East Midlands Green Party Blog


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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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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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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.


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Banker’s Bonuses

tax bankers not bedroomsplease sir I want some more cartoon

 

As part of our month’s focus on money and debt, this powerful article is written by Peter Allen, one of our candidates from Derbyshire, East Midlands, looking at Banker’s Bonuses in the light of national and international crisis:

 

With living standards in decline, a million young people unemployed, a crisis in the NHS and social care,  and rising levels of poverty and homelessness,  whose interests  might the government be trying to defend (at public expense) in the European Court ? … why bankers of course!

 

A few years back, after the financial crash, largely  caused by irresponsible behaviour by greedy bankers trying to line their own pockets, all politicians joined in the chorus of popular anger against them. Cameron and co accused Labour (with some justification! ) of allowing bankers bonuses and pay levels to get out of hand.

 

It was a sentiment that spread across Europe ( although in truth the amount of bonuses paid out in London was far higher than elsewhere in Europe) and has led to a new regulation ( agreed by all the other governments but being legally challenged by the UK ) which caps the bonuses payable to bankers. The cap is pretty generous (100% of their huge salaries or 200% “if shareholders agree”) but is being opposed by Cameron and co who argue that “it will just mean banks increase basic salaries instead”.

 

Perhaps the UK government is actually injecting a reality check, knowing that financial institutions are highly skilled in getting round regulations? Certainly the evidence of the last few years is that, having been bailed out by European taxpayers, they intend to carry on “business as usual”, making speculative decisions in the interests of short term gain, rather than investing for the long term benefit of Europe and the world.

 

The Green Party was not against injecting public money to stabilise financial institutions after the crash of 2008. but it said then, and it says now, that the bailout should not have been unconditional, allowing banks and bankers to continue to behave as previously. Rather public money should have been used to invest in a transformation of our energy supply, transport infrastructure and housing stock, creating decent jobs and starting to seriously address the imminently devastating impact of climate change.

 

In order to ensure the above banks will have to be properly regulated. This will require agreement at international level by governments committed to real reform. The election of such governments will require the creation of popular movements for radical change, across Europe and beyond, to challenge austerity and promote greater equality. Green MP Caroline Lucas, speaking to New Internationalist magazine in advance of the launch of the People’s Assembly earlier this year, summed it up

 

” It was an international banking crisis and this is an international crisis-and although each country has very different circumstances international solidarity and working together is absolutely crucial. Capitalism is international and people’s movements need to be international as well”


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The EU debate, democracy, and economic localisation – some thoughts

Eu-flag-vector-material2

So David Cameron has finally come out with his big Europe speech. And yes, it’s clear his policy is a mess of competing interests, many of which will be somewhat unsavoury to green tastes, from the little Englanders on his party’s right to his banker friends in the City of London. It’s also likely that the referendum he talks about will never ultimately come to pass, most obviously if ungrateful voters should for some curious reason choose not to reward his spectacular governmental record with a clear majority at the next election.

But actually, in theory I have nothing against either the repatriation of selected powers, or with a referendum on whether we should be a part of the EU. Certainly I’m extremely reluctant to throw in my lot with those who argue we can’t hold a referendum on the grounds that the uncertainty may spook the market. I’m afraid democracy is inherently uncertain. This is not an argument against it, it’s an argument against the free market forces that increasingly try to dictate the limits of what is democratically acceptable.

Unfortunately, it’s those same free market forces that Cameron et al (and that et al includes Miliband et al) want to enshrine as the very heart of the European project. This is very far from the green position. The powers we must most urgently reclaim are those which have been granted to market forces (or more precisely, to an international financial elite who make daily decisions about billions of pounds of investments) and have thereby been removed from democratic accountability anywhere. We must reclaim the powers needed to pursue the re-localisation of our economy, and with it, a real empowerment of society at a grassroots level. This is what green politics is all about.

But I deliberately say we must ‘reclaim’ these powers rather than ‘repatriate’ them, because it may well be the case that in some areas extra powers have to granted to international institutions in order to challenge the rule of the market – paradoxically we may need to internationalise in order to be able to localise. Certainly the alternative route to localisation, a unilateral throwing up of trade barriers, from capital controls to tariffs to import quotas, is distinctly unattractive. The green localisation agenda is emphatically not about cutting ourselves off from the world and throwing away the benefits of international co-operation. Without international co-operation we will never be able to effectively regulate international financial markets; we will never be able to stop the super-rich playing one state off against another in a global race to the bottom on taxation, environmental standards and much more. Similarly without international cooperation we stand no chance of ever being able to fight the profound threat of climate change.

We should also recognise that localisation in no way implies that absolutely all economic activity can or should be carried out locally. For example certain raw materials may only be available in limited geographical areas and must be traded globally or done without, or to give another example, renewably sourced electricity may be much more viable with an electricity grid that covers the whole continent of Europe and even further afield, this geographical spread would held to even out production of intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar energy. Another case is food security – for all the clear benefits of food sovereignty, it is also clear that without the ability to fall back on a functioning international food market, any country or region is at much greater risk of acute food shortages in the event of localised crop failures, which are only likely to become more common with ongoing global warming.

All these challenges can be best faced if we work together with other countries. Obviously the EU isn’t perfect. There is too much of an urge to centralise power in the EU for centralisation’s sake. Power should only be exercised at an international level where it will essentially be ineffective at a more local level. Also, if the EU itself isn’t democratically accountable then there’s little benefit it granting it powers to challenge the market in democracy’s name – and at present the EU is clearly not democratic enough. And the EU does do some good work even at present, for example much valuable legislation on workers and human rights has been passed at European level (just one of the reasons the Tory right wing dislikes it so much!) But regardless of what you think of the current set-up of the EU, we must recognise that voting to leave it would not be seen as a clarion call for a better kind of EU to be created, it would simply be seen as a turn inwards, away from the rest the continent, and that we cannot afford to do. It is only through participating in the EU and in other international organisations that we can hope to change them, and only by doing that can we begin to hope to change the world.