East Midlands Green Party Blog


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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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Greens concerns over Bilateral Trade Agreements

At the recent Green Party Conference I attended a workshop on what on the face of it might sound like a not very exciting subject – Bilateral Trade Agreements, with particular reference to the TTIP. By the end of the workshop I realised what a minefield these agreements can be, often leaving Governments open to costly legal action by multinational corporations.
There are many different trade agreements or treaties between different countries. These treaties are agreed between two or more countries to help trade and bring in investment. The negotiations are all confidential and here in the UK they are dealt with by the unelected officials at the Foreign Commonwealth Office. Because of so called commercial confidentiality, little information gets out to the public or even to Parliament.
One of the big concerns of these agreements if that they allow Corporations or companies from one of the countries to sue the government of other country if they occur any losses due to changes of regulations. So if for example a country wanted to stop a company polluting a river, the polluting company could sue the Government for loss of profit. Also if a company believes that it has been treated differently to similar national company or organisation such as the BBC or NHS, it can demand the right to provide the service or sue for loss of profit. If the Government wanted to change the tax regime for business – increasing corporation tax on big business to help pay for public welfare for example, it would be open to a law suit. The disputes that arise between the foreign corporations and the Government are resolved by three arbitrators (one from each side and the third agreed by both), these are corporate lawyers discussing the claims behind closed doors. These cases are not heard by qualified Judges, they are outside the normal legal system which is not recognised by these arbitration tribunals. Yet their decision can cost the tax payer millions of pounds. One of these cases involved an oil drilling company, Occidental that sued Ecuador for losses after the Government demanded that they clean up a river they had polluted; the arbitration tribunal ruled that the government had to pay Occidental $1.77 billion for loss of profit. Scary and scandalous, isn’t it?
The EU is currently negotiating with the US the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. This is a bilateral trade agreement, but the biggest ever negotiated and set to make the world’s biggest trading block. Please note that these negotiations are yet again kept confidential by the unelected European Commission. Some Green MEPs from Germany have recently leaked a document outlining the proposed agreement, which has raised considerable concern. The documents suggest that the Commission is about to sign over Europe’s right to set regulations around environmental, health and safety, economic, cultural and social issues. The rights of the Corporations will stand above those of the citizen.
What does this actually mean? For example, if the EU bans a drug due to health risks but a US company has been selling this drug in the EU, the company can then sue the EU for any losses they might occur. In the UK the treaty will give American companies the right to bid for any Government contract, its bid based on the expectancy that the regulations here will be ‘harmonised’ with those of the US. If the Government tries to keep higher standards, or to keep the service provision under its own control, it is open to being sued. This has big implications for the NHS and for state education.
We have endless examples of how badly these trade agreements can impact on our future. I feel confident in saying that the majority of British people would be horrified if they knew the full implications of TTIP. But strangely enough, this is not widely discussed. The Tories, Labour, LibDems and even UKIP are supporting this.
I was recently invited to speak on fracking to the Independent Group seminar of the Local Government Association. The group consisted of Independent, Green and UKIP councillors. I mentioned the TTIP, only the Green Councillor had heard of it, nobody else. I would have thought that at least UKIP would be against signing the UK’s sovereignty over to unelected bureaucrats.
I do not wish to have a future where decisions about our laws, tax and financial funding are being decided in private boardrooms. I do not want to see tax payers money being paid to multinational corporations to protect their profits. This would mean the end of democracy, all in the name of the so-called free market.
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 similar treaties, and often even the Governments haven’t fully realised the implications of the deals that they are signing up to. TTIP will not be good for the the majority of people in the UK or in Europe, the Green Group in the European Parliament will oppose it. Vote Green on May 22nd to strengthen the Green’s opposition to this undemocratic proposal.


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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.


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Diary Dates – A Green Month Ahead

With thanks to Nick Martin from Nottingham Secretary  and Simon Hales, East Midlands Secretary we share  important dates coming up, starting this week.  Your voice and standpoints are needed:
  • Nottingham Green Festival:This Sunday 1st September is the annual Nottingham Green Festival at the Arboretum (off Waverley Street). The event runs between 12:00 and 6:00, full of wonderful stalls and activities. Nottingham Green Party will be running a stall.

 

  • Our Leader Visits: We are pleased to announce that Green party leader Natalie Bennett is visiting us on Tuesday 24th September.
    There will be an opportunity for members to hear Natalie speak in the early evening from 6pm – 7.30pm at Ashston Court Hotel, Derby. This venue is right opposite Derby Railway Station.  www.astoncourthotelderby.com/business.html

If you can’t make it you can still be involved in campaigns and actions:


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Vital Women in Politics – Green World Women

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader and former chair of Green Party Women, recently said: “The Green Party has consistently led the way compared to the other large parties in the percentage of women standing for elected office.  In the 2010 general election we had 33% female candidates, compared to Labour’s 30%, the Conservative’s 24% and the Liberal Democrat’s 21%.” Always pushing forward, The Green Party of England and Wales has now committed to a fair 50% or more of our candidates being women, in order to redress the imbalance in Parliament and the broader political and social arenas. I want to reflect upon the fact that other parties – the same parties this week heralding an aggressive, agentic and uncompromising leader as the way for a woman to be in power, are the least supportive of further woman candidates. In the news this week we are hearing a great deal about one woman who climbed the political ladder. News reporters, asked to respectfully refrain from criticism, have allowed instead a very one-sided, glorifying and blinkered idea of her policies and put Vaseline on the eyes who seek to see how those policies affect us today. They are also failing to ask a vital question as to where other women of politics are. We will leave controversial critique of her policies for another time, it would take too many posts!

This post is about many political women, not one. These women of the Green political movement of today and of its seeding and growing this past 40 years, include party founders and leaders, activists and our first voice in Westminster. These are the women of the ‘there is an alternative’ movement. These are the women at the front of the movements of social justice, environmental protection, sustainable economics, peace-building and hope.  I would like to introduce just some of these women who have changed the face of the political world for the better.

Click on each photo to find out more and to add your own thoughts and stories. – caroline lucas gpgp natalie bennettGREEN PARTY WOMENGP Leslie WhittakerJean lambertGP no blood for oilMarina-Silva-of-the-Green-006sunflowergpgreenballot3.jpgEuropean Green Group Organise a Get Women on Board Conference circle of friends around earthGP Solange Fernex - France 1934 - 2006GP councillor PheonixGP Jenny_Jones London AssemblyElizabeth May, Green Party CA  GP miriam_kennetIngrid Betancourt Pulecio, Collumbian Green Party

We offer some UK and international images and stories of women involved in the last 40 years of Green Politics. Some of these women have given lives and liberty, all have given integrity, intelligence, strength and vision. Sarah Cope, present Chair of Green Party Women: “Women in the UK are now facing a ‘triple jeopardy’ in terms of austerity. Firstly, increasing unemployment, as women’s employment is heavily focused on the public sector. Secondly, loss of income: over 70% of government cuts to date have come from women’s pockets. Add to this cuts to legal, domestic abuse services, caring and childcare support.” It becomes clear that we need more women representatives of the right kind, for fairness and perspective. The women pictured above and below are among the true women leaders in politics:

 GP MSP Alison Johnstone Lothian with MSP Patrick Harvie GlasgowGreen Party Japaninternational-day-of-peacegp scottish centralgp freda saundersgp woman in male environmentGP reclaimthenightClimate Change DemoGP Jill Stein & Greens against Keystone XLget women on boardnataliebennett2013confGP Cheri Honkala Philadelphiagreen party womenbyname2012summerGP Caroline_Lucas  

Click on these photographs to find the stories behind them and add your own experiences.

These women are not limited to but include (in no particular order):

  • Leslie Whittaker and Freda Saunders, 50 % of the founders of our party which inspired a vital global green political movement. Without them, where would we be?
  • Petra Kelly, bright, guiding star, whose life and influence could fill books & who was tragically killed
  • Caroline Lucas MP, our history maker in Westminster
  • Natalie Bennett, our empowered leader
  • Marina Silva, founder and Leader of the Green Party in Brazil after coming third in elections
  • Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio, held captive for 6 years for standing as a Green for Colombian Presidency
  • Ms. Nao Suguro, co-founder of Green Party of Japan
  • Agnieszka Grzybek, Co-leader of Green Party of Poland
  • Doctor Jill Stein, Leader of Green Party USA
  • Cheri Honkala, USA Green Party Deputy Leader
  • Elizabeth May, Leader of Canadian Green Party
  • Jenny Jones of the London Assembly
  • Alison Johnstone, Green MSP
  • Romayne Phoenix, Green Party MP candidate for Lewisham West and Penge and chair of Coalition of Resistance
  • Jean Lambert, one of our wonderful champions of change in Europe, MEP for London
  • Franziska Brantner, Green MEP
  • Solange Fernex, life-long peace campaigner and European Green Party member
  • Miriam Kennet a Green Councillor in Reading, founder and Director of the Green Economics Institute

Last month was Women’s History month. In a World in which women are often one of the under-represented groups, let’s take a moment to refocus on the inspirational, history making women in the Green Movement. They form part of a rich, vital and growing movement involved in social justice,  environmental protection, peace work and human rights.  As men and women of the Green movement move forward together towards equality, with our vision of a resilient, sustainable future, let’s herald these women.

In the East Midlands Katharina Bottege stands as MEP. Her mother has also been a vital part of the Green political movement. For more information on Green Party policy for a fair 50% of candidates to be women, please see:

http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2013/02/26/greens-take-further-step-to-promote-women-general-election-candidates/