It might seem like I’m favouring Castle Ward, especially when you see that I’ve got another Castle Candidate coming up before the 5th also plumping for a place in the Cabinet.
We do live there, so it’s a mix of plain nepotism or something akin to it, the fact that it’s a massive and supposedly important Ward, but also because it is hotly contested…
Despite what certain political literature through your door might tell you, there isn’t only one party who can win there. You have THREE votes, and The Greens would very much like it if you gave at least one to this gentleman.
Please meet Mark Goacher, Green Candidate for Castle Ward (I think I might have mentioned that) & a guy who stood against Will Quince in the General Election…
Mark was born in Leicester and grew up in rural Leicestershire before studying History at Lancaster University, but he has lived in Colchester for 24 years, during which time he has taught History at Colchester VI Form College.
Prior to teaching he worked for the NHS in the Finance Department of Leicester Royal Infirmary. He is currently the NUT (National Union of Teachers) representative at the College and has worked as a volunteer for the Outhouse East charity in Colchester for 15 years.
“I have been a member of the Green Party for over two years and joined because I believe it to be the only major political party in the UK to be genuinely committed to protecting our countryside and planet as well as fighting for social justice and the common good. I believe that we have a real chance in the upcoming election to significantly increase our share of the vote in Colchester and we would fully welcome any support whatsoever that you could give us in our campaign.”
Colcestrian – Simple one to get going – what’s your full name and what do you like to be known as?
Mark – Mark George Goacher. Known as Mark or informally Goach.
Colcestrian – What do you like most about the Ward you are standing for, and what made you want to stand this time?
Mark – Castle Ward is basically the centre of Colchester and is where the main shops and facilities are. I work at Colchester Sixth Form College in the centre of Castle ward. I like the broad range of housing and people that live in Castle, a real mix across the social spectrum. I’m standing in Castle Ward because I care about the town centre and believe that we need to concentrate on prioritising town centre retail rather than out of town shopping. I’m concerned about the increasing number of empty shops and think that we need to get things moving. Also I am well aware of the transport issues, congestion and air quality problems in parts of Castle ward and want to do something about them.
Colcestrian – You don’t live in the Ward you’re standing for, so why did you choose that Ward rather than your own?
Mark – I live in New Town, so not far away, and work in Castle. I chose to stand in Castle because I work there, shop there and am aware of the issues there. I would very much like to stand in both wards, however there is only one of me. However we have three excellent candidates standing in New Town.
Colcestrian – What do you think about candidates standing in Wards they don’t live in?
Mark – I don’t see why this is a problem if you work there or have a particular awareness of the issues there. It could become a problem if you live far away or have no connection with the ward and have just been shunted into a safe seat. This is not the case with me.
Colcestrian – What political party are you aligned with, if any, and why?
Mark – The Green Party of England and Wales. I joined it because it is the only UK political party which genuinely takes seriously environmental issues and the protection of our countryside. The other parties like to talk the talk but not walk the walk on this. Furthermore The Green Party is strongly committed to social justice and to improving the lives of everyone in society.
Colcestrian – Do you think your political party’s actions at a national level will have an effect on you locally?
Mark – Partly. Clearly people are influenced by what they see or read in the national media. When Green Party MP Caroline Lucas introduced a bill into parliament defending our NHS as a public service and seeking to reverse its creeping privatisation, this garnered much positive comment, especially since the other parties didn’t support it. However ultimately what counts is that the local party has a clear set of ideas and policies concerning local issues. In a council election many people think locally. On issues such as litter, transport and planning I believe that we are in tune with the general feelings of Colchester people.
Colcestrian – Everyone needs a break – what are your favourite hobbies?
Mark – Reading, listening to music and internet blogging. I’m a teacher of History with a particular interest in the middle ages and the history of Russia. I particularly like reading books on the Wars of the Roses although I’m currently reading Richard Cust’s biography of Charles I. I blog regularly on both Green politics and science fiction. Also I relax by walking in the countryside.
Colcestrian – When not doing politics, what does your day usually consist of?
Mark – A mix of reading, housework, internet blogging and pub.
Colcestrian – How do you feel Colchester Borough Council currently performs for Colchester?
Mark – It does a mixed job. It is very good on refuse collection and recycling, compared to other councils. It has also had some success recently with building thirty much needed council houses, the first to be built in Colchester for twenty years. However on other matters it is underperforming. Litter is a massive problem, particularly in Castle and New Town wards. Our streets are supposed to be cleaned every week, we pay council tax for this, and yet this does not seem to be happening uniformly. Also the current council are planning a series of huge new towns on the outskirts of Colchester, including ‘West Tey’. They seem to think that Colchester can go on growing forever, sprawling out into the countryside, and yet have a poor record on securing the necessary infrastructure investment to go with it. Colchester has already increased by 24,000 people since 2001, yet our hospital, schools and roads are struggling to cope. Much of the pressure to expand is coming from central government and we cannot promise to stop all development. However we do need a council that is better and tougher at negotiating with both developers and central government.
Colcestrian – What is the best thing about Colchester and what one thing would you change tomorrow about Colchester if you could?
Mark – The best thing about Colchester is its heritage, particularly its Roman heritage and also its Civil War heritage, which we need to make more of. As a History teacher I can hardly say anything else. However we do also have some excellent facilities, particularly the Mercury Theatre. The one thing I would change tomorrow if I could is to stop the urban sprawl.
Colcestrian – Who are your heroes?
Mark – 1) Sir David Attenborough. He has done more to enthuse people with an interest in ecology and wildlife than anyone else and he understands the issues facing the planet. He is 90 years old this year and still full of energy and enthusiasm. Inspirational.
2) Bob Dylan, Morrissey and the late David Bowie are my three greatest musical heroes.
Colcestrian – What would you do to promote disabled rights if you are a Councillor after the election?
Mark – Well I’d make sure that the High Street is not closed off to buses and traffic on Sundays, which is what another party is proposing to do. Disabled people need bus stops which as close to the shops. Also I’d want to make sure that the pavements are wheelchair-friendly and that the council does not discriminate against those with depression or mental health needs in the workplace.
Colcestrian – What would you do for women’s rights in the town once election day is passed?
Mark – I am perfectly willing to admit that I don’t know what the main issues and concerns are here. So consultation is the key word. I would seek advice as to what particular service requirements there are. Our party is committed to not just gender equality but also racial and LGBT equality as well so I would challenge your question here as it only deals with part of the equality spectrum. We need to consult on all of these.
Colcestrian – What is your view on the spread of fines for the rough sleeping and homeless?
Mark – Absolutely disgusting. Absurd as well, how can someone who has nothing pay a fine. I understand that they are taking this ridiculous approach in Chelmsford. Fining people for being poor is rather like the medieval approach of branding vagrants with a ‘V’. It is punishing people for falling onto hard times or for suffering from mental health issues. We need to help them and support charities such as Beacon House and the night shelter. Also I would ban if I can ‘anti-homeless spikes’ from ever appearing in Colchester.
Colcestrian – Do you think the ‘Living Wage’ is truly a living wage?
Mark – No I don’t. It is a poverty line wage and in some areas of the UK it is below the poverty line. Therefore low wages are supplemented by in-work benefits paid for by the taxpayer. I object to my taxes being used to pay major corporations so that they can pay their staff low wages. We need a real living wage which takes into account local costs of living, rather than a flat rate. Also we need a guaranteed Citizens’ Income for everyone.
Colcestrian – Are you happy to keep promoting Colchester as a welcoming place for refugees?
Mark – Yes. There are several huge myths about this. One is that we risk ‘letting in terrorists’ and the other is that refugees just means a massive increase in Colchester’s population. These are genuine refugees from the war in Syria who have been vetted by the CIA and other US/UK security agencies. They are the least likely terrorists you are likely to see. To be frank, the potential terrorists are already here or will find a way of getting in anyway. They are certainly not these refugees. Furthermore, Colchester’s population has grown by 24,000 since 2001. 24,000! Yet all that is being proposed here is to welcome 50 refugee families over the next 5 years. This is miniscule compared to the huge increase in the size of the town which has nothing to do with refugees. The war in Syria is a massive humanitarian crisis and it is ethically right that we should do our bit to help.
Colcestrian – What is the biggest problem in the Ward you are standing in?
Mark – Transport and road congestion. Also potholes. We simply must try and get control of our roads back in the hands of the Borough Council and away from Rodney Bass and the County Council.
Colcestrian – Which green and ecologically-wise policies do you think Colchester borough should instigate?
Mark – We need to ensure that all council buildings are carbon neutral and provide people with advice as to how that can achieve this in their own homes. Also we need to prioritise bio-diversity and ensure that there are more natural green wildlife spaces. There is only a small natural wildlife meadow in Castle Park and this could be extended.
Also Section 106 money (the new homes bonus) can be used to pay the eight bus companies to convert their buses to less polluting ones. Also this money can be used to create clean air zones. The Borough Council has the power to do this.
Above all the Borough Council must stop spraying dangerous herbicides on our pavements. We need a TOTAL BAN on Glyphosates.
Colcestrian – Tollgate Village, Northern Gateway… views?
Mark – Promote the town centre first. These out of town shopping centres have their place but are mostly full of large corporate shops. Most of the money spent goes to these big retail corporations and does not stay in Colchester. We need more small shops in the centre of town. Like ‘the Lanes’ in Brighton.
Colcestrian – Do you think our current government and electoral system is fit for purpose?
Mark – No and No. We need proportional representation so that every vote counts. If a party gets ten per cent of the vote it should get ten per cent of the seats. That is democracy. The current system skews the result so that a party which gets less than 40% of the seats can have a huge majority in the House of Commons. Most people in the UK did not vote Conservative in the last election, yet we have a majority Conservative government. That isn’t democracy. As for the current government being fit for purpose: this government has an ideological agenda to shrink the size of government spending from 48% of the GDP to 38% of the GDP. This means cutting back on our essential public services and continuing the creeping privatisation of education and the NHS. They are also intent on concreting over the countryside and are attempting to impose urban sprawl to the tune of 200, 000 houses on Essex so that they can shove the poor out of London to make way for wealthy business people from overseas and replace London’s social housing with ‘luxury apartments’. So no, they are not fit for purpose and are selling the public down the river.
Colcestrian – Are you having second thoughts?
Mark – No. Colchester badly needs Green councillors. We would be a fresh voice on the council.
Are you in Castle Ward too? Want to offer one of your 3 votes to Mark?
Please add your comments below? Share on Facebook? Or Twitter? Or around town?
Hope you are enjoying these final blogs coming from the backlog I’ve collected. They are a mish-mash and not a regulated spread as the first eight were, but they should give you some ideas.
Do please engage – get on Facebook, Twitter, etc – onwards to election day!