Saturday, 17 December 2011

We need to design a new economic order


I want a debate about how we move away from today's failed economic order and build a new one that is socially just and ecologically sustainable.

In a month dominated by the political and economic crisis in Europe, those of us following events at the COP17 climate summit in Durban took what little hope we could from the talks.

Politically, there was some success in the form of a roadmap towards a new treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol. The fact that this new agreement to cut emissions, which will have legal force, is to include the United States, as well as the fast growing economies such as China, India and Brazil, is encouraging.

Sadly, it says a great deal about people's faith in the UN climate negotiations process that, after so many summits and empty pledges over the years, an agreement "in principle" to tackling climate change without much in the way of substance could still be hailed as an overall success.

But at least we do now have an international consensus on the need to cut emissions. The real tragedy is that our government will completely fail to rise to the challenge in the post-Durban, euro crisis landscape - and seize the opportunity to build a different kind of economy.

Drowning out calls for the coalition to deliver on its green pledges and invest in the low-carbon industries which can help lift us out of recession and create jobs, are those who frame the debate as a false choice between "going green" and keeping the economy on track.

And drowning out news about critical decisions made in Durban has been the coverage of the prime minister's euro-sceptic swaggering at the Brussels summit, where he singularly failed to defend the interests of the people of Britain who, like Europeans, are threatened by a financial crisis that could result in the loss of their homes, their life savings and livelihoods.

Preventing financial meltdown was, after all, the purpose of the summit. Instead, Britain used the occasion to defend the interests of a tiny minority - the 1% - that are the cause of the crisis, and that thrive on the back of taxpayer-backed subsidies in the City of London.

In answer to my question to the prime minister this week: "Why did he choose to conflate the interests of the nation, with the interests of the City of London?" no real explanation was offered.

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy appear hellbent on accelerating the crisis by intensifying austerity across the eurozone. This is likely to be explosive: in economic, political and social terms.

But for all their misguided approach to the consequences of the crisis - rising public debts - German and French politicians are clear about the causes: lax and loosely regulated financial centres like the Square Mile.

And in that analysis they are not wrong. The City of London is set, once again, to play a major causal role in the coming financial catastrophe.

The reason is not hard to find. This week we learned about the impotence of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in dealing with bankers at RBS that destroyed a bank, caused many to lose their jobs, and stripped British taxpayers of £45bn.

That's £45bn which could have been used to keep millions of young people in employment for a considerable time, to support renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to create jobs and help those in fuel poverty, or to pay more nurses and teachers.

Payday lenders have scuttled across the Atlantic to avoid the anti-usury laws of Canada and the United States, and found refuge in what the FT calls the "singularly attractive market" that is the City of London - where there are no usury laws.

According to Thomson Reuters, the City's "lax and loose regulation" allows companies, like the recently bankrupted MFGlobal, to gamble with money that belongs to clients and then " …to finance an enormous $6.2bn eurozone repo bet … a position more than five times the firm's book value, or net worth."

It is this kind of financial speculation that once again threatens not just Europe, but the global economy.

Occupy Wall St protesters at St. Paul's are exploring alternatives to this failed system of financial liberalisation. Even the Bank of England, in papers published this week, is considering a transformation away from deregulation towards a rules-based system, that constrains capital mobility and secures stability and "internal balance" for countries like Britain.

Our politicians should be debating these profoundly important issues. They should be leading us out of this global financial morass, towards a more just, stable and sustainable future.

But they are not. Across the political spectrum - from Ed Balls, to Ed Miliband, to Nick Clegg and David Cameron - we are governed by politicians that have all promoted and defended the current neo-liberal system: "light touch regulation".

They are all part of the design team that brought you credit crunch 1.0 and that is about to deliver credit crunch 2.0.

The fact that the government has confirmed it will not support a financial transactions tax such as the Robin Hood tax, or offer anything new to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, tells us all we need to know about the commitment to social justice amongst the cabinet's millionaire ministers.

So I want to appeal for a debate about how we transform our economic system away from today's failed economic order - designed to serve the interests of the City of London's 1% - and instead build a new one.

One that is socially just and ecologically sustainable. One that provides useful and meaningful employment for all and strengthens our communities. We can and must find a better way of bringing people closer together and building a better society, while operating within the limits of the ecosystem.

Why will my fellow politicians not engage in these debates? The system we have is catastrophically impaired, yet our leaders remain prostrate before neoliberalism - an ideology that has destroyed jobs and firms, ruined the life-chances of millions, while enriching crooks, thieves and oligarchs. I call on others to join me in calling on our political leaders to match progressive politics with meaningful action, and in taking a principled stand to challenge the deeply corrupt financial system that has plunged us into environmental and economic crisis.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader
The article was first published in The Guardian

Monday, 12 December 2011

Haringey sends a huge ‘message of hope’ across the world




Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty International again teamed up with Haringey Green Party to send messages of hope to political prisoners and individuals at risk around the world.

The ‘Greetings Card Campaign’, run by Amnesty International each Christmas, is an effective way of highlighting the plight of individuals and groups around the world, and often results in people’s safety being secured and prisoners being released.

On Sunday, residents from across the borough flocked to Stroud Green’s Hornsey Vale Community Centre to sign cards and enjoy homemade mince pies and Christmas cake.

This is the fourth year the event has been held, and this year an impressive 422 cards and letters were signed in total.

Green Party London Assembly member – and Green Party candidate for London Mayor – Jenny Jones was in attendance this year. Jenny commented, “The very simple act of sending greetings cards to these individuals and groups is extraordinarily effective. Receiving thousands of cards from people all around the world gives these victimised people strength and also shows the authorities that these people cannot be simply made to ‘disappear'.”

One of the recipients of the cards this year is Filep Karma of Indonesia who was arrested in 2004 after taking part in a peaceful ceremony. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for 'rebellion'.

Jenny Jones added, “It was a really special afternoon and we’d like to thank everyone who came along and took part. We can now send our messages of hope across the world – and they really will make a difference.”

Friday, 9 December 2011

Lib Dem Equality Minister opposes equality


Featherstone backs discrimination against heterosexuals & pro-gay religions

Peter Tatchell, Coordinator of the Equal Love campaign and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, writes on the Liberal Democrat Voice website:

http://bit.ly/sROR3t

Lib Dems should stick to their principles and urge Lynne not to renege on equality pledge

Bravo to the Liberal Democrat party conference. Two years ago, party members voted overwhelmingly to end the twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. They committed a future Lib Dem government to scrap sexual orientation discrimination in marriage and partnership law. Well done. Thank you.

Sadly, the Lib Dem Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone, apparently with the support of the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is now actively backing discrimination. She plans to keep unequal laws, contrary to the Lib Dem's election pledges.

Specifically, Lynne is vowing to retain the prohibition on heterosexual civil partnerships and on religious same-sex marriages by faith organisations that want to conduct them. This is in direct defiance of what her party members voted for: equality.

Nick Clegg has not dissented from her stance. We can only assume that he endorses it.

Lynne is lovely. I like her as a person. However, she has announced a long and unjustified delay in the government's promised consultation on civil marriage and civil partnership; pre-empting the consultation findings by ruling out straight and religious equality.

She said at the start of this year that the consultation would begin in June. Then she postponed it until October. Now it has been put off until March next year. Why can't the consultation start now? Despite all our requests, Lynne has failed to explain why this delay is necessary.

I am not persuaded that there needs to be any consultation at all. The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should therefore be repealed immediately.

If black or Jewish people had been banned from marriage, the government would act swiftly to ensure marriage equality. There would be no long drawn out consultation period. There would be no appeasement of racists and anti-Semites. Why the double standards?

No other government legislation is being subjected to such prolonged consultation and repeated postponements.

The Scottish government has not hesitated. It's consultation on marriage and partnership equality is already underway. Why is the UK Equality Minister dragging her feet and delaying her consultation until next spring? It doesn't make sense.

The Westminster government has promised to legislate marriage equality before the date of the next election, due by May 2015 at the latest. However, the delayed consultation could result in the measure not completing its parliamentary progress in time. Likely resistance by the House of Lords might result in its being timed out. Is this deliberate?

Ending sexual orientation discrimination in marriage law is not only the right thing to do, it has majority public support. There is, therefore, no reason for the government to delay in bringing forward legislation to end this legal iniquity.

Nearly two-thirds of the public support marriage equality. According to a 2009 Populous opinion poll, 61% of the public say that lesbian and gay couples should be allowed by law to get married:

http://www.populuslimited.com/the-times-the-times-gay-britain-poll-100609.html

Lynne Featherstone's gay marriage consultation announcement looks like an attempt to head off the Equal Love - www.equallove.org.uk - legal case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR.

In February, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples filed an application in the ECHR to overturn sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.

Speaking as the appeal coordinator, I can say we are quietly confident that we will win the case - eventually (an ECHR ruling can take four years).

The current UK ban on straight couples having a civil partnership is clear discrimination. Lynne's commitment to maintain this inequality is both surprising and shocking. It is wrong for her to exclude in advance any discussion about opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

I stand for equality and this includes equality for straight people too. It would be wrong for the LGBT community to demand equal rights for ourselves and then ignore or accept the denial of equality to heterosexual people. In a democracy we should all be equal before the law.

There are many heterosexuals who would like a civil partnership. To deny them this option is very unfair - and it is illegal under human rights law. How can a Lib Dem Equality Minister support inequality?

The Netherlands has an equivalent to civil partnerships. Called registered partnerships, they are open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The vast majority of Dutch civil partnerships are heterosexual ones. They are hugely popular and would be equally popular in the UK, if the government allowed straight couples to have them. To deny British heterosexuals the option of a civil partnership is profoundly wrong and unjust.

This is bad enough. However, Lynne has also ruled that her consultation will not consider the option of ending the ban on religious marriages for lesbian and gay couples, even though some faith organisations - such as the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews - have requested that they should be allowed to marry same-sex partners. Lynne says no. She says the ban must stay. This is a violation of religious freedom. While no religious body should be forced to perform same-sex marriages, those that support gay marriage should not be barred by law from doing so.

I appeal to Lynne - and Nick Clegg - to rethink this ill-considered consultation timetable and its pro-discrimination parameters - to both ensure non-discrimination and to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the European Court of Human Rights.

It is outrageous that the Equality Minister wants to maintain the unequal, discriminatory laws that bar gay religious marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. Her stance is not compatible with her professed Liberal Democrat values or with the wishes of the vast majority of Lib Dem party members.

If you share my concerns, I urge you to email Lynne Featherstone via her Equality Office senior officials, Emma Reed: Emma.Reed@geo.gsi.gov.uk and Lucy Phipps: Lucy.Phipps@geo.gsi.gov.uk

Your help could ensure a much needed rethink. Thank you, Peter Tatchell

To sign the Equal Love petition go to: www.equallove.org.uk For more information about Peter Tatchell's human rights campaigns and to make a donation: www.petertatchell.net

Note: This article was published this week on the Liberal Democrat Voice website:

http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-peter-tatchell-writes-lib-dems-should-stick-to-their-principles-and-urge-lynne-not-to-renege-on-equality-pledge-25888.html

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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Haringey Sends a Message of Hope



Haringey residents will have the chance this week to send greetings cards to people at risk around the world. An event, held jointly by Haringey Green Party and Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty International will take place on Sunday, 11th December, 2pm ‘till 5pm, at Hornsey Vale Community Centre, Mayfield Road, Stroud Green. It is the fourth consecutive year the event has been held here, with residents signing no fewer than 482 cards in one afternoon last December.

The event is part of Amnesty International’s annual Greetings Card Campaign. This campaign puts people across the world in touch with each other in a simple way – by sending a card with a friendly greeting or message of solidarity to someone who is in danger or unjustly imprisoned.

The recipients of the cards are prisoners of conscience, people under sentence of death, human rights defenders under threat because of their work, and others at risk.

One of the people Amnesty have asked signers to send cards to this year is Filep Karma of Indonesia who was arrested in 2004 after taking part in a peaceful ceremony. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for 'rebellion'.

The very act of sending these cards offers hope and encouragement to the people who receive them. It can also help bring about change - the impression their international mail makes on police, prison staff or political authorities can help keep these individuals safe.
Participants will be offered homemade Christmas cake and mince pies.

Green Party London Mayoral candidate and London Assembly member Jenny Jones will be in attendance, signing cards alongside residents.

For more information about the Amnesty International Greetings Card Campaign see

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=12138

Friday, 25 November 2011

Public Sector Unions set to Strike on 30th November


On Wednesday 30th November, probably millions of public sector workers will take industrial action in opposition to the ConDem government’s attack on their pensions. From nurses to teachers, from local authority staff to civil servants, this promises to be a dramatic statement of rejection of the government’s plans to make public servants work longer, pay more into their pensions, and receive less when they retire.

The unions taking part, with the ballot results are as follows:

AEP 64% for strike action
ASPECT 75.1% for strike action
ATL (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
CSP 86% England & Wales for strike action (89.1% Scotland)
FDA 81% for strike action
GMB 83.7% for strike action
NAHT 75.8% for strike action
NASUWT 82% for strike action
NUT (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
PCS (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
Prospect 75% for strike action
SCP 85.3% for strike action
SOR 86% for strike action
UCATT 83% for strike action
UCU (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
Unison 82% for strike action
Unite 75% for strike action

The government spin has been all about ‘gold plated’ public sector pensions, but in reality, the average public sector pension (median, i.e. the one that 50% will receive) is a paltry £5,600 per year. Not even copper plated, let alone gold plated. The government is trying to divide and rule, by pointing to the private sector, where most workers are not in inflation linked pensions, as the model for the public sector. It has long been an attraction of public sector employment that although the pay is lower than in the private sector, at least the pensions were reliable. Indeed two in three private sector workers have no workplace pension at all. These workers without a pension should not direct their anger at public sector workers, but should be livid at the extraordinary costs of providing pensions' tax relief, with two-thirds of the £30 billion bill going to higher rate taxpayers.

This latest assault on public sector pensions comes after the government reduced the rate at which pension’s rise, by moving from the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which excludes housing costs, and generally runs at about 1% less than RPI. Whilst at the same, the government refuses to do anything about pay, bonuses and the pension arrangements of those in boardrooms of private corporations, even the banks, some which are publically owned, and most of who received bail outs from the public purse.

But we are well used to this kind of hypocrisy from the government, where everything possible must be done to encourage the so called ‘wealth creators’, who are really responsible for creating chaos and poverty in our economy, but are revered rather like rock stars. I’ve never understood why rich people need to be paid more to encourage them to work harder, but poorer people need to be paid less.

The Green party supports public sector workers in this fight for fair treatment and our two London Assembly Members, Jenny Jones and Darren Johnston will not be going to work on 30th November, as a statement of solidarity with those taking action. There is a march in London, starting at 12.00 noon from Lincoln Inns Field to a rally at Victoria Embankment, plus a protest at the GLA building at 12 noon also. There are hundreds of events planned all over the country on the day, check here for details.

Locally, there will be a rally in support of the industrial action at the College Of North East London (CONEL) at 10am on the day and Haringey Alliance for Public Services (HAPS) is intending to visit picket lines around the borough, to give support to striking workers. Please join them as it is good for morale when the public shows support for their cause. There is also a protest at Haringey Civic Centre, beginning 12.00 noon.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

How to Save the Economy: A One-off 20% Tax on the Richest 10%


Britain faces the biggest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, including the potential for economic meltdown and a second Great Depression lasting a decade or more.

The government's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has suggested that we are facing a crisis similar to wartime, with our national future at stake. In these circumstances, we need bold, imaginative and radical measures to fix the economy.

Britain has a national debt of around £950 billion and a government deficit heading towards £200 billion. The government's solution is swingeing cuts in public services and consequent massive job losses. It even claims that cuts are the only option left.

Not true. There are serious alternatives.

As well as closing tax avoidance schemes, which could raise an extra £20 billion a year, there is a strong case for a national emergency tax on the fabulously wealthy, which could raise staggering sums - enough to clear the government deficit, pay off most of the national debt, kick-start the economy and avoid the need for damaging, painful cuts in jobs and public services.

The current economic crisis is so grave that it merits a 'save the nation' one-off 20% tax on the personal wealth of richest 10% of the population, as proposed by Professor Greg Philo and the Glasgow Media Group.

The wealthiest 10% of the population have combined personal assets totalling £4 million, million pounds. This is a million pounds multiplied 4 million times. These are the people who have five plus million pound homes (often several of them), plus private yachts and jets and vast art collections. They can easily afford a once-only 20% tax on their immense wealth. Selling off one of their six houses, a Lamborghini or a Jackson Pollack painting won't cause them to suffer.

Such a tax would raise a massive £800 billion. This is enough to pay off the entire government deficit more than four times over - or it could be used to clear most of the national debt.

A reduction in the national debt would dramatically cut the government's huge debt interest payments, which amount to around £48 billion a year. This is a vast sum of money that would be better spent on schools, hospitals, pensions and job-creation.

Alternatively, and even more useful in terms of reviving the economy, the £800 billion (or part of it) could be used to fund the proposed Green New Deal.

Modelled on Roosevelt's 1930s New Deal, which got America back to work and ended the Great Depression, this Green New Deal would create lots of green jobs in energy conservation, renewable energy, public transport and affordable homes; simultaneously helping remedy climate destruction and kick-starting economic recovery.

The Green New Deal could ensure that Britain leads the world in sustainable economics and green technologies, opening up new export markets and boosting our economic revival for many decades to come.

According to a YouGov poll in June 2010, 74% of the public favour a one-off tax on the richest people in Britain. Only 10% oppose it.

With great wealth comes great responsibility. The mega rich have the capacity and responsibility to help the country out of the mess we are in. They benefited disproportionately from the boom times. Now that times are tough they should contribute disproportionately to get the British economy back in shape.

Put bluntly: The super rich have a patriotic duty to help save the economy by paying more tax. If they love Britain, they will be willing to do this, in order to help us win through the current economic crisis.

Contributing more tax is in the interest of those with huge wealth. If the economy fails, their losses will be even more than the greater tax they are being asked to pay. By giving more to the exchequer now they would be doing the morally right thing for the country and its citizens. They would also, by helping save the economy, also save most of their own riches. It's enlightened self-interest.

Written by Peter Tatchell and first published at The Huffington Post

For more information about Peter Tatchell's human rights and social justice campaigns: www.petertatchell.net

Friday, 18 November 2011

Shell Death Rope - In Memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Shell Death Rope - In Memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa from You and I Films on Vimeo.


On the 9th of November 2011 at a Shell-sponsored awards ceremony in the swanky corporate offices of the CBI (Britain’s biggest business lobby group), young entrepreneurs are looking towards a bright future.
Sixteen years ago, Shell made sure that Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other young Nigerian activists had no future. On 10th November 1995, Shell was complicit in their execution at the hands of the Nigerian military government for campaigning against the devastation of their homeland the Niger Delta by oil companies, in particular Shell.

And every day, all over the world – from building dodgy pipelines in Rossport, Ireland, to mining the world’s most polluting oil from the Canadian tar sands – Shell’s oil exploration and extraction activities undermine our collective future by pushing us ever closer to the brink of climate catastrophe. At the same time, it rakes in billions in profit every month, while the rest of us struggle to get by.

Shell doesn’t want us to remember these horrific things. So it channels a miniscule fraction of its obscene profits into sponsoring events like Livewire – not to mention most of the major arts and cultural institutions in London.

That’s why we’re here tonight: to remember – and to resist.

Nigeria: Shell’s dirty secret

The hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni colleagues – whose only crime was to speak out for environmental and social justice – caused shock and outrage around the world. But whatever we might like to think, the human rights abuses perpetrated by Shell continue to this day. Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbate armed conflict, and oil spills and gas flaring continue to devastate the fragile environment of the Niger Delta and the lives of the people who live there. But resistance continues as well; the UN has issued a damning report on the ecological impact of oil spills in Ogoni, and Shell was recently forced to admit liability and pay out millions of pounds in compensation for two massive oil spills after a lawsuit filed in London.

Sponsorship: buying us off

Sponsorship of events like Livewire is one of the most important ways Shell tries to protect its reputation and buy our acceptance. By sponsoring a social 'good' like an award to help young entrepreneurs, the oil giant is able to represent itself as a responsible organisation, and distract our attention from its environmental and social crimes around the world. By being here tonight, we strike a blow to Shell’s precious brand, chip away at Shell’s powerful position in our society, and move towards the day when Big Oil – like Big Tobacco – is no longer seen as a socially acceptable.

Remember climate change?

Climate change may have disappeared from the news recently, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is already claiming 300,000 lives a year. Glaciers, permafrost and sea ice are disappearing. Sea levels are rising, seasons changing and extreme weather becoming more extreme. As temperatures rise, we’ll see more flooding, more drought, more disease, more famine and more war, creating hundreds of millions of refugees and causing the destruction of entire ecosystems and species.

We can’t afford to forget about climate change – or the fact that companies like Shell are at the heart of the problem.

For more information and to get involved:

risingtide.org.uk
Twitter: @shelldeathrope and @risingtide_UK

Thursday, 17 November 2011

French Citizens Abroad – Electoral Changes


London holds the largest French community outside France, with over 300,000 people and there are currently four Green MP’s in the French parliament. Do you know any French people in your neighbourhood? The French Greens (Europe Ecologie/Les Verts or EELV) need to reach as many Green French people as possible, because next year, for the first time ever, French citizens based abroad will be electing eleven MP’s to represent them.

As a long term resident of Britain I am delighted, but many of my compatriots are not registered at their consulate and would therefore be missing out. So, please tell all the French people you know, or meet, to register at their general consulate by 31 December 2011.

We have a real chance to get a Green MP for northern Europe: our candidate for this constituency is Olivier Bertin. Based in London since 1992, Olivier is 43 and was a candidate for the Green party in last year’s local elections in London. He worked as a PE teacher and started a bilingual infant school last January. Since 2001, he has been the elected representative of the UK’s French People Abroad (AFE). He is especially interested in people’s rights and civil liberties and is regularly involved in Amnesty International’ campaigns.

French citizens in London (and elsewhere abroad) should contact their consulate to register. EELV’s UK’s secretary is Alexis Baudon, who you can email at alexisbaudon@yahoo.fr.

Written by Yvan Maurel
Cardiff Green Party and EELV UK

Monday, 14 November 2011

Green Party Leader Addresses Occupy LSX



A rousing speech by Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader to the Occupy London SX at St Paul's last week.

Caroline has set the pace amongst politicians in embracing the Occupy movement, which has taken the establishment politicians by surprise.

The movement offers hope, for all those people who have lost faith in contemporary politics, let's take this movement forward.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Poppies and Anti War Sentiment


The wearing of a red poppy at this time of year, in the approach to Remembrance Sunday, is a well-established practice in Britain. It is virtually impossible to see anyone on television who is not wearing a poppy, so ingrained has become the convention. Indeed, it seems to me that there is a kind of moral bullying of people, especially if they are appearing on television, to conform to this national ritual.

In recent years, the wearing of a white poppy has grown in popularity amongst those (mainly on the political left) as a way of showing respect to the war dead, whilst at the same time as making an anti-war statement. Personally, I have worn both red and white poppies, but tend not wear any poppy at all, but I do sometimes buy one or the other, and put it in a drawer. I am anti-war, of course, but I don’t see the motive of those displaying a red poppy as pro-war, rather they are bowing to convention with some vague notion of showing respect for those who fought and died, and in the case of the World War 2, in a noble cause.

We have had the ridiculous spectacle this week of the media being saturated with the story of the English and Welsh football teams being denied permission by FIFA, to wear a red poppy emblem on their shirts in football matches this weekend. We must never have played international games on this weekend before, because I can’t ever remember this being an issue before. The Prime Minister even vented his fury in Parliament at the decision, when surely this country has more to worry about at the moment than this issue?

I have to say, I have some sympathy for FIFA’s decision, to ban all political and religious emblems from football shirts. Whatever detractors say to the contrary, the poppy (red or white) is a political symbol. Although most people would agree that World War 2 was a ‘just war’, what about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands? These wars were highly political and controversial and are seen as so, and in large parts of the world this would cause offence. What if the Argentine football team wanted to wear some emblem associated with their claim for sovereignty of the Falkland Islands?

A compromise was achieved, and the football players can now wear the red poppy on a black arm band, though how this differs from the front of the shirt is difficult to see.

The wearing of red poppies began after World War 1, as a fundraiser for injured soldiers and to show remembrance for those fallen soldiers, in what was a disgusting slaughter of mainly young working class men, sent to their deaths by an uncaring military and political establishment, in the cause of imperial domination. A war that, after four years of millions of casualties on both sides, the winning Allies side, had advanced by less than twenty miles, and inflicted unimaginable horror on those involved and which scarred a whole generation across Europe. It still amazes me that only in Russia, did the people rise up and remove those responsible for this most unjust of wars.

Wear your poppies, red or white, or don’t wear one at all, but remember the conflicting nature of whatever you do. I’ll leave the final word to the great Wilfred Owen, whose poetry did most to inform a nation of the true horror of modern warfare.

The Last Laugh

'Oh! Jesus Christ! I'm hit,' he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped-In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled,-Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.

Another sighed,-'O Mother, -Mother, - Dad!'
Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
Leisurely gestured,-Fool!
And the splinters spat, and tittered.

'My Love!' one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till slowly lowered, his whole faced kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
And the Gas hissed.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

How is Money Created?



This video gives much food for thought. The magical nature of 'money' is exposed as scam by the corporate banking system.

This system means that most people get screwed, and the banks' carry on making huge profits, and paying their management massive salaries and bonuses.

It is nothing short of a scandal. So, why do we, the people put up with it?

Answers on a postcard etc, etc....

The video was produced by Postive Money.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion or the 1%?


This article was first published here

The United Nations says that the world's population will reach 7 billion people this month.

The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world's environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York's Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that "human overpopulation is driving species extinct." In London's busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich's bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, "the battle to feed humanity is over," and the 1970s would be a time of global famines and ever-rising death rates. His predictions were all wrong, but four decades later his successors still use Ehrlich's phrase -- too many people! -- to explain environmental problems.

But most of the 7 billion are not endangering the earth. The majority of the world's people don't destroy forests, don't wipe out endangered species, don't pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases.

Even in the rich countries of the Global North, most environmental destruction is caused not by individuals or households, but by mines, factories, and power plants run by corporations that care more about profit than about humanity's survival.

No reduction in U.S. population would have stopped BP from poisoning the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Lower birth rates won't shut down Canada's tar sands, which Bill McKibben has justly called one of the most staggering crimes the world has ever seen.

Universal access to birth control should be a fundamental human right -- but it would not have prevented Shell's massive destruction of ecosystems in the Niger River delta, or the immeasurable damage that Chevron has caused to rainforests in Ecuador.

Ironically, while populationist groups focus attention on the 7 billion, protestors in the worldwide Occupy movement have identified the real source of environmental destruction: not the 7 billion, but the 1%, the handful of millionaires and billionaires who own more, consume more, control more, and destroy more than all the rest of us put together.

In the United States, the richest 1% own a majority of all stocks and corporate equity, giving them absolute control of the corporations that are directly responsible for most environmental destruction.

A recent report prepared by the British consulting firm Trucost for the United Nations found that just 3,000 corporations cause $2.15 trillion in environmental damage every year. Outrageous as that figure is -- only six countries have a GDP greater than $2.15 trillion -- it substantially understates the damage, because it excludes costs that would result from "potential high impact events such as fishery or ecosystem collapse," and "external costs caused by product use and disposal, as well as companies' use of other natural resources and release of further pollutants through their operations and suppliers."

So in the case of oil companies, the figure covers "normal operations," but not deaths and destruction caused by global warming, not damage caused by worldwide use of its products, and not the multi-billions of dollars in costs to clean up oil spills. The real damage those companies alone do is much greater than $2.15 trillion, every single year.

The 1% also control the governments that supposedly regulate those destructive corporations. The millionaires include 46 per cent of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 54 out of 100 senators, and every president since Eisenhower.

Through the government, the 1% control the U.S. military, the largest user of petroleum in the world, and thus one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Military operations produce more hazardous waste than the five largest chemical companies combined. More than 10 per cent of all Superfund hazardous waste sites in the United States are on military bases.

Those who believe that slowing population growth will stop or slow environmental destruction are ignoring these real and immediate threats to life on our planet. Corporations and armies aren't polluting the world and destroying ecosystems because there are too many people, but because it is profitable to do so.

If the birth rate in Iraq or Afghanistan falls to zero, the U.S. military will not use one less gallon of oil.

If every African country adopts a one-child policy, energy companies in the U.S., China, and elsewhere will continue burning coal, bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe.

Critics of the too many people argument are often accused of believing that there are no limits to growth. In our case, that simply isn't true. What we do say is that in an ecologically rational and socially just world, where large families aren't an economic necessity for hundreds of millions of people, population will stabilize. In Betsy Hartmann's words, "The best population policy is to concentrate on improving human welfare in all its many facets. Take care of the population and population growth will go down."

The world's multiple environmental crises demand rapid and decisive action, but we can't act effectively unless we understand why they are happening. If we misdiagnose the illness, at best we will waste precious time on ineffective cures; at worst, we will make the crises worse.

The too many people argument directs the attention and efforts of sincere activists to programs that will not have any substantial effect. At the same time, it weakens efforts to build an effective global movement against ecological destruction: It divides our forces, by blaming the principal victims of the crisis for problems they did not cause.

Above all, it ignores the massively destructive role of an irrational economic and social system that has gross waste and devastation built into its DNA. The capitalist system and the power of the 1%, not population size, are the root causes of today's ecological crisis.

As pioneering ecologist Barry Commoner once said, "Pollution begins not in the family bedroom, but in the corporate boardroom."

The authors of this piece are:

Ian Angus is co author of Too Many People?

He is editor of the ecosocialist journal

Simon Butler is co author of Too Many People?

He is editor of the Australian based Green Left Weekly

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clean Energy Future Can Happen


A new report by The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows that almost all of our energy needs could be met without recourse to nuclear power, by tapping renewable power resources, developing carbon capture techniques and sharing energy across Europe.

Renewable sources of energy could meet between 60-90% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030. That’s a key finding of our new Positive Energy report, widely welcomed by businesses, individuals and organisations as a valuable contribution to the energy debate. More here

The report is further covered in The Guardian newspaper….

"This report is inspiring, but also entirely realistic. It shows that a clean, renewable energy future really is within our grasp," said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. "Failure to commit to a high-renewables future would leave us facing the prospect of dangerous levels of climate change and high energy prices." More here

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Occupy London SX TV Debate



This is a short discussion on the Occupy movement, between an oaf from the Tax Payers Alliance, which is a right wing pressure group, close to the Tory party, and Guardian journalist, Polly Toynbee. In my view, Polly spoils it a bit with her talk of 'good' capitalism, which is rather a contradiction in terms, but she shows up the bloke from Tax Payers Alliance as a shallow apologist for corporate capitalism.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Electoral Registration and Boundary Changes are Blatant Gerrymandering


The ConDem government’s proposals to reduce the number of Parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600 in total have been published by the Boundary Commission, and there is still time left for the public to have their say.

The government is spinning that this will save money and make MP’s work harder, coming as it does after the 2009 MP’s expenses scandal. They also claim that constituency boundaries need to be ‘equalised’ in terms of numbers of voters registered, as the present boundaries favour the Labour party, because many inner city constituencies have fewer voters than some of the larger rural constituencies, which predominately vote Conservative (or in some cases, Lib Dem).

There are sound geographical and cultural reasons for drawing boundary lines where they are in many areas, but this objective is to be scrapped by and large, with the overriding imperative now to equalise the numbers of registered voters in each constituency. This is a cynical attempt by the government to reduce the number of seats winnable by the Labour party, on the back of public disgust associated with the MP’s expenses scandal, and so make it more difficult for the Tory dominated coalition government to be kicked out of office.

Estimates of the number of seats to be lost across the UK by each of the political parties under the proposed changes, are that the Labour party will lose 25, the Tories 16 or 17, and the Lib Dems 10. This potentially would give the Tories an absolute majority in the House of Commons, if voting is the same as at the 2010 general election, in the next general election planned for 2015. So, it is easy to see why the Tories are keen to see these changes take place.

In Haringey, at present, the borough is divided into two Parliamentary constituencies, Hornsey and Wood Green, which has a Lib Dem MP, and Tottenham which has a Labour MP. The proposed boundary changes will see Hornsey and Wood Green lose Stroud Green ward to Tottenham but gain Bowes ward which is currently in Enfield Southgate constituency and in the borough of Enfield. Tottenham constituency will also gain Upper Edmonton (from Enfield) and lose Seven Sisters ward, which will become part of Hackney North constituency, and is in the borough of Hackney.

All of this will probably make little difference to who wins these seats at the next general election, as Tottenham is probably one of the safest Labour seats in the country, although it may be more difficult for the Lib Dems to retain Hornsey and Wood Green, given that the constituency will lose Stroud Green ward, which has three Lib Dem councillors, and gain Bowes ward, which has three Labour councillors, at local government level.

In a further twist, it is proposed that the law pertaining to electoral registration is also to be changed. At the moment, it is an offence for households, liable to a maximum fine of £1,000, to fail to comply with a request for information from electoral registration officers (EROs) or to give false information. This proposed change, will make voter registration ‘individual’ and also voluntary. Whilst this is being couched in terms of modernisation, i.e. doing away with the notional concept of ‘head of the household’ and leaving the responsibility to ‘individuals’, the voluntary nature of registering, is likely to reduce the number who do register. Local authorities will no longer be required by law to attempt to maximise the amount of registered voters, and voters will no longer be required to respond to requests about registering.

This policy has been described by Jenny Russell, the chair of the electoral commission, as the biggest change to voting since the introduction of the universal franchise. Russell warned: "It is logical to suggest that those that do not vote in elections will not see the point of registering to vote and it is possible that the register may therefore go from a 90% completeness that we currently have to 60-65%."

As many as 10 million voters, predominantly poor, young or black, and more liable to vote Labour, could fall off the electoral register under government plans, the Electoral Commission, electoral administrators and psephologists have warned.

So there we have it. A systematic attempt is being made to give us a permanent Conservative government, by manipulating the rules around the setting of election boundaries and the voter registration process. There is a word for this type of behaviour, gerrymandering, which is meant to be illegal, but the Tories seem to have found a way around the law. Don’t let them get away it, write protest letters, blogs, and anything else you can think of. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck with these bastards forever.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Green Party Achievements on the London Assembly


The elections for the London Mayor and London Assembly are on the 3rd May next year (2012). The Green Party campaign for these elections has begun, with a leafleting operation across London, and we in Haringey are in the process of leafleting our five best Green voting wards. Come the new year, the campaign will get into full throttle, in what promises to be very important elections, not only for London, but by reflection, for the rest of the country too. These elections can set the tone and context for national elections, to some extent.

So, it seems appropriate to list some of the key achievements of the Green Party Assembly Members over the last eleven years:

2000 Civil Partnerships

At the first ever Mayor’s Question Time Darren Johnson called on the Mayor to introduce a registration scheme for same-sex partners.

What happened next? A successful scheme was introduced, paving the way for civil partnerships legislation at national level.

2001 Thames Gateway Bridge

Greens began campaigning against Ken Livingstone’s plans for a new six-lane road bridge. As a price for supporting the Mayor’s 2005 budget the Greens called for the mayor to fund the objectors in order that the environmental case could be properly presented at the public inquiry.

What happened next? The public inquiry failed to give the go ahead for the bridge and the new Mayor Boris Johnson then abandoned it altogether.

2003 Climate change budget

Greens criticized Mayor Ken Livingstone’s budget for devoting just £300,000 per year to making London’s homes and buildings greener.

What happened next? In a series of budget deals with the then Mayor, Green AMs got the climate change budget at the London Development Agency increased to £8 million per year.

2004 Living Wage

As part of a budget deal Greens called on the Mayor to establish a Living Wage unit to tackle poverty pay in the capital.

What happened next? The GLA and a growing number of public and private sector bodies now pay the London Living Wage as a minimum.

2005 Leaking water mains

An investigation led by Darren Johnson highlighted the fact that a third of London’s drinking water was lost through leaking mains pipes.

What happened next? Following pressure from the Assembly Thames Water began a major mains replacement programme.

2006 Cycling budget

Jenny Jones commissioned a report which led to the setting of a target to increase cycling by 400% through the introduction of cycle hire, cycling superhighways and cycling hubs in outer London.

What happened next? The Greens AMs secured budget commitments from Ken Livingstone which led to a tripling of the budget for cycling and walking.

2008 Opposing Heathrow expansion

Darren Johnson led the Environment Committee investigation into Heathrow expansion. The report showed that the economic benefits were exaggerated and the environmental impacts understated.

What happened next? In 2010 the new Government abandoned Heathrow expansion, the Assembly’s all-party report playing an important role in establishing a broad political consensus.

2009 Road safety

Jenny Jones fought the closure of the Metropolitan Police Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which instructs HGV drivers on road sharing and awareness of vulnerable road users.

What happened next? This unit has now been reinstated within the traffic police section.

2010 Protecting small shops

For the Assembly’s Planning and Housing Committee, Jenny led an investigation looking at what could be done to protect London’s small shops.

What happened next? Mayor Boris Johnson agreed to put policies for the protection of small shops in his new London Plan, the overall planning document for London.

This is an impressive list, especially considering that the Greens had only two AM’s for most of this time. What more could be achieved with another two or three Green AM’s?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Green Party Leader Gives Support to Occupy London Stock Exchange


Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the England and Wales Green party, will today attend the protest by ‘Occupy London Stock Exchange’, which has continued for the last three days, with hundreds of demonstrators camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral, close to the heart of the City of London financial district.

Initially, the police had tried to disperse the crowd on Sunday, but were stopped by the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, who was happy to see the peaceful protest continue.

The Green party leader said, “As awareness increases of the injustice and unsustainability of the global economic system, more and more people are taking to the streets in opposition.

"The camp that has been set up a stone's throw from the London Stock Exchange is an opportunity to explore a different kind of future to the one the mainstream political parties have constructed.

"The authorities must now respect the right to peaceful protest.

"If they have any sense, they will also start to listen to the voices of those ordinary - and extraordinary people - who want to invest in a greener, fairer future rather than the stocks-and-shares house of sand that sustains corporate capitalism."

The demonstration was inspired by the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the United States, and spread to many cities financial districts all around the world, with the same aim, of calling for an end to the disastrous corporate capitalist system which is ruining lives everywhere, and is the effective cause of the worldwide financial crisis.

The London group have released this statement about why they are protesting:

The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.

We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities, dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.

We refuse to pay for the banks' crisis.

We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.

We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.

We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world's resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.

We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Liam Fox and the Best Man Scandal


So, we won’t have to wait until next week for the findings of the investigation, conducted by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, into whether Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has broken the UK government’s Ministerial code and what his fate will be. Fox has bowed to the inevitable and announced his resignation from the government.

Over the last few days, more and more stories have been published on a daily basis by the media, about the extent of Fox’s involvement with his ‘best man’ Adam Werritty, and the numerous official overseas trips they have been on together. This use of the term ‘best man’ is mildly amusing, given that it has clearly been used to send an unambiguously ‘I’m not gay’ signal, rather than just saying ‘friend’. This betrays the homophobic tendency on the right wing of the Tory party, of which Fox was a leading light, whatever the Prime Minister, David Cameron says about a new, un-bigoted Conservative party.

It does seem pretty clear that Fox had broken the Ministerial code, as by his own admission he apologised to the House of Commons this week for ‘giving an impression of wrong-doing, and ….having given the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser, rather than simply a friend’. 1.2 and 7.1 of the code says that Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests. Amongst all the weasel worded spin from Fox about ‘blurring’ the distinctions between his public and private life, he has admitted to at least giving the appearance of a conflict of interest.

When senior civil servants report on these types of investigations into ministers, they couch the language in a very diplomatic way, deliberately leaving open the interpretation of their words, and so passing the verdict to their political masters. So, it was always really down to the Prime Minister to decide Fox’s ultimate fate, in the absence of Fox taking a loaded revolver into his study, and doing the decent thing.

Important though the Ministerial code is, to my mind that’s not the whole point, and I hope the investigation continues and examines what exactly Werritty was doing on all of these official British Ministry of Defence visits to foreign defence ministries and their armed forces. Werritty is said to have a range of business links in the defence field, so it seems obvious to me that he was on these visits to try and win arms contracts, on the back of official British government defence visits. I do not believe that Fox was unaware of this situation, and if this is not corrupt, and it sounds like it is, it is certainly inappropriate and demonstrates extremely poor judgement on Fox’s behalf, which is enough for him to be removed from such high government office.

Michael Portillo, ex Tory Defence Secretary, said on Thursday on the BBC’s, A week in politics show, that he couldn’t see how Fox could keep his job in the circumstances, and surely this chimed with public opinion.

But there is more to this situation than the Defence Minister’s involvement in dodgy arms deals. Fox (and Werritty) have contacts with American neo con politicians and business men, and The Times newspaper reports that some of Werritty’s business trips to Israel have been paid for by a pro-Israeli lobby company. Fox is on the neo con wing of the Tory party and has had much support from right wing Tory backbenchers, who have been very vocal in defence of Fox’s actions, both in Parliament and in the media this week.

All of which probably explains why the Prime Minister hadn’t sacked Fox already, for what is quite clearly behaviour inappropriate for a minister of state. This makes Cameron look weak, and calls into question his own political judgement, not to mention integrity. At the general election last year, Cameron was constantly making speeches about cleaning up politics in the wake of the MP’s expenses scandal, and here we are again. Minister’s lining their own pockets, and that of their friends, whilst passing the bill onto the public. Nothing changes it seems, except the scam itself and the empty rhetoric employed by our leaders in trying to justify it.

Fox tried desperately to hang on to his job, but his position was open to increasingly ridicule, as more of the facts have been revealed. This was not the resignation of an honourable man, it was a calculated act to leave the door open to some future return to a Cabinet post. How long will it be before he is back? There is no shame for our leaders these days, that can’t be swept under the carpet after a year or two on the backbenches.

Photo from The Telegraph

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Party Conference Season Ends – Which Leader Impressed You Most?



David Cameron, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, gave a speech to his party’s conference on Wednesday which brought the political party conference season to an end. It was a surprisingly upbeat speech from Cameron, coming as it did on the day that growth figures for the UK economy were revised downwards, to a paltry 0.1% for the second quarter of 2011. He called on the British people to fight our way out of the dire economic situation we find ourselves in, saying we must have a ‘can do’ attitude. This is particularly hypocritical, given the way the government refuses themselves to do anything positive to aid economic recovery. As I reported here the only thing the government is going to do, other than making deep cuts in public services, is to print more money, which was swallowed up by the banks to improve their balance sheets, the last time this tactic was tried. No can do, seems to be the government economic policy, so why should the public listen to all this patriotic rhetorical nonsense?

The more I see of Cameron, the more I am minded of the Flashman character in the novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays. It is ironic that Flashman the public school bully, turned out to be a coward in the end, and surely people will see through Cameron, as the public relations man he is. Cutting benefits and public services for the most vulnerable in society, while throwing more money at the banks who caused our problems, and of whom he is scared to death of upsetting.

At least Ed Miliband, uninspiring a speaker though he is, talked about the need to change the current neo liberal economic consensus and strike a ‘new bargain’ in the way the capitalist system operates, particularly attacking the ‘asset strippers’ who wait vulture like to devour the carcases of the businesses and workers that their casino type behaviour have laid low. I think it is too early to say whether Labour really has changed under Miliband’s leadership, he said some interesting things, but he also praised Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government for curtailing worker’s rights and for selling council houses, without replacing this social housing stock. He needs to up his presentational game too, as he comes across as a bit nerdy. Unfortunately, these things matter in modern politics.

And so to the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg saw his party’s poll ratings soar in the wake of the leadership debates at the last general election, and this was mainly down to his performance in the debates. The problem for the Lib Dem’s is that many, probably more than half of the people who voted for them, are aghast that this led to a Tory government. Their conference was full of speeches by ministers telling everyone that it was the Lib Dem’s that were putting a brake on the Tory juggernaut, but they bear just as much responsibility for the damaging economic approach taken by the government, raising tuition fees for students, harassing benefit claimants and reducing workplace rights for employees. No amount spin changes this basic position.

The video above is Caroline Lucas, Green party leader, speaking to the Green party conference in September, and she has plenty to say to Lib Dem voters particularly. She has excellent presentational skills, charisma even, but compare the message to what you have heard from the other party leaders. She outlines a genuine alternative to the failed policies of the last thirty odd years, where people are put before profit, where principles are stuck to rather than abandoned for expediency, and where the good society can be become a reality. No contest really.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Tottenham Riots – Public Consultation with Police and Haringey Council


It looked good on paper: a public meeting at the College of North East London (CONEL) on 21 September, arranged by the head of Haringey Council at which the recent riots in Tottenham would be discussed, and suggestions welcomed for how to heal the area. I went with my neighbour - K - who was delighted on our arrival to see a packed hall containing so many of her old friends, activists she'd known and worked with when she lived at Broadwater Farm in the eighties.

The meeting began in a sedate and respectful manner, as we heard the first two speakers: Symeon Brown, who is involved with the excellently-named HYPE (Haringey Young People Empowered), and Sharon Grant, who spoke of the hostility often encountered by her late husband Bernie, and also referred to the possibly dangerous effects of the cuts favoured by our millionaire ConDem masters. The third speaker was Council leader, Claire Kober, to be followed by questions from the body of the hall. It was after Ms. Kober's few anodyne remarks that the feeling in the hall abruptly changed.

First of all, the "Chair" who was in charge clearly had his own agenda i.e. to prevent anyone saying or asking anything remotely embarrassing or challenging. He (one 'Fred Ellis' - who he?) spent the entire time interrupting and barracking questioners; secondly, the vast numbers wishing to pose questions were selected by the handing over of a microphone, which mostly DIDN'T WORK (!!!) so they could barely be heard anyway, unless they shouted.

The first questioner was a woman seated immediately behind us, so we could hear her perfectly. She was also so angry that she could probably be heard in Ealing. Her challenge to Claire Kober was that Haringey Council bore some responsibility for the events of August because of their swingeing cuts to youth services, such as the closing of number ten Broad Lane, which had been a centre for youth-oriented groups, but had been re-assigned by Haringey as commercial offices, thereby hurling the youths onto the street.

Claire Kober stated that the woman was wrong, and that there had been no such closure. The woman erupted in fury, "How can you say that, I WORKED there!" Oops.

Ms. Kober, clearly thinking on her feet, or maybe using them for thinking, suggested that she 'would be around' after the meeting, and would discuss the matter with the woman privately.

Hm. Except this is an alleged public meeting, and the woman's perfectly legitimate question had not been answered, or even addressed, just lied about, while she herself was accused of lying.

And now, suddenly, there was anger in the room. Perhaps Ms. Kober was demonstrating to us how to start a riot? She was fortunate that the hall was filled, not with disaffected youth, but veterans of community spirit and action, and that they were determined to force the 'top table' to confront the underlying causes of the disturbances of August. There were dozens of hands up after this, people wishing to ask questions, but they were all ignored, as the Police Acting Assistant Commissioner got up to make his contribution. Steven Kavanagh (pictured above) looked and sounded like he'd been educated at Eton. He was immediately challenged by a man behind us, who said that he was a 'people's reporter', and that he'd gone to the scene of the riots to witness them for himself. It was self-evident, he said, that the police were only interested in protecting the police station, but that the rest of Tottenham could burn to the ground, for all they cared. There was no response to that either.

Stafford Scott is also involved with HYPE and, despite the attempts of the Chair to subvert his speech, managed to make a very eloquent one, saying that he had not been surprised one bit by the riots, as the young people he worked with had become ever more marginalised by recent policy, both of central government and the council. Stafford had made a similar argument in The Guardian just after the riots. It is worth a read.

He also referrred to the iniquitous 'Stop and Search' laws, and the fact that the rules have now changed so that when exercising it, the police no longer have to indicate the race of their prey. So we will not know in future that 85% of those stopped and searched are black.

My friend K managed, after about an hour of waving her hand in the air, to get to speak, and she challenged the police representatives about their collusion with the media. She pointed out that the story about Mark Duggan shooting at them appeared in the media before even his family knew what had happened. She also pointed out that the story is of dubious veracity anyway, and was nothing but propaganda.

The late and unheralded arrival of Lynne Featherstone MP, and even later one of David Lammy MP, convinced me that the entire farce was a PR stunt, an attempt to pretend that the authorities cared a whit about the riots, or their effects on Tottenham.

I decanted to the foyer outside the hall, and met a fellow who had missed the contribution of the original speaker. He was furious when he heard what had happened, and vowed to accompany the speaker if she wished to confront Ms. Kober later, as he knew well that HYPE had been turfed out of the same address she was referring to. I also met a woman who had recently gone back to work as a nurse after having children and, in the fifteen years of her absence, could not believe the degree to which the NHS has been privatised, "everything", she said, "has already been outsourced". Then there was the elderly gent who came out of the hall saying to me that he had one fervent wish before he died - to see the end of the forty-year domination of Haringey Council by Labour. They think they're untouchable and can do what they like, he said. Yes, I agreed, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Too right, he said.

I got back to the hall just in time to see Lynne Featherbrain on her feet addressing the crowd. Fortunately, however, she was given the non-working microphone, so nobody heard a word.

On the way home, K asked me what the point of the meeting had been. I didn't know. Why, she said, were we obliged to sit there as if we were in school assembly while we were lectured by the staff, instead of having several 'workshop' groups which might have been more productive. I didn't know that either.

I know that it was a shameful waste of time, and I don't hold out much hope for the achievements of the Haringey Community and Police Consultative Group, if this was their idea of consultation.

Written by ANNIMAC (nom de plume)
Haringey Activist and Green Party Supporter
Photo from the Hornsey Journel

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tottenham People Speak Out About the Recent Riot



Tottenham people speak out in this video about the fatal killing of Mark Duggan by the police, the subsequent IPCC cover up, police harrassment in the area, and the riot that spread across London and numerous English cities.

Why do we have to wait until the end of the year for the IPCC investigation into the shooting? An attempt to brush things under the carpet, I think.

Please share this video with as many people as possible, we need the truth about what happen to Mark Duggan to come out. No whitewash.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cost of the War in Afghanistan



Great video, narrated by Tony Benn, with music by Brian Eno. It puts into perspective the money spent on this long running war, with no end seemimgly in sight. Considering the spending cuts domestically in the UK, how can these costs continue to be justified? Let's leave Afghanistan to the Afghani's.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Book Review - Planet Dancing by Patrick McCusker


I was recently sent a free copy of this book by the author’s public relations firm, and offered the opportunity to interview the author for publication on this blog. I read the book and sent off some interview questions, but have been met with a stony silence. I guess my questions rather gave away the fact that I didn’t like Planet Dancing, and here are the reasons why.

Patrick McCusker is an academic, writer of short stories and producer of radio features. He clearly has a profound love of nature which comes through in his writing, and so, a sincere concern for the planet’s ills, but his remedies lack credibility I’m afraid.

This short book is illustrated throughout with colourful sketches, many depicting happy dancing children. The first section of Planet Dancing is written as a series of short stories or tales, parables even, highlighting various ecological problems, which are moderately entertaining. The second part of the book advances the author’s prescriptions of how to put things right, and it is here that I found the book to be very disappointing.

One idea, that children be given ‘nature names’ rather like native north American peoples, is well meaning, but to then claim that this will inevitably lead to children, when full grown adults, respecting nature more, is a huge leap of faith in my opinion. Indeed, the author puts great faith in children to protect our environment, and has seemingly largely given up on adults being able to change their ways.

McCusker further pursues this theme with his suggestion that a ‘children’s nature reserve’ be set up by collecting small amounts of money from the children of the world. He also suggests that the great religions of the world should set up a second reserve. Even if these ideas came to pass, and there are many practical hurdles to overcome, it would not have any significant impact on species depletion worldwide.

Strangely, there is no mention in this book of man-made climate change, which is surely the biggest threat to all living things on the planet, and we get some insight into the reason for this, in the author’s attitude to multi-national corporations. He suggests that people like Bill Gates could be persuaded to contribute large amounts of cash to alleviate world poverty, and goes further with his recommendation that corporations be ‘induced financially’ to provide work in factories, on meagre wages, in poor countries, to get people off the land. Incredibly, there is no acknowledgement that these same corporations are the root cause of the ecological crisis. In one astonishing passage, McCusker advocates that ‘professional bribe fixers’ be employed to utilise the endemic corruption in many poor countries.

Until we got to these later chapters of Planet Dancing, especially looking at the illustrations of animals and children, I was put in mind of a children’s book. It may well have been a better idea to write a purely children’s book given the author’s faith in children saving the planet, and target them directly. As it stands, this book, well-meaning though it is, is shallow and somewhat na├»ve.

McCusker’s philosophy seems to be a combination of deep ecology and eco-capitalism, which he advances in this book. At best, this type of thinking is pretty irrelevant, when it comes to providing answers to the ecological crisis, and at worst, down-right dangerously complacent. The only way to save the planet is to radically transform the way we organise our economies along the lines of an eco-socialist approach, but you’ll find none of that here.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Naomi Klein - Capitalism and Climate Change



This is an excellent video by Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrain. It puts the blame for climate change squarely where it belongs, on the free market capitalist system. Says it all, really.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

ConDem Government’s Economic Recovery Do Nothing Strategy


The BBC reports that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is forecasting growth in the UK economy will be below 1% (at best) for the next twelve months. At worse, the UK economy could contract by as much as 1%, bringing about the long feared ‘double dip’ recession. Even if technically the UK economy does not go back into recession, it seems the best that can be hoped for is a ‘flat lining’ almost stagnant performance over the next year.

One might think that this news would sting Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne into action, and so bring forward some plan for stimulating the UK economy. President Obama announced this week a $450bn such package to help recovery in the US economy (which the OECD predicts will grow by over 1% in the coming year), but no such action appears to be forthcoming from the British government.

Instead, we can expect a further round of ‘quantitative easing’ (The Bank of England printing more money) and little else. The problem with this is that it has been tried twice before, and what happens is, the banks swallow up this extra money to boost their reserves, with a resultant marginal effect on the economy at large. On top of this, the only idea doing the rounds, as suggested by a group of British economists, is to cut the top 50% rate of income tax for those earning in excess of £150,000 per year.

This ‘trickle down’ theory of neo liberal economics has it that, high earners will work harder, creating work for those in the middle and at the bottom of the wealth league table, and so the economy will rise phoenix like from the ashes and we can then bask in the sunny uplands of national prosperity. This is a highly dubious theory and I’ve never understood why rich people need to be paid more money to encourage them to work harder, but poorer people need to be paid less to encourage them to do the same thing.

The problem with the global economy at the moment is a lack of demand. Most people have less money, because of unemployment, short working hours, pay freezes and employment insecurity. People are cutting their spending for these reasons, and it must be remembered that Value Added Tax (VAT) is now 5% higher than it was under the previous Labour government, who reduced it to 15%. Higher prices further depress demand.

What is needed is a package of government spending, like the Green New Deal which will pay for useful work such as home insulation and expanding public transport, and help us to reduce our carbon emissions whilst providing jobs for people. VAT should be cut, perhaps by 10%, welfare benefits should be increased and income tax on the highest earners should be increased, not reduced.

This is all very reminiscent Conservative Chancellor Norman Lamont saying in the early 1990’s recession, "If higher unemployment is the price we have to pay… then it is a price worth paying." Essentially, the ConDem government is ideologically compelled to do nothing, and let the market sort itself out eventually, however long that takes, and however painful that will be for people struggling to keep their heads above water financially.

I think it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and this is an accurate description of ConDem economic policy in 2011.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Responsible business: how to manage a CSR strategy successfully


By Manfred Pohl and Nick Tolhurst (eds). Wiley 2010.

There is a important debate to be had about the role of Business in general, and corporations in particular, in the transformation to a more sustainable society. There are many who believe that the phrase 'corporate social responsibility (CSR)' is an oxymoron, and that it is folly to hope that the very institutions which have created the mess that we are in can be trusted to lead us out of it. But there are others, sincere environmentalists all, who genuinely think that the power, energy and ingenuity of corporations, and the mechanisms of the market and the profit motive, can be harnessed for good.

Sadly, those interested in this debate will find not much of relevance in this collection of essays. As the introductory chapter says, “...it unashamedly steers clear of most of the theories and academic debates surrounding the subject.” Rather, it is aimed at those who “...are looking to pursue a career in a CSR-related field” and “deals with the nuts and bolts of how to run a CSR strategy successfully”.

The book is a publication of the Germany-based Institute for Corporate Cultural Affairs. The point of the Institute, and the book, is partly to fly the flag for the German model of stakeholder capitalism, and there's a reasonable chapter on how that works that would be useful to those who don't know anything about it. Other chapters cover things like how to run a company volunteering programme, or the benefits of sports sponsorship. There are lots of checklists, and guidance on reporting and auditing supply chains. There is a more reflective chapter on the evolution of CSR which gets close to asking what it is actually for.

Ultimately, though, this is a book for those who do believe that corporations, with a little prodding from the right kind of CSR professional, can be and do good. There's not much reflection on what it means for a corporation to be 'responsible'; RBS gets several positive mentions because it lends money to some renewable energy projects. The word 'tax' appears only once, in the context of a suggestion that filing online might save carbon emissions – the suggestion that responsible businesses don't try to avoid taxes has no place here.

Written Jeremy Green
Haringey Green Party

Monday, 15 August 2011

Solutions after the riots – what now ?


The aftermath of the riots has seen Cameron authorise use of water cannon and plastic bullets, and an alarming public endorsement of these measures notably by 90% of the sample in one opinion poll.

Most people probably think water cannon just make a crowd unpleasantly wet. Actually, the water comes at a force which can knock you over – or even blind you, if a jet hits you in the eye. If you can bear it, see a photo here of someone blinded in Germany when struck by a water cannon in the face. This weapon is indiscriminate, potentially hitting bystanders and people trying to escape from the scene as well as rioters. Early in this debate, the Green Party called for rejection of water cannon and Jenny Jones’ statement on the web site can be found here.

Rubber and plastic bullets or ‘baton rounds’ have caused around 17 deaths, and some blindings, in Northern Ireland. Children are particularly vulnerable to both, and again, innocent bystanders have been amongst the victims, for example a middle aged woman looking out of a window.

There are calls not just for lethal weaponry against teenagers, but for collective punishment of their families. Wandsworth Council already began eviction proceedings against the mother of a ‘rioter’ – but he had not even been convicted, merely charged! Homelessness is likely to drive people further into crime and joblessness.

No-one doubts that theft and arson deserve to be punished. But in courts sitting through the night, with both magistrates and lawyers reported last week to be falling asleep ? What kind of ‘fair trial’ is that ?

There are calls from Duncan Smith and his ilk for daily persecution of ‘gang members’ by tax authorities, job centre, DVLA, etc. No doubt this would exacerbate the situation and punish the innocent along with the guilty, just like the excessive use of stop and search powers which are one of the main grievances which youth, especially black and Asian youth, have against the police. Indeed the riots in Mare Street and in the Kingsland Road are said to have been provoked at least partly by street searches last weekend.

The Network for Police Monitoring has spoken out against authoritarian policing, saying

‘Tensions created by incessant stop and search operations and aggressive policing have undeniably contributed to the conditions which have led to widespread rioting. Young men from working class communities, especially black communities, have consistently taken the brunt of the ‘harassment style policing’ implemented by the Labour party and continued under the present government.

They have also taken the brunt of police violence. The experience of a police monitor from the Network, who was repeatedly punched to the face and head in the back of a Metropolitan police van after a stop and search, is sadly not an isolated one. What would help is not more ‘robust’ policing, but a police force that does not act in a disproportionate, vindictive or discriminatory way.’

How could that happen if police numbers are cut ? Police have already been working up to 20 hours and more without sleep in the last week. That’s hardly conducive to good decision-making or good tempers, let alone fair working conditions. Cuts in police numbers will also make ‘capital intensive’ solutions like more weaponry seem inevitable. Against the gross injustice of firing first against Mark Duggan and the attack on a 16 year old woman outside Tottenham Police Station, must be set the police mindfulness of Ian Tomlinson’s death and that fact that so far, neither riot control weapons nor horse charges were used. Cameron seems intent on reversing the better parts of recent police tactics.

The University and College Union, with Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, have called for reinstatement of youth services and the Educational Maintenance Allowance, a large increase in JSA, and repeal of the ‘stop and search’ laws, as measures to tackle some of the root causes of the riots. Their petition to the government can be signed here.

In a resolution rejecting both police violence and the ‘cuts’ affecting youth, the Stratford (E.London) branch of the RMT says:-

‘The police killing of Mark Duggan…is not an isolated incident. Violence in custody, predominantly against black people, is routine….Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation. Police brutality against demonstrations and any form of political dissidence has increased.

The savage spending cuts imposed upon us by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair, and have fallen disproportionately on the young, the vulnerable and the unemployed. Meanwhile, in the last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30% to £333.5 billion.’

So these people’s pay rise alone would halve the public sector deficit and allow most of the ‘cuts’ to be reversed. Why is nobody but the Green Party and the far left calling for a serious tax hike on the super-rich ?

We all want justice – against obscene inequality, against thieves and arsonists, for proper compensation of residents and businesses, especially small ones, who suffered in the riots. Long prison sentences for rioters will benefit mainly the private prisons industry – they will introduce those convicted to the university of crime, but not rebuild homes or shops or give people their property back. Long community service orders could be used to help rebuild and clean up. And if the police can offer an amnesty for knives as they did in 2006, which resulted in 100,000 being handed in over five weeks, why not an amnesty for goods stolen in the riots ? Or for guns ? Last but not least, sale of guns, including air pistols and replicas (like the one Mark Duggan converted) should be absolutely banned.

Written By Anne Gray
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Tottenham 2010