Category Archives: Parliament

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

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What Now? asks Andy White, local candidate in Ashbourne

Well, no one saw it coming but no one will be exempt from its effects.

Andy WhiteThe Tories, via a press & TV campaign that skewed voters views to the right, have secured five more years of punitive policies that will hit the poorest in our society, and already just 1 day in, DWP are to cut support at work for disabled people.

Annoyed? Hell yes I am, to paraphrase Ed! Not with our support or effort, which without doubt was fantastic by any measure, but with a system that;
a) allows biased reporting on behalf of billionaire press barons and introduces false knowledge (better known as propaganda) into the national psyche, that turns good people into something out of Orwell’s 1984, divided and ruled by fear,
and
b) uses a voting system that somehow gives 54 seats to 1.5 million Scottish votes and just 1 seat to 1.15 million English who voted Green.

That, of course, is not the fault of our Scottish comrades, but is nonetheless indicative of a system that over time has been carefully engineered with unfairness built in. What was unforeseen was the whirlwind rise and support for Scottish Nationalism. If they had seen it coming down the track in time the system would without doubt have been changed to cope, but they missed it!

Therein lies a lesson. A just cause with a groundswell of popular support can make a difference if the message gets through.

Minority parties (i.e. the losers in the current system) must act together and insist on a PR based, representative review. This government rule with just 37% of the vote. 63% of those that voted did not vote for their policies and 34% of those eligible to vote did not even bother. This means in reality the government mandate is based on roughly 25% of the population supporting them. Not an overwhelming victory in my eyes, not to mention undemocratic!

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ask for autonomy – it is the will of the people. England must control its own fate, but it must do so in a fair and truly democratic system where the number of MP’s is reviewed and downsized, localism, including devolved powers becomes a reality, with the population divided into constituencies with equal numbers of electors.

Voting should become easier, perhaps based on some electronic system, thereby becoming more inclusive and democratic.

As a party we must regroup quickly, and we must let our supporters and members know that we are still here and we have a strong mandate to continue being here. Membership is still increasing and they are looking to the leadership for direction. Our leaders must formulate that direction and communicate it clearly and quickly to retain goodwill from those that have selected Green as their politics of choice.

We must strive for PR, but live with FPTP, but either way our support will grow as more and more people realise the damaging consequences of a greed based system run by and for the rich. By the time of the next election the country will be more than ready for change. With careful planning we can develop our party to portray that change with our policies for the common good.

Change is not for the faint hearted……but it is for the better!

Andy White – Derbyshire Dales. 8 May 2015 – First published on East Midlands Green Party blog on 9 May.

Today we call for a fairer more proportional voting system

After an evening of shocks and surprises the Green Surge continues to roll on.

Fair Votes Now 1 million votes for a single Green MP. Join our call for ‪#‎FairVotesNow‬: http://bit.ly/1DVSyGc

  • Caroline Lucas has grown her vote share in Brighton Pavilion by 11%, winning 22,871 votes and retaining her seat.
  • Across the country, over a million people voted Green – more than four times as many people than at any other General Election.
  • We came second in four seats, including Bristol West, where Darren Hall received the biggest ever upswing in a General Election in England and Wales – taking the Green vote up 23% to 26.8%.
  • Greens also retained around 100 deposits and beat the Liberal Democrats in 126 seats. In 2010, they beat them in just one.

Natalie Bnatalie-bennettennett said: “The Green surge has only just begun. Retaining Caroline Lucas, our wonderful Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and recording at least four second-place finishes puts the Greens firmly on track to make further electoral breakthroughs.”

The election results show that the political landscape has fractured and we now live in an era of multi-party politics where the politics of the future no longer has to look like the politics of the past.

The fact that we have achieved over one million votes yet not been rewarded with more MPs draws into sharp focus just how unfair and outdated our winner-takes-all voting system is.

Caroline Lucas said: “In 2010, Brighton Pavilion showed that a different kind of politics is possible. That you can stand firm by your principles and still be elected.

But there’s not a moment to lose. Amid the most savage, targeted austerity cuts in modern history, and with parties set on wringing ‘every last drop of oil’ from the North Sea, even as climate change accelerates – the urgency of a strong, clear Green voice in Parliament has never been greater.

We will hold Parliament to account and push for real reform – starting with proportional representation, for a politics that looks far more like the people it’s supposed to represent.

And we’ll fight for a fairer, greener future – and justice today.”

With over 1 million Green votes only resulting in a single Green MP please share our call for a fairer more proportional voting system

#‎FairVotesNow‬: http://bit.ly/1DVSyGc

David Foster – Candidate for Derby South Constituency

Candidate Statement for the General Election 2015:

David FosterI joined the Green Party back in 2008 after listening to Caroline Lucas discussing ecology and the Green Party on Radio Four. I have always been deeply concerned about environmental issues and animal welfare but, up to that point, I never realised that there was a political party that shared my views.

Since that time, I have been very involved with Derbyshire Green Party, holding various committee positions. I have been Chair and Co-ordinator of both Derbyshire and the East Midlands Regional Green Party. I have also contributed in other administrative roles including ERO (Electoral Returning Officer) and been the Editor of Greenshoots and Sunflower.

As Derbyshire Chair, I responded to a request for support from the Foston community when they were beginning to campaign against the proposed mega piggery in their area. I initiated the Green Party’s involvement in this campaign, organising videos and other publicity material to oppose the planning application. I am delighted that the Environment Agency has recently rejected the mega piggery proposal which means that it is likely that the project will not be able to proceed.

As East Midlands Chair and Co-ordinator, I was heavily involved in planning and organising the Euro Campaign and supporting the East Midlands Euro Candidate, Katharina Boettge. This demanded the ability to encourage and manage local party involvement across five counties, whilst offering personal support to the candidate.

I consider climate change to be the most serious problem facing the world today. The rapid rise in sea levels is going to displace millions of people who live in low lying areas. A much more volatile climate will produce violent storms which will not be good for either food production or clean drinking water. These changes also mean we are losing wildlife habitat and biodiversity at an alarming rate. I would campaign vigorously for us to take a positive decision at the climate talks in Paris later this year, and make meaningful changes to our energy policy taking us away from destructive fracking and burning fossil fuels, towards renewable energy and clean burn fuels.

I am a socialist by nature. I support a strong welfare system: one that would protect infirm and vulnerable members of our society. I do not believe the austerity cuts were either necessary or even advisable. We should be aiming for a sustainable economy as well as a sustainable ecology. We need to move away from the continued cycle of ‘boom and bust’ and we need to recognise that the concept of ‘growth’ is finite: after all, we only have the resources of one planet.

If I were elected for my constituency of Derby South, I would dedicate 100% of my time towards improving the welfare of my constituents. I would not be looking to make personal gain from funding by lobbyist groups and no matter what the financial incentive; I would not be dividing my time sitting on the committee of large companies. I believe that we need a new politics of honesty, transparency and integrity.

Green Party candidate contact details

Green Party Membership passed 20,000 today

1463119_583405441732546_2094308750_nMembership of the Green Party has surged up 46% this year and just passed 20,000 for the first time. This increase is mirrored by rising poll rating (1) which sees the Greens consistently polling 7%, level pegging with the LibDems. The Green Party outperformed the Liberal Democrats in the May 2014 European Elections both in terms of MEPs returned and percentage of the total vote [3]

The Green surge shows no sign of slowing. The Party plans to stand in at least 75% of seats at the 2015 General Election – 50% more than in 2010 (4). Campaigning is already underway to significantly increase the number of Green Councilors in the local elections that will poll at the same time as the general election.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACommenting on these figures, Green Party target candidate for Hope Valley in the High Peak, Charlotte Farrell said: ‘The surge in membership does not surprise me, the traditional Parties are bankrupt of ideas and their policies continue to make life worse for all but the very rich. What particularly encourages me is the surge in membership of the Young Greens which has rocketed up by 100% since March this year (2). Young Greens can get fully involved in the working of the Green Party helping us to keep up to date and relevant policy, and to represent the Party as candidates.’

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “These astounding across-the-board membership rises clearly demonstrate that more and more people appreciate that the Green Party is the only party committed to transforming our economy and shaking up business-as-usual Westminster politics. The Green Party warmly welcomes all the new members. Members are the lifeblood of the Green Party, a truly democratic party which allows all members to help form policy.”

Siobhan MacMahon, Young Greens co-chair, said: “The growth of the Young Greens this year has been spectacular. We have doubled in size since March alone to nearly 4,000 members – significantly larger than the Liberal Democrat’s youth wing. Thousands were inspired through the European elections, Green Party conference and even the Scottish referendum, that brought home to young people the Greens’ vision of a genuine progressive alternative to the same-old right-wing politics of the coalition parties, as well as Labour and UKIP.

The Green Party is consistently polling at over 10% among 16-24 year olds. Young Greens are attracted by Green polices that call for free education, affordable and publicly-owned transport, an end to migrant-bashing and a halt to the continual attacks on young people. The Party recognises that the youth of Britain have been at the sharp end of austerity, and are badly affected by the crisis in affordable housing. It is also the young generation who will have to live with the full effects of climate change and resource depletion.

Charlotte concluded by saying: ‘The Young Greens’ 100% growth this year is testament to a sea-change going on in politics. New groups are springing up across the country every week, campaigning on the issues that really matter to this generation, but that are ignored by the mainstream parties. We are campaigning for policies that will build and fair and sustainable future that will work for the common good of all.’

East Midlands Press Officer:
Mike Shipley

Notes

1 http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/09/29/yougov-polling-green-party-neck-and-neck-with-liberal-democrats/
2 http://www.younggreens.org.uk
3 http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/05/26/european-elections-greens-gain-50-more-meps,-push-liberal-democrats-into-fifth-place/
4 http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/09/05/green-party-leader-natalie-bennett’s-autumn-party-conference-keynote-speech/

Iraq: our military presence only makes a bad situation worse.

For the third time in 25 years, Parliament has voted to support military action in Iraq. The two conflicts have killed over half a million people, displaced four million and orphaned five million children. By any measure, Iraq is now in a worse state than it was before the 2003 invasion. There is civil war, the western backed government has no legitimacy among the majority of the population, real power is held by local war lords as in Afghanistan, another failed military intervention.

In recognition of the failure of military action in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, Parliament refused to back British involvement in the Syrian civil war. This conflict together with the sectarian policies of the corrupt Iraqi government, spawned ISIS, a brutal militia, armed and financed by governments hostile to the western presence in the middle east. Any engagement with ISIS will inevitably spill over into Syria where the Americans are already training and arming forces opposed to the Assad regime. No one knows the outcome, as in Iraq in 2003, there is no exit strategy.

Interviewed on Radio Derby, High Peak candidate Charlotte Farrell said that further military involvement would only make a bad situation worse and would further fuel the resentment many feel in the region to western interventions. Caroline Lucas was one of only 43 MP’s who voted to oppose further military involvement, joined in the ‘no’ lobby by Derbyshire MP’s Dennis Skinner, Bolsover and Tory MP for Amber Valley, Nigel Mills. The overwhelming majority won by the Coalition Government, supported by the Labour Party did not reflect public opinion. Despite the horrors depicted in the press of the actions of ISIS, 43% of British people oppose further military engagement.

Radio Derby’s political reporter noted that the timing of the Parliamentary recall suited the Tory party, giving its leader the opportunity to play big international statesman on the eve of their conference to cloud the issue of a ministerial resignation and a defection to UKIP. He reminded us of another Conservative prime minister, who in 1982 and facing electoral defeat, used a foreign policy adventure to drive up jingoistic popularity and win a year later. But cynicism aside, there are many good reasons why this new engagement should be opposed. We are endlessly told that the economy is struggling and that we must all tighten our belts. Despite this, close to £1billion was spent on bombing Libya and we can not suppose that this campaign will come any cheaper. This is about the sum saved by scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance, three times that saved by scrapping the disability living allowance. So our young people and disabled are having to pay for a military adventure that will solve nothing.

From recent past history we know that this action will further radicalise young men into joining the jihad against us. It will kill and displace yet more civilians, it will condemn more hostages to death, it will bring closer the time when Iran will feel forced to intervene itself. Military force will not solve anything, it will make a bad situation worse.

We have to do something, the whole region is in a state of collapse. As Charlotte said, we have to open negotiations, this can be difficult, talking to people involved in atrocities. But then we are now allied to countries that are brutal dictatorships. In August alone, Saudi Arabian courts ordered the beheading of nineteen people, mostly foreign nationals, this year it has beheaded six women, again mostly foreign workers.

In the light of the headline reports of ISIS atrocities, calling for talks seems an inadequate response. But Europe is the living proof that only negotiations can solve age old problems. In 1945, Europe lay in ruins, divided by generations of bitter hostility that had broken lives, displaced millions and brought the full horrors of war home to everyone. Something had to change to alter the course of events that could so easily have lead to yet more conflict, such has been the 2000 year history of Europe. The response by a few wise heads to the brutality of two world wars in a generation was to negotiate. Not as in 1918, the victors dictating to the vanquished, but as equals. The bitter enemies of just a few years earlier, joined together to find a collective vision to banish warfare, to allow their countries to cooperate in building a peaceful society in which people could flourish. This process led to the Treaty of Rome and the European Union. The dream of warlords from Charlemagne to Napoleon, of a united Europe was achieved without bloodshed, through negotiation among equals.

This is the only way forward for the Middle East and every new military campaign only serves to further delay the opening of these talks. They have to involve all parties, including Iran and Syria, including the representatives of the Kurds and on equal terms, Sunnis and Shias. The west and western interests can not dictate terms. Peace is possible and there is a profound desire among the people of the whole region and beyond to find this peace. But a small minority, protected from the horrors of war, see profit in further conflict, Iraq, broken as it is, is spending $1billion on weapons, good business for some. Weapons flow freely, from Russia as well as the west, earning great wealth and creating more markets. This is where the west’s action is needed, control international arms sales, stop fuelling the conflicts that are threatening to spiral out of control and engulf us all.

For more information, visit: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Constitutional Reform: “Democracy for Everyone”

1463119_583405441732546_2094308750_nIn the aftermath of the Scottish Referendum the Green Party is backing calls that a People’s Constitutional Convention agree radical changes to the governance of the UK.

Soon after the Scottish Government has negotiated additional powers with the UK Government, a People’s Constitutional Convention should be commissioned, before the General Election, to map out a new settlement for the rest of the United Kingdom as soon as practicable.

In the wake of the Scottish referendum, which saw the highest turnout at a UK election (85%) since 1951, the Green Party is backing calls for a People’s Constitutional Convention to be established to consider radical changes to the entire governance of the UK. We need to put power back in the hands of the people.

Creating Policy

The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW or Greens), invites experts to draft policies: then asks Conference to amend them: then votes to adopt them. The policies are binding on Members and are visible to all at http://www.policy.greenparty.org.uk This is a lengthy but deeply intelligent and democratic process.

We are rewarded for our effort by leading, for the last 4 years, the “vote for policies” with a current electorate of over 400,000 – http://www.voteforpolicies.org.uk

We are not rewarded with media coverage and we are penalised by having to find a deposit of £500 to exercise our democratic right to stand, intelligently, in Westminster elections – a double penalty for a party mainly funded by its members.

It is worth reviewing the relevant history:

1. Long ago, a Scot created the Bank of England that is actually the Bank of UK.

2. Years ago, Greens adopted a series of policies about public administration, including the need for a radical written constitution. The constitution, according to Greens and recently Labour, must be created by a Peoples Constitutional Convention.

3. A few weeks ago, East Midlands Greens put forward a Motion to speed up the drafting of a constitution.

4. A few days ago, on an 85% turnout, 1.6 million Scots voted Yes to Independence. 2 million voted No, because of an (exaggerated) fear of the unknown: and because of a vague, last minute, cobbled together “Vow”, that there would be unspecified delegation to Scots.

5. A day later it became clear that the Vow was at best wishful thinking:-

• Tories’ PR consultant, currently our PM, found he couldn’t carry out the Vow, in face of pressure from his far right and UKIP. So he linked devolution to the Scots, with the removal of Scots MPs’ votes in the UK parliament. That wasn’t in the Vow.
• Libdems seemed to completely lose sight of their earlier commitment to the EU rules on subsidiarity – yet another abandonment of principle.
• Labour is horribly confused as usual between Scots and English MPs

Two days later, on 20th September, Greens published a position paper on constitutional issues called “Democracy for everyone” – see policy briefing

The paper might seem a bit sudden to the electorate at large, but in fact every word is based on our well drafted policies for public administration (PA 001 to PA 918).

Readers can as ever read the policies and position paper for themselves.

Guiding Principle
The guiding principle should be that power flows upwards from the people rather than downwards from an over-centralised state. The Green Party will press for the Convention for a new settlement that includes:

Greater powers for local and regional government
Local government exists in a permanent state of crisis, with neither the resources nor the powers to effect the comprehensive change local people want. Councils should have enhanced powers and spending to tackle the housing crisis, generate renewable energy, deliver strong public services and promote local businesses. Where there is public demand for regional government we will support referendums to establish it.

Electoral reform
Proportional representation should be introduced at all levels of Government – from Local Councils to the lower and upper houses of the UK Parliament. In most of the UK the composition of governing bodies does not reflect the will of the people.

‘Total’ recall for all elected politicians
The UK Government’s current Bill to allow constituents to ‘recall’ their MP part-way through their term of office does not go far enough. In the current bill only MPs who are convicted of a criminal offence and jailed: or MPs who have been suspended by their peers, will be subject to a recall process. In contrast the Green Party backs ‘total’ recall where the power rests solely with constituents. The Green’s MP, Caroline Lucas, has worked with MPs from all political parties to produce a ‘total’ recall Bill under which a by-election would be triggered if 20% of constituents sign a recall petition.

Local referendums and citizen’s initiatives
If the public don’t like a Government decision they should be able to force them to reverse it. And if the Government is dragging its feet on implementing a popular measure the public should be able to give it a push. The Green Party backs the right of citizens to introduce their own referendums or initiatives if they secure a sufficient number of petition signatures.

Replacing the House of Lords with a fully-elected Upper House
Britain’s Upper House is perhaps the most glaring example of the neo-feudal state in practice. No other country that calls itself a democracy retains an unelected branch of parliament stacked full of retired MPs, party donors and a smattering of hereditary peers. The Green Party believes it should be abolished and replaced by a directly-elected second chamber.

The extension of the right to vote to all 16 year olds
16 year olds were entrusted to help decide the future of their nation in the Scottish Referendum. They repaid that trust. The Green Party has long-argued that the age of majority should be reduced to 16 for the rest of the UK with accompanying full citizenship rights and responsibilities.

A written constitution
All of these changes need to be included in a new written constitution setting out our rights and Government’s responsibilities.

All of these are existing Green Party policies.  The new settlement should be subject to a referendum.

So where from here?

Greens will seek the resources to speed up the drafting of a new Constitution. We will ask other parties to consider our ideas in a Peoples Constitutional Convention. We will meanwhile support the Yes movement in Scotland, in its insistence that the vow be consummated.

1463119_583405441732546_2094308750_nReaders, please comment

We need an early vigorous debate. We might have to act before our next Conference, if we are to maximise our impact on the 2015 elections.

John Youatt, Jean Macdonald, Mike Shipley for Derbyshire Green Party

See also an article on the East Midlands Green Party website see http://www.eastmidlands.greenparty.org.uk

Greens Want Openness over MP’s Pay and Perks

John Youatt 6

John Youatt

At their Spring Conference in Liverpool, the Green Party adopted a motion tabled by Derbyshire Green Party calling for transparency over MP’s pay and expenses.  The motion also calls on the Party to oppose the recent 11% pay rise for MPs, due to be paid from 2015, and demands that future pay rises be linked to the UK average rise in pay.

The Greens call for openness over MP’s salary, expenses, sponsorships and any other income that comes from their work as an MP.  They also call on MP’s to make a contribution from this income for constituency work and to ensure that any paid posts created are openly advertised.

Derbyshire Green Party secretary John Youatt, who piloted the motion through the Conference, told delegates that the MP’s expenses scandal during the 2010 general election had seriously damaged trust in Parliament.

He said, ‘Electors are seeing their representatives in Parliament fiddling their expenses and getting very rich, while they are suffering the consequences of the austerity policies that MPs have approved. The 11% pay award shows that little has changed.’

John Youatt expressed the view that MPs needed to address this lack of trust that many people feel towards their MPs.  He went on to say, ‘The policy we have today adopted commits all Green candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will make a full time commitment to the job and will submit a regular report to their Constituency concerning any allowances, expenses or other income related to being an MP.  They will also undertake to donate a proportion of their income for the benefit of their constituency.  This goes beyond the current requirement for MPs to report their expenses and allowances in that they will be reporting directly to their Constituents and discussing with them the use of some part of that income.’

‘This is an important issue.  My own son, who is now 40, has never voted.  He says that it is a waste of time and that they are all just the same; looking after themselves.  In a democracy, the governed must engage with the government.  I want my son to feel able to vote, for his sake and for the sake of his daughter – my granddaughter.’

This is the Candidate’s Pledge adopted by this policy.  Green Candidates will be asking those of the other parties to make a similar pledge during election campaigns.

1.       I will make a full time commitment to the job for which I will be well paid.

2.     I will ensure that, in the interest of transparency, a report is prepared every two months in which all allowances, other related income and expenses will be included. This report will be submitted to a local constituency body in a way that is open to public scrutiny, with receipts and justification for all expenses.

3.     I will invite the local party to discuss with me a donation to it of a percentage of my salary, which will be used to fund support staff for my constituency work.

4.     I will advertise all positions within my constituency office. Positions would be filled to industry standard terms and conditions for conducting interviews and making appointments.  Family members would only be employed through that open recruitment process.   

Greens Want Openness over MP's Pay and Perks

John Youatt 6

John Youatt

At their Spring Conference in Liverpool, the Green Party adopted a motion tabled by Derbyshire Green Party calling for transparency over MP’s pay and expenses.  The motion also calls on the Party to oppose the recent 11% pay rise for MPs, due to be paid from 2015, and demands that future pay rises be linked to the UK average rise in pay.

The Greens call for openness over MP’s salary, expenses, sponsorships and any other income that comes from their work as an MP.  They also call on MP’s to make a contribution from this income for constituency work and to ensure that any paid posts created are openly advertised.

Derbyshire Green Party secretary John Youatt, who piloted the motion through the Conference, told delegates that the MP’s expenses scandal during the 2010 general election had seriously damaged trust in Parliament.

He said, ‘Electors are seeing their representatives in Parliament fiddling their expenses and getting very rich, while they are suffering the consequences of the austerity policies that MPs have approved. The 11% pay award shows that little has changed.’

John Youatt expressed the view that MPs needed to address this lack of trust that many people feel towards their MPs.  He went on to say, ‘The policy we have today adopted commits all Green candidates for Parliament to sign a pledge that they will make a full time commitment to the job and will submit a regular report to their Constituency concerning any allowances, expenses or other income related to being an MP.  They will also undertake to donate a proportion of their income for the benefit of their constituency.  This goes beyond the current requirement for MPs to report their expenses and allowances in that they will be reporting directly to their Constituents and discussing with them the use of some part of that income.’

‘This is an important issue.  My own son, who is now 40, has never voted.  He says that it is a waste of time and that they are all just the same; looking after themselves.  In a democracy, the governed must engage with the government.  I want my son to feel able to vote, for his sake and for the sake of his daughter – my granddaughter.’

This is the Candidate’s Pledge adopted by this policy.  Green Candidates will be asking those of the other parties to make a similar pledge during election campaigns.

1.       I will make a full time commitment to the job for which I will be well paid.

2.     I will ensure that, in the interest of transparency, a report is prepared every two months in which all allowances, other related income and expenses will be included. This report will be submitted to a local constituency body in a way that is open to public scrutiny, with receipts and justification for all expenses.

3.     I will invite the local party to discuss with me a donation to it of a percentage of my salary, which will be used to fund support staff for my constituency work.

4.     I will advertise all positions within my constituency office. Positions would be filled to industry standard terms and conditions for conducting interviews and making appointments.  Family members would only be employed through that open recruitment process.   

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.’

‘Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria’

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

'Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria'

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

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.

We Need to Talk about Democracy

DemocracyThis year’s County Council elections take place against a background of deep cuts to funding that are restricting the ability of all Councils to carry out their functions.  One of the purposes of the cuts is to force Councils to look for different ways of discharging their responsibilities, compelling them to look for private providers.  They are also a brutal reminder of the political power structure in this country.  Despite all the Tories talk about localism, this structure is strictly top down; local government being little more than an agent of central government.  What little power remains at the local level is being deliberately eroded by this Government with its policy of cutting council budgets.  Eric Pickles, the minister responsible for Local Government has a simplistic vision of the role of Councils, which is to be no more than a commissioning authority. In his ideal world, they would meet just once a year to allocate contracts to private companies that would provide all public services – this meeting to be followed no doubt by a lavish celebratory meal.

Our system of local government has its origins in Saxon England when the Shires were established, each divided in to Hundreds that took responsibility for the management of day to day affairs. Since then we have seen the growth in power of the nation state, and the domination of local affairs by the interests of central Government.  Now we are seeing this process take a new direction with the functions of Councils being handed to private companies.  We are seeing the interests of the community secondary to the drive to cut costs and make profits. These are profound changes that are happening without any serious debate or understanding as to where they will lead.  Opposition to Government cuts is missing the bigger question of the role of Local Government in a modern democracy.  This Government is effectively destroying local Government that has its traditions in Saxon England, and replacing it with private interests that have more in common with the Norman Barons’ feudal system of the total subordination of communities to the interests and desires of the Feudal Lord.

Just as Greens deplore the emasculation of local democracy by private and unaccountable interests, so do we oppose the increasing centralisation of political power within the Whitehall machine that has been going on since the Second World War.  We are a democratic party and see this concentration of power and the growth of the associated bureaucracy as a threat to democracy.  The concentration of power takes us along the road that ends in dictatorship, where the interests of the few transcend those of the many.  We support the devolution of power, not only to the British Nations, and not only from Europe, but most significantly from Westminster down to Local Government.  For us, nothing should be done at a higher level of government that could be done equally well or better at a lower level.

For Greens, the highest form of democracy is direct participation. This principle has been all but eroded by the centralisation of power encouraged by both right and left wing governments. However, we find it most encouraging that the desire for people to be involved in decision making and to make their voice heard is far from dead.  The growth and popularity of electronic campaigning coupled with direct action is forcing central government and even powerful corporations to take note of the views of ordinary people.  The numerous U turns by this Government, from the climb-down on the sale of the public forest estate to its dropping the forced tendering Orders for the NHS is testimony to people power.

It follows therefore that for us, the heart of democratic power should lie in the communities where people live.  Representative Community Councils should then delegate up to higher levels those functions that are better coordinated over a wider area, and finance would follow that delegation of function.  The dog would take back control of its tail; higher levels of Government would be required to attend to the needs and interests of the collective communities.  Idealistic yes, but this is the model on which we approach government.  It is the complete opposite of the present structure of top down authoritarian finger wagging that treats us so badly and with such contempt. With a clear vision, we can then identify the steps necessary take us on our way, and promote policies that will help not hinder our progress towards a participatory democracy.

For this reason we support freedom of information and transparent government since democratic participation requires citizens to be able to access the information they need in order to be able to take part in decision-making.  This is why authoritarian government is secretive.  The best form of democratic involvement for large-scale activity is voting, in elections and referenda, in such a way that the outcome reflects the pattern of voting which itself represents peoples considered wishes, and where no vote is wasted.  This is why we want electoral reform.

Democracy requires cooperation across communities and between different political structures so that the interests of one group don’t violate the legitimate interests of another.  We know that divisions, intolerance, prejudice, wide inequalities and failures in communication all weaken communities and preclude such co-operation.  For this reason we campaign for a Bill of Rights and a written Constitution so that citizens are aware of both their rights and their responsibilities and those of their fellow citizens.  This is why we will work to build a more equal and tolerant society.

The rampant inequalities that both Labour, Conservative and now the ConDem Coalition have allowed to build up in our society are counter to functional democracy.  Their collective refusal to address social inequality demonstrates their disdain for the ordinary citizen, and leaves the Green as the only Party for Democracy.  A vote for the Greens is a vote for Democracy.

[Mike Shipley  March 2013]