Tuesday 13 May 2014

Lewisham Council New Cross Ward. Green Party position

Advice from New Cross community members

I have a personal dilemma that I need to make a final decision on today. A few months ago I heard that the Green Party were looking for paper candidates for many of the wards in London for the local election in May. Here’s an explanation of what a paper candidate is:
In a representative democracy, the term paper candidate is often given to a candidate who stands for a political party in an electoral division where the party in question enjoys only low levels of support. Although the candidate has little chance of winning, a major party will normally make an effort to ensure it has its name on the ballot paper in every constituency.
Paper candidates may be local party members or members from neighbouring areas, or sometimes members from central office. The main purpose of fielding paper candidates is to maintain or improve the profile of a political party. The paper candidates themselves do no campaigning and neither incur nor claim any expenses.
I contacted the Green Party saying I would be happy to help and be a paper candidate in the New Cross ward because I feel my values are most in-keeping with Green Party policies and would love to see the party grow in popularity and impact. Since then however together with my neighbour, I have instigated the New Cross forum so that as a community, we can develop a neighbourhood plan to steer development in the area over the next 15 years to try and ensure that development meets community need and helps encourage a socially sustainable community, rather than just pump priming private profit. My role within the forum is as a member of the steering committee, helping to promote the forum to community members and get people involved in developing the plan, as well as organising meetings and trying to keep the momentum going, so we can develop a well-informed neighbourhood plan in a reasonable time frame. I will also be a member of the sub-group exploring how we can provide affordable housing and workspace in perpetuity in New Cross, perhaps through a Community Land Trust. This should help to protect and nurture the diversity and arts culture in the area as more private investment comes into the area. Although I am very actively involved in the forum, all decisions on what should go into the plan will be voted on at forum meetings, which all are welcome to come to and are promoted within the community. My dilemma is that is there a conflict of interest?
I have instigated the New Cross forum because I have been a resident of the area since 1985 (with nine years away in Brighton between 2003 and Feb 2013) and care about how the community develops. I am also studying an MA in Urban Planning, so it seemed a good opportunity to put my new found knowledge and skills to use in the place where I grew up. However, I am concerned that people will think I am trying to use the forum as a way to further the cause of the Green Party – I am not at all. I wasn’t going to mention that I was standing as a paper candidate because it makes no difference really because no campaigning will be done in the community. However, I thought it best to be transparent about it. I sent this email to the Green Party yesterday:
Dear John
I wanted to get in touch with you about standing as a paper candidate in the New Cross ward.
I’ve been having some concerns after speaking to a few people. I really want to support the Green party as my values are most in line with your policies and I really want to help the party get a few extra votes if I can. However, my concern is that I have just instigated a forum in New Cross in February to develop a neighbourhood plan for New Cross. I am concerned that if I am a paper candidate in the local election that people will think I have an ulterior motive other than just being a resident who cares about the development of the community. I therefore think it’s best that I don’t stand on this occasion. I am so sorry to let you down at late notice and will certainly aim to make it up to the Green party in future, as I really want to see the party to grow in popularity and impact. I am so sorry but after some inner turmoil over this decision in the last couple of weeks, I think it’s best I prioritise the New Cross forum for now.
So sorry again
They have since replied, saying:
Thanks for your email.  I am sorry that you are proposing to withdraw your candidature. Many Greens and many Green candidates are actively involved in a wide range of community groups without there being any sense of conflict of interests or using one cause to promote another.  I think the public understand and appreciate that.  Our political party is part of the community, so there doe not need be a choice between one an another. 
It is for those reasons that I do hope you will reconsider your decision not to stand.  However, it is, of course, your decision to take.
I would like to reply to this email and say that I’ll do it. There is no chance of me winning, as Labour have had a strong following in the area for years and the Green Party are doing no campaigning but I’d like to support them in this small way if I can. But I wanted to be completely open and transparent about it and check what people’s thoughts are who are part of the community and want to be involved in the forum. What do you think? Please share your views and feel free to comment below or send me an email at mstessagooding@gmail.com.

Residents of New Cross would i hope recognise the huge amount of Community work carried out in the ward by People before Profit, the direct occupations of homes and the New Cross library, the setting up of the We Care Food bank that has hundreds of local reasidents as clients and the awesome work that the We Care legal advice centre does since Labour closed the Law centre.
Lewisham People Before Profit candidates are not paper activists but local residents who have campaigned none stop since 2008 to win this ward and to help create a Council that represents People Community and Environment not as under Labour the interests of Big Business and developers..Labour have run this ward for 39 years, do readers of this really want to see our area run by 3 Labour MPs, 54 Labour councillors and a Labour Mayor? With Lib Dems facing almost certain total wipe out we need some community activist councillors on the council who what ever your politics,  would agree Lewisham People Before Profit have done some wonderful work for our Community not just on housing, but Harts Lane studios, New Cross Fire Station, Library and as the only founding poluitical party within Save Lewisham Hospital, it is not oftern voters have a real choice and the chance to elect Councillors not seeking votes to make things happern, but seeking your votes based on years of hard work day after day making things happen and helping the poorest members of our community 24/7 i hope and trust you will think before you vote and elect Lewisham People Before Profit candidates  here to win and serve all our Community.

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