Progressive green message from new co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley #gpconf

Some popular green themes, together with calls for a radical redistribution of wealth and power, were among the issues covered by the Green Party’s new co-leaders on the opening day of the party’s autumn conference. 

It was shortly after 2.00pm that delegates were told Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley had been elected. Indeed, as results go it was pretty convincing, with their job-share ticket taking 86% of first preference votes on a high turnout. Even Jeremy Corbyn, who is expected to win the Labour leadership ballot with ease, will be hard pushed to secure such a high percentage. There was laughter on the conference floor when Jonathan Bartley said, “We stand more united as a party with two leaders than others are with one.” 

And then came the serious business of addressing conference. 

On a new political settlement Jonathan said that we need to pave the way for a radical new relationship between the regions and the centre, while Caroline spoke of democratising the economy, “with banks to serve the people” and with “corporation tax back under control”. 

Jonathan also spoke of the need for “a radical redistribution of both wealth and power” saying that “modern capitalism has delivered excesses that are not just decisive, but morally unacceptable.”  

Earlier Caroline said that the Brexit campaign leaders had lied about money for the NHS, about immigration and about giving back control, and that there should be a  second referendum on the final Brexit deal. She also spelt out what Green politics means: 

“Giving people real control, taking control of our democracy; taking control of our railways so they are owned by the public; taking control of the NHS and keeping it firmly out of private hands; and taking control of our energy systems, our banking system, our schools and communities.” 

Caroline also called for a green industrial strategy that kept fossil fuels in the ground. 

As expected, the co-leaders said they were committed to exploring the potential for a progressive alliance that will deliver a fair voting system. This issue is going to be considered elsewhere at conference; and has been covered in a number of blog articles, most recently by Molly Scott Cato on Left Foot Forwards

Caroline ended a well received speech (full text here) saying the Green Party should “be the natural home for all those who want a fair, equal and Green Britain.” 

The Green Party Conference is being held this weekend at Birmingham University. 

Posted in Green Party | Tagged , , , ,

Yes, let us have sovereignty at last…

Much was made in the referendum campaign about taking back control – of returning sovereignty to the UK. Sure, the degree of sovereignty shared with the EU was widely mis-represented by the leave campaign, but the idea of taking control clearly struck a chord.
And why shouldn’t it. Is not the the underlying principle of any democracy that power should belong to the people? So what are waiting for. Let us actually have some sovereignty.

Let us:

1. Have a parliament that reflects the will of the people, based on proportional representation.

2. Have a smaller, and elected second chamber in place of a bulging and undemocratic House of Lords.

3. Devolve power to regions and local authorities.

4. Give voters the right to recall their representatives.

5. Have an executive that is properly accountable to parliament.

6. Lower the voting age to everyone who is 16 or over.

7. Have services like rail and energy run by the public, and for the communities they serve.

8. Modernise the way we vote, for example with online voting and electronic counting.

9. Empower local people to work together for the benefit of their communities. 

Yes, let us have some real sovereignty at last.

Posted in Constitution, Elections | Tagged , , ,

There is no reason to gamble with people’s future like this

It was Caroline Lucas who said that Nigel Farage had left a disgusting toxic legacy. He may now have gone (hopefully), but it is still an unsettling time for EU citizens living in the UK. If the anti-immigration rhetoric of Farage and friends during the referendum campaign wasn’t bad enough, we then saw the shocking increase in race hate incidents across the country in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

But rather than try and calm things, the Tory government has seen fit to use EU migrants as bargaining chips in future Brexit negotiations, saying they can stay for now, but their future status was a matter for the new prime minister. Tory leadership front-runner Theresa May then defended this position saying that their status would indeed be a “negotiating point”.

But placing a giant question mark over the heads of some 3 million people in this country has been widely condemned. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said:
“This is an appalling statement by Theresa May. It throws into deep uncertainty the lives of not just the three million citizens from other EU states living in the UK, but also the at least 1.2 million Britons living in other parts of Europe.

“This affects people’s homes, education, jobs, lives. Millions of people’s plans for the future have now been thrown into doubt.

“I call on Mrs May, and all of the other Tory leadership candidates, to immediately declare that they will regard as inviolable the rights of European individuals settled in the UK, or those studying here, to continue to live their lives as they planned.

“This would also offer protection to the rights of UK citizens in other EU states.”

Meanwhile the non-partisan think tank British Future reported that 84% of British citizens supported letting EU migrants stay. It also published the full text of a letter that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph and was signed by members of both the Leave and Remain referendum campaigns. The letter said:
“We would urge the Government, opposition parties and every candidate standing to be the next Conservative Party Leader and hence Prime Minister, to make a clear and unequivocal statement that EU migrants currently living in the UK are welcome here…”

The letter says that reassurance is needed not just for the families concerned, but also their employers, adding:

“It would also send a clear statement to the extreme minority, who now appear to believe they have licence to attack and harass migrants.”

A spokesperson for Harborough Greens said, “There is no reason to gamble with people’s future like this. It is not just morally wrong, it also sends a very negative message about the type of country we want to be after Brexit.”

Posted in Europe | Tagged , ,

A question of sovereignty

We look at how the EU works in our final article on the EU referendum

Sovereignty is one of the key issues in the referendum, but one where rhetoric often overrides fact and common sense. Indeed, a regular leave campaign slogan is “I want my country back”. But how much control does Brussels have? 

Consider this:

The UK has kept its sovereignty over monetary policy, education, the NHS, welfare, defence (except in NATO), and border security. The UK, as a member, pools with other EU states, its sovereignty on issues such as trade, employment rights, environmental protection, consumer protection and food standards.

It is not the EU Commissioners who make EU law. The Brussels based Commissioners (appointed by the member states of the EU) can only propose law. The European Parliament (directly elected by proportional representation) can reject or amend a proposal; and it is the Council of Ministers (representatives from each government of the member states) who make the final decision. In many cases it is then left to individual parliaments to decide how the EU law is enacted into its own country’s legal system.

This process may be complicated, and clearly isn’t wanted by a large section of the British public, but it surely isn’t the case that Brussels is running our country.

Of course the EU isn’t by any means perfect. By its very nature, getting 28 different countries to reach agreement, even where interests are shared, is always going to be time consuming and cumbersome. What’s more, the influence of corporate lobbyists has been a cause of concern, as has the remote nature of the decision making process. 

Another criticism is the power the EU seemingly holds over individual countries, with the way the EU has bullied Greece into accepting austerity measures cited as the example. But while this is undeniably bad news, this is as much a reflection of the current political make-up of member states and the accepted prevailing wisdom of the establishment, as it is a failure of the EU. This neoliberal approach is something the Green Party rejects, but changing this requires a progressive alliance across Europe rather than an exit from the EU.

Posted in Europe | Tagged ,

Actually, free movement of people is good for us #GreenerIn #Remain

In our second article on Europe, we re-blog a post that appeared first on RedGreenBlob

Immigration has been the Leave campaign’s trump card. But how much of this is caused by misleading and confusing campaigning? 

They say we will regain control of our borders with Brexit. But a quick check will show we never lost them. Free movement of people hasn’t meant the end of border control. Indeed, Britain never joined the Schengen system that provides for passport free travel in Europe. As such, the only open border we have is with the Republic of Ireland, who themselves never joined Schengen.

Yet the fact remains, free movement of people within the EU is good for us. It enables us to recruit people with vital skills. It enables our scientists to co-operate closely and conduct research with colleagues in other countries. It makes it much easier for our students to live and study in major European cities. It means we can see European football stars playing in the Premier League. 

In fact, some 1.8 million Brits study, work, live and retire in other EU countries, making us a major beneficiary of free movement. Indeed, I could move to Spain pretty much as easily as a Spanish citizen moves from Seville to Madrid. I can get a job, benefit from their excellent and free health care system, open a bank account and even seek office in Spanish local elections. And I haven’t even mentioned the better weather!

The leavers point to housing shortages, hospital waiting lists, poor public transport and large class sizes to support their argument. Yes these are problems, and of course in some communities where there has been a rapid growth in population, then the numbers of people have put pressure on the local infrastructure. No one denies this.

But how we deal with this is a matter of policy. These problems have been around for years; and are happening all over the country, not just in the areas where immigration has been highest. In government, the leading leavers – Gove and his other Tory friends – haven’t been particularly bothered about social housing, hospitals and schools. Like those before it, the current government has the ability to properly fund education, improve public services; and build affordable homes. It just lacks the political will to do so, preferring instead cuts, privatisation and austerity.

Another Brexit argument is that migrants are taking other people’s jobs. Yet job vacancies are at a record high; and unemployment levels are at their lowest. Indeed, the Brexiteers conveniently ignore the fact that our NHS for example, needs migrant workers to fill vacancies for doctors, nurses and other skilled roles.

Let’s just think it through. We’ve been part of Europe for absolutely years. Free movement of people is nothing new; and studies show that the Europeans who live, work, and study here, put more into the economy than they take out. Indeed, net EU immigration was 184,000 in 2015. That’s the same as adding just one more person to a group of 500. Now I don’t know about you, but without counting, I couldn’t tell the difference between 500 people or 501.

Nor should we kid ourselves that shortcomings in our infrastructure would be solved with the money saved from leaving the EU. Firstly, the cost of EU membership is much less than 1% of total public expenditure. But the Leave campaigners – Johnson, Gove, IDS, Redwood – are all neoliberal ideologists. Their track record is for cuts and privatisation. Put another way, does anyone seriously believe there will be a public spending bonanza led by the right wing of the Tory party?

Of course in the event of Brexit, there will still be a compelling economic case to continue accessing the single market via the European Economic Area – Norway is often used as an example. If the UK stays in the single market, we will still have to pay to belong, we will still be bound by almost all the EU regulations, but we will have little say in how things are run. The real irony though, from the Leave perspective, is that by signing up to the single market, then we will also have to accept free movement of people. So are the Brexiteers misleading those minded to vote Leave, or just burying their heads in the sand?

Posted in Europe | Tagged ,

Without Europe, it is difficult to see our government taking air pollution seriously

In the first of a series of blog posts, David Green looks at some of the arguments for remaining in the European Union

One of the unfortunate characteristics of the long-running referendum campaign is the degree of negative campaigning from both sides. Indeed, scaremongering seems to be the order of the day for the two factions of the Conservative party. But what about the positives of remaining in the EU?

One area where shared sovereignty has brought benefits has been on environmental issues. Sure, there is still much that can be done, but together the member states have made progress that perhaps would not have occurred if left to individual countries; and certainly not if left to the UK government. Indeed, environmental issues like pollution and climate change don’t conveniently sit within national borders, so it makes sense to tackle these issues together. The range of EU initiatives on the environment, from protecting natural habitats to cleaning up Europe’s beaches, has been well documented by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas in an article for ‘Bright Green‘. So I’d just like to highlight a couple of these green issues that have been completely overlooked by the media and the official Remain campaign.

Firstly let’s look at air quality. It is estimated that polluted air accounts for some 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK. This makes poor air quality, like smoking, a major, but avoidable killer. European action on air quality can be traced back to the 1970s when Acid Rain, caused by coal-fired power stations, threatened Europe’s forests. More recent European action on air quality including a Directive on emissions, is very welcome in the face of a UK government that has dragged its feet on the issue. Similarly, Coal-fired power stations in the UK – a longstanding source of pollution – have over a number of years finally been shut down thanks to another EU Directive. It is difficult to see how, without this European dimension, the our Government would take air pollution seriously.

The other European issue I wish to highlight is renewable energy. In 2009 the EU brought in a Renewable Energy Directive, setting an average target of 20% of EU energy from renewables by 2020. But as Friends of the Earth point out, the present UK government looks set to fall short of its EU target. That said, on a more positive note the UK has this month signed up to a new EU agreement to reduce costs for offshore wind power. So like air quality, renewable energy is another area that European collaboration and initiatives are taking a reluctant UK forwards, albeit slowly. 

Of course if the UK votes to leave the EU on 23 June, then the government could ignore any environmental directives and initiatives from Europe that it does not like. On its current record, renewable energy and air quality would become Brexit victims; and that’s a prospect those working in the renewable energy sector, and those susceptible to respiratory problems, are unlikely to welcome.

Posted in Environment, Government policy | Tagged , , , ,

Damaged democracy: BBC excludes Greens but gives UKIP and other parties three broadcasts each

(Recently updated on 2 Feb) 

So the BBC is once more ignoring the Green Party, despite some one million people choosing to vote Green at the last general election. Whilst UKIP is to be given three party political broadcasts, the Green Party is getting none. Even if you weren’t particularly interested in politics, it would be difficult to see this as fair.

Of course we’ve been down this road before, with the BBC originally refusing to allow Natalie Bennett to participate in the leaders’ debates during the general election. But now it seems we’re back where we started. So while the main parties, along with UKIP, will each have three opportunities per year to broadcast direct to voters, the Green Party will be excluded. So much for democracy.

This incredible decision was taken by the BBC Trust, a body of 12 individuals who include the chairman of some major UK companies or directors of various others; and can count among their number one Lord, one knight, 2 OBEs, and 3 CBEs. So not exactly a representative sample of the British population then.

And this is surely the problem: for not only do we have an electoral system that already benefits the Westminster establishment, and can only be changed by that establishment, but we also have a public broadcaster that sees democracy through the eyes of the establishment. It is a self perpetuating process.

A spokesperson for Harborough Greens said, “This is a slap in the face for free speech and over a million Green voters. We’ve been marginalised at the expense of the Westminster establishment and UKIP. It is yet another symptom of our damaged democracy.”

Anyone who has studied the criteria set by the BBC Trust will surely wonder just how the Green Party has been excluded. Not only does the party meet the first criteria for securing representation, but by beating the Lib Dems in the 2014 European Elections, and then securing over a million votes in the 2015 General Election, it has surely met the other criteria of  significant support. Unfortunately though the BBC gives no justification for its decision.

The Green Party of England and Wales have now submitted an appeal. They are backing this up with a new online petition calling for the Green Party to be included. You can also let the BBC Trust know what you think by emailing:

Posted in Green Party | Tagged ,