Dear Anna Racoon
I didn’t think someone like me could be a politician. I am second generation immigrant and came from a family with very few books where we were just expected to get out into the world and earn a living. So I was a really late entrant into politics – only joining the party at the advanced age of 39. However, all my worldly experience as a designer, businesswoman and ace nagger meant ‘have mouth will travel’. I overturned a 26,000+ Labour majority over two elections to win Hornsey & Wood Green in 2005.
One of the many reasons I got into politics was very pragmatic. I couldn’t bear the dreadful way the local Labour Council behaved towards local people. They were arrogant and incompetent – not a great combination. There was a parking row in my street between two neighbours. The Council’s answer was to come and want to paint double yellow lines down both sides of this very short cul-de-sac making life hideous for the eight or so homes without off street parking (I had off street parking myself). It was ludicrous to remove parking in a cul-de-sac, but they didn’t ask anyone – just appeared with the paint van. I stopped them, formed a Residents’ Association – and that was the very way things began for me in politics.
Truth be told, you will find that sort of pragmatic motivation amongst people in many political parties. What makes me not just in politics – but a liberal – and a Liberal Democrat – is a belief in liberalism, in freedom and in fairness.
At the current moment in time – with the country just coming out of a dreadful recession – that in particular means working for a fairer tax system and an economy that delivers the stability and prosperity which gives people real choices and control in their lives.
The Liberal Democrats are the most economically credible of all the parties and I suspect that most people would want Vince Cable at this country’s economic helm.
Vince warned against the debt bubble that would burst. We were the first to say that we would need to save Northern Rock and nationalise those banks. The deficit must be paid off as swiftly as is possible without choking off the green shoots of recovery – and our priorities must be about creating a sustainable economy and jobs.
Our general election campaign is based on four main points:
1 Fair Taxation: Our plan would mean the first £10,000 you earn would be free of income tax. Currently those who earn the least pay proportionally the most tax. How are people ever to get going if they are pushed further and further into poverty and debt? And it’s patently not fair or right. We would pay for this by taxing income and capital at the same rate, phasing out special pension subsidies for highest rate earners, switching tax from income to pollution, and introducing a mansion tax on the value of homes over £2 million.
People aren’t spending and the banks aren’t lending. So alongside our fairer tax policies – we also need a sustainable economy less dependent on one square mile in the City. We would break up the banks so that those that want to gamble – the casino banks – are separated out from the core, less exciting but vital day-to-day traditional banking of taking savings, keeping them safe and lending to local business and local people.
2 A fair start for all our children: We will cut class sizes and provide more one-to-one tuition to children by introducing a new “pupil premium” in our primary schools. This would cost £2.5billion extra each year – one of our very few spending commitments. It will enable schools, if they choose to use the money this way – to rival the level of class size in the private sector – and what a difference that would make.
It’s a big commitment – but education is the key to giving people a fair start in life and a chance to make their own way in life as they wish, rather than shaped by the chance of where they were born and where they went to school.
3 A fair and sustainable economy that creates jobs: We will create tens of thousands of new jobs in public transport, a national programme of home insulation and new social housing. It’s both green – and about the key issue of jobs. We will be honest about where savings must be made to balance the books, which is why we’ve identified big, expensive projects such as I.D. cards that will be scrapped as the first step towards balancing the books. Of the savings we make, two-thirds will go to cutting the deficit and one-third towards our spending commitments (such as the pupil premium).
4 Fair, clean and local politics: We will introduce a fair voting system, ensure MPs can be sacked by their constituents if misbehaved, return powers to local communities and we will stop tax avoiders from standing for parliament, sitting in the House of Lords or donating to political parties. It’s not rocket science – it just needs political commitment!
Anna – to get a sense of us – look at our track record. We seem to be in tune with what people feel. Think about our stance on Iraq, civil liberties, political reform, the environment, fair taxes, the excesses of the City of London and the rights of Ghurkha veterans – just to name a few.
It’s all about peoples’ lives and fairness – not telling people what to do but giving them the chances to make their own choices – the very reasons for which I went into politics in the first place.
Liberal Democrat Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green.
Edited by Anna to Add:
I approached a number of female MPs before Parliament was dissolved, and asked them all the same question – would they be willing to directly address the Blogosphere and tell my readers why they, and their party, should receive our vote?
We hear a lot about the influence (or not) that the Blogsphere is going to have on this election and it was interesting to monitor the response of MPs when given the opportunity to step off their carefully monitored and moderated personal web sites and spend time in the hurly-burly world of the true Blogosphere.
Ms Featherstone was brave enough to do so, she has said she will try to respond to comments on this site and I am indebted to her – I think she has broken fresh ground and I thank her for the faith she has shown in me in taking part in this experiment.
However, she was not the only MP who replied to me – I have more up my sleeve, so to speak. Stay tuned.
As ever, comments will be moderated for foul or abusive language. Neither more nor less so than normal.
Since Ms Featherstone has been brave enough to join this experiment – do take the opportunity to address questions to her!