Neil Blackburn

I was born and bred in Liverpool, where I spent most of my life, but moved to Manchester in 2013 to be with my partner Maria, right in the City Centre. Manchester is as Cosmopolitan as all the places I have been lucky​ enough to travel to and is a shining example of how people of all walks of life can thrive together.

In the past I've worked with so many different types of people, it has been a real eye-opener for me. For 3 years, I worked on many different cruiseships and saw places as exotic as the Caribbean islands to Odessa in the Ukraine and everything in between. During this time, I worked and interacted with so many different nationalities that I feel I developed an understanding that we are all the same - everyone, ultimately, just wants to be happy and thrive - and yet I saw such inequality in life and the world. One memory in particular stands out: one day the ship would be in Monaco with its pristine streets and cops wearing golden tasselled uniforms, where jewellery shops only had pictures of their wares (they were so expensive). The next day I'd be in, say, Algeria haggling over a 2-dollar taxi fare into town. This duality in the world gave me a far more liberal understanding of the different types of people around the world and the inequality there is.

After leaving the cruiseships, I decided to go a step further and began to work as a commercial diver for the oil and gas industry, still at sea; a job I did up until the oil price crash in 2014 which devastated many industries and livelihoods. Luckily my new wife's work was thriving and when we had our first child we decided I would be a stay-at-home dad, the best thing I've ever done!

During my time as a stay-at-home dad I have spent a lot of time out and about with my son, I have seen the best of the City Centre and its worst:  drunken violence, drug abuse and addiction, homelessness and lately the zombie plague that "Spice" has brought us, crippling debt for minimum wage workers who have to endure wages lower than the cost of living and students that start their lives with debts that will hang over them for most, if not all, of their lives.

It's these experiences that have brought me to the Pirate Party, a place with true democratic ideals where anyone - no matter where they are from or what they do - has an equal say.

I have decided to stand in this General Election as I feel it's the most important one of my lifetime​, especially after Brexit; a true crossroads where the road ahead is clouded with uncertainty and extreme views taking hold. I'd like to try and bring a modicum of moderation to proceedings and show everyone that there is a much better way than right- or left-wing; to show that the amount of lobbying by Big Business and big Unions is getting in the way of the democratic process and it should be the people that govern themselves and rather 'allow' Business and Unions to work for us.

The polarised nation as it is now needs to come together. We need to move forward in the right direction for everybody and not allow one predetermined left- or right-wing ideology dictate how they want us to be. The civil liberties and rights we have all enjoyed need to be secured, but as things stand today I feel these will erode significantly if one wing or another takes control.

As an MP I would vote to:

-   Scrap tuition fees for British students
-   Bring in a much higher minimum wage
-   Secure the rights and liberties we all enjoy today, freedom of movement, the rights workers have now
-   Bringing back SureStart Centres so that the poorest of families get a helping hand they don't have today

On a local level, the zombie plague of "Spice" needs to be dealt with swiftly. I see dealers on the streets everyday who target the homeless mercilessly and with impunity. Also drunken violence and the amount of glass that festoons the streets could easily be dealt with by having a system similar to the one practised in Germany: a buy-back system for glass and bottles called 'Pfand' where you get £1 back for every glass or bottle returned at the bar. This also had an unexpected side-effect where the homeless clear the streets as they go about their day and get a few extra pounds in their pockets as a result.

As your Representative in Government I would remain loyal to the people of Manchester, not Big Business, Unions or even my own Party. We need to do what is right for our city and our country together and forget dogmatic loyalties. I think this can only be done with complete openness, transparency and - above all else - honesty.

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