The Pirate Party UK’s candidate in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election has said improving access to the internet in rural areas like ours is a main theme of his campaign.
Party leader Loz Kaye is standing in the election himself. In an interview with Saddleworth News, he called for a cut of 0.5% in the IT budgets of the four biggest government departments, to fund a comprehensive fast broadband service for everyone.
He said better broadband is vital for the economy: “It’s going to be crucial for innovation. Future growth is not going to be in manufacturing, and financial services haven’t really proved a great success. From right here in Saddleworth, a connection to the wider world is going to be key.”
Mr Kaye explained more about the party’s background: “It’s a small independent party, which stands for freedom of speech, freedom online, and civil liberties. We’re part of a global movement which has been inspired by the success of the Swedish Pirate Party, which has representation in the European Parliament.”
The by-election is taking place after former MP Phil Woolas had his victory in May’s general election declared void for knowingly lying about one of his opponents in campaign leaflets. Mr Woolas said the election court’s ruling in his case would “chill freedom of speech,” but Mr Kaye disagreed.
He commented: “I think all of us want to draw a line under the unfortunate events of earlier this year. I’m not in any way afraid of a chilling effect on freedom of speech because of the ruling. I’m actually more worried about much wider attacks on our freedom of speech… we’re interested in an open democracy and a transparent democracy. This is one of the reasons why we’ve been standing up for Wikileaks, and we’re the only party that has been doing that unambiguously.”
On the government’s austerity measures, Mr Kaye said: “We’re hugely concerned about the programme of cuts that the coalition governmnent is bringing about. It’s moving far too fast, and it’s going to really hurt the people of Oldham and Saddleworth. Of course we do have a financial problem and we’re in no way deficit deniers, but the policies that we stand on could absolutely help the situation.” As examples of those policies, he argued for the abolition of patents on drugs, as well as tougher measures against tax avoiders.
Mr Kaye is a composer and part-time university lecturer, and said he was opposed the government’s increase in tuition fees. He said: “We campaigned against this in the general election, but unlike the Liberal Democrats we’re out here again campaigning again with the same message: no to hikes in tuition fees. It will undoubtedly put off a generation from wanting to take part in higher education.”
He called on local people to back him in the election because he would “have the strength to do something a bit different.” He added: “In about three months’ time this will all be forgotten on the national stage… if you choose me I can actually be a much more high-profile spokesperson for the area.”
I interviewed Mr Kaye at my home in a snowy Dobcross yesterday. We also discussed the new Tesco at Greenfield among other issues. He finished our conversation by saying: “Some candidates have been put off by the snow, not any of it, I think I’d be a very poor pirate if I was put off by bad weather!”
You can listen to the interview in full here.
Nominations for the by-election close later today. Polling day is 13 January.
An interview with the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is here, and one with Labour leader Ed Miliband is here. Check back later this afternoon to read an interview with Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi.
Saddleworth News will also be interviewing each of the candidates. The first of those, with Stephen Morris of the English Democrats, can be read here.
The other candidates we know about so far are, in alphabetical order, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, Kashif Ali for the Conservatives, Peter Allen of the Greens, Nick “The Flying Brick” Delves from the Monster Raving Loony Party, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, and Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins. The BNP are also likely to stand, although it’s not clear who their candidate will be.
For full coverage of the by-election so far from Saddleworth News, click here.