Jake Bowers, Green Party
On behalf of Hastings Online Times, Sean O’Shea (SOS) asks parliamentary candidates about their image of the ‘good society’, how it might be organised and financed, and what they would do to address some of the specific problems affecting the people of Hastings and Rye.
SOS: Some people have become cynical about the way our society is organised, e.g. finance, education, work, politics, the tax system and legal system, to mention just a few sectors. Furthermore, in the midst of growing inequality many of our core institutions are now perceived as serving a privileged elite, and neglecting or exploiting ordinary people. What is your view on this issue and what might you do to address the problem?
Jake Bowers I couldn’t agree more with that analysis. It’s very clear that our institutions of power, once the envy of the world, are tired, corrupt and in drastic need of renewal. Politics has become a career whereby the privileged hobnob with corporate lobbyists to pursue policies that favour the richest 1% of our society while the remaining 99% are locked out.
For me reform has to start at the top and go all the way, our monarchy is an offensive symbol of deeply entrenched inequality that I would like to see abolished, no matter how nice the Queen may personally be. The House of Lords needs to be replaced with a second directly elected chamber. Proportional representation needs to be legislated for so that those who do not back the winners in our out-dated electoral system can still have their views represented. We should also look at state funding of political parties so that rich individuals cannot adversely affect government policy.
But it’s not just the formally powerful institutions that should be reformed – the media should too. We need to have far tighter rules against concentration of media ownership so people like Rupert Murdoch cannot twist and dominate the news agenda. We also need to make sure the media is properly regulated by the principles established by the Leveson enquiry.
What is your vision of the ‘good society’ and how might such a society be organised and financed?
A good society is one that balances equality for all with opportunity for all. This requires a socially progressive state to regulate the market and the actions of individuals so that human rights and environmental sustainability are the benchmarks by which we judge our quality of life, rather than mere Gross Domestic Product. Green politics put the health of our biosphere and our personal wellbeing above the right of companies or individuals to amass great wealth. Countries in Europe that have gone a long way to creating such a balance, such as Denmark, Sweden or Iceland, are proven to have much happier, healthier people. They have high taxes that create equality for their populations and strong welfare states. I’ve lived in Sweden and think we can learn a lot from it. I’m politically socialist but economically capitalist as a small business owner, and have always been inspired by countries that can blend the ability to create wealth with the ability to redistribute it.
How is the tough regime of the DWP (Dept. for Work and Pensions) and their partners ATOS (a French multinational IT services company), and now MAXIMUS (a multinational company who runs healthcare programmes in the US, UK, Australia and Saudi Arabia) reconcilable with any concept of a ‘good society’?
In short, it isn’t. Declaring war on the poor is one of the nastiest legacies of this coalition government. The bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and forcing people to subsidise big business through cheap labour are all things that a Green MP would dedicate themselves to abolishing.
What do you consider to be some of the specific problems and challenges affecting the daily lives of people in Hastings & Rye and what would your party do to address them?
We would tackle bad housing by building many more new council houses so that people weren’t dependent on slum landlords.
We would tackle bad employment by increasing the minimum wage to a living wage of £10 an hour.
We would remove any private involvement in public sector areas such as the NHS and education and renationalise the railways.
Hastings is known for its atmospheric pubs and vibrant music scene, yet pub landlords and musicians – not to mention the fishermen – are struggling to make a living, pubs in the UK are closing at a rate of 31 a week (Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA, 2014) and it’s likely that there will be few left if the decline continues. How would you address this issue?
Personally I’d like to see our pubs freed of the disparately high tariffs on serving alcohol when compared to the prices in supermarkets. They are a British institution that needs protecting. Those that are independently run and offer paid employment to live music acts should be given a special status in tax law, much in the way private schools currently are.
Why do you think people should vote for you personally?
I’m a local self-employed man with three kids and wife that works in the public sector and not a career politician. I have experienced firsthand how hard it is to make a living in Hastings and seen how the decline of our NHS and academisation of our schools has had a massive impact on my family. They shouldn’t just vote for me personally but vote for the policies that will create a truly fairer society. Hastings is a funky irreverent town that needs a radical MP that will champion its real needs without fear or favour to big business or other special interest groups. I believe only a Green MP can do that.
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