You use blogging to support your council work - have you found it useful?
I love blogging. It gives me a chance to share my own community news and local people always tell me they feel informed.
What was your best blogging experience?
Once I wrote an article about the Kidsgrove Remembrance Parade in 2013 and the article got thousands of hits from around the world. At one point my blog crashed, but it made me feel quite proud that people from everywhere could see what we were doing in Kidsgrove to remember our nation’s heroes.
Have you any blogging advice for new starters?
I think a good blog should have a clean look and be easy to navigate. If you want more readers, the content should be regularly updated. My blog is very community orientated and I regularly put up polls and ask for comments from members of the public. This always has a positive impact as people feel engaged.
Do you also find social media useful for activist-y things?
I find social media extremely useful if used correctly. You can get out a message quite quickly, promote a blog to a target audience and also let people see that you are a real human being. I think it's important politicians show people that they are not just robots and that they do have a family and other interests. Social media is perfect for sharing your own story and that of others. These days, about 50% of my councillor casework comes through social media.
What are you reading at the moment?
The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien. It’s a great story during quite a lot of political turmoil and allegiance to family is everything. King Richard II is on the throne, but most historians will tell you that the story changes dramatically.
Do you have a favourite novel?
Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major influence on how you think about the world?
I have recently read Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister by Michael Jago. It has made me think how we need to be more radical in the way we do things, especially politically, to make real change to the lives of those less fortunate.
Who are your biggest intellectual influences?
Peter Higgs, Kidsgrove Historian Philip Leese, and my old RE teacher Mr Phillips.
What was the last film you saw?
Exodus: God and Kings. I love the story of Moses freeing the people from tyranny.
How many political organisations have you been a member of?
Many organisations, but the main ones include the Labour Party, The Co-operative Party, USDAW, Hope not Hate and Friends of the Earth.
Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?
I have definitely changed my mind on the environment and climate change. Over the years I have really come to believe that we need to change our ways to save the planet. I have followed a lot of Joan Walley’s work on these issues and I am grateful to her for showing us the importance of the environment as whole.
What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?
Fairness and Equality for everybody.
What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?
Racism, Homophobia and Sexism.
Who are your political heroes?
Gareth Snell – His leadership of Newcastle Borough Council led us through some very difficult times.
On a national level I would have to go with Glenda Jackson. I absolutely love how she rips into unfairness.
I have to mention Joan Walley MP who has always put duty before self. She is a real gem and I have been privileged to learn so much from her. I see Joan’s retirement as a new beginning.
How about political villains?
Nigel Farage, Thatcher!!!! And Eric Pickles.
What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?
It would have to be saving the NHS. I feel that we really need to look at how healthcare is delivered in local communities to take the pressure off our hospitals. I also believe we should fight to protect social care in the community because the population isn’t getting any younger.
If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?
I would completely reverse the bedroom tax and save thousands of people from unnecessary poverty. Absolutely evil policy!
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?
Lack of education. We need to learn more about tolerance and working together no matter what our religious beliefs.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
You can never satisfy everyone and you can only try your best.
What is your favourite song?
Purple Rain by Prince. It’s not UKIP's, its mine!!!
Do you have a favourite video game?
Sonic the Hedgehog. I loved my Sega.
What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?
It would have to be honesty.
And any pet peeves?
I hate it when people are late. I think it’s really rude to hold people up.
What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?
Don’t waste too much time worrying about what other people think of you. You can worry yourself sick, but it will never change anything.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
What spare time! I love a good curry at my favourite curry house Latif’s in Alsager and I don’t mind a bit of karaoke. A heck of a lot of my time goes on my council work and campaigning.
What is your most treasured possession?
I own the pocket watch of James Barfoot. He was the chairman of the Kidsgrove Urban District Council in the 1920’s. I will cherish this until the day I die. The family gifted it to me when I finished my term as Mayor of Kidsgrove in May 2014.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
What talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to play the piano, but I always seem to be a bit rubbish.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true - apart from getting loads of money - what would you wish for?
Apart from World Peace, it would have to be for my family to be united. As far as I am concerned life is too short, but we will leave that there.
Speaking of cash, how, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly
to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?
Well I always complain that I have to work as well as being a local Councillor. If I was a full time Councillor, I would be out there every day making a change. I could quite comfortably pay the bills and do what I enjoy best. I have always said that if I won the euro millions I would spend £20 Million on Kidsgrove Town Centre and give it the revamp it needs. People laugh at me when I say this, but this is actually one of my dreams.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?
Freddie Mercury, Kiera Knightley, and Neil Kinnock.
You've been a councillor for a number of years now. Would you recommend it?
Only if you’re mad! On a serious note, the role can be very rewarding and for all those you represent. You need to give it lots of time if you want to make a difference. It’s not all fun and games and we are living through some very difficult times. I realised early on that some of the decisions we have to make are not easy. Finances and government cuts have made the job of councillor even more difficult since 2010. Public services are reducing by the second and all because of one ideology at Whitehall. Councillors need to work well with their groups to find solutions to problems and teamwork is absolute key to success. At the end of the day you’re not there to represent you, you’re there to represent the people that have put you there. Never forget that.
And finally ... will Labour win in May?
Labour can win in May. We have to remain focused on the big issues and not be afraid to discuss what people are worried about. For me personally that means we take the Tories to task on the NHS, we challenge the way our education system is run and how we support future generations to reach high and leave poverty behind them. Ed Miliband gets a lot of flack, but I believe he is the most honest out of all the political leaders. I think he actually cares and I can’t say that about all politicians.
Immigration will also be a big issue in the general election and unfortunately it takes our eye off some of the real issues like social injustice. I want to see Labour have a proper open debate about immigration with all the facts and figures to hand. What are the pros and cons and how can we engage people from all communities to work together for the greater good?
We have seen the rise of lots of different political parties with different ideas, but I believe only Labour can unite Britain again. The Tories have done nothing but divide communities and drive a bigger wedge into the class system. As for UKIP, they seem to dislike absolutely everybody, but they must be taken seriously and challenged.
I will be campaigning in Stoke North and Kidsgrove to get Ruth Smeeth elected. I believe she will be a champion of the people. She brings a new lease of life to local politics and I am sure she will do the same on the national stage.
So as I simply say to everybody, Vote Labour ☺