Category Archives: Equality

Time to take a stand for our social security system and the common good

A typically timid Labour Party has felt unable to properly oppose the latest cuts to welfare benefits being proposed by a smug new Tory government. The Green Party has no such reservations.Green MP Caroline Lucas said, ahead of this week’s vote:
“Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand “

Cuts are proposed to Tax Credits and there is a plan to limit all financial support  to two children only. The slightly more generous benefits currently paid to those too unwell to work are being abolished. Young adults (under 21) will no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit at all and those under 25 will not benefit from the introduction of a so called ‘ living wage’ which, when combined with cuts to in work benefits will be nothing of the kind for many low paid workers.

Perhaps the most vicious of the proposed ‘reforms’ is the lowering of the Benefit Cap from £26,000 to £20,000 ( £23,000 in London). Under the existing cap the families affected are mostly large and living in London and the South East. The cap has had drastic consequences for many of them, forcing them to move away from areas where rents ( and the prospects of a job! ) are highest.
Under the reduced cap almost all families with 3 or more children will be affected, in all parts of the country.

A couple with 3 children living in Brighton in private rented accommodation for instance will only get £50 per week towards a rent which is usually set at least at the Local Housing Allowance level of £230 pw. This means that £180 has to be found from £334 of benefits ( which are set at a level that even this government believes is the minimum amount required to afford essentials, not including
housing costs) leaving £154 pw for a couple and 3 children to live on, less than half of this minimum amount.

But even in Derbyshire, where rents are lower, the impact is huge, with such a family likely to be contributing up to £100 towards a private sector rent and not even having enough Housing Benefit to cover a council or housing association home , even if they all squeezed into a one bedroom flat!

The Benefit Cap must be strongly opposed on grounds of social justice but also because it makes no economic sense. Families will have to choose between eating and paying the rent, and many are likely to be made homeless as a consequence. They will then become the responsibility of cash strapped local councils to provide emergency accommodation, local councils which will have to implement the cap and are likely to take the blame for something over which they have no
control. Perhaps such families , who have chosen to feed and cloth their children rather than pay the rent , will be declared ” intentionally homeless” and not entitled to assistance, in which case children will presumably end up in care at even greater expense and often with disastrous outcomes.

The main intention is probably not to save money but rather to scapegoat the unemployed , to divide those in work from those looking for it or not well enough to do so. The whole thing is based on the lie that it is easy to stay on ‘welfare’ with a higher income than those in work when the reality is that a family of five earning £20,000 a year in employment is also dependent on benefits ( Child
Benefit Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) to survive.

The Green Party is determined to oppose such scapegoating, and is pleased that at least a minority of Labour MP, were prepared to join Caroline and other opposition MPs in voting against the bill , breaking the whip to do so. We will work with members of all parties and of none to oppose this dreadful government, which is anxious to ensure the continued and growing prosperity
of the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Join us in the fight for the common good. There is more wealth than ever in this country. It is just in the wrong hands.

Peter Allen

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A Message to our Leaders, from Andy White, Derbyshire

Andy WhiteIt is argued that the middle ground of English politics has been captured by what is effectively a centre right Tory Party, and Labour has lost what was once it’s core support of ‘The Working Class’. Indeed, those on the right argue that there is no such thing as the working class, and that demographic now identifies itself as ‘Middle Class’.

The dispossessed and less fortunate, those with little or no income are portrayed as an inconvenience by the policy makers, who constantly tell us that money has to be saved on welfare – there is no alternative – conveniently forgetting the real lives that are affected by market capitalism and the chase for constant growth. No place for compassion here.

Over the years since 1979 politics has changed from being representative of, and controlled by the people, to just being controlled by big business, with the masses kept in their place by a constant stream of propaganda that reassures them and carefully defines them as ‘hard working and doing the right thing’, because if you don’t, the wrath of the system will surely grind you down. The subliminal message is ‘do as you’re told or else’ …. With the ‘or else’ being the constant fear of a life in poverty, or being targeted as a scrounger, or not being able to find money to keep up. Sound familiar? True Victorian values are returning, we even have people working for nothing on penalty of losing welfare support…..a disgrace in 21st century Britain!

Such is the power of these messages that few actually question anymore! To do so suggests that you are a doubter, that you don’t believe in the good that is being done in your name, that you are an outsider, a radical and not ‘one of us ’. You’re not doing the right thing!

This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. We see daily on a global scale the damage done to our planet in the name of change and so called progress. The Green Party have a huge responsibility to educate our potential core support. That support, in a large part, is disaffected Labour and Liberal voters (and even some Tories), who are currently looking for the right alternative. They know the Tory way is wrong, but are unsure what the real alternative is. We need to construct a discourse that is legitimised by sustainability, and we need to get that message across at every opportunity. The 67% that didn’t vote Tory are a big audience waiting to hear the things that will give them stability, and that will ensure they can live life with all the comfort and support required in a civilised society.

Our priority messages should be simple and focus around security – of income (sustainable jobs, proper welfare), housing, transport and public services, – and sustainability of the planet, of the natural world, of our food and water supply. Our message needs now to be that only our policies can build that secure and sustainable world without fear, based on civility, human rights and a respect of all of life.

We need to begin that task now, and I would like the message to come from our leadership fairly quickly. Time is not on our side.

First published on 25 May, 2015 on East Midlands Green Party Blog

Green Defends Human Rights Act

This is the full version of a letter to the Derby Telegraph (pub 18 October 2014) written by Derby member Jean Macdonald to defend the Human Rights Act. She wrote in response to a correspondent who was following the anti-human rights propaganda of the right wing parties and suggesting Britain should “leave the EU to get away from human rights law”.

 

The campaigDefence of Human rightsn to denigrate the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the Tories determination to repeal it is madness. Mr Cameron’s demonising of human rights law marks a significant shift to the right and appears to be an attempt to fight off the threat from UKIP. However, the result of repealing the Human Rights Act will do incalculable damage to the country.

After the Second World War, the Council of Europe (CE) was set up to promote democracy and human rights in Europe. It has 47 member states with 820 million citizens, and is an entirely separate body from the European Union.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was drafted in 1950 by British lawyers and supported by Winston Churchill. Its aim was to ensure that no future fascist regime could lock up its own citizens or make them ‘disappear’.

The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). All public bodies such as courts, police, local governments, hospitals, publicly funded schools carrying out public functions have to comply with the Convention rights. Any person who felt his or her rights had been violated could take their case to the Court in Strasbourg.

In 1998, the Human Rights Act was passed by the UK Parliament and came into force in the United Kingdom in October 2000. The Act enabled individuals to take human rights cases to domestic courts rather than having to go to Strasbourg to argue their case.

Many “ordinary” people have had their rights upheld by the court. Public authorities in the UK – including hospitals and social services – have an obligation to treat everyone with fairness, equality and dignity. Through taking a case to court a vulnerable elderly couple who had been sent to different care homes won the right to be cared for in the same care home.

In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK was violating an individual’s right to privacy by holding fingerprint and DNA information of people who hadn’t been charged. At the time, nearly one million innocent people had their DNA or fingerprints on the database. The UK Law Lords had defended the police’s right to hold our personal information in this way and it took a European Court judgement for common sense to prevail.

What will happen if we remove ourselves from the court and laws that protect our rights in the UK? The only country in Europe not in the ECHR is Belarus. Do we want to join them? The UK is rightly proud of our tough stance around the world on human rights. Can we be confident that no future UK government will ever contemplate actions that will threaten our human rights?

As a member of The Green Party I am committed to the principles in the European Convention on Human Rights and to staying in the EU and working to reform it. I am concerned to hear of any party who is considering opting out.

Everyone can quote examples where money appears to have been wasted on ‘trivial’ matters but what the Tories are doing is highlighting a few decisions they dislike by the ECHR and ignoring all the good decisions that are made. This is nonsense and appears to me to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Jean Macdonald

Derby March in support of Palestinians

On SaturdayGaza demo Aug 14 Derby 23rd August, three members of Derbyshire Green Party took part in a March and Rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) campaigns for peace & justice for Palestinians and had called for a national weekend of support. PSC represents people in Britain from all faiths and political parties, who have come together to work for justice for the Palestinian people.

Taking up this call, the March in Derby had been organised by Derby Peoples Assembly with the Stop the War Campaign, Trade Unions, and other groups.

Gaza Rally 001The rally had three themes:

• End the blockade of Gaza
• End the occupation
• Stop arming Israel

Two hundred people, including many children, gathered outside the Jamia Mosque in Normanton and then marched through Derby streets to the Council House. On the steps of the Council House we heard speakers from a range of organisations, unions and faith groups. These included the Imam from the Jamia Mosque, Derby North MP Chris Williamson, Councillor Ranjit Banwait leader of Derby City Council, a speaker from the Derby Branch of the Indian Workers Association, Peter Robinson from Derby People’s Assembly and Liz Potter from Derby Against the Cuts. John Youatt, an active member of Derbyshire Green Party, added his message of support.

John’s Message to the Marchers
John Youatt 7 cropI’m John Youatt, a Green activist.  In the 80s, I used to talk to my great friend and neighbour, General Peter Cavendish.  In 1948, as a rookie Brigadier, he took his new Brigade to Palestine. He was briefed to look after the nice Israelis and to ‘move on’ the nasty Palestinians.  When he got there he found the opposite applied.  He remained a friend of Palestinians ‘til his death. That’s why I’m here today.  I support Medical Aid for Palestinians financially. I hope you support direct aid according to your ability

I’m an active member of the Derbyshire Green Party and the national party. Greens are the only party of the five main parties to unequivocally support justice for Palestinians

I believe the clearances of Palestinians’ from their homeland and the subsequent sixty years of repression, is the main cause of friction between Arabs and the west.

The Greens have supported justice for Palestinians for many years, for example calling for an end to arming Israel and an end to the occupation.

On 5th September, at the Greens’ Autumn Conference in Birmingham, 90 precious minutes have been allocated for discussion. A draft emergency motion might go forward. See below.

The motion, if agreed, will urge more resources for our campaign.

For me, the heart of the matter is to help the USA Greens to change hearts and minds among young Americans. There are signs this might be possible. It will take years of determined effort and international support, but it can be done.

Start now, Vote green http://www.derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk
© John Youatt for the DGP

Draft Emergency Motion to Green Party conference September 2014

“Conference condemns Israel’s ground invasion, aerial and marine bombing of Gaza, and calls on Green Party and Green Party elected representatives to take what steps they can to put existing Green Party policy into action and to ensure that the underlying causes are addressed, acknowledging there can be no lasting peace without justice.
Such steps include:
• Reiterating our calls on the UN, the EU and the US government to ensure that Israel complies with international law;
• Supporting these calls by active participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This campaign aims to put pressure on the government of Israel to end the Occupation and to give equal rights to Palestinians. The campaign asks individuals, organisations, councils and governments to refuse to deal with companies and institutions identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity.
• In particular to demand that the UK government halt all joint Israeli/UK military co-operation and approval for all arms sales to Israel.”

Gaza Day of Rage – London Rally – Saturday 9th August, 2014

Two Derbyshire Green Party members attended the London Rally. Charlotte and Tony give a short report in words and pictures.

As you know from the press it was really big, the organisers reckoned about 150,000. We got to Hyde Park at about 3.30 pm and it was already full with people arriving all the time.

Natalie Bennett Gaza RallyAs we were marching we saw a few Green Party banners and only one other party banner being Islington Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn was the final speaker). There was such a variety of people, we were pleased to see Jewish people bravely joining in the appeal to Israel to end the violence. A young Jewish student addressed the crowd at the start of the rally at the BBC. He reminded us all that the lesson of history is that it is wrong always to turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity. With the civilian death toll in Gaza over 2000 people, 400 of them children, it is difficult to know what else to call this action by Israel.

You can see his speech in the Stop the War coalitions report from this link
http://stopwar.org.uk/resources/reports/9-august-2014-the-biggest-ever-uk-demonstration-for-gaza

Speeches had already started when we got to Hyde Park, good points were made by Seumas Milne and Owen Jones (guardian journalists) Natalie was also one of the speakers.  She talked about stopping arms sales and the humanitarian suffering.

To listen to Natalie Bennet’s speech click below. Recorded by Martin Francis.  Apologies for the sound quality
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Eef5CkMvY0U&list=UUMQdWx1-B7B-VRfD2-uETRw&feature=youtu.be

So a good day, let’s hope the government does actually realise the strength of public feeling and stop tacitly supporting Israel, including the selling of arms,

To catch the mood of the day watch this short video put together by Tony Youens
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDPNNchsD3U

The Gagging Bill

DemocracyWe are sliding into a dictatorship.  The new aristocrats of wealth are staging a coup by stealth, controlling what Government does, determining who makes up Government, influencing the political agenda and ensuring that all legislation conforms to their interests.  They are ensuring that the public are unaware of the Government’s programme until it is too late, and are distracting public populist distractions away from policies that will have a huge impact on their lives.  I do not claim this idea as original; I have taken it from Professor Robert Reich of the University of California, who said:

‘I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’état whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful – who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.’

Alarmist, and relevant only to America?

Remember…

  • ·        ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won It!’ The American owned News International claiming credit for the Tories 1992 unexpected election victory.  Murdoch again endorsing Blair, and hey – he wins!
  • ·        The economic strategy of Austerity that suits the financial institutions but was not included in the Tories election manifesto. 
  • ·        The singular lack of effort to regulate the financial sector that is such a big donor to Tory coffers. 
  • ·        Corporate lobbyists steering energy policy away from renewables towards fossil fuels at a time when 97% of people who know what they are talking about on climate change are screaming, ‘cut carbon emissions’! 
  • ·        Tories in Europe blocking regulations on fracking and blocking moves to implement a Financial Transaction Tax. 

And so the list goes on.  We are seeing members of Parliament acting against the interests of their electors, secure because they know that the corporate press will support their re-election.

In the face of disquiet about the influence of lobbyists, the Government felt compelled to bring in a Lobbying Bill, but with a twist straight out of 1984 – they managed to exclude the activities of the powerful corporate lobbyists and focus instead on charities and small campaigning groups.  They have turned the Lobbying Bill in to a Gagging Bill. The Corporation who are running the show are unaffected and it is the small citizens groups who are trying to bring their concerns to the political agenda who will be effectively silenced in an election year.

So we now find that if the ‘Gagging’ Bill is passed into law, the ability of groups such as the Women’s Institute, Frack Off and campaigns against Austerity will be severely limited in their ability to bring their concerns and policy preferences to the attention of the public in an election.  The corporate run big party election machine will have a clear run to push the official line.  All the electors will hear is ‘Britain’s on the mend’ and ‘the medicine’s working’.  Nothing about destitution, hunger, under-employment, full time jobs for less than a living wage, obscene banker’s bonuses, the rich getting richer, the poor poorer.  Those who might have the true facts on the state of British society will have been silenced.

And this is not all.  Hidden away in the sub-clauses of an Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill are proposals to stop protest.  A middle ranking police officer will have the power to ban any protest if it is deemed to risk causing a disturbance.  Any Council will have similar rights if any group of electors raises opposition to a demonstration. 

This Bill is proposing a nebalcombe-frackingw power called the Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance.  Unfortunately it can’t be applied to politicians on Newsnight, but it can apply to just about anyone else away from their home.  So a landowner could apply it to ramblers on a foot path; the owners of a drilling site could apply it to people walking slowly along an access road; the organisers of a hunt could apply it to anyone holding a critical placard.  A person speaking in a public place can be silenced least she or he annoy anyone. 

There is no definition of ‘Nuisance or Annoyance’; it is the opinion of a Council or a senior police officer who seeks the injunction.  Once granted the injunction can be enforced by any ‘officer in uniform’.  There needs to be no clear intent, only the officer’s opinion that there is a risk of undefined ‘antisocial behaviour’.  The Officer will have dispersal and exclusion powers and the power to remove any person they ‘suspect’ to be under 16.  Failure to abide by the instructions of the Officer is an arrestable offence that could lead to imprisonment.

This is an attack on our fundamental right of free assembly and free speech.  This Bill has been sternly opposed by campaigning groups, the churches, political groups and legal opinion.  Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, acting on behalf of the Christian Institute said

 ‘It is easily foreseeable that these powers may be invoked by the police in situations where their use impacts bluntly upon the exercise of rights to free expression and free assembly, as well as other core right.’

In his Opinion he cited the following statement from the European Court of Justice referring to the European Convention of Human Rights.

 ‘Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of (democratic) society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man.  Tolerance, of low-level non-criminal behaviour that may be capable of causing some person annoyance or nuisance, is an important feature of an open and democratic society governed by the rule of law.’

We may also note here that the Conservative Party wishes to withdraw the UK from the European Convention, in the light of this Bill, we can see why.

For more information on opposition to the Gagging Law go to:  http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2014/01/22/gagging-law-we-won-the-argument-but-lost-the-vote/

Mike Shipley – Press Officer, Derbyshire Green Party

Youlgreave Address – Reflections on the Gettysburg Address

GettysburgI’d rather forgotten my history lesson of 60 years ago until I read that this year marks the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address – the name given to the speech made by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, during the American Civil War on the afternoon of Thursday November 19, 1863.  The occasion was the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Gettysburg Address

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Abraham Lincoln    Nov. 19, 1863 

Youlgreave Address:

Tis a dJohn Youatt 6eep shame that our special friends over the pond, after 150 years, have still not achieved a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Tis even worse that, on this side of the pond, we have a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, in which people are born very unequal.

John Youatt         Green Activist, 19th November 2013  

 

Greens Support Derby People’s Assembly

DPA 26102013 Natalie 1A strong Green Party presence was felt at Derby People’s Assembly on the 26th October, 2013 with leader Natalie Bennett making an appearance at the workshop on “Climate Change Threat and 1 Million Climate Jobs”  and making a speech at the end of the day.  Accompanying this was both the DGP stand and a number of members showing their faces for most of the day. Overall it is thought that over one hundred people attended throughout the day. 

The format was much like many other discussion group based events.  The day kicked off with three speakers talking about the People’s Assembly itself, Education Reform, and Cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service.  After these speeches, attendees split up and went to the discussion groups they had chosen.  There were two groups before lunch, speeches after lunch, two more discussion groups and more speeches to round off the day.

Sue Arguile from the NUT gave a very passionate speech about the recent strikes by teachers and Gove’s education reform.  She spoke about a radio phone-in interview with a woman whose attitude had shocked her.  The caller, as well as her general ‘teacher bashing’, had said that teachers should be looking to their ‘product’.  This “marketised” view of teaching also shocked the attendees.

Following this was a local secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who spoke both about what the despicable cuts to the fire service will mean in terms of the service to the public and also about the treatment of workers in that sector over pensions.

Discussion groups were then held on:  the Politics of the Crisis, the Demonization of Immigrants, Tactics for the Anti-austerity Movement and Debt and Loan Sharks.  The immigration discussion seemed to centre on Unite Against Fascism and the benefits of setting up local anti-fascist groups to counter the British National Party, English Defence League and other far-right groups when they organise in areas.

The second set of discussion groups were on:  Protecting the NHS, Defending Education, Re-unionising the Country and Busting Economic Myths.  Although poorly attended, the re-unionising group sparked some enlightened discussion about the state of trade unions and their attachment to the Labour Party.  One graph showed that the more direct action unions took, the more their membership increased.  Also encouraging was the statistic that showed that union membership was up again.

There was an hour after lunch for some more speakers including Christian Wolmar who spoke much about re-nationalising the railways, mentioning that this idea was being debated in the Labour Party.  He failed, however, to mention that us Greens have been campaigning on it for a while now.

After this, the third round of discussion groups were held on the topics of:  Welfare, Public Transport, the Bedroom Tax, Using Art Against Austerity and a repeat of the Protecting the NHS group. Another member of the Green Party found the workshop on Bedroom tax to be a complete eye opener as they heard that many tenants are put in severe difficulties when they are served with orders and have no idea about their rights or what free legal help is available to them.

Natalie Workshop DPA 26102013 6The final groups were held on:  Building Community Campaigns, the Peoples Charter and (with a strong Green presence) Climate Change and 1 Million Climate Jobs.  Natalie Bennett spoke at the climate change group about the need for investment in insulation of all houses in the UK to both reduce carbon emissions and create jobs.  Natalie also spoke reassuringly of the party’s opposition to incineration both on the grounds of pollution and the harmful effects due to air quality reduction.

Finally speeches were given about:  Green jobs and ditching neoliberalism by Natalie, the railways by Alex Gordon of the RMT union and the future of Derby People’s Assembly by Peter Robinson.

Natalie’s speech can be seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUqTBFSpWPQ

Chris Smith                                                                                    Member of Derbyshire Green Party and Young Greens

 

 

Greens note Russell Brand's stunning interview with Jeremy Paxman

Russell Brand 430px-Russell_Brand_Arthur_Premier_mike cropRussell Brand has thrown down a gauntlet.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk He has forcefully stated what we all know, that the cosy Parliamentary political process works to protect the interests of the  land-and-wealth-holding 1% that is manifestly uninterested in the well-being of the 99%.  He also states that the majority of that 99% have lost both interest and confidence in the political process; witness the falling turn-outs in elections, that reached shockingly low levels of less that 20% in the Police Commissioner elections last year. 

In advocating revolution he was giving voice to the sense of disempowerment felt among people he knew – he clearly keeps contact with his roots despite his recent acquisition of fame and wealth.  He is expressing anger with the political establishment, an anger that not only he feels, but many feel as they turn away from the electoral political process and try to find some other vehicle to bring their existence and their plight to the attention to those who have power.

It is clear to us all that this Parliament is not that vehicle – and that is a tragedy.  Over generations brave, selfless and far sighted people have wrested power, clause by clause, from the Barons who claimed their legitimacy from the rights of conquest.  That attitude, the absolute right to hold and exercise power without question or challenge, still underpins the British Establishment.  Every concession is grudgingly given.  They will never rest until each is taken back and we return to the condition of serfdom.  Austerity is a step in this direction, taking back our economic gain.  Next will come disenfranchisement.

Brand’s initial, repeated call on people not to vote would play into the very hands he identifies as the robber’s.  Not voting hurts no one but ourselves.  The power structure couldn’t care less.  If no one voted, they would claim power by default; they see it as theirs as of right.  If people don’t bother to vote, there will be less need for them to spend their stolen money on propaganda, after all, their own faithful followers can always be relied on to turn out.  Tories are more likely to vote than any other persuasion.  Why bother to go to the hassle of formally disenfranchising the people if they do it to themselves?  Once again we are divided against ourselves, working against our own interests and playing into the hands of our rulers and masters. 

A call to revolution does have a certain heroic ring, ‘man the barricades’ – storm the citadels of power, smash a few busts of the great and pompous – then what?  Historically revolution has failed to deliver a better order and the price is sickeningly high.  The world is in a mess and the last thing we need is the diversion of revolution.  As Brand rightly points out the planet is in danger, government is broken, and people are suffering.   Parliament either doesn’t care or is powerless to act in the interest of the majority – things have to change. 

But revolution?  No!  We just haven’t time.  Revolution would set the clock back, we would have to invent new structures, go in for endless arguments, assassinations, plot and counter-plot, the wealth might change hands, but it would stay in a few hands and those hands would stay on the tiller. Remember the outcome of the Russian Revolution; new rulers, same privileges, the people still shivering out on the street, disenfranchised.

Fair is Worth Fighting ForDemocracy is broken and it is up to us, the Greens, to mend it.  There is no one else to do it.  We can do this through engagement, by making demands of Parliament, by holding Parliamentarians to account, by knowing what they are up to, by letting them know that we know what they are up to, by being aware of where the power in this country lies and by not being taken in by the propaganda machine that is the media and press.  And we need a clear programme.  Political protest, even revolution, without a manifesto achieves nothing.  That is why Occupy fizzled out. It asked many pertinent questions but it came up with no answers.  It did not develop a programme of action. 

We have had two generations of protest; protest against the bomb, against war, against hunger and poverty, against cruelty, against unjust taxation, against austerity.  Protest is like a safety valve, it allows people to let off steam, it lets them feel that they are doing something, it allows spokesmen for the power structure to make pious statements about listening and sharing concerns, it sends us home thinking we have taken action and nothing changes.  Why?  Because at the next election the ballot boxes tell a different story.  People vote for the business as usual parties as they are bidden to do by the propaganda machine, and a new conservative party is installed.  Those who don’t vote are dismissed as apathetic, not interested, not bothered, so no need to take account of their opinions because they have expressed no opinion. 

Protest without a clear manifesto that lays out the action that we are demanding, is going to achieve nothing.  We still have the bomb, we are still at war, and there is still poverty and cruelty, now joined by hunger.  OK, we might have defeated the poll tax – but think why.  The Tories were about to lose an election, public opinion was swinging against them, which galvanised action; they scrapped the poll tax and made us pay by raising taxes.  The protests died away, they won the next election, and it was back to business as usual.  The focus of protest was too narrow, there was no other programme.

We cannot argue with Russell Brand’s analysis.  We are drenched in analysis, the airwaves are full of it but what we need desperately is solutions.  And Brand’s initial solution will not work.  It will not put us in any better position, why should it?

What really stirs in his splendid tussle with Paxman (no less) and call for revolution, is that there is a solution, a very clear Green manifesto that focuses on our collective needs, that maps out a clear way forward that will increase our general well being, that will rein in the abusive power of the new aristocrats of wealth, that will address both our social and global ecological crisis. It is the Green Manifesto for a Sustainable Society. 

Russell Brand Wikimedia Commons cropOf course Brand might find it awkward to endorse the Greens. He is part of a business, the Brand ‘brand’.  He has to keep his million followers in mind. His advisers might tell him that if he endorses the Greens he will lose followers and become less interesting to the media that helps him make his money.                

He knows that we are here, and perhaps, he is throwing down a challenge to us – to take a leaf out of his book, be totally up front, have the confidence of strong belief, don’t be afraid of telling it as it is, or of upsetting people or of being controversial. 

We are too deferential, too concerned about the detail, about trying to balance the books about having answers to every question.  Our purpose is still to shout about the big issues.  There is hunger on our streets, our climate is changing, we are running out of the essentials for life and the rich are robbing our children of their future.  We are too concerned with winning the intellectual argument and are failing to make emotional contact with those who should be supporting us.

So we note that towards the end of his interview with Paxo, he did declare:  “I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?”

Our answer is, top marks Russell. We Greens are not pretending, we are a genuine option. We Greens are not complicit. We have grown up from a party of eco-warriors to a party in which social fairness goes hand in hand with saving the biosphere.

We Greens won’t get power as in an instant majority. But we do believe in the best power of all, the power of persuasion, and are quite good at it.

Russell, be radical again with yourself, and declare you’ll vote Green in 2014 and 2015.  That will give you and us the power of persuasion.

Mike Shipley
Derbyshire Green Party

 

Greens note Russell Brand’s stunning interview with Jeremy Paxman

Russell Brand 430px-Russell_Brand_Arthur_Premier_mike cropRussell Brand has thrown down a gauntlet.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk He has forcefully stated what we all know, that the cosy Parliamentary political process works to protect the interests of the  land-and-wealth-holding 1% that is manifestly uninterested in the well-being of the 99%.  He also states that the majority of that 99% have lost both interest and confidence in the political process; witness the falling turn-outs in elections, that reached shockingly low levels of less that 20% in the Police Commissioner elections last year. 

In advocating revolution he was giving voice to the sense of disempowerment felt among people he knew – he clearly keeps contact with his roots despite his recent acquisition of fame and wealth.  He is expressing anger with the political establishment, an anger that not only he feels, but many feel as they turn away from the electoral political process and try to find some other vehicle to bring their existence and their plight to the attention to those who have power.

It is clear to us all that this Parliament is not that vehicle – and that is a tragedy.  Over generations brave, selfless and far sighted people have wrested power, clause by clause, from the Barons who claimed their legitimacy from the rights of conquest.  That attitude, the absolute right to hold and exercise power without question or challenge, still underpins the British Establishment.  Every concession is grudgingly given.  They will never rest until each is taken back and we return to the condition of serfdom.  Austerity is a step in this direction, taking back our economic gain.  Next will come disenfranchisement.

Brand’s initial, repeated call on people not to vote would play into the very hands he identifies as the robber’s.  Not voting hurts no one but ourselves.  The power structure couldn’t care less.  If no one voted, they would claim power by default; they see it as theirs as of right.  If people don’t bother to vote, there will be less need for them to spend their stolen money on propaganda, after all, their own faithful followers can always be relied on to turn out.  Tories are more likely to vote than any other persuasion.  Why bother to go to the hassle of formally disenfranchising the people if they do it to themselves?  Once again we are divided against ourselves, working against our own interests and playing into the hands of our rulers and masters. 

A call to revolution does have a certain heroic ring, ‘man the barricades’ – storm the citadels of power, smash a few busts of the great and pompous – then what?  Historically revolution has failed to deliver a better order and the price is sickeningly high.  The world is in a mess and the last thing we need is the diversion of revolution.  As Brand rightly points out the planet is in danger, government is broken, and people are suffering.   Parliament either doesn’t care or is powerless to act in the interest of the majority – things have to change. 

But revolution?  No!  We just haven’t time.  Revolution would set the clock back, we would have to invent new structures, go in for endless arguments, assassinations, plot and counter-plot, the wealth might change hands, but it would stay in a few hands and those hands would stay on the tiller. Remember the outcome of the Russian Revolution; new rulers, same privileges, the people still shivering out on the street, disenfranchised.

Fair is Worth Fighting ForDemocracy is broken and it is up to us, the Greens, to mend it.  There is no one else to do it.  We can do this through engagement, by making demands of Parliament, by holding Parliamentarians to account, by knowing what they are up to, by letting them know that we know what they are up to, by being aware of where the power in this country lies and by not being taken in by the propaganda machine that is the media and press.  And we need a clear programme.  Political protest, even revolution, without a manifesto achieves nothing.  That is why Occupy fizzled out. It asked many pertinent questions but it came up with no answers.  It did not develop a programme of action. 

We have had two generations of protest; protest against the bomb, against war, against hunger and poverty, against cruelty, against unjust taxation, against austerity.  Protest is like a safety valve, it allows people to let off steam, it lets them feel that they are doing something, it allows spokesmen for the power structure to make pious statements about listening and sharing concerns, it sends us home thinking we have taken action and nothing changes.  Why?  Because at the next election the ballot boxes tell a different story.  People vote for the business as usual parties as they are bidden to do by the propaganda machine, and a new conservative party is installed.  Those who don’t vote are dismissed as apathetic, not interested, not bothered, so no need to take account of their opinions because they have expressed no opinion. 

Protest without a clear manifesto that lays out the action that we are demanding, is going to achieve nothing.  We still have the bomb, we are still at war, and there is still poverty and cruelty, now joined by hunger.  OK, we might have defeated the poll tax – but think why.  The Tories were about to lose an election, public opinion was swinging against them, which galvanised action; they scrapped the poll tax and made us pay by raising taxes.  The protests died away, they won the next election, and it was back to business as usual.  The focus of protest was too narrow, there was no other programme.

We cannot argue with Russell Brand’s analysis.  We are drenched in analysis, the airwaves are full of it but what we need desperately is solutions.  And Brand’s initial solution will not work.  It will not put us in any better position, why should it?

What really stirs in his splendid tussle with Paxman (no less) and call for revolution, is that there is a solution, a very clear Green manifesto that focuses on our collective needs, that maps out a clear way forward that will increase our general well being, that will rein in the abusive power of the new aristocrats of wealth, that will address both our social and global ecological crisis. It is the Green Manifesto for a Sustainable Society. 

Russell Brand Wikimedia Commons cropOf course Brand might find it awkward to endorse the Greens. He is part of a business, the Brand ‘brand’.  He has to keep his million followers in mind. His advisers might tell him that if he endorses the Greens he will lose followers and become less interesting to the media that helps him make his money.                

He knows that we are here, and perhaps, he is throwing down a challenge to us – to take a leaf out of his book, be totally up front, have the confidence of strong belief, don’t be afraid of telling it as it is, or of upsetting people or of being controversial. 

We are too deferential, too concerned about the detail, about trying to balance the books about having answers to every question.  Our purpose is still to shout about the big issues.  There is hunger on our streets, our climate is changing, we are running out of the essentials for life and the rich are robbing our children of their future.  We are too concerned with winning the intellectual argument and are failing to make emotional contact with those who should be supporting us.

So we note that towards the end of his interview with Paxo, he did declare:  “I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?”

Our answer is, top marks Russell. We Greens are not pretending, we are a genuine option. We Greens are not complicit. We have grown up from a party of eco-warriors to a party in which social fairness goes hand in hand with saving the biosphere.

We Greens won’t get power as in an instant majority. But we do believe in the best power of all, the power of persuasion, and are quite good at it.

Russell, be radical again with yourself, and declare you’ll vote Green in 2014 and 2015.  That will give you and us the power of persuasion.

Mike Shipley
Derbyshire Green Party

 

Natalie Bennett's Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

UK’s first Green MP welcomes Labour to Brighton with digital billboard ad

Labour ConferenceLabour Party members attending their conference in Brighton this weekend, in the constituency of the UK’s first Green MP, will be welcomed by a billboard making the case that it is Caroline Lucas who is offering the real opposition in parliament.

The digital advert will be on display prominently on Queen’s Road – one of Brighton’s main thoroughfares.  The street is the main route down which Labour delegates and lobbyists who arrive by train will travel to reach the conference at the sea-front Metropole Hotel.

The ad starts with a check list, against a red backdrop, reading: “Saving the NHS, Fighting Austerity, Railways in Public Hands, Scrapping Trident.”  As the screen turns green, the billboard says “Brought to you by the Green Party.”

The final screen displays a photo of Caroline Lucas MP and reads: “Welcome to Brighton – Home of the True Opposition in Parliament. p.s. Labour is down the hill on the right.”

Rob Shepherd, Chair of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said, “We know a lot of Labour members want their party leadership to stand up to austerity and NHS privatisation, and to support progressive policies such as public ownership of the railways.

“We wanted to remind them that there’s an MP already fighting for these causes in Parliament. It would be great to see Labour members using their conference to encourage Ed Miliband to follow Caroline’s lead on standing up for these causes, and bring together a powerful coalition of voices to reverse the consensus that austerity and privatisation are the only game in town.”

The Green Party’s own autumn conference took place last weekend, also in Brighton.  In her conference speech Caroline Lucas criticised cuts to welfare and local services, and argued that it is the Green Party, rather than Labour, that is offering the real opposition to the Government’s agenda of austerity and privatisation.

She is speaking at two events at Labour’s conference – a Compass panel discussion called ‘Labour – an open tribe?’ and an Institute for Public Policy Research event titled ‘The Condition of Britain’.

Her Private Member’s Bill to bring the railways back into public hands is due its second reading next month.

View the ad on line at: http://bit.ly/16qbrBJ

People’s Assembly Against Austerity

PA CropThe Tories have unleashed the biggest assault on ordinary people for generations. It needs to be met head-on. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity is a key opportunity to bring together all those who want to stop the cuts and the ­devastation they are bringing to millions of people in the UK, and to launch the next steps in the fightback.

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian on February 28th 2012.  Two of the initial signatories were Caroline Lucas MP and Natalie Bennett. 

The Green Party had voted at their conference in February to support the event and agreed to send a delegation to the People’s Assembly and to  encourage local parties, regional federations and other GP bodies to also send delegations and to support future local People’s Assemblies.

People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Saturday June 22nd 

GeneralThis gathering is going to be a huge expression of opposition to “austerity” and privatisation involving all the main Trade Unions, local Trades Union Councils, local and national anti-cuts groups, campaign groups focused on NHS, Education, Housing, the People’s Charter, Coalition of Resistance and the Green Party.  Most of the policies that the People’s Assembly are advancing are Green Party policies

Derby People’s Assembly – A new local “networking” group has been formed in Derby made up of individuals and people representing local groups concerned with issues such as Climate Change, Taxation, NHS etc.  Two Green Party Members attended the initial meeting.  The aim of the meeting was twofold: to publicise the national gathering in London on 22nd June and to arrange a follow up event in Derby in the Autumn. 

Transport has been arranged for those who would like to attend the London event.  See our events page for details.  A Facebook page has been established (https://www.facebook.com/groups/143367235856170/?fref=ts ) and a blog and website will also be set up 

The time has come for us, the People, to make our voice heard. We are a democracy.  We must demand that the Government uses the power and money we give it to serve our interests, and not just those of the wealthy vested interests that are controlling politics.  Austerity will never succeed because the economic crisis was not caused by public spending. We must demand that the government we elected adopts policies that address the causes of the financial crisis.  We must demand that they invest in our future to build a sustainable economy.  We must make it clear that if this Government will not listen to us, we will elect one that will.

Let’s Get Greens on the TV

One of the Young Greens, Lisa Camps, has created an e-petition aiming to get the Greens on the TV General Election debates.

A government e-petition was chosen as it’s a really effective way to highlight the issue.

She’s asking people to share the petition which is at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46764

Thunderclap

In addition, most excitingly, she’s asking people to be part of a so-called ‘Thunderclap’. Please read here and take the action. It could go viral!

THUNDERCLAP! If you haven’t heard of it, you sign up to a cause you support and then when 100 people have done so, a message is sent from all those people’s Twitter/Facebook accounts at once; creating a trend and getting your message viral. Don’t worry, you can see the message that will be sent from your account before you sign up, and it will only ever be that one message.

If you’d like to be part of the Thunderclap team that get the government epetition demanding that the Green Party of England and Wales be on the general election TV debates trending- sign up now!

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/1567-green-party-on-the-tv-debates

Thanks all

Matthew

Matthew Butcher, Media Officer
Office of Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England

Time to Look Again at Defined Benefit Pension Schemes

Fair_Pensions

During my working life all my roles have been in the private sector.  I have always contributed to the company pension scheme, where ever I have worked, but this has always been a defined contribution scheme; i.e. the money I put in is invested and  supposedly builds up a pot to invest in a pension at the end.  I have worked for around 20 years and if I bought an annuity (annual pension) today, with the money I have contributed, I would probably get about £1,000 per year – not really enough to live on.  OK the value of my pot may go up over the next 20 years but if the last 10 years are anything to go by, it may not.  If I had worked in the public sector for all of this time I would probably have a guaranteed pension of about £6,500 (I know this because my sister is a nurse who is paid a little bit less than me and is of a similar age).

This does not seem fair to me.

I am not advocating a race to the bottom and Green Party policy seems enlightened in this area.  EC806 would introduce publicly administered pension schemes which would enable people voluntarily to provide for their retirement without recourse to the current private pension providers.  People would be able to contribute to a national additional scheme in which they would get fixed rate pension investment bonds in return for their contributions.  They would also be able to invest in Local Community Pension Schemes.

These Schemes would be administered by local authorities/community banks and would re-invest the money paid into them within the local community. These could offer the options of either fixed rate local bonds, or an equity-based scheme which would give variable returns from investment in appropriate local businesses which satisfied various criteria concerning environmental and social standards.  Those who have contributed to such publicly administered pension schemes should receive an annual statement detailing the current value of their pension fund, and an estimate of the future level of an annuity purchased by that fund on retirement.

So the Green Party is suggesting the public sector type of pension for all individuals.  You would get Fixed Rate Bonds when you make contributions. These bonds would pay a fixed rate of interest which would be the income on retirement.

Perhaps a further policy to consider would be a reduction in Employers National Insurance for those larger companies that offered their own defined benefit scheme to ALL employees (and an increase for those that do not) as they would be taking the burden off the Government for administering such a scheme and providing employees with a reasonable income in retirement.  The companies (particularly large corporates) would hold their hands up in horror and say they could not afford such a scheme.  This is what they are doing at the moment. They are using this excuse to close defined benefit schemes to new employees.  I believe this is just another example of these companies abdicating responsibility for helping to create a civil society, as is happening with the living wage and tax avoidance.

I work in corporate treasury (which can’t be all bad as the new Archbishop of Canterbury was a corporate treasurer) and in 2011 there was an article in The Treasurer (a riveting read!) which argued that defined benefit schemes can be afforded and are good for society at large.  So there is no reason why this Green Party policy could not work.

Now the public sector, why do different occupations in the public sector pay in different amounts of their salary and get out different pensions?  For example my sister (the nurse) pays in 8% of her salary and will receive 1/80th for each year worked.  MP’s can choose to pay in 7.9% of their salary and they will get 1/50th.  Why aren’t all public sector pensions the same?

In summary, it’s time to make pensions fair, defined benefit schemes for all public and private sector workers.  The same type of scheme with the same deductions and the same percentage of salary for all public sector workers.  Rather like the Green Party policy suggests.

© Katherine Cheatham

Building a more equal society means standing up for Welfare

120px-Welfare_Not_Warfare

Thanks to the Daily Mail and the Express, anyone claiming benefits has been made to feel as though they were born into a lower caste, hiding their scrounging and skiving behind drawn curtains. The inconvenient truth is, of course, rather different.  Most of those on housing benefits are working but wages are so low they can’t pay the rent. Its high rents in both the public and private sectors that has driven up the cost of housing benefit.  Almost all the money paid in benefits is invested in the local economy. Higher wage earners invest elsewhere including for example the global arms industries.

Does this matter to the Green Party? Well I for one think that “welfare reform” is the most important issue we are currently facing, let me explain why. A few years ago I came to the conclusion that the consumer society bequeathed to us by capitalism has hollowed us out eroding communal assets, skills and values because they cannot be turned into commodities. Consumerism doesn’t help us address climate change; we have to value people we will never meet, in lands we will never visit, who won’t be born until we are dead, consumerism doesn’t help. As Dawkins observed we aren’t hard wired to cope with issues where cause and effect are smeared through time and space, we need to adapt.

To build a society that has the capacity to take effective action we need to minimise inequality. The Spirit Level showed how inequality is the cancer that will wreck lives. We have to challenge the foolish mindset that sees inherited wealth as somehow earned and tells young people that if you haven’t got a job you are worthless. We have to value voluntary activities, raising children, caring for relatives and struggling to overcome mental health problems or addictions as just as valuable to society as stacking shelves in Tesco’s.

Thirty years ago when mining communities were under attack, elements of the Labour party organised a fight back. This time round Labour Councils are happy to dance to the Tories tune. Chesterfield, Bolsover and North-east Derbyshire Council for example have just voted to demand that every working person on Council tax benefit pays 8.5%. If these Councils are short of money, and from the money I have seen wasted at Bolsover that certainly isn’t the case there, then they should be increasing the Council tax not cutting benefits. The Council tax is paid by everyone and it is mildly progressive, those in large houses pay more. Instead they are taxing the very poorest in the community. They should remember from the dark days of the Poll Tax that this doesn’t make social or economic sense. Across the country other Labour authorities are requiring even larger contributions and when a Government grant drops out next year they will come back for more and more from the very poorest.

Council tax benefit is just one element of a phalanx of cuts which will come in on the 1st April, they include the Bedroom tax, which the Children Commissioner has said will harm our children; capping of universal credit which will have a particularly detrimental effect on ethnic communities;  and the continued destruction of support for the disabled.

As Greens I feel we need to stand-up for those on benefits at every opportunity and argue for a more equal world where the rich contribute more. We need to carry this message home not just in urban deprived areas but also in the leafy shires where poverty is still present but camouflaged.

© Duncan Kerr

BENEFIT CAP CLAP TRAP – by Peter Allen

The Green Party has spoken out strongly against the so-called “welfare reform” proposals being pushed through Parliament. A particularly pernicious proposal is the “Benefit Cap” which will leave families homeless or starving.

The proposal is that families which do not include anyone in work will have total “Welfare Benefit”, including Housing Benefit, capped at £500 pw, leaving unemployed families renting from private landlords, particularly in and around London, unable to feed and clothe their children whilst keeping a roof over their heads. In Central London Housing Benefit is currently limited to £400pw for families needing four bedroom accommodation and £340pw for three.

Elsewhere in London and the South East the limit is only slightly lower. It is almost unbelievable that the cap makes no allowance for the fact that rents in some parts of the country are two or three times as high as in others.

Even this Government believes that a lone parent family with three children needs a minimum of £273pw to meet essential living expenses after housing costs, and one with four needs £335. The Benefit Cap will leave the three children family living in private rented accommodation in Central London with only £160pw to live on. A four child family will have just £100 !

In reality the amount left over after rent is paid is likely to be even less, since rents for most homes in the private sector are higher than the current Housing Benefit limits, and the poor are already having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential living expenses.

The Government says it has decided on a £500 pw cap because this is the average net wage earned by families in work. Whilst not disagreeing that there should be some financial benefit from paid employment, the current Benefit rules already provide this, and many working families already receive large amounts of Housing Benefit in London, given the high rents in the private sector and the chronic shortage of social housing.

The proposal is outrageous. The real problem is a lack of sufficient decently paid jobs and affordable housing, in one of the most unequal societies in Europe. Unemployed families will be forced out of London in particular, perhaps into depressed seaside towns, where they may find housing but probably no jobs. Many may end up working back in London, in one of the

many essential low paid service jobs on which London depends. Maybe they will leave their children behind, and become migrant workers, like workers in China, with whom British business tells us we must compete!

There are plenty more planned too, including cuts to disability benefits and a freeze to child benefits. And the only thing Tory MPs are complaining about is the decision to stop Child Benefit payments to higher rate income tax payers!

Labour are all but silent on the issue of welfare “reform”, anxious to chase swing voters in marginal seats. Worried that many such voters are persuaded that the people to blame for their own increasing economic hardship/insecurities are those even worse off than themselves , rather than the super-rich ( greedy, dishonest and incompetent bankers in particular) and the capitalist system itself.

The Green Party must continue to say loudly and clearly that the poorest and most disadvantaged shouldn’t be the ones paying the highest price for a crisis which they did not cause.  Benefit claimants and migrant workers should not be scapegoated. Most benefit claimants are already in work, have recently been in work, are retired from work, will soon hope to return to work or are too ill to do so.

As for migrant workers…. please read this article published in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/felicitylawrence?INTCMP=SRCH

The Spirit Level Film

Katharine Round writes:

“The Spirit Level Film campaign is now live!

Over the last few months we’ve been busily preparing to launch our awareness and fundraising campaign for a forthcoming documentary based on the award-winning book The Spirit Level.

And now the day has come – our campaign page is live at www.indiegogo.com/spiritlevelfilm

We need you to help

This campaign is going to be live for 6 weeks only from today, 21st May. The aim of this film is to build a campaign for greater equality, and it has the potential to make a big difference. Film has become one of the most effective ways of raising awareness, influencing public opinion and policy change: we want to do for the public understanding of the ways inequality damages us what An Inconvenient Truth did for the public understanding of climate change.

But in order to make this film happen we need you to support it now. Here’s how:
Join Us – in spreading the word. We want as many people as possible to be sharing the campaign page today. If we can get hundreds of people sharing through Facebook, Twitter, and social networks imagine what a message it will send about public support for this issue. This will help us raise awareness of our campaign aims, start putting pressure on politicians, and help us attract the money to get the film made.

Pre-Buy your copy of the film now – one of the easiest ways to support us financially is to pre-buy a digital download of the finished film in advance. Just 2,500 people need to pay £12 for the film now, and we will have raised our budget! Of course, if you want to donate more you can – and we have a whole range of attractive perks on our campaign site (from signed copies of the book, to tickets to the premiere!)

So, please help us to get the message out by sharing this email and our campaign site www.indiegogo.com/spiritlevelfilm

Why is this campaign so important?

This campaign aims to raise awareness of how inequality affects us and help to launch the documentary, so we can get the message out to millions more. The Spirit Level book showed how nearly all social ills – stress, poor educational performance, high crime rates, unwanted teenage pregnancies – are more common in those societies with a big gap between rich and poor. What’s more, in these unequal societies people die younger, they have more fragile economies, and they are a greater threat to the future of the planet.

Our aim with the film is to engage people who might not pick up a book and read about inequality to understand more about how it affects them, and what can be done about it. And our ambitions are high: we want to make a difference, change the political debate and government policy.

Films such as these are rarely funded by studios or broadcasters, who prefer to focus on more entertainment driven projects. However, this campaign wants to make a statement as much as it wants to raise money. We want as many people as possible to be part of it – as this will also show just how much public support there is for the issue and put pressure on politicians to move beyond lip-service to real policy change. We believe a better life is possible for all of us, and if we work together we can get the message out and make change happen.

Please do get in touch with us if you have any suggestions, would like any resources for your blog or website, or simply want to say hello! Our email is hello@thespiritleveldocumentary.com

Thank you for being involved”

Katharine Round
Director, The Spirit Level Documentary

Business as Usual at Davos

In a statement released ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January, the leaders of the world’s major financial institutions made a remarkable ‘admission of sorts’. They recognised that the policies of austerity that they have been forcing on governments across the world carry serious risks and on their own, are not likely to work. In stead, they are calling for governments to adopt policies that will boost jobs, tackle inequality, and green the global economy.

Note who made this call, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, Robert Zoellick of the World Bank and Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation. They were joined by the heads of eight other multinational and regional organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, and the UN World Food Programme.

The people who have forced governments to adopt austerity cuts with the claim that they were necessary to ‘solve the global economic crisis’ have woken up to the fact that such cuts, unequally applied across society as they are, risk damaging social cohesion, and as they say, lead to ‘negative economic and social consequences.’ They are now calling on governments to reappraise their aggressive deficit reduction programmes appealing to them to apply what they call ‘fiscal consolidation’ in a ‘socially responsible manner.’

Of course this is not an open admission of guilt or a full recognition that the austerity packages were misguided. To do that would risk destabilising those governments that have, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, adopted such policies. Rather than execute the necessary U-turn and encourage Governments to start investing in the green economy, they want to see public-private financial partnerships to generate the investment they see as necessary to secure economic growth. In other words, they want to see private companies given access to what remains of the public coffers. Their focus remains on public sector finances and they fail to acknowledge that it was corporate and private sector debt driven by the needs of the consumer economy that precipitated the crisis. They fail to see that the private investor needs a strong ‘steer’ from Governments’ own investment programmes. They think that pious calls to all to play fair by the rules of globalisation to secure ‘growth’ will avert the bigger crisis that most new recognise is yet to come.

It would appear from reports that the World Economic Forum was itself dominated by concerns for the Euro-zone and public finances, and who was throwing the best parties. Here the real business of Davos was conducted, deals made that would make the rich richer, and projects floated that would further deplete the world stock of natural capital, and that would continue to leave millions of people desperate for the basic means of survival.

The Davos jamboree is a sham, it will not find solutions because it is a product of the problem with its exclusivity and shameful conspicuous consumerism. It has nothing new to offer and its only idea is ‘growth’ demonstrating how still economists fail to grasp the fact that the Earth is round not flat. If Christine and her colleagues are serious about equality and greening the global economy, they are wasting their time and damaging their digestive systems at Davos.

But in truth, Davos isn’t about finding solutions, despite the pious ‘statement’. It’s about power. About ensuring that the economic power that underpins political power is held firmly in private hands. It is about ensuring that by the time policy comes to the floor of democratically elected parliaments, it is already decided – like the austerity packages. Better solutions are available, and if they were implemented the economy would respond – because the economy isn’t the problem, it is the means to deliver the agreed programme. At the present, the agreed programme is private wealth and the control of global power. Davos Man may be starting to recognise that climate change, mass unemployment, water, food and energy shortages are a threat to his world, but he is not prepared to do anything effective to counter them, he prefers to fiddle with the economy while the world heats up.

Once again, it is down to us, the affected majority, to take things forward, each of us taking small steps, a myriad of small steps globally creating an unstoppable forward momentum. Once again world leadership, this time in the guise of the World Economic Forum, has failed us.

[Mike Shipley, February 2012]