Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Green Surge in the European Election Polls

Whilst canvassing for the Green Party in the run up to the European Elections, I and other members have reported a very positive feel from the voters. This seems to now have gone into overdrive with the revelations in The Daily Telegragh about MP’s expense claims, which MP’s tried to suppress. The voters I have spoken to over the past week or so, have been pretty animated about the issue and many are saying that they will vote Green to register their disgust with the Westminster parties.

Who can blame them? MP’s have demonstrated their complete contempt for the public with these outrageous claims for non existent mortgages, swimming pools, moat cleaning and the rest. The belated remorse and the promise to pay back the most extravagant of the claims seems not to have impressed the electors either. One man put it like this, ‘if I stole a car and then returned it to the owner, I would still be charged with theft.’

All of this is now feeding through to the opinion polls for the European Parliament elections on 4th June. Polls appearing in the Sunday newspapers show a surge in support for UKIP, The Green Party and to a lesser extent the BNP.

It could be that people are reluctant to tell pollsters that they will vote for the BNP, so these polls may be understating support for the far right party, we will see.

The idea that UKIP will benefit is somewhat perplexing. They are the traditional vehicle for protest votes at European elections, but in this case they are a very strange home for voters protesting about dodgy expense claims. Two of their MEP’s have been thrown out of the party over dodgy dealings during the last Parliament, and often they have no intention of being hard working MEP’s, signalling their contempt for the EU generally, whilst turning up in Brussels every now again just to qualify for their payments.

The two sitting Green MEP’s, Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas, have worked tirelessly in the European Parliament for a diverse range of issues from scrapping the UK Working Time Directive opt out to making sure food is clearly labelled where it contains Genetically Modified foods.

A national opinion poll for ComRes/The Sunday Express at the weekend put Green Party support at 11%, almost double what is was in 2004 the last time Europe voted. Even better, the same poll put support within the south east of England at 16%, ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Other polls also show an increase in support for the Green Party.

If you want to vote for a party with an excellent reputation for integrity with policies to tackle unemployment, tax havens and disastrous climate change, think about voting Green.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Met Cover-Up

I attended the Metropolitan Police Authority’s monthly meeting at City Hall today, along with Anna Bragga, my fellow Haringey Green. We had both attended the G20 protest on April 1st, and have both since logged complaints with the IPCC. We were therefore very interested to hear what would be said about the tactics of the police during the event.

The public gallery was quite full with other protesters, including members of the group ‘Defend Peaceful Protest’ - my colleague Anna is an active member of this group. Although the public are meant to remain silent, it was often hard to do so, what with the bare-faced lies the Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin and Chris Allison, the Assistant Commissioner were regularly spouting. I literally sat there gasping as they liberally re-wrote recent history.

For example, according to Goodwin and Allison, the cordons were initially ‘filter cordons’, where you could go in and out at will. That certainly wasn’t our experience. We repeatedly tried to leave immediately after the cordon was formed – and we were given short shrift. Indeed, I was pushed by a policeman in the direction of the other protesters.

We were also told that the cordons were loosened during several times during the day to let people out. There were shouts of derision from the public gallery at this claim.

We heard that police didn’t stop people and ask for I.D…funny, that’s exactly what DID happen to both Anna and I, the minute we stepped of the bus at Liverpool Street. We were questioned for 10 minutes about why we were there, and asked for photo I.D. A policeman told us that they had stopped lots of people with “bricks and stuff” and that they wanted to protect us. Curiously, there is no mention of finding these “bricks and stuff” in the official account of events – just the discovery of fake police uniforms. I suspect this copper was employing scare tactics, designed to discourage us from attending the protest.

Whilst the policeman attempted to fill us with fear, our details were radioed through and we were checked for criminal convictions. When they found us to be clean, they let us go. But less than an hour later we were trapped in the kettle.

As Jeanette Arnold, MPA member said, “If that’s not unlawful arrest, I don’t know what is.” There was resounding applause.

I couldn’t help but laugh when the problem of the ‘missing’ police I.D numbers was dismissed as a ‘wardrobe malfunction’. Better Velcro is to be used in future, apparently. Velcro is the answer to police corruption… ‘Fashion tape’ would be my recommendation – they sell it at Oasis, I believe…

As I suspected might happen, the Met are keen to see this is a problem with just a few officers (“we have a small number of serious issues we need to deal with” was how they put it) rather than a systemic failure. But a few days before the protests, Met officials were claiming “We’re up for it”. Sounds pretty confrontational, doesn’t it?
The overriding attitude that day from the police was aggressive, uncooperative and intimidating. This wasn’t just a question of a few officers being out of line – this was a problem which came from the top down.

The whiff of corruption in that chamber was overpowering. I hope that the MPA members, Jenny Jones included, will work tirelessly to expose this and not accept fob-offs or lies, which is clearly what they are already being offered by the Met. See:


Healthy Debate

Last night I attended a meeting of the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition. The purpose of the meeting was to plan the key issues to focus upon and the ways in which the group is going to campaign.

The coalition has had some notable successes over the years. Less doctors surgeries are going to move into the Hornsey Polyclinic than was at first suggested, meaning that less people in the area will lose their local surgeries – hopefully. This makes sense not just from a practical point of view – who feels like travelling when they are ill? – but also from an environmental perspective.

The group also have done much to encourage the PCT to carry out consultations, though this still doesn’t always happen. Last year the Highgate baby clinic closed with one week’s notice, and with no consultation at all. Also, consultations can often be a paper exercise, with decisions made before the public have their say.

Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition have been tireless in attending the council’s overview and scrutiny committee and demanding that councillors act in the best interest of the health of residents. The group feel, though, that they usually do not get listened to – and they were famously chucked out of a meeting, of course!

It was agreed to make the broad issues for the campaign to be fighting cuts and opposing creeping/galloping privatisation. I stressed that we need to make sure that the campaign has a local focus: people generally won’t get interested unless they know how the cuts/privatisation will affect them and their families. Local GPs closing down will impact on people’s lives very quickly, and very negatively.

But the issue isn’t simple. A Unison representative at the meeting said that in the East of the borough, there are lots of ‘crap doctors’, and that fighting to keep them working would be pointless.

Another interesting piece of information that the Unison rep imparted was that yesterday some of the mental health patients from St. Ann’s Hospital had been moved to Edgware. The reason for this is that some of the wards at St Ann’s have been declared unfit for human habitation. Anyone who saw the recent photos of some of the rooms inside the hospital would certainly agree.

A productive meeting, then, with many new people attending, myself included. I suggested that we carry out our own consultation with residents, so that we can prove that we have the weight of public support behind us: it is easy to assume we know how other people feel, but as the issue of the ‘crap doctors’ illustrates, things are rarely black and white. We need to engage with the complex issues and problems within the NHS and offer tangible solutions, whether at a local or national level.