoming vegan, not while the smell of a bacon butty wafts my direction?! I asked Emma how important veganism is, and was pleasantly surprised to hear she is not a vegan either, but stressed how she has been trying to eat less meat, and said she thought that was adequate; phew!

Not surprised that Emma seemed unaware of Hollywood’s stab at an environmental catastrophe in the movie 2012, where, conveniently the ice age seems to envelope the area marginally slower than our heroes can run, making for a dramatic escape in the nick of time! It seems to me at times the consequences of climate change are out of our sphere of understanding, consumed by fictional apocalyptic scenarios and dystopian themes, I wondered aloud if it has to take a monumental disaster to finally wake the masses up to the seriousness of the issue. “I hope not,” Emma gulped, “statistically we’re likely to see more of it, and I hope without it getting to a catastrophic level, we’ll start to think actually we do need to do something about this. To me, what’s so frustrating is the measures we need to take to change things are slight; we can still live happy prosperous lives, it’s not that we have wear hair shirts or something!”

That’s the positive message Greta was suggesting in the last video I watched, if you subscribe to her channel, you’ll see a different side to her the mainstream media simply doesn’t portray, she does smile, with every new tree planted! But, aside, what else could we expect from a Green Party?

Emma added, “we’re suggesting there should be a four-day working week, allowing people more time to do things outside their jobs, and we offer a universal basic income, trying to relieve financial stresses.” Now here’s a policy which when I first heard of, I thought it was too radical even for me, but given thought, I’m warming to the notion. Yet it’d take a compete rehash of our way of life, of capitalism. So, despite it being an intense and fascinating chat, that’s when I started waffling about prehistoric man and dinosaurs!

Yet through it I never nailed down if Emma comes from an environmental motivation or a political one, they seemed to merge for her as one and the same. “My training,” she enlightened, “was originally as a scientist, and then I became fascinated by economics since the year 2000. I was working for a successful company in the dot.com bubble, which went to nothing in the end, making me think there’s something wrong with these economic bubbles. The way the predominate economic theory was, was that if we have growth everyone will be better off, but you know, this simply hasn’t happened. You find things are going really well if you’re in the top five of wealth, despite the economic crisis, but it isn’t working for everybody, wages are not going up. We even have hedge fund managers who are billionaires saying, look here, this existence isn’t working. And, I think because of the pressures put on everybody, that meant that people don’t have the capacity to worry about climate when everything else is a struggle. That’s the really sad thing, this economic theory that we’ve bought into, in the eighties and nineties, has led us up a garden path, making us incapable of looking at the real problems, and that’s the real tragedy of it….”

“And that’s what,” I finalised, “you aim to turn around……”

“Absolutely!” Emma laughed. With the tactical vote still locally confused, Emma entreated we voted with our hearts, and with that notion, you could do a lot worse where you put your cross on December 15th; be like the ancient pagans, I reckon they had better ideas than us!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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