East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Food Banks…a Christmas Scandal.

Broadcast this widely:…during a debate in the House of Commons this week on food banks, members on the Conservative benches saw fit to laugh. They found it hugely amusing that 60,000 of their fellow citizens, including 20,000 children are facing the prospects of Christmas with out enough to eat. Such is the concern of the British Government for the people on who’s behalf it governs, Ministers chose not to contribute to this debate. Ian Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions, who is responsible for the Welfare Reforms, wore an inane grin as he heard that half a million people would be relying on food banks in this festive season, he then sneaked out of the Chamber leaving his deputy to answer any awkward questions. Not that she demonstrated any sense of seasonal good will. Speaking in response to the Opposition debate, Esther McVey claimed that it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks. In an attempt to echo Cameron’s ‘we all in this together’ she said, ‘we’re all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally.’

Why is this Ms McVey? Can we just remind ourselves where this massive debt came from. The Office of National Statistics has calculated that the true cost of the bail out of the Banks adds up to £1.5 trillion. So the Banks sheer incompetence has landed us with the debt that McVey tells us we all have to pay off, by, if necessary going hungry. These incompetents are still taking £millions in bonuses, while we tighten our belts to pay for their stupidity. This, the richest business sector in the world, with some of the most highly paid executives have plunged us all in to debt and they collectively and personally are doing everything possible to shirk their responsibility. So it is left to the little people to pay up for their folly and greed, to go hungry so that they can enjoy Christmas with the very best of Champaign to celebrate another year of total rip off of the British people.

No wonder the Tory benches were laughing. They must find our gullibility at swallowing their lies about the state of the economy uproariously funny. For them, the economy is doing just fine.

What triggered this debate was an e-petition signed by 150,000 people, calling on Parliament to debate the rise in food banks. Petitioners got their debate, but all they got from this Coalition Government was smirks, laughter and walk-outs. There are now more than 400 food banks operating in the UK and serving nearly half a million people in 2013, a growth of 170% in 12 months. The Government is fully aware of this fact. DEFRA commissioned its own report, completed in the summer, but it has failed to publish it. Why? Because we suspect it might point the finger at Duncan Smith’s Welfare Reforms. No wonder he scurried from the Commons Chamber before questions could be asked.

The Government claims that there is no link between welfare reforms and the growth in food banks. They claim that food banks are popular simply because they offer free food – this is what LibDem Minister Lord Freud told the Lords when trying to explain away their existence in this, the seventh richest country in the world. Clearly this ennobled Minister, enjoying his £300 per day attendance allowance on top of his ministerial salary is unaware that the users of food banks have to be referred to them by an accredited agency and carry an authentication voucher. No Minister food banks do not offer free food on a drop in basis. If the report gave any substance to Freud’s claim, it most certainly would have been published by now and the results blazed across the pages of the Mail and Telegraph. But the report will not do this, it will show that food banks are a result of benefit delays and refusals, bedroom tax and personal debt, low wages and zero hours and the dreadful choice some have this winter between eating and keeping warm.

It doesn’t have to be like this. The Green Manifesto shows how we can build a fair and sustainable economy. Poverty is not a fact of life, it is a political choice, Greens refuse to accept that choice. Austerity is a political choice that the Greens reject. Fairness and equality in opportunity benefits all in society and that is our direction. Million pound bonuses and hunger this Christmas are the result of decisions taken by Parliament. Work with us to oppose those decisions, work with us for the common good, together we can make hunger and despair a thing of Christmas past.


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A Cruelty Free Christmas

What does Christmas mean to us? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, born in poverty to live a humble life among ordinary people. Other symbols are for example Santa which came from a Bishop St Nicolas from Turkey. He gave to the poor.
But this humble and religious aspect of Christmas seems now completely lost, its meaning has changed, but to what? Most people would say it’s about spending time with family, eating well, and an expression of love, which seems now to be in the shape of presents and good food. Experiencing my 13 year old daughter, and witnessing our society, it appears that we somehow measure our love and care for each other in the amount of money spent on gifts and food.
So Christmas has become a symptom of pure capitalism; and capitalism comes with victims. In order to produce endless items (cloths, cosmetics, electrical devises, jewellery, toys, etc) cheap labour, often in developing countries like China or Bangladesh is required. We know how these workers are treated and with few rights they are left vulnerable and exploited.
Production of consumer goods means the use of energy; this means burning fossil fuels that leads to climate change, more violent storms, loss of live and livelihoods. We are facing the biggest environmental catastrophe in our history, which we have been causing by our ignorance and greed for ever more goods.
Our exploitation does not stop here; animals are also paying a huge price for our Christmas tradition. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. Puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off. Prettily packaged cosmetics and toiletries make nice presents, but were probably cruelly tested on animals. Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.
So is Christmas a season for giving and caring? Not really. But it does not have to be that way. In my family we have a rule no presents for more than £5 per a person – except the children, they get “normal” presents exceeding our limit. We do allow some capitalistic expectation for them, since living in our society we want to avoid them feeling left out or neglected. However, we will discuss the original meaning of Christmas with them, and the madness of spending a lot of money as some sort of expression of love. Furthermore, we will spend some time at Christmas thinking and talking about people here in the UK and over the world, who are suffering as a direct result of our unequal, exploitative culture.
So let’s try and make this a truly “Merry” (for all) Christmas; lets reduce this madness of consumption, let’s spend time with others, think about the less fortunate and vulnerable people, and let’s try to make this a victim- free Christmas. And then we truly can enjoy ourselves.
Oh yes – and cruelty free, here is a wonderful vegetarian nut roast that can replace the turkey, and you can still have all the trimmings!
Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast [for 6 – 2hrs 40min]
75g finely chopped red peppers
2300g red split lentils
450 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted cashew nuts
11/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed & finely chopped
100g mushrooms finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g mature vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated
100g wholemeal bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 free range egg, lightly beaten.
• Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Drain, then tip into a saucepan. Add stock and the bay leaf, bring to the boil.
• Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft and pulpy and the stock has been absorbed. Stir briefly to prevent the lentils sticking, discard the bay leaf.
• While the lentils are cooking, put the cashew nuts in a non-stick frying pan and toast over a moderate heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently, set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
• Preheat the oven to 190C/375F
• Line the bottom of a 1.4 litre loaf tin with a piece of greaseproof paper.
• Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the onions over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, leeks, peppers and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir the lemon juice
• Tip the lentils and vegetables into a mixing bowl Stir in the breadcrumbs, cashews and 2 tablespoons of the parsley, followed by the grated cheese and the beaten egg. Season to taste then spoon into the loaf tin. Level the top and cover with a piece of lightly oiled foil.
• Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the bake comes out clean.
• Remove from the oven and leave to cool while set in the tin. After 10 minutes turn out and cut into thick slices
• Serve with all the trimmings and enjoy a cruelty free Christmas Dinner

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Kat


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Wellbeing is not an individual concept

People often talk about “the real meaning of Christmas” with a vague air of unease that perhaps the things we focus on as a society are not quite meeting our human needs.

A wealth of new academic learning from across the disciplines is currently helping us understand that far from the “dog eat dog”, competitive image we may have of ourselves, human beings are naturally social animals, who despite our individual vulnerability survived and succeeded as a species through our ability to work together for the common good.

Our wellbeing is intrinsically linked to our relationships, both with our family, but also, importantly, with our community. A lack of social support in relation to inequality and marginalisation, has an important part to play in the development of children and the wellbeing of individuals and families.

If we focus on “family values” we miss the point, that wider society’s support, or lack thereof, has a profound effect on how families, and in particular, children, thrive.

“For the common good” is Green Party of England and Wales’ new tagline. With it comes an understanding of how all people are interdependent, the wellbeing of each of us fundamentally bound up with how society at large supports us.  It runs counter to the current neo-liberal idea that humans are, and should be, driven by individualism.

It should be obvious, and at the same time it is an almost revolutionary concept: We are all responsible for each other’s wellbeing.

So this holiday season, let’s extend our caring and sharing to a wider idea of community and remember that our own wellbeing, and that of each generation, is tied to the support and wellbeing of others.


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Government taking powers to close hospitals

In the light of The Government’s latest savage and arguably unlawful cuts to NHS, Kat Boettge and the regional Green Party offer this response, re-posted from Derbyshire Green Party site:

Derbyshire Green Party

kat-gp-1Kat Boettge writes Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is planning to give himself the power to close A&E Departments without full consultation.  Earlier this year his attempt to close the A&E Department at Lewisham Hospital was ruled to be illegal.  In response, he has added a clause to the Care Bill that is already before Parliament to give him the power to close hospital departments or to order the withdrawal of services. 

Hunt has lost twice over Lewisham.  After his initial attempt to close the A&E Department was ruled to be illegal he appealed, and again he lost.  So now he is resorting to changing the law to suit himself.  Not, it should be noted, in an open way, but by sneaking in a clause at the last minute to the Care Bill, that has nothing to do with the reorganisation or privatisation of the NHS but is, strangely enough, about…

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FOR A GREEN AND PEOPLE’S EUROPE

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

 

An inspiring post and invitation from Peter Allen, Derbyshire Green Party. Help create a Greener Europe together.

Although the Green Party doesn’t believe that contesting elections is all that a political party should do, and spends considerable time and effort campaigning on a whole range of issues , it does believe elections are important and give people the opportunity to vote for policies which they approve of. Some elections are more important than others perhaps  and I believe next May’s European Parliament elections, not yet much talked about, are more important than most.

This may be considered to be a surprising view, particularly when it is combined with a recognition that the powers of the European Parliament are extremely limited, with real power in the EU in the hands of unelected commissioners and the leaders of the various national governments. The importance of the elections is in the message it will give to our rulers (governments, commissioners and corporations) about the popular mood in Europe, and in particular the strength of opposition and unrest that exists across the continent to  austerity programmes being carried out by national governments, with the support of unelected commissioners in Brussels, and to the failure of all of Europe’s leaders to address the growing global climate crisis.

Here in the East Midlands we hope that our excellent lead candidate Kat Boettege will be elected to the new parliament, on the basis of opposing austerity and demanding radical action to combat climate change . One of our central messages is that cuts in spending on services that people rely on (schools,hospitals, welfare benefits, care for the vulnerable) will not solve the economic crisis but will in fact make it worse (and already is). It is denying people the opportunity to work in secure employment (in which they would make a difference for the better in other people’s lives and contribute to tax revenues whilst doing so). It is condemning many to a life of poverty and even destitution.  A second message is that, with carbon emissions already at a dangerously high level Europe and the world can no longer delay taking action to transform our power generation, transportation and food production systems to drastically reduce our these emissions in the hope of avoiding global catastrophe.

We are also saying that the EU must be more democratic, with the power of lobbyists on behalf of corporations curtailed and decisions made by elected representatives rather than unelected commissioners. One issue which we will be raising is the threat to democracy posed by the proposed ( and little known) TTIP treaty which would reduce even further the controls on large corporations.

Campaigning on the basis of the above we are offering an alternative to the failed policies of the various ” grey parties”, and to the nasty politics of hate and fear as represented by UKIP. In an election under proportional representation we are hopeful of success providing we make a big effort. Why not join us in doing so ?


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Peace and Goodwill to all Life?

candles in the dark

The East Midland’s Green Party Blog has been going for a year. This year, as last year, we take a seasonal look at how we can each make a difference. This month’s theme is ‘life-style’ and I wanted to include a look at a seasonal theme of peace and good will to all people (and all life).

There is the song called ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, in which some pretty odd gifts are presented. The image of 12 marauding lords a-leaping uninvited around a home bought to my mind some of the inappropriate gifts this government has offered to us in the last 12 months. Each one has drastic effects on lives. Simply to name 12 ills the government has been party to or failed in its duty to protect us from, I would include homelessness increasing, child poverty increasing, increased domestic violence with decreased prosecution, increasing debt to pay national (bank) debts, the promise of more water and land pollution with fracking, climate chaos remaining unchallenged despite renewed warnings from government’s chief scientist, the escalation of school privatisation, the escalation of NHS privatisation, increasing fuel poverty and shortages, alienation and dehumanization of emerging communities, disabled people’s rights and ability to thrive taken away. You could add much more. So where is the hope? Look in the mirror, it is you!

Many of these ‘gifts’ were also given by the Labour government, such as privitisation of public services like schools and the NHS.  Edd Milliband forgot to mention the environment at all in his spring conference speech this year. So it is left to us to protect community values in the face of threats posed by reckless and ruthless policies. For many it is a season of festivity,  giving and tradition. When we consider what we wish to share with loved ones this season and beyond let’s look at alternative gifts and ways of giving.

As the first day of Advent arrived and as many prepare for Christmas I am in the midst of Channukah celebrations. I’m an Interfaith Women’s Worker and on Sunday members of the women’s group were at my home sharing cake and hope. Zahra, a Muslim from Gaza and I speak of being cousins, while our friend from Malawi sits by our side. This friend who has been active in our local community for 14 years, trained as a nurse, has done much church, interfaith and women’s empowerment voluntary work, while staying within the law and not doing paid work until she has permission to stay. She  recently spent two and a half months incarcerated in a detention centre without adequate medicine for her high blood pressure and under constant threat of deportation.  When she was let out on bail she was rushed into hospital to deal with the damage her detention and inadequate medicine caused. That was in this country, this year. Another woman around my kitchen table, originally from Ireland,  has told her stories of a persecuted childhood on these shores where shops and homes were closed to her. The original, now retired, matriarch of the group who gathered these women, sits on my right. Across cultures, faiths, generations and politics we speak of our hopes for peace between peoples and peaceful and equal relationships between men and women. The Green Party is the only party that does not use newcomers to our nation as scapegoats for economic uncertainty and almost every other social ill, though our membership diversity in terms of faith or ethnicity is limited so far.  Many call this the season of goodwill but I would ask if goodwill should need a season? It is a good place to start and stretch ourselves from.

Here is a puzzle. Peace and social justice are cornerstones of The Green Party. Peace is a universal concept talked of much, acted on less. While there are many things we would like to see reformed in the EU, one reason to stay is Peace. In the last few decades since the second War to End All Wars there have been armed conflicts all across the globe. We take it for granted that we would not go to war with Germany, with France and with other EU countries. We may like to believe history has taught us lessons, but the trade and political relationships built up by the EU are a great safeguard. It would be politically and economically self-defeating for an EU nation to declare war on another.

Here is a question and each one of us will have a different answer. What are the gifts we are going to offer the world in the upcoming year?  In the year to come I would like to see The Green Party stretch further to welcome a more diverse membership. There will be those who will be offended at the suggestion we have further to go to be inclusive.  I will risk that in the pursuit of a greater gift we could all share; that of a broader more effective party, building on the generations of sterling work given so far. Within the limits of finance and facilities we should open the party to a membership that reflects the inclusiveness of its policies. Religiously neutral and non-pub venues mean more Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and others  feel welcomed. Venues with good access for people with mobility problems would increase membership, active engagement and comfort. Social media, Skype and phone trees could help where this is not possible. Ensuring conferences do not fall on the major festivals of any one faith too many times, if ever, would ensure against bad feeling. Ensuring that any and all allegations of prejudice are dealt with speedily and justly, not with punishment but as a chance to build greater understanding, awareness and tolerance would build us up, together. We cannot afford complacency with regard to diversifying our membership and ensuring welcome is an absolute, not an adjustment of structure. Our practices must live up to the promise of our policies.  We cannot be naive and fail to see where there are barriers to inclusion or that, however unlikely or uncomfortable it seems, even Green Party members may occasionally need to build tolerance and understanding of different cultures and beliefs.  We are in this Earth Ship together and most, if not all, cultures, faiths and creeds have notions of social justice and the importance / sacredness of the earth at their core.  The time has passed when we can afford to accidentally (or purposefully) leave any one out. So, if this is a season of goodwill to all humanity and all life let us expand our borders of what is possible if we dared to think, to dream, we could all work together. Once we were called ‘People Party’. It is a massive ask but it may be only we could do it, let us try to live up to that.

Wishing you peace, joy and sustenance now and in the future. It is a gift that rests in all our hands, unwrapped when we give to one another.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch