Katieafox's Blog

A blog concerned with ecological living in Birmingham

Touché Khalid… June 1, 2010

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New Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood- a man true to his word?

So, as promised, I received an email back today from the new Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood– and I have to say, it sounds rather impressive.

I wanted to know where the MP stood on environmental concerns. There wasn’t much to be found online about his thoughts and more worringly, his voting record (found at ‘TheyWorkForYou.com) claims that he ‘voted moderately against laws to stop climate change’.

Taking a look at PublicWhip, things look even worse. Here we are told that Khalid Mahmood MP, Birmingham, Perry Barr voted strongly against the policy Stop climate change by scoring 17.4% compared to the votes below (take a look if you like.

Despite pointing this out to the MP, he told me:

‘Thank you for your e-mail. I am not sure how the reference to ‘moderately against’ came from. I supported the Climate Change Bill and I was delighted that we were able to pass such a ground breaking law, I am also a strong supporter of the hunting ban and will fight against any moves to repeal the act. I am, however, a supporter of nuclear power and I make no apologises for this. It is the only realistic way of delivering clean fuel.

In terms of local campaigning I have fought on environmental issues, often these are based on getting local problems resolved rather than on national topics. I have been greatly heartened by some of the progress over the last decade, regeneration, especially in Lozells/Handsworth, has enhanced the environment of the area, in particular Handsworth Park has been transformed, Sandwell Valley has been opened up to greater access for local people and allotments in the area have gone from strength to strength. There is noticeably less graffiti and littering in the area and this has been partly as a result of the priorities set by local people for the police and council.

I will soon be launching my ‘our Perry Barr’ campaign soon and this will have an environmental element, the project is based on public input so it will be interesting to see what environmental concerns are raised by local people.

I hope this has been of some help to you, I am always keen to hear what ideas local residents have so just let me know and I will see what can be done to support them.’

Could it be that the information on these websites is wrong, or perhaps that the MP has changed his mind on certain issues?

Perhaps the MP is starting to pick up on what is important to the people local to Perry Barr and surrounding areas. This is certainly evident in the ‘Our Perry Barr’ campaign- which if followed through, could be very successful and worthwhile.

Im yet to find more details on the campaign so I presume that the idea is in its infancy. I for one hope that the MP stays true to his word with this one, as there will be many more people dissapointed by the MP otherwise.


A slow response, but we’re getting there… May 29, 2010

So, in the battle against mortal and MP, the student journalist is finally making some headway.

As some of you may have noticed me complaining about over various online platforms, I’ve been having a little trouble getting in touch with the Birmingham MPs.

My initial goal, as someone supposed to be covering the Ladywood constituency for Birmingham Recycled, was to have a lovely chat with the area’s new Labour MP Shabana Mahmood obtaining lots of info for a nice lengthy article about how she stands on Labour’s environmental policies.

This seems to be a lost cause however. After many, many emails, I plan to ring the MP and if nothing comes of that, I’ll call it a write off.

There does however, appear to be light at the end of the tunnel. In hope of some sort of response from someone important, I contacted several other Birmingham MPs and also a few Ladywood candidates who were not elected on 6th May.

Thus far, just as I was losing all will to continue this email chase, some small rays of hope shone through my hotmail inbox…

A reply from Dominic Fisher, the Chariman of the Ladywood Tories, was noteworthy. He was refreshingly helpful.

He couldn’t tell me much about Ms. Mahmood and her campaigns but did give me lots of info on the various conservative environmental initiatives in the constituency.

He provided me with some text from a leaflet put out in Ladywood in Summer 2009.

He told me,

‘The entire theme is on recycling, involved me working closely with Birmingham Council Recycling Department and was to try to advertise to residents that they can recycle and help us to meet green targets.’


As part of caring for the local environment, Conservative-run
Birmingham Council has extended recycling to all flats. Many city
centre apartments have recently had facilities installed.
Has yours got it yet? If so, let us know how it’s going? If not, mail
recycling@birmingham.gov.uk to set up an appointment.


Birmingham recycles more waste than it sends to landfill.
Cleaning Council awarded 5 STARS for the excellence of city cleaning.
The council  is 10% ahead of its recycling targets.

2. In terms of the environment, Soho ward has particular issues. Our Soho local ward candidate, Robert Higginson, has been working on several related campaigns which appear to have been neglected by the serving councillor. The one that stands out is a waste company which was based in a semi-residential area (!) which has left its site abandoned causing terrible pollution. We have made the relevant council department and environmental services aware of this issue. Soho has a real problem with dumping and littering which Robert has also been working hard on. Across the ward, Robert is also campaigning for better use of derelict land and green spaces.
3. We have been promoting the effective use of green space across Ladywood and Nechells too. For example, you may be aware of some neglected playing fields on Bath Row. Our local council candidate, Sharon Pennant, has been working closely with local residents, asset management and the regeneration team and community groups to try to see that the open space is both retained and put into use that benefits the community.
4. As an association we are looking forward to our party conference which will take place in October at the ICC and is of course a chance for us to showcase local projects. One that I want to highlight is where the Tory-led council has been persuaded to hand over council-owned land to the local community giving them the opportunity to maintain the land themselves. In this case an allotment is planned as are opportunities for previously unemployed residents to be part of the maintenance crew. I hope you will agree with me that community engagement and localism are fundamentally environmentally friendly concepts.
5. There are several initiatives which support the greening Ladywood. For example, Optima make awards for the best gardens – several near the top of Cregoe Street for example are excellent.
Some interesting points; I will be sure to bring these up with Shabana Mahmood if I ever get through to the Ladywood MP.
And in other hopeful news, active political Birmingham Tweeter and member of the Labour Party Waseem Zaffar (@WaseemZaffar) picked up on my mention of contacting a few other MPs in Birmingham.
This included Khalid Mahmood, the new Labour MP in the Perry Barr constituency. Waseem has kindly got the Perry Barr Labour staff to respond to me which I should expect to recieve on Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see what the Perry Barr MP has to say on environmental issues. According to his voting record on ‘Public Whip’ he ‘voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.’ I was a little confused by this and whether he believes that stopping climate change is a worthwhile issue.
We’ll have to see!

The elusive Shabana Mahmood: Ladywood MP May 17, 2010

Through covering the general election for Birmingham Recycled, I have found myself at the feet of the proverbial brick wall: contacting my local MP.

I have been covering the Ladywood constituency who have recently elected Labour’s Shabana Mahmood as their new MP.

Shabana Mahmood. Ladywood's new MP

Now, I don’t doubt that Ms. Mahmood is a very busy lady- what with all the press attention about being one of the first female Asian MPs and tackling the poor unemployment rates in Ladywood– but surely she can spare a few minutes to talk about environmental issues?

Seems not. I have emailed the Labour MP many times, both in the run up to the election and post election. Her rival candidates weren’t much use either.

And before you ask, I certainly am not pestering her for the sake of it. You see, the MP makes no personal remark on environmental issues. All I can assume is that she agrees with general Labour policy- which isn’t much use when trying to work out how she will tackle environmental issues on a local level.

Most other MPs seem to have a ‘Voting Record’ which can be viewed on websites like They Work For You and Public Whip (this link shows that she has none). This clearly allows the public to see what issues their MP feels strongly about.

I also went through her pre-election promotional leaflets via The Straight Choice (an election leaflet ‘monitoring’ site) and found that the only areas she personally comments on and thus, prioritises over others were education, economy, health, housing, pensions and young people.

It’s clear that environmental issues aren’t deemed a top priority by the MP, but I at least expected to find some comment or information.

Armed with the evidence, I contacted her once more with the hope of gaining some insight into her ideas for a greener Ladywood:

Hello Shabana,
I have contacted you a few times before and would really like to get some comment from you about your new position as the Ladywood MP. I’m the current ‘Elections Team’ Editor for the Birmingham Recycled website (www.birminghamrecycled.co.uk). I have been covering the Ladywood constituency in particular.

As an environmental website, we are concerned with ‘green’ issues in Birmingham. I am currently looking into your thoughts on the environment but with little success. There is nothing online on how you voted for certain issues and your leaflets mention no environmental policies.

I wondered if you had any thoughts/ opinions on environmental issues. Are these important to you? Do you agree with the general Labour policies or are there some areas you feel particularly strongly/indifferent about?

I also wondered whether you’ve been involved in any environmental campaigns around Birmingham, specifically Ladywood? Are there issues you’d like to address in Ladywood through your role as local MP?

Please let me know if you can offer me any help with this. Thanks.

Katie Fox
Elections Team Editor

Let’s hope she gets back to me soon, or I may resort to door knocking!


The big day May 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — katieafox @ 12:19 pm

So, election day is upon us and we’re all eager to find out who’s going to be running the country. While many will be concerned with how many seats the party leaders get; I’ll be looking at the election on a local level.

As I am covering the Ladywood constituency for Birmingham Recycled, I will shortly be visiting the area to see what the atmosphere is like on ‘E-day’.

I will be live-tweeting the event (@katieafox) and should I decide that a bit of live video is worthwhile, here’s my Qik live channel:


My blog summed-up in a simple visualistion April 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — katieafox @ 3:11 pm
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After viewing a post by another Birmingham Recycled writer, in which he created a Wordle ‘word cloud’, I decided to make one myself!

Not that my blog is so simple that it can be summed-up by one solitary visualisation of course; but I thought it would be interesting to see which topics and ideas I mention most- especially now that I have made the shift from writing about living an ecological lifestyle to coverage of the 2010 elections.

Anyway enough with text, let’s get visual:

Wordle: Katie's eco blog word cloud 30/04/10


Last night’s Question Time held at BCU, Perry Barr April 28, 2010

Perry Barr candidates for MP plus SU president and debate Chair 'Tom Tom'

Once again, apologies to those looking forward to my live streaming of the Question Time debate with Perry Barr candidates last night.

Even though I came with a fully-charged phone battery, it was too much for my poor Nokia 5800 to take and it died without properly configuring the footage- hence lost audio.

If it makes you feel any better, the mobile footage I took was on higher ed fees and not about environmental issues so not all that relevant to what I’m trying to do!

However, well prepared(ish) me also took a digital camera and managed to capture some extra video footage on the very brief mention of climate change at the hustings.

So, as an apology for the failure of my live streaming from the debate, I’ve put together a short video with this footage and uploaded it to YouTube for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy!

Look out for a Birmingham Recycled article summing up last night’s happenings.

We’ve also now got our podcast about which political party would get our ‘green vote’ up on the site so have a listen to that as well!


Tune in to Perry Barr hustings! April 27, 2010

Due to the wonderment of technology, I hope to be able to stream tonight’s Perry Barr constituency hustings from 5pm this evening.

The hustings, open to all members of the community, is being hosted at Birmingham City University in Attwood Building, room 040:

Student Union president, Tom Thompson (affectionately named ‘Tom Tom’ by students), will Chair the  ‘Question Time’-style debate  from 5 of the constituency’s candidates for election:

If the promise of free reign to ask the Perry Barr PPC’s anything you want and refreshments isn’t enough to get you down to Birmingham City University, Attwood Building, 040 tonight, then tune in here (this blog post) at 5pm and hopefully some footage of the hustings will be beamed right onto your computer screen!

In the meantime, ignore my previous (experimental) videos from my Qik channel!