Green Party to hold Brighton Pavilion in 2015 General Election

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

According to the latest Lord Ashcroft polling of marginal constituencies across the UK, the Green Party are set to hold onto their only current seat, Brighton Pavilion.

The polling puts the Green Party ten points ahead of Labour (38 to Labour’s 28%).

Both parties see the Brighton Pavilion seat as their number one target for the South East of England.

Significantly the polling finds the Green Party picking up a huge 44% of 2010 Lib Dem voters. Labour in contrast picks up just 21% (with the Lib Dems picking up just 13%). This is opposite of the national picture which sees Labour picking up roughly double the Green Party of former Lib Dem voters.

Equally, the polling suggests Labour have been unable to plug the hole that saw so many former Labour voters turn to the Green Party in Brighton. The polling found that 27% of 2010 Labour voters were planning on backing the Greens. This is compared to about 4% nationally suggesting that either the Greens/Labour are doing something locally that is swaying voters and/or that Labour voters do switch to the Greens when they think the Greens have a chance of winning.

Labour however, to their credit, do appear to be matching the Greens in their campaigning efforts with about 1 in 4 of those polled saying that had heard from Greens and/or Labour in recent weeks.

It will be a bitterly battled fight but at the moment it looks like the Greens are on course to return their only MP, Caroline Lucas.

Read more on the marginal polling here.

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24 hours in the UK

slad
Last year when my plane touched down at Heathrow coming back from Uganda I was met with a wonderful scene to welcome me back to old blighty. Queuing to enter the terminal building, what the British do best, an elegant determined woman pushed to the front of queue – sacrilege! One chap next to me notices that I have clocked this queue jumping outrage and chips in with the comment, “fucking French huh”.

What a welcome back to the UK – baseless xenophobic queue based hatred all performed to the backdrop tinny Christmas carols under a smattering of drizzle!

This year I was a smidgen disappointed to find no Christmas carols on repeat but delighted to make it out of the airport without witnessing any casual racism.

Once back in the hills and valleys of the ‘West Country’ though I took little time to head out for a walk. Thinking that this is what made the UK amazing I walked with uncharacteristic clear skies and meek winter sunshine hitting the frost covered ground. I was in a buoyed mood striding across farmer’s fields and down hidden valleys following bubbling brooks.

This mood was lifted further though with what truly makes the Great Britain great. With every dog walker passed a friendly ‘good morning’ was chirped followed by a compulsive observation of the uncharacteristically good weather: “wonderful day for it” or “you couldn’t ask for a better day” before then swiftly apologising for their dog who would be eagerly sniffing my trouser legs.

These small interactions last less than a few seconds but make up an integral part of the DNA of British culture.

Warmed by the simple pleasant jollity of rural British life I stopped in the open fire warmth of a local pub – the Woolpack in Slad – where I had arranged to meet family.

Sat sipping local real ales on slightly uncomfortable wooden furniture (why is that both pubs and churches consider it a virtue to have furniture that in other walks of life would be considered completely unfit for purpose?) I watched dogs curl up on the floor close to their owner muddy wellington boots. With a low warm afternoon winter sun breaking through the window I sat back with family around me and listened to the impromptu piano/saxophone performance that only added to the ambiance.

Outside, after a hearty pub lunch, we strode up Swift’s Hill which enjoys some of the finest views in the region down over the Slad Valley across the market town of Stroud and out to the Severn Valley and across to the Black Mountains in Wales. A few clouds clung to the horizon to exaggerate the sunset as wonderful pinks and oranges were thrown over the fields and footpaths.

It felt like the weather was welcoming me back to the UK, giving me 24 hours of pleasure before it inevitably resumed in the monotony of drizzle that everyone seems to perpetually believe might stop at any moment but so rarely does.

Walking back over the fields I make a decision to call into another pub on the way home. Instead of live piano/saxophone renditions, this pub instead has the unmistakable sound of football coming from the TV screens. Excited to be able to watch my national sport with my fellow countrymen I step in and order my pint of warm frothing ale.

Looking for a place to sit I approach a stranger with the prerequisite of “excuse me, I am terribly sorry, but would you mind if I possibly took a seat” motioning towards one of five empty seats surrounding him. Smiling warmly the man looks up from his Daily Telegraph with impeccable replicable manners and says, “Please, it would be an honour”.

How wonderful is that – being told it would be an honour for me to sit next to him.

Buoyed by these little interactions I sit happily watching Arsenal score four goals with the return of their star striker – Giroud. In an unspoken acknowledgment I suggest to the man next to me through nothing more than eye contact that I was happy, that I was delighted to be back in the UK and that in that moment I could think of nothing I would rather be doing.

Responding to this the man next to me commented in a perfect middle England accent, “Typical isn’t it”. “What’s that?” I responded. “The fucking French keeping such an English institution like Arsenal afloat” he sneered.

Sigh.

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Living the best day ever

This is a cross-post of an article that I wrote for the Africa edition of ehospice news reflecting on the lessons learnt from Hendri Coetzee’s book ‘Living the best day ever’. 

kadoma1
Palliative care, by definition, is both a science and an art form that involves accepting the reality of death. What you have left when you accept this is what the profession calls ‘preserving or improving the quality of life’.

Never before though, have I been challenged to re-examine the concept of ‘quality of life’ than when reading Hendri Coetzee’s book: ‘Living the best day ever’.

Hendri Coetzee was a South African living in Uganda perpetually searching for the best day ever. This search led him to become a legend throughout the extreme sports and exploration world.

In 2004 Hendri led the first ever complete descent of River Nile from source (Lake Victoria) to sea (the Mediterranean). The 4,160 mile trip took four and a half months and crossed two war zones.

Coetzee was also the first person to run the rapids above the Nile’s Murchison Falls, a section of river filled with some of the biggest white water in the world, and holding one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles and hippos.

He would go on to complete this section of river a further seven times and he remains the only person ever to run the section by himself. He also ran large sections of the upper and lower Congo River, walked 1000 miles along the Tanzanian coast and was the first person ever to snowboard the glaciers in the Ruwenzori Mountains.

In short, his résumé was one of the most impressive in the business.

It was not, however, his outlandish adventures that makes Coetzee’s book such a challenge for anyone to read, but his burning passion for life. Deep within all of his adventures was an intertwined journey to accept the fullness of life – to be able to appreciate it to its full. Only by understanding and ultimately accepting one’s death, Coetzee believed, can we truly experience a ‘quality of life’.

Speaking to some, and by no means all, palliative care patients I have come across a stillness – a deeper happiness – that I have rarely seen elsewhere. It is a happiness that comes fundamentally from within, a spiritual or psychological wellbeing.

Does this come from an acceptance of one’s own death?

Early on in the book, when undertaking the Murchison Falls section of white water, Coetzee writes: “In our society we avoid the thought of death as if recognition alone could trigger the event. Thinking about your own death is seen as a sign that mentally, all is not well. Some people live their entire lives with the sole purpose of minimising the chances of it occurring to them, instead of preparing for the inevitable. After avoiding the issue for so long, it is almost soothing to invite death on my terms.”

Reflecting on this, I wonder how many palliative care practitioners spend their professional hours encouraging patients to think about their deaths, to make preparations and to become comfortable with the idea whilst then perpetuating the myth in their own lives that life is infinite?

I only speak for myself when I write that I am too often guilty of this self-delusion.

To live a truly high ‘quality of life’ do we have to be comfortable with the idea of our death? I don’t know.

For Coetzee though, this acceptance was clearly linked to the life he chose to lead. Writing about his desire to keep going on clearly dangerous expeditions he wrote: “Psychoanalysts may diagnose a death wish, but missions like these enhance the appreciation of life. It is no coincidence that death and rebirth are related in all forms of religion and spirituality. When you accept that you are going to die, and it will be sooner than you think, it becomes impossible to merely go through the motions.”

Even the acceptance of my own inevitable death cannot push me to actions that so invite the prospect of death earlier than it otherwise would arrive. There is too much to live for to put my life on the line in search of living just that one day to the extreme – in the search for the best day ever.

That said, it is imperative for the palliative care community to understand the full spectrum of thought that exists out there. Just as there are people who are terrified of the concept of their own passing so there are people like Coetzee that can write the following words:

“Death is coming for us all…the day we will have to face the crossing will come sooner than we think. I hope my day is many many years away, but… I don’t want to make the greatest leap in life in a vague dream. I want to have the chance to look it in the eye, to say: ‘You have had me in your sights all your life, but it’s on my terms that I come.’ Tibetans believe that one can find enlightenment at the moment of your death, as long as you prepared yourself for it during life…I have had the best day ever more times than I remember. So yes, I believe I am ready to die if that is what is needed to live as I want to.”

Hendri Coetzee was pulled from his kayak by a crocodile deep inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his body was never recovered.

At the end of his last ever blog entry though, after completing a section of river that many assumed impossible to kayak, he wrote: “We stood precariously on a unknown slope deep in the heart of Africa, for once my mind and heart agreed, I would never live a better day.”

I have no idea if – when it came – Hendri Coetzee was prepared for his death. It is clear though, that he lived life to the full and died in way he had to have expected.

Not many of us can say that and for that alone ‘Living the best day ever’ is worth reading. I think we can all learn something from Hendri Coetzee approach to both life and death.

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Greens ahead of Lib Dems in 3 YouGov polls in a row

YouGov

 

The Green Party are, for the first time, consistently ahead of the Liberal Democrats in YouGov polling.

The Green Party have in the past been level pegging or just beating the Liberal Democrats. But as I wrote before, it would be disingenuous to suggest that ‘Greens are ahead of the Lib Dems’ in the polls in general.

In the most recent three pollings for YouGov however the Greens have finished ahead of the Lib Dems on each occasion (see data set 1, 2, and 3).

It is interesting to note that in these last three polls, the Green Party are picking up an average of 18% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010. In other words, just under one in five former Lib Dem voters are now planning on voting Green.

This will have a huge impact on Labour (who themselves are losing 4% of their 2010 vote to the Greens) who are relying on the exodus from the Lib Dems to bolster their stuttering performance in the polls.

It is important to note however that this is just one polling company – when we look at the average across different companies we can see the Lib Dems maintaining a lead of 2% over the Greens (see UK polling report).

That said, this is yet another milestone on a ‘Green surge’ that is increasingly becoming hard for the political establishment to ignore.

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One graph that shows young people’s support for the Green Party

YouGov have released this fascinating graph showing the marked increase in support for the Green Party among 18-24 year old voters.

Greensurge

Currently on an average of 19% with young voters the Green Party have seen their support grow from an average of 7% in January 2014 – a 12% increase in less than a year.

This rise is mirrored in the ‘Young Greens’ (the youth wing of the main party) rise in membership which doubled between January and October 2014.

In university cities that double up as key marginal seats this will be crucial come May 2015.

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The true size of political party membership

The Independent has published three charts that they claimed showed why British politics is so interesting at the moment (how very Buzzfeed).

One of the charts was this one showing the political party memberships:

party memberships 1
It is noteworthy that the SNP, a party attracting most of its support from Scotland – with a population of less than 6 million are towering above the Lib Dems and UKIP combined! Impressive.

Equally it is worth noting that the figure quoted here for the Green Party is that of just the Green Party of England and Wales. If you added the membership of the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party of Northern Ireland the chart would look something close to this:

party membershipsThis makes the Green Party membership comparable to that of UKIP. The Green’s membership however is growing about three times as fast in 2014 than UKIP suggesting that these positions will soon be reversed.

Read more on party political membership here.

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Green Party membership doubles in less than a year

Green.
The Green Party of England and Wales has today announced that it’s membership is up 100% since January 1st 2014.

The membership of the Green Party now stands at 27,618 with over 500 new members joining last weekend alone.

This combined with consistently high recent polling makes Hynd’s Blog wonders what Sadiq Khan has to say about this….

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Does drinking urine cure joint pains?

Hynd’s Blog reported before on how Uganda’s New Vision asked the question – ‘Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains‘.

Not to be outdone the Daily Monitor – the main rival paper to the New Vision – today asked – ‘Does drinking urine cure joint pains?’

Monitor
After offering a slightly cyptic answer which included the phrase,  “People have eaten cattle hooves for backache” the article does finish with the relieving (geddit) suggestion:

“Please seek medical treatment for your knees instead of contemplating drinking a waste”

Once again, a hat tip for some wonderfully obscure journalism.

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Boris u-turns on car free Sundays

Boris
The papers are today splashing the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, new found support for the idea of a car free Sunday in London.

The Independent reports:

“speaking on a visit to Indonesia the Mayor of London said he was in favour of copying a scheme in Jakarta where areas of the capital have been closed to traffic from 6am every Sunday. “I was blown away by the popularity of the car-free Sunday here,” he said. “I will certainly be asking Transport for London to dust down [their] old ideas and have a look.”

Curious that Johnson was so blown away by the scheme in Jakarta in 2014 and so unimpressed with a comparable Colombian scheme that Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones asked him about in 2010.

In 2010 Jenny Jones asked the mayor:

“Will you consider replicating in London the hugely popular Colombian scheme whereby many city roads are closed to motor vehicles on Sundays and public holidays from 7am – 2pm?”

The Mayor, just 4 years ago, responded:

“Widespread restrictions may not be as viable in London compared to Bogotá. However, TfL is investigating options for single or localised street closures that may potentially help achieve a cycling revolution and increase walking, whilst maintaining the movement of people and goods.”

In short, he said, probably not.

What made him change his mind?

Hynd’s Blog hopes it is not something as simple as crass populism in light of his parliamentary ambitions…

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A future full of potential regrets

These are some thoughts inspired by a conversation I had with my fiance about how, at just 28 years old, most of my regrets still sit in front of me. It explores how regrets are also rather complicatedly mixed up in taking the risks in life that ensure I live the sort of life I, and others, can be proud of. A life lived to the full. 

regrets
Regret rests in the past. That is what we are told.

Regret resides in those residual reminders of actions, or inactions, of days, months, or years gone by. The mantra, so often used by oneself to torment oneself is that ‘if only I had another chance, I would have done it all so differently’.

This perspective is one that comes with age. Age forces regrets into memories of days, months, and years that now rest in our personal rear view mirrors, distorted by the lens of time that we all place over our memories.

And yet, even with the most painful of regrets, the ones that loom largest in our memories, the ones that haunt us without warning in the middle of the night, we know where they are. If we have the courage we can turn to face them, we can take action to rectify them, or at the very least, we can learn to live with them.

At the age of 28 though there is something far more terrifying, in my mind at least, than my existing regrets. This is the concept of all the potential future regrets that rest in front of me, in my future. Sitting on the side of the mantra of ‘I would have done it differently’ that still holds the agency to enact the change that could steer myself and others away from regret is ironically both terrifying and debilitating.

My main regrets sit in my unknown future not the past. This is a challenge unique to the privileged and the young – neither of whom normally realise their predicament.

Like a rabbit caught in headlights I can see paths roll out in front of me leading to actions and inactions that hold all the potential for regret. I can see them all too clearly but choose to keep going, to keep walking.

Why? Why not stop now? To explain, I must tell you a little of myself.

I write these words with thousands of miles resting between me and the friends and family that I grew up with. Each mile serves as a barrier for why I can’t, or worst choose not to, spend the time with the people that mean the most to me.

The future holds a deceptiveness that leads you to think that it is infinite. Just as you fail to appreciate the beauty of the rising of the sun because you think it will always happen, so you can also fail to take the time or appreciate the beauty in being able to pick up the phone and speak to your parents, friends or loved ones.

Despite the warnings, the heart attacks, the high blood pressure, the years passing of my parents, I convince myself that the future will hold the same potential to always be able to pick up the phone, jump on a plane or even send an email to them.

This is of course not true. Life is finite.

Simply, you never appreciate what you have until it is gone.

I am all too aware that it is this that holds the potential for so much regret.

With this foresight, there is a question of why not take action now – look for a job back home sooner, close to friends and family? Why not take action to limit that potential for regret?

To answer this question, an explanation of my parents is needed. From the earliest age they encouraged me grasp opportunities with both hands. To fight for them and to appreciate them to the fullest.

All too clearly I remember both my parents repeating the phrase ‘just give it a go’ throughout my childhood.

Every day I feel the importance of living life, of giving it a go. I push myself to do things, to be bothered, and most of all to appreciate every bit of it – even the supposed failures. I think for that alone my parents are proud.

Life has thrown me around geographically. It dropped me on this earth in the UK but has since taken me all over. I sit now in East Africa thousands of miles away from the parents that made me who I am. I live, I make mistakes, and I regret them. But even these regrets I try my hardest to cherish and to savour because I know that these regrets are signpost to risks taken, choices made and a life lived to the full.

The biggest potential regret of not spending enough time with my parents should they die before me rests in the future alongside other potential regrets. I have no idea how I will react if suddenly the ones I care about are taken from me, but for now at least, that is a question for tomorrow. Today I plan to live every second to it’s full.

My regrets reside in front of me, but so does the rest of my life. I know I can’t have one without the other.

As always, please do contribute comments and thoughts below. 

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On international media representation of Uganda

The international media today picked up comments from Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, saying that Uganda’s tourism industry should rival that of Spain’s.

His comments, made in Uganda’s ‘New Vision’ newspaper were then picked up by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published in global news platforms such as The Guardian.

After reading The Guardian article I did something I very rarely do – I read the comments section.

The first comment came from one Herman Lategan and said:

Grd 6

Other early commenters followed a similar theme in their comments:

Grd 1

Grd 2

Grd 3

Whilst I find the hateful and widely misinterpreted rhetoric of anti-homosexuality in Uganda deeply worrying I equally find it sad to see a country lumped with such a characteristic as its one defining feature.

Equally, I am not convinced that by choosing to not visit Uganda (let alone leaving comments under Guardian articles) you are doing anything to help alter this hateful and misunderstood rhetoric that is a much larger than just Uganda.

What I do know though is that Uganda faces a huge image problem in ‘the west’ and these comments, at least in part, are a symptom of this.

This image problem is one exasperated by painfully fictitious portrayals in the media such as the one in Series 2 of the Newsroom that I have just finished watching (other than the lyrics of Band Aid 30 I struggle to think of anything recent that is so crass).

Or, closer to home, try searching Uganda on the Guardian’s home page. All you will find are articles about the anti-homosexuality bill, the hunt for war-lord Josef Kony or bizarre novelty pieces quoting some supposedly hilarious thing an official once said.

Whilst all legitimate issues to cover they are, by themselves, playing into a mainly false perception of what Uganda is like.

In short, it’s crass, it’s unhelpful and it represents a form of low level journalism that I dislike. And importantly it’s all people in the UK (my home country, the place I love most), hears about Uganda (my home, the place that is pushing for that top spot in my heart).  

I find that really fucking sad.

I was about to write something along those lines in the comments section when this well-intentioned comment, one which many in Uganda would see as a balanced response but many in the UK will read like trolling, popped up.

Grd 5

I wasn’t sure I had the stomach to ever enter into the comments section of The Guardian let alone on a subject like this and so I headed back here to the safe shores of Hynd’s Blog.

Sane and respectful comments welcomed!

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Stroud MP tables question on British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay

Stroud MP, Neil Carmichael, has tabled a written question to the FCO about British resident, Shaker Aamer, who is still being held in Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial. In light of this (and previous interactions with him which you can read here), this is a copy of my latest letter to him on the subject. 

Dear Neil,

Thank you for taking action on Shaker Aamer’s case. It is important that those within the FCO are regularly made aware that voters, including your constituents, have not forgotten about Shaker Aamer and that also we are not prepared to witness inaction from our own government and elected representatives on this issue.

I note however 2 things from the question you submitted and Mr Ellwood’s eloquent response:

  • Mr Ellwood did not really answer your question. You, very clearly, asked ‘what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer‘ to which the Minister replied that the UK government ‘continue[s] to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare…‘I note that ‘continue[s] to seek’ dodges your direct question around what existing assurances the UK government has on Mr Aamer’s health and chances of release or trial. As such, I request, that you write in person back to Mr Ellwood asking him to clarify what current assurances the UK government has regarding Mr Aamer’s health and his potential release or trial as well as highlighting your concern about reports of his ill treatment and deteriorating health.
  • Secondly I note that although your question was important it was not specifically what I asked you to ask. I originally asked you to:’…write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.’

    As such, in addition to the existing point in the letter you will be hopefully writing to Mr Ellwood, I ask you to reiterate that your constituent, upon whose behalf you are writing, will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer. 

Lastly, I note that I have not heard back from you regarding my original request that you:

‘…make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process.’

As such, I humbly request you use your position in the HoC to make representations for a full debate. If this is not possible I ask simply for an explanation as to why it is not possible or desirable in the current circumstances.

I hope you do not feel pestered by these on-going chains of communications and requests for actions – that is not my intention. I hope instead that you feel the enormity of the challenge that we face in securing the trial or release of British resident Shaker Aamer and the evident importance of ruffling some feathers to secure this.

In addition I am still awaiting an explanation or apology to the apparent plagiarism that you undertook in your initial response to me about Shaker’s case. How is it that Sajid Javid’s constituent received an identical letter to the one I received purportedly from you? The good people of Stroud elected you Neil, not the Tory Whip’s Office. When we write to you, we want to hear your thoughts on the subject not those of the Whip’s Office – is that too much to ask for?

As always, I look forward to your response by email.

Best,

Steve Hynd

This is a copy of the tabled question and the answer provided by the FCO:

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer. (215169)

Tabled on: 19 November 2014

Answer:
Mr Tobias Ellwood:

With the exception of those relating to Shaker Aamer, the British Government receives no specific assurances from the US administration about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, as no British nationals remain among them. However, whilst Shaker Aamer is not a British national, his connections to the UK mean that he remains a high priority for the British Government. We continue to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare through our engagement with the US authorities, and we continue to make clear to the US that we want him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency.

The answer was submitted on 25 Nov 2014 at 14:43.

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Read Stroud MP’s copy and pasted response to constituents concerns

As British resident Shaker Aamer remains being held, without charge or trial, in Guantanamo Bay I decided to do what I could to increase the pressure on the US authorities to ensure his release.

In a personal plea to my local Conservative MP Neil Carmichael I wrote:

“At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.”

Just under two weeks later I received a response from his office saying:

“I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo”

It went on to assure me that:

“Securing Mr Aamer’s release is a high priority for the Government and I understand that it has been using all diplomatic channels available to communicate this.”  

I wrote back naively thinking that these words were at best his own genuine heartfelt views but that at worst, they might be those of his caseworker who would be employed to write such responses on his behalf.

Sadly not, they appear to not even be his caseworker’s words.

Today someone on twitter shared with me this response to their letter to their own local Conservative MP, Sajid Javid.

Javid Aamer letter
A word for word match to the response Neil Carmichael sent to me.

Now I personally find this insulting and misleading. I would have been disappointed to receive a cut and paste response if it had been made clear it was such, but to try and pretend it represents some original thoughts on the subject is, in my mind, reprehensible.

If I had wanted the views of the whips office I would have asked my MP to relay to me the views of the whips office. I didn’t. I waned his own views on the continued barbaric incarceration of a British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

To respond to a matter of, quite literally life and death, in such a glib institutional way is a damning reflection on the seriousness in which he takes his job. Following up and acting on the concerns of constituents is one of the cornerstones of being a MP.

On this occasion my local MP Neil Carmichael has utterly failed.

I hope he makes an effort to amend for this but I suspect stony silence is more likely. It has been a month now since I wrote back to him and I am still awaiting a response.

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UKIP, not the Greens, are attracting the most former Labour voters

Farage
Today’s polling from YouGov shows the Conservatives beating Labour and the Greens beating the Lib Dems each by one point. Some within the Labour party (and media) are panicking that this is a symptom of Ed Miliband’s failure to inspire more left-wing voters who are in turn moving to the Green Party.

The problem is, the polling does not support this.

Of those surveyed who voted Labour in 2010, a significant 76% of them are still planning on voting Labour in 2015. This is more than the Conservative equivalent (75%) and significantly more than the Lib Dem equivalent (28%).

This does however suggest a 24% voter leakage. It is UKIP however, not the Greens, who are picking up most of these disillusioned former Labour voters. 10% of those who voted Labour in 2010 said that they are now planning on voting UKIP.

In comparison the Conservatives are picking up 7%, Greens 4%, SNP/Plaid 2% and Lib Dems 1% of former Labour voters.

Labour have a problem here but the problem is UKIP shaped, not Green! Labour’s response though has been to appoint Sadiq Khan to lead a unit responding to the Green threat whilst essentially ignoring the much larger and significant threat of UKIP.

This might well be one of a list of mistakes that may just cost them the majority they are seeking in 2015.

If the Green Party though are not picking disillusioned Labour voters, where are these new found supporters coming from?

The Green Party are making their gains primarily through disillusioned former Lib Dem voters. 16% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 are now planning on voting Green in 2015. Specifically the Greens are making huge ground among young voters (especially 18-24 year olds) which used to be a Lib Dem strong area.

16% of 18-24 year olds said they would vote Green compared to just 8% of who said they would vote Lib Dem.

Both the Green Party and Labour’s relative position in the polls are dependent on the sinking Lib Dem ship continuing to sink (more 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour than they are Lib Dem!).

If after 2015 the Lib Dems end up back on the backbenches and start to regain some of the trust they lost in government and Labour attempt to run a government, it will be interesting to watch where these floating voters settle.

There is a big chunk of the electorate who are no longer attached to one political party which is going to make the coming decades hard to predict and interesting to watch.

In the words of Master Yoda – “Difficult to see, always in motion are the future”

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Band Aid 30 lyrics as ‘patronising and fatalistic as they are bizarre and untrue’

Madagascar missing from Band Aid 30 logo

Madagascar missing from Band Aid 30 logo

There is nothing, literally nothing, in the whole world, that I dislike more than sweeping generalisations and crass oversimplifications – nothing!

It is out of this bugbear that [at least part of] my dislike for Band Aid/Band Aid 30 comes from.

I plan to take off from where the ever-awesome Bim Adewunmi left off when she wrote in the Guardian about how the lyrics of the original Band Aid still haunt her. Under the headline ‘Band Aid 30: clumsy, patronising and wrong in so many ways’ Adewunmi writes:

“…there were a few parts of the song that always stuck in my craw. For example, the lyric that begins: “And there won’t be snow in Africa …” It does snow in Africa! I say under my breath every December when shopping malls roll the track out.”

Well indeed – just as I can assure you there is snow in Africa so I can also assure that the original Band Aid song is filled with idiotic sweeping generalisations and crass oversimplifications – you know….the sort that niggle at me until I am forced to write an irate blog post.

Adewunmi finishes her article by offering what I feel to be premature credit though saying:

“To his credit…[Geldof] has said some of the lyrics will be tweaked slightly for this new version. Gone are the references to Africa’s “burning sun” as well as the assertion that it is a place where “no rain nor rivers flow”. 

Well yes, this may be true but believe me, it does not seem that he has learnt any lessons about crass generalizations. While reference to famine and starvation have been removed (acknowledging that those “inappropriate” lyrics did not reflect that swathes of Africa that are “booming”) he has instead replaced them with these pearls of linguistic idiocy:

“At Christmas time, it’s hard but while you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear

Where a kiss of love can kill you, and there’s death in every tear”

Firstly, let’s clarify something Bob – we (the generalised European/American masses) are not all having fun at Christmas. We are sleeping rough, dying of cancer, being beaten and raped by our partners, choking on pieces of lego and/or drinking ourselves into oblivion. I have no doubt that many people enjoy Christmas day greatly but this hits at the heart of the problem Bob, not everyone does.

Just as not all Europeans enjoy Christmas, so (it should be axiomatic but evidently it isn’t) not all ‘West Africans’ live in a ‘world of dread and fear’ because there’s death in every tear’.

Ebola has killed around 5,000 people at the time of writing and has impacted on many more. It is a crisis that is as terrifying for those as involved as it is potentially life-threatening. According the MSF latest update:

  • Guinea has 1,760 confirmed cases and seen 1054 deaths,
  • Liberia (Cases 6,619. Deaths 2,766),
  • Nigeria (Cases 20. Deaths 8),
  • Sierra Leone (Cases 4,862. Deaths 1,130),
  • Senegal (Cases 1. Deaths 0) 
  • and recently Mali (Cases 1. Deaths 1). (all WHO figures)

Now in West Africa alone this leaves (off the top of my head), The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea – Bissau, Mali, Niger, Togo, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso etc etc who have nothing more than a vague geographic connection to the Ebola crisis.

But hey – why let the reality of millions of people get in the way of a good song?

The lyrics of Band Aid 30 continues:

No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa

The only hope they’ll have is being alive

Where to comfort is to fear

Where to touch is to be scared

How can they know it’s Christmas time at all”

These lyrics are as fatalistic as they are simply not true, as patronising as they are utterly bizarre.

Did no one think to point out to Geldof that when you get some very well paid Europeans to sing that there is “No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa” that you are rather undermining the millions of West Africans who will be living in peace in West Africa this Christmas – including I might add the courageous, well organised, and utterly wonderful Nigerian health workers who contained and then removed Ebola from their country?

And then the back to that line again, How can they know it’s Christmas time at all” – well here is a suggestion…. Either through the wide-spread access to the internet or perhaps because a few of the approximate 400 million Christians in Africa know when one of the own most important celebrations of the year takes place.

This song, in both its literal lyrics through to its conceptual approach is depressingly archaic. What is more depressing though is that so few of the mistakes from the cringe worthy original Band Aid seemed to have been rectified. As much as I have focused here on the simplistic idiocy of the lyrics there are also a plethora of other questions that need answering such as why Band Aid still has such little input – both musically and logistically – from people from the countries that the song aims to be helping?

Still, to every cloud there is a silver lining. At least they don’t still have have Bono singing that line which is maybe the most insidious in pop history:

Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you
Donate to the MSF response to the Ebola crisis here.

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BNP tweets ‘remembrance’ tweet day late

The BNP were left embarrassed after tweeting a remembrance day message 24 hours late.

Opps.

BNP

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Poll finds Labour at record low and Greens on record high

The Ipsos MORI poll due to be published in today’s Evening Standard has caused ripples today as it shows support for Labour at a record low since 2010.

However behind the headlines there is another interesting figure to pull out of this latest polling – the Green Party are on a dramatic high securing 9% of the voting intention of all adults over the age of 18:

Mori poll

Despite this quite momentous rise in the polls the Ipsos MORI write up of the results does not mention the Green Party once.

UKIP by contrast (down 2% at 14) get four mentions in the write up. The Liberal Democrats (just one percentage point above the Green Party at 10%) equally also get four mentions.

Frustratingly, it is from this text that lazy journalists will copy and paste their articles not bothering to look at the data tables behind the polls (something which I have to do if I want to find out how the Greens are doing).

If they did, I am sure that they would use the headline finding of this poll (Labour being on a long-term low) but equally is it not noteworthy that the Greens are reaching such competitive heights?

Let’s see if any journalists pick up on this…

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Green Party membership surges past 25,000

On June 9th Hynd’s Blog reported how Green Party Membership was growing in a way that the other ‘bigger’ parties were not. At that time they had just over 17,000 members.

On September 17th Hynd’s Blog reported that Green Party membership had tripled between 2002 and 2014. At that time Green Party membership stood at about 18,500.

On the 3rd October Hynd’s Blog reported that Green Party membership was, for the first time in the party’s history, over 20,000.

Today, 11th November, Hynd’s Blog notes a tweet sent from Derek Wall (former Principle Speaker and now International spokesperson of the Greens):

This is, by anyone’s standards, quite an extraordinary growth in party membership. In their words:

In the last 2 weeks someone has joined the Green Party every 10 minutes”

ten-minutes-450x314
Hynd’s Blog is excited to see this growth in progressive political participation!

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70 years of mountaineering in Uganda

An edited version of this article was published in Saturday’s Daily Monitor – Uganda’s best selling independent newspaper. 

11615Summit Speke
As the late afternoon mist draws down the valley the spectacular peaks of the Rwenzori mountain range are left tantalising exposed, reaching high up into the bright warm sky. The image of snow packed glaciers glistening on rocky mountain tops so close to the equator is one of the many wonders of mountaineering in Uganda and is cherished by those lucky enough to witness it.

Standing atop these majestic snow covered peaks is an experience that only a few have managed and perhaps, due to melting glaciers, only a few more will have the chance to see. Many perceive these peaks as too cold, dangerous or difficult to reach, but since its inception in 1945 the Mountain Club of Uganda (MCU) has been accessing and documenting the foothills and the peaks of this magnificent mountain range.

Soon to celebrate its 70th birthday, the MCU has undertaken renewed efforts to expand the Club and to fulfil its core mission: to encourage everyone in Uganda to enjoy, explore and celebrate the outstanding natural beauty that Uganda has been blessed with. This inevitably includes the mountaineering jewel – the range of the Rwenzori Mountains, but goes beyond this to cover all areas of the country.

Charlie Langan, the current President of MCU, talks keenly of the diversity of mountaineering in Uganda, saying, “Although the Rwenzoris provide an impressive challenge for anyone, Uganda has so much more to offer. From the hills of Agoro in the north, to the spectacular peaks of the Virungas in the south west, from the crater lakes of Fort Portal in the west to the peaks of Kadam and Napak in the East, Uganda has something for any level of fitness, enthusiasm and experience. At MCU we are here to help people get out and enjoy the outdoors in this incredible country.”

The MCU was first founded in the Geography Room in another of Uganda’s long standing institutions, Makerere University in Kampala.  The Club was originally founded as the Uganda section of the East African Mountain Club by Rene Bere along with students and lecturers but soon developed into the ‘Mountain Club of Uganda’ – a name that it still proudly bears today.

Indeed, it was in these early years that the MCU laid down the foundations for mountaineering in the country. Deo Lubega, the Club’s Patron who has been active in MCU for over 25 years, reminds newer Club members that it was the MCU who between 1949 and 1958 built a circuit of six huts on the Rwenzori Mountains as well as a hut on Mount Elgon and on Mount Muhavura. At the time the Club was dominated by expatriates but very early on decided to offer training for interested Bakonjo porters to offer formal porterage services on the Rwenzoris as an alternative source of income.

As such in 1960 Timothy Bazarrabusa became the first Ugandan to climb Margherita peak, 5,109m above sea level – the highest point in the Rwenzori range and Uganda. Bazarabusa went on to become the President of MCU and later its Patron and a key advocate for mountaineering in Uganda.

In 1972 MCU Presidents Henry Osmaston and David Pasteur published the “Guide to the Rwenzori’s”- a definitive guide to the range and its history and peoples. Along with Andrew Stuart and James Lang-Brown, these were some of the key figures in the history of mountaineering in Uganda who have documented and explored the mountain areas of Uganda.

Since that time the Club has held a commendable but somewhat discontinuous existence, due to political instability and restricted access to the mountains due to civil unrest. Today, as the MCU turns 70 it continues to build on its proud history and to open its doors to members old and new.

Langan, the current MCU President, commented, “In the last few years the Club has grown from a handful of people interested in mountaineering to a vibrant and diverse community of people eager to enjoy the outdoors. We have spread beyond simply walking and climbing and now regularly kayak on the river Nile, mountain bike through forests and villages and of course, meet up regularly to socialise with like minded friends.”

This ethos of encouraging others to enjoy the outdoors has also driven the Club to try and document the potential for climbing, walking and other activities in Uganda. Just as the Club proudly published a ‘Guide to Rock Climbing’ in 1963, so the Club is today editing the final draft of an updated guide to encourage others with a sense of adventure to leave the comfort of Kampala to head out and explore the extraordinary outdoor environment that Uganda has to offer.

More information:

Web: www.mcu.ug
Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/mountainclubofuganda
Regular events: http://www.mcu.ug/?page_id=19

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UKIP and Greens to influence the 2015 General Elections

Both UKIP and the Green Party are consistently polling at record highs. Hynd’s Blog takes a look at how this might impact the outcome of the 2015 General Election. 

polling station
There is a broad feeling within the Westminster bubble that Labour will win the most seats at the next election. Opinion polls, with the exception of the aftermath of Miliband’s farcical conference speech when he forgot to mention the deficit (opps), show that Labour have consistently polled a few points ahead of the Tories.

Significantly though few expect them to secure enough seats to form a majority government. This means that a coalition is more than possible.

The latest uniform swing predictions put Labour short of an absolute majority by just one seat.

uniform swingIf this prediction comes true then Labour could comfortably (mathematically speaking) enter into coalition with one or a range of parties and rule with a majority government.

However, there is also a scenario where the Lib Dems (currently estimated to pick up 23 seats) fail to have enough support to help Labour secure a coalition with an overall majority.

With this in mind, the relative rise of both UKIP and the Greens and the demise of the Lib Dems takes on a whole new level of interest. No longer is it a given that the Lib Dems will secure enough seats to be able to go into coalition with Labour (or Conservatives) and form a majority government.

It is also worth looking at how in key marginal battle grounds the new found support for both UKIP and Greens might cause a split in the vote a cause an upset.

Those, including myself, who used to talk about the UKIP support just being an electoral blip, have surely enough evidence in front of them now to admit that they were wrong. Equally after a strong showing at May’s European elections and continued growth in support in opinion polls the Greens are increasingly securing their places as a major player in British politics – despite many commentators patronizing dismissal.

To illustrate the current consistent support both the Green Party and UKIP are enjoying I have looked back over the last 10 YouGov voting intention polls. This show that both UKIP and the Green Party are relatively consistent in their new highs within the polls (16-18 % and 5-7% respectively).

graph

The next obvious question then is to ask where this new found support for these two relative outsiders is coming from.

Peter Kellner over at YouGov provides us with this useful infographic from surveys that had a collective sample is 26,724, of whom 1,314 said they would vote Green and 3,401 Ukip:
UKIPGreen demo
Kellner analysed these findings saying:

“In many ways the Greens and Ukip are mirror images of each other. Half of Ukip’s supporters are ex-Tory voters, while the Greens attracted half of their vote from the Lib Dems. Green voters are younger, more female, better-educated and more middle-class than the average – whereas Ukip voters are older, more male, more working class and far less likely to have a university degree. Ukip voters veer to the Right in ideology and choice of newspaper, while Greens veer to Left.”

UKIP, although picking up working class Labour voters, are overwhelmingly picking up former Tory voters. The Greens on the other-hand are picking up a lot of former Lib Dem voters.

If the Greens maintain this level and demographically specific support we can expect to see:

  • Greens returning Caroline Lucas as MP in Brighton Pavillion (Labour’s number one target seat in the South East).
  • A possible second MP in former Lib Dem strong holds (they are targeting Norwich South and Bristol West).
  • A significant impact on Tory/Labour marginals (likely to dent the Labour vote).
  • An increased threat of sitting Lib Dem MPs losing their seats – this is especially true in Lib Dem/Labour marginals.
  • Greens increasing their vote share across the country looking to secure deposits (by securing 5% or more of vote) and possibly beating the Lib Dems.

If UKIP maintain this level and demographically specific support we can expect to see:

  • The standing UKIP MPs (who knows how many other current Conservative MPs will follow Douglas Carswell’s example and defect) returned with little challenge.
  • UKIP gaining a significant number of seats (exact numbers are hard to predict but probably the gains will be counted on one hand).
  • A significant impact on Tory/Labour or Lib Dem marginal (likely to dent the Tory vote more than the Lib Dem/Labour vote).
  • An increase in vote share leaving them with at least double that of the Lib Dems.

In addition there is also a small chance, that UKIP (and even less likely Greens and nationalists) will secure enough MPs to become the minority partner in a coalition themselves – unlikely though.

With all this said and done we are left with more questions than answers: Is this the end of two party politics in the UK? Is our electoral system up to the job with the potential demise of two party politics? Will the Lib Dems enter back into coalition? Would Greens look to join a progressive alliance to form a government? Will Nigel Farage become the next DPM?

So much of this that seemed like an impossibility 4 years ago suddenly seems dramatically possible! When all the talk is of voter apathy it strikes me that there never has been a more exciting time to be involved in politics as the status quo is ripped wide open.

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