Tag Archives: Labour

IN CONVERSATION WITH: KATE TAYLOR

“Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job.”

By Tobias Chalcraft

Kate Taylor is a Labour party councillor for Devonport and was first elected in 2012, in her late teens, before being re-elected in 2016.

In addition, she is the cabinet member for ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ on Plymouth City Council. However, while originally intending to seek re-election in the 2020 local elections, she has since decided that her career in elected politics will end at the postponed 2021 elections, as she seeks to prioritise her personal life and wellbeing.

In this socially-distanced email interview, we discussed how the council and her department have responded to COVID-19 in Plymouth, as well as her views on the Labour party leadership and being a young person in politics.

What role does Plymouth City Council play in tackling the Coronavirus?

“The virus has impacted on every service and aspect of the council”, Kate says, before explaining that COVID-19 has made the council “work very differently” in terms of varying issues, such as “homelessness, waste, parks, economic delivery, education and transport”.

Kate then outlined how Plymouth City Council oversees the coordination of communication and messaging, as well as controlling the infection rate in Plymouth’s 97 care homes via testing and support for staff. Likewise, the council has delivered care packages in the form of training & funding, as well as coordinated PPE, to secure the required protections for Plymouth’s care providers.

Local government has also taken responsibility for the government’s shielding programme via ‘Caring for Plymouth’, which Kate describes as “a collaboration between [the council], our healthcare providers and the voluntary and community sector to ensure that people are supported in terms of food, medication deliveries and emotional support”. ‘Caring for Plymouth’ has recently been expanded to benefit thousands of Plymouthians via the ‘Good Neighbours scheme’, which has helped both those who have been instructed to shield and those who have not.

Working with local partners has also been crucial to the council’s response to COVID-19, with partners such as Elder Tree and St. Luke’s helping with the formation of “innovative projects” such as the ‘Care Hotel’ and the ‘Care Home Liaison Service’. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kate says that herself and colleagues “have worked non-stop to ensure the provision of vital services despite the challenges.”

What does your cabinet role in ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ require of you? How has this evolved during the pandemic?

“My budget runs into the tens of millions and no two days are the same – I can go from discussing our budget, to opening one of our fantastic Health and Well-being Hubs, to reviewing business cases for new, fit-for-purpose accommodation for those with learning disability, and most recently, helping to coordinate our responses to the pandemic.”

Duties for Kate’s role include overseeing services for older people, mental health, drug & alcohol and learning disabilities. She is also the lead for Plymouth being a ‘Dementia Friendly City’, which the councillor described as a cause very close to her heart. Furthermore, as the figure responsible for Public Health, she chairs the Health & Wellbeing board and delves into city-wide issues such as oral health or sexual health services.

“There are lots of meetings – decision making bodies such as Cabinet, or full meetings of the City Council – or more accountability-based meetings, such as Scrutiny, where I am grilled on my decisions or my budgets! Amongst this, I still undertake casework for my own ward and work part-time too.”

Predictably, the Health portfolio at Plymouth Council has “evolved massively” over the last few months. Before the pandemic, Kate could “get on with checking in on the day-to-day running of services and set the direction for the authority in these areas by deciding our priorities and just getting on with it”. Today, she feels that COVID-19 has made her feel “like the spotlight is very much on [the health] portfolio”.

Kate then looks to the national level, “I’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening elsewhere in the country and I am pleased that, so far, the levels of infection in Plymouth have remained low. I’m not complacent though and work every day to ensure it stays that way”. 

You started your political career as an 18-year-old, who had yet completed her A-levels. What advice would you give to other young Plymouthians who want to enter the political arena?

“When I first started out, people thought I was too young, too inexperienced. That’s a load of rubbish”. Kate goes on to say that “Decision-making in Plymouth needs a wide variety of voices, including young people. Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job”.

Kate goes on to outline how young people’s experiences, including her own, can really boost a political career. “I was a young carer and didn’t realise until I picked up the Health portfolio just how much I know about the subject from all those years I spent caring for my Grandad. Those experiences aren’t insignificant. If you feel you have something to contribute, don’t let people put you off.”

Having supported Lisa Nandy in the Labour leadership election, are you happy with your party’s new leadership?

Kate stands by her decision to support Nandy and says that “obviously I am disappointed that my choice of candidate didn’t win”. However, the Labour councillor then states that “ultimately, I am desperate to see a Labour government in this country and will back Keir Starmer all the way to achieve that aim”.

 “It isn’t enough to just oppose measures we don’t agree with, we need to set our stall and offer a vision for the country which people believe in, enough for them to vote for us. If Keir is the man to do that, then that’s enough for me. I feel hopeful that his election as leader leaves us one step closer to that goal”.

What is something you’ll miss when you leave elected politics in May 2021?

Kate starts by saying “there is a huge deal I will miss about elected politics” before saying how she has met “inspiring people” and enjoyed the opportunities that are only accessible from a career in politics.

However, she makes it clear that she will particularly miss the opportunity to help her local community – “I wouldn’t be able to guess the amount of people I have been able to help over the last eight years in one way or another, directly or indirectly, but I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to do so”.

General Election 2019: In Conversation With: Luke Pollard

By Tobias Chalcraft

As part of Generation Plymouth’s ongoing election coverage, we asked Luke Pollard some important questions on various topics from climate change to decommissioned nuclear submarines. There’s even a discussion on Jaffa Cakes.

Luke is Labour’s PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, fighting to retain the seat that he only won from the Conservatives in the 2017 election.

“How do you feel you would best represent Plymouth’s young people as the MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport?”

Luke starts by arguing that “the best way to represent any group is to take time to listen and engage” before highlighting his regular meetings with Plymouth’s MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament), with one MYP even contributing articles to his white papers regarding Plymouth’s future on his website. He also mentions his young people’s Brexit summit, which he hosted soon after his election in 2017, and his frequent Q&As in schools and colleges as good ways for him to share his opinions and to learn from Plymouth’s young people. He finishes his point by advocating a lowered voting age, in order for younger people to have a louder voice.

“Do you feel Labour has done enough to promote the fight against Climate Change?”

Luke lists his credentials as a member of Labour’s Environment Team and Shadow Environmental Minister, which ensures that he frequently speaks about climate change. He adds that the parliamentary declaration of a climate emergency was a Labour motion, which was put forward by its leader Jeremy Corbyn. He then says he is proud to support the de-escalation of the use of diesel & petrol engines and hydro-generated power. He concludes his answer by saying “Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet and more of the same won’t cut it, we need transformative change and fast too”.

“Do you believe the vote should be extended to those aged 16 and 17? If so, what do you believe this expanding of the electorate will achieve?”

His answer has a straightforward start: “Yes. I am the only Plymouth MP to have voted for lowering the voting age and I am proud to continue to make the case for young people to be heard”. He then outlines the cuts in public services, including mental health support and education, which have had an impact on young people, before arguing that “If young people had the right to vote I don’t think those in power would be able to ignore them”. He finishes by committing to further support for votes at 16.

“What is the progress of your campaign to have the decommissioned nuclear submarines in Devonport recycled?”

Luke says this is one of his “passions and key campaigns” before divulging into how Plymouth has accepted a “poor deal” through its undisputed acceptance of old nuclear submarines.

“My old man served on many of the submarines that are now retired in Devonport when he was in the Royal Navy. The submarine service is a really important part of the Royal Navy, but we cannot simply tie up and forget about these subs”. Due to previously being an MP outside of government, Luke explains that he used his position in order to spread awareness and propose solutions to the recycling of these submarines. 

He concludes by saying “I’m proud to be the first MP to do this and I am now leading a cross-party campaign to properly fund the recycling of these old submarines. It may take some time, but the first challenge is to let people know they exist – once you know Devonport has 13 old nuclear submarines tied up – then you are forced to think about how to recycle them. I won’t stop until a properly funded recycling programme has begun.”

“As a ‘big fan of cake’ yourself, are ‘Jaffa Cakes’ biscuits or cakes?”

Starting off with the neutral response of “I love Jaffa Cakes”, Luke then moves his response towards taxation:

“Personally, I don’t mind what type of food they’re labelled as long as people can afford them but at the moment Jaffa Cakes are a luxury not every family in Plymouth can afford”. He points out speeches in Westminster and his experience with the soup run as some of his personal efforts to combat food poverty. He completes his response by saying “we need to get real and address the fundamental problem here: people cannot afford food for themselves and their families. That’s shameful in 2019 and something I will not accept”.

GENERAL ELECTION 2019: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN AND HOW?

By Tobias Chalcraft

Tomorrow the country, and Plymouth, will vote in its third general election in four years, to elect a new parliament. With Brexit, the environment and the state of our union high on the national agenda, this election will be the most important vote in decades. For those that aren’t as politically active as this writer, Generation Plymouth is here to help provide some clarity on everything you should know before the big day tomorrow.

WHO CAN I VOTE FOR?

Plymouth enjoys three constituencies, with the city centre coming within the Plymouth Sutton & Devonport constituency and other parts of the city being represented by Plymouth Moor View and South West Devon. For a list of candidates standing in your area, head to this BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50459517. Be sure to look up these candidates to get a good idea of their individual manifestos.

With many parties standing aside in favour of those with similar Brexit stances, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport is rare in the fact that the Brexit, Conservative & Unionist, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are all competing here for your vote. 

If you are unsure which party you should support, head to https://voteforpolicies.org.uk for a brilliant unbiased survey which tells you which party you should vote for, based on your individual policy preferences.

However, if you feel unable to vote for any of the options on your ballot paper, it is better to spoil your ballot paper than not vote at all. You can spoil your ballot by leaving it blank or writing ‘none of the above’ at the bottom of the paper. These spoiled ballots appear on national statistics and inform all of the main political parties the levels of dissatisfaction with their policies. Note: If you want to spoil your ballot do not draw inappropriate images within a single box next to a candidate’s name, as this may still be counted

WHERE DO I VOTE?

Multiple schools, church halls and even some pubs across the country will temporarily convert themselves into a polling station for voters to cast their ballot. Please note you must be over 18, and registered, in order to vote. 

Not sure where your polling station is? Check out https://wheredoivote.co.uk to find out where you can vote. You may be in for a surprise – you could be voting in your old primary school or local pub. 

WHEN ARE POLLING STATIONS OPEN?

Polls are open from 7am to 10pm. However, if something arises and you find yourself unable to get to a polling station (and you’ve not registered a proxy or postal vote), you can register for an emergency proxy vote before 5pm on polling day. For more information, head to https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/voting-person-post-or-proxy/voting-proxy.

Don’t let anything stop you from voting – this will have a big impact on your life, and you might not have this chance again for up to five years!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

At 10pm, an ‘Exit Poll’ will be released – this is an estimate of the result, judging by voter feedback throughout the day. This poll is often accurate, so it will be worth checking out before you go to bed, if you want some idea of the results without staying up all night.  

Following the Exit Poll, results will steadily come in throughout the night. If you are a politics geek like me, and plan to stay up all night, the most intense results will start coming through after 2am. So, the best time to nap will be 11pm-1am, although it will be nearly impossible with all the hype caused by the Exit Poll.

Pending on the results, Friday won’t offer much respite as plenty of political drama could splash the headlines, as party leaders may resign their position following poor results. There is also a moderate risk that some key figures could lose their seat – which will also pour oil onto the flames of political drama.

HOW WILL MY VOTE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

With many seats not changing hands, and following years of political deadlock, some of you may feel that your vote won’t make a difference. However, we in Plymouth are lucky in that our seat is fairly marginal – with the Conservatives and Labour working hard to win this seat. This means that your vote could make the difference between either side winning.

Also, this election seems to be following the 2017 trend of tactical voting, as those on both sides of the Brexit argument are voting for the more likely to win candidate that backs their view on Europe. This election is a deciding moment for the UK’s relationship with Europe, so perhaps it is time to apply your vote to a different party that ensures your preferred Brexit outcome.   

Even if you don’t care about politics – there other incentives, with BrewDog offering a free drink to voters who have taken a selfie outside their local polling station. You can find your local Brewdog bar here: https://www.brewdog.com/bars/uk.

Happy voting!