Relaunch

Just a quick one…

I’ve been off doing things, mostly mentally & on-line, like supporting the Calaid network helping refugees and helping to organise the Reading Climate March.  I’ve also been trying to work out what I can do to help achieve real change, which turns out to be a difficult question.  I’ve been a member of organisations like Avaaz, 38 Degrees and Change.org for a long time but it still seems like there is something lacking in terms of a way to actively engage in the running of our world.

I have always been passionate about preserving our natural world, and decided when I was seventeen to pursue a career in engineering, because I thought I would have more chance of achieving more good, in terms of reducing pollution and environmental impact of society, by being inside industry, rather than by waving a placard outside the front gate.  To an extent this has worked.  But mainly it has mostly taught me that solving the big issues is more about pragmatic problem solving and much less about ideology.  The arguments that win in business and industry are the straight talking common sense ideas that benefit as many parties as possible, not lofty ideals (and often not outright profiteering either).  Most people in big companies are just people, who care about the environment and equality just as much as the next person (I cannot speak for the corporate elite, I have never met any of them).

So what now?  Well, I am hoping that by following a few key issues, asking the important questions that seem to be absent in mainstream coverage of current events, and suggesting some steps which could be taken, I can help to shine some light on possible solutions.  You never know, maybe someone with the power to make things happen, might do something useful.

I’m a problem solver these days, no longer the ideological teen I was when I had the world tattooed on my shoulder in 1999.

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Images & Thank You!

A bit last-minute, but at the request of a number of you; please find official images I have been using in my campaign.  You can add ribbons to social media avatars or simply print out a window diamond for your house, office or car.  It all helps.

Thank you all for your amazing support, policy input and inspiration over the last 9 months.  I hope very much I will be able to repay you with diligent service as your MP for the next 5 years!

window diamond VoteSuzie White on teal VoteSuzie Black on white VoteSuzie Black on teal black on white Suzie4RW Black on teal Suzie4RW White on teal

Faith in Humanity

It has struck me a number of times that; the more “ordinary people” I meet, the more my faith in humanity is restored (and the more I want to get involved in making our world a better place for all people).  Because I have met so many people who might seem ordinary until you spend a few minutes getting to know them – and usually appearances would have been deceiving.

We are literally surrounded by heroes; from the chap who cleans up the coffee station in the reception of my office building at the end of the day (who volunteers for the RNLI and saved two teenagers from the North Sea this weekend just gone) to the gentleman who brings live music to the living rooms of those in greatest need of cheering, to the lady who founded a charity collecting donations for wildlife vets in Africa and nurses British Wildlife in her spare time.

I have also been inspired by A Bed for the Night, run by a group of 7 Reading churches, in a brilliant effort to give Reading’s homeless a hot meal and somewhere warm and safe to sleep through January this year.

So whatever happens on Thursday, I only hope that the fantastic work of all these amazing people we have in Reading West will continue and will be supported by whoever the local MP will be.

Hopefully we will have a new government which will listen to all those brilliant experts who have worked so hard to prove that it IS possible to have a strong economy AND a functioning NHS and social safety-net, AND quality, free education for all, AND a greener economy. 

 

The Last Pre-Election Push

A week today Britain goes to the polls for the most wide open, rainbow coloured General Election in a lifetime, possibly ever.  The popularity of the main parties is at an all time low yet so many people are still talking about which candidates “have a chance” by comparing with the 2010 General Election.  Why?!?  To quote a friend:

“If ever there was an election to vote with your conscience, then this is it.”

How do I think it will go?  I have absolutely no idea (points for honesty?) because I think so much depends on how confident people feel on the day; that others will also be voting for the candidate they want, rather than the least bad of the two “most likely” to win.

The more we talk, read and think about the best policies, the best people and the positive changes that we want to see to make our country better, then I think the better the final election outcome will be.  I’m trying to ignore the ridiculous last-minute promises…


Here is what I will be doing in the last few days of the campaign (apart from the day job):

  • This evening (30th April), 7-9pm I am on the panel at the Federation of Small Businesses Hustings at the Holiday Inn Reading South, (sold out)
  • Tomorrow (1st May) I am giving a lunchtime seminar at the Walker Institute for Climate System research at the University of Reading on my specialist subject; Carbon Capture and Storage, the technical and policy challenges, (open to the public, 1pm, here)
  • Over the long weekend I aim to be out and about in the afternoons talking to as many people as possible,
  • Continuing to respond to queries and requests from constituents and general public via this website, my gmail (SuzieFerguson4MP@gmail.com), Facebook, twitter and instagram…
  • Finding homes for my last 3 estate agent boards – thanks to FineImages for their very significant donation in kind in the form of these fantastic boards, my business cards and posters.

Election Expenses

 

In the interests of transparency; I have just been checking my accounts, and I have so far spent a grand total of £714, including; my £500 deposit, my website theme and domain name, a tank of petrol, 1000 extra flyers, 10 posts, a selfie-stick/tripod, a pack of drawings pins and a pack of white-tac (other brands of sticky stuff are available).  And 9 months of lunch breaks and late nights…

We shall see how our democracy has changed in the era of internet and social media.  It is now possible to mount a meaningful campaign as an Independent when you have a day job and zero personal wealth, but it has certainly not been easy.  It is time for the people to decide.

 

Affordable Housing for Reading

A few weeks back there was a good debate about economic inequality and the cost of housing.  Reading, like many places has a housing problem.  Not enough that is affordable to buy or to rent and not enough social housing, what there is; is costing our council a fortune.

While a number for good policy suggestions were floated at the debate we need something immediate.  Here is a plan I would put into action on the 8th May if I’m elected.

I’d start a not-for-profit organisation with the purpose of providing real affordable housing (homes with a value of £200k and below) and social housing by buying up derelicts and brownfield sites and turning them into affordable and social housing and an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) for the homeless.  The money would be raised via a method such as crowdfunder.

The organisation would work closely with Reading and West Berks Councils to find the right locations, get through the required permitting, apply for grants for clean-up of old industrial sites and in return would give priority to the council for its social housing needs for a large proportion of the homes brought to the market.  ALL other homes provided would be real affordable homes with facilities adequate to support the number of people who would live in them (utilities, sewage, bus stops and parking).

Construction provides a lot of jobs (and apprenticeships) in the Reading area, but through this organisation any profits would be channelled directly back into the community and would provide greatly needed housing at the minimum possible cost.  This should also help to reduce the price of other housing, both rented and owned, which has been spiralling up and up compared to wages.

There are plenty of details which need working out, but several London Councils have already done a similar trick with great success.  This kind of initiative takes work and help to start it off, I’ll be very happy to set it up, starting on the 8th May, it if elected as your MP, because it makes sense.


Good but rather generic suggestions from the main parties were:

  • The Liberal Democrats pledge to sort out planning, more accommodation for single households, make councils work together to ease planning problems, build new Garden cities, if private companies don’t build enough the government to build houses.
  • Labour pledge to prevent long term land banking, build new council houses, plenty of Brownfield sites are still available.
  • UKIP plan to get rid of bedroom tax causing people to move out of London to Reading, use brownfield sites and provide tax concessions on brownfield sites (eg no VAT or Stamp duty)
  • The Green Party would build council houses, end right to buy, introduce rent controls & long tenancies, mass insulation scheme, force developers to make affordable /social housing and borrow money to pay for it.
  • (No conservative representatives were in attendance).

I say; let’s fix our planning regualtions, get councils to work together, outlaw long term land banking, reuse brownfield sites, (definately get rid of the bedroom tax anyway!), tax concsessions on brownfield site and end the right to buy and consider introducing at least some form of rent control.  (Even Dubai has rent control to keep the prices from rising too fast!).

 But above all of this let’s start our own plan for Reading West on the 8th May to take control of our own housing situation.  There is so much we can do that we do not need Westminster’s blessing for.
What do you think?

You want to vote

If your potential future leader was Daenerys Targaryen, you would register to vote, right?  I mean the leader of your city, your constituency, YOUR Member of Parliament (MP).  Someone you can actually vote directly for and go to with your problems and ideas.

Stuff trying to choose between Cameron and Miliband.  Boring!  And your vote has almost no chance of changing that as it depends on how people in the other 649 seats vote.

But if you could have an MP who would listen to you, vigorously defend your rights and challenge the government to do better – for YOU…  wouldn’t that be worth registering to vote and then casting your ballot for?

I plan to be that kind of MP.

I have no interest in politics for politic’s sake.  I’d much rather risk crashing and burning my political career trying to achieve a brave new world (no tuition fees, equal opportunities for all, fair taxation and benefits, an NHS with the resources it needs), than tip-toe around currying favour in the hope of a ministerial position, double my salary and getting a cushy pension.


On the 7th May 2015, you get your one and only say on central government of the UK in 5 years.  You can vote for your local councillors most years, but this year, it is a General Election.

It is time to choose the 650 MPs “representatives of the people” we want to sit in the House of Commons and decide policy for our country – how much tax to put on beer, hot food, cars, petrol, your income.  These people choose what it is important to spend your tax money on and what will be cut back.  They are responsible for ensuring you are safe from terrorists, climate change and free to live your life.

Most of the candidates you will see will be Party Candidates. Political parties such as Conservative, Labour, UKIP have a huge memberships.  They choose who will stand as their candidate for each seat, do much of their publicity and write the manifesto – what the party promises to do if elected (these promises do not have to be remotely possible, and they rarely keep them).

While most candidates are supported by a party, they are supposed to act for their constituents first.  I am standing as an Independent so that I never have to choose between what is best for the Party and what is best for you.

It is important that you can trust your local MP to put your best interests first.  All of our best interests first. Regardless of their party.

Once elected all MP’s sit in the House of Commons and vote on proposed changes to how our country is run, whether they are “in government” or not.

The party which wins the most seats forms the Government and appoints ministers, such as the Minster for Education and the Chancellor (who sets the budget).

If no party manages to get an overall majority, the biggest parties will try to form a team with smaller parties and the Independent MPs, until they have a team big enough to make a majority (as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did in 2010).

The Prime Minister is (strictly speaking) appointed by the Queen as the person who can command that majority team and be the leader of the government.


All you have to do, is to register to vote (here), and then choose the candidate who you believe will be the best.  

Your elected representative will be voting on your behalf on hundreds of issues over the next 5 years.  They need to be a good and strong person in their own right.

If you do not vote, nobody will never know who you thought would be the best and we will all be worse off for that.

What you think; matters. Please register to vote.

Animal Rights, Animal Welfare & Cruel Sports

There are a number of great campaigns underway to ensure that we are talking about animal welfare and the status of cruel sports in the run up to the General Election in May 2015.  I am currently aware of at least three, from Compassion in World Farming, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the League Against Cruel Sports.

I fully support all three of these campaigns, their requests are all very reasonable, well thought out and quite clearly the right thing to do in our modern, humane society. 

The League Against Cruel Sports outlines five calls:

1. To defend and strengthen the Hunting Act
2. To ban the use of snares
3. To conduct an independent inquiry into the commercial shooting industry
4. To take tough action to deal with illegal dog fighting
5. To strengthen protection for racing greyhounds

Further Information from the League Against Cruel Sports can be found here.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) have asked all candidates to declare their stance on a number of key issues core to what IFAW stand for.  I completely agree with IFAW that:

Improving the welfare of animals is a top priority.

The UK should continue to lead international efforts to combat the illegal trade in endangered wildlife and wildlife products.

Commercial whaling should end.

The Hunting Act should remain in place.

Initiatives to better protect native wildlife species should be supported.

Further Information from the IFAW General Election campaign (and which other candidates agree with IFAW) can be found here.

The campaign from Compassion in World Farming is rather more in-depth and explicit.  I have been following Compassion in World Farming for many years and fully support everything they request in their charter (below).  I will campaign in parliament for it to be adopted 100%, and for us to come up with a sensible plan to make it become a reality from the less than ideal situation we have today.

I grew up in a farming village on the edge of the New Forest and have been inside a battery chicken house; it was horrendous.  But it wasn’t until I studied factory farming at Totton College that I realised just how widespread this miserable treatment of animals, especially pigs, is in our food production industry.  At that point I became vegetarian and vowed never to eat another battery egg.  I have kept to that since 1997.

We need to introduce high standards of farm animal welfare. It is time to phase out production that uses cages and crates as they thwart the basic instincts of many animals to roam, forage and explore.

Animals should be kept in outdoor systems or, if they are housed, they should be kept in large barns with ample space, plenty of straw, natural light and effective ventilation. Genetic selection for fast growth or high yields should be avoided if this results in compromised welfare and systems should not be used if they require mutilations.

Across Europe, around 700 million farm animals (hens, sows, rabbits, ducks and quail) spend some or all of their life confined in cramped, often barren cages.

Cages are a form of inescapable and extreme confinement which renders an animal dependent solely on its keeper for food and water, with minimal comfort, and deprives an animal of autonomy, severely restricting their ability to meet essential behavioural, physical and psychological needs.

It is for these reasons that cages should be consigned to the history books and food production should be developed using extensive, outdoor and cage free systems.

Sustainable farming that nourishes our health, the environment and promotes higher animal welfare must become the rule, not the exception.

Further information on Compassion in World Farming’s Charter can be found here: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/charter and here: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/charter-briefing-notes

I am similarly against industrial scale fishing, which is also both unsustainable and damaging to the environment and to the future of smaller, more environmentally responsible fishing operations (see Hugh’s fish fight from celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the barbaric practise of culling badgers as an attempted method of reducing the risk of badgers transferring tuberculosis to cattle.  I say attempted because it is not very successful and is not supported by scientific evidence.  There is an alternative method, involving badger vaccination, which could be used instead, and would not require the widespread culling of wildlife.

For more information on the campaign against badger culling, please see here.

Where Suzie Ferguson stands on the TTIP

A lot of you have contacted me about the TTIP, thank you for that.  It is really encouraging to see how many people have their eyes and ears open now and are prepared to take action to show they will not stand for potential further privatisation of our public services and weakening of our democracy.

“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth,[1] while critics say it would increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for public benefit.[2] The American government considers the TTIP a companion agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[3] After a proposed draft was leaked in March 2014,[4] the European Commission launched a public consultation on a limited set of clauses and in January 2015 published parts of an overview.[5] 

Read more from Wikipedia on the TTIP here.

Groups such as 38 Degrees have been following the TTIP as closely as anyone and have warned that it could help speed up the privatisation of our services, the NHS in particular as well as giving corporations further powers to sue elected governments should they pass laws which hurt their profits.  The full text has not been made public, so it is difficult to verify either the positive of negative interpretations.

As a 38 Degrees member and concerned citizen myself, I have also been anxiously watching the progress of the TTIP.  I am hopeful that there must be something of value to the UK population in it, but so far, it seems as toxic as it comes. I am extremely against the idea of corporations having new powers to sue governments because this would make it difficult to reverse privatisation that has already taken place.  The fact that the NHS has not been removed from the TTIP despite the overwhelming public opposition is further evidence of how completely the wishes and ideals of the electorate have been ignored by our current government.

If I am elected I will lobby for complete rejection of the TTIP. If there is anything which would benefit the UK as a whole in there already, then let us take that forward in a new agreement and not waste everyone’s time and effort trying to unpick the current TTIP or placate the public by promising to remove “sections” only. I hope that MP’s will be given a chance to view the deal if it still exists in May, in which case I will communicate everything I can with you. If I am somehow prevented from doing this then I will pursue whistleblower protection so that I can communicate its contents.

It is important that the UK continues to further partnerships with our neighbours, but excluding defense and security issues, this should be done in a way that the electorate can interrogate, and preferably participate in, in a responsible and constructive manner.

Reversal of the creeping privatisation of the NHS in particular, which has been going on for at least 10 years, is something which I will make a top priority. All of the healthcare professionals, patients and general public I have spoken too, without exception, have stated that this would improve our NHS (along with hiring more medical professionals, on fair pay, ensuring they have the resources they need to do their jobs and matching the EU norms for total government healthcare spending).

Did you know that education has also been suffering from privatisation? Some heads of companies which run just a handful of schools earn twice the salary of the Prime Minister, regardless of how well or badly those schools are run, or how much the taxpayer is paying to support them? I will be standing for the reversal of this process as well.

Campaign Update – Communication, Photography and Printing

Last week someone asked me on twitter, “when are you planning to start your campaign?”.

I started writing to newspapers, launched this website and set up my campaign e-mail address, Facebook and twitter accounts in August 2014, so this surprised me a bit.  A number of people have asked me if and when I will be knocking on doors, as this, apparently is a standard way to show you have started your serious campaign in the run up to the election.

Well actually, I wasn’t going to knock on doors.  I won’t rule it out, but from a non-career politician’s point of view, I’m not sure I see the value in it.  It seems a lot like disturbing people’s privacy and interrupting their precious free time and family time, just to try to demonstrate that I’m “taking it seriously”.  And it might even be dangerous, I certainly don’t think it would be a good idea to go alone…  I did some door knocking for Marie Curie, just up and down my own street, during the years I was living in my flat off Dee road in Tilehurst, and that is not an experience I care to repeat.  I think I managed to collect about £2 and one “neighbour” even threatened to set their dog on me if I didn’t get away from their door fast enough.

If anyone really wants me to come and knock on their door please comment below or e-mail me at SuzieFerguson4MP@gmail.com.  Otherwise I plan to rely on keeping this site, and supporting social media accounts, as well up to date as I can and organise and attend meetings, which will be advertised on-line, with flyers and, hopefully, in local papers.  I have hustings with the Federation of Small Businesses (30th) and with Churches in Reading (19th) in the diary for April, already.

I like that people can find out what they want to know at a time of their convenience using so many different means in 2015.  Invading people’s privacy just doesn’t seem necessary.

Suzie None smile 1
Suzie by Bink Photography

My campaign is progressing…  I have found a fantastic photographer; Frankie Cox, here in Dubai, recommended by a colleague.  Frankie has very generously donated his time, skill and resources in the form of a photoshoot and post processing towards my campaign.  Frankie’s company, Bink Photography, is available for freelance work in Dubai, working with families and individuals to create special memories.  Please check out his ‘hire-me’ page at www.bink.photography.  He also has some stunning work available for purchase up there, like the header picture I have used, so I was very lucky to find him!

A couple of Reading local businesses will be helping me with flyers as soon as I have put the right words together with Frankie’s great pictures, so hopefully I will soon have some information available around Reading which is not exclusively via the internet!

On the note of printing paperwork… I have enough funds, and offers of campaign support discounts, that I should be able to manage something like 2000 flyers.  However, with more than 70,000 registered constituents in Reading West, that probably will not go very far.  So I have set up a Paypal account associated with “SuzieFerguson4MP@gmail.com” so that, should anyone wish to contribute towards my campaign, then here is a way for them to do so.  This account is not linked to any personal banking etc, I will pay for printing directly from the Paypal account and publish everything I have collected and spent.  We need transparency like this for MP’s to have any hope of regaining people’s trust!

Suzie Side Tattoo 1
Suzie by Bink Photography

The only funds I really need are for printing costs, which run at approximately £70 to £100 for a batch of 2000 flyers.  The rules also state that donations of £50 or more must be recorded and declared with donor information, so I will only be accepting donations below £50.   Now I just have to work out how to put a “donate” button on my site…

I would also like to thank the same colleague who put me in touch with Frankie Cox; Andrea Kelly. Andrea simultaneously manages to be a Lifestyle Coach, Online Marketer and all round social media guru, which she fits in around the day job as an engineer.  It is Andrea who has introduced me to the additional platforms of Instagram and tumblr and the supporting apps for managing multiple social media accounts, like Crowdfire, PicLab, TagsForLike, Iconosquare, MailChimp and more. Please check her out if you need some help with your accounts for promoting your business; www.Andrea-Kelly.com (Instagram, andreak3lly; twitter, AndreaK3lly; Facebook, AndreaKellyMLM).

P.S. I managed it (with more help from the lovely Andrea) here is my Paypal donate button…

 

Positive Politics

I have not spend all that much time watching election politics news, partly because I’m just way too busy (day job plus family), but partly because it is so boring and depressing;

“The media and Party X attacks party Y for saying they would increase spending on the NHS by £5bejillion which would cause a hole in the budget big enough to trigger the end of the universe”

“The Media and Party Y attacks Party X for pledging to reduce university tuition fees because actually only rich young men would benefit because women are already lower paid… blah blah blah…

I don’t believe this is the best we can come up with.  If Germany can have a great national health system and low university fees there must be a way to do it.  I want to see what we can do.

Nothing is impossible (unless actual real science says so), we can land a spaceship on a comet but we can’t find a way to run our country effectively enough to achieve what almost any society would aim to achieve?

I’m not interested in Red or Blue anymore, because they are all neo-liberal (a term I only recently learned the meaning of since it sounds like a high-brow politics and philosophy term).  What it means is a system of government where the state does less and less, i.e. deregulation and privatisation while private companies take more and more responsibility for things like healthcare, education, infrastructure and security.

Such a system has delivered tuition fees, academy schools, NHS privatisation, rubbish service on the railways and insufficient, piecemeal investment in infrastructure.  And as a final kick in the teeth this is all propped up by government subsidies costing even more than before they were privatised in the first place.

Anyway.  That is the politics of the past now.  The politics of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The politics of “it can’t be done” and “you’ll never change it”.

It is time for a new type of politics.  Politics with a positive mental attitude.  The politics of

“if country X can do it, then so can we… so how do we make it work for the UK?”

Politics involving team work and problem solving, using and trusting the skills of our people and our resources to remove decades or century-old barriers, to work out a system of economics, for example, which will minimise economic bubbles and busts, provide a functioning safety net for people who fall on hard times are hurt, sick or need community help in any way, while allowing everyone to achieve their potential.

Charities and faith groups have done an outstanding job of pulling people out of the river and helping them survive another day.  But now it is time to help our society by taking an honest look at whoever is pushing those people into the river in the first place and stopping them.  It is not enough to drop some coins in the collection, we have to have courage to use our own minds to judge the situation around us and we have to trust that there is indeed a better way than austerity and status quo politics.

It is not crazy talk or pie-in-the-sky ideas from a bunch of hippies versus sensible red or blue conservatism.  What we need is the willingness to look outside the old and broken box and to vote outside that broken box on the 7th May.  Voting for tweedledum this time and tweedledee in 2020 will probably never fix our country, how many more people will fall below the poverty line (or die needlessly) by 2020 if we don’t vote for change?  Nobody sensible is suggesting we kick over the ant’s nest and start from scratch.  We need to be wise and realistic but at the same time determined for change and optimistic.  We must have the courage to say,

“wait a minute, quantitative easing didn’t work last time, can’t we stimulate the economy another way before spending another £375billion on that?”.

Look at who your candidates are, look at their skills, their work and educational background, would this person be any good at problem solving and morally courageous?  Would they be good at working in a team to look critically at the options, understanding the salient points and making a pragmatic decision based upon the facts presented?

That is the novel and ground-breaking politics we need.

No more deciding policies based upon what a true-blue or real-red do.  What do the facts of the situation say?  Is it sensible to fund universities with 35 year loans?  Does it make sense to reprivatise a public company run railway which was making money for the tax-payer?

It is not that hard.  Humans successfully landed a man on the moon 56 years ago people.  We can do this.