East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Why Caroline Lucas needs a Green TEAM

CarolineDid you watch the BBC Election debate last week, the one real debate between all parties of the entire election campaign? The debate was notable mainly for a truly extraordinary performance by Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas — including repeated devastating attacks from her on May’s substitute, the hapless Amber Rudd.

A number of commentators tweeted their reckoning that Caroline had ‘won’ the debate overall, including the moderator of the #CorbynVMay debate, Faisal Islam, Labour-leaning journalist Paul Mason, and even legendarily tribal Labour spin-doctor Alistair Campbell. And she picked up more new followers on Twitter than anyone else in the whole debate, Corbyn included, a kind of ‘objective’ measure of her success in the debate.

So, what does this mean for anyone impressed enough with the Green Leader and with Green policies to want to now back the Party? With just days to go until Election Day, does the ‘wasted vote’ argument still work, against the Greens?

Well, the first point to make is that Caroline got to participate in the #BBCDebate because enough voters in Brighton have voted Green to make her an MP already, under First Past The Post.

It’s also worth remembering that about 520–550 seats at this election, under our absurdly undemocratic electoral system, are already reckoned to be ‘safe’ for the Party that holds them. In every single one of those seats where the Greens are standing, a Green vote makes much more sense than anything else, if you want powerfully to voice the thought, #IAgreeWithCaroline. Eventually, if enough people start voting with their convictions, then some of these seats will no longer be safe…

But it’s worth noting too that there are seats where the Green Party is in direct contention to win, especially if Lucas’s scintillating showing in the BBC Leaders’ debate leads to a poll upswing for the Party.

There are a number of seats where the Greens are ahead of the LibDems, including places with recent Green surges in Councillor numbers, such as near where I live, in Suffolk.

There are seats where the Green Party is ahead of the Labour Party, such as Frome, where the singer Theo Simon is Green candidate. In the Isle of Wight, which has a strong tradition of independent voting, and the incumbent Conservative candidate had to stand down last month in disgrace, the well-known local politician Vix Lowthion is Green candidate — and in this seat, the Greens came ahead of both Labour and LibDems.

There are several seats where the Green Party is in second place to Labour, including Manchester Gorton, Sheffield Central (where the candidate is former Party Leader Natalie Bennett) and Liverpool Riverside.

However, by far, the Greens’ best prospect of all is in this election, after Brighton Pavillion where Caroline Lucas is standing again, is Bristol West. Here, Molly Scott Cato MEP, a green economist and longtime colleague of Caroline, will need just 2500 votes to move from Labour to Green to become Bristol’s first Green Party MP. She is up against a Labour candidate who is a vociferously anti-Corbyn and who has refused to commit to electoral reform; favours the renewal of trident; and has a much weaker record on issues such as defence of the NHS — which is partly why Molly Scott Cato has been endorsed by the National Health Action Party.

Why does it matter, that there be more Green MPs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Caroline Lucas?

Caroline has been worth a dozen MPs from any other Party, in terms of her phenomenal workload and achievements since being elected to Westminster — which is why she has repeatedly won Parliamentarian of the Year awards. But there’s only so much that a lone MP can do. To reach the next level of influence and power — to be able to put forward motions requiring a seconder, for example — Caroline Lucas needs to be Leader of a Parliamentary group. That makes it crucial that she has at least one more MP in her team besides herself! The best prospect of all for that to happen is in Bristol West.

Part of what came over so strongly in the BBC Debate was the different philosophy of the Green Party. Lucas stood completely apart from the other Leaders by being the only one to place concerns about our very future, in particular the rising tide of climate disasters, front and centre. She made Corbyn look distinctively uncomfortable by focussing on key issues that set Greens apart from Labour: such as the Green focus on peace, meaning no to Trident; the Green focus on smart public transport rather than carbon-heavy mega-infrastructure, meaning no to HS2; and the Green focus on the public having a say before any Brexit deal gets final approval.

The Green Party is of course the only Party not fixated on ever more ‘economic growth’, ever more stuff, ever more environmental degradation — and again the contrast with Corbyn and Labour was clear, with Corbyn pitching explicitly in the debate for faster growth, which ensures faster breaching of our environmental limits in general and our carbon ‘budget’ in particular. This is an issue which Scott Cato is particularly strong on (and that I’ve worked with her on, as part of the Green House ‘post-growth project’).

So that’s the bottom-line. It must be great to live in Brighton Pavillion, and thus to have Caroline Lucas as one’s MP. But she’s lonely. She needs company. She needs a team.

One Caroline Lucas has already made such a startling impact on British politics. Think what two (or three or four…) like her could do, together…

Written by Rupert Read, never miss a story from Rupert when you sign up for Medium. Learn more


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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.”