The Green Party is set to field more than three times as many candidates in the North East as in 2010, in a further sign that the smaller parties could play a key role in the general election.
And the party has turned to an “crowdfunding” website where supporters, or anyone who want to help, are urged to contribute small sums of money to help pay the cost of deposits.
One candidate is even offering donors rewards such as a sketch or a personalised poem if they help to fund his campaign.
It follows the success of the Greens in winning support from one in 20 voters in the region in the European elections last year, placing them almost level with the Liberal Democrats.
The party had just ten candidates in the region in 2010.
But it expects to have candidates in 25 seats on May 7.
However, standing for election can be an expensive business – particularly for a party without funding from big businesses or trade unions.
To help raise the £500 deposit which every candidate needs, the Greens have turned to a website called crowdfunder.co.uk which allows anybody to contribute sums, typically of £5 or more, to a cause.
In return, donors will receive a reward which varies from candidate to candidate.
Michael Holt, who hopes to be the Green Party candidate for Hartlepool, is offering to draw a sketch for backers who donate £5, write a personalised poem for £10 or record a song, on the subject of the donor’s choosing, for £30.
Other candidates are offering more conventional rewards. Donors backing the campaign of prospective Tynemouth candidate Julia Erskine can receive a badge or a mug.
The fundraising has a serious purpose – to allow the Greens to take part in May’s General Election in a way that hasn’t happened before.
It comes amid speculation that the traditional three parties – Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – could lose ground to parties such as UKIP, the Greens and, in Scotland, the SNP.
One opinion poll published this week found that Labour had 27 per cent of the vote in the North of England while Conservatives were on 22 per cent, UKIP on 14 per cent, Greens on seven percent and Lib Dems on four per cent.
The North East has not traditionally been the most fertile ground for the Greens, who have one MP, representing Brighton Pavilion.
Brighton and Hove Council is also the only council controlled by the Greens, as a minority administration. London, the south east and south west each have one Green MEP.
But the party believes it could pick up support in the North East and is campaigning on a series of local issues across the region. In Northumberland they are opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and they are also working with residents concerned about planned open cast mining at Druridge Bay.
Greens in Newcastle and Gateshead are campaigning to protect the green belt. Greens have also opposed the closure of the Jarrow NHS walk-in centre in South Tyneside.
Shirley Ford, North East organiser for the Greens and the party’s organiser in South Shields, said:
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election. The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.”
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning.
“And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits. We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.”
What they stand for:
In line with the other parties, the Green Party has not yet published its General Election manifesto. The party says that its manifesto published last year for the European Elections provides a good guide to what it believes.
- Opposing austerity and instead creating jobs by investing in a low carbon economy
- Scrapping the welfare cap
- A new tax on bankers bonuses
- Stopping the “privatisation” of the National Health Service
- Bringing schools such as academies and free schools back under local authority control
- Bringing rail franchises back into public ownership
Scrapping the high speed rail line known as HS2
> The Green surge in the North East is interesting because formerly UKIP were claiming to be the alternative vote in the region for disillusioned Labour voters.
I suspect that the Greens are now becoming the alternative to UKIP being the alternative (if that makes sense). Certainly you’d like to hope that any ex-Labour or Lib Dems with principles would vote Green rather than UKIP and its pathetic policies.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015
Workers could be forced to pay at least £5 a week to private insurers to receive higher benefits, under new plans being considered by the Tories.
The proposal included in a report from the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, who have close ties to the Tories, would see people who work more than 20 hours a week paying into a compulsory “collective insurance scheme”.
> As well as the compulsory National Insurance ?
Policy Exchange argue that this would help restore the “contributory principle” in the benefits system. The more workers paid into the private insurance scheme, the more they would be able to draw out if they lose their job.
> But surely National Insurance is the “contributory principle” in the benefits system ?
Contributory benefits accounted for 41% of all benefit payments in the 1970’s. This has now fallen to just 10%.
The scheme would be run by private insurers and fund managers, reports the Independent newspaper, but would be guaranteed by the Government.
According to the Policy Exchange the plan would save the Government around £2.6 billion a year and would replace the £72 a week contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
Workers who have been in employment for at least two years can currently claim contributory JSA for up to six months if they become unemployed, funded through National Insurance contributions.
The introduction of a “welfare account” would see workers National Insurance contributions reduced.
> But its not really a reduction if you’re having to pay out on a different scheme, is it ?
Payments from workers would raise £8 billion a year, £2 billion of which would go into a collective unemployment insurance scheme. The remainder would go into each persons individual “welfare account”.
Individuals who pay £5 a week would be permitted to withdraw £20 a week from their personal account to top up their unemployment benefit.
Higher earners would be able to pay as much as £100 a week into the insurance scheme, and could use the additional money to fund retraining or in the event of a personal emergency or ill-health. If they do did not use the money it would top-up their pension when they retire by £10,000.
The proposal is currently being considered by the Tories and could form part of their general election manifesto.
Author of the report Steve Hughes said:
“The current system does not reflect the contributions that people make through their working lives. It does not reflect changes to the modern-day labour market such as the rise in self-employment. And it does not meet the variety of needs that individuals have.”
“Successive governments have tried and failed to improve the system from the top down. This has created a culture of something for nothing, with people becoming reliant on the state. Radical reform is needed to restore public trust in the welfare state.
“Personal responsibility must be at the heart of a change to the system. A new collective insurance scheme alongside personal welfare accounts will form the backbone of these reforms.”
> A love the way they talk about personal responsibility when its a compulsory scheme, decided by others. Where’s the personal input ?
The scheme could eventually be extended to include maternity leave, mortgage interest payments and social care. In the long-term it could mark the beginning of the end for the Welfare State and usher in a privately run, or corporate welfare system.
> And isn’t that the bottom line ? Private insurance firms, fund managers… all the usual parasites will be lining up to take far more government funding than will ever be spent on benefits to the people that need it.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 15 Oct 2014
This article was written by Nicholas Watt, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th August 2014
The Liberal Democrats will pledge in their general election manifesto to introduce a new “yellow card” system to give job seekers who break benefit rules a final warning before sanctions are imposed.
In another sign of their determination to differentiate themselves from their Tory coalition partners, the Lib Dems will say the system needs to be reformed after a trebling in sanctions.
Under the current rules, claimants can lose four weeks of benefit for something as simple as missing one appointment at a JobCentre Plus office.
The Lib Dems say that over the past decade the number of sanction referrals has increased from around 60,000 a month in the early part of the last decade to around 170,000 today. Sanctions can be imposed if job seekers fail to meet simple conditions such as writing a CV, applying for enough jobs or turning up to interviews.
> Or if the Jobcentre adviser hasn’t met their sanctions target for that week.
The party points to figures which show that in 2013 around 6,700 sanctions were overturned each month – 15% of the total – on the grounds that the original decision was flawed. In many cases the claimant provided extra information which helped to overturn the sanctions.
Steve Webb, the Lib Dem work and pensions minister, said: “The Liberal Democrats believe in offering opportunity for everyone in order to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. That’s why we are reforming the benefits system to make sure that work always pays.
“It’s absolutely right that when we pay people benefits that there are expectations of them and consequences if they don’t meet those expectations. But the process needs to be fair and clear.
“There are too many examples of cases where people have been penalised unfairly. The Liberal Democrats want to build a fairer society and that’s why we think that before people’s money is taken away, they should get fair warning.”
> The Liberal Democrats want your vote, and hope that you’ll forget that they have been coalition partners in one of the most draconian governments in recent British history. They’d also like you to forget that we didn’t hear a peep out of them earlier. It might have been nice if they’d discovered their principles a little earlier.
Source – Welfare News Service, 13 Aug 2014