Tag Archives: Green

Local elections: Bristol results

bristol
Labour gain three additional seats and stay the largest party on the council but fail to gain enough seats to gain ‘overall control’.

With The Green Party gaining 2 seats this leaves them holding the ‘balance of power’ in Bristol (if they vote with the Labour group then a motion will pass regardless of what the Conservatives or Lib Dems do).

Following a national trend the coalition partners took a wee kicking both losing vote share. However I am sure there are some within the local Lib Dems who will be sighing with relief that they still have 16 seats on the council (successfully defending 4).

It should also be noted that despite a drop in vote share, The Conservatives managed to gain one council seat.

Although Labour saw a modest gain in the vote share it is The Green Party who will be celebrating these results with a much larger gain of the overall vote share.

UKIP with 11% of the vote picked up one Cllr. A win, but hardly the ‘earthquake’ they claim to making elsewhere in the country.

Bristol popular votes:

Lab 21,644 (28.55%)
Con 17,942 (23.67%)
LD 12,848 (16.95%)
Green 11,781 (15.54%)
UKIP 8,874 (11.71%)
TUSC 1,579 (2.08%)

Changes since 2010 locals:

Lab +1.76%
Con -3.55%
LD -17.33%
Green +7.60%
UKIP +11.71%
TUSC +2.08%

Swing, Con to Lab: 2.66%

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Ask yourself a question – are you going to let UKIP win?

So a hat tip to the Liberal Democrats for this latest campaigns video as they continue to (not very successfully) pitch themselves as the only party that can stand up to UKIP.

I always maintain that there is a place and time for negative campaigning and this anti-UKIP rhetoric is one of them. Although, to clarify, I don’t think it is enough by itself.

Anyway – have a watch:

Let me know what you think of the video and whether or not it is more or less likely to make you vote Lib Dem!

Also, I am slightly aware that I have been rubbishing quite a lot of what The Green Party has been putting out lately so I thought it only right that I also highlight this rather good animated video from them regarding the privatization of the NHS. Again, well worth a watch.

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The BNP and the tactical battle for the North West

In 2009, Nick Griffin won a seat in the European Parliament after his party, the BNP, secured 132,094 votes*. We are now just over 4 months away from kicking him out. But the question is how? And what might come in his place?

Griffin visits Hamilton
The BNP’s political performance is like that of rollercoaster. What goes up must come down. Wherever the BNP saw electoral success they very quickly saw dismal failure. On this rollercoaster we are about to hit the final dip that, rather than swooping them back to dizzying electoral heights, will leave them derailed.

In the North West the BNP won 132,094 votes – enough to elect their racist-in-chief, Nick Griffin, to the European Parliament**.

If opinion polls are to be believed it would be a fair bet to assume that the BNP won’t be retaining their seat in the North West. The BNP are to British politics what Ford Pinto’s were to advancements in automotive safety.

Confident that this could play to their favour, UKIP activists were quoted in today’s Huffington Post saying they expected to win 50-75% of these votes – You know you’re a classy party when you’re celebrating mopping up the aftermath of a fascist party’s demise.

Saying that, we can also expect UKIP to gain in other areas. They are increasingly positioning themselves as the protest vote – it would be a reasonable assumption to say that this will hit those in power in Westminster the hardest. The Tories and Lib Dems picked up 4 seats between them in 2009. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that half at the 2014 elections.

Last but not least there are The Green Party who in 2009 missed winning another seat by a meagre 5,000 votes or, put another way, just 0.3%. With the right campaign there is little reason to think that they won’t secure one seat in the North West***.

It is important, in relation to keeping our fascist friend Mr Griffin out of office, that The Green Party does beat the BNP. It is very hard to imagine the BNP securing a seat in 6th place – but if Labour and UKIP fail to perform as well as expected the BNP could once again slip through the backdoor if they finish 5th.

So my conclusion is this.

  • If you vote Labour you will help them secure a third seat, but in reality your vote will be one of tens of thousands that places them between the benchmarks for gaining 3 or 4 seats.
  • If you vote UKIP you will contribute to both their regional and national rise in these elections. But a warning that I read on twitter today offers some humbling advice. Voting UKIP as a protest vote is like shitting in a hotel bed to protest about the bad service…only to realise you have to sleep in it that night.
  • If you vote Liberal Democrats, you will be fighting for them to keep hold of their one elected representative. Sadly I think this might well turnout to be losing battle.
  • If you vote Conservative you will be, in reality, fighting to put a stopper in the hemorrhage of votes flooding to UKIP. You might just enable them hold onto 2 elected representatives.
  • If you vote Green you will contribute in all likelihood to them securing their first MEP in the North West. I would argue that tactically it is also the most useful party to vote for if your aim is to keep the BNP out.
  • Lastly if you plan to vote BNP…well what can I say?
  • Oh, and if you’re one of those inexplicable 25,000 people who voted for the Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship – can you please get in touch…I’ve never met one before!

The North West will be a fascinating political battle ground over the coming months. We have to wait until May 22nd though to find out who will come out on top.

 

* The 2009 North West election results can be seen here.
** On a side note, one of my personal highlights of my time spent working in Brussels was watching Griffin lost in the, admittedly quite confusing, European Parliament.
*** The lead candidate for The Green Party is less sure about the demise of the BNP and wrote this article in the Huffington Post calling for unity to defeat the BNP…and get him elected. 

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Seasonal ho-ho-hope for The Green Party

A new poll from YouGov shows that the majority of Brits think Father Christmas would vote for either Labour or The Green Party.

yougov

What is quite interesting about this poll however is that support tends to fall along party lines…apart for The Green Party who seem to pick up support from voters across the political spectrum.

As YouGov noted:

“A majority of Labour voters (64%), Conservative voters (59%) and UKIP voters (60%) all believe that Father Christmas would vote for the party that they support. Worryingly for the Liberal Democrats however, just 30% of their voters think Father Christmas would vote Lib Dem.”

Interestingly, 42% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 thought that Father Christmas would be a Green voter while just 10% of them thought he would vote Lib Dem.

Some ho-ho-hope for The Green Party and another worrying sign for the Lib Dems.

You can see the full results here.

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Broken promises – the coalition is back tracking over its commitment to ban illegal timber

Every year 19,000 square kilometres of Amazon is flattened

The coalition agreement stated, “We will introduce measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence”. Now however, the Government has said it is content to follow weaker EU legislation and simply ban illegal timber from entering the EU. This would not affect the legality of buying/selling or owning illegal timber.

Prior to the General Election Greg Barker explained the limitations of the EU approach as follows: “It is clear that action at European level will not go far enough. It [the new EU measure] lacks an explicit overarching prohibition on illegal timber in the EU market. With no explicit prohibition, there is no incentive to exclude illegal timber from entering the market; there is only an incentive to prove that the company concerned has tried to prevent it. Furthermore, the regulation applies only to those companies that place timber and timber products on the market for the first time, rather than all operators involved in the distribution chain. Loopholes are therefore created whereby all downstream companies-the majority of EU traders-are exempt from even the bare minimum of due diligence requirements. A prohibition on illegal timber needs to apply to all companies that make timber available to the market, whatever their position in the supply chain.”

So if a Government minister can see this, and the coalition agreed last May to go further than the EU by prohibiting the possession of illegal timber then why has the Government decided to back track on the issue? Answers on a postcard please!

I am delighted to see that Caroline Lucas MP has kept this issue on the agenda by drafting an EDM highlighting how disappointing this move is. Disappointingly however, only 78 MPs have signed up to it.

The UK Government has a responsibility to push this as far as possible. The current EU legislation will not stem the flow of illegal timber, let alone in the time frame or quantity that our fight against climate change and deforestation demands.

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Environmental refugees – Why an environmental refugee convention for the 21st century is needed

Since the development of the modern nation-state, people have been fleeing them.   The very concept of a nation-state developed out of warring territories.  The idea however, of international responsibility for individuals forced out of their nation clearly did not develop at the same time as nation states.  It wasn’t until after WW2 that any form of international responsibility became acknowledged in international law.  After WW2 politicians were concerned about the issues of the day (political, religious and ethnic persecution). The issue of environmental degradation as a cause to flee your country was not on the agenda.   We have to up-date what we understand to be a refugee.  We have to create a refugee convention fit for the 21st century.  A convention that covers the issues facing a 21st century refugee – climate change.  This problem is only going to get worse.

Other reasons why people flee also need to be taken into consideration.  For example sexuality need to be carefully considered.  The case of Mehdi Kazemi whose asylum claim was rejected despite his boyfriend in Iran already being executed for “sodomy” is a shameful blight on our countries recent history. This blog however will focus predominantly on the need to protect those who are fleeing their country for environmental reasons.

The problem inherent with climate change is that it is not one single environmental problem that forces people to flee. Instead it is a complex web of climate changes linked by unpredictable feedbacks.  Thus the science is still often contradictory. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes advocates who connect climate change with increasing number of refugees make is to pretend they can predict how it will affect humanity exactly.  This simply is not possible. Thus it presents a huge challenge, how to prepare for and act on a slowly unifying field of scientific research when all major power sources in the current political climate appear to be working against environmental sustainability?  It is clear there are no easy answers for this question.

The basic problem with acknowledging environmental refugees is that it implicitly suggests that the west have to take responsibility for “our” actions.  The moral obligation was taken on by New Zealand to take in the citizens of the collection of small islands of Tuvalu; the independent nation-state which is predicted to be underwater within a century by rising sea levels.  Tuvalu has a population of just 11,000 and so a satisfactory solution was relatively easy to find, even if it’s not perfect.  The real challenge faced by the international community as a result of rising sea levels are the millions more to be displaced, the 15 million in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, Bangladesh. If we in the West accept that we have a responsibility, we have accepted we have a responsibility for the hundreds of millions of people fleeing for climate change related reasons.  Would any government want to do this?

The wider consequences of accepting the term environmental refugees are massive.  Governments would have to provide protection for millions more, 5 or 6 times the number of conventional refugees at the moment if you accept the UNEP estimate.  The refugee debate would need to open itself up to reconsider other categories of people left out of the current convention (Internally Displaced Person’s and sexuality for example).  The UN would then need to address its current structures, could one UN body address all these different fields and concerns? There is a fairly comprehensive argument that would suggest the UNHCR is struggling under its current mandate.  So potentially this could justify a separate environmental refugee commission.  With the international community acknowledging these new types of refugees could host countries cope?  Would this approach succeed or would there be a anti-asylum backlash? Would current host countries sign up to such a concept? These are all questions that must be addressed before taking on moral arguments surrounding environmental refugees. 

One thing is for sure; the idea of “charity” to “help” those affected by climate change is not sustainable. Too often governments acknowledge their role but hide behind concepts of charity.  The Tsunami disaster is a good example, individuals, governments and business alike pledged 278 million dollars to the humanitarian disaster; Oxfam was over whelmed with money but it was all given as ‘charity’.  Is there anything wrong with this? It provided the basic support mechanism that the 1.8 million displaced people so desperately needed.  The problem however is that the concept of charity is inconsistent and unreliable, while the Tsunami was being overly funded (and rightly so) there were still non headline grabbing locus plagues that hit the Sahel that left food shortages affecting 9 million.   Similarly the aid money that comes through charity doesn’t tackle the underlying problems, thus monetary aid is all too often used as a smokescreen for government inaction.  This is not to say it doesn’t have its role but it ultimately only fixes short-term problems.  Also, at any point (times of recession) it faces the threat of being withdrawn.

Governments should not be in a position where they can chose to act in a humanitarian sense in one moment but ignore other situations in another.  There is a need for a legally binding agreement to bond government’s obligation to act in the case of environmental refugees.  That is why a working definition is so important.  Despite this, there has been no adequate working definition of an ‘environmental refugee’ put forward.  This does not mean though that they are not real and not in need of real protection.  

This is not an issue that sits comfortably with a conclusion.  The debate around environmental refugees will continue and an adequate solution will not be reached.  We have known about these problems for decades and solutions have only been partially reached.  A working definition of a refugee that would deprive millions of the protection they deserve and require must be adopted and indeed codified into international law.   Few would argue that the current definition of ‘refugee’ is perfect; and indeed few would argue we would be better off without it.  The same applies to environmental refugees.   This leaves a close to impossible question, how do you quantify an environmental refugee.  Is it the level of human influence, the time scale or the number of displaced that should qualify the individuals who would claim environmental refugee status to be refugees?  It is clear though that a limited working definition remains better than none at all. 

Recent attention on climate change suggests that, perhaps, the time is now ripe for action to be taken to deal with the world’s environmental refugee problem.

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A Green reflection on the General Election

Anya Whiteside, celebrating Caroline Lucas' victory

In Stroud, Green Councillor Phillip Booth kept his council seat with a whopping 68% of the vote.   Sadly, this result could not be matched at the general election.  Due largely to the squeeze on the Green vote due to the marginal nature of Stroud constituency, the Greens picked up about 1,500 votes (2.7%).  For the full results click here.

Nationally however, the Greens picked up their first ever MP.  This is a truly historic moment for the Green Party.  To sum up how important this is I copy out here the transcript of Caroline’s acceptance speech (If you can’t be arsed to read it all shame on you, but watch it on you-tube here)

“The emphatic support of voters in Brighton Pavilion show that they do want to support a party whose values represent fairness, social justice and environmental well-being. They have shown that they are prepared to put their trust in the Greens, despite the overwhelming national media focus on the three largest parties and a voting system that is fundamentally undemocratic. I feel humbled by their trust in me, and I am excited by this vote of confidence and I’m looking forward to the challenging task of fully representing the voters of Brighton.

“This victory is no accident: it is the result of the hard work and commitment of thousands of Green Party members and supporters not only in Brighton but from right across the country over the past months and years. It is their work and support that has helped deliver this win, and the victory is as much theirs as it is mine.

“Thanks to the confidence that the voters of Brighton Pavilion have shown, Green principles and policies will now have a voice in Parliament. Policies such as responding to climate change with a million new ‘green’ jobs in low-carbon industries, fair pensions and care for older people, and stronger regulation of the banks will be heard in the House of Commons. I will also use my influence as an MP in the city of Brighton & Hove to push for affordable housing for the city, a new secondary school for the city, and greater backing for the city’s creative industries.

“Finally, as this election shows, the first-past-the post voting system used for general elections is utterly discredited. I will be strongly backing calls for a referendum to replace it with a form of proportional representation that properly reflects the needs and views of 21st century voters. If a form of proportional representation is introduced, the Green Party is confident that its true level of support nationally can be represented properly.”

This election will go down in history as the moment when the Greens broke through to the UK parliament!

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The Challenge ahead for Neil Carmichael

Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud

Stroud lost their widely loved Labour and Cooperative MP David Drew, as Neil Carmichael the Conservative pipped him to the post at Thursday’s General Election.  David was not loved because of his party (indeed this was a problematic area for many), but because of his record as a “constituent MP”.  In other words, because he made it known that he cared about his constituents and worked on their behalf.  David set down the challenge for Neil during his speech on Friday morning saying that he would “drop the files off so you Neil can get started”.  On the campaign trail I met numerous hardened Conservatives who were going to vote for David because they knew someone David had personally helped out.  Neil must be able to show that he can represent all of his constituents not just the 30% who had voted for him by taking up these cases.

Stroud in the past has had less than effective Conservative MP’s.  The most recent of which was Roger Knapman, who later went on to become leader of the UK Independence Party.  It is widely held in the Stroud Valleys that Roger represented a wholly different kind of politics to David, despite their shared scepticism of the EU.  Roger was born in Devon and soon after being defeated by David in 97 returned to Devon to contest a seat in North Devon.  This is in stark contrast to David Drew who is truly seen as a local “Stroudite” (whether this is a good thing or not remains to be debated).

Many fear Neil may just be another Roger; a man too busy with the dealings of Westminster to be able to truly represent Stroud. I have heard countless “stoudies” rubbish Neil’s character with little or no basis.  I say, let’s wait; at least until he has made a mistake before we start the attack.

Neil, academically speaking, represents a more progressive wing of conservatism.  He has assured me that he opposes the Conservative’s involvement with the ECR group in the European Parliament because of the “unsavoury nature” of those who they sit with in coalition for example. There is no reason to believe (at this stage) that Neil will be any worst a constituent MP than David (although he must prove this) and there is no reason to think that he will be any worse than other elected Conservatives (just think we could have Dr Fox as our representative).  Essentially, I am saying lets hold our fire and let him prove himself (for the good or the bad).  At this stage we should be giving him all the support we can to see if he can give it his best shot.  I want the best for Stroud and this will only happen if we try to work positively with our new MP.

Neil remains a decent hard working person.  He was before he got elected, and he will remain to be so.  We might disagree with some of his politics, but I do not see any advantage attacking the man.  Equally, I see no point in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by talking up the “inevitable demise of the next 5 years”.  Now is the time to be drawing out shared politics such as our equal commitment to localism and see how this can benefit Stroud and its surrounding valleys.  Will Neil publicly back the community supported agriculture project in Stroud for example? Will he push for the investment needed (not cuts) in the Stroud valleys to make us a leading force in renewable technologies (including the manufacturing of wind turbines despite the hysteria in the Cotswold villages)? Will he really work to challenge the gender pay gap that persists in our society? These are all issues that Neil and the Greens agree need to be tackled; these are the sorts of areas that I would love to see Neil and the Greens working together on.

As far as I can see, he has done nothing to deserve the hatred that I have heard off people (not from Greens but from members of the public and other political parties), he simply has the misfortune of representing the Conservative Party.  Let’s hope that Neil has the vision and the perspective to engage across the political spectrum for the good of the people of the Stroud valleys and beyond!

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Why painting conservatives as racists is not fair

William Hague, accused of "Naked Racism" by Tony Benn. Photo thanks to BBC.

It is very easy to paint the UK Conservatives as racists.  Indeed, it has to be noted that they do rather lend themselves to it.  A Guardian comments article today has a look back at Tory racism over the last year, highlighting case after case of Conservatives making terrible racist comments.  I have blogged before about how the Tories sit with racist and homophobic partners in the European Parliament.  Yet all of this needs some clarification.  There is nothing inherently racist about voting (or at a push) being a member of the Conservative Party.

The Tories, top brass present themselves to be as clean as a whistle, commenting that racism is a thing of the past for the Tories. Sadly, as the above mentioned article suggests, this is not the case.  There appears to be a correlation between those active in the party and a certain level or racism.  This is obviously not absolute (I know some very open and accepting Tory officials) but it does appear to set a rule of thumb. Elected Tories often have an entrenched form of racism at the basis of their politics. 

This has to be separated from the mass of Tory voters.  I honestly believe that there are many Conservative voters who share similar feelings to me.  I come from a long background of “blue”.  Growing up in rural Gloucestershire in a middle-class family I have been exposed to all the highlights (and many lowlights) of a true blue up-bringing.  I feel in many ways that I am a conservative at heart – I do not like things to change.  I like drinking tea and going for walks.  I find protests uncomfortable and noisy.  When people advocate change you never know what’s going to happen. I like many traditional aspects of life and I want to irrationally hold on to them.  Just because I like tea when served in fine china, it does not mean I am a racist.  There is nothing inherent about liking the traditional aspects of life and being a racist.  It follows however, that if you share these sentiments then you to have to consider whether a Tory vote really represents your values.  Just because you like a quiet life, does that mean you can back a party dripping in racism?

Despite Cameron’s PR game trying to paint them as the cuddly party, there is still a nasty side to them that personally means I could never support them.  Despite what Cameron peddles about racism, it has been shown his party is endemically racist.  Despite what Cameron would say about opposing the death penalty, many of his MEP’s voted against the EU position on the death penalty at the latest Strasbourg session.  Despite what Cameron would say about equality we can see that his party is dominated by the Eton élite who get upset if asked to sit in standard class on the train!

These guys do not represent the “levels of common decency” that are key to my moral make-up.  These guys represent something that is alien to me, xenophobia, racism and a massive sense of homophobia.  I am going to vote Green at the next election because they are there to preserve, to look after and care for many of the things that I care about (the countryside, my old age, the disadvantaged in society, the NHS, schooling etc).  I cannot support the conservatives; yet let’s not start accusing every other conservative voter of being a racist; this simply is not the case.

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