Hexham’s MP is on the wrong-side of all the issues that matter. In part 3 of this nightmarish tour through Guy Opperman’s voting record, Tynedale Green Party’s Nick Morphet takes a look at some more key issues.
Follow the links to read part 1 and part 2.
FUNDING FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Mr Opperman’s voting record on local government funding speaks loudly for itself. In 2010 he voted against “basing future decisions on local government funding on fairness and the protection of frontline services”. He also voted against expressing any regret! He voted to decrease local government funding by 4% in 2011, by 25% in 2015, by 44% in 2017, by 28% in 2018 and by 56% in 2019.
The Green party would empower local authorities and restore their budgets. It would give people the power to force a referendum on local government issues and it would create a People’s Bank for every city and every region.
Consistent with his apparent desire to wrest all power from local authorities, and with his desire to privatise (see Transport, below), Mr Opperman is a big supporter of academies. In 2010 he voted against them being built only where a proven need existed. Academies aren’t obliged to follow the national curriculum, and Mr Opperman appears happy to exploit this for his own mysterious ends: on the same day in 2010 he also voted against academies having to follow a curriculum which includes personal, social and health education.
Although Mr Opperman’s voting history with regard to schools is highly questionable, he has come down far harder on university students. In 2010 he voted to approve the raising of undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 per year, and in 2011 he voted to allow student loan interest to be charged at market rates.
The Green Party would abolish SATs and league tables, encourage outdoor learning and teach children more about different global cultures. It would introduce mandatory sex, relationship, equality and diversity education in all schools, and it would ensure that all such education is age-appropriate, LGBTIQA+ inclusive and immune from faith school opt-out. It would scrap tuition fees for undergraduates and write off all existing student debt.
There are few surprises here – again Mr Opperman sides with big business at the expense of both his constituents and the climate/biodiversity crisis mitigation that we so desperately need. In 2012 he voted against reducing public transport fares, and in 2014 he voted against local government having powers to develop more integrated, frequent, cheaper and greener bus services (and this despite having previously voted against lower fuel tax rates in remote areas). He has voted consistently against slowing the rise in rail fares and in 2016 he voted against a publicly owned rail system (while we’re on the subject, he has also voted twice to privatise the Royal Mail).
Mr Opperman is not totally opposed to public transport though – he has voted consistently in favour of HS2. HS2 will directly affect 63 ancient woodlands and indirectly affect another 45 – Mr Opperman clearly supports public transport when by doing so he can favour big business over the environment. Despite his enthusiasm for HS2 the trains on the Tyne Valley line have got shabbier and shabbier under Mr Opperman’s watch.
The Green Party would scrap HS2 and use the billions of pounds saved to upgrade regional public transport infrastructure. It would bring railways and bus companies back into public ownership and increase spending on active travel (walking and cycling) infrastructure.
Here again Mr Opperman sides with big business rather than ordinary people, having voted several times against restrictions on letting agents’ fees. He has also voted against secure tenancies and against action on excessive rent hikes.
The Green Party would introduce a living rent and compulsory licences for landlords. It would build 500,000 socially rented homes in five years, prioritising building on brownfield sites. New homes would be built to the highest energy efficiency standards and existing homes would benefit from a nationwide retrofit insulation programme.
In the final part of the series Nick looks at Guy Opperman’s record on the environment, animal welfare and electoral and constitutional reform.