East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Election 2014: the untold stories:

sunflower

Our wonderful lead candidate did not win but The Green Party of England and Wales has beaten the Liberal Democrats into fourth place in the European elections for the first time. In pre-election polls, as we past them in popularity, you would have thought this would be massively news-worthy. Mainstream media, including the BBC implicitly undermined The Green Party through omission. Greens have been referred to anonymously as one of the “other” parties (where they have not been completely ignored) in the lead up to elections and in much reporting of results. This is undemocratic and offensively undermining, not only of the party, but of many of the voices of Britain and the democratic system itself. (The Guardian is the main exception to this criticism). The Greens were polling higher than we have for 25yrs. That shift was reported by most, not as a Green Party achievement, but as a failure of everyone else.  These polls were reflected in results.  We are now the official opposition in Liverpool, Norwich and Solihull. Brighton and Hove Council remain Green. We have Green voices in Labour councils of Islington and Lewisham. In the South West, where I grew up, there is celebration over another Green MEP being added to the indomitable two we already have.

The story in the news is the success of UKIP, but just as the success of The Greens has been underplayed, the success of UKIP is overplayed.  A deeply worrying movement in public thinking but 90% of the electorate did not vote for them. Many did not vote at all and that, more than anything, helped them win the seats they did. The Greens didn’t win as many new seats as UKIP, but we did not field as many candidates. Nor have any of our candidates been suspended for extreme raciest, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and ablest comments as a growing number of UKIP candidates recently have. We are not funded by large corporations as UKIP is. 99% of the party is run by volunteers and we have less funds than other parties to paper the world with flyers so we focus on target wards. The more members and support we gain the more we are able to build on this; to field more candidates so that everyone who wants to can vote Green. If recent polls and social media trends are read correctly, a growing wave of people are voting Green and even more want to.  In the north of the UK UKIP support thins out. In Manchester Greens came second in terms of the popular vote, with 21%. Yet parties with less of the popular vote gained seats and they did not. This is a strange aspect of our system meaning we have to fight even harder than mainstream, better funded parties to succeed. Yet we are truly in the game now, a rising voice of hope working against the rising voice of hate. It has never been more important to stand together.

Much damage may have been done by Russell Brand’s call to not vote. Many with preference to Green policies and disillusioned by mainsteam parties have not voted. However, on social media and in person I have heard many others say they voted Green for the first time. Many say it is the first time they ever voted. Others say it is the first time they voted for what they truly wanted. With the general elections only a year away this can only be the beginning of the surge. Hope has tenacity and strength and we have much to strive for and protect for the common good. We must strive against voter apathy, scapegoating and hopelessness and tell the world about our policies.

So what can we do now? Complaining to the BBC for its biased reporting of the elections is one thing we would very much suggest. Please see the petition against BBC news media blackout of The Green Party. What we can all also do is tell another story. There are parts of the country where Greens got a large percentage of the popular vote. There are parts of the country where we became official opposition. We held seats and gained seats, both in councils and the European Parliament. We did this in spite of media bias lumping us together in the category of ‘other parties’. We saw surges in the polls and on social media in spite of a mainstream media determined not to report positive stories. A party run by volunteers with policies so many want but fear they cannot have became a rising voice in this election.

My story, as social media bod for the East Midlands, is the over 24hrs in which #VoteGreen2014 was showing as one of four most popular hashtags on Twitter. At one point it appeared the second most popular hashtag. The other party people were talking about voting for was, unfortunately, UKIP. Occasionally Labour was also one of the popular discussion points. This means everyone seemed to be talking about voting either UKIP or Green. On Facebook, I saw people who once would have dismissed us sharing Green Party flyers and talking about our policies. I remember saying to my husband as he waved tea in front of my face while I continued my role in the growing team keeping Green seen, that this was democracy awakening. More people were not just voting for the usual suspects. Those voting in fear included those fearful of economic and job uncertainty. It is our combined job now to continue to convince people that Green Party is the party fighting austerity and for job creation and bank reform; measures that will protect them. We have to fight the wave of hatred and the excuses for bigotry. Humanity has been here before. The ugly fact is that hatred has won seats and the map has new shadows across it. The good news is that Greens are in a stronger position to strive for the common good.  We need all hands on deck to build on this.

Find the Petition against BBC Blackout of Green Party in the Elections at:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/bbc-news-stop-this-media-blackout-of-the-green-party?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1400968778

Antonia Zenkevitch, MA Human Security

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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 get social priorities right

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

This government would have us believe that we are better off managing on our own.

Get the state “off our backs”, allow us to “keep more of our own money” and we will “manage just fine”. So it commits itself to continuing to reduce taxes, Corporation Tax on companies (reduced from 28% to 21% since 2010) and Inheritance Tax (already only paid on 5% of estates and set to be far fewer if Cameron and co are re-elected) in particular.

Meanwhile public services, particularly those provided by local authorities, are slashed to the bone, and spending on “welfare” is squeezed and scorned, with the reasonable desire to have a “spare bedroom” denied to those too poor to ” pay their own way” , and with high quality Surestart child care provision, and Day Centres for the elderly and disabled, all but wiped off the map.

Finding decent employment, that pays well , guarantees regular hours and offers long term prospects has become ever harder, even for those with degrees that graduates have gone into huge debt to acquire. Meanwhile finding somewhere decent to live has become a nightmare. House prices, already unaffordable for most people unable to borrow “from the bank of Mum and Dad”, are rising again and a chronic lack of “social housing” (i.e. housing with affordable rents, well maintained and offering security of tenure) means reliance on renting privately from those whose motive is to make money. Prospective landlords are encouraged to “buy to let”, perhaps in the hope of securing a decent retirement income, occupational pension schemes having been largely been closed down as “unaffordable” ( not true for MPs of course, who still enjoy gold plated pensions, but 25% of them have still taken the opportunity to become private landlords)

What is the alternative ? Well the Green Party had a fully costed manifesto in the 2010 election, which proposed cutting spending on warfare but not welfare and set out how we could create employment through a programme to “green” our energy, transport and housing, whilst providing decent public services for all and recognising that everyone had the right to live in a secure and warm home.

It is a programme needed more than ever now and could and can be paid for by increasing taxation on the rich and large companies, making the required effort to collect the taxes due (this government allows wealth to escape to tax havens and reduces the number of tax inspectors who collect ten times the amount they earn)

More than anything it is a programme based on a belief that we are better off living in a society based on principles of cooperation and compassion. It also recognises the urgent need to tackle ecological and environmental destruction, including dangerous climate change, a task that will require the actions of democratic and responsive governments and cannot be left to the “free market ”

Greens in the UK also recognise that we cannot solve the challenges we face (unemployment, social injustice, climate chaos) in isolation . In the European Parliament elections next month we will be standing alongside Greens across Europe, offering a real alternative to the failed policies of austerity. The Green Parties of Europe have agreed a common manifesto, which includes the following

“We Europeans should combine our own strengths, which is what sovereignty means, in order to shape our own future. Instead of socially deaf and environmentally blind austerity, we propose three coherent avenues to sustainability: fighting unemployment,poverty ; and all forms of social injustice; transforming our economies with innovation and eco-efficient solutions to tackle climate change and environmental degradation; re-regulating the financial industry so it solves the real economy. We call this a European Green New Deal”

Vote Green on May 22nd and encourage others you know to do so too……For the common good.

Read The European Green Party Manifesto here.

 


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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


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Money, Money, Money – Must be funny

All pain no gain GP postertax bankers not bedrooms

This month East Midland’s Greens are putting banking and debt under the microscope. There are more posts to follow with this one giving an overview. In this age of globalised markets and globalised debts we need to re-examine the nature of money. In the USA there is a partial government shutdown as Republicans and Democrats battle out what to do about mounting debt. Their decisions may be behind closed doors and across the ocean but waves will be felt near and far.  Here in the East Midlands, at the time of the harvest we examine our national economic harvest of the year and the forecast ahead. Did you know for example that under the coalition government in the 2012 -2013 financial year borrowing had gone up £300 million, while at the same time the total debt had risen to 75.2% of our gross domestic product (GDP), up from 71.1% of GDP at the end of May 2012? These figures were reported by among others, BBC News Business, on 21/06/13. Such figures did not lead to a good economic yield at the year’s Autumn.

75 % of the UK economy is debt as borrowing rises. That is not a good harvest, with most of the crop spoken for. Much of this extra borrowing is subsidising banks and big business. Meanwhile public services are being cut and in certain areas shredded. Bankers bonuses are back in the billions while our national and personal debts are rising. Many people rely on payday loans with typical  apr at 3000 – 4000 % and more.  Amelia Gentleman’s article ‘Buy Now Regret Later? The Secret of Brighthouse’s Success’ The Guardian, Friday 4 October 2013 illuminates this culture of a society fueled, not by credit, but by debt.

Far from getting ourselves out of debt we have an economic system based on debt.  Our ability to pay off personal debts is being undermined. Thanks to savage cuts there are less full-time or secure jobs and more zero hours contracts, particularly for young adults, offering the most uncertain present and future. Students start their  working lives with huge debts and less employment prospects. It is no coincidence that one of the largest and ever growing proportion of homeless population are young people. Another group with rising debts and homelessness is families. Bedroom tax hits low income families, among many others, as do skyrocketing house prices. Austerity is increasing debt, with the cost of living far greater than a growing number of people’s ability to pay for even the most basic costs of shelter and survival. The Charity Crisis reports a 31% rise in homelessness in 3 years. This is attributed to rising debts, due to benefits cuts and rising house prices and living costs. Broken homes can become more common, along with domestic abuse. In the Independent 03/09/13 and The Mirror on 04/09/13 article accuse The Police (operating on decreased numbers and funds) of referring less domestic violence cases to Crown Prosecution  Service while allegation numbers rise by 10 % and prosecution dropped by 11.1% last year. This is one example of the harvest of our broken economic system, with police force targets having to be met under a 20% decrease in funds and a new level of red tape; Police Commissioners dictating regional priorities. There is toxic irony in the Tory’s rhetoric on family values when they are delivering policies across the board which raise the debts and threats to the majority of families, both in and out of paid work.

These insane policies are enabled by the Liberal Democrats, with inadequate opposition in Labour policies, with the nation remaining controlled by rising debt and a failing banking system. Credit Union Empowerment, measures to encourage responsible lending and banking reform are core Green Party policies.  The Green Party and Green Group Europe have long called for financial reform, including a Robin Hood Tax, or financial transaction tax which means bankers would help pay for high risk banking practices. This would encourage a more responsible approach and one in which cost of failure is not predominantly levied on citizens as it so far has been. This sensible taxing of bankers is something the coalition government are working against in both the UK and Europe. The government are not protecting a stable economy. They are ensuring one of high risk, imbalance and increasing debts and insecurity for most people. Citizens are being pushed into paying national debt by getting into more personal debt and it is not working.

The Green Party do not believe the poorest should be getting poorer while the rich get richer , nor that this is inevitable but a symptom of a broken system that needs fixing. One that has not been fixed by successive governments, each too lacking in vision and courage. Austerity is failing in its promise to build productivity in the private sector; small and medium sized businesses are not secure or significantly growing.  Foodbanks are growing. Rajesh Mirchandani reported for BBC Newsnight on 11th July 2013 that ‘the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks, reported a 21% rise in the number of people who said they did not have enough money for food because of problems with benefits. “A clear link” exists between the reforms and the increasing popularity of food banks, the Trust’s boss said. Conservative minister Lord Freud has said the two factors are unrelated.’

harvest

The Financial Times articles are often scathing about Government’s blinkered Economic Policy. One such article by Trevor Greetham is dated  02/09/13. Greetham states that ‘in encouraging a housing boom the government are forcing the next generation into debt in the hope the government can improve its own financial position.’ I personally wonder if it is so radical to suggest that a government should serve the interests of its citizens? We appear to have an inverted system under current policies. Trevor Greetham notes the failure of the government’s economic policy to recover the private sector and predicts people will have greater debt, not less, when recession does end. This will guarantee future turmoil.  The article recommends jobs creation and improvement of infrastructure to overcome the ‘economic stagnation’ caused by delays in recovery and unemployment.

Austerity is costing jobs and creating unemployment and an atmosphere of despair and blame.  The Green Party have long been calling for a Green New Deal of job creation, protecting and building valuable skills, sustainable infrastructures and lessening levels of unemployment  instead of increasing unemployment then using those without paid work (or not enough to live off)as scapegoats. We are calling for risky practices by bankers to be taxed in order to discourage and absorb  shocks and imbalances in the financial sector. The debt must not continue to rest on the shoulders of those least to blame and least likely to be able to carry the burden.  Current government policies are increasing debt for most people now and ensuring debt for most people in the future. We need not be tied to a cycle of debt. There is an alternative and the Green Party is at the heart of it. Be part of it.

Join the Green Party Link: https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

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The Voice / Soundtrack – just for fun:

Forbes is among the publications that has drawn parallels between the Great Depression and today’s crisis. There is a song from those bygone days by Bob Miller that is disturbingly appropriate today. This inspired me to write a soundtrack to banking reform.

Soundtrack for Calling for Bank Reform:

  • Bank Failures – Bob Miller
  • The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo – Music Hall Classic
  • I Need a Dollar – Pixie Lott (original Aloe Blacc)
  • Umbrella – Rihanna
  • Hands – Jewel
  • Stand and Deliver – AntMusic
  • Money, Money, Money – Abba
  • With a Little Help From My Friends – Beatles


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No Jobs on a Dead Planet

Peter Allen reports back on a momentum gathering People’s Assembly:

Following a successful and determined local Peoples Assembly Against Austerity in Nottingham last month, with around 400 participants, a national PAAA attracted an amazing 4000 people to Central London on Saturday June 22nd.The event was sponsored by a number of trade unions (UNITE, UNISON, PCS, NUT, CWU, FBU, TSSA, NUJ), various campaign groups and War and Want .

The Green Party was the only political party with parliamentary representation that backed the event. Our MP, Caroline Lucas, reminded the gathering that the environmental crisis was as important as the economic crisis and indeed that “you can’t tackle the one without the other”. Rather than bailing out the banks unconditionally, money should have been invested in insulating our homes,renewing our railways (which should be taken back into public ownership) and greening our energy generation. Such initiatives would also create the jobs that are desperately needed

See here speech here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuggTKDAhE0&feature=share

Party leader Natalie Bennett facilitated a workshop discussion on the need for a renewal of democracy given the fact that democratic politics has been discredited by broken promises and corporate lobbying. As Natalie said “we have a political system for the 1%, owned by the 1%”.

Other sessions discussed the crisis in the NHS and other public services, the need to defend the poorest and most vulnerable from the attack on welfare benefits ( a clergyman from Haringey said “civil disobedience is defensible against the indefensible”) and the need to establish peoples assemblies across the country, bringing together all those who want to resist austerity and the politics of despair, and who know that there is an alternative to the “race to the bottom” that the establishment parties all promote.

Greens will have an important role to play in these local initiatives.In particular we have a responsibility to ensure that ecological and environmental issues remain at the fore front.

As Sharan Burrow , General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (and quoted by Carloine on Saturday) said

” There are no jobs on a dead planet “