Interview: Labour Councillor James AlexanderApril 18, 2008 12:00 am Leave your thoughts
James Alexander is a rising star in the Labour party. As a Labour Councillor for Holgate Ward in the City of York and an outreach officer at York St John University, he spends every spare minute campaigning as a parliamentary candidate for York Outer. His platform tackles national issues such as healthcare, homelessness, and rural conservation. He won his seat, against the national trend, from the Liberal Democrats.
CB: How do you manage your time between your university job and campaigning?
JA: I admit with difficulty. I work full-time as a project and outreach officer at York St John University, I am a local Councillor for Holgate ward, I am Children and Young People’s Champion of the Council and I am the prospective Labour MP for York Outer. I have learned to be good at time management and to prioritise my workload accordingly. I am just very pleased for lighter evenings – more time to deliver leaflets!
You blogged recently about your experience volunteering for Arclight. Do you plan to make homelessness and unemployment key issues in your next campaign?
I think poverty in general is an essential part of almost any campaign for a Labour politician. The Labour government and Labour Councils have done a huge amount to reduce homelessness and increase employment, but there is still more to do. It also does not help when new Tory Councils cut funding for homeless projects – Hammersmith and Fulham springs to mind.
Why do you favour grassroots campaigning, like door-knocking and flyering?
Without this hard work you cannot make significant progress. There are still many in my constituency who do not have internet connections and they appreciate the door knock and a chat. There are many people who vote solely on who they talk to.
How do you plan to protect the environment and rural life?
I think the environment and rural life go hand-in-hand. We need to ensure that there is a respect for the country-side and an equality of service provision and heritage.
Is not coming from an upper-class background still a barrier to success in politics?
I think not coming from an upper-class background is not a barrier to political success anymore. We can look at people like Alan Johnson as an example. I would say that an upper-class background has become a barrier for some. Examples in Douglas Hurd in that respect. I think the largest class to benefit from their background will be the middle class as the middle class will always be in the majority. You can still get the snobbery against working class politicians, but that makes us more determined.
Do you think that your age encourages more young people to get involved in politics?
I think so. It shows that young people can get involved, can make a difference and can be taken seriously. Age discrimination effects young people as well as old and I want to set an example and allow other young people to follow.
Does your video blog (found at http://www.time-4-change.org.uk/), reach more young people than conventional campaigning methods?
Definitely. I have comments and e-mails everyday from this. My videos have reached over 400,000 people and I hope to upload some new videos soon. However you are reaching a much larger spread of people from all over the world. I have e-mails from the Social democrats form Sweden and Senators in the US. It is a very exciting political medium. I think the internet in general is going to be far more important in coming elections than many realise.
Why do you think Labour is the party to serve Britain in the future?
Because Labour is a party based on creating a society whereby someone’s hard work and talents determine where they get to in life and not the reverse. I do not see any other party with this basis.
Does your work for the Student Union at York University reflect your goals for the nation?
I was Students’ Union President of York University at the same time NUS President, Wes Streeting was President of Cambridge. I think for both of us our experiences at University and before have shaped our politics. For me personally, I think the sentiment and passion remains the same but I have learnt a lot in that year and since then which has allowed me to focus and articulate my goals.
You say that Clement Attlee is one of your heroes. Do you support the public ownership of industry, public utilities and healthcare, like he did?
I think we live in a very different time to Clement. We now live in a global economy where the effect of sub-prime mortgages in the United States can effect our economic performance. Therefore I think that public ownership of all industry and so on would be wrong for the Britain’s economic competitiveness and our consumers. However I do support the public ownership sectors whereby the country and consumers would benefit. The main area for this would undoubtedly be the NHS.
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This post was written by Cristina Brooks