Edward Mundy: Oxford City Council Candidate Profile

Hello, I am Edward Mundy. I am running for Labour in the Holywell ward for the City Council Elections in May 2021 along with Imogen Thomas.

I first moved to Oxford over ten years ago and before this it was my father’s hometown whilst I was growing up. Over this time, like other residents I have come to understand the City more closely and the issues it faces. My knowledge of the interesting dynamics of our City has only been enhanced by experience working across a diverse rage sectors from catering to health care before now working for Royal Mail. It is this knowledge and passion about my community that led me to stand.

I first got into politics through my Trade Union at Royal Mail, the Communication Workers Union, where I have now been an industrial relations rep for around two years.

Trade Unions are critical to giving a voice to working people – protecting our welfare, pay and conditions. Organising in our workplace through the Labour Movement is how we build a fairer society from the bottom up – one workplace at a time.

It is through my union that I also started campaigning for Labour – the political voice of the Labour movement, starting with campaigning in the last two general elections on the street, leafleting and through telephone canvassing. A Labour Government and Councils working hand in hand with Trade Unions and workers on the shop floor makes sure that working people’s priorities are at the heart of decision making and we can build a City and wider County that works for everyone, where no one is left behind.

A Labour majority on the City Council ensures a local focus on protecting frontline services from austerity, that we tackle the climate crisis locally and prioritise the welfare of the most vulnerable. There is nothing inevitable about this – we only have a pioneering Labour City Council because people voted for one. Not voting or voting for another parties puts this valuable work at risk.

Your City Council in Oxford is responsible for: housing and multiple occupancy licensing, leisure and other community centres, environmental health, planning policy and much else in between. It is vital that in May we return councillors who value our public services, our health and environment and understand the needs of workers and their families.

Equality, fairness, and human dignity are paramount to me. If elected as a councillor, I would bring these principles into practice to address some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in Oxford.

Our city has a housing security problem. We must ensure that safe and secure accommodation is available to those at risk of rough sleeping by continuing the pioneering ‘Housing First’ approach of our Labour City Council which means no-one has to sleep rough on our streets and more people are supported into long-term accommodation. Private landlords must also be licensed and properly regulated to prevent the scourge of cramped and poorly maintained 21st Century slums. I will advocate more new houses for council rent and other homes that are affordable for our City’s key workers. Over 1,000 new council homes are in the works – but we need to go further and be bolder.

I will also campaign for the Oxford Living Wage (rising from £10.21 to £10.31 in April) to be adopted by as many businesses as we can. I would like to encourage all University of Oxford students to keep up the pressure on College Principals to follow the University’s lead and pay all staff the local minimum – that reflect the cost pressures of living in an expensive city like ours.

One of the great strengths of Oxford is that it is a truly industrial working-class city as well as being home to two highly renowned universities. The city thrives while all are strong. We need to call upon this strength now more than ever before and ensure we maintain the strong bridges between all our communities. These are challenging and troubling times for all of us. I can only imagine what it is like to be locked down as a student, and key workers are under more pressure than ever.

Due to COVID these days campaigning will be different, not least in our ward, as meeting voters on the doorstep can’t happen for the foreseeable. Our campaign will have to be largely online and on social media, both for the student community and for other residents in Holywell.

Holywell is in the centre of Oxford and is currently held by two Labour councillors with a tiny majority – so residents’ choices here will be critical to deciding whether we continue to have a world-leading Labour-led City Council.

The ward borders Parks Road and Catte Street at the west, St Aldates and Christchurch Meadow at the south and south west, The Plain and the Angel and Greyhound Meadow to the east, and Keble Road and University Parks to the north. The colleges within the ward boundaries are: Queens College, Christ Church, Merton, Corpus Christi, Magdalen, University College, St Edmund Hall, New College, St Catherine’s, All Souls, Hertford, Wadham, Mansfield, Keble, Linacre, Oriel and Harris Manchester.

If you are a resident of the ward, it will be crucial to get registered for a postal vote – so you can keep safe during COVID – and to encourage others to do the same.

Thank you and stay safe.


Alex Hollingsworth: Oxford City Council Candidate Profile

I joined the Labour Party in the aftermath of the 1987 General Election, just as I started as an undergraduate student at the LSE. What drove me then, and still drives me today, are three things.

First, that societies based on equality for all are better than those that are not, and that the pursuit of equality cannot be passive, but means constant effort to overcome inequality.

Second, that the broad-church tradition of the Labour Party and the Co-operative movement is the best way of achieving that first objective; we will always achieve more together than separately.

And third, that without Labour being in positions of power nationally and locally we don’t just lose forward progress to a better and more equal society, we go backwards.

I made my home in this city in 1991 and was first elected as a councillor in 1994. Working with the Labour Party here, knocking on doors, listening to and representing my constituents on one of the city’s largest council estates made me all too aware of what is often hidden by the tourist postcard views of the dreaming spires.

Problems like the yawning gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest parts of Oxford, the desperate shortage of secure and affordable homes for young families, levels of traffic and air pollution that damage the health of all.

These are all things where Labour-run Oxford City Council has taken action, and needs to continue to take action, something that means being prepared to stand up for difficult decisions.

It is no good saying that you are appalled by rough sleeping if you not prepared to support the building of new genuinely affordable homes. That’s why I have consistently argued in favour of new housing in and around this city even on Green Belt land if necessary, and will continue to do so.

It’s no good saying that pollution is too high if you are not prepared to support measures to cut the car traffic that causes it. That’s why I took the lead on pedestrianising streets in the city centre, and why I support the radical measures in the Connecting Oxford proposals to cut car traffic right across the city.

It’s no good saying that the gap between rich and poor is shocking, if you are not prepared to promote the Oxford Living Wage, better job security and more rights for tenants, and the life-long investment in support and education that will close that gap rather than allow it to open further.

Those then are my priorities if I am elected: a relentless campaign for more homes that are secure, decent and affordable for all; radical measures to cut traffic and prioritise public transport, cycling and pedestrians; and support for policies that close the gaps between the richest and poorest, and make our city one that can be proud that its citizens are equal.

Alex is standing as the Labour & Co-operative City Council Candidate for Carfax & Jericho. He is currently a City Councillor for Carfax and before this was a City Councillor for Barton.

Carfax & Jericho ward includes the following colleges: Balliol, Blackfriars, Brasenose, Exeter, Jesus, Lincoln, Nuffield, Regent’s Park, St Benet’s Hall, St Cross, St John’s, St Peter’s, Trinity and Worcester.

Imogen Thomas: Oxford City Council Candidate Profile

Hi! I’m Imogen, the Labour City Council candidate for Holywell ward. I’ve studied, lived and worked in Oxford for several years and I’ve been a Labour activist throughout. I graduated from my Master’s at Somerville College last year and now I work for the University at the Weston Library.

I’ve been organising in local politics for several years now; I’ve run door-knocking sessions, campaigned for tenants’ rights and taken on casework, as well as taking a lead on media and communications. I’ve chaired meetings, given talks and led discussions on various topics: I’ve spoken on the history of women’s activism (to mark International Women’s Day); on capitalism and the environment; and on LGBT+ history.

During the pandemic, I’ve helped out with the Kitchen Collective and the brilliant work that Oxford Mutual Aid has been doing to prevent families going without essential supplies in these difficult times. I’ve also volunteered in green spaces around Oxford, litter-picking, watering saplings and reporting discarded needles. Lockdown has shown just how vital access to safe and welcoming outside spaces are for our physical and mental health.

I have also been active with community union ACORN, reaching out to people in rent arrears during the pandemic and joining the Housing is Health and No COVID Evictions campaigns. As a spokesperson for ACORN Oxford, I made several media appearances to draw attention to government inaction and the lack of legislation to protect tenants during the pandemic. Here’s a link to my interview on BBC South Today.

I more recently appeared on South Today to show support for the Council’s proposed landlord licensing scheme, one of the biggest powers local government has to tackle unsafe housing conditions and to prevent evictions. The scheme would secure vital protections for thousands of renters across Oxford who are living with unsafe hazards or negligent landlords.

In May, we’ll have the chance to elect passionate and capable Labour campaigners to City Council. We’ll have the chance to ensure that our vital public services are protected, that tackling the climate crisis is prioritised by local government, and that we continue to push for safe, affordable and dignified housing.

Holywell is a marginal ward and every vote will count to ensure a Labour victory: in 2018, Labour scraped a victory by only 7 votes! This means we can’t afford not to campaign hard; I’ll be tireless in my commitment to fighting for students and local residents, but your support is vital too. Rally your friends to turn out to vote and, if you can, volunteer some time to help with the campaign. (Please do contact me on Facebook if you’d like to get involved!)

I am well aware that, if elected, myself and other Councillors would be confronting challenges the like of which the Council has never seen before. With yet further cuts imposed by the Conservatives on the horizon, there will be a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders: to make the right choices, to advocate for the vulnerable, and to ensure that Oxford’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic is as smooth as possible.

I’m delighted to be standing alongside union activist Edward Mundy, the other City Council candidate for Holywell. We make a great team and have the drive and commitment to face these challenges head-on.

The quickest and easiest way to support us right now is to register for a postal vote, and to get your friends to do the same! 

Holywell needs Labour Councillors who will advocate strongly for its residents, and who will represent their views on homelessness, zero emission zones, air pollution, liveable streets, mental health, and other local issues big and small. Let’s win in May.

Why Fatima’s next job should be in the arts, for all our sakes

Toni Ledda

The average person now changes career 5-7 times in their life. For Fatima, the ballet dancer, who will have probably trained for over a decade, for an average of 6 to 7 hours a day, her next career change could be just around the corner, in cyber! How exciting! 

It is very unsurprising that a group of people whose job changes constantly, from domestic affairs, to transport, to making decisions about the economy of 60 million people based on a PPE or classics degree and approximately 0 hours of experience in the various departments  they are in charge of, would chronically undervalue the skills required to have a job in the arts. When I filled in the survey on gov.uk to find out what kind of job they recommended for me, I was given a list that ranged from chef to acrobat and classical musician. For artists and musicians working around the country in secure jobs and the gig economy, this just adds insult to injury. Rishi Sunak failed to provide adequate support for the self-employed which included a huge proportion of people in this sector. While retraining to have an office job may be the best thing for the economy, it would be a tragedy for society. When we lose someone with practical creative skills it takes 10,000 hours for someone to retrain someone new to fill their space. 

This undervaluation of the arts also has impacts that reverberate in education and cultural associations. When we don’t place an emphasis on music and see these kinds of jobs hailed as aspirational, it’s easier for councils and governments to underfund arts programs, denying children from lower-income backgrounds the opportunity of accessing the arts. I first became involved in music when my school advertised subsidised music lessons, a few years below me this started to be phased out. Youth groups began to be sized down, cut out completely, or had to rely on parental support and fund raising to keep going. The effects of this continue into higher education. Some Conservatoires have a private school intake higher than that of Oxbridge, not exactly a low bench mark. At the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, the proportion of privately educated undergraduates in 2017-2018 was 68.9% and 61.2% respectively. The privilege needed to even reach this level is daunting. Auditions can cost up to £80 and the level of competition means that many people try to get into the same conservatoire in consecutive years or apply to various institutions in the same year. The National Youth Orchestra, which used to be predominantly made up of state school children, is now mostly private school. Instead of increasing opportunity and social mobility, trends since the 80s have led to increasing inequality, this is just one manifestation of it.   

The effect of this is creating a cultural class divide, expectations of what children who are exposed to this kind of opportunity, and those who are excluded from it, are increasingly diverging. To try and address this imbalance, NYO targeted deprived areas in London to try and encourage enthusiasm from kids to get involved in classical music. They found that once children were shown classical music and given the opportunity to get involved,  there was no difference in interest, just lack of funding. The cultural class divide never really existed in the interests of children, it was engineered and perpetuated and has had the consequence of denying working-class children the same opportunities as those from richer backgrounds. 

Even if Fatima came from a wealthy background, it would have taken her years of dedication, passion and failure to reach the level where she can be financially stable as a performing ballet dancer. If she came from an economically disadvantaged background, the obstacles for her to reach that level would be even greater. Now the state of the economy means she may be forced to give it up to retrain. 

When we engineer class divides, we deny kids a chance to be a part of something amazing and we deny ourselves the kind of talent they have. Fatima’s next job could be in cyber, I just hope for all of us that it isn’t.  

What Labour can learn from Jacinda Ardern

Daniel Harrison

For the UK Labour Party Jacinda Ardern’s success is instructive. Beneath the ease and empathy, a hard-nosed political strategist lurks. Ardern may be younger and less serious than Starmer, but the challenges she overcame bear a striking resemblance to the obstacles facing Keir Starmer. Ardern did not lead her party to their best result since 1946 just because of her charm or even her highly effective leadership during the pandemic. Both were critical, but look harder. In 2017 Ardern inherited a party that wasn’t trusted on the economy; that was viewed as compassionate but incompetent and faced the age-old problem – how can the left win socially liberal, metropolitan voters along with the traditional working-class. This could be an apt description of the challenges Keir Starmer faces. 

When Jacinda Ardern became leader of her party, she immediately injected a sense of optimism into politics. At her first press conference she repeatedly talked about the ‘future’ and how she wanted to build one “to look forward to.” Her slogan epitomised her can-do attitude: “Let’s do this.” Here lies the first lesson for the British Labour Party. The party must seize and own the future: now more than ever. Voters are exhausted by the pandemic and want a future to dream of, to believe in. The Labour Party has often been too preoccupied by its past to tell a story about the future. Jacinda Ardern did not make that mistake. In the 2017 general election she articulated a galvanising vision of a more just New Zealand. She pledged to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020 and to implement the gradual rollout of three years of free tertiary education. Her policy agenda was radical and rooted in the core values of fairness and equality. These values belong to the Labour Party too. The party should not just express policy in technical terms, but in terms of the irreducible principles that underpin those policies. It is not only about how we wish to build a better society, but why we seek to do it. 

The New Zealand Labour Party had a radical policy agenda, but in some ways, it was a reassuring one. Remember, this party was not trusted on the economy. In the UK, a ruthless narrative has been construed that when last in office, Labour bankrupted the country. Post 2010, the party did not have a compelling response and still today the narrative of Labour overspending festers behind every raised eyebrow whenever the party announces its spending commitments. Ardern dealt with her problem pragmatically. In 2017 she didn’t abandon her commitment to reducing poverty, but she accepted the need for prudence. Therefore, she promised to maintain government spending at around 30% of GDP. Keir Starmer must present a bold vision to tackle soaring unemployment and deprivation, because the cost of inaction is too great. 

But the answer is not an unceasing, unending shopping list. That was tried in 2019. Those policies, when viewed individually, were often credible – a £10 minimum wage, but they did not make a coherent whole. At the 2024 general election the party must build a programme for the next five years, not the next fifty. Hence, Labour must concentrate additional expenditure on certain key areas, because otherwise its policies, however noble, will be scoffed at. Jacinda Ardern also confronted her party’s other weakness – immigration. Many voters did not trust the party to sensibly control it. Ardern recognised the additional pressures on infrastructure a high level of immigration can bring, so she pledged to reduce immigration alongside a commitment to increase the nation’s intake of refugees. Her focus in 2017 was to reassure and remind voters that her party could be trusted on the economy and immigration. These issues matter a lot to Red Wall voters. Starmer must not abandon the party’s social liberalism, but he should, as part of his ‘new leadership,’ focus, as Ardern did, on rebuilding trust in the party to manage these issues.  

 Ardern sought to regain voters’ trust on the economy and immigration, but she has also constructed an agenda for the twenty-first century. In May 2019 her government delivered the world’s first ever Wellbeing budget. New Zealand is ending its fixation on the much-flawed measure of GDP and Ardern has recognised that many people have not been benefitting from a growing economy. On climate change, New Zealand has committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030. Keir Starmer, although restricted by the pandemic, must offer a vision based on tomorrow’s challenges. That means a manifesto with a relentless focus on the green economy; social care; AI and automation. Ardern claimed the future and so must Starmer. Labour will only ever win when it represents the future.