There are so many issues to tackle on both a local and national level but there is no denying that here on the Fylde… if fracking gets the go-ahead, it will impact all parts of our life from increased pressure on our healthcare, change of land use impacting community life and property values, increased traffic leading to degradation of our roads, the loss of local decision-making powers, industrialisation impacting tourism and agriculture (cross party study proved for every 10 jobs in fracking we lose 18 in agriculture)… this isn’t a single issue, it is the harbinger of many issues to come if it is allowed to continue, so it matters hugely.
When our Blackpool & Fylde Green Party nominated me to stand in the General Election, I was torn because I fear a split vote leading to the worst outcome nationally, a Conservative win. I checked and no other candidates had declared and Labour’s candidate from 2015 had not said he would run. Having a candidate who clearly opposes fracking, is essential to many of us and so I decided to run. There was also a dictate from the national Labour Party making clear that if the previous candidate was not running then the choice of candidate would be made at national level. This Labour stance was covered in the press:
It is with the greatest regret that local party members will not be able to select parliamentary candidates. This process is necessary and it is only due to the exceptional snap general election circumstances and will not set any precedent for future elections. Under emergency measures, all Labour MPs who wish to carry on will be readopted and unsuccessful candidates from the 2015 election will be asked to seek selection again in England, with one party source saying a third had agreed, a third were considering it and a third refused. A senior party source at the meeting said for retirement seats, candidates would be selected by a panel formed from the NEC officers.
This Conservative government has worked hard to take control of decisions here and left us little power; proving that even a strong local decision to reject planning for the fracking site at Preston New Road, can be overturned by Westminster. Despite an appeal that we should have easily succeeded in (but didn’t), as was clear to all who read the transcripts or attended and two legal challenges that were also rejected and so we have watched and protested daily as the fracking site in Little Plumpton has been being built; since 5th January 2017. This neutering of our local government should be a huge concern even to those not looking at the plans for fracking.
So what to do now that the Labour candidate has decided he will run? IF both of us stand on key issues and with fracking a particular focus due to its huge significance here, then the sitting MP Mark Menzies who gets about half the votes, will almost certainly win, by us splitting the other half… and we haven’t yet heard from other parties with potential candidates. We can all see this but the unrepresentative (24% of UK vote) Conservative party is in a field of its own – and all the rest of us are divided into smaller pockets and that’s how they expect to win again. A party that was chosen by such a small percentage of eligible voters can never represent the wishes of the majority. Our voting system needs to be challenged and as long as we have a Tory government, it won’t be.
I have struggled hard with the revelation that the Labour candidate has changed his mind and what to do to ensure the best potential outcome. I’ve taken much inspiration from the stance taken by The Green Party with Caroline Lucas quoted in media as saying:
On election day we’ll be urging people to vote for us because ours is the only policy platform that offers the bold changes so desperately needed to transform this country for the better. But to beat the Tories, and to increase the chances of mending our broken politics, we need to be realistic about what’s needed to form a progressive government. That’s why, in just a handful of places, if we see reciprocal action from the other parties, our members will consider brave decisions for the common good. Jeremy, Tim, over to you.
In areas where the Green Party could help to ensure the Conservatives do not take a seat or hold one because of a marginal minority – we have worked with the non-Tory party tactically (just one crucial example here. In the Fylde constituency, the chance of any, other than Conservatives winning is zero to very slim… but IF we could agree to lessening the field of candidates and with strong local support for an anti-fracking choice, we stand a chance of making the clear statement that has been ignored by Westminster and the courts. I like the Labour candidate but I don’t know him very well and have not seen him publicly working on the major issue of fracking. I am not claiming to be the best choice, just one that if the votes came… would make it clear how we feel about the health and wellbeing of our community that is at risk if fracking goes ahead.
I want the Fylde to win.
I want fracking to be stopped and all the problems that come with it, to not come into existence; enabling us then to fund and work on improving healthcare, transport infrastructure, community wellbeing, social care and education – rather than repairing them. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has said they will include fracking in their manifesto and when a clear bold statement comes on this issue, I want to know that even if for any reason it is not Jeremy at the helm, that it would be abided by… my concern being that before Jeremy, the Labour Party was not making a stand against fracking.
Perhaps then the next steps here in the Fylde as we enter 5 weeks of campaigning before the General Election on Thursday 8th June, is to be clear about what each candidate and our Parties stand for, how we will tackle local issues and if a fight for a fracking ban is key in our party manifestos and crucially, local candidate intentions. As the election date gets closer, perhaps too the candidates opposing the sitting Conservative Mark Menzies, could have a hustings to allow potential voters to challenge us and encourage us to not split the vote? At this stage with so much to come on Tory election fraud, manifesto promises and more, there is too much unknown to make rash decisions yet.
Unity is a hard thing in a diverse world but here in the Fylde, we know we are threatened, our children’s health and future are at risk and the very character of our beautiful area at stake if fracking goes ahead… THIS should unite us and I hope we can find a way to use that to challenge the Conservative MP. It will be impossible for any of us to ‘win’ if we don’t co-operate but the opportunity to make the anti-fracking statement clear is something that WILL happen, if the votes go to a candidate clearly opposing the industry - something I have been completely dedicated to for 6 years.
Nothing is laid in stone, much will happen and I hope we can all work together at the very least, to share the message ‘Don’t vote Conservative’ and importantly, to get new voters registered.