Samson Dada

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Exclusive: Samson Dada talks to Duncan Hames

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 at 11:51 am

How would you describe your time so far in parliament? Most people outside politics do not like arcane parliamentary traditions like MPs addressing each other as “Honourable” and “Right Honourable” members. Do you think there are any parliamentary traditions that should be scrapped or amended?

Exhilarating but exhausting. I think it’s more important to make the voting system fairer and elect the House of Lords than worry about changing the traditional pomp and ceremony.

In your maiden speech you mentioned that you hoped to open a constituency office in Chippenham town centre. Forgive my cynicism, but will this be an opportunity for you to file expense claims for pieces of furniture or art?

My office is simply there to help me do a good job for my constituents.

You voted for your government’s emergency budget which increased VAT to 20%. Isn’t that an act of betrayal from you as your party released a poster warning against a “Tory VAT tax bombshell”?

Labour left a poisonous legacy in the huge levels of public borrowing. I considered the VAT rise a necessary alternative to even deeper spending cuts.

You believe that national housing targets should be scrapped. At a time when many communities are crying out for new homes, how will this help many youngsters who are moving into their first home?

I believe in local decision-making. Let communities decide for themselves how and where to meet this need.

In 2006, you campaigned against the NHS cuts in Chippenham and Melksham when Conservative councillors did not. Have you had any heated policy disagreements with any Conservative MPs in the chamber?

Yes, I spoke in a debate to challenge a Tory back bencher who wanted to stop the UK Youth Parliament having a debate there when we were away.

You disagree with tuition fees. So do I. I am a working class boy attending university this September. It is ok to disagree with it, but do you have an alternative policy that could replace tuition fees?

In the current circumstances, I’m very sympathetic to a Graduate Tax to replace fees. I’m hopeful Vince Cable will be able to make this happen.

As you are an Oxford University graduate- isn’t it an outrage according to the government’s higher education access watchdog, that only 1% of the poorest university students in England go to Oxford and Cambridge?

Yes. That’s why the Lib Dems have fought for a Pupil Premium to target extra funds in the schools teaching these students so that they can do better at school and more of them can get degrees from top universities.

You have been an advocate for jobs in the green energy sector in your constituency. Can you explain as concisely as possible to my young readers, what is the green energy sector and why it is important for their future?

The green energy sector develops alternative and more sustainable sources of energy, such as wind, wave and solar energy. Traditional non-renewable fuels are increasingly scarce and considered insecure because of trouble in the parts of the world they are often found. Burning fossil fuels to produce power also contributes heavily to the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and therefore to man-made climate change. The recent floods in Pakistan and the drought and recent floods in Niger demonstrate the destruction that climate change can cause to millions of lives. The green energy sector is crucial to ensuring that future generations do not have to pay the price for our current over-consumption of natural resources.

Your main policy areas of interest are education, housing and the environment. Fancy a ministerial job in one of these departments in the future?

As a new MP, there’s a lot to learn. I’m always happy to lend a hand, but I’ve got more than enough to be getting on with.

Many ordinary young people who see the coalition government making unpopular decisions like cutting their public services – may begin to wish that the coalition collapsed. What do you think will hold the coalition government together for five years?

A sense of responsibility to give the country the best government we can. I think people want their politicians to stop squabbling, roll their sleeves up and learn to work together.

One of your hobbies is running. Reckon you could beat the Prime Minister in a 100m sprint?

I’m not sure – I generally train for longer distances.

Some people may perceive politicians to be “political geeks.” Will you be reading any political books, like Peter Mandelson’s “Third Man” this summer?

I won’t be reading about politicians. I will be reading “Prosperity Without Growth” by Tim Jackson which you might find a bit geeky I suppose.

Finally, you are engaged to fellow Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson. Will your impending marriage mean you will sit together in the House of Commons?

You’ll have to wait and see!


Exclusive: Samson Dada talks to Kate Green

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

The two Ed’s, Diane, Andy or David. Which of the Labour leadership candidates are you backing?

I’m supporting Ed Balls. He put up a great fight against Michael Gove’s botched announcement to cut funding for new school buildings, and he’s really ready to take on the coalition government and expose the damage it’s doing to our economy, our public services and ordinary people’s lives. But we’re lucky that all the candidates for the leadership are really skilled, committed and principled, and I’ll be proud to have any of them as our leader.

You hate the Lib Dem – Tory budget. Got a substantial alternative plan to cut the deficit? A Robin Hood tax? Extending the top rate of tax to people earning £100,000?

First off, the Coalition are going in way too hard with their plans. Labour is committed to a plan to halve the deficit in 4 years, now the Con-Dems say they’ll wipe it out completely. But public borrowing is what is paying to protect jobs and services, and if we cut so hard and so fast, we’ll put more people out of work, and risk plunging the country back into recession.

Second, as we saw from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report, their budget is hitting the poorest much harder than the better off. That’s unfair, and it exposes the lie that this government’s interested in reducing inequality.

But we do have to get the deficit down, no one wants to be spending money on interest payments that could go on front line services. So we need policies that can do this fairly and safely. For example, I’m in favour of extending the top tax rate to those earning over £100,000, I believe there are good savings to be made by local service providers working effectively together rather than duplicating provision, and I want to see much tougher action on tax avoidance which costs the country billions each year.

You voted against the government’s VAT increase. Aren’t you deluding yourself? According to Peter Mandelson’s memoirs, “Third Man”, Alistair Darling wanted to increase VAT to 19 per cent. Would you have voted against a VAT of 19 per cent?

The overall effect of this government’s budget is to hit the poor the most. Labour wouldn’t have done that, we’d have had a budget that protected the poorest. A budget is a package of measures, and it’s not about voting for or against just one element, you’re looking at the overall effect.

During Labour’s 13 years in government, the gap between rich and poor widened. Your party failed to reverse the growing inequalities in our society. What can your party do to convince electors that Labour is the party for social justice and fairness?

Inequality and poverty rose massively under the Tories between 1979 and 1997. Labour halted the rising trend in inequality (though you’re right, we didn’t reverse it) and we lifted millions of children and pensioners out of poverty. I’m proud of those achievements. Of course we need to go further, and that means a fairer system of taxation, adequate benefits for people who can’t work, and giving everyone the best opportunities. That’s what Labour stands for, and it will be a priority for our new leader.

In an article in the Guardian on Monday, Andy Burnham criticised the “metropolitan elites” that have dominated the Labour Party. Agree or disagree with this?

I think we do have to make sure all members of our party have a real say in our policies and our decisions. We need to reform the way we consult and involve our party members. Thousands of new members have been joining us since the election, and we can learn a lot from listening to them and to all our loyal members.

If you believe in the voluntary sector, why have many Labour MPs criticised the “Big Society”?

The voluntary sector does great work but it can’t replace state provision. It’s too small, it can’t guarantee people’s rights, and its job is to speak out for those who are getting a raw deal – it might be harder to do that if you are delivering services for, and being paid by, the state. Labour MPs are sceptical because we’re worried the Big Society is just an excuse for cutting public services and leaving people to rely on charity. Of course we want to see more support for community organisations and we support voluntary activity, but decent public services are at the heart of a fairer society.

In an article on August 7th, you described Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform plans as  a ” remarkably thin document” with “many worrying gaps”. But at least he is attempting to tackle the problem. Under your government, the welfare system got out of control – so what do you suggest Labour should do to reform the welfare system?

Labour was already doing lots – we weren’t just “attempting to tackle the problem”, we substantially increased lone parent employment and had begun reforms to get more sick and disabled people into work. We introduced a flexible new deal to give people looking for work tailor-made support, we invested in a Future Jobs Fund (which the government has axed) to guarantee all young people education or a job, we brought in the employment and support allowance which is structured to get more disabled people into work. The Tories’ plans do build on this to a degree, but they haven’t said anything about what jobs people are to go to, they haven’t given any commitments about funding to help disabled people in the workplace, and they aren’t making any promises about ensuring people have adequate incomes while they’re looking for work. They say they want to make work pay, and that’s right of course, but if they try to do that by cutting benefits rather than improving pay and in-work support, they’ll be plunging vulnerable people into terrible hardship, causing great anxiety and fear – not the best state of mind to be in if you’re looking for work.

Stepping up the attacks on the coalition, creating proposals to improve social mobility….. What do you want to achieve when you return to Parliament after the summer recess?

We’ve got the Spending Review announcements in October, and I’ll be working to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society don’t bear the brunt of the cuts. I’ll be campaigning for disabled people, for families with children, and for jobs.

On your website, you say that “Labour can resist harmful cuts and support public health through a positive campaign on fast foods.” Does this mean more ridiculously expensive advertisements that do not improve the health of young people?

Hang on  – did you read the whole article? What I said was that there are a range of measures we can take to support healthy lifestyles, including regulating fast food outlets (for example forbidding them from opening near school gates), protecting local sporting facilities (the government has axed free swimming for the under 16s – how does that help young people stay healthy?), ensuring young pregnant women can afford a healthy diet, and so on. Advertising and education have a place too, but we need to do more.

Abolition of the 10p tax band, introducing tuition fees, the Iraq War…. What do you think was the Labour Party’s biggest policy mistake?

I wish we’d been bolder. I’m really proud of the progress we made in reducing poverty and halting the rise in inequality, and the public liked what we were doing, but we took our eye off the ball for a couple of years, and we could have got much further by investing in tax credits, pensions, and introducing a living wage if we’d kept up the pace we set in the first part of this decade.

Will you support a referendum on the Alternative Vote?

Yes,  that was in our manifesto.

Exclusive: Samson Dada talks to Tony Lloyd

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

International development is a very important issue that is close to your heart. Can the country realistically afford to set money aside for international aid when the country is in so much debt?

Obviously at a time of global financial crisis there will be pressure on all manner of spending but international aid is still vitally important. We know that we pay a much higher price in countries like Afghanistan when things go wrong and military intervention takes place. Development assistance is a long term cheaper option. We know that issues like climate change require everyone to play a role and that is why Britain must continue to for practical reasons as well as moral or humanitarian ones; to be a key supporter of international development.

Do you believe that a place like East Manchester that statistically has high levels of crime and unemployment can be seen as a place where people can get a good job and get onto the property ladder?

Many people in East Manchester do get on to the property ladder and work hard for themselves and their communities. Crime has been going down in East Manchester although unemployment is still a massive issue, particularly for younger people. But even in the present recession East Manchester is still a great place to live and will only get better as new institutions like the new secondary school come in to being.

One Advertiser reader commented “that some local councillors and you see no problems within East Manchester and everything including employment is rosy.” Has there been a serious acknowledgement of the seriousness of the recession among you, other councillors and Greater Manchester MPs, and that voters cannot be smooth talked about jobs being created when unemployment is so dire?

I don’t know where the quotation has come from and certainly never said anything like this myself. At a time of global recession, we know that unemployment will increase; and it has increased. The action that the government is taking has diminished the very worst impact of the global recession but not done away with the problems. The Work Guarantee that the government has announced includes a guaranteed offer of work or training for every 18-24 year old at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. The government will also fund 250,000 jobs in the public and private sector with more than 150 companies and organisations having already signed up. We need to make sure that we fight for existing jobs and create new ones. No one can pretend that it isn’t a serious issue.

A problem with the recession is that skilled workers have to take on unskilled work that does not make the most of their skills and qualifications. Does Manchester Central have enough skilled jobs to be competitive?

The centre of Manchester is the economic capital of the north of England with many skilled jobs. The future of the economy in Manchester and in the UK is not in long term unskilled jobs but in upskilling the work force.

Seen as the leaders who are setting lengthy emission targets will not be in office, or even alive, are these targets truly realistic?

Setting targets for 2050 is important to making long term and sustainable reductions in carbon emission and it is important that the UK is the first country to introduce the idea of a legally binding target. A target for 2050 is not a way of putting off changes but of making sure that they form part of a long term plan. The Climate Change Bill which the government has laid out contains not only a target for an eventual 80% reduction in emissions, but crucially a carbon budgeting system to set out the trajectory to 2050.

The Guardian newspaper revealed that up to 120 Labour MPs will step down at the next election. As one of your constituents, will Tony Lloyd be standing for Manchester Central at the next general election?

I will be standing for re-election in Manchester Central at the next general election.

Do you have any ambitions to become a minister again?

I have never had particular ambitions for office apart from doing my best for the people of Manchester and the country.

Are you one of the more rowdy MPs in the chamber who likes to shout ‘Hear, Hear’? Who are some of the more rowdy MPs in the chamber, or what party has the more rowdy MPs?

I don’t tend to take part in the parliamentary noise!

Can you give me a sense of how a Labour Parliamentary Party meeting works and how it feels to chair the party?

Obviously meetings of the PLP are by its very nature private but they do vary enormously. Given the great variety of issues, they can sometimes get heated but it is always a great privilege to chair a meeting of the Parliamentary Party.

Do you tend to send the odd ‘tweet’ during sessions in the chamber like some of your colleagues?

No I can’t say that I’ve ever used Twitter in the chamber!

How did you spend your summer recess?

Most of the time I was working in the constituency but I had a short holiday.

Are you a football fan? What are your views on Manchester City’s spending this summer?

I am a lifelong Manchester United fan although I have always wanted to see Manchester teams do well. United have always been regarded as a rich club and certainly can’t cry foul when Manchester City spend. For all of us however, maybe football today is taking leave of reality for normal people with the ridiculous sums of money involved.

Exclusive: Samson Dada talks to Nick Clegg

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

What does Nick Clegg plan to read this summer?

I’ve got a few books in my suitcase. I’ve got Gilead by Margaret Robinson that lots of family and friends have recommended. A bit of political reading too – The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. And I’m hoping to get the chance to re-read The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, one of my favourite books of all time.

Do you think England can regain the Ashes?

The less said about Headingley the better, but I still believe that the team that played so well earlier this summer can regain the Ashes at the Oval. Having Freddie Flintoff back in the team will certainly help!

Apart from Vince Cable, who likes to dance in your cabinet?

I’ve seen a few of them shaking their stuff on the dance floor at party conference!

Will you be committing the party to any new policies at the Liberal Democrat conference?

It’s a democratic forum, and I can’t be certain what will or won’t be voted through – but I hope we’ll be passing a lot of important new policies. We’ll be looking at ways to protect consumers from greedy banks and businesses, at generating electricity from tidal energy and at protecting our civil liberties. There will also be policies on stopping MPs abusing their expenses, improving our rail network and better supporting our armed forces.

In no more than 140 characters, what are your thoughts on MPs who ‘tweet’ during sessions in the House of Commons?

Prefer to concentrate on the debate. Twitter better when you’re out and about. Parliament’s on TV if people want to know what’s happening.

Was there a period and any issues during the year when you thought “Yes, my party was at its highest point”?

Actually, I feel more than ever that we’re continuing on the way up. There have been highlights in the last few months – winning citizenship rights for the Gurkhas, standing up against the abuse of expenses, speaking out for our troops in Afghanistan. At every step, more and more people are seeing something in the Liberal Democrats they believe in, and supporting us. And I see that trend continuing all through the year until the General Election.

What is your response to Gordon Brown’s continued mantra in PMQs that the Liberal Democrats have no policy for jobs, no policy for growth and no policy for housing.” Is this the case and is the Prime Minister telling the truth when he says this?

The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a clear plan to get British people back to work, rebuild the economy and build the homes people need – because we’re the only ones ready to do things differently, moving away from the mistakes that got us into this mess. We want an economy that’s not just centred in London and financial services, but strong throughout the country. And we want to build growth and jobs out of going green, so we can stop dangerous climate change.

Out of Labour and the Conservatives, which party is closer to the ideals and values of the Liberal Democrats?

I think they’re closer to each other! Both are fundamentally parties of the establishment who won’t change anything fundamental about the way our country works and that’s why nothing ever really changes when they’re in government. Liberal Democrats are different – we want a fresh start, a better way of doing things and an end to the same old mistakes.

Why are the Liberal Democrats opposed to renewing Trident when this will send people to work? Fewer people will be on unemployment benefits are less likely to suffer from mental health illnesses such as depression that your party have highlighted as being one of the effects of the recession on the unemployed.

We do not need the comprehensive Trident nuclear weapons system to protect Britain – and at a cost of up to £100bn, it is far too expensive for our needs. The government should make strategic defence decisions on the basis of protecting the country, not to make jobs for people. A far better way to create jobs for unemployed people is to invest in building new homes and renewable energy, so that we can build a new, green economy. That’s a better and more sustainable solution.

Do you believe we will still be in Afghanistan in 10, 15 or 20 years?

We could be if we don’t sort out the political strategy for building up the Afghan government, police and army. That’s why I’ve been so outspoken in arguing for better coordination between international forces, governments and aid agencies, so that the work our troops do leads to long-lasting peace. If we are to stop Afghanistan from being a haven for terrorism and drug traffickers, all nations need to work together.

Do you get a lot of young people visiting your surgeries?

I get a whole mix of people with all sorts of questions and problems. It’s a great way to really keep in touch with what matters to people, and often help get their issues sorted out, too. Sheffield has two big universities, so I often meet a lot of students locally, in particular.

Many teenagers, including me will be voting for the first time, in a general election that carries huge importance for the future of this country? How can Nick Clegg ‘get down with the kids’?

I’m in my early 40s, and I don’t think it’s any use pretending otherwise. And I think it’s pretty patronising to teenagers when politicians or whoever try to be ‘cool’, as if teenagers don’t have the intellect or capacity to engage with them on adult terms. I spend a lot of time out and about in the country, and my favourite thing to do is hold an open forum meeting where people can ask me any question they like. Some of the best discussions have been when we’ve done these public meetings at schools or colleges and got young people along. It’s corny to say, but young people are the country’s future and I think engaging with them is one of the most important things I can do – and that means taking people seriously, not trying to be “down with the kids!”