Category Archives: Peace & Human Rights

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

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 4

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity

640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropI do not want to wait until the next war comes along and do nothing in the meantime. I think Governments should talk to one another, discuss ways of abandoning war as a useless, wasteful, costly way of resolving conflict. I think Governments should work through the United Nations to outlaw war, give up armies, and work together for peace and the common good.

I think defence spending should be drastically reduced and populations trained in the ways of non-violent resistance. During World War 2 in Denmark and Sweden there was considerable success in undermining the Nazis by non-violent passive resistance. In Germany itself, during the last year of World War 2, there was a credible record of German citizens defying Hitler. We don’t hear much about it because vested interests want wars to continue. Surprise, surprise, many of our warmongering MPs and Lords have investments in weapons manufacture, oil and other commodities.

Governments the world over are concerned about oil security and food security. Already the conditions for more wars are being allowed to build up. Governments are still not taking Global Warming and the consequent Climate Change seriously. How long will it be before we ask our troops to line the beaches at Dover to fight off the hordes of poor people from Africa and beyond who want a share of the bounty we are greedily and selfishly enjoying?

There is massive evidence that the root causes of virtually all wars are economic. Before you decide how to vote today, remember that you and your children are the next generation of cannon fodder for the rich, privileged elites to use to protect their interests. War is never an important tool for resolving conflicts, it is disastrous, monstrous and only ever a sign of the failure of Governments to seriously work at building peace, co-operation and understanding.

According to the current Web Site of The Peace Pledge Union: “Human beings invented war, and human beings should make it obsolete. War, like a disease, can in time be eradicated; and that’s what we should be working to achieve. That means learning to overcome the conditioned belief that armed force is an acceptable way of dealing with disputes. It’s a human weakness, not a strength, to solve problems with cruelty, brutality and murder. As a species we have already matured enough for modern societies to decide that wartime atrocities are crimes; people can be arrested for them, tried and punished. Now we should realise that war is itself a crime against humanity, and grow wise enough to solve our problems another way”.

Note:   This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years.

 

The Green Party position on War

120px-Welfare_Not_WarfareMuch international conflict today arises directly or indirectly from the abuse of power by rich Northern nations. So called ‘peace’ enforcement is preferred to conflict prevention and this helps to drive the highly lucrative arms trade.

“Defence” is the protection of homeland against attack and does not justify pre-emptive strikes against nations and organisations. Military intervention for peacekeeping or conflict prevention cannot be justified unilaterally, or outside UN control. It is irrational and immoral to continue activities that exacerbate threats to international and local security, yet this is what is happening with our military interventions.

The Green Party recognises that ‘terrorism’ is a loaded term often used in propaganda to justify attacks on desperate people. The underlying causes and sense of injustice that fuel terrorism have to be addressed. However, democratic societies need to protect themselves against those who seek to use terror and violence against them. Any measures to protect society should not undermine the fundamental values that shape a green society: inclusion, justice and equality.

For the Party’s full Peace and Defence policy go to:
http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pd.html

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 3

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence

640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropThe people who actually do the fighting are always the victims of inadequate funding – in the most recent war that this country fought in Afghanistan, the Army had the wrong type of personnel carrier, and the soldiers had the wrong kind of kit. In Battlefield conditions things rarely go according to plan. In both World Wars it was confidently assumed that a massive artillery barrage would soften up the enemies defences and make it a piece of cake for allied troops to march into German territory. In practice such bombardments rarely achieved their purpose and young, healthy, fit men went over the top, got entangled in barbed wire, and were ruthlessly cut down by enemy fire. The first time this happened- and maybe the second and the third, you could perhaps understand that the Generals hoped it would eventually work. In reality, in World War 1 the Army big wigs were still insisting on this madness four years after the conflict began, even though millions had by now been killed, shot down in cold blood – and for the sake of the gain of a few yards.

They carried on doing this in the Second World War. On D Day the German coastal defences were supposed to be virtually destroyed by allied aircraft, prior to the landing of thousands of soldiers. In most cases it did not work. Soldiers had to jump into the sea and swim into vicious and unforgiving enemy fire. It was only by sacrificing thousands of lives that eventually a foothold was gained.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. The Ministry of Defence is notoriously secretive about casualty figures and is reluctant to even put a figure on civilian casualties. Fortunately journalists have compiled statistics based on casualty figures reported in the press. To use the recent Afghanistan War as an example, over 400 British troops lost their lives. But 18,000 Afghanis civilians were killed and some put this figure as high as 22,000. I’m sure they all think that war is an important tool in the resolution of conflict. In point of fact the real cost of the war in Afghanistan is estimated to be £37 billion according to the detailed analysis by Frank Ledwidge in his book ‘Investment in Blood’ (Yale University Press, 2013).

The sheer horror of war and the experience of it dehumanises the troops and leaves many of them severely traumatised. It took the Generals who lived in comparative comfort in French Chateaux during the Two World Wars a long time to take this seriously. Men who had volunteered, and even put themselves forward when they were underage were shot in cold blood for cowardice if they simply lost it and could not go on. Over three hundred British soldiers were shot by their own men. In the Vietnam War thousands of soldiers in desperation became addicted to drugs to numb their pain, and blot out the horror of what they were doing. In America today there are hundreds of Vietnam Vets who live with terrible injuries and mental and psychological damage.

The British Army has one of the better reputations for discipline and does not have a bad reputation for pillaging from houses and communities where they have conquered the enemy, or for raping the women of the villages and towns they have ‘liberated’; except in Kenya during the Mau Mau terror when British troops engaged in some of the cruellest and most vicious assaults on British subjects who lived in Kenya but were black and assumed to be on the side of the terrorists. Violence breeds violence and war breeds more war. Faced with a tyrant like Hitler a devout German Christian called Dietrich Bonhoeffer eventually decided in good conscience to support a plot to assassinate Hitler. The plot failed and 5,000 people lost their lives when Hitler ordered massive reprisals. Violence always breeds more violence.      To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years.  A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 2

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned

The par640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropable was a little far-fetched, perhaps, but it  enables me to expose the hypocrisy and callousness of the motion I am glad to oppose. I believe that war is a totally USELESS tool in resolving conflict between nations. Indeed, it is my conviction that to even describe ‘war’ as an ‘important tool’ is already granting war a legitimacy which it does not merit. To describe an instrument of wanton destruction, of legalised murder and an entity that is virtually impossible to control once it is unleashed as an ‘important tool’ seems to me to be both immoral and an insult to the countless millions of lives that have been sacrificed in its name.

Our warmongering Houses of Parliament, our elected MP’s and our unelected House of Lords, are so lazy, incompetent, unprofessional and so incapable of thinking outside the box of aggression as the ultimate solution to the world’s conflicts that when faced with a challenge such as what to do about ISIL they go for the easy option of war, rather than redouble their efforts at diplomacy, dialogue and the more effective use of the United Nations. This decision was taken while the nation is still in recession and massive cuts are being made to benefits, and the NHS. But incredibly no time limit has been set, and experienced military personnel have said that this war could last for years. Where, I wonder, is the money to come from?

There is nothing glamorous or heroic about war. War is about legalised murder. It took the Houses of Parliament a mere six hours to commit this nation to an unspecified period of war against ISIL, costing an unspecified amount of money and an unspecified loss of military and civilian life. And on what basis did Parliament decide that this time around, bombing terrorists would not achieve the same result as bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many commentators think are precisely the cause of much terrorism. No lessons seem to have been learned from previous wars, of their failure to resolve any conflicts satisfactorily or without unpredictable and often disastrous consequences. I will show that this investment in war, this conviction that violence is the best way to oppose violence and that to kill is the best way to resolve conflicts is utterly useless, morally wrong and totally inept. It is the very opposite of an important tool.

One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. That is precisely what Governments repeatedly do – and it never works. Do not imagine that Wars resolve anything – they always sow the seeds of the next conflict and always give birth to ever more terrible weapons. The so-called victors at the end of the First World War made such a total bodge of negotiating the German surrender they created the appalling economic conditions in Germany that made it all too easy for Hitler to gain power. At the end of the Second World War the victorious allies carved up Europe in such a way that the Cold War set in and all sides spent hideous amounts of money on developing weapons of mass destruction.    To be continued…

Note:   This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”. His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 1

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 1 – A Parable

 640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropOnce upon a time there was a school. Actually it was two schools which had been merged. Unfortunately the merger never really worked and the two original schools remained rivals even though they all worked on one site.

As time went by the rivalry became worse and there were playground fights and after school meets at which the two sides fought one another. Pupils took sides and developed fierce loyalties to the old school of their choice. As a result fights broke out during lessons and even the teachers began to take sides depending on which of the original two schools they had worked in.

Eventually the School Governors decided to legalise the fighting and actually encouraged the pupils to fight one another to settle their disputes – not just till one or the other got a bloodied nose but to the death. This made fighting an important tool in keeping class sizes small. Indeed, whenever gangs formed in the school community they too were encouraged to fight – to the death. This made violence an important tool in combating rivalry between school gangs and legitimized playground fights.

Sometimes when two pupils were in the middle of a gun fight one of them would fire at the other and miss and accidentally kill a pupil who was not involved in the dispute. The teachers reassured the pupils that this was merely collateral damage and they shouldn’t be too worried about killing innocent bystanders; after all, fighting one another to death was an important tool in resolving conflict.

From time to time the Deputy Head would give the pupils a pep talk, encouraging them to keep fit, learn the most effective ways to kill one another, and be ready to kill or be killed the moment a dispute or argument arose. If there were no particular arguments or conflicts between the pupils the Head Teacher would organise what he called ‘War Games’ and the different classes in the school would fight each other until one was defeated, no matter how many pupils died in the process.

As a result the pupils developed increasingly sophisticated weapons, graduating from conkers and bows and arrows to knives and eventually guns. The school chaplain encouraged the school orchestra to play stirring marches at assemblies at which he would give out medals to the pupils who had killed the most in that particular week and the whole school would cheer and applaud them.

Understandably some of the pupils, particularly new arrivals, were extremely distressed and upset about the way their school was being run – in fact they were terrified and scared stiff. But if they refused to fight or take part in the violence they were lined up and their fellow pupils were commanded to shoot them in cold blood for cowardice.

In spite of all the dead bodies that piled up week after week the School Governors insisted that killing one another was the best way to encourage discipline among the pupils and an important tool in resolving conflicts in the school and that the pupils would be acting quite legally as it was school policy to allow them to murder one another.

The Governors themselves never visited the school or took part in the fighting; they simply insisted that this was the best way to deal with conflict. The Prefects at this school were expected to take command in a conflict and motivate the pupils and force them to engage in murdering one another until the conflict was resolved.

You might think that no parent in their right mind would even contemplate sending their child to this school – but the parents were told that the legalised expression of violence was an important tool in building character, instilling discipline and making their child into a really tough guy. Indeed, if a child showed reluctance about being sent to this school the parents would accuse them of cowardice and if the pupil had a girlfriend she would threaten to break off the relationship unless the pupil joined up and fought for ‘his’ school along with the others.

The school chaplain assured both sides that God was on their side and gave dead pupils an impressive funeral. As the bloodshed and loss of life went on the Governors sometimes wondered if there might be a better way; but nothing ever changed, they were all too set in their ways.    To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war  is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”.
His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four

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/

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

Derby Silk March, Defending Workers Rights

 

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

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

 

‘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 ]

Image

SoundBite – Yes to Peace

SoundBites No to War

International Aid: Waste of Taxpayers’ Money or essential to Britain’s national interests?

Fair is Worth Fighting ForWhipped up by right wing media propaganda, public sentiment is turning against overseas aid.  In a recent public opinion survey 70% of respondents thought that aid was a waste of taxpayers’ money and should be spent at home. Inevitably in times of financial hardship people take the simplistic view that ‘charity begins at home.’

Aid has often been conceived in a paternalistic and economically colonialist fashion. Instead of serving the needs of the poor in poor countries, it continues to be used by donors as a means of furthering political, economic or military objectives, including the promotion of business interests.  The preponderance of donors, each with its own agenda, has also tended to reduce coordination and transparency, increasing the politicisation of aid, heightening the risk of corruption and placing a significant management burden on aid-recipient countries. Genuine participation of local people, let alone local control or oversight of aid expenditures, rarely occurs in practice, despite donor rhetoric. Similarly, while ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword within the aid system, it is generally framed in terms of ‘sustainable economic growth’; defining poverty in terms of income alone and failing completely to prioritise equity and environmental quality, or to address ecological limits in the design and implementation of aid programmes.

East Midland Hunger Summit 2013

On the 7th June as a prelude to David Cameron’s Hunger Summit at Downing Street, an East Midland Hunger Summit 2013 has been arranged.  The venue will be Derby Cathedral 18-19 Iron Gate, Derby, DE1 3PG

The Summit will feature contributions from:

  • The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, former Secretary of State for International Development
  • The Rt Rev’d Dr Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby,
  • The Rt Hn Pauline Latham OBE MP,
  • Jahangir Malin OBE, the UK Director of Islamic Relief
  • Fiona Twycross, the “Hunger Tsar” to the London Mayor
  • The IF Campaign
  • Christian Aid
  • Fare Share UK

The event will also host the launch of “Fare Share Derby and Derbyshire” supporting the County’s many food banks with a new multi-million tonne supply chain. 

The programme begins at 3.00 pm for 3.30 pm.  5.30 pm Summit reception.  6.00 pm Evening lecture and discussion with the Re Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, hosted by Mrs Pauline Latham OBE MP.

Participants are welcome to come for some or all of the time.  The event is FREE but you are asked to visit www.hungersummit2013.evenbrite.co.uk to book and for further information.  You can also use twitter:  #HS2013

The Green Party’s aim is to secure, in the long term, greater economic independence of poor countries so that an aid system need only respond to emergencies.  You can find Green Party Policies on Aid at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ip

 

Enough Food for Everyone

IF_logo_banner_2_420x210

Caroline Lucas reported in her News bulletin in January that a new campaign was launched in Parliament called Enough Food For Everyone: IF, which aims to use this year’s G8 to focus attention on tackling the fact that one in eight people around the world go to bed hungry every night.  Caroline said that she will be campaigning alongside groups like Oxfam, to ensure development and environmental issues are at the top of the agenda. The British Government is to host the next G8 Summit at a hotel and golf course complex at Enniskillen in Northern Ireland on 17th – 18th June 2013. 

The G8 is short for “Group of Eight – a group of rich, northern hemisphere, mostly white, countries.  Membership of the Group is by invitation, its workings highly secretive, its decisions affecting the whole world.

The eight members in order of their rotating hosting responsibilities are: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia (as of 2006), Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada.  Among G8 leaders to attend this year will be British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since 1975, the heads of state or government of the major industrial democracies have been meeting to deal with the major economic and political issues facing their domestic societies and the international community as a whole.  In the past, the G8 Summit has dealt with big issues like international trade, and relations with developing countries, questions of East-West economic relations, energy, and terrorism. The Summit agenda has now broadened considerably to include social issues such as employment and the information highway, transnational issues such as the environment, crime and drugs, and a host of political-security issues ranging from human rights through regional security to arms control.

While some say that G8 helps build personal relations and allows for quick co-ordinated responses to a crisis, G8 can also be seen as an exclusive and powerful club which defends and promotes free-market capitalism and Western style democracy.  Many view it as an attempt at forced globalisation by the rich West and undemocratic because developing countries are excluded.  Free-market capitalism has not delivered on its claim that it is the best way to enable developing countries to be emancipated from their poverty.  Consequently non-governmental and civil society organisations and the Green Party are critical of the G8.  We use the media interest created around G8 meetings as an opportunity to advocate our concerns and to promote an alternative agenda. We are scandalised that the G8 makes decisions that affect many other nations and economies that are not represented such as the major ‘new’ economies like China and India.

The ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign tackles 4 issues head on: aid, tax, land and transparency. The IF Campaign argues that IF we all act together, we can make the world leaders change the future by tackling the four big ‘IFs’, each of which relates to the major topics on the G8 agenda: 

AidIf we make the right investments to stop people dying from hunger and help the poorest people feed themselves.  The UK government has committed to spending 0.7% of its national income on aid. We must make sure they keep this promise.

Tax – If we stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.  Too many unscrupulous businesses and individuals manage to avoid paying the taxes they owe in developing countries. They’re dodging millions of pounds every day.  Yet taxes are the most important, sustainable and predictable source of finance. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) estimates that developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.  That money could help millions of people to escape from hunger. We can help stop this tax dodging if our government steps up to close the international tax loopholes.

LandIf we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use crops to feed people, not fuel cars.  The poorest farmers are losing their land to giant corporations. These companies don’t care that the land is already being used by local people to grow food. Stopping them would help millions of people get enough to eat.

TransparencyIf we force governments and big corporations to be honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.  Transparency and accountability are vital in the global food system. Decisions that can affect millions of people are made behind closed doors, without the participation of those affected. Corporates and governments must be more transparent about their affairs so that citizens can hold to account powerful players in the food system.

The IF Campaign recognizes that these are big IFs, but argues that if we press our leaders to make these happen, and IF they do, there really will be enough food for everyone.  

That’s why Caroline Lucas is joining with other organisations in a campaign to tell our leaders that if they take strong action to tackle the structural causes of hunger, there will be enough food to meet the needs of earth’s 870 million hungry people.

Because the venue for the G8 is in Northern Ireland, a Week of Action is scheduled to take place in London from 10-14 June.  You can join tens of thousands in Hyde Park, London on 8 June for one unmissable event to demand action on world hunger. More information on:   www.oxfam.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/if

Donald and Jean Macdonald 

Nuclear Weapons in an Age of Austerity

Why is the government planning to force through devastating cuts which are hitting the poorest the hardest, destroying the welfare state and worsening the economic crises when it could save us over £100 billion by scrapping Trident?  The money could be better spent on housing, jobs, pensions, education and health.

bruce_kentRecently I listened to Bruce Kent at Derby Cathedral talking about Nuclear Weapons in an Age of Austerity.  Bruce Kent is a British political activist and a former Roman Catholic priest. He has been active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for many years.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Kent – cite_note-1

For the month of April, Bruce, now in his 80’s, is hitting the road on behalf of CND, spreading the Scrap Trident message across England.  He is working with a range of different organizations, including the Green Party, to highlight the wasteful spending on Trident when so much investment is needed to eradicate poverty, boost people-friendly development and make our world a safer and more peaceful place to live.

aldermastonThe Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett and Green MEP, Keith Taylor joined together in a round of speaking at the annual CND Easter protest at Aldermaston on 1st April.

The Scrap Trident campaign is trying to put across the connection between the £100 billion to be spent on Trident and the savage cuts that people are being exposed to.   It is important to campaign now to stop plans for the replacement of Trident being progressed. It will be too late to wait for the next General Election as whoever is in government will be under pressure not to back out for economic reasons.  If we go ahead and replace Trident it will mean Britain possessing nuclear weapons until nearly 2060 – 90 years after we agreed to disarm.   

Please help the campaign – to see a snappy video and add your name to a petition, follow the link http://www.cnduk.org/scraptrident

If you are one of the people who think we need nuclear weapons as an insurance policy consider how non-nuclear countries view this.  If Britain shows the world that we think our security depends on us having nuclear weapons far into the future, then other countries without them, such as North Korea, will want them too. So the dangers of accidents or crises increase.

It’s a deep hypocrisy to say “we can have them but you can’t” I quote from Bruce’s website: “Our obligation, as a country is to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons. If we replace Trident, in any shape or form, other countries will take the message from us that we think nuclear weapons improve our security. It’s an open invitation to get their own. It’s hypocrisy to say we can have them but they can’t”.

Scrap Trident – Vote Green X

Jean Macdonald for the Derbyshire Green Party

Politics is People

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It is so easy to lose sight of people. We are bombarded with statistics, figures on the economy, on levels of debt, on unemployment. This year is he wettest, the hottest the most floods the most fires. The figures can be overwhelming and we can so easily lose sight of the people that make up the figures. The person who must go home and tell her family she had lost her job, the impact of the repossession letter on a families life. The people who are mopping up again after another flood, and those who can only stare in disbelief as their home is engulfed by a wild fire. All these peoples lives turned upside down by political decisions, decisions that hide behind endless statistics.Jean Macdonald’s poem reminds us that politics is about real people and about what we all do.

Politics is people
What you do is what you believe
How you live and react is politics
How you run your house
Do your shopping
Where you buy your tea
No one can opt out of politics
Without opting out of life

Politics is people
People say ‘Charity begins at home’
We cannot isolate ourselves in this way
Our present lifestyle  demands
Resources from other countries
Bananas coffee tea
Oil for our cars and aeroplanes
We need to trade fairly

Politics is people
People living in poverty will be drawn like a magnet
Towards countries where they see riches
Putting up barriers to keep them out
Will only work for a time
Like a cracking damn the barriers will fail
We must decrease the levels between rich and poor
Then barriers will be needed no more
Politics is people

People say ‘They are taking our jobs’
Doctors, nurses, taxi drivers
Many less appealing jobs
Why don’t our own people apply
Perhaps it’s the low wages
Why blame those who do the jobs
Blame those who cream off the profits at the top of the pile

Politics is people
Banks encouraged us to borrow money we could not pay back
The debt got bigger and bigger
Governments and businesses joined in the great debt party with gusto
Borrowing from the earth
The resources cannot be replaced
Sooner or later the credit will be called in
We will all suffer the consequences of our overspend

Politics is people
People have become lethargic.
It’s easier to blame someone else
Politics has become privatised
No longer the business of everyone
Left to the chosen few – the politicians, the government
We know that power corrupts
But it’s easy to criticise from the sidelines

Politics is people
People who take responsibility
People who ask questions
People who have an open mind
People who look out for others
People who work for justice
People who work for peace
Politics is for everyone

Copyright Jean Macdonald
24th September, 2006
Adapted November 2012

Animals at war by Jane Reynolds

A bronze packhorse at the London ‘animals at war’ memorial

On remembrance Sunday, Derbyshire green party chairwoman Sue Ledger and I visited the Animals in War memorial on Park Lane, London. It’s an impressive monument – a curved stone wall with images of various animals, along with two heavily laden bronze mules progressing up the stairs of the monument, and a bronze horse and dog beyond it looking into the distance. It bears several inscriptions, but the one that  struck straight to the heart for both of us was “They had no choice”. A more fitting statement also for many of those humans who lost their lives to war than the words inscribed on the Cenotaph – “The Glorious Dead.” Other inscriptions on the memorial are less clear about the exploitation of animals for war – an exploitation that continues today as dogs and dolphins are trained to detect mines. On the far side of the monument we read that animals “played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom”.
We arrived at the monument at 10.30 and It was a moving experience to join with others in remembering these victims of war who are not so much forgotten as simply disregarded. The general direction of the service, however, was a romanticised vision of animal heroism rather than a reflection on the suffering of these animals and the morality of forcing them into wars that for the most part have little to do with human freedom, and certainly have nothing to do with animal freedom.
Perhaps it is natural to search for something positive in the face of loss and suffering, but war must not be seen as glorious either for humans or animals. To quote Harry Patch, last surviving veteran of World War I, who died in 2009, “War is organised murder and nothing else”.

Remembrance day is important and should be marked as a time of mourning for all those who have died in wars, not because they were heroes but because they were living beings whose lives were cut short. It should also be a time for regret and shame that we continue to consider war and preparation for war as acceptable.

Sue at the memorial 11/11/2012

For all humans and animals who have died, or are dying in wars.
For all those who have died or are dying because resources to feed or house them have gone to war preparations.
For all those who will die until we learn to live in peace.

[Jane Reynolds is a technical author and lives in Stuttgart.]