East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Unity required, to defeat the Tories and achieve PR

Conference Liverpool 2017A well organised and largely united Green Party of England and Wales ( GPEW) Spring Conference took an important step forward for the party, and the wider left, last weekend. Taking place in Liverpool, in conjunction with the largest ever gathering of Global Greens, Conference endorsed the initiative of the party leadership to try and  build alliances with other parties in advance of the next general election, with the aim of removing the current government and replacing it with a coalition with a primary commitment to introducing proportional representation.

At a packed fringe meeting ahead of the vote, with the title  ‘ Progressive Alliances in the UK ‘  Caroline Lucas predicted that unless Greens united with others to achieve electoral reform we faced the prospect of at least 20 years of majority Tory governments. If such alliances, agreed and organised at local level, wanted to also campaign together on other issues, eg in defence of local services, then so much the better.

Jonathan Porritt reminded us that as well as talking with other politicians and activists we also needed to reach out to people who had not previously been involved in party politics. We needed progressive alliances to allow the Green Party to come out of the political wilderness. Realistically, in the here and now, they were the only mechanism by which we can fight the rule of the elite. The Green Party needed to show the extraordinary leadership needed to step up in favour of electoral alliances.

Andrea Frieze had been the prospective Green Party candidate in the recent Richmond Park by-election. She was anxious to stress that she hadn’t  stepped down in that election by not getting herself on the ballot paper. Rather she had stepped up in favour of an electoral alliance. It had achieved its objective of getting rid of a Tory MP, and would continue at the local elections in 2018, with the aim of getting rid of the Tory majority on the council and getting more Greens elected. Although ‘ Targeting to Win’ was a tried and tested strategy we cannot wait for it to succeed across the country she said. The situation is dire and we need to cooperate with others in order to achieve power. At the next General Election we might end up standing in only a handful of seats, where we could have a chance of being elected.

Tommy Shepherd MP said he was the first SNP member to speak at a Green Party Conference. The SNP remained committed to PR even though the vagaries of the first past the post system had  worked to their advantage at the last general election. The 2014 referendum was the greatest modern example of a Progressive Alliance. Supporters of the Yes campaign worked together without even knowing which party, if any, activists belonged to or supported.

Neal Lawson from Compass said he was a green, liberal socialist who wanted to work with greens, liberals and socialists to achieve a better society. He thought the Labour Party’s attitude to PR was changing and that the attitude of the Green Party towards the Labour Party can help change it further and faster.

Kat Leafletting 2017All of us in every progressive movement had to unite to defeat the Evil Empire and to change our political society. Progressive Alliances were meeting points for those who believe the best in others. We needed to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.

The motion debated at conference ( moved by High Peak member Mike Shipley, in his capacity as chair of GPRC) referred to electoral alliances rather than progressive ones. It had been carefully worded, after extensive discussions between the co-leaders and the two national governance committees, the executive ( GPEX) and the regional council ( GPRC). There was a recognition of the fact that many Green Party members would find it difficult to recognise the Liberal Democrats and/or Labour as progressive, and that the primary aim was to achieve electoral reform. The motion ( see below ) stressed that the initiative for forming alliances rested with local parties. The national party would advise but not instruct. Local parties should only contemplate making alliances with those with whom they shared values in common, ruling out any alliance with UKIP for example, despite their interest in electoral reform.

Two friendly amendments were included in the final motion, removing the assumption that alliances would only be negotiated in a minority of constituencies and committing the national party to actively promote electoral alliances when local parties had voted in favour of one.

The motion was overwhelmingly carried with probably between 5 and 10% of the several hundred members in the hall voting against.

Final Text of Motion passed (with amendments)

 

 

Electoral Alliances for Proportional Representation

Synopsis

In recognition of the democratic deficit in the UK whereby a Party polling a minority of the popular vote in General Elections are able to command a Commons majority and form a Government, in 2015 GPEW committed to campaign by all legitimate and peaceful means in favour of Proportional Representation.

Motion

Following the commitment made by the Green Party of England and Wales  to campaign by all legitimate and peaceful means in favour of Proportional Representation (PR) for elections at all levels of government, Conference seeks to enable the formation, where appropriate, of Parliamentary electoral alliances for PR.

Such alliances:

  • Would apply only to Parliamentary elections up to and including the expected 2020 General Election
  • Will not apply in all constituencies, with potential constituencies identified by GPEx as guided by the Elections Coordinator”.
  • Will only be entered into with parties and candidates with principles which the local party determines are broadly in line with the values of the Green Party.

In pursuit of this policy, Conference calls on GPEx, GPRC, WGPC and local Green Parties to work in cooperation to ensure that any electoral alliance entered into is in the best interests of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Conference therefore instructs:

  • GPEx especially via the Elections Co-ordinator (and in the case of Wales, WGPC) to provide advice and support to local parties on parliamentary electoral alliances for PR, and in particular to identify constituencies where such alliances may be appropriate
  • GPEx to therefore encourage local GPs, where they judge it appropriate, to open dialogue at the earliest opportunity with potential allies including campaigning groups and other political parties on forming such electoral arrangements in good time for the next general election.
  • The Leader/s and Deputies of GPEW and Wales Green Party to keep open channels of communication with the leaders of other opposition parties, for purposes of co-ordination of electoral alliances at a party level
  • GPRC to maintain oversight of party strategy on electoral alliances for PR, in line with the responsibilities laid out in section 6 of the GPEW constitution.

All final agreements must be ratified by a vote of all local parties in the constituency involved. If the selection of a Parliamentary candidate by a local party would normally require a ballot of the full local party membership, then this will also be the case for ratifying an electoral alliance for that constituency.


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Lords must fight government power grab

Today, the government revealed that they are reaching for the Henry 8th powers, which are the nearest this country comes to making law by Ministerial diktat. The Lords has to do everything in its power to fight this government power grab.

house-of-lords-full

There are three dangers down the road with Brexit. One is that the Government simply leaves a lot of European law out of the Great Repeal Bill.

Another is that much of the detail is put in secondary legislation, which gets less scrutiny and is extremely difficult to amend and vote down. In both cases they’d hope nobody notices, or that any opposition would be swamped by the focus around other issues like single market access.

A third is that the Government gives itself so-called Henry the Eighth powers to unilaterally repeal or amend these laws after the act passes, opening the door to a bonfire of environmental and social protections.

The nature of the beast of democracy is that you are often on the losing side and things are done that you don’t agree with. We can all live with that. But what the government is threatening to do is to take executive powers that allow no debate and little discussion, while they destroy pollution controls, environmental safeguards and workplace safeguards.

The Great Repeal Bill will just be the start, as secondary legislation and Ministerial misjudgements are hurried through. Next will come all the detailed giveaways in the trade negotiations with the likes of Trump. We know from our experience with TTIP that these external treaties have significant internal impacts. Modern trade deals need as much parliamentary scrutiny as any legislation.

I don’t under-estimate the practical problems with parliament dealing with the sheer volume of secondary legislation and trade negotiations, which is why we need a functioning second chamber that has real legitimacy. That means a second chamber elected under a PR system where every vote counts.


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Fantastic Day for Rabbits

rabbitMEPs have just voted to #EndTheCageAge for farmed rabbits across Europe. This is great news for millions of rabbits across Europe and a great example of how the EU can take a lead on animal welfare. Greens have always opposed factory farming and UK Green MEPs supported the ban from the outset.
Rabbits are the fourth most farmed animal in the world. An estimated 340 million rabbits are slaughtered annually after a life kept in barren wire cages where their natural behaviour is severely restricted. Many scientists have called for the cage system to be urgently replaced by one which allows for the natural needs of rabbits to be better taken into account.
The report adopted by MEPs prioritises outlawing the inhumane conditions in which rabbits are kept and eradicating the other problems associated intensive rabbit rearing. The system in place at the moment leads to the spread of disease and the subsequent overuse of antibiotics.
Rabbit farming is relatively small-scale in the UK, but the crucial vote highlights the key role EU membership can play in raising the welfare of millions of farm animals in Britain and across the EU.
The closer the relationship the UK maintains with the EU, retaining animal welfare and wildlife protections through single market membership, the better the outcome for British animals. Animal advocates across the UK must continue lobbying the UK government to ensure the current legal protections, for all species, offered by European Union membership are maintained and strengthened.


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MEP challenges government on ‘circular economy’ post-Brexit

CircularEcon-1Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, has challenged the government to follow the EU and embrace the ‘circular economy’ post-Brexit.

The call comes following a vote in the European Parliament today on legislation related to creating an economy in which products stay in use for longer and at the end of their life, are reused, repaired, re-manufactured, upgraded, or recycled. Greens argue that creating this ‘circular economy’ will encourage new small industries, create thousands of new jobs and hugely benefit the environment. A majority of MEPs also voted for binding targets for recycling and a call on the European Commission to set up binding food waste targets.

Commenting on the vote, Molly said:

“As a Green Economist I have long argued for the need to move away from the linear economy based on extraction, production and disposal, which is wasteful of resources and energy. The time has come to move towards an energy and resource efficient circular economy, which will also provide enormous economic development opportunities, especially for SMEs.

There are many jobs to be created through waste products being either reused or recycled rather than simply dumped in landfill or burned. Combating planned obsolescence will also help consumers save money and have better quality products. 

“Reduction targets for food waste and stronger recycling targets add up to a package that will be good for citizens’ health, the environment, as well as for the economy.

Molly, who is Green Party speaker on EU relations, concluded:

“We must ensure that this sort of ambition is mirrored by our own government. We must ensure that the threatened ‘bonfire of regulation’ does not undermine these economic opportunities. I challenge the government to place the circular economy at the heart of a post-Brexit economic strategy.”


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Budget utterly fails to address the challenges of our time?

You might have thought that there was no one left on a trolley in a hospital corridor. That our social care system wasn’t on its knees. That climate change wasn’t a crisis that threatens our very future or that there was no air pollution epidemic linked to the deaths of tens of thousands.

This budget should have been an emergency intervention to end the chaos in health and social care and address the air pollution emergency, but instead it’s another resounding failure from a Government that’s got no ideas beyond an obsession with scaling back the state. With our NHS in peril and social care in crisis, this Budget was a chance for the Government to take a stand for the public services upon which we all rely. Instead they continue to push ahead with planned corporation tax cuts, and their handout to high earners, while unveiling woefully inadequate funding changes for the NHS and social care.

This budget is another climate failure – with the Chancellor failing to mention climate change even once in his speech. Rather than reversing the solar tax hike or ploughing money into renewables, the Government seems hell bent on drilling for more gas and oil in the North Sea, and handing further cash to the motor lobby with the fuel duty freeze. Britain should be leading the world in climate change technology and green jobs, but instead we’re lagging behind and laying the foundations for another dash for gas.

Caroline Lucas, MP
Co-leader of Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion


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Schools to face £1.8m business rate bill for solar panels

solar-schools-ukResearch by Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the House of Lords, suggests that schools could face a business rates bill totalling £1.8 million if the Valuation Office Agency goes ahead with plans to remove the exemption for small non-domestic installations.

Of the 74 education authorities in England and Wales that responded to FOI requests, they were responsible for 821 schools with almost 14,000 kW of solar power capacity installed. Scaling that up to all 174 education authorities suggests a total business rates bill in the region of £1,800,000 per year.

Jenny Jones, the Green Party’s voice in the Lords said:

“It’s utterly absurd to penalise schools for investing in solar panels. Schools obviously face bigger financial challenges than this, but the business rate charges will stop any plans for more solar panels. Schools I have visited see them as a triple investment – in their energy costs, their pupils’ education, and their future.

“My research shows there is huge scope for schools to install more solar panels. While some schools have installed panels on most of their buildings, many currently have few or none at all. The Government should ditch these plans to charge rates on small solar installations and support more schools to join the clean energy revolution.”

 


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Stop pretending we can’t afford the NHS: that’s the message of our march

GP NHS placard photoWe are living in a world in which the politics of the leaders of two of the world’s great nations – America and Britain – is built on broken promises. During Donald Trump’s election campaign he promised to “take on Wall Street”. So when just weeks later the president announced a cabinet full of banker billionaires, my brother, Senator Bernie Sanders, said: “With all due respect, Donald Trump is a fraud.

Meanwhile, here in the UK Theresa May took up her post as prime minister on the commitment to “work for all, not just the privileged few”. Well, it is just weeks since our NHS descended into a humanitarian crisis, and we are already looking at another round of privatisation and cuts. Which is why at midday today we will be marching on parliament in support of the NHS.

We don’t need reminding of the horrors we saw over the winter, with people dying on trolleys and turned away from hospitals, and the British Medical Association warning our most cherished institution has been pushed to breaking point. The NHS is facing a £22bn funding gap, with the demand for care set to rise 4% a year while the health service’s budget will go up by only 0.2% every year between now and 2020.

This crisis in healthcare has been exacerbated by the current Tory government – but its foundations were laid by New Labour and further strengthened by the coalition with the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. The creeping privatisation of the past quarter of a century has introduced vast fragmentation and inefficiency into our health service, and, combined with chronic underfunding, has left the NHS on the brink. Anyone who has visited a hospital recently knows how hard doctors, nurses and all the staff are working to make sure patients are cared for with dignity and compassion, despite the strain on the system. It is time we listened to their concerns.

Adding to the pressure facing hospitals across the country is the financial crisis in social care. We’re living longer, and that’s a great thing – last year, aged 81, I stood in the Witney byelection after David Cameron resigned. But while there are currently one-third more over-85s than 10 years ago, adult social care budgets have been cut by one third in the same time. And the care funded by local authorities accounts for just a small proportion of the care elderly people in the UK currently receive. Every year family, friends and neighbours provide £55bn of unpaid carefour in 10 people in care homes pay for themselves, and a staggering 1.2 million people over 65 with care needs receive no help at all.

We are simply not providing enough care and support for people in the community, at home and close to where they live. This means elderly people are more likely to end up in hospital, and when they get there it is more difficult to get them home again. People who are medically well are stuck in hospital because there is nowhere suitable for them to go and too little support for them at home. The system is failing these people who could be living at home or in supported accommodation instead of being isolated from their communities on a hospital ward. But it also fails those who desperately need the hospital beds these elderly people occupy.

The government’s response has been to engage in a cruel con where local councils were told there was “new” funding for social care, only to find much-needed funding cut from elsewhere. It is little wonder the system is on its knees – and the prime minister’s insistence on ending free movement as part of Brexit risks starving the NHS and care services of the staff they so desperately need.

Yesterday 250,000 people took to the streets of London to march in support of the NHS, unwilling to stand by and watch while this government dismantles public healthcare – and I’m proud to be among their number. The government tells us there isn’t enough money but this isn’t true. We are the fifth richest country in the world – we have the money to stop our health service turning into a humanitarian crisis, and to care for people when they grow old: in hospitals, the community and homes. We have the money for a fully funded public health service. If Theresa May is to keep her promise to “work for all, not just the privileged few”, she must not let the NHS and social care crumble on her watch.

 

Written by Larry Sanders, Green Party Health and Wellbeing Spokesperson, for the Guardian.