Our Approach to Westminster
While our ultimate aim is independence for the north of England and the dismantling of the Westminster system, we recognise that for the time being we must fight the system from within. Until the people of the North vote in a referendum on independence, we will vote in favour of measures to give greater funding and autonomy to local councils to fight against the centralisation of the Westminster system. Our MPs will stand up for the North and will work with other parties on policies that improve the lives of those in the North and elsewhere in the UK.
Our Stances on Recent High-profile Bills
On several recent bills our MPs would have voted to protect our human rights and prevent the expansion of police powers:
- The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently making its way through Parliament constitutes a massive increase in police powers, restricts our ability to protest to the point of uselessness, and turns trespass from a civil matter to a criminal one. These measures only serve to criminalise vulnerable populations, such as Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities and rough sleepers. They also fail to address the root causes of issues such as violence against women. We oppose this bill.
- The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, reported on as the ‘Spycops Bill’, made it legal for undercover police to commit criminal offences. This increases the likelihood that undercover officers will act as instigators of violence or commit violence against members of the general public. We would have voted against this bill.
- The Overseas Operations Bill placed shocking restrictions on prosecutions of crimes, including torture, committed by the UK’s Armed Forces overseas. It introduced a presumption against prosecution, a veto for the Attorney General, and a five-year statute of limitations. This has effectively legalised torture for UK troops overseas, including against members of the Armed Forces themselves. We would have voted against this bill.
- The Environment Bill currently making its way through parliament could serve to either enhance our environmental protections and give communities more say on their green spaces, or to water-down those protections. Our view is that new regulations need a robust enforcement agency with sufficient powers to enforce the measures proposed in this bill.
- The Electoral Integrity Bill is an attempt to disenfranchise voters on the pretext that it will prevent voter fraud, a made-up problem that our tabloids insist is a nationwide scourge but which actually only affects a tiny number of votes. We oppose this bill.
- We believe the UK needs a ‘Green Industrial Rebirth’ to tackle climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions whilst also addressing economic inequality and social injustice. High-paying green jobs are a priority, and we support a just transition for those working in high-carbon industries through dialogue, respect, and engagement with workers and unions to create localised transition plans for decarbonising the economy. It is the duty of the government to provide job training and to invest in infrastructure to create climate and community resiliency, so no one is left behind. A Green Industrial Rebirth is the only way we can address the current climate emergency and create jobs that don’t cost the earth. We will always vote in favour of increased investment in the green economy we need.
- We will vote in favour of progressive tax reforms, such as increased corporation tax, a wealth tax, and will support any legislation that will reduce tax avoidance and evasion. We will oppose any increases in VAT and National Insurance, which would affect the poorest the most. We are in favour of adding a wealth tax, an annual tax on the net wealth a person holds for those with wealth over £1 million. We believe in progressive income taxation, where the wealthiest in society pay a higher rate of tax, and will support efforts to increase tax rates on the highest earners. We recognise that the average yearly income for those in the North is significantly lower than the rest of England, and to reverse the damage of the North-South divide and invest in the North we must ask those who earn more to pay their fair share.
- We will vote for increases to the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage, and advocate for a real living wage to ensure that no worker lives in poverty. We believe the National Minimum Wage for anyone should be a rate of £9.50 per hour and that it should be raised to match increases in the cost of living. The National Living Wage should apply to all workers over 18 and should be a real living wage, at £12 per hour.
- We will advocate for shorter and more flexible working hours, without reducing pay, and better stability for those on precarious contracts. Corporations should not be allowed to pretend their workers are ‘independent contractors’ when they are not – every worker should have their full complement of rights.
- NHS workers have seen their wages fall in real terms since 2010 and the government’s current proposal of a 1% increase in pay for NHS staff, alongside the Labour Party’s request for a 2.1% increase is not sufficient. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vital the NHS is and that we cannot take NHS staff for granted. We recognise that there are thousands of job vacancies on the NHS, as well as thousands of NHS workers who are making plans to leave once the pandemic is over due to their woefully inadequate pay and terrible working conditions. For this reason, we back the movement for NHS workers to receive a 15% pay increase.
- We will advocate for the reversing the increase in pension age for women born in the 1950s to 1960s. This generation has paid into the system their whole lives and it is not fair to move the goalposts. We believe the pension age should be restored to 65 for all genders and any changes to pension age should be implemented in such a way that they don’t leave anyone worse off.
- We will always support unions and vote against any further restrictions on the right to take industrial action.
- We will provide free school meals for all students. Freedom from hunger is a human right regardless of a child’s background. Universal free school meals would also be more cost-effective for families who do not currently use the system, since the state can take advantage of bulk price discounts that they cannot.
- Housing is a human right. We will implement a Housing First policy to tackle homelessness. The gutting of council housing by both major parties has harmed our communities and exposed people in need of accommodation to years on waiting lists for the chance to be at the mercy of potentially predatory private landlords. We will support efforts to enable the construction of high-quality, accessible council housing.
- We will expand renter’s rights. Everyone should be able to live in a stable home regardless of whether they own it. We support an end to unfair evictions, stronger regulations on private landlords – including a requirement to ensure homes are of a high standard – and rent controls to bring rents down to 30% of local income.
- We value mental health equally with physical health and understand that mental and physical health are inextricably linked. We will increase funding for mental health services on the NHS and improve access to various options for mental health treatment, not just Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, through the recruitment and grant-funded training of mental health professionals, including school counsellors. We care about the mental health of children and young people and will push for every school having access to a full-time counsellor.
- We will fight any measures to privatise the NHS, and we will reverse privatisation inflicted by successive governments. We will increase NHS funding, invest in the infrastructure of the NHS, prevent hospital closures, and improve A&E departments. We will increase funding for mental health treatment for NHS workers, many of whom are living with symptoms of mental illness (such as PTSD) due to working through the pandemic without sufficient support.
- Years of cuts to funding have left older and vulnerable people without the care they need. To put this right, we will increase social care funding. We believe that everyone deserves to live with dignity and as independently as possible, and so we will advocate for a social care system that works for older people, neurodiverse people, and people living with disabilities and chronic illness. We believe our carers should receive high-quality training and earn a wage that reflects the hard work they do. We will advocate for better coordination between social care providers and the NHS, so people get appropriate care, informed by medical professionals.
- The Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for the continued mistreatment, suffering and death of the most vulnerable people in the country, all of which is entirely preventable. We will put an end to dehumanising and dangerous practices such as the requirement for cohabiting couples to file a joint claim, the use of punitively rigid schedules, long initial wait times, and reduction of benefits during the opaque and unaccountable appeals process. We will advocate for home visits and video calls (as used during the pandemic) as an alternative to needlessly frequent, mandatory face-to-face assessments.
- The Conservative governments’ cuts to the courts and legal aid systems have made a mockery of justice, with victims of crime waiting years for perpetrators to be tried, while innocent people are left without the means to properly defend themselves. We will adequately fund the legal system and legal aid.
- We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and we will not tolerate homophobia and transphobia in society or within Parliament. We support a ban on all forms of conversion therapy. The government has promised such a ban for years now and it is outrageous that action has still not been taken. We will push to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow transgender people to self-identify without the need for a medical diagnosis, to streamline the administrative process, and to recognise nonbinary identities in law. We will reform transgender healthcare. We intend to decentralise care to GPs and specialists by ending the gatekeeping of Gender Identity Clinics. We will adopt an informed-consent model, and we will protect trans teens’ access to puberty blockers, which are a proven, safe and reversible way to give them time to decide whether they want to medically transition.
- We will roll back restrictions on the use of medicinal cannabis for appropriate conditions, and to allow GPs – not just specialist doctors – to prescribe to those in need. We believe that cannabis should be legalised, as it has been across much of the US and Canada, and favour proposals that include restorative justice programmes to reverse the damage done by the war on drugs. We favour decriminalisation of possession of other illegal drugs and believe that illegal substance use is a public health issue, rather than a criminal matter. Drug-related deaths in the UK are at the highest level on record and the war on drugs has failed. People who use drugs should be offered treatment rather than punishment, and we favour harm-reduction approaches to tackle the devastating impact of drug-related deaths.
- Sex work is work – what someone does for a living does not define who they are. We support the decriminalisation of sex work, using the approach that has been successful in New Zealand since 2003. We will oppose any attempts to introduce the Nordic Model, which has made sex work more dangerous. We support harm-reduction approaches to sex work, including distribution of safer sex materials, anonymous testing services, and street outreach. Instead of criminalising those who engage in sex work, we will focus on their rights, health, safety, and wellbeing. Coercion into sex work is trafficking and will remain illegal.
- We reject the demonisation of refugees and the totalitarian Hostile Environment policy. The UK must abide by its obligations under international law to provide refuge to all those who come to us fleeing oppression. We will also repeal the dehumanising minimum income requirement for family visas. The right to family life is a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich. We oppose ongoing deportations, in particular cases such as those of the Windrush Generation, where people who lived most of their lives in Britain are deported to countries they have little to no connection with. We support the safe return of those deported in such circumstances. We will end ‘no recourse to public funds’, a needlessly punitive policy which stops new arrivals to the UK from fully participating in society. All who live here should have access to help when they need it.
- Antisemitism is shamefully prevalent in the Westminster political parties. We will not repeat their disgraceful negligence toward it. We will call out and shut down all forms of antisemitism – both explicit and implicit, including antisemitic tropes and narratives – in Parliament, in our party, in our communities and in civil society.
- Islamophobia is a rising danger in the United Kingdom, with prominent voices openly fomenting hate against Muslims. We stand against Islamophobia, and will not allow Islamophobic rhetoric to go unchallenged in Parliament. We oppose the Prevent programme, which has been used to discriminate against ethnic minorities, including Muslims, in the UK. It has not improved public safety, and puts people in harm's way by preventing them from accessing public services. We will scrap the programme and against any further expansion of it into public institutions.
- We believe that the purpose of education is to help students become skilled workers, responsible citizens, and most importantly, fulfilled human beings. To neglect any one of those functions is to betray our children and ourselves. We oppose the blinkered view, shared by both major parties, that education is nothing but a job-training programme.
- We will hire and train more teachers, increase the provision of schools, (especially in underserved rural areas), and reduce class sizes. We will support teachers, students, and parents, by advocating for reductions in arbitrary homework assignments, which research has shown is ineffective at helping children to learn. We will also encourage more free periods for teachers for any planning and marking at school so we can reduce how much work they have to take home.
- We believe that a level playing field in education is essential. We will strip charitable status from fee-paying schools. We also support banning fee-paying schools outright and converting the existing private schools to comprehensives.
- We will scrap Ofsted and restore its responsibilities to local authorities. This will ensure that those visiting the school understand the areas that the schools serve. Evaluation of schools should be constructive, supportive, and not punitive.
- We will reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance, which provided a ladder out of poverty for young people who would otherwise have been unable to afford to stay in school.
- We will scrap tuition fees and cancel student debt. Student loans are in most cases never repaid and tuition fees serve as a barrier to less well-off students attending university. Student debt payments prevent adults from investing in their future, and so student debt must be scrapped. We will increase support for vocational courses and graduate opportunities, particularly in areas struggling to recruit and retain workers, such as healthcare and education. We will also increase provision for life-long learning, as no-one is the same person at 40 that they were at 18. People should not be penalised for wanting to change career, no matter their age.
Infrastructure and Energy
- We are in a climate emergency. We must and we will push for an increase in the use of renewable energy sources, electrification of transport, and the development of zero-carbon alternatives to other sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
- The government’s negligence in refusing to address flammable cladding in the wake of Grenfell is shameful. We will fund the refit of buildings clad in flammable materials as swiftly as possible, before another tragedy occurs.
- Broadband internet access is a basic necessity, not a luxury, and the COVID-19 pandemic has proven it. We believe it must be freely available to all and of the highest standard. We will bring internet access up to speed, especially in rural areas.
- To fight climate change, it is vital that we have more efficient public transport and take fewer car journeys. We will provide more funding to public transport to increase its availability, expanding the network to ensure that all areas are covered. In particular, we will improve East-West connections within the North and increase subsidies to reduce the fares paid by passengers.
- Currently a large proportion of our infrastructure is run for profit, and so is not focused on providing what the public needs. We will enable councils to run public transport in-house, and re-establish a state-run rail network.
- We will protect vital services in rural areas such as post offices, banks and GPs. We will fund programmes to expand them into areas which find themselves without these key facilities.
Agriculture and Environment
We support our farmers and will vote for legislation that:
- Protects our agricultural industry, rural employment and the rural economy,
- Preserves and enhances soil, including its structure, organic matter, fertility and soil life,
- Increases renewable energy provision and promotes natural carbon sequestration, in order to minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and Defends and fosters biodiversity.
- We know that many farmers are under significant financial pressure. The transition to a sustainable mode of agriculture is a public good and the costs should be borne by the government. We will encourage the development of high-efficiency, low-footprint greenhouse farming methods, and financially support farmers through the capital cost of adopting them.
- Sheep worrying is a menace. Dogs being allowed to run free in fields of sheep more often than not results in sheep being injured or becoming so stressed that they miscarry their lambs. This has a direct emotional, mental, and financial impact on farmers. We will increase penalties for sheep worrying.
- The theft of farm equipment damages livelihoods. We take this issue seriously and will work with farmers to tackle rural crime.
- We must not allow our food standards to be watered down for the benefit of American agribusiness. We will subsidise grass-fed, low-intensity, high welfare production and oppose ‘factory farming’. We oppose attempts to roll back regulations that protect the incomes of rural people and the quality of our food.
- We will rewild the North, planting trees to preserve our natural environment for future generations. To this end we will fund farmers to play their part in these initiatives.
- We will invest in a climate-proof future. We will build flood defences, prevent building on flood plains, and provide a government-backed insurance policy so that no one is left to the mercy of the free market. We will invest in natural flood management, including restoring uplands and other natural methods to make sure everyone is safe.
- Our pollinator species are under critical risk of total collapse, threatening our food production. Once they are gone, they are gone. We will maintain the ban on neonicotinoids to protect them. We are committed to finding ecologically viable alternatives to these pesticides.
- We will support our independent fishermen. We will remove currently allocated fishing quotas from huge international fishing companies, and return them to sustainable, local fishing communities. Our fishermen have been repeatedly let down, and we must finally deliver for them.
Community and Culture
- We will support community venues such as leisure centres, pubs, youth centres, community halls and libraries. These spaces are vital for creating a sense of community and fighting social isolation, and will be hugely important as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We value our culture. We will fight the ongoing transfer of our heritage to London. This requires fairer funding for the arts and the heritage sector in the North, and preventing the transfer of collections, such as the transfer of the photography archive from Bradford’s National Media Museum to the Victoria & Albert museum in London. In the same spirit of fairness, we also acknowledge that there are cases where it is appropriate to return artefacts from collections in the North to their homes, and will support institutions taking those steps.
- We believe that academics should be able to pursue research free from government interference. The backlash that researchers at the National Trust and other institutions have received for bringing our history of colonialism to light is wrong. We oppose any attempt to make academic funding reliant on following government guidelines.
- We support increased funding for the arts and humanities. These are vital fields that are being underfunded due to a misguided emphasis on commercial value in education. Not only is this a narrow view of human worth, it ignores the fact that the creative industries are one of the largest parts of our economy.
- We believe that everyone should participate in our culture and will support funding and outreach programmes to increase participation from rural areas and low-income families that would otherwise miss out on the wealth of cultural experiences with which we are blessed.