Tag Archives: Stroud

David Drew still on odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

ladbrokesDavid Drew, the former MP for Stroud and Labour Party candidate for 2015, is still odds on favourite to win back the Stroud marginal seat according to new odds tweeted by Ladbrokes.

This shows no real significant change since February last year when Hynd’s Blog reported that Ladbrooks had Drew at 4/9 to win back his old seat.

If you were interested in an outside bet though, Ladbrokes are now giving odds for the Green Party at 50/1.

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A follow up letter to Neil Carmichael MP on the detention of Shaker Aamer

This is a copy of a follow up letter sent to my local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, in response to his response to my original inquiry:

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter regarding the ongoing detention without charge or trial of British resident Shaker Aamer.

It is heartening to note from your reply the seriousness with which both yourself and purportedly the British government takes this issue. However I note that your otherwise positive response failed to take note of, or respond to, my request for you to take two actions to help secure Shaker’s release or trial.

I write to you now therefore to reiterate those requests to:

  • To 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 (1).
  • 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.

Without actions your supportive words are left as nothing more than well intentioned words.

I understand that ultimately Shaker’s future rests in the hands of the American government but I urge you to do what you can, at this time, to ensure that he doesn’t have to endure one more day in this inhumane legal limbo.

I once again look forward to a timely response by email.

Steve Hynd

  1. The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” has so far obtained at least 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

You can read my original letter to Neil here and you can read a copy of Neil’s response to my original letter below:

Thank you for contacting me about the detention of Shaker Aamer.

I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo Bay. I believe it is vital that he is released as soon as possible and returned to the UK so he can be reunited with his family.

The Prime Minister personally raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Obama at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and later wrote to the President reaffirming the importance the UK places on the request for Mr Aamer’s release. The Former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, also raised the case with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in June this year.

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.  Foreign Office Ministers have often reiterated that the British Government’s policy is unchanged – that it will support efforts in the United States to close Guantanamo Bay and to seek the return of UK residents and nationals.

While any decision about Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States Government, please rest assured that I will support the UK Government’s efforts as it does all in its power to seek his return.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Neil Carmichael

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How the Green Party in Stroud responded to the idea of a UKIP/Green pact

Stroud Greens
The Green Party Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in Stroud, Chris Jockel, came out with this stirring statement in response to a UKIP suggestion of a Green/UKIP pact in Stroud.

From the local rag, the Stroud News and Journal:

“We believe UKIP promote a message of fear, division and potentially hatred, born of a superficial, lazy and ultimately dishonest analysis of the national and local situation,”

Talk about pulling no punches!

Just in case any local UKIPers were left in any doubt the Green Party’s MEP for South West of England (and formerly a Stroud District Cllr), Molly Scott Cato, added:

“UKIP’s candidate seems to subscribe to the adage that ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ but I have to tell her that the Greens choose their friends with more care than that.”

Well, glad we got that one sorted. No UKIP/Green pact in Stroud!

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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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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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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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Former Stroud College student, Sajid Javid MP appointed as Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and Equalities

Sajid
Sajid Javid, a former student at the FE Stroud College, has been appointed new Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and Equalities after the controversial resignation of Maria Miller MP.

Javid has been widely hailed as a rising star within the Conservative Party and is the first of the 2010 in-take of MPs to hold such ministerial responsibilities.

Javid, unlike the majority of his now cabinet colleagues attended a comprehensive school before attending Stroud’s FE college. He went onto study Economics and Politics at Exeter University before moving straight into the banking industry.

In 2010 he was elected the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove.

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A vote for UKIP in Stroud is a vote against science

ukip
My local paper, The Stroud News and Journal, this week published a letter from the UKIP perspective parliamentary candidate, Caroline Stephens. In the article Ms Stephens argues ‘that the climate has always been changing’ and that the local Greens should leave poor old Mr Patterson (the current climate change sceptic Tory Environment Minister) alone.

For those of you who are not familiar with the environmentalist epicentre which is Stroud, this move is akin to turning up to the WOMAD music festival to argue why you thought, not that you just didn’t like world music, but that it didn’t actually exist.

The reaction she received in the SNJ was comparable to a very verbal booing off stage. It was a splendid mixture of disbelief, outrage and bewildered humour.

But for every Stroudie who commented on the article, there are probably hundreds more who were taken in by her half-truths.

And so, once again, I feel honour bound, for the sake of anyone who is even considering lending her a vote, to highlight the pure idiocy of what she (and many other UKIPpers) actually thinks:

Point 1 – She writes:

If climate had never changed, the world would still be in say the Jurassic period maybe. If climate didn’t vary from one place to another sun seekers would not likely prefer southern Spain to the north of Scotland for their sun bathing holidays.

The first sentence is about as idiotic axiomatic and a non-sentence as me saying ‘if the Sun wasn’t there then there would be no life on this planet’.

I look forward to her speculation about where we would be without gravity.

Her second sentence shows a misunderstanding (or purposeful confusion?) of the fact that when we talk about global warming, we are talking about the globe, not what the weather is like in Spain.

Up to this point she is slightly odd but nothing too harmful.

Point 2 – She writes:

Currently there has been no statistically significant global warming for around 17 years (depending on which dataset is used).

I love the proviso here… “depending on which data set you use”. Perfect.

I think she is referring to the disparity between surface temperature and ocean temperature. If so, our friends over at Skeptical Science (who have devoted quite a lot of time to myth busting) write:

“Records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there is no sign of it slowing any time soon (Figure 1).  More than 90% of global warming heat goes into warming the oceans, while less than 3% goes into increasing the surface air temperature.”

So that explains the surface temperature recordings to which I assume she refers (but this is hard to tell when her myths are written with no sources to support them).

You can read more about why the earth has been getting warmer in the last 17 years here.

Point 3 – She then references Prof John Cristy:

Yes, her only real half reference is the same John Cristy profiled here. Lol.

Point 4 – One has to ask how there were so many storms and floods going back to the nineteenth century and before. No one had even thought of blaming humankind for the weather then although the alarmists of the day did blame so called witches for ‘cooking’ the weather? Weather (rain) not climate change has been the cause of floods which have been exacerbated by the European Union’s discouraging dredging of waterways in the name of creating wetland wildlife habitats.

Just wow…of course, it is the EU’s fault!

Right, let’s keep this simple. Rain (weather) is different to climate. But the climate can impact on extreme weather events (this was the very basic point that Green Cllr Sarah Lunnon was making that sparked this bizarre response from Ms Stephens).

If you want to know exactly how climate change might impact on extreme weather events you can read this 2012 IPCC report.

A slightly more credible source than her…oh wait…none existing source.

Point 5 – (I skip a bit here as it all relates to extreme weather and frankly, I’m getting a bit bored). But towards the end she writes:

Thank goodness there are a few climate rationalists left in the Coalition to try to defend our way of life.

Sigh. “Climate rationalist”. She is of course referring to Owen Patterson who I think broke a record a few months back with the most number of climate change myths spouted on national radio.

Read this blog on his (would be comic if it wasn’t so depressing) appearance on the BBC’s Any Questions.

The Greens have my absolute backing when they call for the sacking of this man who seems to be able to ignore basic climate science.

In short, the whole letter consisted of half-truths, misinformation and vague unsupported ideas that I felt needed to be tackled .

But I look forward to Ms Stephen’s (fully referenced with peer reviewed science) response.

Until this happens though I hope the good people of Stroud will back a candidate/party that actually uses science to base their views (and policies on).

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Filed under Climate Change, EU politics, Far-right politics, Gloucestershire, Media, Politics

Stroud MP makes national news…for the wrong reasons

Neil
Stroud’s Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, isn’t famed for his media profile. And so it was with a little surprise that I saw that he featured in Hugh Muir’s Guardian Diary.

They say any publicity is good publicity…for Mr Carmichael’s sake I hope that’s true.

Muir writes on Mr Carmichael’s rather strange question in the Commons:

“There are neighbourhood plans in Chalford, Dursley, Eastington and nearly a dozen other areas in my constituency,” boasted Stroud MP Neil Carmichael. “Does the minister agree that a good neighbourhood plan is an appropriate protector against inappropriate developments?” And Boles did agree – but how can there be a dozen plans in Stroud when there are only a handful in existence, voted through by referendums, in England and Wales? “There actually aren’t any,” one puzzled constituent said. “It was a puff question to support the coalition’s planning policy.” Can that be so, we asked Carmichael. “None have had the vote yet, but some are close,” he said. “I should have corrected it at the time. I should have said there are neighbourhood plans under way.” Indeed. No one wants the House misled.

Not exactly the sort of national press coverage Mr Carmichael would have been hoping for.

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Former Labour MP David Drew odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

Drew
Ladbrokes have today released betting odds for the Stroud constituency General Election results for 2015. Stroud’s former MP David Drew will be pleased to see that he is considered odds on favourite.

In 2010 David Drew was defeated by the long-standing Conservative candidate Neil Carmichael by just 2.24%.

2010 Stroud General Election Results:
Conservative: 23679 (40.84%)
Labour: 22380 (38.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 8955 (15.45%)
Green: 1542 (2.66%)
UKIP: 1301 (2.24%)
Independent: 116 (0.2%)
Majority: 1299 (2.24%)

As a result Stroud is considered as a key battleground for the 2015 election. We know that Stroud features 16th on Labour’s 106 must win seats to secure a majority. We also know that Stroud is considered part of the Conservative 40/40 2015 campaign strategy (hold 40 key marginal and win 40 more).

So what will it take for Stroud to once again turn red?

Control the Labour to UKIP vote loss – Although of course UKIP are not a real contender for winning the Stroud seat, they could potentially cost both Labour and the Conservatives dearly. There is evidence to suggest UKIP nationally will dent both Conservative and Labour’s vote share, but locally in Stroud, David Drew is a well-known ‘Eurosceptic’. For Labour to win Stroud back they need to be able to play on this without alienating their core demographic. It will be interesting to watch how the local Labour party plays Drew’s well known ‘Euroscepticism’ in the more working class areas of the constituency such as Storehouse and the centre of Stroud.

Mop up the Liberal Democrats – The Liberal Democrats are widely expected to haemorrhage many of their 8,955 votes as the regional party concentrates on re-electing their standing MPs in the South West. To do this Labour need to learn a lesson from the Liberal Democrats and start producing some bar charts that leave the electorate with the clear message: Stroud is a two-horse race, vote Labour to keep the Tories out. It will be interesting to see if this ‘two-horse race’ rhetoric comes out in the Lib Dem strong-hold of Dursley.

Keep an eye on The Green Party – Lastly there is also the Green Party which saw their vote drop by about a 1,000 from 2005 to 2010 after a substantial campaign by the local Labour party to present David Drew as the ‘green choice’. Just before the election the local Labour party released an advert that some interpreted as a message from the Green Party endorsing the Labour candidate. Although I don’t expect there to see a repeat of a campaign of such intensity to secure Green votes, I am sure that the local Labour party will be wanting to squash any sign of resurgence from the Greens (who maintain a healthy vote share in local elections).

Get their core vote out – At every election we know that the core Conservative vote will turn up to the ballot box. As always, Labour’s challenge will be to ensure that their core support gets out to vote. With this in mind, expect to see a big push for up-dating voter intentions* on their data-bases and then a mammoth election day operation!

*Steve’s tip of the day. To avoid having your door knocked on constantly on election day, tell whatever party that turns up your doorstep that you would never consider voting for them. This way you’re placed in their records as a waste of time to chase on election day.  

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Fair fares: A protest in Stroud

??????????
This morning I joined a handful of others outside Stroud train station to protest at the latest hike in rail fares and to call for the renationalisation of the First-Great-Western franchise.

Why? Well, where to start. Figures show that the average rail season ticket in the UK has now risen to £2,191. This, put another way, is equivalent to 8% of the median UK salary. Even more depressingly, this is considerably higher than the £1,441 average fuel cost of driving to work.

But it gets worse. There are sections of the UK rail network now where you pay as much as £6 a mile.

The trains in the UK are bloody expensive. This is at least in part due to the last 20 years of privatisation. The Rebuilding Rail report put the cost of the privatisation of the railways at £1.2bn a year. Or again, put another way, enough money to cut the average rail fare by 18%.

These ticket prices mean that for many trains are simply an unaffordable luxury. This restricts social mobility and also drives climate change as people opt for their own carbon intensive forms of transport.

So, the question then is not why was I stood outside a station protesting but more why were you not stood with me?

Never fear though…there is always something you can do. Write to your MP and ask them to support the recently launched Private Members Bill which, if adopted, “Requires the Secretary of State to assume control of passenger rail franchises when they come up for renewal”.

The last 20 year tell us that governments are happy for train services to be run for private profit not the public good. It’s up to us to tell them that we want our trains running for the public good.

UPDATE:

Soon after publishing Molly Scott Cato, The Green Party lead candidate for the South West European Parliament elections, contacted me to highlight this e-petition – please do also sign the petition.

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Brian Oosthuysen, on the birth of the Rainbow Nation and the death of Mandela

This is a guest post from Brian Oosthuysen on the death of Nelson Mandela. Brian is a Labour Party Gloucestershire County Councillor in Stroud and he is also a consistent campaigner for freedom, fairness and human rights both locally and internationally. Brian tweets @BrianatRodboro

Mandela 2
Apartheid was an evil, vicious system which saw the death of many thousands and the incarceration of even more. It dominated all aspects of life and was one of the reasons I left SA as a young man.

Nelson Mandela was one of those sent to prison and he suffered in many different and horrible  ways during his 27 years behind bars.

In the 70s and 80s I often addressed meetings as a member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in England and I always ended my talk with a look into the future, which I saw as unbearably bleak.  “It will”, I would say, “end in bloodshed and the deaths of thousands of black and white people”.

And then Nelson Mandela (Madiba) was released and almost immediately transformed the political and social landscape in South Africa, and the Rainbow Nation was born.

His act of forgiveness to his former warders, his call for reconciliation and his setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee showed the people of South Africa and the world that he was a man of towering stature and amazing integrity.  The constitution which his new government brought in is recognised across the world as one of the most progressive, and his stamp is clearly on it.

South Africa has many problems but the South Africa we now have is a country more at peace with itself than it has been since before 1945 when the Nationalist government came to power and Madiba is the reason for this.

Madiba once said, “No one is born hating another because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

He lived out that maxim and his death leaves the world a darker, colder place.

Hamba Kahle, Madiba.

 

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I look forward to the day when a local newspaper headline reads: “New ASDA opens driving down local jobs and driving obesity levels up”

My local paper, The Citizen, has today reported on the opening of a new ASDA in Gloucester and once again ignores the cost to the local economy and quotes industry figures with no critical eye.

The Citizen reports:

Store manager Russ Elkins said there are still plenty of jobs up for grabs and is encouraging people from the area to apply. “This store has employed 130 from this area, and it will help deliver healthy eating at competitive prices,” he said.”

Well, if the story manager says it…it must be true.

So let’s explore Russ Elkins’ claim: “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”.

In 2005 a report was published that stated that despite improvements, supermarkets were “undermining public health goals” through price deals that “promote unhealthy food”.

In 2008 a report was released showing that supermarkets had doubled the number of promotions on unhealthy foods since 2006.  At the time Saranjit Sihota, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: “Increasing the promotion of unhealthy foods in supermarkets clearly fuels the ticking time-bomb of obesity in this country.”

In 2012, a three year study was published that found supermarkets, like ASDA, guilty of “over-promoting fatty and sugary products using special offers and price reductions”.

The trend and sentiment of these reports are damming.

For balance, I tried Googling ‘ASDA healthy eating’ and all that came up were stories on ASDA’s website (you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source) and Daily Mail articles about ASDA’s bagged salads being linked to poisoning cases (again you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source either, but still…not exactly a ringing endorsement).

So, some questions for store manager Russ: Does your supermarket disproportionally promote unhealthy foods through special offers and price discounts? If yes, how would you say this fits with your statement, “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”?

And then secondly, his claim about the store creating jobs.

Again, some questions: How many of the jobs provided will be part-time jobs?

I have read statistics to suggest that about 2/3 of all jobs in supermarket jobs are part-time. Is this reflective of the new store? Then, how many of these jobs will pay the Living Wage – the minimum someone needs to live off?

A report by the Fair Pay Network (FPN) suggested that only 1 in 7 jobs in the big four supermarkets get paid a living wage. Will this be reflective of the new ASDA store?

Lastly, of course, there is the Friends of the Earth report that found that local stores employ more people within a local community than superstores do, concluding, “The simple conclusion is that small shops are better for employment than having a superstore”.

In other words, even if ASDA did offer stable contracts and decent pay, the undeniable conclusion is that less people will be employed in an area because of the opening of a new supermarket.

Russ, do you really believe ASDA has created 130 new jobs…or just taken 200 and minced them into an own-brand 130?

At some point, it would be nice to see a local paper asking store managers these sorts of questions.

Rant over!

 

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Petition: Stop further out of town supermarket developments in Stroud

Please head over to change.org to sign this petition. Why? Well, as the petition says:

“Supermarkets claim that they offer us choice, value and convenience but they are actually powerful corporations who bully their suppliers and crush local economies. We think that Stroud has enough supermarkets and that we should be supporting our local shops and opposing the building of more supermarkets in our town.

SASS is not against change or development and fully supports new investment and regeneration in the local economy in line with the ‘Local Plan’. However, we maintain that these developments will harm industry, including small and medium sized enterprises, as well as putting pressure on diversity of livelihood and overall employment rates.

Stroud has a thriving town centre that is full of vibrant local independent retailers and a hugely successful nationally acclaimed farmers’ market. Its unique mix of shops, cafés and bars provides an excellent retail setting for tourists and residents alike. Stonehouse too has a diverse mix of independent shops, and is well-served by the co-operative store on the High Street.

These distinctly positive and attractive elements in the retail settings could change very significantly if these supermarket developments are allowed to proceed.

Developers propose to locate one supermarket on a flood-plain at Ryeford and another on a historical industrial site in Lightpill. Each site is on a key gateway route into Stonehouse and Stroud. We should fight to conserve the historic built fabric and the established infrastructure investment, and thus to enhance the integration and cultural identity of the district.  This is what gives Stroud its rich and varied attractive characteristics. We already have four large supermarkets operating in Stroud district and SASS argues strongly that there is no need for any more.”

Need more convincing? Read my blog on the proposed new ASDA here.

Then please do sign this petition.

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Gloucestershire County Council’s hypocrisy in tackling lung cancer

The Stroud News and Journal has today run the story “Lung cancer awareness campaign comes to Stroud”.

The article highlights the Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) campaign and the importance of getting yourself checked out if you display symptoms of lung cancer such as a persistent cough and breathlessness.

What it fails to comment on however are the causes of lung cancer. 90% of cases of lung cancer in the UK are attributed to smoking.

Equally it also fails to mention the £12.2 million that GCC has invested in tobacco firms.

On the one hand GCC are funding campaigns to raise awareness of lung cancer and on the other they are pumping money into an industry that is responsible for 90% of cases of lung cancer…

When I raised this with local politicians it only seemed to be the local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, who didn’t think this was a problem!

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Stroud Fringe Festival – Full line up and ‘bands to watch’

I was delighted today to read that Stroud Fringe Festival made the late but cracking addition in their line up of Birmingham based folk band, Boat to Row. Anyone who has seen them will know what I am talking about. They play folk with favourable comparisons to previous touring partner Johnny Flynn but with a soulful softer sound all of their own.

They are playing at 3:30pm Saturday 31st August  in Bank Gardens, Stroud. Make sure you are there!

One has to at this point take your metaphorical hat off to Stroud Fringe Festival. A few years back it was…well…a bit of laughing stock if we are being honest. This year though, it looks like they have built on the last few years success and put together a pretty good line up.

So without any further delay, here are a few more recommendations:

Gaz Brookfield

A Bristol based singer song writer with a certain knack in the way he tells stories.

Gaz is playing at 8pm on Friday 30th August in Bank Gardens, Stroud.

Chloe Foy

A wonderful singer song writer with all the charm and ease of Lucy Rose, but more depth and interest.

Chloe is playing at 5pm on Friday 30th August in Bank Gardens, Stroud.

George Montague

Something a bit different but a very worthy headliner, George performs (and that’s the optimum word) Jazz in the loosest possible sense of the word. He also plays the ukulele which makes him cool in itself…doesn’t it?

George is headlining at 9pm on Friday 30th August in Bank Gardens, Stroud (straight after Gaz Brookfield).

Go and check out these an other bands at a great local festival. You won’t regret it!

The full line-up can be seen here.

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Do we need a new ASDA in Stroud?

ASDA is planning a new megastore in Stroud with promises of jobs and greater consumer choice. But is yet another megastore really what the people of Stroud need?

The diverse independent food retail sector in Stroud is part of what makes this Cotswold market town what it is. Stroud boasts an award winning farmers market and a bunch of quality local traders.

It is a unique vibrant exception to the generic supermarket dominated towns that have sprung up across the UK.

Stroud is noteworthy in this respect as it is still fighting against what the New Economics Foundation refers to as, ‘Clone Towns’ – the homogenization of the high street driven by chain stores. The British Independent Retailers Association estimates that 98% of the UK’s £150bn grocery industry is now controlled by just nine stores.

This homogenization has already resulted in out of town Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose stores in Stroud. Stroud’s quality, if quirky, independent retail sector is struggling under these conditions but, for now at least, surviving.

It is unclear how it would respond though if  a new ASDA store that is planned for Daniels Industrial Estate on the A46 gets the go ahead.

But what cost will Stroud pay for this new development – is it really as simple as more jobs and more consumer choice?

The first point to make is the, ‘we are losing part of what makes Stroud special’ argument. This argument says that we value something more than profit and three quid chickens and that a sense of community and creativity which is currently created by the craft food retailers found in Stroud’s bustling independent shops is something worth protecting.

The second point to make is to ask if another new supermarket is really good for the consumer’s wallet and choice of produce.

Taking the issue of choice first, you have to ask why there is so little local produce available in supermarkets. If I want to choose to buy fresh locally grown produce, this is often close to impossible in big supermarket retailers. Why? Because this is not what profit dictates, we know that supermarkets stock food for appearance, longevity and value, not for the things I value like taste or seasonality.

So even if supermarkets offer a wide range of choice around the colour of different washing up-liquids on or the colours of toothbrushes, it does not offer me the choice that I want – good, tasty, locally produced food.

Then there is the issue of cost. Isn’t it good for consumers and the poorest that we have access to three quid chickens? Aren’t independents just for the liberal middle-classes? To a degree this holds weight, but again only so if we see ourselves as nothing more than consumers.

We can see that when supermarkets come to town, local businesses beyond the retail sector also start to suffer. Money starts to leak out of local economies into multi-nationals with no steak or interest in re-investing into what most people think to be important – local businesses (or put another way, the jobs we all rely on).

Choice is removed from the food retail sector and local wages decrease (either through unemployment of reduced wages and working conditions) and as such the spending power of local communities decrease, which further drives them into the hands of the cheap chicken retailers.

And thus the spiral of poverty is perpetuated by those claiming to be on the poor’s side – the supermarkets. And again let’s be clear about why this is, because profit dictates it.

Of course people shop where the prices are cheaper and the products more consistent, but this takes no account of community cohesion or local employment, let alone the dangers of a monopsony.

So when ASDA comes to Stroud proclaiming 250 new jobs for the area and a greater consumer choice, I want people to seriously consider the New Economics Foundations opening remark:

“We can choose to take action that will lead to thriving, diverse, resilient local economies across the UK; or, we can do nothing and condemn ourselves to bland identikit towns dominated by a few bloated retail behemoths. The choice is ours. “

Read this report and then please do respond to the Stroud/ASDA consultation – the future of the high street might depend on it!

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Filed under Economics, Food and Drink, Gloucestershire

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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Drunk leafleting

Running the leaflet gauntlet in Stroud town centre

I have recently embarked out onto the town centre of Stroud on a Saturday night to do some leafleting for the Green Party.  The idea being, I would catch groups of people in-between bars and clubs and ask them if they would like a leaflet or a chat.  Opinion is divided about whether this is a good idea or just asking to be bottled.  I would appreciate your feedback!

The response I got in town was mixed.  About half the people I approached told me to “please go away for I am out on a jolly tonight” (or words to that effect).  The other half however, was genuinely really pleased that I had bothered and was really receptive.  The sorts of people who are out on a Saturday night are not the same ones who get our leaflets during the day in Stroud (go into Stroud on a Saturday morning and it’s a bit like running a gauntlet with all the leafleters).  Some people had never considered voting before, while others had very strong views on certain issues.  Overwhelmingly however people were supportive of what the Greens stood for.  Those who stopped to talk had real passion about political issues.

I left the town centre with a sense of optimism; if these opinions I encountered could be translated into votes, the chance for progressive politics to grow in this country is massive.  The Warehouse proudly claims it gets over 1000 people through its doors every Saturday, if half of these guys voted on their beliefs the Greens would instantly be 500 votes better off.  If half of Stroud town centre (1000-2000) all voted, the Greens would be well on their way to seriously challenging this seat.  Thus, this is a rallying cry…if you are the sort of person who goes out on a Saturday night into Stroud, please vote, and please vote for what you believe in.

If thousands of people in Stroud were this receptive, just think of the possibility for Gloucester, Cheltenham or even Bristol?

As a final thought, just think how funny it would be to have a few old boy Tories on the Streets of Stroud trying “to win over the young”.  Now that would be a sight worth seeing!

If you fancy coming along this Saturday just join the facebook group and get in touch

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