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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Hope not fear; a positive view on EU migration

The Green Party supports European Migration, and welcomes European Immigrants’ contribution to the UK

The Green Party’s long term global vision is of an international economic order where the relationship between peoples, nations and regions are non-exploitative. In such a world local economies would be as self-sufficient as possible, whilst at the same time people would be free to live and work where they wished.
Although the Green Party accepts systematic problems within the EU, and thus supports a reform of the democratic controls within the EU; the Green Party opposes any EU border control.

The Green Party entirely rejects any suggestion that immigrants are to blame for our current problems. On the contrary many immigrants are victims of the same system of exploitation and inequality that blights Britain. Others are seeking to escape the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation and resource shortage, all growing problems in the 21st century.

The Green Party will defend immigrant communities from attempts to scapegoat them, and will stand alongside them and all communities in opposition to austerity. They, like all UK residents, are entitled to high quality public services and secure housing and employment, paid for by increased taxation of the rich and large companies and a determination to make sure everyone pays what they should, by a clampdown on tax avoidance and evasion.

The Green Party rejects any poorly informed propaganda that Eastern European immigrants have been flooding this country. Recent figures in fact show that 2.34 million EU citizens live in the UK, whilst 2.2 million Britons live in Europe. The Green Party acknowledges that in some areas public services have been struggling with the influx, however the Green Party argue that this has been caused by poor management, Government cuts and the lack of regulation for workers’ rights that causes exploitation of Immigrant workers particularly seen in certain areas. The Green Party further recognises the contribution of immigrants to our public services like the NHS.

The Green Party wishes to support European immigrants against scapegoating, public misconceptions and welcomes immigrant communities’ enhancement to our life in a multi cultural and multi racial United Kingdom.


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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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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.