East Midlands Green Party Blog


Leave a comment

The EU – Our Common Cause

Gerhard Lohmann-Bond’s speech to a pro-EU rally, which was organised by the European Movement on today in Nottingham:

Europe“We are united not just by our common cause, but have in fact far more in common than separates us. We share a common European heritage, a mixed blessing considering the hundreds of years of bloodshed which run like a red line through all our histories. It was what eventually became the European Union which put a stop to all that. It is said that we cannot choose our family, but we can choose our friends. By the same token we have no say in where we are born and raised, but the decision where we want to spend our lives is very much our own.

“I chose to make my home in England because I am an anglophile. Like many of the three million EU citizens living and working in the UK, I felt life was good, I felt privileged and got on with things. Many years after I first arrived in the UK I found myself moving to a small village in Lincolnshire, a few miles north of Stamford, with the wife and two children I had acquired along the way.

“The Conservatives were already in power at that time (ostensibly sharing it with the LibDems) and the country was groaning under their austere regime. There was a bunch of fruitcakes known as kippers agitating, but nobody took them seriously. There were also some seriously deranged individuals on the right wing of the Conservatives, but nobody took them seriously either.

“If only we had known, if only we had realised the danger they represented, if only we had understood how an economic policy driving more and more people into poverty, despair, and hopelessness combined with the relentless drip drip drip of poisonous lies fed to the public by a right wing tabloid press would finally convince a tiny majority of voters to ‘throw a tantrum’, as one prominent leave campaigner put it. And if only they had realised what the consequences of their vote would be!

“Parliamentary democracy is built on trust, the trust of voters that their elected representatives would on balance always act in their best interests. Looking at where we are now, we must question that belief. Up to the referendum we had a prime minister who was ultimately prepared to put his own party interests before that of the country, who was prepared to put his country’s prosperity at risk in an insane gamble he thought he couldn’t lose.

“One shoddy piece of legislation and a half-baked campaign later in which he tried to convince the country that more of the same was the best deal available – at a time when the neoliberal policies of his chancellor and his predecessors had already laid whole swathes of the industrial North to waste, when the rich had got so much richer than the great majority of honest hardworking people that they seemed to live on another planet altogether, when even the formerly comfortably off middle classes had lost much of their job security and their prospects; when the young could not only no longer trust that they would be better off than their parents, but could be certain that they would be worse off, when the old had to sell the home they wanted to pass on to their children to pay for their care, at such a time this prime minister tried to tell people that being part of the EU was good for them.

“What could possibly have gone wrong? We know what could have gone wrong, because it did. This was one man who put the unity of the United Kingdom at risk in a vain attempt to unify his hopelessly divided party. And then, when he had lost that desperate gamble, he vanished from the political scene, and the lunatics took over the asylum that was and is the cabinet office.

“Now, who is left to pick up the pieces? I can tell you who is left to pick up the pieces: a House of Commons full of spineless pricks and defeatists who first naively voted for a referendum they thought they could not lose (and even if they did, it was only advisory after all) and then compounded their idiocy by meekly claiming this was the will of the people and they had to act accordingly; a prime minister who had to pick a cabinet from among such talents as David Davies, a man described as thick as mince and lazy as a toad by one of the leading leave campaigners; Boris Johnson who used to fill the pages of the Telegraph with a litany of lies about the EU and who is best known for suffering from foot-in-mouth disease rather than for his diplomatic prowess and tact; Liam Fox, a man who is known to be in the pocket of the hard right in the USA; and a man casually referred to as ‘spreadsheet Phil’. To such people we have entrusted our future.

“What could possibly go wrong? We now have a government lead by a woman who promised to be strong and stable, but is too weak to live with her cabinet ministers, and too weak to sack any of them. Let there be no doubt about it: everything that could possibly go wrong will go wrong with this sorry lot in charge. So, where are we heading as a nation, or should I say as one of the several nations which make up the United Kingdom, because there is no certainty that the Scots will stay with us, or that Northern Ireland will not decide to unite with the South once Brexit bites?

“We are heading for a future where we will no longer have a health service which is free and available when we need it. Even if we could find replacements outside the European Union for the vast number of EU citizens who have come over here to work as doctors, nurses, and administrators, the NHS will be a mere shadow of its former glorious self, because it is being privatised even as I speak. It is said that if you go to hospital, you are more likely to be treated by a migrant than find one ahead of you in the queue.

“Applications for NHS jobs have already dropped off to the point where whole hospital wards have to close for lack of staff and where A&E departments are on more or less permanent black alert. Let me make this absolutely clear: don’t claim to campaign for the NHS one the hand if on the other you campaign to leave the EU. You can’t save the one while you pursue the other. The times when we could hope to fill the vacancies from existing national resources are long gone, and a time when we can reasonably hope to fill them with newly trained indigenous staff is far ahead in the future.

“We are heading for a future in which we could not build the houses we need to build if we want to solve our housing crisis even if we tried, because we have allowed our skills base to shrink. Remember how hard it was to get a plumber before our Eastern European friends started to offer their services? We are heading for a future in which our infrastructure crumbles beyond repair, because we cannot find the engineers to fix it.

“That skill base also went when the manufacturing sector was decimated. We are heading for a future in which we may no longer be able to feed ourselves adequately, because we have become too reliant on imports and do not have the collective will or the skills to grow and harvest our own food in sufficient quantities. We are heading for a future in which we can no longer rely on the standards of food safety to which we have become accustomed. The bonfire of regulations promised by the Brexiteers, well, they will be the very rules which keep us safe going up in flames.

“The University of Wageningen carried out a study of the likely impacts of leaving the EU on agriculture on behalf of the National Farmers Union and found them to be overwhelmingly negative. It strikes me as bizarre that anyone running a small or medium sized farm should have voted to leave, when their incomes – small though most of them are – rely on a system of subsidies which is almost certainly going to be swept away if Tory rule prevails. We are heading for a future in which our universities will no longer count among the best in the world, as academic staff leaves for better jobs elsewhere (this is already happening).

“Even Theresa May, who is pathologically obsessed with migration numbers, must realise by now that the targets her government ostensibly pursues would leave us short of essential workers in almost every major sector of industry and commerce. Migration, one of the big issues during the referendum campaign, is hardly mentioned anymore. And one by one the promises of a brighter future in a free trade world have fallen by the way, as the free traders of the world laugh at us and take us to the cleaners.

“Even the bankers are leaving the sinking ship. Make no mistake: xenophobia drives out the brightest and the best first, because they can find jobs wherever they want. Why would they want to stay in place where they no longer feel welcome? Worst of all will be the loss to our culture. Britain, once admired for its self-confidence, openness, inventiveness, and diversity, will become known as an island which had it all and threw it all away in a hissy fit.

“That Britain is the land in which I chose to make my home all those years ago and I want it back. It’s my country, too, and I want it back! I believe we have won the argument against Brexit long ago. Even the best of Brexits will leave our country poorer, less resilient, less beautiful. Let us not go into that long dark night of isolation. Let’s remember who we are and fight for our common future. We owe that much to ourselves and to generations to come. And let the people have the final say. It is said that politics is too important to leave it to the politicians. So let us, the people, take control and let the people decide.”

gerhardGerhard Lohmann-Bond is a long standing member and the Regional Co-ordinator of the East Midlands Green Party

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Why Caroline Lucas needs a Green TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leave a comment

Unity required, to defeat the Tories and achieve PR

Conference Liverpool 2017A well organised and largely united Green Party of England and Wales ( GPEW) Spring Conference took an important step forward for the party, and the wider left, last weekend. Taking place in Liverpool, in conjunction with the largest ever gathering of Global Greens, Conference endorsed the initiative of the party leadership to try and  build alliances with other parties in advance of the next general election, with the aim of removing the current government and replacing it with a coalition with a primary commitment to introducing proportional representation.

At a packed fringe meeting ahead of the vote, with the title  ‘ Progressive Alliances in the UK ‘  Caroline Lucas predicted that unless Greens united with others to achieve electoral reform we faced the prospect of at least 20 years of majority Tory governments. If such alliances, agreed and organised at local level, wanted to also campaign together on other issues, eg in defence of local services, then so much the better.

Jonathan Porritt reminded us that as well as talking with other politicians and activists we also needed to reach out to people who had not previously been involved in party politics. We needed progressive alliances to allow the Green Party to come out of the political wilderness. Realistically, in the here and now, they were the only mechanism by which we can fight the rule of the elite. The Green Party needed to show the extraordinary leadership needed to step up in favour of electoral alliances.

Andrea Frieze had been the prospective Green Party candidate in the recent Richmond Park by-election. She was anxious to stress that she hadn’t  stepped down in that election by not getting herself on the ballot paper. Rather she had stepped up in favour of an electoral alliance. It had achieved its objective of getting rid of a Tory MP, and would continue at the local elections in 2018, with the aim of getting rid of the Tory majority on the council and getting more Greens elected. Although ‘ Targeting to Win’ was a tried and tested strategy we cannot wait for it to succeed across the country she said. The situation is dire and we need to cooperate with others in order to achieve power. At the next General Election we might end up standing in only a handful of seats, where we could have a chance of being elected.

Tommy Shepherd MP said he was the first SNP member to speak at a Green Party Conference. The SNP remained committed to PR even though the vagaries of the first past the post system had  worked to their advantage at the last general election. The 2014 referendum was the greatest modern example of a Progressive Alliance. Supporters of the Yes campaign worked together without even knowing which party, if any, activists belonged to or supported.

Neal Lawson from Compass said he was a green, liberal socialist who wanted to work with greens, liberals and socialists to achieve a better society. He thought the Labour Party’s attitude to PR was changing and that the attitude of the Green Party towards the Labour Party can help change it further and faster.

Kat Leafletting 2017All of us in every progressive movement had to unite to defeat the Evil Empire and to change our political society. Progressive Alliances were meeting points for those who believe the best in others. We needed to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.

The motion debated at conference ( moved by High Peak member Mike Shipley, in his capacity as chair of GPRC) referred to electoral alliances rather than progressive ones. It had been carefully worded, after extensive discussions between the co-leaders and the two national governance committees, the executive ( GPEX) and the regional council ( GPRC). There was a recognition of the fact that many Green Party members would find it difficult to recognise the Liberal Democrats and/or Labour as progressive, and that the primary aim was to achieve electoral reform. The motion ( see below ) stressed that the initiative for forming alliances rested with local parties. The national party would advise but not instruct. Local parties should only contemplate making alliances with those with whom they shared values in common, ruling out any alliance with UKIP for example, despite their interest in electoral reform.

Two friendly amendments were included in the final motion, removing the assumption that alliances would only be negotiated in a minority of constituencies and committing the national party to actively promote electoral alliances when local parties had voted in favour of one.

The motion was overwhelmingly carried with probably between 5 and 10% of the several hundred members in the hall voting against.

Final Text of Motion passed (with amendments)

 

 

Electoral Alliances for Proportional Representation

Synopsis

In recognition of the democratic deficit in the UK whereby a Party polling a minority of the popular vote in General Elections are able to command a Commons majority and form a Government, in 2015 GPEW committed to campaign by all legitimate and peaceful means in favour of Proportional Representation.

Motion

Following the commitment made by the Green Party of England and Wales  to campaign by all legitimate and peaceful means in favour of Proportional Representation (PR) for elections at all levels of government, Conference seeks to enable the formation, where appropriate, of Parliamentary electoral alliances for PR.

Such alliances:

  • Would apply only to Parliamentary elections up to and including the expected 2020 General Election
  • Will not apply in all constituencies, with potential constituencies identified by GPEx as guided by the Elections Coordinator”.
  • Will only be entered into with parties and candidates with principles which the local party determines are broadly in line with the values of the Green Party.

In pursuit of this policy, Conference calls on GPEx, GPRC, WGPC and local Green Parties to work in cooperation to ensure that any electoral alliance entered into is in the best interests of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Conference therefore instructs:

  • GPEx especially via the Elections Co-ordinator (and in the case of Wales, WGPC) to provide advice and support to local parties on parliamentary electoral alliances for PR, and in particular to identify constituencies where such alliances may be appropriate
  • GPEx to therefore encourage local GPs, where they judge it appropriate, to open dialogue at the earliest opportunity with potential allies including campaigning groups and other political parties on forming such electoral arrangements in good time for the next general election.
  • The Leader/s and Deputies of GPEW and Wales Green Party to keep open channels of communication with the leaders of other opposition parties, for purposes of co-ordination of electoral alliances at a party level
  • GPRC to maintain oversight of party strategy on electoral alliances for PR, in line with the responsibilities laid out in section 6 of the GPEW constitution.

All final agreements must be ratified by a vote of all local parties in the constituency involved. If the selection of a Parliamentary candidate by a local party would normally require a ballot of the full local party membership, then this will also be the case for ratifying an electoral alliance for that constituency.


Leave a comment

Lords must fight government power grab

Today, the government revealed that they are reaching for the Henry 8th powers, which are the nearest this country comes to making law by Ministerial diktat. The Lords has to do everything in its power to fight this government power grab.

house-of-lords-full

There are three dangers down the road with Brexit. One is that the Government simply leaves a lot of European law out of the Great Repeal Bill.

Another is that much of the detail is put in secondary legislation, which gets less scrutiny and is extremely difficult to amend and vote down. In both cases they’d hope nobody notices, or that any opposition would be swamped by the focus around other issues like single market access.

A third is that the Government gives itself so-called Henry the Eighth powers to unilaterally repeal or amend these laws after the act passes, opening the door to a bonfire of environmental and social protections.

The nature of the beast of democracy is that you are often on the losing side and things are done that you don’t agree with. We can all live with that. But what the government is threatening to do is to take executive powers that allow no debate and little discussion, while they destroy pollution controls, environmental safeguards and workplace safeguards.

The Great Repeal Bill will just be the start, as secondary legislation and Ministerial misjudgements are hurried through. Next will come all the detailed giveaways in the trade negotiations with the likes of Trump. We know from our experience with TTIP that these external treaties have significant internal impacts. Modern trade deals need as much parliamentary scrutiny as any legislation.

I don’t under-estimate the practical problems with parliament dealing with the sheer volume of secondary legislation and trade negotiations, which is why we need a functioning second chamber that has real legitimacy. That means a second chamber elected under a PR system where every vote counts.


Leave a comment

Fantastic Day for Rabbits

rabbitMEPs have just voted to #EndTheCageAge for farmed rabbits across Europe. This is great news for millions of rabbits across Europe and a great example of how the EU can take a lead on animal welfare. Greens have always opposed factory farming and UK Green MEPs supported the ban from the outset.
Rabbits are the fourth most farmed animal in the world. An estimated 340 million rabbits are slaughtered annually after a life kept in barren wire cages where their natural behaviour is severely restricted. Many scientists have called for the cage system to be urgently replaced by one which allows for the natural needs of rabbits to be better taken into account.
The report adopted by MEPs prioritises outlawing the inhumane conditions in which rabbits are kept and eradicating the other problems associated intensive rabbit rearing. The system in place at the moment leads to the spread of disease and the subsequent overuse of antibiotics.
Rabbit farming is relatively small-scale in the UK, but the crucial vote highlights the key role EU membership can play in raising the welfare of millions of farm animals in Britain and across the EU.
The closer the relationship the UK maintains with the EU, retaining animal welfare and wildlife protections through single market membership, the better the outcome for British animals. Animal advocates across the UK must continue lobbying the UK government to ensure the current legal protections, for all species, offered by European Union membership are maintained and strengthened.


Leave a comment

MEP challenges government on ‘circular economy’ post-Brexit

CircularEcon-1Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, has challenged the government to follow the EU and embrace the ‘circular economy’ post-Brexit.

The call comes following a vote in the European Parliament today on legislation related to creating an economy in which products stay in use for longer and at the end of their life, are reused, repaired, re-manufactured, upgraded, or recycled. Greens argue that creating this ‘circular economy’ will encourage new small industries, create thousands of new jobs and hugely benefit the environment. A majority of MEPs also voted for binding targets for recycling and a call on the European Commission to set up binding food waste targets.

Commenting on the vote, Molly said:

“As a Green Economist I have long argued for the need to move away from the linear economy based on extraction, production and disposal, which is wasteful of resources and energy. The time has come to move towards an energy and resource efficient circular economy, which will also provide enormous economic development opportunities, especially for SMEs.

There are many jobs to be created through waste products being either reused or recycled rather than simply dumped in landfill or burned. Combating planned obsolescence will also help consumers save money and have better quality products. 

“Reduction targets for food waste and stronger recycling targets add up to a package that will be good for citizens’ health, the environment, as well as for the economy.

Molly, who is Green Party speaker on EU relations, concluded:

“We must ensure that this sort of ambition is mirrored by our own government. We must ensure that the threatened ‘bonfire of regulation’ does not undermine these economic opportunities. I challenge the government to place the circular economy at the heart of a post-Brexit economic strategy.”


Leave a comment

Budget utterly fails to address the challenges of our time?

You might have thought that there was no one left on a trolley in a hospital corridor. That our social care system wasn’t on its knees. That climate change wasn’t a crisis that threatens our very future or that there was no air pollution epidemic linked to the deaths of tens of thousands.

This budget should have been an emergency intervention to end the chaos in health and social care and address the air pollution emergency, but instead it’s another resounding failure from a Government that’s got no ideas beyond an obsession with scaling back the state. With our NHS in peril and social care in crisis, this Budget was a chance for the Government to take a stand for the public services upon which we all rely. Instead they continue to push ahead with planned corporation tax cuts, and their handout to high earners, while unveiling woefully inadequate funding changes for the NHS and social care.

This budget is another climate failure – with the Chancellor failing to mention climate change even once in his speech. Rather than reversing the solar tax hike or ploughing money into renewables, the Government seems hell bent on drilling for more gas and oil in the North Sea, and handing further cash to the motor lobby with the fuel duty freeze. Britain should be leading the world in climate change technology and green jobs, but instead we’re lagging behind and laying the foundations for another dash for gas.

Caroline Lucas, MP
Co-leader of Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion