Rachel Collinson is standing as our Parliamentary Candidate for West Ham. I caught up with her recently to find out more about her, her commitment to Green politics and what local issues she cares about.
All about Rachel…
What is your name and where do you come from?
My name is Rachel Collinson. I never know what to say when people ask me where I come from. I’m a reet Northern lass (I’ve lived in both Yorkshire and the very North-East of Scotland) but have made London my permanent home since 1998.
Why did you decide to join the Green Party?
I became disillusioned with politics after voting Lib Dem at the last election, hoping that they would reform our unfair electoral system. When they joined up with the Tories I was absolutely gutted, and after I recovered from this let down, decided to see what Labour had to offer. But gradually I realised that Labour aren’t capable of speaking up for ordinary people any more. Ed Balls wanted to match the coalition’s cuts and would have raised tuition fees as well. They didn’t even take a stand against fracking!
That was the moment I joined a political party for the first time. The more I learnt about the Green Party, the more I realised that they speak for people like me. More and better social housing, energy security, a million new jobs, cheaper heating bills, no more pointless wars… what’s not to like?
What is the best thing about living in West Ham?
Living in West Ham is brilliant for hundreds of reasons. There are so many different races and cultures living peacefully together here. I love the Queen Elizabeth Park and how it’s been cleverly reclaimed from industrial wasteland. The sense of community you get when walking around places like Forest Gate is wonderful. I particularly like the creativity and hard work you see here all around you.
What 3 facts might people not know about you?
- One of the proudest moments in my life was being one of the million people on the streets of London in 2002 who were protesting the Iraq War.
- I was part of the campaign to free my hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest in Burma. She was eventually freed by the cruel military dictatorship there, and I’m humbled to have been a part of making that happen.
- I love teaching young women how to code.
Voting Green in West Ham
Why should West Ham residents vote for you?
The Green Party are the only party who really know what life is like for most people. We will fund public services properly, not cut them, with a strong plan to close tax loopholes. We won’t take this nation to war again, making life more peaceful and prosperous for everybody and not just the chosen few.
If you vote for me, you’re voting for honesty, for a stand against corruption and for real change. It’s a vote that says you want better things for the people of Newham. As somebody who runs a small business, I know what it means to work hard and I know how to create jobs. I will put that knowledge into practice in government. I will stand up for everybody who has been left out in the cold – literally – by our current, broken system.
What do you think are the important issues for West Ham?
Housing. Firstly, we have a housing crisis, and nothing is being done to cut the waiting list. Look at the Focus E15 mums – being cruelly kicked out of their homes for no good reason. And while this is going on, nearly every grand new housing scheme proposed has no social housing. Why? Developers – and landlords – are being enabled to make giant profits at the expense of ordinary people.
The Green Party have plans to build 500,000 new council houses, paid for by social rents and by ending tax cuts for landlords. This would bring Newham far more housing at rents we can pay and still afford to raise a family.
Health. It’s so difficult to get an appointment on the same day in GP surgeries in Newham. On top of that, our A&E departments are having to bear the brunt of council cuts to social care and mental health services. We are currently paying billions of pounds to corporations through Private Finance Initiatives – profits which should be going directly on caring for patients.
This could be solved if the NHS was re-nationalised, we had free social care and proper funding. The Green Party would protect the NHS for good by making sure that profit has no place in it, and join up healthcare between councils and the NHS so Newham’s hospital chaos can be ended.
Transport. As anybody who’s travelled on the line between Stratford and Forest Gate knows, overcrowding on trains is past a joke. We need more frequent trains. We need new carriages that are more suitable for this line, and we need safer stations.
The Green Party would not renew the contract on this line. Then we can take it straight back into the hands of the public. Profits can then be reinvested into the system rather than going straight into the pockets of shareholders.
Energy. Our heating bills keep going up and up. So many people are living in damp, cold houses and are having to choose between eating or paying the bill. I get so cross about this!
The Green Party would put into place a massive program of insulation and energy efficiency measures. The value of your house will go up, and you’ll pay hundreds of pounds less in bills! Not only that, it will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and reduce pollution which affects us all.
Pollution. Newham is known as London’s dirty borough. Unfortunately we are one of the most polluted areas of the UK. We are breathing in toxic chemicals every day, meaning a shorter life, lung and heart diseases.
As you’d expect, the Green Party take a tough line on pollution. The main cause here is industry and transport, particularly our buses and trains that still run on diesel! I’d campaign to get them changed to hybrid or fully electric vehicles, meaning that our children’s lungs will be full of clean air rather than poisonous gases.
For people who are reluctant to vote, for whatever reason, why should they take part in the General Election?
It’s easy to think that all politicians don’t care, and they all take backhanders and are in it just for themselves. But have a look at our current Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who has won more than one award for most ethical politician. She claims next to nothing in personal expenses and declares all of her meetings, donations and interests. I look at her and think – yes, that is a lady I can trust, and I was inspired to follow in her footsteps.
The amount of people I’ve heard saying ‘I’ve never voted before, but I’ve just registered so that I can vote Green’ gives me hope that more and more people are seeing what I have. Seeing a party they can finally trust.
Just for fun
Summer or winter?
Although I’m so pasty that I could actually sunburn through cloud, I’ve got to say summer is best.
Early bird or night owl?
Anybody who’s observed the state of me in the morning knows that I’m a night owl through and through. Plus, owls are cool and totally strokable.
Tea or coffee?
Tea. I can do 60 mpg on tea.
Dogs or cats?
I love all animals, but cats just seem to be that little bit cuter than dogs.
Vanilla or chocolate?
Who exactly chooses vanilla in response to this question?! It’s got to be chocolate every time, unless you’re talking paint colours…