3 Sep 2015

The Power of Words

When is a refugee a migrant inviting the scorn of the tabloid press?

When is someone out of work through no fault of their own a benefit scrounger?

When is a downright lie unacceptable but OK as an announcement from a government minister?

The Age of 1984 is truly upon us.

At long last some of the press is starting to call those fleeing the horrors of Syria and other war-torn countries refugees although David Cameron is still refusing to show them compassion. Councils across the country are coming together to say they want to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

Today a picture of a young Syrian boy who drowned has been trending on social media and the public seem to be waking up to the humanitarian disaster on our doorstep.

But other economic migrants are still slated in the tabloids for wanting to better their circumstances, criticised for showing the aspiration that the tories value so highly.

Yet with climate change there will be mass migration as people are forced to move from areas which will no longer support agriculture or are disappearing below rising sea levels. We need to plan for this now.

Stroud Green Party had a really productive meeting about immigration recently and produced a useful document giving the Green Party's view on the subject. 

24 Aug 2015

TTIP - the nightmare being secretly negogiated

There have already been a few blogs on this site about TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).  The Establishment Media, however, remain relatively quiet on the issue as do the politicians, officials and business people negotiating on the issue.

The War On Want definition is a good one:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated – in secret – between the European Union and the USA. As officials from both sides acknowledge, the main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. 
Yet these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Trade agreements are hard to get your head around and see how they could impact on you.  It is therefore good to have a few concrete examples.

According to sumofus.org the agreement would mean 'Europe would increase US fossil fuel imports - resulting in more fracking in the US, an increased reliance on fossil fuels in the EU and more climate emissions across the board.'

TTIP would allow fossil fuel companies to sue governments for trying to tackle climate change. Similar rules in other trade deals have allowed Swedish energy company Vattenfall to sue Germany for phasing out nuclear power and replacing it with renewables. In a secret court, the company is demanding a whopping 4.7 billion Euros in compensation.

I have just signed a 38 Degrees petition against TTIP with a view to helping bees. TTIP is great news for Syngenta and the big pesticide companies. But awful news for our bees and the vegetables, flowers and hedgerows they pollinate. At the moment the EU has banned bee-killing pesticides, but under TTIP the pesticide companies could sue Europe for banning their environmentally deadly products.

The EU has already made worrying concessions to the US to facilitate the TTIP deal by dropping plans to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility.

Our Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato and other Green MEP's are fighting hard against TTIP.  Molly supported the Day of Action against TTIP on 22nd August.

If the above does not get you angry see this article in the Independent suitably entitled-
'If you're not already terrified about the potential human cost of TTIP, these examples will do it.'

18 Aug 2015

The Milk Conundrum

Milk is featuring a lot in the press at the moment as hard-pressed small dairy farmers battle large supermarkets who have not been paying them even the cost of producing milk, let alone enabling them to make money to live on.

I have sympathy with small dairy farmers and would hate to see them all sell up leaving only large dairy herds in inhumane crowded factory farms with zero-grazing.

The problems with milk production, however, go beyond small farmers versus the supermarkets.

  • Animal Welfare: These days dairy cows are forced to produce much more milk than they would naturally and in the end their hips and hind legs breakdown because of all the extra weight they carry and they are killed for their meat and byproducts. The heart-breaking separation of mother and calf also needs to be taken into account.
  • Health: There is also the tremendous use of antibiotics to tackle the mastitis these cows are prone to which would increase if small farmers go out of business and larger herds crammed together indoors become the norm. This week there is much in the press lambasting GPs about subscribing too many anti-biotics as the bacterial resistance to them is increasing. There is also over-use in animal husbandry.
  • Climate Change: Cows produce enormous amounts of methane - a climate-warming gas and if there were fewer it would help reduce the threat of irrevocable climate change. There are currently 250 million cows worldwide.
  • Trade: A glut of milk world-wide is contributing to the problem and the Russian boycotting of our product. But should milk and cheese, of which we import a lot, really be traded between countries? The Green Party believes that eating local produce locally is the best way for a sustainable environment, keeping food miles to the minimum.  The produce would also be fresher and taste better.
  • Alternatives: There are alternatives to milk that are produced from soya, coconut, almonds and other crops. If less dairy milk was drunk then much pastureland would be freed up for other crops which feed people more efficiently.  Of course you do need to make sure that soya etc is farmed sustainably and not from areas which were previously rainforest as in South America and that pesticides are not over-used.
Here is Molly Scott Cato's (Green MEP for the South West) view of the problem.

I am a vegetarian not a vegan. I normally use soya milk, but do buy the odd pint of milk and eat cheese. I like to see cows in fields as part of the British landscape.

My solution: I would like to see small organic dairy farms who sell their produce locally for a fair price. Milk would be drunk alongside alternatives.  I think this solution would also benefit badgers as the incidence of TB would decrease and they would no longer be targetted as scapegoat by this government contrary to all the evidence.

More information on dairy cows from Compassion in World Farming. 

14 Aug 2015

Folk music keeps the art of Protest Songs alive

I love folk festivals.  We have just been to 2 in quick succession - The Village Pump in Westbury, Wiltshire and Wickham in Hampshire. We had an amazing time and it was great to be surrounded by like-minded people, by which I mean music-loving, real ale drinking socialists.

It was refreshing to hear lots of caring songs about the environment and social justice. In just one weekend we heard the aging, but still campaigning Roy Bailey sing a song of Welcome to migrants trying to escape horrendous conditions in their home countries. A band called 71 Chain sang the Sea Shepherd song (approved by the charity) about saving whales and the oceans from our predation. Billy Bragg, a huge supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, got roars of encouragement for his comments for social justice.

Tom Robinson received tremendous applause for his rendition of 'Glad to be Gay'. He also railed against the legal aid changes which the government has snuck in. Also, did you know that if you want to plead guilty you have to pay £150 for court costs, if pleading innocent you need to pay up to £1200 regardless of income if convicted.  This has implications for protestors. See this article for more details.

It was a great experience to be able to sing along enthusiatically to Show of Hands' song about bankers - the chorus, 'your arrogance, your ignorance, and greed'.

The real ale was from local Hampshire breweries Bowman Ales, Itchen Valley and the Dancing Man Brewery. For £1 you got a pint mug for the duration of the festival (you could swap it for a clean one whenever you liked). Supplied by www.green-goblet.com - refill not landfill being their slogan!

10 Aug 2015

The great distractions; Corbyn, the Left or Right debate and the anti-capitalist question

Corbynmania has struck the country and it has certainly pierced hard in to the conscious of all groups on the political left. The prospect of having a leader of the Labour Party with apparently true socialist ideals is very interesting and exciting.

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to become Labour leader makes a striding and refreshing change to mainstream politics. With his anti-austerity focus, calls for nuclear disarmament and commentary on peace, among other things, Corbyn seems almost so good he could be Green Party!

From what I can see, the excitement around Corbyn has sown confusion in to the ranks of the Green Party and other non-right wing parties. After years of it being abundantly clear that Labour are no longer left wing, socialist or a party for working people there appears to be a chance to restore the Labour Party to what it once was.

In a previous piece I wrote about ‘progressives must work together’ and this is something I still believe to be true. I think all parties and political groups that want to see real change in the very limited democratic system that we have need to find common ground and make a true opposition to the awful Tory government. I would much rather see Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party than any of the other candidates and would be far happier with Corbyn as Prime Minister than Cameron.
But I for one will not be rushing out joining Labour and paying £3 in the hope that I can help Corbyn to victory.

As good as Corbyn may seem now, he is not green; Corbyn is not a member of the Green Party. Instead Corbyn has remained glued to party that has been increasingly centre-right and playing catch-up with the Tories. Labour, like the Tories, have a very poor record when it comes to the environment. This I believe is precisely because the Labour Party are not green; they are not informed from an ecological perspective.

I don’t want to discourage anyone who feels galvanised by the Corbyn sensation and it is a great thing that the prevalent discourse that the ‘country is apathetic towards politics’ is being challenged. Of course it has been challenged for a long time by a lot of quarters but in our very limited democracy the media is only really interested in a couple of players.

So if you feel inspired by Corbyn to take any kind of political action get out there and do it! And damn well good for you.

Left wing, right wing and anti-capitalism

There have been other debates floating around within in green circles that I would like to take a quit look at. The first of those is the debate about whether or not the Green Party is ‘left wing’.

To be ‘green’ is to put the environment first. As well as being a practical political option, the concept of being ‘green’ also means to share in a philosophy.

While the Labour Party have been drifting up the political stream, so that they are sailing very comfortably just behind the Conservative Party, there are questions among greens about whether we can take up Labour’s space in the race. Unfortunately, everyone participating in that particular race is heading in the same direction. It is an end goal where the environment will never be the first consideration; a destination in which the environment will only be considered if it does not distract from the endless march of business and industry.

This is simply not an option that can coincide with a green philosophy.

The domination of the ‘left wing vs right wing’ in political commentary has created a false dichotomy. That there is only left or right to choose from. It would be silly to say that greens do not share common ground with the left and that they would not often be allies with the left over the right.

For a long time I believed  that I was left wing and anti-capitalist. Nothing on the right has ever attracted me. I searched for an answer from the examples of left wing societies that we have seen come in to being but found for me that there was no answer there. Communist and socialist regimes that we have seen have been tyrannical, oppressive, dictatorial, grey and unrelentingly industrial.

Both left and right as we know them have been contained within ‘industrialism’; it’s devouring of resources and it’s constant expansion and growth.  As Jonathon Poritt explained in his book ‘Seeing Green’ “industrialism and sustainability are mutually exclusive”. Simply you cannot be involved in the constant expansion of industry and be sustainable at the same time. Porritt explained;

“Socialisation of the means of production makes little difference; what are vices under capitalism do not become virtues under communism. A filthy smokestack is still a filthy smoke stack whether or not it is owned by the state or by a private corporation”

This would lead many greens to say that ‘capitalism’ is the problem. That capitalism and the consumer culture are driving this swallowing up of finite resources. That capitalist societies will never put the needs o the environment first. Capitalism is the problem and so we should be anti-capitalist.

But I think this is too simplistic.

What does ‘capitalism’ mean?

an economic, political, and social system in which property,business, and industry are privately owned, directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organisations and people”

Cambridge Dictionary

The above definition does not include what most anti-capitalists despise about the capitalism that we have. I think for most anti-capitalists our capitalism would actually be defined like this;

Capitalism (as we know it) ; an economic, political, and social system in which property,business, and industry are privately owned, directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organisations and people, where profits are put first at the expense of society, it’s people and without recognition of the undeniable truth that all wealth is ultimately drawn from the finite resources of the planet.

Perhaps the elite that are responsible for the Cambridge Dictionary have their own reason for not carrying my extended definition of capitalism, but either way it is not in there.

But if you think about it we all know that capitalism can fit the Cambridge definition and does not have to fall in to my extended definition; we can think about our own local situation and consider the Stroud famer’s market. Here is capitalism in full swing as local organisations and people benefit from directing the greatest possible profits for their wares from our pockets. We love our Stroud farmer’s market; the smells, the interesting items, the warm characters. What a pleasure.

The important thing here is that, to my knowledge, the local businesses that operate from the Stroud farmer’s market are not generating their profits at anyone else’s, or the environment’s, expense.

We can be green

We need to put to one side the discussions of being anti-capitalist, left wing or right wing; we can be altogether different. We can be green. To be green is to put the environment first because there is no other option; all other things that might be important to you depend on this planet we call home.

There is another incredibly important reason to put down the argument of left vs right and anti-capitalism; because most people don’t care. Greens have had a difficult time reaching out to the type of people who live on the council estate where I grew up. All of this academic debate about ideology ultimately gets nowhere when you are facing the practicalities of everyday living on the breadline. This is where the ideology of the right dangerously dominates with ease because the lies are well spread if not actually made material; the wealth of the richest will trickle down, we need a strong economy, watch out for those migrants they are taking your job, that sick person isn’t working as hard as you are, we need to free up trade (and step on your rights)…

We greens need talk of the real things that greens strive for in power and how our policies make a real difference to people’s lives.

  • ·         Creating a fair economy; ending austerity, restoring the public sector, paying a real living wage, a Robin Hood tax on banks and increasing the minimum wage to £10ph by 2020
  • ·         A public NHS; Fighting  for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use. Ending the creeping privatisation of the NHS and repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Making mental health a much higher priority with resources to match this
  • ·         Affordable energy and a safe climate; Taking urgent action on climate change and working with other countries to hold the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees. Banning fracking, phase out coal power stations and say no to new nuclear. Investing in a public programme of renewable generation, flood defences and building insulation.
  • ·         Free education; Scrapping university tuition fees, reversing cuts and investing in further education. Promote a comprehensive system of local schools offering mixed ability teaching staffed by qualified teachers. Bring Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority system.
  • ·         Decent homes; Abolishing the cruel and unfair bedroom tax. Provide 500,000 social rented homes by 2020 and bring empty homes back into use to ensure everyone has access to an affordable place to live. Cap rent, introduce longer tenancies and licence landlords to provide greater protection for renters.

·         Better transport; Returning the railways to public hands, saving money and improving services. Introduce an immediate cut in fares of 10% to give passengers a much-needed financial break. Promote walking and cycling to help reduce pollution and improve people’s health.

Taken from the Green Party England and Wales 2015 mini manifesto

Not left. Not right. Just busy being green and ignoring these great distractions.

4 Aug 2015

The Tories reveal their true intentions

Well, George Osborne has finally come out.  He is using the deficit as an excuse to down-size government and state services for the benefit of corporations and his investor friends. He can casually sell off 5.4% of our RBS shares after the stock market closes to investors losing the tax payer £1 billion which could have been used to help pay off the deficit.  When the stock market closed yesterday the RBS shares were worth £3.37.  They were sold after hours for a 7.6% discount rate of £3.00 each. Never mind that in February they could have been sold at £4.00 each.

Ian Gordon, a banking analyst at Investec, told the BBC's Today programme: "The taxpayer is being short-changed."

Making the headlines on the same day (4th August) in the Guardian 'NHS told to fill only essential vacancies due to 'almost unprecedented' finances'. Clearly not a high priority for this Government.

So Mr. Osborne is happy for the under 25s and many other benefit claimants to suffer and have to resort to food banks and even committing suicide, but does not want his friends to have to pay a bit more for shares in a bank.

The £1 billion just carelessly thrown away by Mr. Osborne could have reduced the £12 billion of cuts he intends to make.

The Green Party is against austerity and the priviatisation of essential services,

See the BBC and Guardian websites.

30 Jul 2015

Immigrants! That's right; I am appalled

If you have clicked on this article because you are hoping to find in me some kindred spirit who also is appalled at the immigration issue in Calais. Well you are absolutely right. I am appalled at the way so many people in the media, and wider public, are reacting to the situation.

Reports have cited nearly 3,000 people are at the camp in Calais and described some of the terrible journeys they have taken from war torn and desperate countries in to the hands of kidnappers and gangs to meet only xenophobia from Britain and France.

If we decided to grant space in our country for these 3000 people it would equate to a 0.005% increase in the population. What difference would this really make? Very little to the lives of you and I (my reader sat comfortably in Britain) but to these bold people who have fought against the odds? It would change their entire world.

No matter how high we build the fences, no matter how much money is spent on security, no matter how many police and soldiers are drafted in, they will keep coming. Why? Because it is worth it. We cannot even begin to understand the situation from our perspective of British socialisation.

 For too long have the countries of the west benefited from a state of affairs which has pillaged other countries through war and exploited an imbalanced global free market which sees that we are the winners whilst ensuring that there are definite losers.

Now there are people across the world looking to our country and saying “I want a bit of that”. Yet we are jealously guarding our spoils and sneering at the desperate attempts of ‘migrants’ who are leaping on to lorries and trains. Our own Prime Minister and described these people as a ‘swarm’. Equating the lives of real people with an insect infestation that must be wiped away.

The greatest thing that we could do to ensure the security of our borders is begin to give back to the parts of the world from which we have taken for too long. We need compassion. We need to hold our government to account. We need to focus spending on aid. We need to move away from wars for resources or from conflicts in lands where the situation is far too complex for us to understand the implications of our meddling. We need to talk. Most of all we need a little remorse.

23 Jul 2015

Fracking U-Turn

In my blog of 1st July celebrating Lancashire's rejection of fracking, I did mention that we should look out for the Government finding ways to promote fracking however much against the will of the people.

Its latest attempt is to renege on its promise not to drill on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

In January 2015 measures passed by MPs included a ban of fracking in sites of scientific interest and groundwater source protection zones, which analysts said could rule out 40 percent of the UK land offered by the government for shale gas exploration. But following amendments, Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd told MPs it would be impractical to guarantee a fracking ban in some rural areas.

Now the government is sneakily proposing that drilling can take place under these wildlife protection areas as long as the rig is outside. Remember, drilling can already take place under our houses without the house owners' permission. The government is also proposing that fracking can take place under water deposits from which our drinking water is extracted.

I have just signed the Greenpeace petition to Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change asking her to keep the promise made in January. 

Having welcomed the new regulations in January, Green MP Caroline Lucas said ministers were “doing the dirty work of the fracking companies for them.”

See the Guardian Article.

21 Jul 2015

Thank you to the 124 progressives

The bill which will see disgraceful cuts to welfare has been passed in its first reading in the House of Commons.

Yesterday I wrote about the need for progressives to work together and the simmering resistance against neoliberal, austerity is building. Unfortunately, we have now discovered that the parliamentary Labour Party on the whole are not progressive and are not prepared to stand up for the young, poor or vulnerable. Having said that, the 48 Labour MPs who boldly opposed the party whip are to commended for doing so.

Of particular note was the Labour MP, John McDonnell who explained;
"I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill and listening to some of the nauseating speeches tonight I think we might have to. Poverty in my constituency is not a lifestyle choice, it is imposed upon people.We hear lots about how high the welfare bill is, let's understand why that's the case.The housing benefit bill is so high because for generations we've failed to build council houses, we've failed to control rents, we've done nothing about the 300,000 properties that stand empty in this country."

I wanted to write this quick post for my part to say thank you to the 124 MPs who agree with Mr McDonnell and did oppose this atrocious bill. We now have a clear idea of who the progressives are in parliament and can see from which ranks we could see productive, positive alliances growing.

Who was in the 124 progressive MPs yesterday?

48 Labour MPs
55 SNP
8 Liberal Democrats
3 Plaid Cymru
1 Green

You can find out how your MP voted at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

20 Jul 2015

Happiness and Wellbeing

A poll of 145,000 people has decided we’re a pretty miserable nation. We came 44th out of 145 countries worldwide for wellbeing, in a poll conducted by experts Gallup-Healthways.

The report interviewed 145,000 people and ranked them for several measurements of wellbeing, such as physical health, social relationships and community involvement.
The report says, “The countries doing ‘best’ aren’t the wealthiest - they’re ones where people feel at peaceand where its population felt they were ‘thriving’ ”.

Notably, Afghanistan, where UK & US forces have spent years fighting the Taliban and Al Khaida at a cost of thousands of lives and billions of pounds, is the unhappiest country. That certainly questions the value of our intervention, for both them and us.

The epidemiologists who authored “Spirit Level” provided all the evidence anyone could need to back up this poll’s findings. But the “happiness” question is one we have to raise constantly. As UK citizens we are asked to embrace “punching above our weight” and “being more competitive” as our self-interested national and internationalist view. At home individuals, by embracing the “shop 'til we drop” mantra, are to simultaneously feed the great growth god and feel better about themselves. I’m amazed we managed to come 44th.

When people are really challenged as to what is most important to them, it is usually health and family security. We are all challenged to find a way to build on that instinct to combat the cruelty of neo-liberal, anti-austerity policies and replace them with some that both recognise and extend the reach of what we all really value.

Guest Blogger: Gerald Hartley

A simmering resistance, a building movement

What a couple of weeks it has been. Even by Tory standards the weather of late has been very Tory. First we had the budget designed to make poor people poorer and rich people richer. Then we had the attempt to repeal the fox hunting ban by the back door; fox hunting is a blood sport which is the reserve of deranged elitists. Finally we have had the announcement of legislation to permanently alter the way trade unions operate and set back workers rights by around 100 years.

In addition to this George Osborne decided to basically ignore the issue of climate change in his budget, gave greater fiscal support oil companies and sort to incentivise ‘fracking’ whilst at the same time hampering the green energy movement by absurdly removing the Climate Change Levy exemption from renewable electricity.

To get a flavour of what our own local Tory is fighting for on some of the points briefly mentioned above;

In our Stroud District -   Neil Carmichael MP has voted;

 against paying higher benefits for people unable to work through illness or disability,

in favour of bedroom tax,

against benefits rising to meet cost of living,

 in favour of a reduction in welfare spending,

against a scheme to create guaranteed jobs for young people who been long term unemployed,

against a tax on bankers bonuses

against a mansion tax

in favour of reducing corporation tax

Neil Carmichael MP has stated that he will vote in favour of fox hunting.

                                 Neil Carmichael MP has a poor voting record when it comes to the environment.
When I sit down to write these blogs I want to be positive and constructive. But I am, like many of you I am sure, finding it hard to be positive right now. My MP is essentially the very antithesis of what I believe in and my government even more so.

Every morning when I come down to my kitchen and make a cup of tea, I switch on the radio as my preferred method of getting the news as I get my baby ready for the day or get ready for work. Increasingly though I am finding that my finger hovers over the preset button for Radio 4 and is tending to tap the Planet Rock preset as I say to myself ‘do you know what? I just don’t want to know today’. Of course this could just be that I am getting fed up with the today programme!

Progressives must work together

Before the budget was announced I attended a meeting of Stroud Against the Cuts. Stroud Against the Cuts brings together progressive groups from across Stroud and Gloucestershire who, despite whatever other differences, are united in their opposition to austerity.

When the election result was announced in May Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion, said the following;

“…we must move forward today. While the campaign for electoral reform gathers momentum, those of us wanting to see a fairer, more compassionate and progressive politics must find new ways of working together, a new way to do politics – and put that in to practice now”

This is the thing that gives me hope now; the simmering resistance that is turning in to a movement. It is a movement that questions this neoliberal austerity ideology and outright calls for something different, something more hopeful, something less damning.

It is no longer just a utopian fantasy but something eminent economists such Tim Jackson have put in to sound theory. We can create a world in which we redefine prosperity away from our ability to consume goods and amass economic wealth. We can redefine prosperity in terms of happiness, wellbeing and living within the means of this planet that we call home. We don’t have another one to fall back on after all.

The Labour Party

Following Osborne’s despicable budget it is time for the Labour Party to stand up and truly be the main opposition party. Not just opposition for the sake of it no; but because the very fabric of what makes our society great is at risk. Childhoods, retirements, working lives, already desperate lives are at risk.

I hope that the Labour Party will reach out and grasp the hand of Caroline Lucas, and will also stand up to the offer put forward by the 20 year SNP MP, Mhairi Black (youngest MP in 300 years) in her, already very famous, inspirational maiden speech;

“Now, yes we will have political differences, yes in other parliaments we may be opposing parties, but within this chamber we are not. No matter how much I may wish it, the SNP is not the sole opposition to this Government, but nor is the Labour party. It is together with all the parties on these benches that we must form an opposition, and in order to be affective we must oppose not abstain. So I reach out a genuine hand of friendship which I can only hope will be taken. Let us come together, let us be that opposition, let us be that signpost of a better society. Ultimately people are needing a voice, people are needing help, let’s give them it.”

It appears now that scores of Labour MPs are set to join Caroline Lucas in opposing the welfare cuts proposed by the Tories. It is shame that Labour MPs have to do this in defiance of the Labour leadership, but it their true opposition and defence of those who need it most is very welcome all the same.

Progressives must work together, form an opposition both locally and nationally and not allow this government to continue to ideologically dismantle all that makes our country great. The situation is already so very desperate and there has only been a Conservative majority government in power for 2 months. Imagine the horror of a Tory party unopposed for 5 years… if you dare.

19 Jul 2015

Guest blog from 'Save Grange Fields'

Here we have a guest blog from Teresa Vance (pictured) of Save Grange Fields AONB Group - an important local campaign group seeking to protect a key site in the Stroud Valleys. There is still time to act and send in an objection. While Ruscombe Green has supported campaigns against development on Grange Fields and indeed other greenfield sites, the views in this blog are not necessarily Green party views.
According to recent reports, in the six years between 2006 and 2012, 540000 acres of green space in the UK was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. This is an area of about 870 square miles which has been lost to urbanisation in a very short time.  This has had the most impact on the South East of the country, but what happens there tends to spread around the UK, and the effect is indeed spreading. I also recently discovered that apparently in 2011 the EU set a target for its members to reduce “land take” (i.e. building on green land) to zero by 2050. It is unclear how, with this present rate of development, this will happen in the UK.
More development applications are being granted nationally than in the past, and this may be due to the financial incentives for councils, so what can we do to prevent this happening on green field sites? National Planning Policy (NPPF) is clear that local authorities should have regard to the character and beauty of the countryside, and extra protection is in place for areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and national parks. Developers tend to use the “sustainable development” clause in the NPPF, to try to justify their development of green land by citing nebulous green credentials, which it’s hard for local authorities to argue against. There needs to be better legislation to support our communities against this type of development.

A few weeks ago, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) published a report entitled “Getting Houses Built” (http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/housing-and-planning/housing/item/3976-getting-houses-built), which discusses how best to build the required housing without compromising our green spaces. It considers the way in which land is bought by development companies and secreted in a “land bank” and then houses are built and drip-fed onto the market in a way which keeps demand and therefore prices high. This serves the share-holders well, but not the people in this country who are so desperate for housing. Nor does it advantage the communities who enjoy their local green spaces  There are several proposals made in this document about how to improve things, and all are achievable with changes in policy. One of the suggestions is that local authorities should be given more of a role in acquiring land by changing the rules on compulsory purchases, and making sure that those who sit on land without developing it are penalised in some way. This would mean that the system would be changed so that the supply of housing is not supressed. Hopefully then, things would slowly start to change and perhaps there would be better design and more custom builds by smaller companies. Overall, there would be much more transparency in the development process. 

Click 'read more ' to see more

15 Jul 2015

Making the most of the wind and sun in Cornwall

My husband and I have just returned from a winderful holiday in Cornwall. No, that is not a typo, just a description of the windy conditions we experienced. People on our campsite were complaining about the wind which seemed to be insistent on trying to blow our tents away.  But then someone said - 'Look around you'.  Yes, we were surrounded by wind turbines making efficient use of the blowy conditions.

I always know when we reach Cornwall as you see turbines of all different sizes gracefully turning round. Usually just single ones, but sometimes in groups.

Cornwall and Devon are also leading the way in solar farms. According to an article in the Western Morning News dated 16th Feb 2015

'most of the development of solar farms in England has been in the South West, with figures from CPRE suggesting, by last May, there were 98 schemes installed or in planning in Cornwall, 83 in Devon, 61 in Somerset, 30 in Dorset and 42 in Wiltshire.'
I did say to my husband, 'I wonder if Cornwall is self-sufficient in energy?'. On returning home I googled this and found an article by Bob Egerton, Cornwall Councillor which says that as of May 2015
'Over a year as a whole, Cornwall's wind turbines and solar farms can generate approximately 21% of Cornwall's electricity demand. When the latest solar farms under construction come online, that percentage will rise to about 25%.'

13 Jul 2015

We were awarded 5th Best Green Blogger 2015! Thanks!

We were delighted to learn that Ruscombe Green was awarded by GreenMatch, the title of UK’s fifth best ‘Green Blogger’. We wanted to thank local press like the Standard (see article) and Stroud News (see online article here) for covering the story.

Big thanks to all who made it possible.

8 Jul 2015

A budget for working people…wink wink

George Osborne must be having a good old chuckle about that one right now. News outlets, led by the increasingly biased BBC, have lapped up the description of the ‘budget for working people’.


‘A budget for working people’

A budget for rich people; the Tories have raised the inheritance tax threshold which the IFS have explained will benefit wealthy families. Osborne has also given tax cuts to corporations.

If you are a poor working person they will make it look like they have given you more money by introducing a ‘living wage’, but that will not actually make up what you have lost in housing benefit and tax credits.

Tax credits will now only be paid for the first two children meaning the Tories are punishing children born in to already poor families by making sure they have even less.

Despite the housing crisis affecting thousands of working people, there will be fewer affordable homes built.

‘Higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare’

A higher wage? See my below point about ‘living wage’.

Lower welfare yes, cut straight from the poor and the young.  Maintenance grants to be scrapped meaning that poorer students who want to go to university will be left with even more debt if they dare to take on the burden of trying to better their position this way.

Cuts to tax credits, cuts to housing benefit, no access to benefits for 18 -21 year olds. All supposedly to encourage people to work and not live on welfare; whilst ignoring that there are obviously not 1.86 million job vacancies out there for all of the people currently unemployed.

What will happen to all of these people for whom there are no jobs?

And lower tax. Tax is not necessarily the evil thing it is made out to be and of course pays for the kinds of vital services that make our society great, such as the NHS.

Overall, lower tax will be benefitting the already better off. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t off the back off cruel cuts from the poor.

‘A living wage’

£7.20 by April 2016 and £9 by 2020… as soon as I heard this statement and the figures I thought; £7.20 was the living wage the last time I heard many of the left calling for it as a minimum for people to survive. But then that was a long time ago. Even with my limited economic understanding I knew straight away that this wouldn’t be the case anymore.
In London currently the living wage would need to be £9.15, outside London it would need to be £7.85.

In addition, one of the most irritating points about this Tory plan is George Osborne’s defence of the tax credit cuts with his insistence that employers should pay more and that the tax payer shouldn’t need to top up wages. This is absolutely correct. Employers should be made to pay a decent wage. But this is not going to happen. Osborne’s plans for his so-called ‘living wage’, which have already been criticised by business leaders that don’t want to pay, don’t go far enough.

In order to be real ‘living wage’ then, when the cuts to welfare are taken in to account, the amount would need to be around £11.65 per hour.

‘Britain needs a pay rise’

Well no. MP’s need a pay rise apparently; they’ll be getting an 11% pay rise. Public sector pay will be frozen at 1% meaning that as the cost of living goes up they will have a drop in income. But then they only provide vital services that the Tories are rich enough to avoid having to use, so why would they care?

Of course they should care as no one is safe from the cuts because of the unimaginable damage that they will do to our society.

Benefit Cap lowered to £20,000

The benefit cap is the limit to the total amount of money that a person would be able to receive in benefits. Osborne has lowered this cap to £20,000 because he says it is not fair that someone out of work should earn more than those in work. This is a perfect explanation to ensure greater divisions in society and encourage greater hatred for the poor. It doesn't consider individual needs or family size.

As Caroline Lucas MP explained today, the benefit cap will see a further 40,000 children plunged in to poverty.

Caroline Lucas went on;

“The welfare cuts announced today will plunge thousands of people in poverty, and cause families to be evicted from their homes

So how does the wealthy Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, react to a budget that glosses over the incredible harm to poor and vulnerable people with a false ‘living wage’ promise?


Even if you think, in some way, that these cuts are necessary, you must be thinking the same as me; couldn’t they have at least contained themselves a little?