WILL HAZEL GO?
As the expenses scandal refuses to leave the political agenda the Hazel Must Go! campaign has delivered an open letter to Hazel Blears setting out its reason why she should go and inviting her to respond.
"The open letter is an appeal to Ms Blears to realise that our campaign isn't a small group of people with a personal vendetta" said Hazel Must Go! campaigner, David Henry, who delivered the open letter to Hazel Blears' office "Nearly 100 people turned up to one of our recent meetings in Salford, so I think this clearly shows there's a great deal of support for the campaign in the community. We are genuinely concerned about how Salford is being represented in Parliament. We hope Hazel will reply to this letter."
THE OPEN LETTER…
Dear Ms. Blears
You might now be aware of the Hazel Must Go campaign that has been set up by residents of Salford who are concerned about your continued representation of Salford as MP. We wanted to write an open letter to you to explain why we set this campaign up and give you an opportunity to reply.
We did not set the campaign up without a lot of thought and discussion and it is not something many of the campaign's supporters have entered into easily. It may seem a drastic step, but we feel that there are strong reasons as to why a community challenge to you, Salford's MP was and remains so necessary.
As you will undoubtedly be aware, at the meeting we held in Eccles last month over 100 people were present and it was agreed to issue you with the ultimatum of stepping down by 31st October or potentially face a community candidate supported by the Hazel Must Go Campaign.
We adopted the following 10 points at the meeting as a `Charter for Salford'. As with the ultimatum this was voted on, and was agreed almost unanimously – the only opponents were supporters of yourself, who we were happy to let have their say.
We want to make you aware of this Charter for two reasons:
1. It is now the program on which the Campaign is based, and would be the basis for any candidate supported by the Campaign; and
2. We hope to make the point clearly that this is not a personal witch-hunt and is based on experience and policies we believe are important for Salford.
Charter for Salford
1. No cuts in Public Services! No Privatisation!
The Labour Party, like the other two mainstream parties, has committed itself to cuts in public services. It has also shown itself to be a supporter of privatisation in the NHS, local government and other areas of the public sector.
Your party's justification for cuts in services is that it is demanded by the recession – we must all tighten our belts. However, at the same time as Labour insists on cuts in services, that will no doubt impact on the lives of people in Salford it is prepared to allow the scandal of bankers bonuses to continue – having already initiated a multi-£billion bailout at the tax payers expense.
The recession was not created by people in Salford – we didn't really have it too good during the "boom" period – and we don't believe we, the inhabitants of one of the most deprived areas of the country should have to pay for it through cuts to the services we depend upon.
As for privatisation, we have seen its effects in Salford. The best example we can think of is the outsourcing of home care services for the elderly, the disabled and the ill. Private companies are able to employ staff on low wages and demand increased numbers of visits from them to ensure large profits. Those who suffer are us, our relatives, our friends and our neighbours. These companies are subsidised by our taxes and client's benefits and they know that if they employ less staff and demand more work from them their profit margins will grow and the services clients receive will shrink. This is what happens, yet they are allowed to get away with it.
Your Government supports both cuts and privatisation. We don't believe either achieves anything but misery for the people of Salford.
2. Defend the NHS! Restore the Maternity Ward to Hope Hospital!
We have already mentioned cuts in the NHS, but one clear example springs to mind – the closure of the maternity ward at Hope.
When the closure was proposed you insisted you would do what you could to fight it. You stood outside the hospital with the rest of us. Then you went back to Westminster and continued to support the Government's program of maternity ward closures.
You told us, you agreed with the policy, but felt that it shouldn't happen in Salford. Well, as proud as we are to be from Salford, we don't think anywhere should suffer the unfortunate fate of losing its maternity services.
3. Public investment in environmentally friendly, council houses for Salford.
So called "regeneration" in inner city Salford has displaced communities and has created over-crowding and the inevitable social problems in outer areas like Little Hulton. All that has taken place in reality is a cleansing exercise aimed at getting rid of those people you don't want to live near "exciting new developments" like Media City, or who might disrupt business investment by showing that poverty still actually exists in our city.
The failure to build council houses has meant an ever-longer waiting list for those seeking housing and has meant that despite politicians' claims to the contrary that homelessness is now a major issue in the city.
Privatisation of council stock has meant rent increases for the poorest, and profits for the new landlords.
Your Government supports these policies and so do you.
4. No to School Closures! Decent Services for Young People!
Crowded class rooms and over-worked teachers should mean more, not less schools. However, in Salford we see the impending closure of St. George's and the increased use of Academies.
You may reply that St. George's is not in your constituency, but as a Labour MP you have always supported "Building Schools for the Future" – using private money to replace high-achieving and well-respected schools like St. George's.
Your Government has criminalised young people like no other. Crime and anti-social behaviour is not welcome in Salford, but it will not be prevented with ASBOs. We need decent facilities to offer alternatives to young people and to support those who are struggling to find work or educational opportunities.
5. No to corruption in politics! MPs to receive no more than the average wage + reasonable expenses!
While the expenses scandal and your late payment of capital gains tax is not the only reason we are unhappy, it is clear that this is a major issue. We feel you breached the trust given to you by the people of Salford and sought to serve yourself rather than us.
We do not think any MP should be there for the money. We want an MP who genuinely wants to represent Salford people, and that is why any candidate supported by our Campaign would have to agree to take no more than the average wage + reasonable expenses that would be constantly available for scrutiny.
6. Massive investment in public transport!
People in Salford depend on public transport, but what we have are unreliable, expensive and outdated buses and trains. We would want to see huge investment in improving our public transport, extending its use and making it affordable for everyone. We would also expect our MP to take on the companies who own the buses and trains, and who are happy to make huge profits at the tax payers' expense.
Public transport should be run like any other public service – to serve the needs of the public, not to serve the greed of the rich.
7. Defend Jobs! We won't pay for the Recession!
We are in a time of ever increasing unemployment and we want an MP who will help people fight for their jobs. It is not enough to blame the recession – we didn't cause the recession.
We are realistic. We know that the fight to save jobs is not always a victorious one, but we would want an MP who is prepared to do everything he/she can to support people faced with losing theirs.
Instead you represent a Government that is prepared to nationalise banks, but not companies sacking their workers. In Salford, the Labour Council is already sacking workers and your Government wants this to continue.
8. Greater Government Investment in Salford.
Salford needs sustainable public investment and we need an MP who will fight for it. Government money has been poured into the banks. Direct investment in the building of council homes and the improvement of existing public buildings would improve our community and create jobs. Creation of training and social schemes for young people would give them a sense of worth and offer further opportunities
9. No to Racism! No to Divisive Politics!
We think this goes without saying, but unfortunately some of the legislation your Government has brought in has been divisive. Laws removing civil liberties have been heavily used against Black and Asian young people and your insistence on looking tough on immigration for the tabloids has played into the hands of the racist BNP.
We welcome a multi-cultural Salford and we want an MP who will stand up against division and will work to strengthen links between different cultures. With the election of a BNP MEP in the North West, it is now more important than ever that our MPs make clear that all discrimination, whether it racist, homophobic, sexist or on the grounds of religion, is totally unacceptable.
10. Reduce Pollution! Protect our Green Spaces!
People in Salford care about the environment, but we don't think we should feel guilty because we cannot afford the most energy efficient, up to date equipment. We think the Government and business should take more responsibility.
We want an end to the selling off of school fields, more investment in public transport and a program for the building of environmentally friendly homes on land that has already been used rather than green belt and parks. Furthermore, a programme of insulation for council homes, council, education and NHS buildings would create jobs and reduce energy use; helping to lower greenhouse emissions.
I hope we have given you a picture of why we set up this Campaign. We do not feel you are the person to deliver these things for Salford. Your voting record would suggest that you do not want these things for Salford.
You may suggest that our demands are unrealistic and we know they would be difficult to achieve, but until the politicians who represent us are prepared to take up these issues we will always find that people in Salford will enjoy a lower standard of living than others and that's not what we want.
We want an MP who is courageous, bold and loyal. We don't want a careerist. We want someone who cares and who will stand up for Salford, regardless of the personal difficulty it creates for them.
You have had 12 years to prove that you have these qualities and we think you have been found lacking.
We look forward to your response. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hazel Must Go
Further information at www.hazelmustgo.wordpress.com