Cambridge elections – being a candidate with chronic fatigue

A short post on why my candidacy and any publicity materials I put out have to be social media-heavy as opposed to leafleting the entire ward – which inevitably has its drawbacks

Today was one of those days where I had to stay in bed until mid-afternoon when I managed to drag my sorry state out for a short wander around the block.

Above – what happens if I push myself too far.

You can find out more from the M.E. Association here.

“Well you can’t be very popular if you haven’t got any friends to go leafletting for you!”

‘This ain’t no beauty contest!’ I heard it said once on telly. Sadly, there was no golden age of local democracy. Political parties have always struggled to find candidates – let alone active candidates who are willing to pound the pavements and go door to door.

People understandably complain about not hearing from politicians except during election time. Yet how many of us have seen things from the other side? Anecdotal figures from local councillors in Cambridge tell me that to have a chance of meeting every single resident in a ward, a team of canvassers/campaigners has to cover an entire ward five times because much of the time no one is in. And even if they are, when is the most convenient time for people to listen? Is Sunday afternoon a good time for people to talk politics? Or maybe on weekday evenings? But then their favourite programme on TV might be on – or they are busy cooking for the children or reading bedtime stories?

Hence my continued failed pleas over the years for more opportunities for local residents to meet and debate the local issues important to them, rather than the currently failing system of local area committees.

No one idea will ever be the complete solution – what’s the point in turning up to local meetings if active engagement fails to result in any improvements? I’m reminded of the repeated complaints about the vehicle rat runs at Church End in Cherry Hinton – residents having complained for decades about it. Yet with a system of local government funding a temporary measure from 1991 following the Poll Tax Riots, one that restricts councils to a regressive form of taxation, what hope is there? Ministers have ignored repeated calls from MPs to overhaul the system. Conservative candidates will need to explain who is right: the parliamentary committee of which their MPs have a majority, or their Secretary of State who covers local government. Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Green candidates will need to consider what their party’s alternative proposals are.

It’s not just local government that provides local services for Cambridge

Given my own chronic health problems, I want to introduce you to the little-publicised bits of our city that need more volunteers to get involved. These do not involve party politics, and instead cover:

  • Doctors’ surgeries
  • Mental health care
  • Major hospitals such as Addenbrooke’s
Integrated Care Systems – the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough one

The former South Cambridgeshire MP Andrew Lansley was Health Secretary who oversaw the catastrophic changes post-2010 to the NHS that were so bad that a future Conservative Government had to get rid of them. Hence the new set up of Integrated Care Systems – and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough ICS. Critics have said (understandably) that this is back-door privatisation of the NHS. That’s one for the political parties to argue over. From a local perspective, the official watchdog for healthcare provision in Cambridgeshire is Healthwatch Cambs. And this includes dentistry of which they have spoken out against the poor levels of services provided by ministers.

“Access to NHS dentistry is one of the biggest issues people tell us about. And we have repeatedly raised concerns about the problems people have finding an NHS dentist over the last three years.”

HW Cambs Chief Executive Officer, Sandie Smith – 10 May 2022
Mental health care provision – the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT)

I was a patient governor for a short time but in the end both chronic fatigue and my sense that I didn’t feel I was making a positive contribution to the work of the trust resulted in my decision to resign. I remain a Trust member which is free – and you can sign up here. Essentially I got to the stage where I felt I needed to hold the political decision makers accountable somehow, and as a governor you can’t really do that. However, if you are a regular service user and/or know someone who is, I strongly recommend membership – not least because it keeps you up to date on all of the local issues that are arising on mental healthcare in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.

Becoming a Governor of Addenbrooke’s and sister hospitals

I’ll dig out the photograph of me as a five year old with my Lego structure of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Basically imagine a Lego house with an incredibly tall chimney.

You can sign up for Trust membership here. Cambridge Universities Hospitals covers both Addenbrooke’s and The Rosie. The new Royal Papworth Hospital has its own Foundation Trust Membership here.

We’re also getting two new hospitals in the neighbourhood:

Which effectively gives Cambridge five regional hospitals.

“Five regional hospitals but not the transport infrastructure to serve them?”

That sounds about right.

You can see why I’ve been making noise about Cambridge’s broken governance structures. Ministers barely considered whether the housing and transport infrastructure, let alone the environmental impact, was something that our part of the country could take without significant investment and governance improvements. We’re utterly fragmented.

Which is why I will keep on coming back to the need for a new unitary authority for what I want to call “Great Cambridge” (because we want to be GREAT!) and a proper light rail transport system (alongside a comprehensive & integrated bus and cycleway network) to serve it – one owned and run by the council, and one with significantly greater revenue raising powers to tax the wealth being generated by the industries that ministers wax lyrical about.

Above-left – Redcliffe-Maud’s abandoned recommendations from 1969 – which I think should be the starting point for any negotiations on new unitary council boundaries, and Above-Right – the Connect Cambridge / Rail Future proposals for a phased light rail network.

“Wasn’t the GCP asked about funding feasibility studies for light rail?”

IT was – here’s me in 2017 (when the GCP was controlled by the Conservatives – then in power at South Cambs District Council, and Cambridgeshire County Council)

Above – responding first is Graham Hughes – at the time a director for Cambridgeshire County Council, and also representing the Greater Cambridge Partnership. 08 March 2017

Hence the Conservatives will need to explain why they did not direct officers to fund feasibility studies for the Haverhill-Cambridge route that could have linked up to other lines. Dr Colin Harris of Cambridge Connect picked up on this.

On all things busways – and the Cambridge-Babraham busway is one of them that is of concern to Queen Edith’s residents, Conservatives will need to explain why their fellow councillors did not take the opportunity to at least explore light rail in further detail when they had the time and funding with which to do it.

You can read more about the proposed busway from Cambridge towards Babraham and beyond on the GCP pages here. You can also read about Rail Future East’s bid with Rail Haverhill to reopen the line here. The next regional meeting of Rail Future is in Ipswich – a short walk from the railway station at Stoke Hall on Sat 17th June 2023 from 2pm. The direct train route from Cambridge annoyingly gets in at 2.02pm!

Above – such is life. (Meeting starts at 2pm, train gets in at 2minutes past two).

(Alternatively, get there an hour early and sit in front of Ipswich’s wonderful town hall and ask why Cambridge – or even Cambourne, can’t have one like that)

Above – bottom centre is the town hall, and top centre by the red and white dot is the railway station

So…either way, please get involved in something!

I’m collating blogposts, videos, and articles at If you’d like to help with running costs (I want to print a few things out) please see marking ‘”Election” in the message box. Please ensure you are a permissible donor.

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