As a Nottingham student who unashamedly loves politics I was pretty shocked by the complete lack of interest many of my peers showed in the 2010 general election. Maybe I’m an irredeemable geek, or maybe the excitement and anticipation of the most tumultuous election in recent times didn’t excite Notts students who don’t feel like real residents in their communities, but our adopted city was home to some fascinating political battlegrounds.
Nottingham South, whose boundaries contain the University Park (and most of the student accommodation in the city), was a former stronghold for socialist firebrand and Labour backbencher Alan Simpson. The large student vote has helped the constituency remain red in recent years but nevertheless Nottingham South was a seat keenly contested by all three major parties in 2010. Indeed it has been held by Conservative, Liberal, and Labour MPs since its emergence in 1885, and we students have a huge say in who is elected.
Step forward 44 year-old former trade unionist Lilian Greenwood. Selected by her local party from an all-women shortlist, Lilian has been an active campaigner on a range of issues from women’s right to anti-racism, public sector pensions, funding for the health service and worker’s rights. She was recently elected to the influential Transport Select Committee, and hopes to see the extension of the Nottingham tram into more of Notts South as soon as possible.
To many students our area of Nottingham might seem relatively affluent, but as in many urban seats there are pockets also of deprivation, poverty, high levels of crime, and anti-social behaviour. It takes an MP with experience to deal with the kind of problems that face Nottingham South; issues spread all over the social spectrum, ranging from burglaries in Lenton to high drug usage in areas such as Radford. What Lilian may lack as a new MP is the experience to address these problems. At a debate at the University, Lilian was criticised by her Liberal and Conservative counterparts for the so called ”sink estates” that exist in Nottingham, an inheritance from previous Labour governance. Now she’s elected, it’s hard to say whether or not these issues will be tackled head on, or as her sceptics claim, they will be ignored and left to fester as areas of Nottingham sink lower into deprivation.
Lilian campaigned against cuts in public services in the last election, stating on her blog that the message is simple: don’t wait until our public services have disappeared to stand up and defend them. She has also declared that her top priority as a new MP is to defend and protect the interests of her constituents and, as students that includes us. At a debate for the prospective MPs for Nottingham South at the start of 2010, Lilian affirmed that she was staunchly against that bane of student budgets everywhere – tuition fees. So much so, in fact, that Lilian disclosed at the student-run debate that she would resign from the government if tuition fees rose during her time as MP, although Labour since went on to lose the election. However, Lilian’s pandering to the needs of students is hardly surprising; only time will tell whether she follows through with her promise. Other commitments given by Lilian include increasing the national minimum wage and giving more help to 18-24 year olds in finding jobs, something which directly affects every graduate of both Universities in her constituency.
With the government vowing to cut some public services and examining the long-term funding model for universities our local MP has a lot to get her teeth into. On top of this, with public support for the Labour Party at an all time low, and rival Conservative MP Rowena Holland hot on her heels, Lilian has a lot to prove.