Article published: Wednesday, November 14th 2012
In the final interview for the Manchester Central by-election series, Beth Knowles interviews Tom Dylan, candidate for the Green Party.
Former Lord Mayor and Green Councillor for Norwich City Centre, Tom Dylan, is originally from Manchester and stood in the May local elections as a candidate in Salford. As the majority of the population become more concerned with the economy than green issues when deciding where to place their vote, I spoke to Tom Dylan about how the Greens are reacting to this shift and whether a green economy is really the answer to all of our economic woes.
Given the Green Party’s political expansion from purely green issues into a variety of policies including health, the banking system, jobs and housing, I questioned Dylan on the high levels of poverty within Manchester Central and how he believes the current situation can be rectified.
“It’s about including people in the prosperity that is going on, there’s enough prosperity out there but there are issues like the benefits trap, like old industries going out of business and not being replaced with new industries that people are skilled up to do. There’s not enough of an effort on everyone’s part, mine, yours and the government’s to help those people back in to the jobs that are there.”
He went on to say: “During the last year… of the growth there has been, a third of it has been down to the green economy, next year there’s going to be 25,000 new green jobs in the UK whether the government like it or not. The green economy is now bigger than car manufacturing or telecommunications; it strikes me that when you start to skill people up and invest properly… you then give them a chance to get out of benefit traps.”
He added: “I think the UK needs more of a balance, at the moment we’ve got London and everything else, I think we need to have some other strong centres… in order to make the whole thing more balanced.”
Manchester Central had the lowest voter turnout nationally in the 2010 general election and we can expect a turnout closer to 18 per cent on average nationally in the PCC elections on November 15 according to Unlock Democracy. I asked Dylan if he thought voter apathy in Manchester was a result of a disconnection with party politics, or if there are other reasons why the majority of the electorate in Manchester do not turn out to vote.
“Once you’ve got people interested on a personal level, I think there’s a lot you can do to make them more interested on a national level; the most important one is make them feel like their vote matters… You’ve got to prove to people why and make them more engaged… Make things more accessible and easier to understand.”
Dylan continued: “Another [initiative to improve turnout] would be PR which the Greens are in favour of, it’s very difficult to bang the drum as a Green about PR without making it sound like we want more seats… I would be in favour of PR if it gave us less seats, because it’s ludicrous, it should be democracy for a lot of people and it’s not at the moment. First past the post worked in 1700 it doesn’t work in 2012.”
A large part of the Green’s policy expansion includes improvements to pre-existing council housing and investment in new social housing projects. As a non-traditional Green policy I asked Dylan how he would work constructively with the Labour led council to increase their social housing target of 5 per cent for all new developments within the city.
“The first thing is to draw attention to it… There are other ways of providing social housing, what matters is that we have enough social houses for people, enough homes for people to live in… If the private rented sector was more affordable then the need for social housing would be reduced.”
During his time as a councillor in Norwich, Tom Dylan and his party colleagues pushed for a 10% social housing target which took several years to negotiate but was eventually implemented, on this he added:
“I don’t think 5% is ambitious enough, I think it’s a myth that it adds a lot of cost to new developments.”
According to a recent report by the MEN, in some areas within the Manchester Central constituency such as Ardwick, one in five 16-24 year olds are unemployed or not in education. I asked Dylan whether it was realistic to expect the green economy to provide the jobs and growth needed to tackle this crisis.
“It doesn’t take a genius to thrash out what skills we’re going to need in Manchester in five years time. If we pump a few million pounds, which is easy enough to raise from scrapping nuclear weapons and if people are happy with progressive taxes, and invest that in to getting young people to learn skills they’ll find useful right now and certainly in five or ten years time, not only do you help them but you’ll help the next generation.”
Dylan continued to explain the positive effects he believes climate change could have on Manchester’s economy:
“Climate change is going to affect us here [in Manchester Central] so what skills are we going to need to get over that? Why don’t we help these young people to become engineers and scientists? If you do that then the industry comes to you, there’s this feeling that we have to go out and get big business to come here, I think it’s the other way around, if you have happy, skilled people in an attractive and vibrant city then the business comes to you, the economy picks up and the poor young people are less poor, is a virtual circle.”