East Midlands Green Party Blog


1 Comment

Green Party Spring Conference 2014 in Liverpool

I attended the Saturday and Sunday of the spring conference. The conference lasts from Friday to Monday, but I could not attend all days due to child care.
Anyway, this was my first proper time in Liverpool, I had only visited previously to provide training – but I obviously did not see the City. My Hotel was a Green Hotel in the middle of the Ropewalks, a very stylish area in the Centre with all the trendy clubs. Although it was slightly pricey, I enjoyed the tasteful Hotel in a converted warehouse of some sort. Walking through the streets, I enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere. On Saturday night, we walked to Albert Docks, and we were astounded by the stunning architecture – a mixture between old and new. I believe it’s one of the Unesco Word Heritage.

The conference itself was inspiring and interesting. I particularly enjoyed a fringe on “Trade deals and investment treaties” by David Malone from Scarborough. I already had some awareness on the controversial TTIP, and I have shared the Green’s serious concerns about losing our UK sovereignty. However, this workshop taught me that in the last decade many countries have already been signing up to various treaties. Although this is all hush-hush and here is being dealt with confidentially by the unelected Foreign Commonwealth Office. These treaties are agreed between two or more countries to ease their trade and investment. Corporations or companies from these countries can then sue the other country, if they occur any losses due to changes of regulations, if they have been treated differently to similar National companies (including eg the NHS or the BBC), or if the taxation is not recognised by international expectations (assessed by the corporate lawyers, as no existing agreed guidelines). Any disputes are being resolved by three arbitrators (one from each side and the third agreed by both), these are corporate lawyers discussing this behind closed doors. National and mainly international law is not being recognised. One of these cases has been when an oil drilling company, Occidental sued Ecuador for losses after they had polluted a river; the arbitration ruled to pay $1.77 bil.
I left the fringe feeling extremely worried, but having gained a clearer picture about this rather unknown issue.

Another highlight was at one of the plenaries where we voted on a motion that would instruct the top five Green politicians (MP, MEPs, leader and depute) to use their public appearances to promote the anti-growth message. I agreed with the necessity of this message; however I did not agree to instruct Caroline, Jean, Keith, Natalie and Will to do so. They have been doing a great job, and are fully aware and astute when and how it is appropriate to promote whatever policy.
Anyway, the first round of voting decided against, someone encouraged 12 further members to ask for a paper vote. The chair asked that only members who were present at the debate should vote (as people keep coming and leaving throughout). At this time the motion got passed (I believe it was 89 for and 86 against). It was then being discussed that the chair was mistaken and that anybody could vote. Therefore, after a heated debate we finally voted yet again and it was passed again (108 for and 105 against). This is democracy alive! And I must admit, I found it rather amusing, but left with a sense that we, the Greens are truly follow a fair and thorough democracy.
Derbyshire Green Party has been trying to have the MPs remuneration pledge passed for a couple of years now. Peter Allen from Derbyshire and one of our Euro candidates has proposed this motion, due to the absence of John Youatt one of the main forces behind the previous two years work alongside Peter Jackson. I am delighted to say that this motion was passed with an overwhelming majority. Well done to Peter A., John and Peter J.!
There was also a motion to increase diversity in the party, which I obviously welcome. This motion was passed and it ensures a quota for the regional parties (ie European election nominations) for 50+ females and one in the East Midlands BAME candidate. I questioned who is a BAME candidate ie do white non British individuals count, what about travellers etc.; the proposers responded that this would be by self-definition. I voted in favour since I preferred this motion (although not clearly defined) to be passed than not. Someone voiced their concerns of abuse; I have the opposite concern that individuals could feel unsure of how define themselves. I, for example, do not know if I consider myself a minority; I am German but I have not suffered the historical and institutional abuse and discrimination like non- white communities have.

In the name of the East Midlands Green Party, we put in an emergency motion to support Frack Free Nottinghamshire in their campaign against some coal bed methane drilling near Retford. Unfortunately other emergency motions took priority and thus we run out of time and this was not put to plenary.
There were also many other interesting and significant motions, fringes and discussions including changes to our educational policies, “make corporations responsible” and to prioritise the issue of child sexual exploitation.
I have been greatly enjoying the conference; and although I left very tired with a hurting back, I felt inspired and saturated.


2 Comments

Robin Hood Tax

Kat GP 3

The financial sector is probably the richest economic sector in the world, it’s turnover is truly eye-watering, figures that we can hardly comprehend. This sector operates in our midst, consuming goods and services provided by society and the natural environment. It seems reasonable to me that the sector should make a fair payment to help to cover the cost of these services and to contribute to the proper functioning of society.

This is the position of the European Union. Supported by public opinion across Europe, a majority of member states want the financial sector to make a fair and proportional contribution to public finances. This after all is what we are required to do as is any other sector of the economy. In addition a majority of ordinary tax payers think that the financial sector should be paying back what they have received form the European tax payer as the bail out finance needed to rescue them from their own failings. Let us keep reminding those who forget, like the Chancellor and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that it wasn’t us, the ordinary tax payer who brought the global economy to its knees, it was the financial sector. But it was us who were called on to rescue them from their own folly. It is reasonable that they should acknowledge this and begin to pay us back the 4.6 trillion Euros they have had from us. After all that is that they expect when they give us a loan.

In September 2011, the European Commission proposed a harmonised Financial Transaction Tax for the EU. Two important aims of this proposal are:
• to ensure that the financial sector made a fair and substantial contribution to public finances, and
• to discourage financial transactions which do not contribute to the efficiency of financial markets or of the real economy.

That to me seems fair, who’s going to argue about it?

Well the British Government for a start. Acting on behalf of their rich friends in the City, the Coalition Government promptly set about blocking the move. It seems that the richest among us do not like the idea of paying their way in the world.

Frustrated by the action of the UK Government and the blocking actions of Tory MEP’s, the European Parliament on 12th December 2012 voted to allow those member stated that wanted to implement a harmonised transaction tax to go ahead. From 22nd January 2013, The Council of Europe gave its consent to 11 member states began the process of developing a common framework for a FTT. Immediately the British Government, responding to the tug on the strings from the City, launched a legal challenge. While this is ongoing, wasting yet more tax payers money, it has not blocked the development of the FTT.

The countries that are developing the FTT lie at the heart of Europe and include the EU’s most successful economy, Germany. The other countries involved are Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia. Most of the remaining countries are supportive to various degrees, most are watching developments and reserve the right to join at a later date. Only the British Government is working to block the tax.

The new tax was supposed to have been finalised and implemented on 1 January 2014, but remains bogged down in detail but its supporters insist that it will happen. It is uncertain how much the tax will raise, current estimates are around 50 billion Euro’s per year, but it could be considerably more. There is also disagreement on where the money should go. Most will go to the national governments but the EU wants to be able to raise its own funds so as to reduce national contributions and the arguments and resentments that go with them. When the idea of a global currency transaction tax was discussed at the beginning of the millennium, it was intended that the money raised should be used to secure help for the emerging economies. Many in Europe want this ambition to remain in any allocation of funds. However the main motivation now is to rebuild Europe’s struggling economy, damaged by the apparent need to bail out the banks.

There is wide spread support for getting the financial sector to help to rebuild the economy.
A survey published by YouGov suggests that more than four out of five people in the UK think the financial sector has a responsibility to help repair the damage caused by the economic crisis. How this is done is more controversial since many who read the right wing press have a knee jerk aversion to the word Tax. However, surveys do indicate that a Robin Hood tax does have the support of two thirds of people in Britain, spread across the party divides. Perhaps the romantic appeal of Robin Hood and his merry men robbing the rich to give to the poor lives on in the hearts of the British people.

For Greens, expecting wealthy people and corporations to make a fair contribution to the welfare of society is not robbery. Our aim is to build an economy that serves needs not greed, that helps to move our country to greater equality for the benefit of all. A financial transaction tax will help this process. We accept its complications and that it needs to be global, but we want Europe to take the lead to show that it is possible. Greens in the European Parliament will work together to promote the Robin Hood tax and ensure that it works for the common good.