23 May 2015

EU Referendum

Following on with the democracy theme, the Conservatives will be holding a referendum on whether to stay in Europe by the end of 2017.

In a letter published in the Guardian on 21st May the Green Party said 'The Green Party welcomes the EU referendum, though we are clear that we don’t want business-as-usual to continue. Indeed, with the looming threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal it’s clear that we must act now to ensure the EU doesn’t become a vehicle for a race to the bottom on environmental and social protections.'

The press is already featuring various companies saying that we should stay in Europe, eg Marks and Spencer, the head of the CBI, Airbus. But the Greens do not support the EU referendum for the sake of trade, as there should be greater emphasis on home grown produce and products to reduce environmentally unfriendly freight transport.  Instead the Greens see a united Europe as essential to reducing corporate power, ensuring workers rights, combating climate change and working for peace.

I hope that the press gives the Green Party's views good coverage, but I have my doubts. On 22nd May the BBC website had an article entitled What is 'Britain looking for?' when really it meant what are the Conservatives wanting. The list included protection for the City of London financial markets from EU legislation and freeing business from red tape and "excessive interference". Both defintiely not on the Green agenda.

I worry that nowadays the biased reporting of the press, which is mainly owned by rich press barons with their own agendas, has destroyed true democracy by not giving readers the facts so that people can make informed decisions. How else can the Tories have got back into power?

20 May 2015

Democracy - what democracy?

The Conservatives have a government majority and yet only 24% of the electorate voted for them (36.9% of those who voted). The Green Party got 3.8% of the vote, up from 285,000 votes in 2010 to more than 1.1 million and still only have 1 MP. How can we call this democracy?

Caroline Lucas increased her majority in Brighton Pavilion six-fold.  The Greens came second in Bristol West, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

It was frustrating for me to be casting my vote in the Cotswold constituency where Penny Burgess got an increased 4.6% of the vote, but I knew that the tory vote would win out.
On 18th May the Greens joined with UKIP in presenting a petition to No. 10 for a 'fairer' system where votes match seats, in an event organised by the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy. See the Guardian report.|

I have signed a petition for electoral reform and urge everyone to do the same.

18 May 2015

National Vegetarian Week

I have just heard on the radio that today is the start of National Vegetarian week.

I have been a vegetarian for about 34 years.  I stopped eating meat for animal welfare reasons and have never regreted my decision. I now know more about the environmental costs of animal husbandry and adverse health implications due to the over use of antibiotics in farming so am even more determined not to eat meat.

One of the questions I get asked most is: 'Do you eat fish?'. For me this is the most important area to be a vegetarian. My blood boils when I think of over-fishing, throwing unwanted/over-quota dead fish back into the sea, ensnaring dolphins and turtles in nets, destroying the seabed with bottom trawling.  I could go on.

Back in the early 80s it was much harder to eat out as most meals included meat except for some salads and margerita pizzas.  Nowadays in England it is much easier although pub/restaurant food seems to go in phases - the original vegetable lasagne has currently been replaced by rissotto.

We have just returned from a holiday in the beautiful north of Ibiza and were a bit frustrated by the Spanish compulsion to put small pieces of meat in with vegetables eg. peas or beans.  We went with a group of friends, one of whom became our official 'soup taster' when we discovered meat in the lentil soup! Greece and Italy, however, are wonderful for vegetarians - think aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes.

A nutritious, easy to prepare vegetarian meal can be delicious and colourful. Give it a go, not only this week, but for a few meals every week and you will soon be hooked.
See the Vegetarian Society website.

16 May 2015

Oldbury nuclear: empty flatbed flask derailed

Russ cartoon; expressing some folk's feelings re nuclear
Green Party member Angela Paine made her way to another Oldbury Site Stakeholder meeting on 29 April 2015. Here are some of her notes:

Although there was a printed copy of the Office for Nuclear Regulation Quarterly Site Report for Oldbury, no representatives of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) were present at the meeting. They decided not to attend any meetings until after the election.

The Health and Safety Executive no longer exists. It has been absorbed into ONR. This is just one of many changes that have come about as a result of the privatisation of the nuclear industry. How this impacts safety is not clear. Click read more to see more.

11 May 2015

Jeremy Irons says 'Gird your Loins, Mobilise, Be Naughty'

This post is adapted from the press release sent out by Jojo Mehta (see below) about the amazing evening in Stroud last week.....

A lively discussion followed the celebrity screening of Jeremy Irons' documentary "Trashed" at the Vue cinema in Stroud last week. The film focuses on how we deal with waste in our culture, the extent to which this pollutes both locally and globally, and why landfill and incineration do not solve the problem but compound it.

Locally based barrister and earth lawyer Polly Higgins (top left in the picture) hosted a highly interactive Q&A session with Jeremy Irons, internationally acclaimed actor and star of the film, and Sue Oppenheimer (in the stripy top in the picture), who for the last few years has headed up the local campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator (see more at GlosVAIN).

Among the issues highlighted were the failure of democracy which is clearly shown by the ability of one government minister (Eric Pickles) to overturn a lengthy local democratic planning process which had culminated in the incinerator's unanimous planning refusal in 2013. 

Jeremy Irons was sympathetic to how exhausting it has been working in the face of the extraordinary lack of transparency around the Javelin Park contract, and urged the audience to "re-gird your loins... look for the cracks... and embarrass people" .  When following rules and procedures does not give room to acknowledge the real dangers, it is up to all of us, as Polly Higgins emphasized, to "shine a light on the duty of care" that those in public office have, "a duty to first, do no harm".

Stroud MP candidates and Gloucestershire County Councillors were all sent personal letters and emails offering free tickets to the screening on the grounds that it would usefully inform their duty to the public interest.  However, while it was encouraging that the MP candidates all attended or sent proxies (with the exception of Neil Carmichael), only 3 County Councillors took up this offer (Sarah Lunnon, Steve Lydon, Brian Oosthuysen).  5 more politely declined (Colin Guyton, Paul Hodgkinson, Paul McMahon, David Prince, Suzanne Williams) on grounds of previous knowledge of the film or prior engagement.  But a shocking 45 councillors did not even respond, including the Councillor in whose ward the incinerator is planned (Tony Blackburn) and the Leader of the Council (Mark Hawthorne).

While some Councillors are personally opposed to the Javelin Park project, it is an astonishingly poor show of interest in such a major local issue in the run-up to a general election, when a 30-second phone call or a 1-line email could easily have been made.

As Councillor Steve Lydon (Labour) said - "This is not over yet."  Green Councillor and MP candidate Sarah Lunnon (just behind Jeremy in the picture) highlighted the very real possibilities for dealing far better with our recycling in such a way as to make incineration completely redundant and inappropriate (even were it safe, which the film made clear is very far from the case). 

Jojo Mehta of Toxin Free Network (far left in the picture), organising the event, said: "The evening was both entertaining and deadly serious.  In particular it was heartening to have discussion on re-framing the issue in a way that actually gives the people a voice. Ultimately, no matter what is decided in the corridors of power, the social licence rests with us, with the people.  Please go to www.toxinfreecommunity.org to see how we can all have a say in what affects us and our families and communities." 

She and Lizzie Fletcher of 38 Degrees Stroud would like to thank all those who made the evening possible, from Sue, Lynsey and all the Vue cinema staff to local chef and cafe proprietor Nic Allan who served an exquisite supper to Jeremy and guests at Star Anise (see pic), to Amy Perry whose Tetbury antique shop provided the lovely retro 50s chairs for the discussion, and of course to Polly Higgins for hosting, to the brave Sue Oppenheimer who joined the panel at the last minute on the personal invitation of Jeremy Irons, and to Jeremy himself. "I'm an actor, not an activist", he said. "I'm just a trumpet. It's all of you who can take this forward. Gird your loins, mobilise... be naughty!"  Now there's an invitation.

10 May 2015

Election results!

Randwick Woods
Greens delighted with 1.2 million votes. While 1.5million votes went to the SNP votes who got 56 seats! The Tories won 36.9% of the vote on 66% turnout ie just 24% of the total electorate but have 51% of seats and 100% power.

With PR the Green Party would have had about 25 seats. Sign petition for voting reform here.

In Stroud we remain with 6 councillors having held the 5 seats contested. See full election results for Stroud District and Cotswolds at: http://stroud.greenparty.org.uk/news/2015/05/08/2015-05-08-election-results/

In the South West we had candidates in 54 out of 55 constituencies. 167,960 green votes were cast. A 6.1% share of the total votes in the SW. 29 deposits were saved. More detail is available on the SW website http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/elections2015

This in itself was stunning progress from 2010 when we averaged 2.1% and saved no deposits. Our lowest share of the vote in any constituency this time was better than the average last time.

The following analysis and results are from Roger CO: Commiserations of course to Darren Hall and everyone who helped in Bristol West where we came second with a 26.8% share - the largest swing in British electoral history, an obscure fact to remember for future quizes. In Bristol West there were council elections in 7 of the 9 wards. Our total vote on Thursday in those 7 wards was 19,724 - more than the 17,227 we polled across all 9 wards for the General Election. Evidence that many people still thought that by switching to Labour for the General Election they were somehow "keeping the Tory out" when in fact the opinion polls were already putting us in a strong second place and the Tory fourth.

Congratulations also to Dominic Tristram in Bath, Tony Dyer in Bristol East and Gill Coombs in Totnes who got better than 10% share. In St.Ives Tim Andrewes suffered from a blizzard of leaflets from the LibDems urging people to vote against the Tory and vote LD "because only LDs can beat the Tory". We all experienced this to some extent but in West Cornwall it was particularly ridiculous as they must have thrown vast amounts of cash at having leaflets delivered by post in a desperate attempt to get at least one LD re-elected in the SW - their helpers on the ground were few and far between and in the end it was all wasted anyway as they lost the seat.

In local elections we had 579 candidates standing for 1252 council vacancies. Our results are gradually appearing on the SW website - use the Local Authority Map link to get detail for each district. The great news is that we have 13 new principal authority councillors. Congratulations to Barrie Woods in South Hams who joins Jacqui Hodgson and Robert Vint who were re-elected. Shane Collins, Stina Falle and Des Harris made a collective breakthrough in Frome onto Mendip District, where Jon Cousins missed winning by just 4 votes. Bath also had a breakthrough with Jonathon Carr and Liz Pattinson becoming our first Green councillors. Up in the Forest of Dean Chris McFarling became the Green District Councillor and all the other existing councillors in the SW were re-elected. Bristol delivered seven new councillors: Ani Stafford-Townsend, Jerome Thomas, Carla Denyer, Dani Glazzard, Anna McMullen, Stephen Clarke and Deb Joffe. They join the 5 sitting Green councillors who were not up for re-election and 1 re-elected making the Green group 13 strong. The makeup of the council is now 30 Lab, 15 Con, 13 Green, 10 LD and 2 Independent. Across Bristol as a whole we averaged a 24.5% share beating both Tories and LibDems. Bristol is our Green capital!

Region wide it is difficult to read much into the voting numbers for local elections as there is such a mix of 1, 2 and 3 member wards and massively variable numbers of candidates - a small number of ward were uncontested, and in several there was only a green and a Tory standing. We have however exceeded our regional strategic target with a total of 42 councillors in the region.

And see Molly Scott Cato MEP's letter to The Guardian on voting reform: http://stroud.greenparty.org.uk/news/2015/05/09/2015-05-09-molly-scott-cato-voting-reform/

6 May 2015

Election day tomorrow!

The election is almost upon us. We've worked really hard, and we hope all our candidates will do well, making tomorrow the start of a better, Greener future. If you're lacking in inspiration, there have been two excellent letters in the Guardian in the past couple of days. The first is from Caroline Lucas, giving many reasons why we should vote Green:
The second is from the one and only John Marjoram, writing about the importance of the local elections:
As John says, many people are simply unaware that local elections are taking place at the same time as the general. We have a great selection of Green candidates to vote for, and we need to maintain (and ideally increase!) our presence on Stroud and Cotswold District Councils.

On a personal note, I am delighted to be able to vote for two excellent Green candidates tomorrow. In the short time I've been a member of the party, I've really been overwhelmed with how impressive, smart and dedicated our local Greens are. I can say without hesitation that Sarah Lunnon, Stroud's Green Parliamentary Candidate, would make an absolutely brilliant MP - she's exactly the sort of person we want running the country. And at a local level, Brian Nimblette is a great guy who would do a thoroughly good job locally. But to get these people into power, we need to vote for them. So please, go out and vote Green tomorrow, at every level you can.

PS Philip Booth adds - I have thrown together some of the highlights of yesterday evening in teh Crown and Sceptre and the amazing Grace Petrie singing and urging folk to vote Green! See: http://stroudcommunity.tv/grace-petrie-highlights/

29 Apr 2015

Cotswold District Council Elections

7th May also sees Local District elections in some areas.  The Greens are fielding 8 candidates.

Abbey: Bob Irving

I've lived in Cirencester for over 20 years and my children have attended Deer Park School and Cirencester College. Over the last 10 years, I have changed my career from IT to research in energy efficiency in buildings, as I believe reducing energy use is most important in the fight against climate change and reducing poverty. The Green Party manifesto says that we will insulate 9 million homes and take 2 million people out of fuel poverty. In Cirencester, I would start a 'Warmzone' scheme like that created by Greens in Kirklees to help those who struggle to pay their energy bills.

Chesterton: Sabrina Poole
Sabrina is 24 years old and has lived in Cirencester most of her life. She was heavily involved in student politics at Leeds University and has experience of campaigning about fairness, accessibility and accountability issues. Locally, she believes that the Cotswolds needs more frequent and fairly priced public transport for all ages, more ‘things to do’ and affordable housing of all sizes. However, she is against developments that prioritise the profits of development companies over sustainability and community life. She also believes that the various needs of the young, elderly and vulnerable persons should be better represented at a local level.

Coln Valley: Xanthe Messenger

I’ve lived in Quenington for 5 years, worked for the NHS for 10 and been in the Green Party for 20, including being a City Councillor in Oxford. This is such a beautiful part of the world but our lifestyles have an effect on others and their wellbeing as well as the future of our fragile planet. Vote Green to start doing things differently: less dependence on fossil fuels (no fracking please!), protect community services, support green enterprises, use resources carefully and fairly.
Fosseridge: Ailsa Spindler
With a degree in Rural Environment Studies and a home in Longborough, it is no surprise that Ailsa feels passionate about rural issues. She is particularly concerned about rural transport, and would like to see a cycle path along the Fosse, to make cycling safer and more attractive. Rural housing is also a concern, with young families unable to afford to live in our villages, while older residents find it difficult to access health and social services. If elected, Ailsa would ensure that Cotswold District Council does more to bring fairness and equality of opportunity to our villages.

Four Acres: Fran Johnson

I live in Chesterton, Cirencester and am studying for a PhD at the University of Bath. I have worked as a teacher in secondary schools for ten years, teaching English, Drama and Special Needs. I am standing as a candidate for the Green Party because I believe that local politics should be about listening, about people having a say in where they live, and because I believe in working towards a society that is fair and just. Since moving to Cirencester with my husband, we have both felt welcomed by the town and want to serve in the community.

St Michael's: Robert Elliott
Rob has been involved in youth and community work in a voluntary and paid capacity for over 20 years, working with people of all ages from toddlers through to people of a senior age. From this he understands well the pressures and joys that we all can face in life. Also how communities, councils and statutory bodies, eg schools can work positively together to maintain, improve and develop local areas. He has previously been employed by Oxfordshire council and Hackney council and helped to improve and develop infrastructure for the local community and everyone’s benefit.

Stratton: Joy Irving

I'm standing as a Green Party candidate in Cirencester Stratton, where I've lived for about 20 years.  I feel that it's important that people have a chance to vote for a party that protects the well-being of local communities against the harsh impacts of the global free-market.  

If elected, I will work to encourage:
  • more production and sale of local food;
  • investment in well insulated homes;
  • local renewable energy production and use;
  • local supply chains to keep money in the local economy and to ensure local business resilience and local employment.  
The Rissingtons: Andrew MaClean
The North Cotswolds villages need councillors who will fight for better services and for policies that will build prosperous and resilient local communities.

I am standing as a Green Party candidate to:

  • Improve our public transport service
  • Encourage local enterprises and food production
  • Invest in clean and resilient energy source
  • Fight for decent rural broadband service
  • Develop healthy, connected towns and villages
  • Care for our wonderful Cotswolds countryside
  • Reduce and recycle waste
  • Ensure that rural deprivation is not ignored
I will pursue these priorities and raise issues that affect our area at the District Council.