Future Reflections

May 14, 2010

David Henry, Salford and Eccles 2010 General Election Reflections

Last week I stood in an election for the first time in my life.

This wasn’t just any election, it was the 2010 General Election which will without a doubt go down in history as the most significant in British politics. Regardless of the outcomes and implications for democracy, I am immensely proud to have played my part.

I’m forever grateful to of all those who did the same – in particular those friends, comrades, allies and hundreds of supporters of all political persuasions who made it all happen. It would take me a lifetime to name them all, but you know who you are…

I wanted to be able to talk more openly about where we are now far sooner, for those who have been waiting I can only apologise. It is vitally important I get my points across properly. so it’s taken me quite a few days to reflect on the highs, the lows, but I’m certain about one thing – we achieved more than we could ever have expected. Those feelings of immense feeling of joy and satisfaction will be with me forever.

Glancing at the news, Twitter, Facebook, not to mention my inbox of 1000’s of unopened emails it is difficult to keep up. Every minute of the day there seems to be another earth-moving development.

This is one of many articles I’ll be writing, so please stick with me. So far I’ve churned out pages which could easily fill several books, so I’ve decided to publish everything all bit by bit.

Anti-Politics?

Less than a year ago you could have firmly placed me in the “anti-politics” camp. I remain unconvinced of the significance electoral activism plays in bringing about social change, in fact these past few months have strengthened that view. I’ve always been firmly of the mindset that grass roots campaigning is the heart and soul and the driving force behind everything that happens above and beyond it, I made this clear when I was selected to stand for Parliament and I stick by that admission to this day.

Anti-Politics as a narrow term is a contradiction. I’ve always had great admiration for figures within the Anarchist movement such as the late Emma Goldman. That’s not to say I should have to define as an ‘Anarchist’ no more than I feel the need to define as an ‘Environmentalist’ for continuing to advocate a sustainable society and being proud of the election of the first Green MP Caroline Lucas.

People have tried their hardest to define me, I’ve been labelled everything under the sun these past few months – mostly with some degree of malice by those who simply misinterpret my open-minded, non-sectarian willingness work with anyone who generally agrees with what I stand for.

Everything is political – voting, parties and policies aside, “politics” in any shape of form from the radio station you prefer to the colour of your socks is a fundamentally human trait. Politics is the nature of choice. We all have the freedom to make our own decisions and that’s a right I will defend until the day I die.

Where Next?

Now for the biggest question of them all!… I’m still not sure exactly where we go all from here, nor have I fully explored the mind-boggling labyrinth of opportunities available. From the start I’ve called for “Left Unity”. Here in Salford that’s exactly what we achieved.

I’m hoping the Convention of the Left and similar collective groupings will lead the way in outlining a programme for the future of genuine, progressive politics.

Shiny new doors have been opened in my own world which I may yet decide wander into, and few have closed but at the moment – I’ve not made any decisions. I’m keeping an open mind with a view to follow what my heart tells me is best.

I’ve got to get back to work, we all need to pay the bills. Employment opportunities were drying up before the election campaign began, although I’ve now got a number of exciting options to pursue as well as community projects I desperately need to return to.

The future starts now, let’s keep looking forward to it.


NUS Vote for Students – a politically biased campaign?

April 27, 2010

Today I delivered several thousand letters to my fellow students at the University of Salford, and have hand-signed every last one of them.

Coincidently, today the NUS launched it’s final “Vote for Students” list which I signed quite a while ago now. However, I was astonished to discover their list ONLY includes candidates from the main parties. I know for a fact many others have signed the pledge too. I believe my stance goes further than what the NUS is calling for, they no longer campaign against tuition fees or for the restoration of the maintenance grant. I’ve outlined this is my Letter to Students, explaining why a vote for me is a vote for them too.

Please be aware that until the NUS include the full range of candidates from smaller parties and coalitions such as myself and independents, this list is completely undemocratic and biased. There are EIGHT candidates standing in Salford, and in neighbouring Manchester Central there are no less than TEN!

Vote for students has a great platform here, they have the opportunity to enable many first-time voters to participate fully in the elections, but denying them the opportunity to explore all the options is affront to democracy and everything the National Union of Students (of which I myself am a member) stands for.

I call on Vote for Students to correct this injustice, and include everyone who has signed the pledge.


Letter to Students

April 27, 2010

David Henry - Vote for Students Election Campaign Letter

With the General Election only a few days away, Salford is set to be one of the most interesting places during one of the most exciting elections of our lifetimes. With no less than eight candidates standing for the newly created Salford & Eccles seat we are spoilt for choice.

I have been a student at the University of Salford for the past two years, and back in February I was selected at a public meeting at the Old Pint Pot to be one of those eight names you see on the ballot paper.

Lots of people are asking me – “Why you David!?”

I’ve always been interested in politics, but becoming a politician has never been an ambition of mine, instead I’ve been involved in grass roots campaigning, human rights, the environmental and anti-war movement – but to me, everything is political.

Since I left school in 1999 I’ve been working with young people from disadvantaged communities, I’m currently co-chair of Salford Youth Council which aims to give young people a voice. I’m now 26 and applied as a mature student having previously studied a foundation course at Manchester Metropolitan. I’ve never stood for an election before, not even at a student union election, but I feel so passionate and energetic about being able to stand up to the injustices our current politicians have imposed on the student community and the people of Salford that I put my name forward to the “Hazel Must Go” campaign.

I’ve decided to write to you directly as I believe a vote for me is a genuine “Vote for Students”, for the first and probably only time you will have this unique opportunity to cast a vote at a general election who:

  • Has lived and is living through the student lifestyle at Salford.
  • Is experiencing first-hand the challenges & hardships we all face.
  • Is accessible, honest and has no interest in being a “career politician”.
  • Is not a member of a major political party – but a community campaign.
  • Has the potential to bring-about a hung parliament, abolishing top-up fees.
  • Will fight for the abolition of ALL fees and call for the restoration of grants.
  • Will call on the banks to reduce student debt, and for fairer ethical practices.
  • Will fight for better facilities on campus and improved accommodation.
  • Will oppose job cuts, course closures, and defend high-quality education.
  • Actively stands up to ALL forms of prejudice, hatred and discrimination.

You might have seen the recent feature in Salford Student Direct about me, if you missed it you can find it here.

Of the other eight candidates (including Hazel Blears and the Lib Dems!) I’m the only one who has pledged all of the above. I believe a vote for me is a real vote for students. If you believe in the same, consider casting yours for someone who truly believes in YOU!


Launch of “Keep Our NHS Public” Salford Campaign

April 24, 2010

Last week I responded to the news item “Defending Jobs at Salford Royal Hospital” after a report leaked to the Manchester Evening News detailed the loss of at least 750 jobs despite a massive expansion of the site off Eccles Old Road. This week Salfordians were horrified to discover the cherished Eric Rawlings ward (offering a wide range of dedicated Women’s health facilities) is to close permanently in July. Absolutely NO public consultation has been carried out.

Salford’s newKeep Our NHS Public” campaign officially launched this afternoon at a lively protest outside Salford Royal (formerly known Hope Hospital). The demonstration was called by a broad cross-section of the community in response to escalating cuts to a large number of critical public health services across the city, and the threat of privatisation. I am looking forward to supporting the campaign, not just leading up to the elections but in the long-term.

Above – Salford & Eccles Parliamentary Candidates: David Henry (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition – Hazel Must Go), Councillor Norman Owen (Liberal Democrats – Opposition Leader) and Kersal Prospective Council Candidate Alice Searle (Respect Party) joined dozens of healthcare workers, community activists from Greater Manchester Trades Council, Salford UNISON, Nursing Staff, Students and Midwives at today’s event.

Despite vague promises from Conservatives that a future Tory government would not slash NHS budgets, there was ZERO presence at today’s event from both the local Conservative Party and Labour Party. Hazel Blears could not be contacted, despite her home being less than 100 yards from the hospital buildings.

We engaged with crowds of local residents and patients handing out information about closures to the women’s ward, mental health services, the maternity ward and the ever impending threat of privatisation outside the hospital gates.

Mainstream Politicians respond- simply not good enough!

Despite our current rivalry as candidates for the Salford & Eccles parliamentary seat, Councillor Owen’s attendance was warmly welcomed, although there were no other representatives from the Liberal Democrats. Furthermore Councillor Owen refused to have his photo taken with the rest of the campaigners in front of any Trade Union banners (as the above photo shows). This is nothing new, since the Lib Dems ongoing failure to fully support trade union rights or workers interests over the bosses is incredibly disappointing. Perhaps they will reconsider when they realise it is critical to any political success they as a party wish to achieve?

Labour and Conservatives – missing in action?

The most notable absence was that of incumbent Salford MP Hazel Blears, who infamously stood outside the hospital’s doomed Maternity Ward with a megaphone claiming she would “fight to save the department”, shortly before going back on her pledge in Parliament by voting for legislation to seal it’s fate. Last week the Salford Star revealed the former cabinet minister’s husband (Mike Halsall) has been reappointed as a non-executive director of Salford Royal Foundation Trust which manages the hospital and is in receipt of £1,000 per meeting.

The Hazel Must Go campaign since discovered Mr Halsall had failed to register any relevant interest with the trust in his formal application to be a board member. Normally any political activity must be declared and published – including pamphleteering for political parties. Mr Halsall has been spotted out on the campaign trail canvassing with Hazel Blears only a few days ago, despite facing up to a tough grilling from many local residents still angry at her involvement in the expenses scandal.

In a video interview with Salford Online earlier this week, Blears claimed the 750 job losses were merely from “senior management” and cited “efficiency savings” – a claim strongly disputed by staff who came out to show their support for the campaign this afternoon.

Insiders tell us Blears and her counterparts were too busy “canvassing for votes” to attend today’s protest during the busy run up to the General Election. However this campaign is open to everyone – and is calling for a united coalition of all political and community figures to work with us regardless of their affiliations. Whilst the protest was in full swing this afternoon, Salford new-comer Matthew Sephton (unable to attend as he had a prior engagement) of the Conservatives did made an effort to respond in his blog despite his own party’s poor track record makes it difficult for the general public to invest any trust in David Cameron’s plans. Unfortunately Sephton’s comments around “wasteful spending” are almost identical to Blears dressed-up justification for NHS  job losses. Both fail to grasp the reality, however much they would prefer we all had private medical insurance instead, no amount of spending on the NHS is a waste.

The Salford campaign launches two weeks after 10,000 people representing over 30 trade unions, the British Medical Association, the NHS Consultants Association, Carers, Students, Patient Networks and Pensioners Groups marched through central London following a major “Fight For Our NHS” demonstration held on 10th April in Trafalgar Square.

Speaking at the London rally, a spokesperson from the National Keep Our NHS Public campaign told the crowd: “Many PCTs and hospitals are already running “deficits” due to the imposition of the market on the NHS. Most mainstream politicians are convinced that privatisation is the way forward to “efficiency savings” in the health service” and fear huge cuts are inevitable regardless of who wins the 2010 General Election – underlining why a broad, long-term campaign in Salford is so vitally important.

TAKE ACTION

Lend your support by signing up to Salford Keep Our NHS Public. Although still in the early stages, the campaign promises more public demonstrations and hopes to unite the entire community in fighting further cuts and closures.

Photos by Albert


Core Policies

April 24, 2010
  • PUBLIC OWNERSHIP, NOT PRIVATISED PROFIT
  • INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC SERVICES, NOT CUTS
  • JOBS FOR THE MILLIONS, NOT BAIL-OUTS FOR THE MILLIONAIRES
  • WORKERS RIGHTS, EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY FOR ALL
  • PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT – STOP POLLUTION, GREENER THINKING
  • DECENT PENSIONS & BENEFITS, HEALTHCARE & WELFARE
  • EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE, SMALLER CLASS SIZES, MORE PLACES, SCRAP FEES
  • DEMOCRACY, DIVERSITY & JUSTICE, SOLIDARITY – NOT HATE OR WAR

Salford Student Manifesto

April 22, 2010

TIME TO SCRAP TUITION
FEES ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Just two years after Tony Blair first introduced fees in 1998, the Scottish Government moved to abolish them.

Despite Scotland’s successful return to free education, in 2004 Salford MP Hazel Blears towed the party-line and voted to introduce top-up fees, making higher education even more expensive. Blears herself paid NOTHING for her Trent law degree back in the late 70’s. She was happy for the taxpayer to help her climb the ladder – pure selfish hypocrisy.

Since New Labour came to power in 1997 fees have almost DOUBLED. Salford University now charge undergraduates up to £3,000 a year. Graduates are struggling to find work to pay off their loans, many will spend the rest of their lifetime in debt. Meanwhile the banks (now bailed-out by the taxpayer) have parasitically targeted students with tempting offers for overdrafts and credit cards, forcing millions of students to accept a lifetime of debt for the purpose of private profit.

The National Union of Students (NUS) no longer campaigns to scrap tuition fees. Why?

Because the NUS is no longer democratic or representative. It is controlled by an elite group of New Labour party members, who often side with the Government and big business over the needs of ordinary students. Scrapping top-up fees is just a start, but we need to go further.

Education is a right, not a privilege.

It is time to ABOLISH ALL tuition fees once and for ALL.
This is a realistic aim – Scotland has shown us it CAN be done.

DEMAND A LIVING INCOME
RESTORE STUDENT GRANTS!

Most students have just received their final student loan instalment for this term, but how long will it last?

Student Finance does not provide adequate financial support to cover even the basic cost of student living. Profits from ‘nationalised’ banks could be redistributed to reinstate proper student maintenance grants and replace the flawed student loans system.

Nearly a third of young people growing up in Salford are living in poverty. Until last year a dedicated, non-repayable bursary was available to students studying at the University. It has recently been abolished, meaning the most disadvantaged members of the community can no longer afford to aspire to study in their home-town. Many of those in receipt of the grant had only just begun their courses, leaving them drowning in debt or forcing them to drop out. Some lecturers have even reported a 100% drop-out rate on a number of courses.

University management blamed the Local Education Authority, who then blamed the University who then blamed central Government. In reality, they are ALL responsible for denying the poorest students to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Neither the local Liberal Democrats, Labour or the Conservatives intervened or commented in this appalling decision, none of them wish to scrap fees or bring back grants. We need a movement to call for a decent living income for all students to replace the failure of student loans.

DEFEND UNIVERSITY WORKERS
FIGHT CUTS AND CORRUPTION!

Last August sociology lecturer and PhD student Gary Duke was sacked for speaking out and leading protests against 150 job cuts. He also exposed the lavish lifestyles and salaries (some in excess of £250k) of the University’s senior management, despite their ongoing savage assault on cutting courses, tutors and facilities. Gary is a father of three and a familiar face around Salford, well known for standing up the rights of students and fellow staff. He had just been elected as branch secretary of the lecturer’s University and Colleges Union (UCU).

Following ongoing bullying tactics and vilification by senior management for ‘blowing the whistle’ on their malpractice, Gary Duke was suspended and eventually dismissed. He has subsequently been banned from the campus and denied the chance to complete his postgraduate course. Despite the serious personal sacrifices he has made, the resulting media attention has forced the University to at least slow down the ongoing programme of cuts.

We must continue to hold the management to account. We have the right (as stated in the Salford University Charter) to put forward new ideas and make comment or criticisms (however unpopular or controversial) relating to the institution’s management without fear of being suspended, harassed or dismissed. Gary’s campaign affects ALL students and staff and now has national repercussions.

In January over £900 million of devastating cuts to University and College funding were announced by Lord Mandelson. These cuts have gone ahead unopposed by the Tories and the Lib Dems, and the damage is already beginning to materialise at institutions all over the country.

As a result over a third LESS university places will be available this year, investments in campus improvements have been put on hold, the lowest paid staff are now facing ‘redundancies’ and are preparing for major strike action.

Staff and Students need to stand together and prepare for the onslaught of our livelihoods. Mainstream politicians WON’T do this for us. They now view education funding as a burden and fail to realise public investment in higher education is a genuine, long-term way out of economic decline. If we don’t defend it now we will lose it forever.

David Henry is a student at the University of Salford.
If you want to vote for students – vote for Henry! X


Hazel Blears’ Vanishing Voters

April 9, 2010
On Monday 12th April 2010 as Parliament is dissolved, around 15,000 of Hazel Blears’ constituents in the wards of Broughton and Kersal will say goodbye to her forever due to the Boundary Commission’s restructuring  into the new constituency of Broughton & Blackley“.

Local residents have tried to get in touch with her on numerous occasions ever since she vowed in June 2009 to return to her “grass roots”. What a pity she never even came to say goodbye. But perhaps she may be saying goodbye to everyone much sooner that spectators think.

In 1992 Hazel stood for parliament up in Bury (where she lost) she got over 24,000 votes -more than she’s ever polled in her native Salford. That’s 11,000 more votes than she polled at the 2005 election in Salford (which she won).

The actual number of Salfordians voting for Hazel Blears has declined (from 22,848 in 1997 to just 13,007 in 2005).

Since 1997 she has somehow lost roughly 10,000 original voters.

With a reduced majority of 7,945 combined an uncertain level of support from the new Eccles electorate (mostly loyal to retiring Labour MP Ian Stewart) the 2010 General Election in Salford & Eccles could be a close call for Hazel.

Spiralling Majority

2010: T.B.C
2005: 7,945
2001: 11,012 
1997: 17,069

Plummeting Votes

2010     ? ? ? ? ?
2005      13,007    (57.6%)      Salford
2001      14,649     (65.1%)      Salford
1997      22,848     (69.0%)      Salford
1992      24,085     (44.6% )     Bury South