Deputy Editor Kirstie Sutherland reports on a magnitude 4.4 earthquake which has affected parts of the West Midlands, including UoB's main campus.Written by Kirstie Sutherland on 17th February 2018
Metro Mayor Q&A Sessions: Graham Stevenson (Communist)
Metro Mayor Communist Party candidate Graham Stevenson, talks transport, mental health and housing to an audience organised by the Guild of Students
In a Q&A session organised at the Guild of Students on May 2nd, Graham Stevenson, Communist Party candidate for the West Midlands Mayoral Election, said emphasised that he deserves the student vote because he is not a career politician, and will be an active mayor who will break the cycle of Labour and Conservative governance in the region whose main priority is serving the wealthy.
“One of the key focuses of his speech was his ability to address the issue of transport in the West Midlands
Like the other mayoral candidate events, the session began with a video compiled by the University of Birmingham College of Social Sciences, followed by a speech from Stevenson. Guild President Ellie Keiller ran through the Student Mayoral Manifesto that the Guild have drawn up for all candidates, and the session finished with questions from the floor.
Stevenson’s speech emphasised that if elected, he would like to address the transition of power and wealth that has taken place from ordinary working people to the professional elite. However, he did recognise that the initial three-year term would only be a beginning in this process. He said that the process of forcing councils to collaborate in English devolution had not delivered on the supposed trickle-down effect, and working people had not seen the benefits that had been promised from such transitions of power.
One of the key focuses of his speech was his ability to address the issue of transport in the West Midlands from his time as a trade unionist, especially having previously fulfilled the role of President of the European Transport Workers Federation. This, he noted, was a post that informed him about the bureaucracy of the European Union, which would be useful amongst the current political fog of Brexit.
“anxiety and depression are at the worst levels that they have ever been in workplaces
Transport is also an issue that the Guild’s Mayoral Manifesto raises, emphasising that candidates need to protect students from unfair price rises and recognise their limited income for example. He aims to establish a working relationship with major transport providers, which are mainly private companies in the West Midlands, by using the franchising system that, he noted, he invented himself.
In relation to healthcare, and more specifically mental health, Stevenson emphasised that, if elected to office, he would have a significant say in the services provided in the relevant authorities, and it is an issue that he places great importance on. He said that anxiety and depression are at the worst levels that they have ever been in workplaces, and sufferers need the best support and care possible to try to limit the detrimental effects of mental health issues - a problem for both students and working people alike.
Another point brought to discussion by the Student Mayoral Manifesto was the issue of student housing. Stevenson addressed his own lack of experience in the area of student housing, but portrayed to the audience his wider vision that the way to solve the housing crisis, including issues such as the number of young people living on the street, is for more affordable council housing to be built.
“the hammer and sickle only represent mass struggle and a commitment to Marxism
Another issue covered in response to the Student Mayoral Manifesto was his active stance on reforming the waste disposal and recycling system, as well as his stance against all forms of hate crime and discrimination in relation to policing.
When asked why he was standing under the banner of Communism rather than Socialism, and if he thought this may alienate people given the connotations of the hammer and sickle’s symbolism, he said that there are many groups that use the symbol, and the Communist Party of Britain are most noted for their influence in the trade union movement. He added that by no means do they identify with extremist movements, and only represent mass struggle and a commitment to Marxism.
The closing remarks of his speech spelt out the potential for those voting to make an impact by voting for him as first preference, and Labour’s Siôn Simon as second preference for the best chance of keeping the Conservative party out of power.