Category Archives: Politics

The Scottish vote for independence should be a celebration – change is happening.

This is a guest post from a good friend and current Phd student, Charlie Langan.

Edinburgh
A quick disclaimer to start: I will not be voting in the Scottish referendum. When there was the possibility of having a postal vote, I believed that neither side had provided any substance to vote for . Since then however, I believe that the Yes campaign has provided a story to believe in. Given the opportunity, I would vote Yes.

Yes for a chance to change both Scotland and the UK for the better.

The starting point of the debate though, which is often overlooked, is whether there is a problem with the state of the Union.

There is evidence that the system is not currently working. I am more and more ashamed of the news stories about the UK that make it to Uganda where I live. Despite not being patriotic, I find myself with, increasingly regularity, volunteering my Scottish status to separate myself from these stories. This is something I have never done before.

The turn to aggressive, confrontational and emotive attitudes and policies on immigration, the European Union, tax and social welfare among other issues coming from the UK, seems to me at odds with the progressive political agenda coming from Scotland.

As an environmental economist working on climate change, I recognise the strength of Scotland’s devolved policies based and founded upon science. However, I do believe that Scotland is running to the limit of its powers and is being constrained. Without being able to set taxes and create incentives, it is difficult to nudge people into making decisions that are better for the society we want to be.

Scotland has shown ability and aptitude to develop strong policies giving, at least me, assurances that Holyrood could probably handle sectors such as the economy (and by most measures better than the current UK government performances in health, education and environment sectors).

I think there is a lot of similarities between the current debate on independence and climate change.

Climate change is a problem, but it took a long time to really understand how it affects us all. Scottish and UK society, national priorities and policies aren’t in harmony, and the differences are perhaps becoming irreconcilable.

In this light, the debate boils down to do we need to change or not. It is a lazy argument that change is too risky just because it’s change. Those who refute change on the principle of change are often those have gained too much power under the status quo and don’t want the boat rocked (the equivalent big oil lobby against the green economy and taking action on climate change). The argument heard is often it’s too expensive to change, and closer examination such claims are generally unfounded.

If there is a consensus that a problem exists and there is a need for something to be done, the debate turns to what is the solution for a better Scotland and a better UK?

The problem here is evaluating any solution, as this requires making predictions of the future, or a new future or a new paradigm. Climate models using hundreds and thousands of years worth of data are made to look like child’s play compared to trying to model the complexity of economies. Those who claim certainty are un-honest, and there are many uncertainties making definitive answers difficult. But we are quite good and familiar at managing the risk of unknowns.

In many respects the Yes campaign has been taking a systematic approach to think through the key issues and logically trying to plot the best course that Scotland could follow if independence is chosen; i.e. identifying risks and proposing management. I don’t like Alex Salmond, nor do I attribute all the successes of the Scottish parliament to him, but I have become to believe that he and the Yes campaign continues to capture the progressive nature that exists within many Scottish policies. Drawing upon the scientific wisdom, it’s not the result that counts, but the method used that shows your success.

The Better together campaign have never unpacked themselves; is it “we are better together” or “we would be better together”? I have already dismissed for the former, but the latter – how – what could Scotland gain? What could the UK gain? What can both parties bring to the table that is not already there? What solutions is the no camp providing? Why have we never seen a better together vision for the future of Scotland? What will be on the table if a no vote is returned in the referendum and discussions turn to devolution max? How valuable would UK membership be to Scotland, if we all find ourselves outside the EU?

The nature of the independence and climate change debates has also been similar in that: the no campaign has been taking on the role of the climate sceptics, focusing on trivial or false corner stones of the debate (the hypothetical currency), distorting the wider picture of the debate (its all about the economy), and resorted in threats (you can’t depend on oil). I look forward to future comparisons with the UK debate and eventual referendum on the EU membership; will it also focus on these boring issues?

But here perhaps we are better together, working toward building commonality between Yes and No, then we can rationally and logically take the final step to spilt or not. I would like to see real discussions on pros and benefits of both camps visions’ for the future of Scotland.

Scotland should be giddy with the opportunities in front of it, not cowed into worrying about making the wrong choice. After all, the debate should be a celebration, change is already in motion and in this sense Scotland has already won!

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Stroud Green Party announce candidate for the 2015 General Election

Stroud Greens
On the back of polling putting the Green Party on 11% of the vote in Stroud the local party have announced their ‘party parliamentary candidate’ as Chris Jockel.

You can read more about the announcement here.

More information on #GE2015 in Stroud: 

  • UKIP’s PPC is Caroline Stephens. You can read what I think of her here (summary: she holds no grasp on basic science).
  • Labour’s PPC is former MP David Drew. You can read why I won’t be voting for him here (summary: I still have no answer if or why he thinks it’s OK to discriminate against LGBT people).
  • The Conservative’s PPC is standing MP Neil Carmichael. You can read everything that I’ve written on him here (highlights include him thinking its cool for the body who are meant to be looking after our health to invest in tobacco).

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General election 2015 polling analysis for Stroud

The Lord Ashcroft polling for Stroud gives us a unique insight into the constituency’s voting intentions ahead of the general election next year. As it is the constituency where I will cast my vote it is only natural that I have given it a little more scrutiny than other seats.

Firstly, in line with national predictions, and let’s be honest, common sense, the poll confirms that in all likelihood Stroud will, once again, return Labour’s David Drew.

The headline (weighted) figures show:

Labour 41%

Conservative 30%

UKIP 11%

Green 11%

Liberal Democrat 6%

This would be comparable to a 6.5% swing away from the Conservatives. For reference it is worth comparing this weighted polling to the 2010 constituency result:

Stroud

Labour jump 3% from 2010, Conservatives drop 11%, the Lib Dems drop 9%, Greens gain 8% and UKIP gain 9%.

As I will discuss later – the collapse of the Lib Dems may be key to the 2015 election result.

In line with the national picture we can see the coalition partners bleeding support with the junior partner faring the worst. It is interesting then to see where these votes are going.

According to the polling, 71% of 2010 Conservative voters are sticking with their party. Although lower than the national average this is still reasonable suggesting their key task is ensuring their voters turn up on election day. However 11% and 13% respectively of the 2010 Conservative vote stated they plan to vote for Labour and UKIP.

Only 3% of 2010 Conservative voters plan to vote Green or Liberal Democrat. This suggests that the Lib Dem hope of picking up ‘soft conservatives’ might well be unrealistic in the Stroud constituency. Equally, it suggests that the Green belief of being strong on environmental/rural issues will not return the votes they would hope for in the rural Conservative strongholds of the constituency.

In contrast to the Conservatives, only 23% of the 2010 Lib Dem vote plan to stick with their party. 30% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 plan to vote Labour, 20% Green and 17% Conservatives. Labour’s success in this constituency is heavily dependent with the national campaign of ensuring Lib Dems stay unpopular.

In Stroud however they have the danger that the Greens will sweep in and take a large number of these votes on the back of the well funded negative campaign Labour has launched against the Lib Dems. Locally in the coming months we can expect to see tough campaigning from both parties in the south of the constituency around Dursley – the traditional Lib Dem [no longer] stronghold.

Only 6% of 2010 Lib Dem voters stated that they plan to vote for UKIP.

Interestingly the Labour/Green battle is further highlighted in the important 18-24 year old demographic where both parties are securing a large vote share (52 and 21% respectively). From this we can once again expect to see visits to sixth form colleges as both parties aim to make the most of the Lib Dem unpopularity with young voters (just 7% in this poll).

Perhaps a key area for The Green party might well be tuition fees as they are the only party that still opposes them and of course, it is the flagship Lib Dem bashing policy.

The Conservatives on their part will continue to sing from the ‘economic recovery’ hymn sheet trying to paint Labour as irresponsible. We know this will appeal to their core vote but this polling suggests that this won’t be enough to win them the seat. They have to reach out of their comfort zones – something which they currently show no signs of doing.

The concluding point though has to be this: With near-by constituencies such as Chippenham (where the Lib Dems are expected to lose a very good MP in Duncan Hames) we can expect to see little from the ib Dem in the Stroud constituency which really means their 15% of 2010 votes is up for grabs!

Whether or not Labour secure enough of these votes might well be the difference between a Labour win and a Conservative hold. From a Green perspective, they too must be looking to make ground in the south of the constituency. This could be a double win for them if they look to reach out and secure new ground in the south of the constituency as this is the place where they can pick up the most new votes whilst also not being accused of campaigning on Labour’s doorstep.

The count down to May 2015 in Stroud begins…

*A total of 1,000 Stroud residents were surveyed in the poll, with prospective voters asked who they would support when thinking specifically about their own constituency and the candidates standing.
** The Green Party are the only main party who have yet to announce their candidate for Stroud.

 

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Video: Scottish independence debate highlights

Here are the highlights from the last leaders debate before Scotland votes n whether or not it wants independence:

Interestingly, in contrast to previous debates, early opinion polls are showing Salmond and the ‘Yes’ campaign coming out on top. 71% in the Guardian/ICM poll say Salmond won the debate. If reflective of the electorate in general this is huge late victory for the Yes campaign.

The Guardian further broke down their findings stating:

Guardian

This late victory for the Yes campaign comes as a crucial life-line for the Yes campaign who have been consistently trailing in the polls (latest You Gov survey found 51% to vote No and 38% to vote yes).

There are now just weeks left for voters to make up their mind before Scotland goes to the ballot box on September 18th to decide its future.

How do you plan to vote? Do you think Scotland can go it alone? 

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Green Party hold new MEP’s former council seat in Stroud by-election

Molly with Martin

New Cllr Martin Baxendale with MEP Molly Scott-Cato

The Green Party have held onto the Valley Ward seat on Stroud District Council which was formerly held by their new MEP Molly Scott-Cato.

Earlier today they announced the results on their facebook page:

Valley Ward

In May the Green Party secured 166,447 votes in the South West region (11.10% of the vote) which saw Molly Scott-Cato elected as the first ever Green MEP in the South West. This in turn sparked the by-election that was held last Thursday.

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Israel/Gaza, Leo McKinstry and his lunatic extremist violent ideology

There is nothing special about the Daily Express’ Leo McKinstry. He is one of many journalists who will go to any length to defend Israel’s actions, however brutal, disproportionate or unjustified they may be. In his latest Daily Express column, a little unpicking highlights the extremist ideology that sits behind his words that allows for such unwavering support of a massacre of innocent Palestinians.

express
This is not the first time Hynd’s Blog has taken issue with Leo McKinstry’s writing. Back in 2012 my friend and social commentator Eugene Grant wittily quipped that if there was a fit for work test for journalists, McKinstry would surely fail it for his coverage of the debate around benefit claimants.

Fast forward two years and I have once again had the misfortune of stumbling across one of his deeply misleading diatribes. This time the case in point is the Gaza/Israel conflict – a subject that lends itself all too easily to hyperbole, hatred and crass generalisations.

Within a few paragraphs McKinstry throws out a paragraph that, although must be saluted for its invariably inventive alliteration, must also be picked apart:

“In practice denouncing the Jewish state means siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism, a stance that not only represents a complete inversion of morality but a ­suicidal disdain for the interests of western civilisation.”

Three words in and we have a problem…’denouncing’. No mainstream politician in the UK has denounced Israel. In fact the opposite, politicians have gone out of their way, even when criticising Israel’s actions, to reiterate that they are ‘friends of Israel’ – whatever that actually means.

But, even if you do ‘denounce Israel’, as some people (but not the politicians McKinstry is referring to) do, then how this then leads people to inevitably ‘siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism’ is a mystery that remains sadly locked in the inner depths of the editorial room of the Daily Express.

The vast majority of human rights organisations that are then invariably are used and quoted by the politicians McKinstry is so desperate to attack, go to great lengths to highlight human rights violations by both the Israeli actors and Palestinian ones.

Criticising one side’s human rights abuses does not act to excuse the others. This complex moral concept is, I will admit, a difficult one to grasp when smashing your fingers in fury at your keyboard.

But all this is just the tip of iceberg. Next, McKinstry offers us a journalistic lesson in the importance of context stating:

“The present conflict was started by Hamas firing rockets at Israeli civilians and since the beginning of July more than 2,800 of these ­missiles have been launched.”

That’s right, he actually says that this ‘conflict was started by’. In true playground philosophising McKinstry throws out the perpetual eight year old’s defence of ‘he started it’. Some might consider the origins of this modern conflict to stem from deep rooted differences, understandings of history, claims of land, hurt and loss through generations of war dead….but nope, McKinstry assures us it was ‘started by’ Hamas firing rockets.

Now might be a good time to remember that Hamas only officially came into existence in the late 1980’s, some 20 years after the start of the military occupation of Gaza that still, technically, exists today.

This is not to say that Hamas is not partially to blame for the present conflict, far from it. All that is being addressed here is this bonkers assertion that Hamas could solely be blamed for ‘starting the conflict’ like McKinstry suggests.

Britain would not tolerate an ­aerial assault without striking back so why should Israel?

Putting aside my own pacifist leanings for one second to glance over at what most mainstream politicians and commentators are saying…we can see that most people are not saying that Israel can’t or shouldn’t defend itself, only that it should do this in line with International Humanitarian Law. This in short says things like, try not to kill civilians, don’t bomb schools and mosques etc. Not big asks, but apparently too big for the Israeli Defence Force to comply with as the list of alleged war crimes now runs longer than one McKinstry’s titillating tabloid tirades.

But, Israel’s actions are justified by the morally bankrupt McKinstry as he implies that if Israel didn’t kill civilians, keep an entire population under a harsh military occupation and repeatedly commit war crimes then a global Islamic jihad would come and impact us all…

Instead of traducing Israel western politicians and the media should face up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam, of which Hamas is a key part. We see that threat all over the world from the turmoil in Libya to the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, from the stoning of women in Afghanistan to the savage persecution of Christians in Iraq.

Some really concerning issues he raises, but once again, in McKinstry’s eyes we only have 2 choices to address these issues:

  • traducing Israel western politicians or
  • facing up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam

Remember, there is no either or here. It is one or the other. You choose.

And once again, let’s not get bogged down in the specific geo-political circumstances that might have given rise to very different factions of radical Islam that now manifest themselves in violence in different parts of world…why would we want to do that…let’s instead use a term that I honestly don’t think McKinstry knows the meaning of ‘Jihad’ and suggest they are all the same.

Of course, there is an irony here. These violent forms of radical Islam are, at least in part, a reaction of blinkered extremists and reactionaries who are unable to deal with the multicultural societies the modern era has ushered in. It doesn’t take much to spot that this description fits comfortably with someone else this blog post addresses…

But that’s unfair I hear you cry, many Islamists are violent in their small minded idiocy. Well, stick with me, we haven’t got to McKinstry’s finale yet…

In a comically dire reinforcement of his extremist ideology used throughout his article that justifies any action, however brutal, by Israel, McKinstry goes onto say:

“Only by defeating terrorists can peace be achieved.”

Violence you see dear reader, is the only solution to violence. We must go to war to prevent war.

The logic of a lunatic fanatic that looks to justify Israel’s action no matter how horrific they are.

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Video: Highlights from Scottish Independence TV debate

With just weeks left until Scotland votes on independence, the leaders of the opposing campaigns took to our TV screens last night to debate the pros and cons of independence.

Here are the highlights from the debate:

After watching the highlights I would be interested in your views. If you had a vote, how would you use it? Do you think we are ‘Better Together’ or that Scotland should vote ‘Yes to Independence’?

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Breaking: British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Officer resigns over government policy on Gaza

warsi
Baroness Warsi the [former] Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government has resigned over her government’s policy regarding Gaza.

Baroness Warsi was appointed Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2012. She was previously Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio.

Although a relatively minor figure to resign from the cabinet, this will further highlight the diametric opposite positions of the government and the official opposition on the Israel/Gaza conflict. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, has been vocal in his attacks on the Prime Minister highlighting his ‘inexplicable silence‘.

For more follow The Guardian’s live coverage.

UPDATE:

Seconds after publishing this, top Labour figures have started tweeting their support for Warsi and pushing the ‘inexplicable silence’ line…

UPDATE 2:

Here is a copy of Warsi’s resignation letter:

Warsi letter

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Breaking: Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law null and void after Constitutional Court ruling

Breaking news: Uganda’s Constitutional Court has decided that the anti-homosexuality law is ‘null and void’.

The Constitutional Court found that the speaker of parliament acted illegally by moving ahead with a vote on the law despite at least three lawmakers objecting to a lack of quorum.

Despite this ruling, homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda as it does it most other African countries. Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which remains in force, continues to criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. The harsher penalties that were introduced under the 2014 legislation though such as life-imprisonment for ‘repeat offences’ no longer apply.

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The NHS and the blaming of rape victims

 

This poster was produced in 2006 and serves as one of many examples of institutionalized forms of ‘victim blaming’.

victim blaming

I was slightly horrified to see this poster re-circulating on social media this morning. It is yet another example of ‘victim blaming’ – the suggestion that a victim of rape was somehow at fault because of her behaviour. 

This poster becomes that bit more shocking when you spot that it is produced, published and distributed by our own government.

‘Victim blaming’ is one of those myths that I spend so much of my time trying to counter. Simply, a rape is never the victims fault – the blame always ultimately rests with those who put their penis inside someone without that other persons consent. 

Simple.

Or, in the words of the NHS (in a separate campaign to the ‘Know your limits’ campaign):

“If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

If the NHS did want to draw some connections between alcohol consumption and sexual assault though without slipping down this dangerous road of victim blaming, they could have made the exact same poster with the words:

“approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.”

One study on alcohol and sexual assault concluded it’s literature review saying:

“Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent”. 

The same study estimates that at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape. The obvious conclusion to this is that 10% of American men have committed sexual assault after they have been drinking.

This issue is a serious one that involves facing up to taboos as well as a very well funded drinks industry. Our safety, not just of girls, but all of us depends on tackling this. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say we are in midst of an unspoken epidemic.

Sadly this contribution from the NHS to the debate adds little but does reinforce an incredibly negative persistent perception that the victim is somehow to blame for being raped.

 

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Finally, Miliband gets his makeover

Miliband
In May this year Hynd’s Blog reported on the start of the ‘great Miliband makeover’. The crux of that report was the news that Obama’s election guru David Axelrod had been paid a very large sum of money to get rid of his ‘image problem’.

I’ve been holding my breath for just over 2 months now but at last here it is – the promised Miliband makeover.

This makeover comes in the form of what Mark Ferguson refers to as the ‘hanging lantern’ makeover. In short, the idea is to shine a light on to your supposed weakness and turn it into a strength. The classic example of this approach is Ronald Reagan (old) being turned to his advantage (‘experience’).

As I wrote before, Miliband’s image problem was around being seen as weird, awkward and frankly not leadership material.  And so, with David Axelrod’s guiding hand, Miliband today looked to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths.

This is what he had to say:

This is the key section with my comments in italics:

“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace [reference to the fact he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit – a cartoon, a joke, accident prone etc]. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich [reference to the viral bacon sandwich photo that spread like wildfire on the logic ‘if he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, can he really run a country’?]. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy [‘the other guy’ – clever, puts the idea out there that he is not one of these identikit politicians’]. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me. 

“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op. If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.

“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture [referencing the hug a huskie turn ‘get rid of all that green crap’ perception of Cameron only being interested in image]. but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.

Essentially this was Milband (or Axelrod – you can interchange as you see fit) trying to re-define what it means to be a ‘good leader’.

Of course, there is the possibility that all the media will focus on is Miliband repeating their lines – that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, but this is a bold (you might even say American) attempt to rebrand himself.

Only time will tell if the Miliband makeover has worked or not. But through shameless electoral engineering need we appear to have a political leader saying there is more to politics than shameless electioneering need…I think that’s a good thing.

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Lib Dem MP says he would fire rockets at Israel if he lived in Gaza Strip

David Ward
Somewhere in Westminster the Head of Communications for the Liberal Democrats head has just hit his desk. “Why oh why” he will be asking anyone who will listen, “does David Ward MP keep tweeting?”

This is his latest contribution:

Wow. Put another way, he is saying that he would undertake committing a war crime. Why? Because these rockets fired by Hamas and other armed militant groups in Gaza do not have capability to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Or, put another way, this is a MP saying that he would perpetuate a climate of fear in Israel that is, at least in part, responsible for the on-going conflict. This would be a badly thought out comment from an average Joe on the internet, but coming from a MP…just wow!

Of course, David Ward has a history with his twitter account and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Back in January 2013 Hynd’s Blog reported on his comments on “the Jews” and how they “should learn from the holocaust”.

Just like in 2013, the Liberal Democrats have had to distance themselves from him and his comments. A spokesperson for the party was quoted by the BBC as saying:

We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. “The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”

Quite right as well.

Apart from the fact that comments like these distract from the atrocities being committed in the Gaza Strip at the moment, it also highlights a minority of the public who sympathise with such badly thought out views (although it is also noteworthy that most responses on and off twitter are condemning his comments). That said, his comments clearly struck a chord with some people:

Finally, it is also worth remembering that Ward is not the first elected politician to express such sentiment. Remember one Ehud Barak saying, “If I were a Palestinian I would have joined a terrorist organisation.”?

UPDATE:

From The Guardian:

This morning Ward told Radio 5 Live that he was not condoning the Hamas missile attacks on Israel; he was trying to understand why they happen.

The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets. I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it ….

Why are they firing the rockets? When the rockets are fired, they’re done by people who know what is going to happen, the repercussions of that, this horrendous military force that Israel have will result in further Palestinian [casualties]. Why are they doing that? The answer is they are so desperate to retaliate for what is happening to them …

This is supposedly about the security of Israel. Why is it insecure? Why is it under threat? It’s because of the occupation. So what do we do? We have a ceasefire, a so-called ceasefire, where there isn’t rockets being fired out of Gaza, and then what? We go back to a situation where there’s a brutal oppression of the Palestinians and we call that peace.

I have always maintained that the occupation and associated human rights abuses act as a partial explanation to crimes committed by Palestinians but cannot act as a justification. Equally, I reiterate that it can only act as a partial explanation otherwise you patronizingly remove all agency from Palestinian actors who chose to take to arms as well as those who don’t!

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The new cabinet in full

david-cameron
Here is the complete new look cabinet. Complete with an Equalities Minister opposed to same-sex marriage, a Health Minister who thinks homeopathy works and a eurosceptic minister heading the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Also note that after all the talk of a new look and bringing more women into the cabinet, this ‘new look’ does only involve a handful of women, 2 people who are not white, and, as far as I am aware, zero homosexuals.

It does though ensure that white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men are still well represented. There is also a reasonable smattering of millionaires (the PM and DPM included).

Just to reiterate – these are the people who are running our country…

David Cameron – Prime Minister

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

William Hague – First Secretary of State, Leader of the House of Commons

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Theresa May – Secretary of State for the Home Department

Michael Fallon – Secretary of State for Defence

Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Iain Duncan Smith – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chris Grayling – Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities Min.

Eric Pickles – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health

Elizabeth Truss – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development

Alistair Carmichael – Secretary of State for Scotland

Edward Davey – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Patrick McLoughlin – Secretary of State for Transport

Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Stephen Crabb – Secretary of State for Wales

Philip Hammond – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Also allowed to attend Cabinet:

Michael Gove – Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General

Matt Hancock – Minister of State for BIS, DECC and Portsmouth

Esther McVey - Minister of State for Employment

Oliver Letwin – Minister for Government Policy, Lord Privy Seal

David Laws – Minister of State for Cabinet Office, Schools

Grant Shapps - Minister Without Portfolio

Baroness Warsi – Senior Minister of State, Faith and Communities

Greg Clark – Minister of State for Universities and Science

Jeremy Wright – Attorney General

Baroness Stowell - Leader of the House of Lords

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New Equalities Minister voted against same sex marriage

nickymorgan
Our virtual Prime Minister tweeted to tell us the new Education Secretary will continue as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Ignoring the slightly confusing fact that Cameron is wrong as she didn’t use to hold the equalities bit of the post he refers to (that was reserved the Sajid Javid), this does confirm that we now have someone who voted against same-sex marriage as the minister responsible for equalities.

Talking to her local paper Morgan said of the issue:

“There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.” 

Cameron’s government….fighting for equal rights, unless you are gay!

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Former Shell employee appointed as new Environment Secretary

truss
Today’s cabinet reshuffle has seen a number of high profile changes that have gripped the Westminster bubble (and let’s be honest, no one else).

One of the smaller changes that was pushed through was the departure of Owen Patterson from the post of Environment Secretary. Hynd’s Blog has reported before about how he doesn’t ‘believe’ in man-made climate change including the time when he managed to recite 10 separate climate change myths on national radio in as many seconds.

It is with considerable pleasure then that we see the back of him as he disappears back to the backbenches.

Replacing Patterson is the Conservative MP Liz Truss. Or perhaps a better prefix to her name might be ‘former Commercial Manager for Shell’ Liz Truss.

This employment history comes from her Wikipedia page which in turn references her own website biography. Interestingly though there is no mention of Shell on biography now….I’ll let you decide why she, or a government press spinner, might have taken this bit of information down before she is announced as the new Environment Secretary.

In case you are wondering about my use of Wikipedia, don’t worry, I cross checked it. We know that her employment history is true as she mentions it quite openly in a 2012 interview in the New Statesman.

All this said, we know very little about her views on the environment in general. We know that she pushed for solar panels to be put on school roofs but opposed ‘solar farms’ in her own Norfolk constituency…and that is about it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question for number 10 might be, what qualifications does she have to take up this role in the first place?

But hey, as we know, actually knowing anything about a cabinet brief is a side issue. The main criteria for promotion in this reshuffle seems to be to not be posh and/or male with the focus on being what is right for the Tory 2015 election strategy not what is right for Britain.

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Was the highlander’s contribution to BBC’s Question Time a ‘Better Together’ plant?

You might disagree with the sentiment of this man’s contribution to last night’s ‘Question Time’ but you have to appreciate the passion…

There is debate though about whether or not he was ‘Better Together‘ plant in the audience. Personally, I think there is about as much chance of that as this chap being a ‘Yes Scotland‘ campaign plant.

 

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Green Cllr Ben Duncan thrown out of Green group after ‘hired killers tweet’

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A couple of week’s ago Hynd’s Blog reported on Green Cllr Ben Duncan tweeting his way into another PR disaster. I finished that article by asking:

‘one has to wonder how much longer they will tolerate Cllr Duncan and his off message, and at time highly offensive, online comments?’

Well today we got our answer. Today’s Brighton Argus reports:

In a statement issued this morning, Lisa Murray, chairwoman of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said: “The panel of inquiry has concluded that Councillor Ben Duncan should no longer serve as a member of the Green Group of Councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council.

“This follows his recent statement on Twitter concerning the armed forces which understandably offended many both within and outside the party.

“The panel concluded that since this recent incident follows a history of making comments in social media that many would view as inappropriate for someone in such a position, taken as a whole, Councillor Duncan’s actions amount to a breach of standards and judgement expected of a Green councillor, bringing himself and colleagues into disrepute.

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Why I won’t be voting for Labour’s David Drew or joining the facebook group attacking him

David Drew
Today I stumbled across the Facebook group, ‘David Drew, some facts’.

It is a curious repetition of three accusations against the former Labour MP for Stroud. It holds significance though because he is, once again, standing in Stroud in 2015 in one of the closest fought marginal seats in the country.

Which means that my vote is one of the few in the UK that will hold any sway in the outcome of the 2015 election. Put another way, these accusations, if they sway just a handful of people, might be the difference between Labour returning an MP in Stroud or not.

In short the three accusations made on the page are (not in my words but the groups):

1)      He is anti-gay because in June 1998 David Drew voted against lowering the gay age of consent from 18 to 16. He was in a v small minority (source).

2)      He is against woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, partly evidenced by this vote in May 2008 he voted for a reduction in abortion time limit, to restrict women’s sole use of IVF and to restrict hybrid embryos (source).

3)      He is anti-freedom of speech because in May 2009. He asked the home secretary to ban entry to the UK of Dr Philip Nitschke, the Director of Exit International, a Euthanasia Campaign (no source given).

The first thing to note from this list is that after a 14 year spell in parliament, the fact that they could only rustle up three things to disagree with him about is telling. David was a pretty good MP and I am sure he will continue to represents many of my Green concerns (social justice, environmentalism, human rights etc) very well if re-elected.

I have to say, much more so than the party he represents always does!

That said, my personal political disagreements with David do also contribute to why I will be voting Green in May and not for David/Labour. Although to reiterate the weight of my reasoning here rests on the party he represents, not David as a person.

If you take just the Facebook group’s first point around same sex consent age as a case in point. When I asked him in 2010 about why he voted against lowering the age of consent for same sex couples so it matched that of heterosexual couples he responded by saying it was because he thought no one, regardless of their sexuality, should be able to have sex before the age of 18 and that he wanted the heterosexual age of consent to go up!

Slightly horrified about this slightly patronising answer and wondering if he tells this to the young Labour voters he has out delivering leaflets that he thinks their sexual relationships should be illegal, I went on to ask him then why he voted against a 2002 motion to vote on his own government’s plans to allow unmarried and gay couples to adopt children. On this occasion he blustered slightly and said that there was problem in the detail.

Did he really think that same sex couples should not be allowed to adopt? Does he still?

My worry is that David does hold homophobic views and this in turn is a bit of red line he crosses for me…discrimination. If he doesn’t he needs to work MUCH harder to convince me of this. As someone who follows equality issues quite closely I have never heard a comment from him on this subject let alone an effective rebuttal of the above accusations.

So if David is reading this, I hope he doesn’t take this as an attack but an opportunity to explain his vote against same sex couples being allowed to adopt (and maybe to clarify whether he really thinks a consensual relationship between two 17 year olds should be illegal).

There are a list of other concerns I have with David which include the ones listed above (he is reported to have wanted the abortion limit to be brought down from 24 weeks to 12 weeks!). For me though, one of my central concerns are his views on the EU that put him so far on the Eurosceptic fringe of European politics that UKIP actually endorsed him at the last election and told their candidate not to campaign against him. I kid you not!

At a time when the UK’s strategic relationship in Europe hangs in the balance the last thing this country needs is another Eurosceptic MP.

All this said, I do like David. I think he is gutsy in his politics and I didn’t like the way the facebook group went about what felt like organizing a collective attack on him. Take for example their repeated claim that he is ‘anti-women’ because of his stance on euthanasia. It is sensationalist and in my mind overtly aggressive. Clearly David values and campaigns for gender equality and his opposition to euthanasia is based on his Christian beliefs not on any discriminatory attitudes towards women.

We need to hold politicians to account but I don’t think we do this by ‘going after them’. It felt to me that this is what the facebook group was doing.

But ultimately all of this sits far from the main reasons for not voting for David Drew. Simply it is the fact that The Green Party still best represents the sort of politics I want to see and so, assuming their candidate or the party does not cross any red lines for me between now and the election, this is how I will be voting in May 2015.

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Greens to win in Brighton and finish second place in Norwich according to Lord Ashcroft after latest poll

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Lord Ashcroft’s poll of specific marginal seats has resulted in some good news for The Green Party.

Writing on his findings the pollster commented:

“The swing to Labour would have been even greater had it not been for the Green Party, which has attracted around one in seven Lib Dem defectors in these seats since 2010. I found the Greens in second place on 20% in Norwich South, and third on 10% in Manchester Withington. Indeed for every two Lib Dem defectors switching to Labour, one has gone to the Greens.

The Greens’ performance suggests they may have been identified as the new non-of-the-above vote for former Lib Dems who dislike the coalition and do not want to back any of the established parties. In other words, they could perform the same function for younger urban voters that UKIP currently does among older voters in other parts of the country.

In Brighton Pavilion (whose figures are not included in the overall calculations for the Lib Dem-Lab marginals), I found Labour on 33%, just one point ahead of the Greens, who were up a point on the last election. The seat will evidently be closely contested but on this basis I would not be surprised to see Caroline Lucas holding on next year.”

Lord Ashcroft’s polling has consistently found the Green Party to be on 6-7% of the national vote share – a huge increase on their 1% vote share from 2010 and leaves them not only as the main contender for seats such as Brighton Pavilion and Norwich South but also realistically looking to keep their deposits in a number of seats across the country.

This polling follows strong performances in May’s elections where the Greens elected an additional MEP (and as such they proudly point out they now have treble the number of the Liberal Democrats MEPs) and beat the Lib Dems into in the total vote share – 1.2million voted for a Greens compared to for the Lib Dems 1.09million. The Greens also gained 23 additional councillors at the Local Elections and are now the official opposition in Liverpool, Norwich, Solihull and the London boroughs of Lewisham and Islington.

Things are looking up for Green politics in the UK.

UPDATE:

The good folk at Norwich Green Party just tweeted me to say:

 

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Another PR disaster for Green Cllr Ben Duncan

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Green Cllr, Ben Duncan has stumbled into another PR disaster.

The Cllr for Kemptown in Brighton, notorious for being off message, tweeted on ‘Armed Forces Day':

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On this particular twitter PR disaster it took the Cllr nearly 48 hours to apologize:

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And, as you might expect, this apology didn’t go down too well with some:

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The local party were quick to distant themselves from his remarks as well:

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I keep referring to Cllr Duncan’s PR disasters in the plural because this isn’t the first time he has had to apologize. There was of course his 2012 apology for a remark about “murdering, raping and looting” during a debate on legalised cannabis cafes where he famously apologized with the phrase:

“I apologise unreservedly for mentioning rape in what was meant to be a light-hearted, ironic tweet…” 

Then there was that 2013 highlight where he was quoted in what was already a less than complimentary article about the Green Party in the The Guardian as saying:

“Jason Kitcat’s policies have time and again betrayed working people, city residents – and the electoral interests of the Green Party of England and Wales.”

Not exactly on message.

The Green Party with their lack of whip system is well known for accepting and encouraging internal disagreement and debate, but one has to wonder how much longer they will tolerate Cllr Duncan and his off message, and at time highly offensive, online comments?

You can keep up-to-date with Cllr Duncan’s online antics by following his twitter account @KemptownBen.

A hat tip to Charlotte Henry’s blog where I first saw this story.

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