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Birmingham, Hodge Hill

Birmingham Hodge Hill is located in the West Midlands. It was created in 1983 and has been held by Labour ever since.

The current member of parliament is Labour’s Liam Byrne who has served since 2004.

2010 General Election Results (Adjusted for non-voters)
Birmingham Hodge Hill

For more information, click here to visit the Wikipedia article.

Candidates

Chris Nash

Background
Chris Nash, 25, is a geology graduate, a writer, and a petrol station cashier. After many years of low pay and ill health, he has rightly become enraged at the inequity rampant in modern society.

Chris has been unemployed in the past. He currently works on a zero-hour contract, anxiously scrabbling for whatever cover shifts are available. He knows that too many other people live similar precarious existences. Society’s economic model sets people up to fail – it wastes precious human capital, the vast potential of our citizenry, in the myopic pursuit of narrow financial gain.

Chris has lived in Birmingham since 2007 and wouldn’t live anywhere else. His acquired municipal pride is stubborn to the point where he firmly opposes the recent government assaults on the city’s budget, schools, and local democracy. He travels everywhere by bus and is increasingly obsessive about creating a public transport network that is used through choice, rather than of necessity.

His main priorities for Hodge Hill include opposing punitive benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax, ending in-work poverty through the creation of a national living wage and ultimately a universal basic income, increasing the quantity and quality of social housing, and radically improving public transport through investment and municipalisation.

1. What do you plan to do in order to make sure you remain ‘in touch’ with the electorate?
Democratic engagement is a two-way process. Politicians may lament declining voter turnout and the apparent apathy of the electorate, but the Scottish referendum shows just how engaged people can be when a truly democratic choice is available. It is the convergence of the main Westminster parties on a bland managerial centre-ground that has turned off large parts of the electorate. Its not enough for candidates to passively wait for constituents to come to them with concerns – candidates should be out there, regularly knocking on doors and speaking with the electorate face to face. Social media obviously has a role to play, but it can never entirely replace an individual conversation on the doorstep.
2. What makes you the best candidate for this constituency?
I’m young and formerly unemployed in a city with a lot of young (median age of 31) and unemployed (10% across Hodge Hill) people. Hodge Hill has been a safe Labour seat since the war – but that party no longer represents the interests of Hodge Hill’s constituents. My biggest priorities are ending the jobs and housing shortages afflicting Hodge Hill. I oppose the kind of politics which scapegoats, blames, or otherwise marginalises groups of our society on the grounds of their economic status, or their background.
3. What has the current Member achieved that you believe has been successful?
Advocacy on behalf of road safety, leading to the Road Safety Act of 2006.
4. In your opinion, is austerity working? What should we take from the state of the economy during this Government’s tenure?
No. Not by its own criteria, and not for the well-being of most people in society. The Government took the fragile recovery of early 2010 and delayed it for four years in the interests of reducing public services and redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. The UK is the fifth biggest economy on the planet – there is more than enough wealth to ensure a prosperous society without food banks, homelessness, and poverty. The Government’s economic priorities over the past five years have been counter to the interests of most of society.
5. Does (legal) immigration need more limitations or is it vital for the UK?
I have no strong feelings on the subject of immigration. I recognise that high rates of immigration can cause localised pressure on housing stocks and public services, though this is not the fault of individual immigrants. With regard to refugees, I believe that the UK has a clear moral obligation to help. In the longer term overall immigration pressure should be reduced by promoting the prosperity of the rest of the world – reducing to a minimum the desperate economic circumstances which drive many people to immigrate to the UK. I recognise that immigration is often necessary to offset skills shortages but oppose a) the selfish unwillingness of British companies and the UK government to train up local skilled workers, and b) the implication that we in the UK have a divine right to poach the graduates of developing world medical schools and universities to supply our own needs.
6. Many people are concerned about the cost of living in the UK, with wages having failed to rise in line with the price of food, energy and rent in recent years. How can this be corrected?
Universal Basic Income. Few policies can be true panacea against social ills – with the exception of the UBI (called the Citizen’s Income by the Green Party). By design it would eliminate poverty in the UK and grant every citizen the means by which to participate fully in society. Instead of bare survival through long hours at low pay, many more people could unleash their true creative and entrepreneurial potential. As a stepping stone towards UBI I’d like to see the minimum wage increased to a living wage (£10ph by 2020). I’d also propose rent-caps to reverse an over-inflated rental market. The energy market needs major reform – away from a profit-driven cartel and towards provision based on pubic need.
7. How would you like to see the NHS change in the future in order to become more successful?
On objective metrics the NHS is already one of the best heath services in the world. To protect this it needs to redouble its founding ethos – as a public service for public good. The profit-motive has no place in the NHS. Presently many NHS trusts are tied down by prohibitively expensive PFI contracts – funds which should go directly to patient care instead pay down debts from an earlier experiment in privatisation. Future legislation should free the NHS from the burden of PFI contracts.
8. What measures do you think need to be taken to decrease unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and those who have never been employed?
I think we need to recognise unemployment as an economic phenomenon (a shortage of jobs, to jobs as food is to famine), and stop viewing it as indicative of an individual moral failing. You don’t create jobs by sanctioning and persecuting unemployed people. The current DWP regime, with its associated culture, has to stop.

Economic stimulus in new technology – towards the green, creative and high-tech industries – can create new better jobs. In the longer term serious consideration has to be given to the looming job destruction wrought by increased automation. Potential solutions include a redistribution of work (there is no sense in one person having a 40-hour contract while another has no work at all), and a reform of the current system where worklessness means poverty.

9. Does the lack of diversity in Parliament equate to a lack of representation?
Yes. Parliament is currently unrepresentative of women and of BME persons. Further it is also increasingly unrepresentative of wide socio-economic groups, with politicians drawn from a narrow range of similar privileged backgrounds. Parliament needs more people from working class backgrounds, and more people with roots in the areas they represent. True empathy only comes from direct experience. How can a candidate who’s always lived in wealth and comfort ever understand what it is like to be unemployed? I also feel that there should be more young people in politics, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
10 . If an EU Referendum were to take place, how would you encourage your constituents to vote and why?
I consider myself to be Euro-critical. The EU is not democratic in anything but the least direct sense. Its institutions need major reform to even begin to represent the citizens of its member nations. I would personally vote to remain inside the EU, only so as to promote constructive reform from within. However I would agree that there should be a referendum, and I would not seek to encourage my constituents to vote one way over the other (short of setting out my own view). Ultimately I believe in democratic self-determination. I want the EU to be compatible with that belief.

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