East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Euro elections – hope not fear

First of all I want to thank all the people who voted Green; and all the Green candidates and members who have been working tirelessly in this campaign.
After returning from our short stay at Kettering for the count yesterday, I have recovered from my disappointment. I knew that our chances of getting a seat were slim, but I had hoped for a higher percentage. I also have been concerned about now having two UKIP and two Conservative and one Labour MEPs in the East Midlands; this far right move has also been shown throughout Europe and is seriously threatening our Green, peaceful, equal and fair agenda. Banking reform, challenging corporate power, protecting workers’ rights, improving animal welfare, fighting climate change, investing in renewables and addressing equality in Europe is not supported by the right wing parties. That does worry me.
However, after reflections, I think we have done very well – such a strong trend is almost impossible to oppose. In the UK 1,2 million people have voted Green, and this is a clear message that there are many who trust and support or aims. Voters have also clearly shown their lack of faith in the Libdems, and admittedly I was pleased that we got more votes than them. Although I would obviously have preferred Libdems gaining seats to UKIP or the Conservatives. Here in the East Midlands, we came fourth – which is a great achievement. The campaign has also gathered momentum, and it appeared that many were motivated to help, join and some to even vote for the first time. I believe we raised the East Midlands Green Party profile. Someone today reminded me of our slogan of “hope not fear”. And I thought yes, absolutely. Voters and members believe in us, they believe in the positive solutions we offer. Whatever happens from now on in Europe and in the UK, we must continue to get our message out there.
Next year, we have local and general elections, which we must focus on. We also will analyse the results and start considering a long term strategy for the Euro elections in five years.
That’s how it is, Green activists and candidates have shown that even after disappointments, we just carry on. We reflect and learn regarding election strategies, but continue to fight for our uncompromising values. Because we all believe in our solutions – these are positive and achievable.
So than you again for your support, and we are looking forward to continue to fight for a better future for the common good.


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Greens accuse LibDems of ‘misrepresentation’

The East Midlands Green Party has stated that the Liberal Democrats claim to be the only party ‘standing up for Britain’s membership of the EU’ is a misrepresentation.

‘The LD’s are trying to give the impression that all other parties in this election want to come out of the EU and that only they favour continued membership. This is simply not true’, said KB, the Greens lead candidate in the East Midlands.

‘In our freepost leaflet we say that we need a very different, reformed European Union, a Europe that supports local communities to make decisions for themselves, that reins in the power of the giant global corporations and helps ensure they and rich individuals pay their fair share of taxes. We also think that it needs to be a more democratic Europe, with the European Parliament, where we hope to have increased representation given more control over unelected commissioners. Unlike the anti Europe parties the Greens say that we need to stay in the EU because it lays the foundation for Human and Workers Rights and of consumer and environmental standards. We know that all of these areas would be weakened by the Euro-sceptics who oppose even the limited protection that current European legislation provides’

The Liberal Democrat claim was made in their Freepost leaflet. When challenged about the distortion in the leaflet lead candidate Bill Newton Dunn refused to defend the leaflet or take responsibility for it , blaming the “national office” but being unable to tell the Green Party who to direct a complaint to.

‘Bill’s indecisiveness on the matter is perhaps an indication of the disarray in which the Lib Dems find themselves’ said Kat ‘ Having shared a platform with him a number of times in the campaign I get the impression that he is unenthusiastic about various aspects of the Liberal Democrats platform in this election. And so he should be! He knows that his party is part of a government that has refused to implement the working time directive and has opposed taking action against bankers excessive bonuses. It is also a government which has blocked reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which would have put a cap on payments to the largest landowners who at present grab most of the subsidies paid by the EU to farmers,funded by taxpayers across Europe, many of whom are struggling with the impact of austerity. At home he knows that it is a government which has scapegoated immigrants and benefit claimants rather than taking action to control the activities of the financial institutions and their overpaid bosses who are really responsible for the crisis which has caused so much misery. It has also failed to keep its promise to be the greenest government. We know that many who have voted Liberal Democrat in the past , are extremely disillusioned with that party now and hope that many of them, if not Bill himself , will vote Green in the European Election later this month. With the Green Party already ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the polls we offer the real voice of hope in this election ‘


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Greens share common grounds with farmers.

The Green Party recognises the fundamental importance of those who work on the land and the contribution that farming makes to the rural economy and to wider society. However, many farmers do not currently receive fair reward for the food that they produce or for the many other ‘public services’ that they provide. We believe that letting conventional market forces dictate agriculture policy, as successive governments have done, can’t lead to the sustainable supply of food that should be the principle aim of farming. The aim of Green food and farming policy is to achieve food security over the long term.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as follows: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO says further that: “The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.” The current policies of the British Government have failed to do this, hence the rise of hunger in the UK and of food banks. It is frankly shocking that in the worlds seventh richest economy, there are people who can’t get enough to eat on a regular basis, it is a scandal that the response by our rulers to this is to blame the hungry and poor for their plight.

The Government approach to food security is to build a competitive economy to enable the UK to buy its food requirements on the world market. The role of agriculture is to contribute to the national balance of payments to finance this policy – so farming is encouraged to intensify and to maximise output like any other industry. Further, the Government looks to developing countries to supply more of the world’s food. This policy, supported by Labour, Tory and LibDems, expects the poorer countries of the world to feed the rich. This a high risk unsustainable policy that is morally indefensible, like much of the rest of free market ideology.

It is unfortunate that the current leaders of the farming community in Britain buy into this ideology, supporting further intensification of agriculture to maximise output and return on investment. At the same time they do recognise the need to preserve soil fertility, and that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment. They recognise the dangers of climate change, after this winters floods how could they ignore it? They understand the importance of sustainability. They want to see farmers able to make a decent living in return for their hard work. Yet they fail to see that the free-market economics, focusing on competition and ever growing returns is leading to irreversible environmental damage that makes farming practice unsustainable and is forcing thousands of farmers out of business.

There is an unfortunate tension between the farming community and Greens. This is over issues like animal welfare, access to land, industrial scale farming and hunting. We both need to get beyond these differences and look at what we have in common. This is what the Wildlife Trusts are successfully doing in their negotiations with local farmers over conservation. They accept that at present they can’t agree on badgers or foxes or hedgerows. But they recognise a common interest in maintaining a healthy and properly functioning environment, and that they can and need to work together. Greens and the farming community need now to adopt the same approach.

Our areas of agreement are far more significant that areas of disagreement. We both agree on the need for a healthy and viable agriculture sector to produce our food, and that that farmers need to be able to earn a decent living. We accept the idea of agricultural subsidies from the taxpayer in recognition of the importance of maintaining food supply, and because agriculture can’t operate like a traditional business due to the variable nature of the environment. We both know that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment and that farmers are well placed to implement long term conservation policies that are in the national interest, and that farming practice needs to be sustainable over the long term. We both want to see farming enterprises being an integral part of a robust rural economy supporting good and sustainable jobs.

And we both agree that farming faces critical challenges from Climate Change and that it must adapt to survive.

This is a lot of common ground and Green Food and Agriculture policy, together with other policy areas, fully addresses these issues. We firmly believe that our policies, based on sound science, need to be implemented if we are to maintain a sustainable food production capacity in Great Britain. Yes, we have our differences with some farmers, on GMO, on cloning, on intensive farming, on the appropriate business model for a healthy farming sector. But rather than trade insults over disagreements, we need to understand each other’s position and find agreement. These are vitally important issues to get right. They are not a matter of opinion, they can be answered through the proper understanding of science, which includes ecology, the science in which this Party is grounded.


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Young Women Speak Out

The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations [NAWO] with funding from the EU have been working on a project called ‘Young Women Speak Out’. Their work has involved enabling young women across Europe (between 14-25) to compile a Young Women’s Manifesto of demands to be put forward to European Parliament candidates and MEPs seeking re-election in the May 22nd election. The purpose of this work is to engage and thus empower young women, enabling them to find their voice and to give them the means and confidence to place their demands before their elected representatives. It also encourages young women to vote for candidates who will support their demands in the European Parliament.
The NAWO works as an umbrella organisation, bringing together women’s sector NGOs, charities and individuals who work to achieve gender equality by challenging the sources of inequality e.g. violence against women and girls, and promoting policy and cultural changes.
The demands of young women of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds in Europe are set out in their Manifesto ‘Young Women Speak Out.’

Click to access YoungWomenSpeakOutManifesto1.pdf


Green Parties across Europe support these demands and Green MEP’s will keep the interests of all young people clearly in focus in their work in the European Parliament and in their Regions.
‘Without gender equality there is no democracy’
[European Green Party Manifesto 2014]
Greens advocate the inclusion of a social progress clause in European law to promote the emancipation of women in society and in the economy. ‘Equal payment for equal work’ must be a standard all over the EU, as well as equal representation of women in company boards, and equal opportunity as of right including in the work place and education.
Gender democracy means that women are part of the public life of our societies and take decisions in all institutions and companies on an equal footing with men.
To reach equality, we believe that the EU should adopt a more comprehensive policy approach against gender based violence. We advocate an EU Directive to address violence against women, including the definition of rape and sexual violence against women within marriage and intimate informal relationships, as a crime.
Sexual and reproductive rights are essential elements of human dignity. Greens defend the right of self-determination over our own bodies, including gender identity and reproductive rights.
The East Midlands Green List of Candidates collectively endorse the Young Women’s Manifesto.
Lead candidate Kat Boettge said: ‘from my own experience as a migrant and unmarried mother, and from those of my daughter I understands well the problems young women face. I am sympathetic to all of the points raised in the Young Women’s Manifesto and these will be influential with me if elected to serve as an MEP.’
Second on the list Councillor Sue Mallender said, ‘I have experienced the problems of managing motherhood and career development, as a senior steward with UNISON and with my work with young people I am familiar with the issues raised in the Young Women’s Manifesto and I am totally supportive of their demands.’
Third candidate Peter Allen is very familiar with the difficulties young women face. Peter says, ‘my wife Mary and I were both single parents when we married, each of us with three daughters. Raising a family of six girls has given me a unique insight into the difficulties young women face in the world. I am greatly encouraged by the Young Women Speak Out project to give young women a voice and encourage them to interact with mainstream politics.’
Fourth Candidate is Councillor Richard Mallender. Richard says ‘I have had the privilege of helping to raise my wife Sue’s two daughters and I am well aware of the problems young women have in both their personal lives and in trying to build careers. The Green Manifesto makes a powerful commitment to address these issues and I will continue to campaign for gender equality


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Sustainability, am I a loony because I care about my daughter’s future?

We need to live sustainably, it’s a word commonly used by politicians but I wonder if they understand what Sustainability means. Looking at the internet, one gets various definitions in regards to environment, social and economic issues. I found the following definition the most useful:
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have, and will continue to have, the food, water, materials and resources we need for our well being and to protect our environment.
Basically sustainability means considering our future and ensuring that we do not destroy or use up the resources that we need for our comfort or even basic needs. Furthermore, if we think about our children and grandchildren and their future, we must ensure that we leave them a world that can provide for their needs.
I find it rather strange and difficult that as an environmentalist, I am perceived as an idealist or even a “looney”. Considering our children’s future should be a normal, caring and responsible thing to do. Looking after the planet for our children, is therefore, not an idealistic question but a pragmatic necessity. We hear that we must live within our financial means, otherwise we would be considered as short-sighted and selfish. Post recession, we were all blamed for the banking crisis by the ConDem government since we apparently have not lived within our means. It is absurd to blame us for the failure of a unregulated casino banking that gambled our money away. However, labour and ConDem obviously understand sustainability in a financial sense, because that’s what living within our means refers to. Money can be managed; if one system of economics does not work, we can change it (although with difficulties and some would suffer more than others from such a transition). However, we only have one planet, we cannot change that. We are currently living as if we had three planets, that is simply not sustainable!
Talking to people on the streets, I get the sense that most are not interested in environmental issues. I can appreciate that many are seriously struggling to eat and pay for heating, the environment may not seem a priority. But without the resources, it soon will become apparent how all prices will hike; extreme weather conditions, high energy prices will ultimately cause serious unrest world wide. We will be facing civil wars mass migration.
So being responsible and wanting to live within our means (environmentally speaking) surely should be an absolutely necessary priority. So why am I the looney? We appear used to the fact that politicians and corporations are looking after their immediate and selfish needs, all in the name of growth. Living as if there is no tomorrow for purely selfish reasons, should cause outcry, but no that is perceived as normal. And I am the looney? Strange and scary world, we are living in.


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Real Nappies

Considering the future of our planet – the home of our children and grandchildren, should be a must for us all. We are currently using up important resources, destroying our planet, creating far too much waste; all for our immediate and often selfish needs, as if there was no tomorrow. There are endless examples of what we are now take for granted, but which are simply unsustainable.
Getting involved in politics, meeting with business and very different people, I have learned a lot of things I otherwise would not know much about. For example, I have recently met with a company “Bambino Mio” who manufactures and distributes reusable or real nappies. So I learned about disposable nappies and the environmental impact of the production and disposal of nappies.
Disposable nappies use about 3.5 times more energy than real nappies to produce; using eight times more non-renewable materials. This is simply not sustainable.
Increasingly more parents are now buying reusable nappies for many reasons. Sometimes because of their environmental responsibility, but also as they can be cheaper (particularly if the parents have more than one child). By the way, they look very nice too.
Disposable nappies amount to around 5% of the UK’s waste, mainly ending up on landfills; each nappy can take up to 400 years to decompose, giving off methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas in the process. Currently councils, therefore the council tax payer, are carrying the full costs of disposal. The UK has agreed in principle to a EU Directive to adopt a zero-waste policy. Hence we must address unnecessary waste, and that means doing something about disposable nappies.
In some areas, councils have offered voucher schemes which make real nappies cheaper for parents. The costs saved from the waste disposal were basically covering the voucher scheme costs. Obviously everybody benefited from less waste, which otherwise will fill up our countryside with waste tips.
An alternative approach to this problem would be a Green Party policy where producers and distributors of any products would have to pay environmental levies that directly reflect the real costs of their products, including disposal. By real costs I mean the carbon footprint, the resources used and the environmental damage a product really causes to our shared environment. At the moment, these costs are carried by us and our future generations. We accept that such levies would partially be passed on to consumers and we want to ensure that family incomes are not damaged by such price hikes. But over time, these costs will level off leaving no long term problems for future generations to sort out. However, families as everybody else need to accept the need to change their consumer behaviour, since we otherwise will leave our future generations in difficulties. If all families switched to reusable nappies then they would become even cheaper. And finally, other Green Party economic policies would ensure a sound financial basis for families, to address the struggles that so many are finding under the rule of the free market ConDem Government.
I think I speak on behalf of most parents in saying that we want the best for our children both today and in to their future. Therefore, we owe it to them to live now within our means environmentally speaking, so we can leave them with an unspoiled world that offers them the resources they need.


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Commemorating workers memorial day

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Remember also, those who gave their lives at work . . .

I am writing this on the first anniversary (24th April) of the fire in the Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 1100 workers. One year on their families still wait for adequate compensation and large retailers still “bring to the market” clothing made in unsafe conditions by over exploited workers in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Monday April 28th is Workers’ Memorial Day, when trade unions across the world remember fellow workers who have lost their lives due to accidents at work, which have often been caused by a lack of health and safety measures by employers, and reaffirm their commitment to creating and maintaining safe working environments. As the TUC says on its website The purpose behind Workers Memorial Day has always been to “remember the dead; fight for the living” … the latter can best be done by building trade union organisations, and campaigning for stricter enforcement of health & safety laws with higher penalties for breaches.

Deaths at work due to poor Health and Safety measures are not confined to poor countries. In the UK of particular concern is the danger faced by workers on building sites. 760 site workers have been killed since 2001, more than the number of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same period. In 2012-13, 5.2 million working days were lost due to injury at work and there were 148 fatalities. After a steady decline in recent years, there is a serious concern that deaths and injuries are showing an increase.

There has been a decrease in trade union membership with an increased casualisation of the workforce in recent years, something that is particularly strong on building sites. To compound this problem, the budget of the Health and Safety Executive was cut by 35% in 2011, which has resulted in fewer inspections and fewer prosecutions of negligent employers. This puts more workers lives and health at risk. The Green Party agrees with the TUC that we need a strong strategy on Health and Safety from the European Commission to raise standards throughout Europe. We also recognise that actions by politicians in Parliaments need to be combined with action by trade unions, fighting, like the Green Party, for the Common Good.

Vote Green 2014


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Vote for a Green New Deal

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Amidst all the froth that is 24 hour news, and away from the unhealthy warmongering on both sides that is happening in Ukraine, two recent publications have received some warranted attention in the last couple of weeks.

Firstly, the recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a call for action by governments to address potentially calamitous global warming. The third in a series (the first report focussed on emphasising the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and has been caused primarily by human activity and the second outlined the catastrophic consequences of failing to take action) the report concentrates on the actions that can and must be taken to address global warming, and stresses that is entirely possible to take these necessary actions providing there is the political will to do so.

The authoritative report, the cumulative work of over 1200 international experts, concludes that the cheapest and least risky route to dealing with global climate change is to abandon all dirty fossil fuels in coming decades, and to invest instead in renewable energy, with the aim of quadrupling renewable electricity generation by 2050. Whilst lamenting the failure by governments to provide an adequate response up to now, it says that it is still not too late to act, providing governments, cooperating on an international basis, step up to the mark.

Secondly a new book, called ‘Capital in the Twenty First Century’ by the increasingly renowned French economist Thomas Piketty provides concrete proof of what many of us have suspected for years, namely that capitalism, far from promoting the economic well-being of all, entrenches inequality and privilege, which it tends to increase over time. The study, based on a more detailed analysis of wealth and income data than has ever been previously carried out, concludes that:

“Capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based”

Piketty argues that the structural inequality which capitalism creates must be countered by high levels of taxation of both income and wealth, an initiative which will require international cooperation between governments with a common determination to take on wealth and privilege.

These two important publications are well timed for the Green Party’s European Election Campaign. We have recognised that the world’s ecological and economic crises must be addressed together. Moreover, we have developed a programme which aims to do just that. Under our Green New Deal, increased taxation of rich individuals and large companies, and a much tighter control of banks and other financial institutions, will provide the resources for increasing the incomes of the poorest, and for defending and improving the public services on which we all rely. It will also involve the greening of our infrastructure, creating well paid employment insulating homes and other buildings, promoting energy-efficient public transport and transforming our energy production so that it is primarily based on renewables. Together with Green parties across Europe we are offering a real programme for change, based on sustainable economics and social justice.

Of course Greens in the UK, and across Europe, don’t think that the election of a few more Green MEPs will be enough in itself to solve the world’s problems. Indeed we recognise that real change is not the sole responsibility of elected politicians. Greens support and get involved in trade union and community campaigns in defence of jobs and services, and against so called ‘welfare reform’. Greens have been at the forefront of direct action campaigns against fracking and other forms of dangerous energy. Nevertheless, we do think that success in the forthcoming Euro elections will represent an important step in building the movement that is needed to secure a sustainable and socially just future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

Green Party members in the East Midlands will be working hard in the next few weeks promoting our message of Hope. Our hope is that our candidates, including myself, will be elected to the European Parliament on May 22nd. With your help, that is possible.

Vote Green. For the Common Good.


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Housing

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Supporters of Margaret Thatcher and her legacy often point to her housing policies as her greatest achievement. By creating a “freedom of the market” and a “property owning democracy” through the sale of council housing and the removal of ” unnecessary red tape”   in the private rented sector,  she is claimed to have increased prosperity for all (except perhaps the “feckless”) and to have increased the number of “stakeholders” in a society which at other times she claimed did not exist!

As with the rest of the Thatcherite legacy the success of her housing policies is myth rather than reality. Indeed the consequences have been disastrous, particularly for most of those not even born when she began her destructive and disastrous rule.

The sale of council housing to sitting tenants was certainly an electorally popular policy. In truth it had very little to do with the principles of the market economy. Large discounts were offered to existing tenants who chose to exercise their “right to buy” and many, quite understandably took up the offer, particularly those who were tenants of the high quality homes built by local authorities in the decades before and after the Second World War.

While it may be hard to object to working class tenants being given a subsidy to buy a property, the problem was that the homes that were sold were not replaced. Indeed local councils, who had built and paid for the properties in the first place were not allowed to spend the money raised from the sales on building new homes.

There had never been “council homes for all” but within a decade or so there was a chronic shortage of “social housing” (including housing owned by housing associations and by companies set up to take over much of the remaining council housing) in many areas.

Today many areas has become most areas. In Nottingham there are 13,000 on the waiting list and only 2,500 properties become available per year. In Derbyshire Dales, where, like much of rural Britain, home ownership has become unaffordable for most of the local population, the council website warns against expectation of success for those needing social housing, pointing out that many properties receive over 100 bids in the new “choice based” letting system which they, like other councils, have introduced and which in reality offers no choice at all to most on the waiting list. Across the East Midlands as a whole 120,000 were on social housing waiting lists in 2012, a figure which is likely to have increased since then and which does not include the many more who have given up waiting or have been put off or barred from applying (its one chance only these days and if, for instance, you have ever been in rent arrears you can expect to be refused permission to even join the queue).

So what happens to all those who cannot get social housing and cannot afford to buy?

They have no alternative but to try and find somewhere to rent from a private landlord.

Which brings us on to the another, less publicised but equally influential Thatcherite housing reform: the reduced protection for tenants renting from private landlords. Alongside the reduction in the availability of council and other “social” housing, and offered as an alternative to it,  the Thatcher government sought to increase the number of private landlords and private tenancies. To make becoming a private landlord more attractive, and more profitable, rent controls were abolished and the eviction of a tenant was made straightforward, with the tenant having no defence and not having had to have breached any tenancy condition.

The consequence of this? There has been a huge increase in the availability of private tenancies, presented as offering “more choice in the housing market” but in reality, for those unable to afford rents at the luxury end of the market, tenants have fewer rights and little security. Of course not all landlords behave unreasonably, but there is almost no comeback on those that do, whilst even “responsible” landlords are tempted to increase rents and minimise expenditure on repairs and maintenance when their primary aim is private profit, whilst always keeping open the option of evicting the tenant in order to sell the property with vacant possession. For many  private tenants there is no opportunity to obtain a permanent home, with the threat of eviction always only two months away, or any expectation that profit driven landlords will carry out anything more than essential repairs.

Many private tenants no doubt continue to aspire to home ownership, which is likely to remain out of reach for many of them, with house prices rising again and wages continuing to stagnate. There is growing evidence that only those benefiting from inherited wealth and / or handouts from relatives can afford to become owner occupiers in large parts of the country, whilst many families face the prospect of moving from one short term private tenancy to another, their children often not in one place long enough to build lasting friendships, and not even being sure about which school they will be going to from one term to the next. With little or no hope of owner occupation or of obtaining the secure, affordable social housing that most of them would prefer.

What does the Green Party say ?

– that everyone is entitled to secure and affordable housing

– that better use should be made of the existing stock, with local councils being given strengthened powers against  speculative landlords and owners deliberately keeping housing empty.

– that where and when new housing does need to be built it is done to the highest environmental standards and is affordable for most of those needing housing, whether to rent or to buy.

– that private tenants should have more rights and better protection. In particular Assured  Shorthold Tenancies, giving landlords the right to end tenancies without good cause, should be abolished .

Our essential belief is that housing, like health, education and public services in general, is  too important to be left to the market to provide and that secure and sustainable housing is a right and not a privilege.

Decent housing for all, for the common good.