18 December 2015

Masons Lane

This is some campaign material I've organised for my mum, who is running for the Wellington mayoralty in October 2016. She's championed the regeneration of Wellington's urban lanes, some of which were frankly terrifying examples of brutalism in what is meant to be a beautiful city. I took some before and after photos of Masons Lane, and put them into a short video, which you can see below. It's a fantastic project – Mum leant heavily on the building owner to cover the cost of removing the canopy, which was a real blight on the laneway (and over half of the project's cost).

I also designed an A5 leaflet, which we delivered to local residents, and gave to pedestrians around Masons Lane.

And I created some GIF files for her Twitter timeline – this was something I hadn't done before, but they worked rather well...

27 November 2015

#BalhamOrTooting – a consultation exercise

(see bottom of this post for the full website)
Crossrail 2 is the next of London's infrastructure megaprojects – it's a new underground railway line that will run north/south across the city, and relieve the Northern line and railways running though Clapham Junction. It'll take nearly 20 years to deliver, with the first trains estimated to be running around 2030. But it will transform large parts of London – including my patch, Wandsworth, which despite being in Zones 2 & 3 has poor connections into Central London (and partly explains why we have such high levels of cyclists).

The new line has included a station at Tooting Broadway since the route was initially put out to consultation in 2013. A station in Tooting makes a lot of sense as it's at the bottom of the Northern Line, and the area is ripe for regeneration: improving transport connections will unlock new housing.

My friend Dan Watkins – the Conservative candidate in the 2015 General Election – has led a strong campaign to put Tooting on the Crossrail 2 map, so when we found out last month that Transport for London was considering moving the station to Balham we decided to launch a campaign to engage the local population and see if there was support for a campaign to keep the dream of Crossrail 2 at Tooting Broadway alive.

Normally the Wandsworth modus operandi would be to do a combination of door-to-door petitions and email out a link to a Survey Monkey site. This time I suggested we did something different, so my friend Ben Guerin (an ace web developer) got to work on building a website aimed at raising awareness that there was a choice between the Balham and Tooting routes. I designed the graphics and finessed the text. We haven't spent any money on social media advertising.

First social media graphic

Second social media graphic

TfL produced a great map for the consultation

I also designed a leaflet that was delivered to all homes within walking distance of the stations – and at early morning raids on our local tube stations. The effort to get tens of thousands of leaflets delivered in the space of a week was immense – so well done Dan and team on the ground.

DL-sized leaflet

Dan's dodgy photography – something I can't do from the other side of the world!

And of course Dan followed up with local residents who signed the petition.

The results have shown strong support for the station at Tooting Broadway – which is unsurprising given that Balham is a lot more gentrified, and two stops closer to Central London on the Northern Line. Tooting will have to endure a more intrusive construction phase, but the benefits are much, much greater.

What I did find interesting is how support for Tooting Broadway extended in the areas close to Balham station – I used to live in the Heaver Estate area and would walk to Balham if I was catching the tube into town. A station at Tooting Broadway will see some people from Balham and Tooting Bec travel southwards, so perhaps these results are not that surprising after all.

Here's the infographic I produced which summarised the results. I also produced a version for social media (this required slightly different formatting). I love data – so laying this out was a real treat.

The campaign also helped raise the profile of Dan's work in the community, particularly around Tooting Broadway, where Labour has been historically strongest. I was surprised that local MP Sadiq Khan was so slow off the mark – after all, it's a crucial issue for the future of Tooting. Others noticed this too...

We're thrilled with the results, with a substantial majority of the 2500 people signing the survey living in Tooting. It's helped engage people with Crossrail 2's more detailed consultation – having filled out a number of these I know they're usually the domain of the more determined. And that's the point about politics, right? Yes we need politicians to champion causes, but change happens when whole communities are engaged and mobilised.

Tooting responses

Here's the full website:

The full website (background image stretched to render entire length of page)

30 September 2015

Nicola Young 2015 Spring newsletter

I'm back in New Zealand giving my mum a hand with her campaign to win the Wellington mayoral election next year. It's a fascinating change in political culture – I think the country's proportional representation for national parliament has made politics far more charged. Municipal politics is less party political, with the Greens and Labour the only parties to stand candidates in recent elections. Mum is an independent, so doesn't have a party machine behind her.

I much prefer the community focus of electorate voting, but also the way Britain's two dominant parties are coalitions themselves and debate is far more civil. I do realise Corbyn's Labour movement might not feel like that much of a coalition at the moment!

So here's the newsletter we've just sent out to 16,000 households in mum's ward. She's worked bloody hard since she was first elected in 2013, and I think that's reflected in her report to voters. A4 folded to DL, and printed on decent paper!

20 July 2015

#ToriesForLiz – a letter to Labour's party members and registered supporters

Life since our epic victory on May 8th has been a bit like recovering from Christmas lunch – having gorged myself on christmas pudding, goose (of course) and canvassing I've been struggling to find the enthusiasm for things like charades, EVEL and reform of the Human Rights Act. But I was jolted out of the obligatory post-election / Queen’s Speech snooze when my local MP Sadiq Khan livened things up by nominating Jeremy Corbyn for your leadership contest.
Corbyn's opposition to PFI and the Iraq War always struck me as principled and decent, but politically he makes Ed Miliband look like pure box-office. So when the midday deadline for nominations passed tribalism duly kicked in: I downloaded my 'Corbyn for Leader' twibbon (apparently that's how you lefties do things) and began to tweet excitedly about Brother Jeremy. Although being really honest I can't say I had any intention of parting with the £3 needed to become a registered supporter of the Labour Party – #JezWeCan and your open primary didn't seem like my business.

And your leadership options aren't exactly inspiring. Andy Burnham was in charge of the nation's purse strings when the public finances started to run out of control and – uncomfortably for him – he failed to act over the Mid-Staffs abuse scandal when he was Secretary of State for Health. His schtick is scaremongering about Tory privatisation of the NHS. Good luck with that: we are pro-market because we believe that is the way to drive up care standards, which is perhaps why Burnham himself oversaw the privatisation of Hinchinbrooke Hospital.

Yvette, on the other hand, is too.... bleugh. She's been at the frontline of British politics for so long I suspect she's running because there's a weight of incumbency as a competent shadow frontbencher, with the Balls / Cooper leadership dilemma conveniently resolved courtesy of Lynton Crosby. There's an unthinking machine politics about Yvette's leadership bid that just seems so dull. Having spent months pounding the streets and towerblocks of Battersea and Tooting I'm pretty confident neither she nor Andy will be PM come 2020.

So Liz Kendall strikes me as the only candidate who can steer Labour back in the direction of sanity. Yet the rank and file of the Labour movement seems hell-bent on monstering a woman who believes we need to invest in our defences at a time when ISIL and Putin are turning up the heat, and who acknowledges that the last Labour government left a welfare system that was unsustainable – views (may I diplomatically add) that were endorsed by the electorate a couple of months ago. Tony Blair is your only leader to have won two full terms in office, yet Liz is made to wear the term 'Blairite' like a badge of shame.

To us Tories this flirtation with the political wilderness is utter madness. If you want to feel radical and unelectable book Owen Jones for a fundraiser – or join the Greens. Liz (currently tanking at 11/1 with the bookies) is the one we think will give us the biggest run for our money. She is a decent woman and has been honest about the importance of the markets in improving our public services. Kendall will bring a voice to opposition that Britain needs, and my decision to cough up three quid and vote was driven by a desire for healthy debate across the political divide at a time when a worrying number of your movement seem more comfortable ranting about the bedroom tax and wishing Charlotte Church was running for leader.

Liz probably won't win, but your AV ballot means I get to express a second preference, which will go to Jeremy Corbyn. Choosing anyone other than Kendall means the Labour party really does need euthanising – and we Tories are a compassionate lot these days. Far better to rip off the plaster with one quick movement than spend years peeling it inch by inch. And don't blame me – just have a good look at Sadiq, who wanted your lunatic element to have a voice (no voice for Tristram Hunt's aspirational John Lewis set, mind). With judgement like that it's safe to say I won't be giving him my vote for the London Mayoralty.

Of course there is another option: the Tories are a broad church. We 'invented' modern state education in the way you 'invented' the NHS, not all of us eat babies for breakfast, and we don't talk about Europe – much. And as a bonus, there's almost certainly a literature delivery round waiting for you at your local Conservative Association!

First published by Labour Uncut on July 20th, 2015

18 June 2015

'Thank you' literature

I haven't posted anything about general election literature in the last year because I've had relatively little to do with the design, and if you want to see some of the photos I've done you can just look here. But this is something I've knocked up for Dan Watkins which will be appearing through letterboxes in Tooting in the next week or so (with an address on the postage side).

I'm happy to share the InDesign template (and it can easily be adapted for ward use). Just email me and let me know which Association you're from, etc.

9 June 2015

Yvette Cooper needs to do more than just talk about Nordic models

Britain’s Left has been indulging in worship of Scandinavian social democracy ever since the tide started ebbing on the New Labour project, most recently on prostitution reform and the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland. Thinking wistfully of Borgen beats the hard work of actually reinventing socialism, but I haven’t heard so much excited talk about the ‘Nordic Model’ since I was at school and Helena Christensen was practically everywhere. Happy memories indeed.

Last month Yvette Cooper announced that one of the pillars of her leadership bid would be childcare:

campaign[ing] for universal childcare – as other countries, including Scandinavia, have. That means breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday clubs and free nursery places and childcare available full-time not just for three- and four-year-olds but two-year-olds too.

More details were promised, but I’ve waited… and waited. And to be honest if she has a hope in hell of becoming Labour’s leader she’ll keep shtum on her vision of Scandinavian childcare: a big part of the Nordic early years model is deregulation of politically sensitive things like childcare standards, and it would be a bold leadership bid that argued for loosening staff-to-child ratios. Indeed Nick Clegg engineered a high-profile coalition feud over this very issue in 2013.

Back then Labour criticised Liz Truss for putting ‘quality and safety at risk’ with her plans to allow greater flexibility in childcare ratios. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said that ‘a childminder can have the very best qualifications, [but] they still only have one pair of hands’. The attack was clumsy and ideological; the government's proposals were ‘to allow nurseries to relax ratios only where they hire highly-qualified staff’ and bring us more in line with the northern European countries so admired by Cooper, where childminders cope perfectly well with more children than currently allowed in the UK.

International comparisons of national mandatory minimum staff:
child ratios for childminder care by child age (Gov.uk)

What Cooper has missed is that Nordic social democracy is distinctly pragmatic, with privatised railways, free schools and competitive selection for the Eurovision song contest. And the Scandinavian approach of light touch regulation with more children per adult allows people with better qualifications to be employed: the Institute of Education’s research unit describes Sweden and Denmark’s childcare provision as ‘characterised by high levels of staff training, involving at least 3 years education at a post-18 level’.

With parents empowered and free from government edicts, there can be innovation in childcare – another hallmark of the sector in the Nordic countries. Increased resources are needed, but UK expenditure on childcare is well above the OECD average and comparable to Holland. And most metrics suggest Dutch childcare is pretty good.

So if Yvette Cooper wants to lead her party back from the political wasteland she needs to engage with the nuts and bolts of childcare reform. Simply hoping her party members lap up talk of Scandinavia as a justification for spending money was an approach that was tested to destruction by Labour in the 2015 general election – and Cooper is no Birgitte Nyborg.

First published by Coffee House on June 9th, 2015

30 May 2015

Bikes v Strikes

I was riding my bike home from central London earlier this week when I noticed there were a lot of black cabs snarling things up in rather a big way. ‘Ahh,’ I thought to myself. ‘That’ll be the strike over the iPhone app thing’. I pulled over to talk to a couple of friendly-looking cabbies, who filled me in as we talked about competition from Uber in the early Summer sun.

Surely The Knowledge gives them an edge over some silly piece of software, I asked the cabbies. They were adamant that they were indeed cheaper and more reliable. But apparently that wasn’t the point, as it turned out that their beef is less with Uber – which you can download at https://www.uber.com/cities/london – and more with Transport for London for allowing new entrants into the metered cab market.

Google Maps reporting traffic flows at the height of London's taxi strike
Like last year, the taxi drivers’ brief period of holding London hostage was the mother-of-all PR cock-ups. Unlike black cabs Uber drivers don’t go on strike – everyone knows that now – and making central London even tetchier by honking horns and clogging up the roads is a novel way to endear yourself to the population.

Yet as I weaved my way home on my bicycle I realised that here we had the political spectrum reduced to a single event: a monopoly administered by the Public Carriage Office snarling up London’s streets for everyone apart from those of us on two wheels, who are bound only by the Highway Code and a sense of survival (and coincidentally my closest shave in years was with a psychotic black cab a few months ago). That the police had promised arrests if the street blockades continued for any duration seemed a wonderful example of how cack-handed the state can be in resolving problems it has created.

Perhaps it is time for the Public Carriage Office’s operation to be reformed. Perhaps it is too late – Uber has joined the ranks of Google and Hoover as companies that now double up as verbs.

I haven’t taken a black cab in years, and the expense of a return trip into town on the tube still makes me wince. But here I was pedalling through Pimlico and enjoying the glorious weather with my progress unfettered by cost or regulation, while others suffered because of people getting grumpy about losing a monopoly licensed by the state.

And I pondered why cycling is associated with the lefty beard and sandals brigade. London’s Mayor and our PM both ride bikes, yet cycling is still regarded as distinctly… Huppertesque, some might say. Indeed the entire Liberal Democrat parliamentary party could ride to work on four tandems.

But cycling is a mode of transport that allows total freedom of movement, requires little government intervention and has ubiquitous vehicle ownership – all solid right wing values. The advent of the modern ‘safety cycle’ in the 1890s played a key part in the emancipation of the working class. And travel by Boris Bike spikes over Christmas and during tube strikes, occasions when state-controlled public transport fails Londoners. Tuesday’s action by black cab drivers rammed home just how inherently Tory the humble bicycle really is.

First published by Platform 10 on May 30th, 2015

10 April 2015

2015 General Election image dump

I've spent the past two years running around London and the South East helping friends standing in the General Election on May 7th. Lots of fun as I've been able to see campaigns outside my home patch (Wandsworth) – and meet some lovely people too. Ministerial visits are always a bit of a pain, because you're aware that the photography part really mustn't take more than a minute. Other things are much more laid back – I've had enormous fun biking around Tooting with Dan Watkins, and jumping on the train to help Caroline Ansell down in Eastbourne.

So fingers crossed for Caroline, Paul, Jane, Tom, Maria, Dan, Kim and Anna. All are decent, conscientious people who believe in a just, more equal Britain where people can be their best – and I'm proud to have played a very small part in helping their campaigns. Roll on polling day!

Caveat – I've tried to remember what the photos were for in the captions, but I could well be wrong – any error in this regard is mine and mine alone.

File (Eastbourne)

Boris visits Sutton (Sutton & Cheam)

Endorsement literature (Battersea)

File (Eastbourne)

Open Primary (Tonbridge & Malling)

Open Primary (Tonbridge & Malling)

Newsletter header (Lewes)

A27 campaign (Hastings & Rye, Eastbourne and Bexhill & Battle)

A27 campaign (Eastbourne)

File (Lewes)

Save The Wheatsheaf (Tooting)

PM visits Asda (Battersea)

PM visits Asda (Battersea)

File (Tonbridge & Malling)

Save The Romany (Tooting)

Save Eastbourne DGH (Eastbourne)

Chancellor visits Nu-Flame (Sutton & Cheam)

The Orangery open day (Streatham)

File (Streatham)

File (Tooting)

Northern Line upgrade (Tooting)

File (Erith & Thamesmead)

Southeastern trains campaign (Erith & Thamesmead)

Love Your Local (Tooting and Battersea)

Love Your Local (Tooting and Battersea)

File (Tooting)

Endorsement literature (Battersea)

Save The Wheatsheaf (Tooting)