Saturday, 25 March 2017

Romsey County Council elections

As you may be aware, I’ll be a candidate in the County Council elections in May for Romsey division. As your candidate, I think it’s important that voters have information on who’s on the ballot paper so that you can make an informed decision at the ballot box.

Who am I?
I live on Hobart Road (the Coleridge Road section). I grew up in Newcastle, and came to Cambridge as a student at Homerton College in 2004, studying Computer Science. After graduating in 2007, I got a job with a software company on the Business Park just south of Milton, and I now work as a senior software engineer for a software company based in West Cambridge, next to the Cavendish Lab. I lived in the city centre after graduating, and moved to Hobart Road in 2010.

I first joined the Liberal Democrats in 2013 - I was getting fed up with how little information there was about the local council and local councillors, and so decided to do something about it. I stood for election in the City Council elections of 2015 in my local ward, Coleridge. I got over 1000 votes and a swing of 12%, although unfortunately that wasn’t enough to win. I’m now standing in my local division for the County elections, Romsey (after the boundary changes this year).

My wife and I are active in the local community - we’re both regular members of St Martin’s Church on Suez Road, and my wife helps run Girlguiding for the south-east area of Cambridge, as well as running a Guide group of her own. I’ve been involved in local politics - knocking on people’s doors, speaking to residents, trying to fix problems, for over 3 years now. I’ve also played the cello in several local orchestras, and my folk band performs all around East Anglia.

Why vote on the 4th May?
Local elections usually get turnouts of around 30-40%, general elections around 60-70%. Local elections are generally seen as less important than national elections, but they actually play a really important part in the day-to-day running of the city and county. It is the City and County Councils that handle regular maintenance and management of the city, as well as being responsible for social care, schools, parks & open areas, bin collections, and many other things that you only really notice if they go wrong.

Whilst there are certain tasks that the councils must do, there’s a lot of scope for councillors to prioritise funding to certain schemes and not others, to change policy in certain areas, to enforce laws and bylaws to different extents, and so on. This means the political makeup of the councils can have a huge effect on provided services that people depend on, and can drastically change the ‘feel’ of the city, with significant decisions or policies having long-lasting positive or negative effects on the city and county as a whole.

One example is the current wrangling over the City Deal and how to deal with congestion in Cambridge, with the various political parties having very different views on what to do. The outcome of any decisions made will affect Cambridge for many decades to come, and it’s the local councillors making those decisions

Why vote for me?
As I’ve said, I’ve lived in the area for many years. I know what a unique place Romsey is - the cafes & shops, churches, pubs, the terraced streets, the parks - and I also know what problems it’s got - lots of pressure from commuter parking, too few school places, and of course the many, many potholes!

There are some very significant changes coming to Cambridge in the next few years, which will affect the city and the surrounding area for many years to come. Romsey will be right in the middle of any city-wide changes, containing 2 of the main roads into the city, as well as being right next to the station. 

These changes have the potential to drastically affect Romsey as an area and as a community, and so Romsey needs a councillor who will listen to residents, who will communicate what is going on and what is being planned, and will work to ensure the changes don’t destroy Romsey’s unique character. That is what I will do, if elected as Romsey’s county councillor.

One of the reasons I decided to stand was that I didn’t feel like I knew what the council or my local councillors were doing. I didn’t really hear from them, and didn’t know what they did. If I’m elected, I will make sure that that is not the case for me - you will hear from me and know what I am doing, I will actually come and talk to you, and I will represent our area to the best of my ability, with regular updates posted on the Romsey Lib Dems website.

So, on the 4th May, please do vote. It’s important. Vote for who you think will be the best councillor for Romsey - as it will make a huge difference in the next few years.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Canvassing with a stammer

When I go canvassing round Cambridge, when I talk to someone on the doorstep, the first thing they usually notice is that I have a stammer (also called a stutter). Basically, I can have problems articulating words, which in my case usually manifest at the start of words or sentances.

If you've seen the film The King's Speech, that's a very good portrayal of what a stammer is. Stammering is generally considered to be a neurological condition, although the causes are unknown, and it affects people in different ways and to different severities. It usually starts in early childhood, during initial speech development, and can cause someone to repeat certain syllables, or to not be able to say anything at all. It has no effect on thought patterns or intelligence, only on the neurological functions needed to speak. In my cause, it's relatively minor - it doesn't affect my day-to-day speech too much, although it can be accentuated in certain situations, or when I'm stressed or nervous. There's no outright cure, although there are some ways to lessen the impact.

The best way I can describe what it feels like to me is that my brain moves faster than my mouth - I know exactly what I want to say, but my mouth and facial muscles don't move fast enough, and so they lock up - and I can't say anything. It's mostly just annoying, but it can get really frustrating, especially when there's someone who is standing there, wondering why I knocked on their door just to gawp at them like a fish! There are a few strategies I use to help - running words together, avoiding words starting with certain syllables - but how much it affects me on a particular day can vary hugely, depending on how I'm feeling, what's happened that day, how busy I am, and many other things.

I'm naturally quite an introverted chap (my stammer probably has something to do with that), so speaking to people on the doorstep doesn't come naturally to me - so I tend to stammer more when canvassing than in day-to-day life. But, after all, someone has to do it, and I want to make a difference to my area - to actually listen to people who aren't normally listened to. So I talk to people, and try to solve problems people are having, and try to make my community just that bit better.

And if you want to get involved in your local community, you want to go speak to people, but you're worried about canvassing - don't be. It's really not that bad. The vast majority of people are very friendly; the worst you'll get is someone saying 'Now's not a good time' and they shut the door again. In over 3 years of canvassing with a stammer, the number of times people have sweared at me or reacted angrily (which really doesn't help my stammer by the way) I can count on my fingers. If I can do it with a mild-to-moderate stammer, so can you!

So if I come to your doorstep, and it's a particularly bad day for my stammer - maybe someone told me to 'Get on with it!' a few doors down - thank you for your patience. I know exactly what I want to say, I will get there in the end, there's not much you or anyone can do to help at that moment, but I'll get there. And I'll listen to you, and hopefully I can help you instead.