General Election 2024

Written by SCD members Joseph and Matthew. The views expressed are those of the authors.

It’s time to vote. But who, or perhaps what, are we voting for?

Boris Johnson’s divisive 2019 election campaign convinced vast swathes of the country to vote Tory. He scored the Conservative’s their largest gains in over twenty years, and in doing so managed to crush a Labour campaign that seemed a great voice of compassion and equality very much needed in this country.  

Since then Brexit got done, a pandemic changed everything, the world was uprooted on shores near and far. Five years down the line Rishi looks spent and his government looks totally lost. Yet it is also difficult to overlook the same look in the eyes of some of his rivals, including Keir Starmer, the man that will most likely replace him. With Starmer putting the final massive nails in the Labour left, one can’t help but repeat the phrase “out with the old, in with the old” as we assess our options.

As July 4th looms, The UK’s two biggest parties have switched places in the polls. The public sector has been on its knees for so long that the lower part of its legs have gone dead, real wars as well as the toxic culture wars persist and the economy stands ever so stock-still. Very soon the people will have their chance to be heard once more. Or will they? When the new leader gets handed the well greased keys to number ten, although their t-shirt will read ‘change’ they are unlikely to represent the real change most people in the United Kingdom are desperate for. Instead, like a set of those shiny balls that sit atop someone’s office desk in the 90s they will beat out the same unchanging rhythm of the grey ball that swung before them. 

So the people at the top won’t really change, but we can make progress locally, through community building. In our constituency of Selly Oak we have an opportunity to achieve this on the back of MP Steve McCabe’s departure and the precedent for community-led work in Stirchley, Bournbrook and Druids Heath to name a few. In contrast to the empty talk, our communities are taking action. The community-led homes are being built, the bikes are being fixed, the bread is being baked, and the songs are being sung. Our collective ideas and actions towards a place we think is brighter for us are powerful and cannot be overlooked by any incoming MP. They must champion our needs and wants in parliament and we must call them out when they fail to represent our values. Our incumbent MP Steve McCabe felt the strength of community action in Selly Oak and it cost him his post. Selly Oak will never condone genocide, we are not a war constituency and we will not support an MP who does not speak up for the rights of the oppressed.

Instead, the new elected MP for Selly Oak should listen carefully to their constituents and their needs and pay attention to where things are working well, in spite of 14 years of austerity and creeping nationalism. 

Part of the foundation of Stirchley Co-operative Development are the three co-operative businesses that will operate out of the new building’s ground floor. Loaf, Artefact, and Birmingham Bike  Foundry have long established their positive impact upon Stirchley and the wider area, which is one of the reasons more support for democratic workspaces will always sit prominently on our list of  wants. The numbers don’t lie: 72% of worker co-ops get through their initial five years of trading. Compare this with the 43% of top-down companies that make it as far. More recognition and funding for worker co-ops puts more power in the hands of the people. And this means all the people.

Alongside the worker co-ops, thirty-nine affordable homes owned and managed by the residents are currently being built. This hasn’t been an easy process as we are operating within a system made for big profit driven developers. We need support from elected officials for more community-led housing, investment in more high quality social housing and greater funding for housing co-ops. Co-operative housing (where the people who live there make collective decisions about their building) strengthens communities, making them safer, more democratic and supportive places to live and work.

Unbridled rental prices and unchecked landlords are ruining lives, driving more and more people, including children, into poverty. People are being priced out of areas and into inadequate properties that benefit only the private individual who owns them. Any argument against cracking down on these societal sinkholes is moot. We value any effort to counteract this ever-escalating problem and strongly urge our incoming MP to take strong action against the private rental sector. We need to stop glorifying rising house prices. We don’t want to ever see Mr estate agent on the TV grinning about how much money he’s made at the expense of others. We want to see our MP on the TV fighting for secure housing for our children.

You may have read that a prerequisite to living in our new development is not owning a car. Believe it or not, Birmingham City Council supported this as it was inline with their aims to reduce traffic emissions in the city to help respond to the climate crisis. Cars are polluting our streets and school playgrounds and now take up valuable public pavement space everywhere. We want to support more sustainable forms of transport in Selly Oak and we support any MP who agrees with this. We need much greater investment in reliable public transport systems in Selly Oak, we need more and improved cycle ways and we need more funding for people to access electric cargo bikes. Our roads need to clearly prioritise the most vulnerable users.

Sustainable transport is one part of the holistic response needed to lessen the negative impacts of climate change. Another significant part is how we build new developments and, perhaps more pressingly, maintain existing ones. Our homes need better systems of energy management, better insulation and to be constructed of sustainable materials. The new developments that work in this way need greater support from our city planners and priority and funding must be given to such projects. The status quo of building poor quality brick semis with minimal insulation, gas boilers, zero rainwater capture infrastructure and a measly 12% quota for affordable homes (which is often not met) does more ecological harm than good and must be addressed.

Stirchley Co-operative Development supports an inclusive and diverse society that gives a strong voice to marginalised groups. Refugees are more than welcome here and we will always fight against facism, racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia in Selly Oak. Our new MP must actively do the same. Co-operatives achieve a fairer society through their flat management and organisational structures. Where some might cry for a ‘change in the boardroom’, we remove the boardroom completely, where some might dream of profiting from property at the expense of others, co-operatives remove the notion of ‘property’ to profit everyone at the expense of no-one. 

In order for any problem to be solved one must first understand the problem and its context. Any incoming MP for Selly Oak will only succeed if they’re equipped with this understanding. Someone who’s never lived in Selly Oak for example can only view the local issues from a god’s eye view that neglects nuance and ultimately fails. We implore the new MP for Selly Oak to support our communities to lead on achieving the safe, welcoming and thriving community we are working toward through Stirchley Co-operative Development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *