Brighton & Hove’s world famous Green Party’s credibility is on the brink of ruination because of a decision by the local city council, run by them, to fell one of the most beloved trees in the Seven Dials area. No councillors have made themselves available for public comment. Not even the two ward councillors for the area, Jason and Ania Kitcat, despite the former being the Leader of the Council.
The facts are straightforward. The nearby roundabout has been a disgrace of traffic management for decades. The Greens have been the first political party with the balls to sort it out. They have brought forward plans to reorganise the roundabout to the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. There has been an extensive consultation, which the local residents participated en masse in. Unfortunately, along the way, a decision has been taken to fell this ‘troublesome elm’. Every part of the official correspondence which I have seen makes the decision look like it was taken by a council officer and then nodded through by the politicians. That such a big decision was taken so late on in the consultative process, so that most of the people originally consulted had no idea that it was being considered, begs the question of whether the consultation process was fundamentally flawed. (The wider question of whether long consultation processes are counterproductive is one I’ll leave to another day.)
Yesterday evening I spoke with an expert arboriculturalist about whether the tree could be saved as part of the redesign of the local area. In summary, the answer was a firm ‘yes’. Issues relating to sight lines for motorists approaching the pedestrian crossing to the South of the tree can be rectified by the crossing being moved a little farther away from the roundabout. Issues relating to the surface disruption caused by the trees massive roots can be rectified by various fairly simple technical solutions, which appear to be outside the normal ambit of the heavily regularised work of highways engineers. The tree is thought to be about 120 years old and can be preserved for another 10-20 years at least. I’ve requested a detailed description of the works needed and, when I receive it, I will publish it. The other reasons given for the felling have no legs ~ they cannot stand up.
A couple of days ago local residents discovered a notice pinned to the tree informing them that it would be felled this week. Immediately they organised themselves into a defence campaign: the Seven Dials Save Our Tree Action Group (@SaveOurTree on twitter). By last night they had gathered 500 signatures and presented their petition to the chair of the council’s Transport Committee. Significantly, one of the signatories was Brighton Pavilion’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas. Here’s what she had to say on the subject.
The local Tories and the Labour Party will lap this story up. Unable to make any sensible policy proposals of their own, they rely on negative campaigning against the Greens. The truth is that neither the Tories nor the local Labour Party members are permitted to express themselves at all, let alone as freely I am doing here (I’m a member of the Green Party). Not only does the local Labour Party not have any channels for daily communication amongst its membership as we do, it doesn’t even have monthly meetings! It is tiny, heavily controlled from the top and unable to tolerate dissent. Most of the local Tories appear unable to finish whatever sentence they start. They are, as with the rest of their party, suffering from a chronic ageing problem. Dementia is setting in.
That said, Green Party insiders are incredulous at the manner in which the political leadership of the council has potentially converted what was clearly a massive success story for the Greens into a howling blunder and a gift for the right-wing media. It is the eleventh hour. This tree can still be saved but not without loss of face for Jason Kitcat, the Council Leader.
Fiercely protective of the Green Party though I am, by the time you read this post, I shall be either up the elm or at its foot with others up in its higher branches, because this particular tree means more to me than Jason Kitcat’s personal prowess. The time has come for him to find a way to step down from his post and let someone else, someone with a good grip on green politics, someone with the backing of the local party, someone who can be trusted, to take over. If he can’t, he will be forced out, before the end of the year. We Greens have good form for recycling our people in and out of political office. There’s no shame in it.
The tree lessons Mr Kitcat needs to learn are as follows. One, us Greens are more driven by loyalty to our cause, than our party leadership. Two, trees are crucial to protecting the environment and much more loved by people than he is. His being the silent ward councillor for this tree’s loyal supporters has damned him. Three, he can leave office without loss of face if he takes that option but if he fights for his personal prestige, he risks de-selection from his candidature at the next election. The numbers are now against him.
Christopher Hawtree’s official press release said,
“I am hugely honoured that the Greens have entrusted me with our banner in Hove, a bellwether constituency for national election trends. With its changing demographics and as many as 11,000 disillusioned LibDem voters wondering who to support, Hove could become a three-way race. I have some history in causing electoral surprises, having topped the May 2011 council elections, to the consternation of most election-watchers, in the formerly safe Tory seat of Central Hove. I enjoy campaigning, meeting and listening to my fellow Hove and Portslade residents, speaking up for them and generally providing a helping hand – showing what Green politics means on the street. That will be my style in this campaign: to provide a voice for the many who have been ignored by the political establishment.”
I’ve blogged about Mr Hawtree before. He’ll make a wonderful MP, should Hove choose to bless him with their votes. He’s got a truly idiosyncratic style of public speaking, which breaks all the rules of rhetoric but really wakes up his audience. He’s utterly charming. This isn’t just my opinion, that’s the opinion of everyone who meets him (excepting journalists from the Argus, of course, but they’re in a special category of haters). In the last local elections, he stepped outside his own ward and helped out in other areas, where he was able to obtain access to previously inaccessible blocks of flats, in which he persuaded huge numbers of voters not only to cast their ballots for the Greens but also to put up posters in support in their windows!
An expert on Graham Greene, whose letters he edited, Councillor Christopher Hawtree is a freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous, diverse newspapers and magazines – an experience which, he now realises, stood him in good stead for talking with many people on many subjects.
His interest in politics was galvanised during a long campaign to prevent the closure of Hove Library – the Carnegie Library – which prompted 5000 householders to put posters in their windows (and children to go around and count them). This campaign, which received widespread national coverage, inspired readers around the country to do likewise when faced by threats to their libraries.
In due course, after considerable canvassing for Caroline Lucas’s historic election campaign in the neighbouring constituency of Brighton Pavilion, he was encouraged by doorstep conversations to see whether he could win a seat on Brighton and Hove Council. His diligent, quiet work on this became visible during the last fortnight of the campaign, when he unveiled the “Green Machine”: a top-notch trolley bought at a bargain price from one of the many shopkeepers with whom he is in regular contact as he walks around Hove and Portslade. Residents realised that he is somebody happy to put in work on their behalf – and, to the surprise of the opposition, he topped the poll in Central Hove. He finds walking around the area a daily delight, one of many talks – and of widespread enthusiasm for life in the varied neighbourhoods that are Hove and Portslade.
Davy Jones’ official press release said,
“I’m thrilled to stand for Parliament in Brighton Kemptown, having grown up in Saltdean as a teenager, attending the local youth club, playing pitch and putt and, as a student, teaching English to Italian students in Saltdean Lido. My parents lived in Saltdean for 40 years and it’s where I first voted and attended a political meeting, heckling Tory MP Julian Amery. I am a passionate believer in democracy and citizen involvement in public life. I do not believe that Simon Kirby in any way represents the people of his constituency when he votes for damaging cuts in local government and benefits. His support for government welfare reforms will bring nothing but hardship and deprivation for so many of his own constituents. Indeed, under the Tories, we are witnessing nothing less than the destruction of local government and the welfare state: something that makes even the Thatcher years look benign. I believe huge numbers of Kemptown voters will respond positively to my campaign as they view the damage to our society from austerity and the looming environmental, social and economic disaster of climate change. I have a duty to speak out and am not afraid to.”
Davy Jones is the perfect representative for Kemptown. He has been politically active for 40 years, once upon a time in the Labour Party and recently on the Board of Red Pepper magazine. He joined the Green Party four years ago, inspired by the unique opportunity for Greens to build a radical alternative here in his home city, against the most reactionary government in his lifetime.
Davy has considerable experience in policy development, public speaking and debating, and in political campaigning – on equalities, fairness and democracy, international solidarity, anti-capitalism and sustainable development. Davy is known nationally as a commentator on local government, writing regularly for Municipal Journal, and as an expert on citizen participation. He is Chair of the Advisory Board of the national Consultation Institute. He worked for many years in local government and the Audit Commission.
Davy is also a part-time yoga teacher – running regular classes locally and national workshops and yoga holidays abroad. He lives in Brighton with his wife Jane who is also a yoga teacher; he has two daughters from a previous relationship. Davy has always been a lifetime Arsenal fan and Albion follower – and he admits to split loyalties when watching the recent Albion Cup game against Arsenal up at the Amex!
Caroline Lucas needs no introduction from me! She is easily the best MP Brighton has ever had. Can anyone locally even remember any of our other parliamentarians receiving so much national attention? Has MP every worked harder, from their very first year of in their job?
Meanwhile, the other parties in Brighton & Hove have yet to declare their candidates.
This weekend the Green Party is having its spring conference, in Nottingham. Understanding the role the media needs her to play, Natalie Bennett, gave a speech about our approach to politics. The media has lapped it up. Why? The answer lies in the fact that Green political fare is markedly different from the dishes on offer from mainstream parties. Firstly, as soon as she opens her mouth, it becomes obvious that Ms Bennett is an Australian. Is this the first time a UK party with electoral success has chosen an immigrant to be its leader? Soon after she began her speech, she called for Ed Miliband to apologise for the last Labour government’s decision to launch the Iraq war. The other party leaders seem incapable of mentioning this subject at all, despite the fact that a clear majority of the British people think we were wrong to go to war, because it produced little more than bloodshed. She made the serious point: why does Mr Miliband think it appropriate to apologise for Labour’s immigration policy but not for the illegal killing of children in our name in foreign lands? Surely, there cannot have ever been a more stark proof that the Labour Party is fundamentally right-wing in its 21st Century incarnation.
Until we get that apology, activists in various movements (peace, green with a small ‘g’, animal rights et cetera) are unlikely to ever trust Labour again. Previously, many of these people were solid Labour activists. Now they work against the party of the red rose. Does Labour not want these people back on board? Does Labour really benefit from harbouring war criminals in its ranks? Every Labour activist I’ve spoken to about this says something along the lines of ‘I agree, it disconnected our party leadership from our grass roots, we must never make this mistake again but it will be too complicated to remove party membership from those who just governed our country.’ Why? What’s complicated? Launch a disciplinary process and kick them out. Simple. Perhaps Labour will find it easier when Blair and the rest of them are in the dock at the International Criminal Court. We’ll get them there one day but if Labour has to wait for that, its eventual apology and expulsions will lack even a shred of credibility.
Not content with pointing out the military distinction between the Labour Party and the rest of The Left, Ms Bennett, bigged up another new cause, which is itself nowadays a somewhat unusual event. In the first student occupation in many years, undergraduates at Sussex University have taken over one of their university buildings in protest against the University’s decision to privatise its catering and land management functions. The University’s policy doesn’t directly affect the students at all but they have chosen solidarity with the employees affected, in preference to their own education. This is rapidly becoming something of a cause célèbre in the South and I’m pleased to report that local Labour activists have joined the Greens in supporting the occupation. Ms Bennett is pleased to associate herself with Occupy Sussex. Mr Miliband remains silent on the issue. Could it be that the photograph at that last link has worried him. It is hard not to see the massive banner emblazoned with one word: “COMMUNISM”. Lately he’s been borrowing the language of the Occupy movement but isn’t that only because he thought the thing had run aground? Perhaps the youth waving a red flag (2:52) in this video scared him off?
Labour’s central problem with all the popular protests against austerity is that the policies being adopted by the thieving Tory bastards and their Liberal bedfellows are essentially extensions of Labour initiatives. Public services are to be cut and replaced with private outsourcing. Where Labour didn’t start these policies, it embraced them. Where it found them absent, it created them. The Labour activists I talk to here in Brighton all say their political choices under Blair and Brown were wrong, although they didn’t realise it at the time. Hello?! What sort of political argument is that? ‘Please, we made mistakes but it was only because our political judgement was wrong at the time and hey, we’re nice people really, honest. Apart from that illegal war thing.’ Back in Bramber House on the Sussex University Campus, undoubtedly the students are pleased to be receiving the intellectual support of the local Labour Party. Meanwhile, the local Greens are donating money to them, to ensure their occupation and campaign against privatisation continues. That’s a neat political choice. Which do you prefer? Nice words or notes you can buy food with?
Ed Miliband made a speech to Labour’s Autumn Conference last year. Despite his professionalism, presumably he must have been running short on time. Why else would he fail to mention environmental issues at all? Satire aside though, it is clear that under his party is disinterested in resource depletion, in energy issues, in tackling the cost of our carelessness. Labour’s attitude to this pressing matter in the face of the predictable catastrophes to come is very telling.
Labour’s strategy on uncomfortable topics is silence. Witness their failure to even acknowledge the NHA Party in the forthcoming Eastleigh by-election. The National Health Action Party candidate, Dr Iain Maclellan, is a retired ex-Royal Navy medical officer and, as it happens, was also a member of the Green Party. The Greens couldn’t afford to stand a candidate in this by-election so Dr Maclellan asked to stand for the NHA party instead. If he doesn’t win, he has said that he will return to being a Green Party activist. He’s got the support of the Greens. He’s got the support of doctors. The NHA Party exists to defend the NHS. That used to be Labour’s job. Rather than acknowledge their abandoning of the jewel in the crown of our civil society, Labour issues press release after press release which doesn’t mention the NHA Party at all.
What sort of message does this send out to the electorate? Since when did failing to mention important issues become an acceptable political strategy? The answer lies in what Blair did to British politics. Under his stewardship, the Labour Party lost all sense of its internal democracy. The leader became all. Blair was able to dominate his party because previous leaders had destroyed the Left within the party. Without that backbone of discipline to hold the party to account, Labour found itself with only the Prime Minister to turn to for leadership. When Brown came to power, the media branded him as ‘Stalin’. If he was Stalin, Blair was Lenin!
Mr Miliband can talk the talk but he cannot walk even one step of the way towards truly progressive politics. His hands are tied up by history. Until he is able to apologise for Labour’s cuddling up to the corporations, for the Iraq War and for all the other ways which New Labour chose to support the worst excesses of capitalism, he has cut himself off from the body of progressive debate in the country today. Mr Miliband is a leader in name only. He’s got his name on that brass plate outside his office door but he doesn’t have ideas on his table. There’s nothing new in his political sack. He’s sticking at what Labour knows best, which is concerned with endless material growth as a remedy for income inequality. Unfortunately, the debate has moved on, but Labour is stuck in the past. The only reason to vote Labour is out of fear of what the Tories will do to us if we don’t. Some choice!
There’s two types of political leadership. There’s the type most appropriate to a military situation, where power and influence lies with the actual leader. Then there’s the other type, the more complicated abstract type, where the person is less important than the principle.
The Green Party can hardly be described as being in love with the concept of political leadership being concentrated into the hands of one person. For many years, the party didn’t have a leader at all. Instead, it had 12 speakers, any one of whom could legitimately speak for the party to the press. The trouble was, the press couldn’t cope with this approach to public relations. Befuddled, the established media simply ignored the Green Party, rather than struggle with its über-democratic approach to political engagement. Eventually, the party decided that reportage was more important than purism and changed its constitution so that there were… two speakers! The press still didn’t want to know. Then, with a heavy heart, the party decided to have a single leader and it burst into the national political debate.
The Green’s first leader was Caroline Lucas. She was, at the time, a member of the European Parliament. Once she was party leader, us Greens in Brighton persuaded her to stand for the Westminster Parliament in one of our constituencies. She won the subsequent election, becoming the first Green anywhere in the world to win a first past the post election. She served her two year term as party leader and then stepped down from the post, so that someone else could become party leader, with the hope and expectation that this would raise someone else’s profile enough that they might get elected. Last year, the Greens elected Natalie Bennett to become party leader. Her political strength lies in the ideas she stands for and arises from the people in her party. She came down to Brighton last week, to sit in on one our local party’s monthly general meetings. She answered questions and took feedback for half an hour and then we returned to our normal business. Can you imagine Ed Miliband only commanding a local Labour Party’s attention for a few minutes and then just being a bum on a pew for the rest of the evening? Neither can I.
Labour’s ideological issues do not trouble the party because it expects to win the next general election. There’s an old saying in British politics ~ opposition parties don’t win elections, governments lose them. Miliband’s crew knows that this government looks set to lose the next general election. Therefore, they do not need to unpack the problematic policies they have. All they have to do is sit tight, say as little as possible and slide back into power. That’s their election strategy. That and a combination of media management to ensure that their leader is not photographed again with any yellow fruit.
However, Labour may be in for a nasty surprise. The two party system we have cannot continue forever. Sooner or later, the inherent stagnation in the political debate will poison the relationship between our the people and these parties. Already various smaller parties are snapping at the heels of the bloated giants. On the right, UKIP looks certain to wreck the chances of 30 Tories at the next election. Although UKIP probably won’t win any seats, they have the power to prevent the Tories from ever winning a majority again. The Tories know this and have started to appeal more and more to the Right. Thus, one of Cameron’s first political decision was to order his party’s MEPs out of the centre-right bloc they traditionally sat with in the European Parliament and into the far-right bloc. No matter that they are now allied with some of the nastiest elements of the far-right. The Kippers (UKIP) also know that they can achieve their political strategy by constantly appealing to the right of the Tories. Thus, they have come out against same sex marriages even though this has nothing to with the European domination that they most fear. The Kipper’s political strategy is engineered to achieve their objectives, not power. This is a novel approach to British politics and has generated much frisson on the Right. On the Left, Labour has lost seats to people it regards as completely outlandish, such as the indefatigable cigar chomper, George Galloway, and the incredibly popular peacenik, Caroline Lucas. Rather than appeal to the people who prefer radical politics over a bland competition for managers of capitalism, Miliband’s method for tackling this problem is to ignore it and pretend it will go away.
Is ignoring your opponents really the best way to win an argument? Is failing to address the most important issues of the day, the best way to tackle them? Whilst the Labour hierarchy has created oceans of clear blue water between its shores and ‘the land of the Greens’, is there anything more than a trickling stream between them and the other privateers who pretend to politic with each other?
The choice for the public is increasingly clear. Either you can choose one of the big two parties, who compete for your vote on the basis that they are each the best managers of our capitalist economy, or you can pick another party which wants to change our country in a radical manner. With increasing disillusionment at our corrupted body politic, more and more voters are turning to the other parties instead. Whether the NHA Party can win the Eastleigh by-election remains to be seen but their very existence in that battle proves the point. They are not the Monster Raving Loony Party, they present a serious political argument. Sooner or later Labour is going to have to engage with other parties on The Left, in a constructive manner. The alternative is that they stumble on, like a dead man walking. Their journey to the political grave is likely to resemble the much feared fate of a feckless end in an old folk’s home. Some unions will provide the feeding tubes, some of their rich friends will wipe away their fecal smears, some of their elder statesmen will rewrite their history books but essentially they will stop contributing to the intellectual process known as the national conversation. Unless Labour changes its attitudes to its erstwhile comrades, they cannot hope to ever again provide the inspiration necessary to invigorate political life.
We Greens rejected the practice of having a single political leader for a long time. We discovered that the established media, and consquently, the public at large, could not get their head around reporting our views, let alone listening to us. So we changed our constitutional arrangements and chose a leader: Caroline Lucas. Proof of the success of this political engagement with the democratic structures we faced was found in the election of Lucas to the House of Commons. She became the first Green anywhere in the world to be elected via a first past the post voting system. Since then, she has worked tirelessly by our cause and is generally recognised as one of the hardest working MPs. Love or hate Saint Caroline, as she is sometimes affectionately known, you cannot fail to see her. She has constantly appeared in the media and has consistently argued for all of the Green Party’s policies, including the radical ones. Especially the radical ones. Being a party which has grown out of the peace movement, she was one of only a dozen Members of Parliament which voted against the UK intervening in Libya. Personally, I disagreed with her vote but admired her for sticking to her principles. How many MPs do that?
Having established herself in the nation’s living rooms as the Green Party leader and having won a seat in Parliament, she shocked the political establishment by deciding to step down from being party leader. Her reasoning was that her role had given her a high enough profile to overcome the hurdle placed before Parliament by the first past the post system. She declared that it was time for the party to give the high profile to someone else, in the hope that we could elect a second MP. We carried out a leadership election and chose Natalie Bennett to be our next leader. Find me another party with an elected MP and a leader outside Parliament and you’ll be looking at another country! Whilst the media pundits and the established political parties were surprised by this self-deprecating move, we Greens were not. We don’t particularly like egomaniacs, like the other parties seem to. We don’t want a leader to dominate our politics, we want our politics to dominate the way our society is led. It really is that simple.
We don’t just recognise the value of diversity in our culture, we see it as a strength. In the first post in this set of three essays, I used this analysis to look at capitalism and concluded that the diversity of its economically powerful class was the source of its apparent indestructibility. In the second post, I looked at the best possible alternative to capitalism and concluded that we should look to cooperatives and mutuals to calm the chaos of our economic woes. However, although such methods of organisation retain the principle advantage of a capitalist economy ~ a diversity which is durable ~ they do not necessarily manage the planetary resources in a sustainable way. That requires political leadership. We need political decisions about what sort of business enterprises are acceptable. Just as we previously decided that businesses based on slavery were no longer going to be tolerated, today we need to make decisions which revolve around the commonly accepted idea that we must preserve the planet’s ecosystems. I wish that all political parties were seriously competing for that mantle but unfortunately they are not. Luckily, we have the Green Party, which is absolutely committed to social justice and environmentalism.
With our pan-European economy in ruins and our parliament led by people bereft of any plans worth nailing a title to, our party puts a Green New Deal at the heart of our economic policy. Repeating everything written at that link would break the shape of this post but the basic idea involves:
Massive investment in renewable energy and wider environmental transformation in the UK, leading to,
The creation of thousands of new green collar jobs
Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector – but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK’s green economic shift
Building a new alliance between environmentalists, industry, agriculture, and unions to put the interests of the real economy ahead of those of footloose finance
Here’s where the Green Party fundamentally differs from the other parties. We understand that we don’t have a monopoly on wisdom. Thus the call for a new alliance of disparate groups. Similarly, we don’t find much merit in becoming obsessed with the leadership qualities of any one particular person. Our strength truly lies in our diversity. Our party values its members regardless of their political heritage. Thus, we have many ex-Labour Party members who work happily with small business owners. We even have some ex-Liberal Democrats in our ranks; this even includes people we have promoted to top positions, for example Jason Kitcat.
Our growing credibility in Brighton & Hove has not been dependent on the same hands on deck. In fact, we’ve had a rather high turnover of elected councillors. Our electorate understands that it is the policies we promote that they are voting for, not the people.
Our local opposition in Brighton, the Labour Party and the Tories, seem absolutely unable to grasp this idea. They do not understand the strength of diversity, in much the same way that they do not understand the critical problems we as a society have visited on the planet. Our Green administration has introduced a carbon budget into its planning but they dismiss this as a ‘pet idea’, despite it being an obviously core Green policy. They are parties which are run along much more traditional lines, with leadership teams which remain in place for years on end.
In the case of the Brighton & Hove Labour Party, Gill Mitchell looks set to remain their leader regardless of their political misfortunes ~ they are now the smallest party on the council, with only 13 elected representatives. Her grip on power has had obviously deleterious consequences for party morale. An email from an unsuccessful internal candidate to become Labour’s candidate in the forthcoming East Brighton by-election, which was sent to Mitchell, has been widely circulated outside the party, due to the level of enmity it contains. Whatever the truth of their internal politics, this recent episode has led to the disintegration of their local party in the Queen’s Park ward. Unless they rebuild it, Labour will have to rely on people from other parts of town to fight another election there. All key Queens Park activists have quit the party.
This sort of debacle doesn’t occur in the Green Party because we truly believe in the strength of our diversity. Although we’re only in our second year of running Brighton & Hove City Council, we’ve had two Council Leaders already. First the prize fighter Bill Randall took on the post. He was succeeded by the shiny Jason Kitcat. Doubtless there will be another leader before the next election. Discussions are already underway. We thrive on our internal debate because we know that it is the policies we care about, not the people. Policies are best developed with as many people as possible taking their turn at being responsible for them. There are no easy rides in the Green Party. Everyone plays their part. If you’re thinking of joining us, be assured there will be a part for you to play!
Imagine living in a home where we never need to worry about paying a bill, where we can use all the water, gas and electricity we like without it ever running dry, where no matter how much of our excrement and other waste we dump in our back garden, it will always be bountiful and fit for growing all the food we’ll ever need. Go further: imagine that the very same home has a factory in the basement which can produce anything you’ve ever wanted and a whole lot more beside, everything you need to raise and nurture as many children as you want without them ever going hungry or fighting over anything at all, where there are never any accidents of any kind and no-one ever tells lies. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Trouble is, this isn’t the home we live in. Planet earth isn’t like that at all.
Our home has finite fuel resources, a very limited supply of fresh water and has been steadily contaminated by us. We’ve carried on as if the fantasy described above is all true, largely because our Abrahamic religious leaders have repeatedly claimed for thousands of years that everything on the planet is here solely for our use and our political leaders haven’t begged to differ. Well done them! Their resulting moral compass appears increasingly wonky, pointing us down the road to nowhere. What might have once been useful for a desert people struggling to persist, is a pointless and counterproductive creed on an overpopulated planet with dwindling resources. These teachings have turned our world to shit but instead of looking the truth of the matter in the face and facing down the home truths, our religious and political leaders blind their eyes. Their heaven is endless material growth, their vision non-existent. The established churches turn vast profits on a stock exchange of profiteering from the further depletion of our planetary resources, despite it poisoning the earth for future generations. Political leaders pray for money from the psychopathic corporations which complete this hell, to lavish on their constituents and win favour.
With the traditional energy sources rapidly approaching the point of ‘running on empty’ the sensible might expect the powerful, whose hands most firmly grip the wheels which turn the commanding heights of the economy, to turn their attention to the newly emerging alternative sources of energy. Sources which rely on modern, sustainable, technology. Yet they don’t. It’s a case of since it’s broken, rather than fix it, they’ll fuck it up as much possible, because along the way, they (not us, the 99%) will get very rich very very quickly and then they’ll be dead and why should they care then? This selfish attitude does not meet with serious admonishment from our lords spiritual. No-one has been excommunicated for exploiting the planet. Instead of acknowledging the plain facts – that our descendents will have to live and die with the resulting legacy – the profiteers have developed new ways of scraping the old barrel.
The whole process is very inefficient, meaning that much carbon dioxide is emitted in the pursuit of only a little more energy. Many wells are required because each one only produces a small amount of gas. The methane extracted is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We have already discovered sufficient quantities of fossil fuels to cause runaway climate change, without throwing these extra problems into the mix.
This is madness. That’s the word we use to describe behaviour which is inexplicable, dangerous, life-threatening. Some individuals may well be extremely intelligent but unless we take serious action soon to stop this suicidal tendency, we will have proved that collectively we are extremely stupid. It’s completely obvious that our economic system promotes this kind of nonsense. It’s been going on for many decades. The recent round of approvals of planning applications in the UK for fracking exploration licences (necessarily involving fracking itself) are just the latest manifestation of the insanity. We can argue about whether we ought to campaign to eventually slow the dividend cycle from quarterly to but once a year, whether to tax the trade in financial dividends or whether to restructure the banking industry but none of that will make one jot of difference if our ground water is poisoned, our food production ruined and our home drowned.
We can head off this impending disaster. A grass roots network is springing up. Local groups are forming, planning applications are being studied in detail, the resistance is being planned. Right now, the consensus amongst our most organised citizenry is that the time is to recruit people into this network. We need to know who is on the side of the planet, who we can call on when the time comes. We need to have established connections with each other, to be ready for action. As the hugely respected Marina Pepper said in Brighton yesterday afternoon, “we need bottoms on the ground“. Yes, there will certainly have to be direct action. There will also have to be letters, emails, petitions, phone calls. Our politicians need to understand that they will lose votes if they support this madness. If you live in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, you already have an MP (Caroline Lucas) who is fully committed to opposing this madness. That’s the Green Party for you. However, this isn’t a party political polemic from me. There will be politicians of all flavours who understand the crucial relationship between their constituents and the earthy crust they stand on.
Planning applications are decided by local councils. Sadly, many local councillors are incapable of anything much. Without technocratic issues forced into their consciousness, they aren’t up to the job of weighing up the cost benefit analysis. So many have searched so much for a couple of thousand quid for the local community hall, that if a large corporation promises that, they’ll give the earth away.
Stopping fracking will not be enough to solve the root problem. We use far too much energy. We need to use less and we need to make it in a way which we can sustain. Our lifestyles have to change. There’s no doubt about that. The question is whether the change is forced upon us or whether we take charge of the situation. It’s up to us. We can’t do this alone. We have to do it together. A start has been made. Some caring souls have put together a website and packed it with useful information and hard data: frack-off.org.uk. We can all use it to publicise the coming campaigns and coordinate our communities.
Some other countries, with a closer relationship with their agricultural economy than we have in the UK, have already banned fracking altogether, notably France. The UK appears to be the testbed for the venture capitalist funded private corporations who want to frack Europe. We’re seen as the soft touch in Europe, the country most likely to succumb first. It’s up to us to show the world we see things differently. If we don’t our fractured home will break apart completely, much more quickly than we ever imagined. This isn’t the stuff of apocalyptic fantasy, it’s happening right now below our feet. We can do much more than stamping them in disgust, we can take steps to a new relationship with our home. We need strong relationships with each other first. We need to set up our own local groups, to monitor the development of fracking applications. We need to be ready to take whatever steps are required to end this madness. We can end this well.
Thus far the Occupy movement in London has been ambitious, punched above its weight and seized the moment beautifully. The sight of a mighty Cathedral closing its doors whilst campaigners for the poor sleep on its steps has been a troublesome moment in the relationship between the English Church and people. What on earth would the venerable Bede make of all this? What on earth would St Paul himself make of it? Before his famous journey to Damascus, he had been a tent maker.
Cathedral is a bankrupt business
The Occupy movement was a beautiful gift for the Church of England. An entirely peaceful campaign, comprised of the widest possible demographic, landed on its doorstep with plenty of warning as to what it intended to do on the ground. A distinction needs to be drawn been the Church of England and St Paul’s Cathedral. The latter is running a business. The purpose of the business is to facilitate prayer to a specific God but it is a business nevertheless. It claims to require £20,000 per day in running costs and to receive approximately £16,000 per day in donations normally. Therefore, it is a bankrupt business and must be relying on subsidy from elsewhere. The Church of England is a religious organisation led by a cleric said to be on the verge of early retirement because he cannot cope with the muddled nature of his flock and their confused purpose in the modern world.
Occupation movement expanding rapidly
The Occupation movement has an international reach that all organised faiths would be very proud of. We are ambitious, determined and sophisticated in our organisational strength. Last night, one week after the Occupation in London began, we set up a second camp in Finsbury Square which is a stone’s throw from the Headquarter’s of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Royal Bank of Scotland has been a major criminal in the international fraud committed on the people. They have deliberately created a debt crisis, held the country to ransom, had the ransom money delivered and still have not done anything to assist with solving the economic structural problems which allowed them to commit these crimes.
Passive aggression by St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral began the week well by ordering the police off its premises. I caught the precise moment Giles Fraser told the police to leave on video (4 minutes, 20 second into the video at that link) Doubtless they were concerned about the international image of their impressive frontage guarded by police from the people. The Occupation commenced a dialogue with the Cathedral. The Cathedral has been secretive and uncooperative in its approach. They have publicly announced that they have closed their doors but then they were quietly reopened for paying guests. A wedding was held and the happy couple’s guests lent their support to the Occupation. PR company account manager Natasha Ighodaro married Nick Cunningham declaring afterwards that it had been “wonderful, really amazing” and that there “hasn’t been any disruption at all”. The current position is that the Cathedral is citing Health & Safety reasons for the closure but has not yet revealed the details of the perceived problem. OccupyLSX sent the following open letter to the church:
Open Letter from OccupyLSX to Cathedral authorities
To the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral,
We are grateful to the Reverend Canon Dr Giles Fraser, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, for reassuring us that our activities are not harming the Cathedral’s commercial concerns – that has never been our intention. Our intention was to highlight the iniquities of the global economic crisis, in a peaceful manner, especially as the Cathedral has been so hospitable.
We have endeavoured to clarify perceived health and safety issues and continue to place these as a priority for the health and safety of everyone, both inside and outside of this historic Cathedral.
Unfortunately, despite our requests of the Cathedral, they have not provided us with details and information as to how we are perceived to be threatening health and safety. We once again urge the Cathedral to bring to our attention, immediately, the particular details of the health and safety issues to address them. Our concern is if there are health and safety issues (which we in any event refute) by the Church failing to tell of them, they are exacerbating any perceived dangers.
Due to the urgency of the situation you have raised, we would appreciate your immediate response so that we can deal with these concerns.
Occupy London Stock Exchange
Whose side is the Cathedral on?
Within a week the Cathedral has gone from obtaining superb publicity to appearing disorganised and hostile to poor people’s concerns. They have squandered the gift. All the nonconformist Christian churches in the country have given their support to the Occupation but the Church of England has remained silent. Our beef is not with the Church of England. We would have been happy to have them as friends but if they wish to side with the financial institutions against us, we are big enough to cope.
Our encampment now includes several residential districts, a tea tent, a legal tent, a media tent, a tech tent, a piano tent, a prayer and meditation tent (somehow the Cathedral did not seem appropriate for us), a Sukkah, an extensive field kitchen (which receives daily food donations from Londoners and serves nutritious food to the occupiers), a library (to nourish the mind), a university (which will also serve as a school for extra-curricular lessons during the forthcoming half-term week), a medical centre and an information tent for visitors. Our waste disposal is a tightly organised system, with the focus on separation and recycling, although of course we prefer not to have to recycle at all but to reuse instead. We have our own portaloos for our night time calls of nature. All this has been achieved in adverse circumstances on the cobblestones between an historic church and the London Stock Exchange. We hold our own parliaments, called General Assemblies, at least twice a day and countless other workshops so that we can learn new skills to further the occupations.
In one week we have created a space for hitherto unknown debate. The great and the good have queued up to speak at our encampment. Julian Assange may have been the first high profile speaker but he certainly hasn’t been the last. We’ve set up a ‘university’ to hold lectures, debates and seminars in. Having been busy with legal work, I’ve missed all of these lectures. Hopefully I’ll catch some soon. John Cooper QC, who leads a team of barristers giving legal advice to the camp, has requested that he might be able to give a law lecture. Britain’s leading expert on the French Resistance, Professor Rod Kedward, has asked to speak. This new engagement in intellectual and policy debate blows the dusty political establishment away. We have only being going for one week yet we have set up a fully functioning community which can now facilitate policy making and further direct action. Our campaign of mass civil disobedience has only just begun.
Movement not manifesto
The only substantial criticism of our occupation movement is that we have not turned up with a neatly packaged manifesto. The press and the right-wing institutions want to know what we want. Our point has been that we want everyone to start talking about this properly. If we were still in occupation in six months without having crystalised our thoughts into any declared policies that might be a valid criticism. At this stage in the game, it is not. This is not a protest, it is the resistance. We know we are in for the long haul. Our movement will continue to grow. Expect us.
Green Party support missed the point
Politically speaking, it is notable that only one party has stepped up to the plate and declared unequivocal support: the Green Party. I doubt that you could get the proverbial cigarette paper between the views of the occupiers and the Green Party’s policies. Certainly almost everyone I have spoken to in the camp has been voting Green, if they vote at all. However, there are precious few Green activists on the ground. Turning up with a stall or a pamphlet would be inappropriate; this crowd’s sophisticated sense of smell would detect such blatantly patronising behaviour a mile away. Predictably the Socialist Workers’ Party tried to do precisely that and we told by a General Assembly to fuck off. However, when the time comes to set policy, to formulate demands, the Green Party could be in the position to provide leadership. There is a major obstacle though. Green Party activists need to be on the ground now. Physically. They need to be helping with the practicalities of camp life, with gaffer taping tents down, helping with our night time security patrols, becoming legal observers, washing dishes in the kitchen. Being actually in occupation in numbers would give Green Party activists considerable air time when the policy debates begin, as they will. Turning up as Caroline Lucas did, for a few hours, betrays more alienation from the movement than it lends support. Had Caroline Lucas chosen to stay overnight, even only for one night, that might have counted for something. Most people in the camp remain blissfully unaware of her support. They are aware of the support from the trades union activists in London. Unite made a big noise when they turned up. Links have been built with the electrician unions. These emerging relationships between activists old and new is something the Green Party has been cumbersomely slow in obtaining. Had Green Party people been on the ground this week, they would have been in a better position later on to capitalise on these new relationships. This is a simple plea to my fellow Green Party members: get yourself involved with the Occupation movement! Do not preach, do not canvass. Just help out and become part of this new movement. There is a window of credibility which is going to close. If you don’t get in when that window is still open, you’ll blow your chances. Here’s a whole new generation of political activists, ready to be recruited and largely in agreement with Green Party policy but completely cynical about any of the established political processes. Only by being on the ground in occupation with them will you manage to break down that mistrust.
Positive Policy Proposals
Rather than end there for today, I’m going on. I’m aware that my blog is read by Green Party activists and also by those in Occupation. Here are the Green Party economic policies for the occupationists to mull over. Pretty soon we are going to have to get real. We are going to have to be completely positive about what we want, rather than complaining about what we don’t want. We are going to have to publish a list of demands to campaign for. That time has not yet come but when it does, we’ll want our position to be reached by consensus. Here is a ready made set of policies which covers every branch of economic life. They have been developed over many many years. Doubtless they can be improved but they are an excellent starting point.
I’m going to publish here an extract from this policy document. It contains the Green Party’s short term aims (as opposed to the party’s long term aims). Here goes:
To undertake urgent research into developing transitional strategies to move trade into new regional patterns.
To introduce import and export controls on a national and/or regional bloc level, with the aim of allowing localities and countries to produce as much of their food, goods, and services as they can themselves.
To introduce into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) a social clause, based on ILO standards, establishing minimum labour rights and conditions for participation in the multilateral trading system, together with new rules to prohibit countries from weakening existing social and environmental regulations to attract, or retain, foreign investment.
To establish new international trade rules to reconcile conflicts at national and international levels between free trade and sustainable resource management, which would place environmental protection and sustainable development above the pursuit of profit. These would include rules to enable countries to internalise the full environmental costs of international trade, including the true costs of transport. Trade rules would permit legitimate border tax adjustment to compensate for energy or pollution taxes imposed on domestic industries, and enable countries to discriminate between products on the basis of the way they are processed/produced. Obligations on developing countries to comply with higher standards should be linked to the provision of transitional technical and financial support.
To incorporate into trade policy making the commitment given at the UN Beijing Women’s Conference (1995) to mainstream gender analysis into all levels of policy making, and in particular to incorporate a gender impact assessment into all trade policy making and policy reviews.
To integrate the WTO more closely into the UN system. The WTO should be answerable to the UN through regular reports to the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, and the Economic and Social Council.
To ensure expanded and timely public access to all WTO documents, and access for representatives of civil society to WTO meetings.
To introduce into the WTO a food security clause, which would allow developing countries to protect their food systems up to the point of self-sufficiency for social, ecological, and economic reasons.
To prohibit subsidised agricultural export dumping, and to redesign the agricultural policies of the industrialised countries to encourage less intensive production, and to redistribute income support from the largest producers to the small-holders.
To introduce an international tax on currency speculation, both to raise revenue for development, and to deter a form of financial activity which is deeply, destabilising for all countries.
Our nation’s single Green MP does far more for her constituents and the country in general than a dozen of the more regularised Members of Parliament. She’s represented Brighton Pavilion in the wider world as no-one has done before. The only criticisms I can make of her are that she (i) voted against supporting the people’s revolution in Libya; and (ii) she talks a bit too fast, as if she’ll never get the airtime again. In the former case, her vote was largely irrelevant because only 12 other MPs joined her. In the latter case, well, the Greens have spent so long outside of the mainstream that her initial urgency can be forgiven.
Have a look at the list below, summarising what she has been up to in the last 12 months. Bear in mind that she was elected 15 months ago. I admit that I am a Green Party activist but all that follows is factual and in the public domain. Ask yourself, does your MP work so hard for you? Are the other candidates likely to work so hard? Here’s what Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party, and my MP has done for me: she’s set the benchmark by which other members of parliament can be judged.
Shared her parliamentary office with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty.
Held weekly surgeries for those she represents right across the constituency.
Held two walkabout surgeries, a useful way to reach out to those who would not otherwise meet their MP.
Spoken at a march and rally in Brighton & Hove against benefits cuts.
Spoken at a Pheonix Community Association meeting.
Opened the Chartered Institute for Housing’s Regional Conference.
Opened the AGM of the National Bus Users UK Group.
Spoken at the a public meeting entitled, “What Have The Banks Done To Britain?”
Spoken at the Charleston Festival.
Spoken at a Sussex University Stop the Cuts discussion.
Spoken to the Rotary Club.
Spoken at Student PRIDE (sorry for shouting).
Spoken to a Public and Commercial Services seminar on ‘Being Green: A Trade Union approach’.
Spoken to residents meetings in Hanover, Clifton, Montpelier and Powis.
Spoken at a day of action to oppose attacks on teachers’ pensions (joining a picket line in the morning and then speaking at a rally in Hove Town Hall).
Spoken at the launch of Fab Lab locally.
Spoken at an event to celebrate Dorothy Stringer’s School Council.
Spoken at a Brighton and Hove Business Club lunch on the subject of boosting the city’s small, independent businesses.
Attended local meetings of Citizens Advice Bureau and…
… Brighton Line Commuters to talk about local service.
… the local Crime Reduction Initiatives.
… Sussex Enterprise.
… Brighton and Hove business forum.
… the local Federation of Small Businesses.
… Brighton’s Head of Tourism.
… Sussex Beacon Women’s Group.
… Brighton Oasis Project.
… Zap Art.
… Sussex Wildlife Trust.
… Environmental Protection UK.
… with the city’s Head of Museums and the Royal Pavilion and the Head of Culture.
… Fareshare (a local charity that distributes ‘waste’ food donated by supermarkets and other retailers).
… the regional office of the Environment Agency.
… Mosaic (a black and mixed family parentage group).
… the Community Land Trust about innovative housing models for the city.
…. our local Tourism Alliance.
She also with the Director of Albion in the Community for a tour of the Falmer Stadium and to learn more about their excellent community outreach programme.
She regularly meets with heads of the NHS locally and…
… the Chief Superintendent of Sussex Police.
… the Chief Executive at the city council.
Visited Westdene Primary School.
Visited Dorothy Stringer High School.
Joined a skills training day at the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Taken part in the early morning shift with Brighton’s rough sleepers team.
Worked with EAGA to host an event designed to give people advice about cutting their bills and making their homes more energy efficient.
Visited a local pharmacy.
Met with inmates and staff at Lewes prison.
Took part in a fair-trade fortnight “act of random kindness” – giving out cups of tea in the Lanes – and an event at the Co-op on London Road.
Helped collect petition signatures about plans to open a Sainsbury’s at the former Taj site.
Joined parents and children to ask for a voluntary “toll” at the hazardous junction with Surrenden Crescent and Draxmont Way to highlight the problem of road safety.
Visited a local Travellers’ site in August and worked with local councillors to try and develop a long term viable policy that reflects the need to balance the rights of everyone living in our city.
Visited Preston Barracks to understand better the potential to use the site more productively eg for temporary office/workshop space.
Visited the Royal Sussex site to discuss plans for redevelopment.
Visited a local care home to meet residents.
Visited Mears Housing (a social housing provider in the city).
Met the Big Lemon bus company.
Became the 5,000th member of East Sussex Credit Union.
Organised a number of meetings with key figures about taking forward a Green New Deal for Brighton and Hove.
Heard Brighton Peace Choir in the House of Commons singing in early February.
Met the young people and their teachers from local primary schools.
Secured a commitment from the Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to visit next year’s Digital Brighton festival.
Focused on three priorities in Parliament: energy (which covers climate change and nuclear), housing and drugs & alcohol.
Other key areas of Parliamentary work included animal welfare, parliamentary reform and tax reform.
Become a member of the Environmental Audit Committee
Served on the Energy Bill Committee: a temporary – although very demanding – role and an opportunity to influence the terms of the legislation, which is back in the House of Commons for its remaining stages this week.
Spoken in a Parliamentary debate on the recent riots and…
… the Comprehensive Spending Review.
… fixed term parliaments.
… growth and the economy.
… electricity market reform.
… daylight savings.
… a ban on wild animals in circuses.
… plans to sell off the forests.
… the schools sports programme.
… education maintenance allowance.
… measures to protect bees.
… the Strategic Defence Review.
… drugs policy.
… fuel prices.
… housing benefit.
… News International and media ownership.
… intervention in Libya.
… unauthorised traveller and gypsy encampments.
… badger culling.
Submitted amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill and…
… to the Voting System and Constituencies Bill (including for the referendum to ask about other alternative voting systems such as Proportional Representation).
… the Postal Services Bill (including opposing the privatisation of the service and calling for a formal link with credit unions and access to small scale credit).
… the Energy Bill (including on efficiency standards in the private rented sector, on oil drilling and on proper funding for the Green Deal, especially households in fuel poverty).
Asked Parliamentary Questions and proposed Early Day Motions on nuclear safety and…
… the red tape challenge.
… tax and inequality.
… fuel poverty.
… housing benefit changes.
… empty homes.
… work capability assessments.
… forced marriage.
… live exports of animals.
… the criminal age of responsibility.
… sexuality and asylum cases.
… heroin overdoses.
… feed in tariffs.
… train fares.
… the use of drones.
… Brighton’s elm trees.
… disabled access to public transport.
… fracking (a means of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling).
… tax and equality.
… animal testing.
… GM crops.
… aviation fuel.
… disability living allowance.
… land value taxation.
… palm oil.
… domestic violence.
… blood donations.
… transphobic bullying.
… phonics teaching.
… conscientious objection.
… child poverty.
… supporting for ESOL teaching provision.
… the EU Israel Association Agreement.
… parliamentary reform.
… Brighton’s creative industries.
… the policing of protests.
… nuclear non proliferation.
… chlamydia screening.
… the Green Investment Bank.
… access to legal aid.
… education maintenance allowance.
… climate targets.
… tuition fees.
… coastguard services.
… immigration removal.
… water pollution.
… HIV diagnosis rates.
… the Millennium Development Goals.
… female genital mutilation.
… standards in schools.
… the Robin Hood tax.
… child benefit.
.. Living Wage (applauding the Brighton & Hove City Council’s action).
… the arms trade.
… Guantanamo Bay.
… reform of the banking system.
… GP consortia.
… nuclear power.
… cosmetics testing.
… parliamentary modernisation.
… teenage pregnancy rates.
Written to Ministers about issues raised by her constituents, covering many of the topics listed above and other subjects such as equal marriage rights and…
… protection for overseas domestic workers.
… the torture enquiry.
… assisted dying.
… the National Curriculum.
… public spending cuts.
… universal jurisdiction.
… the Brighton i360 tower.
… planning reform.
… carbon floor pricing.
… national landlord accreditation.
… local library provision.
… food labelling.
… mental health.
… the Digital Economy Act.
… school places.
… CDC and fraudulent investment.
… human rights abuses in Palestine.
… human rights abuses in Bahrain.
… human rights abuses in Syria.
… human rights abuses in Uganda.
… human rights abuses in Tibet.
… human rights abuses in Iran.
Made a series of Freedom of Information requests about energy company secondments to Government department.
Met Ministers to regarding changes to funding for sixth form colleges (attended by the Head Teachers of the Brighton & Hove City’s colleges).
Met Ministers to regarding medicine waste (with local pharmacists and Link).
Met Ministers to regarding her proposals for tax reform.
Met Ministers to regarding visa rules for students coming to language schools in Brighton to learn English.
Tabled a Private Members Bill to tackle the problem of illegally logged timber.
Tabled a Private Members Bill to require companies operating in the UK to submit tax returns so the tax they owe can be calculated.
Secured adjournment debates on deep water drilling and…
… drugs policy reform.
… the Sustainable Communities Act, resulting in an immediate Government announcement about the next stage of the process, including new participation from community groups and local authorities.
Achieved a very high media profile by getting reported in …the local rag, the Evening Anus, on the issues of the Lewes Road grant, air quality, rail fare rises, the proposed badger cull, benefits for disabled people, the AV referendum, student protests, the impact on families of cuts to housing benefit and cuts to Sussex Police. The paper also ran a letter on drugs policy and on alcohol from her. She has also been reported in…
… the Brighton based Latest magazine.
… a faith programme on BBC Sussex.
… the BBC Politics Show South East.
… Sussex Life.
… Juice Radio.
… So Brighton and Hove.
… The Daily Mirror, regarding her my decision not to cross a picket line during the public sector strike.
… the Daily Telegraph, highlighting her work on tax evasion and avoidance and the New Home Front climate change campaign. It also ran an article from her on the green economy as part of its Age of Energy series.
… the Guardian, with coverage including being quoted in articles about cuts to quangos, fracking and a public interest campaign organised by Compass, a head to head piece with George Monbiot about nuclear power after Fukushima, and pieces about solar energy and air quality.
… The Observer carried a piece quoting her on population,
… the Independent, which published one of her letters about illegal logging.
She writes a regular blog for Guardian Environment and contributes to Comment is Free, which included a piece from her about the riots.
She also been interviewed for New Review by the Independent on Sunday.
All of this is on top of being a very active Leader of the Green Party, which sees her attending every conceivable meeting of the Party that she can. Let me be clear, we Greens expect our representatives to work this hard. We have 130 councillors and two Members of the European Parliament. We expect them all to work this hard. We deserve this level of commitment from our public servants.
The thieving Tory bastards are campaigning on only one issue in Brighton & Hove: the Travellers. The fact is that when in power they had no clear policies for what to do with them and they still have no proposals – check out their website. I can’t bring myself to even link to it but it’s easy to find; it’s the political website without a policy section at all. Compare and contrast to Brighton & Hove Green Party or Brighton & Hove Labour Party. Brighton & Hove Liberal Democrats don’t trouble themselves with listing policies either. It must be a strategic decision by the thieving Tory bastards and the Liberal Democrats to decline to share their policies with us. It’s a cynical abuse of the political process. With no policies to promote, these people have to fall back on negative campaigning.
Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what’s happening in Brighton & Hove. The Liberal Democrats are a spent force in the City, with no councillors left at all. The thieving Tory bastards have been campaigning on only one issue: the Travellers. They have mounted a racist campaign on this front. Think that’s too strong?
It’s well recognised that the Travellers are a distinct social group in the country. This is recognised by every organisation and group that has an interest in the matter. I was going to list them but that would take forever because it would include everyone who has ever considered the matter. For years this social group has been hounded by our society, our media and our leading politicians. I’m not suggesting that there is an easy answer to the problem caused by the fact that every available piece of land is apparently being legitimately used and they now have nowhere to go. Life on the roadside has been killed off. The Travellers have been vilified in the press and by people who should know better. Have a look at Jewify.org, which substitutes the word Jew for the words Gypsy and Traveller, and ask yourself, are you comfortable with what you’re actually reading? If you are, you’re probably a racist… That site has been created to make a point, admittedly, but it makes it very well.
The thieving Tory bastards have been focussing on this issue because they have nothing left to campaign about. They lost the general election (but got their grubby hands on power anyway) and they lost our local election here in Brighton & Hove. Now they write letters to the Evening Anus only about this issue. Their members are being encouraged to do likewise. Their campaign is reminiscent of the campaign their party led in Smethwick in 1964 but without a catchy slogan. Smethwick was a safe Labour seat which the thieving Tory bastards won with the slogan, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour”. Our local thieving Tory bastards have been writing letters predicated on the idea that the forthcoming eviction of Dale Farm in Essex will lead to hundreds more Travellers coming to Brighton & Hove. Simon Kirby, the MP for Kemptown, said:
“We shall see who is right, when a large group of travellers leaves Essex in the near future. Where will they go? “To a council that is not sympathetic, or one, by the statements of its senior figures, that appears to be?”
He should apologise for this scare-mongering. They’re not going to come here. They’re a clan based in Essex and Ireland. They’re not going to tread on our local Traveller’s turf. Incidentally, the Travellers who bought Dale Farm were advised to do so by Basildon Council, who then changed their policy towards them immediately after purchase. They’re not planning on going anywhere as it happens. They’re planning to resist what will be the largest eviction Europe has ever seen: it’s going to be a major battle unfortunately. They’ve offered a last minute compromise which will avoid them becoming homeless. Since the eviction will cost between £8 million and £18 million to prosecute, they’ve offered to leave for £6 million. Their offer has been turned down flat but I digress…
The Green Party & the Labour Party on the other hand are arguing about a wide range of policies for Brighton & Hove. The Labour Party’s social justice policies are remarkably similar to the Green Party but on the council they’ve been voting with the thieving Tory bastards whenever they can. Why? You’d have to ask them, it’s beyond me.
Phelim (left) Mac Cafferty sporting an unusual metal hat
Recognising that there are limits on the City Council’s powers, Green Party activists have been out campaigning on fronts over which they have no political control. They led protests this week at Brighton, Hove and Preston Park train stations early in the morning. The issue was the planned increase in rail fares. Another one! The average proposed rise is 8%. Brighton Pavilion Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was interviewed on television and even the Evening Anus paused in its support for the thieving Tory bastard’s racist campaign, to report the protests.
Pete West's famously quiet voice has been heard
The Green cabinet on Brighton & Hove Council has decided to bring the estate management of the Downland owned by the Council around Brighton & Hove back in house. There is a debate about whether this will cost more money or save money. Brighton’s first Green councillor is now the cabinet member for environment and sustainability. He justified the decision on the grounds that the council could build a stronger relationship with farmers and generate a new income, although I’m unclear where this new income will come from.
The ground floor of the Council buildings at Bartholomew House, Bartholomew Square have been refurbished to provide a modern customer service centre. Can’t bear the way in which our culture has converted citizens into customers but there it is. I guess if it was called a citizens’ care centre, it would appear to mean something else. State of the art customer care facilities have been introduced, including meeters and greeters. It features energy saving measures in heating and lighting as well as low maintenance finishes, is also designed to be flexible to adapt to future changes.
Caroline Lucas MP opened a eco-retrofit home in Lover’s Walk, near Preston Park on Monday 5th September. An eco-retrofit is a simple idea: take an old draughty house and do it up with energy conservation in mind. The Nook in Lover’s Walk, which has six tenants, is part of a national pilot project launched by the Technology Strategy Board, to improve energy efficiency in social housing across the UK. With Lewes architects BBM Sustainable Design on board, the work carried out to the property could reduce the house’s annual heating bills from £1450 to £750. There is super insulation on all external walls, treble glazed windows and a ventilation unit which redirects warm air from the kitchen and bathrooms to other parts of the house. These features, together with roof solar panels and a high efficiency gas boiler, give this old property a more sustainable future. The Energy Saving Trust will monitor the property for two years. If it is deemed a success, the redesign techniques will be rolled out across the country. The upgrade was overseen and built by the Brighton company Earthwise Construction, taking seven months to complete and costing £142,000. You can arrange a tour of the house through Eco Open House but you’ll have to be fast – tours are limited to the next four days!
Colonel Gadaffi of Libya signed his own death warrant when he announced that his soldiers would go from to house to house in Bangazi and kill anyone with a gun. In Libya, everyone has a gun so that was a threat to massacre the population. This was the trigger that caused the French to lead, via the UN, a military campaign to protect civilians in Libya. As soon as France made it’s intentions clear, David Cameron jumped on the bandwagon. Fair enough, I though.
Then I discovered that my local MP, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party Leader had voted against the intervention in the vote in the House of Commons. Shame on you, Ms Lucas! You were not only wrong on this issue but very badly wrong. Are you frightened of fighting for human rights? Unlike with Iraq, this situation included a genuine rebel movement, verified by the international press including the Guardian. The rebel movement was peaceful and was attacked by rockets and bombs by the state. I do hope you have reflected on your vote since. Green Party policy is to stick up for the poor and oppressed of the world. Your vote stuck up for a fascist dictator even after he had publicly and repeatedly declared a military war on his own people. At the time it was immediately prior to the local elections. I decided not to rock the boat and park the issue. Since then the Green Party has taken control of Brighton & Hove City Council.
Caroline Lucas and the 12 other MPs who voted against military intervention have long been ardent members of the peace movement. Their argument revolved around Britain having lost the moral high ground in the region. It was weakest anti-war argument of all time: ‘we’ll protect our moral high ground by watching a massacre we could stop’. I was really angry that my party leader, who election we all worked so hard for, had taken this glib stance. Perhaps the issue of her vote will seem inconsequential, with the majority for intervention being so overwhelming.
Whilst unanimous decisions are usually indicative of some unforseen disaster, this morning’s news that even the residents of Tripoli and the 65,000 troops there have not resisted the Libyan rebels moves the Libyan revolution into the end game. The question now is how long Gadaffi will last, with two of his sons under arrest. Celebrations have broken out right across Libya for the success of the revolution.
Very pleased to see so much solidarity. Thank-you to all the people who took the time to sit with me after I entered the small dark place I was frightened of.
This week’s big political news is that Brighton & Hove City Council have announced that its lowest paid staff will be receiving a pay rise! This means that those who are on the minimum wage will receive a 60p per hour rise. The figure was decided upon to take those on the national minimum wage to a so-called living wage.
Bill Randall, Brighton & Hove City Council leader, said:
“Reducing inequality is a key plank of our plan for the city. We will be consulting on a 60p-an-hour rise for the council’s lowest-paid workers, many of whom are women, and many also part-time workers. This and other initiatives mean we have narrowed the ratio between the highest and lowest paid to just above 11:1.
We are also establishing a Living Wage Commission for Brighton & Hove, which will look at the benefits, risks and opportunities of establishing a Living Wage in the city’s public, private and third sectors.
“I’m pleased that we’ve received support for the initiative from our trade unions, the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce, Brighton University, the Hospitals Trust and the Sussex Police Authority.
“We will continue to work with other partners to achieve a fairer city.”
However, I’m unclear what the time frame for achieving this is. I hope it isn’t just a mission statement. The lack of a detail for implementation might not stop the thieving Tory bastards from attacking this measure. When they’re done with attacking the homeless or travelling people, they can vent their hatred of the poor.
In other news this week, our local Green MP Caroline Lucas spoke out against the badger shooting plan announced by the thieving Tory bastards. She opposed the plan in a parliamentary speech pointing out that culling badgers will not reduce bovine TB, according to the scientific evidence. One does get the impression that the thieving Tory bastards have just given their mates in the countryside a teaser in lieu of repealing the Hunting Act.