Tina Johnston is the Green Party candidate for Chippenham. The constituency includes the towns of Melksham, Corsham and Bradford-on-Avon and extends close to the northern outskirts of Trowbridge. “I’m a local girl. I went to Chippenham College and still live in the constituency with my daughter. I care deeply about the area and will work tirelessly to make it a better place for all those who live and work in this beautiful part of the world.”
Tina has an organic farm in Box where, for the last eleven years, she ran a vegetable box scheme in the village and surrounding areas. “I have made my life as environmentally sustainably as is possible. I became an allotment gardener aged 23, which gave me a passion for growing, and I went on to have two plots in later years whilst living off-grid on The Kennet and Avon Canal until, in 2004, I was able to buy a small farm. I sadly do not still grow commercially, but am still self-sufficient.
“I have spent my lifetime committed to and learning about politics and green issues. I have lived a green life and have a knowledge of all issues that are green. Many of my life choices, such as living off the land, have been driven by politics. I am excited about having the opportunity to share what I have learnt."
Fighting for Local Issues
“The Chippenham area is facing great challenges. The scheme to open a 40-acre distribution centre for The Range in open countryside outside the ancient town boundary is, I believe, an abomination and I will fight it in any way I can. Many people seem to think of it as a shopping opportunity - but the retail site will be just a small fraction of the size of the distribution plant, which will be a blot on the landscape, as well as leading to an intolerable and unsustainable increase in lorry traffic and pollution. Promising jobs is all very well, but not when there isn’t the infrastructure to support them, and not when they are all about encouraging people to go into further debt by buying things they don’t need.
“I have another vision for Chippenham; I would like to see a forest on the land marked out for The Range; instead of lorries we would have boats and bikes, instead of vast warehouses, we would have leisure and concert facilities and small-scale, local businesses.
“Chippenham has its roots in the cattle market and is still, at its heart, a market town. But the developers want to change that; they have pound signs in their eyes, and seem to see Chippenham as the next Swindon. There are plans afoot to develop the whole A350, turning it into a concrete artery, leading all the way from the M4 to the coast. This would affect the entire area - turning our rural homes into little more than dormitories serving the industrial estates. Instead, let’s bring the heart back into Chippenham and Melksham, and let’s try to preserve the very special characteristics of Corsham, Bradford-on-Avon and the surrounding villages.
“Melksham is the fifth most populous town in Wiltshire, with a proud history stretching back to the Norman Conquest, and flanked by some of the most beautiful villages in the country. But in recent decades, it has fallen on hard times - with parts of the town suffering from nationally high levels of deprivation. In recent years it has benefitted greatly from a spanking new school and a much-appreciated increase in train services, but it now desperately needs places for young people to go.”
Committed to the environment - and beyond
“I have farmed in a way that is both sustainable and kind to the environment. I keep a part of the farm wild especially for wildlife. I have great compassion for people and this planet. I have been self-employed most of my working life – as a restaurateur, candle-maker and designer, boat dweller and designer, a protester and activist.
“We are desperately running out of time for our world. I feel that we have no option but to protect the one planet that we share with all the other creatures and life forms, and that we have an absolute duty to at least try to stop its destruction.
“I am gravely concerned not only with the effects of climate change, but with corporations’ need for exponential growth at the cost of the Earth. We carry on destroying it as though we have another one to go to when this one’s spent. As far as I’m aware, we’ve not found that yet. The environment is at the heart of Green Policy and everything else - social justice, public ownership of our utilities and great assets, such as the NHS - flows naturally from that. But it is not the only issue.
“As I understand it, the tax avoidance by large corporations totals £38-billion. This must be addressed and laws about tax avoidance put into place so that they will be liable for their debts to this country. This unpaid debt is made all the worse by the austerity cuts being imposed on our vital services. Why are the citizens of the UK paying for their profits?
“I also have grave concerns with issues such as Shale Gas Extraction( fracking), which has been proven to be so damaging - in countries that already have it - to ground water aquifers, causing the poisoning of people and livestock. Our current Government seems hell-bent on going ahead with this, despite large protests, and I fear the financial gains to those who make the decisions are far outweighed by the dangers and the will of the people. This is something that is an issue countrywide - as well as in Chippenham, where we have large gas seams under the town - and must be stopped at all cost.
“My very real fears for the NHS are unfolding, as we see the first of the privately run hospitals pulling out of its contract. The sale of our most prized asset is a shameful disgrace and must be stopped. Once we lose free health care we may never get it back.
“The rise of the Far Right, I feel, is most worrying from a political perspective and is indicative of recessionary times. The displaced blame culture that surrounds it, leading neighbours to hate neighbours for being unemployed/immigrants, is iniquitous and frightening. The turning of the “working poor” against those who, usually, through no fault of their own, are unemployed is a classic diversion when it is Government policy that has failed people. I welcome immigrants to this country and all the good they do; after all we are all immigrants. If sending people “back” is an option of the Far Right, where should we start from? Maybe the Normans??
Join the Green Surge
The local Green Party is growing at an exponential rate, with new members and activists joining every day. Recent opinion polls put support at 11%, and among young people, it is leading the way. In the European elections, Molly Scott-Cato became the first Green Party candidate from the south-west to be elected, beating the Liberal Democrats.
“This is the Green Party’s time. People are beginning to respect us as a multi-platform party, and I intend to show them that we have a huge amount to offer. Among other issues I want to see addressed are: the war crimes committed by the Israeli Government and our country’s continued commitment to them, the 1.1million households in this country in fuel poverty - many of these in Wiltshire - GMOs, the TTIP, an iniquitous deal currently being negotiated in Brussels behind closed doors, and the rise of zero hours contracts. The slash and burn economic policy of the main parties is not a long-term policy. I believe in re-energising the economy through Positive Money and the Green New Deal.
“I am excited to be standing as a candidate in Chippenham. I feel it is now the right time - now my parenting years are coming to an end - to engross myself in what is a life-long calling.
You can follow Tina on Twitter @tina4chippenham or email her at email@example.com