PPC Profile: Chris Williamson

Chris WilliamsonFull Name: Chris Williamson

Age: 53

From: Derby

PPC for: Derby North

Blog: chriswilliamsonlabourleader.blogspot.com

Member of the Labour Party since: 1976

I have a lot of experience and have worked in a variety of different settings as a machinist on factory shop floors, on building sites as a former bricklayer and in local government as a community care worker, social worker and welfare rights officer.

I am the leader of the Derby Labour Group, have been leader of Derby City Council on two separate occasions and I’ve represented the city as a councillor since 1991.

I’ve spent almost 20 years working to ensure Derby people have the very best services, and if elected, will to take that commitment to Parliament.

As Leader of Derby City Council, I introduced free home care services to city residents and was involved in bringing major players to the city including Westfield, Jury’s Inn, Primark and Derby Riverlights. I also introduced Derby’s Neighbourhood Agenda, which saw the creation of Neighbourhood Boards and Forums across the city, giving residents a voice in the running of their communities.

I’m a seasoned anti-poverty and animal welfare campaigner. I was a key figure as a trustee of the League Against Cruel Sports in the national campaign that eventually saw fox hunting outlawed. And as the Vice Chair of the Local Government Anti Poverty Forum I was part of the successful campaign to introduce the national minimum wage.

At a local level my successful campaigns have included battles to protect jobs, retain school transport and expose rogue car clampers.

I was inspired to go into politics because:
People like Martin Luther King showed that you can’t leave it to others to tackle injustice; you have to stand up for what you believe in to make a difference on the ground. When I joined the Labour Party in 1976 it was – and still is – the only political party that not only stands for progressive change, but is also capable of delivering it.

I campaigned in the disastrous 1977 county council elections and the subsequent defeat at the 1979 general election, which made me even more determined to get Labour elected. The callous policies pursued by the Tories in local and national government impoverished working class communities all over Britain. I remember Thatcher dismantling the steel industry then turning on the miners. I can recall raging about how the Tories used the instruments of state against decent working class men and women who she described as the enemy within.

It was the feeling of powerlessness as the Tories wreaked havoc that made me decide to seek elected office to confront them head-on. I was inspired by the efforts of leading figures in local government like David Bookbinder in Derbyshire and Ken Livingstone in London, who led councils and ameliorated the impact of the Tory government by pursuing a progressive agenda at a local level.

My main policy interests are:
Tackling poverty and inequality; urban regeneration; environmental issues and climate change; animal welfare; community empowerment; and local government.

As a former welfare rights officer and a councillor representing a ward where large numbers of my constituents are deprived, I’ve seen at first had how poverty impacts on individuals and communities. Labour has done a lot to take people out of poverty, but we have to do more – particularly as Britain is one of the richest counties on earth. It saps the confidence and aspirations of too many of our fellow citizens who are being denied the opportunity to make the most of their true potential.

Urban regeneration is essential if we are to eliminate poverty from our society. It not only improves the physical environment, it also creates jobs and instils a sense of pride in local people. Improving the physical environment is a tangible illustration that communities are valued.

Potentially catastrophic climate change is the biggest challenge ever faced by humankind. It will impact – and is already impacting – disproportionately on poor people, which is why we must tackle it. By investing in measures to avert climate change, it should be possible to eradicate fuel poverty and create thousands of new jobs in green technologies.

Local government is the bedrock of our democracy and was responsible for some of the most significant social reforms in the early part of the last century. It also acted as bulwark against the worst excesses of the Thatcher regime. It’s an institution that local people understand and is accountable to them. That’s why I believe local government should be given more powers to raise finance to respond to local concerns and more responsibility for other public sector agencies such as PCTs.

At a time when the public finances are under pressure, giving local councils the right to run primary health care and other public services at a local level would provide better value for money, bring about more accountability and ensure services were more responsive to the needs of local communities. Whitehall cannot run everything from the centre and nor should it. I believe we would be able to deliver Labour’s agenda if it was delivered through local councils rather than unelected quangos.

Community empowerment is crucial in complimenting a bigger role for local government, because just as the power of Whitehall needs to be devolved to local councils, so does the power of the town hall bureaucracy, to ensure councillors and frontline staff have the ability to shape the communities in partnership with local people.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. That’s why I want to maintain the ban on hunting and see further measures brought in to offer better protection for wildlife and farm animals too.

Moreover, we now know the meat industry is a major contributor to climate change, so this agenda is no longer simply about the welfare of farm animals – it’s about the future of our planet, too. Tighter welfare standards will inevitably lead to less intensive farming practices, which will in turn help the environment.

Three things I think should be in the next manifesto are:

1 – A free national home care service
This commitment is essential to a modern welfare state. We have an ageing population and it is not only right to give people the support they need to remain in their own home, it’s actually more cost effective than taking people into residential care or hospital. Given the choice, the vast majority of people would prefer to stay in their own homes until they die.

As leader of Derby City Council I introduced free home care and saw what an impact it made. The policy I introduced in Derby saved the local NHS millions of pounds, which is another reason why I believe local authorities should have the responsibility for local health budgets – as it would drive innovative improvements that are popular and simultaneously save public money

2 – A commitment to develop carbon capture technology by the end of the next Parliament and a large scale energy efficiency programme for domestic dwellings, public sector buildings and commercial premises.

The largest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions arises from the energy sector, which is why carbon capture and better insulation of domestic dwellings and commercial premises is so crucial. Better insulation would also cut fuel bills and eliminate fuel poverty that still afflicts far too many of our fellow citizens

3 – A new nationwide council house building programme
I know from my role as a local councillor in Derby and from talking to colleagues in the LGA’s Labour leadership team that the lack of affordable housing is one of the biggest problems afflicting both urban and rural communities.

The Tories’ Right to Buy policy has polarised communities, disenfranchised millions of working class people and made the task of building sustainable cohesive communities much more difficult. The steps taken by the last three Labour administrations have gone some way to address the legacy left by the Tories, but the time is now right for the radical renaissance of council housing. However, we must ensure there is no repetition of the mistakes that led to the substandard monolithic council housing programmes that were such a feature of the 1960s and ’70s housing policies.

I think people should vote for me because:

* I have lived here all my life so I understand the issues affecting local people.

* I’m passionate about tackling injustice.

* I’ve got a record of getting things done.

* I developed Derby’s anti-poverty strategy that lifted thousands of local people out of poverty.

* I established Derby’s neighbourhood agenda, which has given local people power over public services.

* I initiated Derby’s inward investment plans, which created at least 10,000 jobs for local people.

* As the MP, I would spend as much time as possible in the constituency listening to and acting on the concerns of local people.

In short, people should vote for me because: I stand up for Derby and the interests of local people.

If you can support my campaign please get in touch at [email protected].

If you would like to donate to my campaign please make your cheque payable to Derby North CLP Supporters Group and send it to 2A Wentworth House, Vernon Gate, Derby, DE1 1UR.

More from LabourList


We provide our content free, but providing daily Labour news, comment and analysis costs money. Small monthly donations from readers like you keep us going. To those already donating: thank you.

If you can afford it, can you join our supporters giving £10 a month?

And if you’re not already reading the best daily round-up of Labour news, analysis and comment…