Tag Archives: Equality

Growth – The Elephant in the Room

Charlotte Farrell, Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak and candidate for Hope Valley in the Local Elections says…

?????????????????????????????To date I’ve attended five hustings, and at each the questions about the economy and austerity come up. The other 4 parties all talk about the need for growth to get us out of austerity. They say that with better economic growth the country will once again be able to start spending and austerity will come to an end. Every time, I make the point that we cannot have infinite growth in a finite world and that we need to rethink our whole economic plan. However, it feels as if my words fall into a void and nobody quite hears them.

I am never picked up on what I say, though I would dearly like to expound on why continued growth is bad; it’s as if there is a conspiracy not to validate mine or the Green Party’s position generally by asking the serious questions that arise from it.

Of course this may be the truth. It seems so blindingly obvious that we cannot continue to grow in the manner we are doing. Whereby the world’s population (and by that I mean the population of the wealthiest countries) continues to use more each year in terms of raw materials than the planet can replace in that time, and to throw out more waste, atmospheric and real, than the planet can deal with in the same time frame.

It seems that the other parties have no answer for this conundrum; but rather than admit it (or better still work towards finding an answer) they choose to ignore it altogether. Ostrich like, they cover their ears in the hope it will go away.

I am not denying that all of the parties recognise some need to avert climate change (except UKIP who seemingly do not believe in it); and that even under the coalition there has been some increase in renewable energy consumption, but until they address the fundamental issue of growth, their attempts will not be enough to avert global economic, environmental and social disaster.

I have always struggled with maths and so never bothered with economics. I thought it was just something for those much more intelligent than I, but now I realise that most politicians also don’t understand economics. What they do is support the existing system, either because they’re devoid of ideas for anything better, or to protect their own vested interests.

Under the present system we have to keep growing. That is because if we base our economy on debt, as is the case (97% of all “money” in circulation was originally created by the high street banks as debt); to create sufficient to pay it back (not to mention the interest) we have to produce more. And so it fuels a vicious circle.

Of course it’s difficult and unpopular to challenge the status quo and that is the reason the Green Party is constantly derided by the media, but sooner or later politicians are going to have to face up to the ‘elephant in the room’ – the question of infinite growth in a finite world.

If we’re going to exist within the limits of what our one planet can give us then one of the first things we need to accept is that there needs to be a redistribution of wealth. If we don’t have growth, then that which we have has to be shared a lot more equally than it currently is, both globally and nationally.

Again, our debt-based monetary system predicates against this. In a debt based economy the poor acquire more debt simply to live, while the rich, who do not need to borrow, acquire the benefit through tangible assets such as property, stocks and shares and the other trappings of privilege.

I believe that it will be hard to reach the kind of steady state economy we need while wedded to the old monetary system. How can something as fundamental as the creation of money, be left in the hands of those who profit most from its production? The banking system has failed us, but rather than think about a better way, we simply tinker at the edges and let it continue largely unmolested.

The Green Party wants to see money creation removed from the banks and given back to state control. This in fact used to be the case until computers did away with the need for there always to be a tangible real bit of money on the other side of the debt. Under the Green Party’s plans the National Monetary Authority would control the production of money, issuing it as and when needed straight into the real economy. It would be used (amongst other things) to build houses, schools, hospitals and railways etc and as these were built the money would filter down through the workers’ pay into the local economy.

I admit its difficult looking at things from the present position to see how we would get to that state or how we would achieve this; but that in itself is no reason not to work towards finding a way.

The destruction of the planet and our economic system go hand in hand. We desperately need to change both before its too late. If nothing else, I hope that with Green Party candidates standing in 90% of parliamentary seats this message gets across loud and clear, so long as it does, I won’t mind how often the media chose to mock us because ultimately I believe we will be heard.

Green Party candidate contact details

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

Greens Challenge Channel 4

Matthew CropMatthew Bain Challenges Channel 4

“In the wake of Channel 4 broadcasting Martin Durkin’s hour-long tribute to Nigel Farage (‘Nigel Farage: Who Do You Think You Are?’) which the Daily Telegraph described as “so cloying even UKIP fans would find it sickly”, I hope that Channel 4 will now consider making a documentary tribute to Caroline Lucas.

Unlike Farage, Lucas is an elected MP who has been voted into Parliament, not just the creation of a media hype storm. Unlike Farage, Caroline Lucas represents a real breakthrough in British politics, bringing the Green point of view into the mainstream, not just representing a retrograde group of little Englanders. Unlike Farage, the Green agenda that Caroline Lucas pursues is of utmost importance to the wellbeing and survival of our species, not a series of parochial and petty whinges. Unlike Farage, Lucas’ Green approach seeks to unite people across Europe and the world in defence of a common enemy – climate change – not divide people and set them against the poor and downtrodden.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305Moreover, Caroline Lucas is willing to put herself on the line and get arrested in defence of what she believes in — out there on the front line, not in the snug bar like Farage. And Caroline Lucas is a woman who has come up from the grassroots of politics through her own hard work and intelligence, though Channel 4 probably don’t care about that as you clearly prefer to give free party-political broadcasts to Farage, an ex-merchant banker who consorts with Murdoch and is funded by the same dodgy money as our other useless politicians. I sincerely look forward to watching an hour-long Channel 4 film on Caroline Lucas, who in my opinion is the finest politician operating in this country today, but I won’t hold my breath.

Yours faithfully,

Matthew Bain

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 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.’

Business as Usual at Davos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Mike Shipley, February 2012]

The Equality Trust

The Equality Trust was established by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book ‘The Spirit Level’ which presents their research into the influence of inequality in developed countries.

The Trust aims to disseminate this information through a programme of public and political education designed to achieve:

  • a widespread understanding of the harm caused by income inequality
  • public support for policy measures to reduce income inequality
  • the political commitment to implementing such policy measures

The Trust is non-partisan and calls on all political parties to prioritise this issue.

Why More Equality?

The authors thirty years research shows that in rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. They produced an index of health and social problems, amalgamating comparable data collected by agencies within 21 developed countries in Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The index combined scores for 10 factors:

Life Expectancy                  Maths and literacy

Infant mortality                 Homicides

Obesity                             Imprisonment

Mental illness & Addiction   Trust

Teenage pregnancy            Social mobility

More equal countries performed well for each of these indicators. With the combined results plotted against income equality, countries with higher levels of equality performed better than countries with lower levels of equality. The most equal countries were Japan in first place followed by the Scandinavian countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.    The countries with the highest scores for the above factors were Japan, again in first place, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands [9th for equality] and Switzerland [13th for equality] Finland and Denmark had slipped to 6th and 9th place respectively.

At the other end of the table, the least equal country was the USA followed by Portugal, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. For the combined index, the USA was again on the bottom followed by Portugal, the UK, Greece, and New Zealand. Considering each of these 10 factors separately and plotting each against equality, the USA, the most powerful and therefore presumed by some to be the most successful country in the world, was consistently on the bottom, with Japan at the top. The UK closely followed the USA.

The Authors have shown that more economic growth in developed countries will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being across rich countries. People doing similar jobs in Japan and Scandinavia, generally earn less that they would in the USA, but they have a higher sense of well-being.

With greater equality in the UK, the authors conclude that we would be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

– Murder rates would halve
– Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
– Obesity would halve
– Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
– Teen births would reduce by 80%
– Levels of trust would increase by 85%

Not just poor people do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most.

These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

For more information, resources and up to date news, visit the Trust website:

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

Or, read ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, published by Penguin Books.

It should be noted the policies of the ConDem coalition would lead to an increase in inequality, with the cuts hitting the least well of and the big business sector resuming bonus business as usual. Performance of the UK in the above 10 indicators, can be expected to decline. 

Caroline Lucas Demands Fair Pay For Women

Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas

“The fact that less than 11% of board members in major British companies are female is a damning indictment of this government’s failure to offer a coherent strategy for fighting inequality and championing women’s rights. What’s more, given that fewer than 20% of MPs are female, Brown and Harman would do well to look closer to home and actively address why women also continue to be marginalised in the political world.

On Monday, International Women’s Day, the Green party launched its manifesto for women. The Greens support the introduction of quotas to ensure that boards of major companies are at least 40% female, based on the model already successfully implemented in Norway, and being considered in France. Further, we would insist that all large and medium-size companies carry out equal pay audits and redress inequalities uncovered; and that the law be changed to make joint suits for equal pay cases simpler. We also propose better provisions for maternity and paternity leave – with a focus on paid paternity – to make sure that responsibilities are shared.

Greens, unlike politicians from the grey Westminster parties, have the courage in our convictions to propose the kinds of solutions we need if we are to secure a fairer deal for women.”