The Tab meets Lilian Greenwood, former MP for Nottingham South, standing for re-election
Lilian had been the MP for Nottingham South since 2010, and for most Nottingham students will be their MP if re-elected.
Hi, who are you, where are you from?
I’m Lilian Greenwood and until Parliament was dissolved on 6 November, I’d been the MP for Nottingham South since May 2010 and Chair of the House of Commons’ Transport Committee since July 2017. Before that, from 1992-2010, I was a trade union organiser for UNISON here in Nottingham. I’m originally from Bolton, Lancashire.
You notably resigned from Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet due to his weak leadership, as leader of the Labour party if he fails to secure a victory at this up-and-coming general election, do you feel it would be his time to resign?
I doubt he would want to stay on if we don’t win the election, but the whole Labour family is working really hard to win on 12 December. And another 5 years of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister doesn’t bear thinking about!
What’s your proudest achievement?
My three amazing daughters.
But in politics, it’s the times I feel I’ve made a difference. There are lots of things I’m proud of, but my proudest achievement – so far – is securing £5.5million for the Warmer HousiNG scheme which has enabled Nottingham City Council to fit solid-wall insulation to thousands of homes in Clifton, Wollaton Park and Lenton Abbey. As a result my constituents, both council tenants and owner-occupiers, have warmer homes and lower fuel bills. The scheme has created jobs, is helping cut carbon emissions and has improved the look of our estates.
Westminster is arguably not representative of the UK population, do you think it’s important to challenge this?
It’s not arguable, it’s a fact and it needs to change. Parliament is stronger if we reflect the people we seek to serve. I’m glad that the House of Commons is becoming more diverse but given only 32% of MPs are women, we have a long way to go just to achieve gender equality. We also need to tackle the under-representation of Black and Minority Ethnic communities and disabled people in Parliament. I still find it shocking that 29% of MPs went to private school compared to only 7.2% of the population. We need to work harder to ensure that becoming a Parliamentary representative is accessible to everyone.
Your constituency includes a large number of students, with the student population increasing significantly, not only in Nottingham but across the country. Many arguments against Labour's 6 years free of education, mainly funded by taxation is that as student numbers increase there will simply not be enough money to maintain this, what would your argument against this be?
Education – not just university education – is vital. It widens opportunities and enables people to lead more fulfilling lives. It’s not unaffordable to invest in the next generation, it’s essential. The current system of student finance is clearly broken and most students will never pay off their debts so the system is crying out for change. I don’t want anyone to be put off going to university because they feel they cannot afford it.
You've previously written about the importance of sustainable travel such as cycling. How do you wish to further this in your own constituency and what actions can the government do to address the issue of a climate emergency?
I’m proud that Nottingham is already leading the way when it comes to tackling the climate emergency, with its investment in public transport, better facilities for cycling and walking, greener housing initiatives and the district heating scheme (using heat from the waste incinerator to heat homes and businesses). The city has ambitious plans to be carbon neutral by 2028.
The next Government needs to provide much stronger leadership and take the action needed to ensure we get to net zero carbon as soon as possible and ahead of the current target of 2050.
Examples of the action required on transport (currently 27% of UK carbon emissions) include ending the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles, electrifying our railways, enabling more people to walk or cycle short journeys and take public transport more often for longer trips, supporting better bus services, improving electric car charging infrastructure and helping people with the cost of switching to electric vehicles. I could talk about this all day!
Many of these actions wouldn’t just contribute to reducing carbon emissions, they’d also help tackle air pollution and traffic congestion, improve productivity and make our towns and cities healthier and more pleasant places to live.
Nottingham South has an unemployment rate of 4.5%, how do you plan to try and address this?
First and foremost we need a strong economy. My greatest fear is a Boris Johnson Government that takes us out of the EU with a bad Brexit deal, damaging our economy for decades to come and resulting in businesses closing or relocating to other parts of the EU.
At a local level we need to ensure that Nottingham is a city where businesses want to locate and invest. That means ensuring local people have the skills that businesses need, that our city is an even better place to live and work and that we’re well connected – that’s one reason investment in HS2 is so important to our region.
Finally, if you could recommend one book, one song and one film to people what would it be?
Just one? That’s hard!
The book I’d recommend is ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’ by Jon McGregor. In my mind it’s set in a street in Lenton. But anything by Jon McGregor really, he’s an incredible writer. He lives in Nottingham and when I met him at an event at the Uni I was completely starstruck!
The song is easier. When I was running for selection there was a lot of talk about campaign songs (I think Hilary Clinton was running against Obama for the Democratic nomination at the time). I adopted ’Move on Up’ by Curtis Mayfield – I used to play it I the car to keep me motivated and it never fails!
Film has to be ‘Pride’ – the true story of how an LGBT group from London supported South Wales miners in the 1984 strike. It will have you laughing and crying and if it doesn’t make you want to be part of the Labour movement, then I don’t know what will.
A large number of your constituents are students, any tips?
Nottingham is a fantastic place to live so make the most of your years here (and please stay after you graduate!) Get involved in your local community – we benefit hugely from having people come to our city from around the world and we work hard to make everyone welcome but please be considerate of your neighbours too.
And please do register to vote! You've got until 11.59pm on Tuesday 26 November. Students can be registered at both their home and term-time addresses, but can only vote once. The website is: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and it's best to use your National Insurance number if you can.
And have you got any messages to people out there?
Use your vote! Democracy is precious – it’s your opportunity to shape the future of our country – don’t waste it.