Thursday, 31 October 2013

In support of lecturers on strike today

Readers, as you may know, lecturers and university staff of UCU and UNISON are striking over the pay freezes they have suffered over the last 5 years whilst inflation is still occurring. This means in real terms, their pay has taken a 13% cut.

Meanwhile, vice-chancellors and university managers are awarding themselves salary increases to their already generous pay they clearly do not deserve, especially given the current recession.

Therefore, I hope that you will all support those who are on strike today, especially if you are a student yourself.

Alan.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Political History: Perennial candidates you may not have heard of

Readers, you may of course know that if you track recent UK Parliamentary by-elections, the Monster Raving Loony Party leader, Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope, makes a frequent appearance, or at least someone from this most famous of joke parties. David 'Screaming Lord' Sutch also of course did this until 1997 (he committed suicide in 1999 and no Parliamentary by-elections at all occurred in 1998).

There have, however, been many perennial candidates in the last 35 years or so, who have been forgotten but should be noted nevertheless. It is sometimes hard not to admire their stubborn yet hopeless determination to represent their beliefs in the House of Commons, is it not?

These candidates (who have stood for parliament at least 5 times apiece without success) notably include:

Jitendra Bhardwaj, whose first by-election appearance notably came after his conviction of assaulting a police officer outside the House of Commons in 1982 (although he contested Luton in the 1979 general election) and who also contested by-elections in 1983, 1984, 2003, and 2004. Highest votes: 60 (Luton, 1979); lowest votes: 15 (Darlington by-election, 1983).

John Connell, who prominently believed in peace and that ITN was manipulating broadcasts, stood in by-elections of 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988. Highest votes: 250 (Tyne Bridge by-election, 1985). Lowest votes: 7 (Chesterfield by-election, 1984; second-lowest number of votes ever in a British by-election).

Helen Anscomb, an anti-road, pro-rail public safety campaigner ,contested several elections in from 1983 to 1987, including most notably Finchley in 1983 against Margaret Thatcher. Highest votes: 82 (South West Surrey by-election 1984). Lowest votes: 34 (Chesterfield by-election, 1984)

Lindi St. Claire, who ran for the Corrective Party 11 times in 11 by-elections in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Highest votes: 216 (Eastbourne by-election, 1990). Lowest votes: 39 (Vale of Glamorgan by-election, 1989).

Roger Everest, who ran as an Independent Conservative several times, but ran as a real Conservative candidate first in 1974. Highest votes: 5,912 (Conservative, Caerphilly, 1974). Lowest votes: 40 (Winchester by-election, 1997).

Colin Bex, the President of the Wessex Regionalists, has ran for Parliament in 1979, 1983, 1997, 2001,2005,2010 and 2013 without any success at all. Highest vote: 251 (Windsor and Maidenhead, 1979). Lowest vote: 30 (Eastleigh by-election, 2013).

Barry Kirk, commonly known as Captain Beany, has ran for Parliament since 1991 several times (and also in local elections as a Neath Port Talbot Residents Association member). Highest vote: 727 (Aberavon,2001). Lowest vote: 262 (Neath by-election, 1991).

Reginald Simmerson, perennial anti-EU (or EEC as it was known when he stood) candidate in the 1970s and 1980s. Highest vote: 963(Macclesfield by-election, 1971). Lowest vote: 33 (Fulham by-election, 1986).

John Peck, Communist candidate for Nottingham North many times and later a Green councillor. Highest vote: 1579 (Nottingham North, 1964). Lowest vote: 525 (Nottingham North, October 1974).

Ronald Mallone, Fellowship Party leader for many years and perennial Greenwich candidate. Highest vote: 792 (Greenwich by-election, 1971). Lowest vote: 59 (Greenwich, 1987).

British political history is fascinating, is it not? 

Alan.

Monday, 28 October 2013

St. Jude's Storms (or worse) and Hurricane Sandys could end up being frequent if we do not act on climate change

Today, the St. Jude's Day Storm, named after the patron saint of lost causes, battered much of the south of England, killing 4 people in England (and 9 across Northern Europe), cutting power from 600,000 homes, causing traffic chaos, and effectively shutting down many rail services across the south and in London. 

Although this may not be on the scale of the infamous Great Storm of 1987, it was forecast some time in advance-unusual for a storm this powerful. 

 Not so long ago, Hurricane Sandy hit New York, causing of course more severe damage-in fact the damage it dealt was surpassed only by the infamous Hurricane Katrina.

As artificial climate change exerts a greater effect on our atmosphere and our planet, I believe that these storms could hit temperate areas like ours and much of Europe much more frequently, and with more damage as well. This is because artificial climate change will not only increase the temperature of our atmosphere, it will destabilise weather patterns, melt ice sheets causing sea levels to rise and tides to become more dangerous, adversely increase temperature ranges (which is why we have been having abnormally cold winters in recent years in comparison with hotter summers), cause potentially fatal damage to some ecosystems, which could all culminate in a global catastrophe for us, the human race, and our fellow creatures.

In order to at least lower the frequency of St. Jude's-style storms, we need to act on climate change, set tough decarbonisation targets, keep environmental measures in place, reduce our consumption levels, obtain fairer wealth distribution, and break free en masse from the neoliberal system that is responsible for much of the damage to our environment.

Alan.

 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Well done those Young Greens!

Regarding the Young Greens of England and Wales Convention of 2013, if any of you were there, I am glad that the following people were duly elected to serve on the Young Greens Executive:

Clifford Fleming (Male Co-Chair)
Siobhan MacMahon (Female Co-Chair)
Laura Shepherd
Josiah Mortimer
Christopher 'Chris' Jarvis
Fiona Costello
Paul Cohen
Thomas 'Thom' French 

I ,Alan, and the rest of the Young Greens of England and Wales wish you the best of luck.

Something is bubbling politically in the Czech Republic-big time

The results from the snap Czech Republic election are now in, and are quite startling to many,including myself admittedly.

One notable thing is that the Czech Green Party failed to return to the legislature, sadly, despite their previous success and comeback in the Czech local elections last year. 

The Czech Pirate Party ran into a firewall, so to speak, and also failed to get enough votes to enter the Czech legislature, despite a signifcant increase in vote share from 0.8% to 2.66%.

As predicted for a long time, the Czech Social Democrats topped the poll. However, the surprise is that they have actually lost seats despite receiving the highest vote share (which turned out to be only 20.45%)-their seats were reduced to 50 from 56.

The Communists of Bohemia and Moravia also did not do as well as I hoped, as they only secured an extra 7 seats, giving them 33 in total-but thanks to the great fall of the previous governing parties, the Communists nevertheless came third.

The formerly governing Civic Democratic Party suffered a blow that even John Major would be mortally embarrassed about- their vote share fell from 20.2% with 53 seats to a dismal 7.7%, with only 5th place to boot and just 16 seats. TOP 09, their coalition partner, also suffered a notable vote share loss, but not to the same extent-its vote share decreased from 16.7% to 12%.

Two new parties who did not even run at all in the 2010 Czech elections have made spectacular gains, especially ANO (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens), an anti-corruption protest party with a few similarities to Beppe Grillo's 5 star movement ,which gained 19% of the Czech vote, and 47 seats, only 3 seats behind the Social Democrats. Dawn of Direct Democracy, a centre-right populist party with a direct democracy platform, also gained 14 seats from nowhere in this election.

Whether the Social Democrats get the support of the Communists or not in government, one thing is clear-coalition talks will be long and drawn-out and co-operation with ANO will be inevitable, given the balance of power it holds. This could mean potentially major reforms in the Czech Republic, given ANO's stance.

Let us wait and see what happens now,shall we?

Alan.




 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Good luck to the Czech Greens today-and my advice to them if they re-enter the Czech legislature

Due to a vote of no confidence being passed in the Czech Parliament over scandals by the current government (a Civic Democratic-TOP 09 coalition, broadly equivalent to Britain's Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government) the electorate of the Czech Republic will go/have gone to the polls today. 

The current coalition there is likely to lose heavily, according to current opinion polls in the Czech Republic.

I hope the Czech Greens can return to the Czech legislative assembly after losing their seats in 2010, although sadly it does not look like they will do that at present.

There is still some good news though- the Communist (now socialist) Party of Bohemia and Moravia could get its best number of seats in the legislature since 1990-as socialism really needs to advance in Europe, I will likely be pleased with their result. 

As I have said before, green economics is really only possible within a socialist context, so the Czech Greens need to move further left and consider, in the event they return, bolstering the Bohemian & Moravian Communists' opposition to the new government that will emerge by voting  with them on most political issues.

I will bring you the results of that election soon to see how our Czech counterparts did.

Alan.

By-Election Results/My Analysis of the Dunfermline by-election

The local by-election results from 24 October 2013 featuring Green candidates are as follows:

Norfolk County Council, North Walsham East: LD 1044 (40.9%), UKIP 565 (22.1%), Labour 442 (17.3%), Conservative 359 (14.1%), Green 80 (3.1%), Ind 61 (2.4%).

West Sussex County Council, Warnham and Rusper: Conservative 868 (58.3%), UKIP 335 (22.5%), Green 119 (8.0%), LD 103 (6.9%), Lab 65 (4.4%). Turnout in this by-election was a dismal 20%.

Wigan Borough Council, Winstanley: Lab 746 (42.1%), UKIP 421 (23.7%), Community Action 326 (18.4%), Conservative 180 (10.1%), Green 55 (3.1%), Ind 27 (1.5%), LD 19 (1.1%).

Wirral Borough Council, Upton: Lab 1954 (65.4%), Conservative 762 (25.5%), Green 143 (4.8%), LD 130 (4.3%).

Dunfermline local by-election (1st preference votes): Lab 2552 (39.7%), SNP 2057 (32.0%), LD 1009 (15.7%),Conservative 450 (7.0%), Green 183 (2.8%), UKIP 183 (2.8%).

Finally, the Holyrood Dunfermline by-election: Cara Hilton (Lab): 10275 (42.5%), Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP) 7402 (30.6%), Susan Leslie (Lib Dem) 2852 (11.8%), James Reekie (Con) 2009 (8.3%), Peter Adams (UKIP) 908 (3.8%), Zara Kitson (Green) 593 (2.5%), John Black (Ind) 161 (0.7%).

It is interesting to know that before 2007, Dunfermline was safe Labour territory. So it can be said that due to the fall in both the SNP and the Lib Dem vote here, resulting in a Labour gain, Dunfermline has reverted to type, so to speak. 

It was disappointing that we Greens lost our deposit here, but we at least made an improvement on the last Scottish Parliament by-election result by getting halfway to the threshold. Interestingly, the Scottish Greens at Scottish Parliament elections only contest regional ballots-not constituency ballots.

UKIP also failed to retain their deposit here, although they appear to have stalled any signifcant Conservative advance in Dunfermline-the Conservative vote only increased by 1.2%.

As for the independent, John Black-I wonder why he got only 161 votes; his campaign did not seem that bad when I looked at it. Lack of media attention may be a factor here.

Thank your for reading!

Alan.



 

 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Why the proposed EU-US Free Trade Agreement Is So Dangerous And Must Be Stopped

Earlier this year, trade talks between the European Union and the USA were started to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), otherwise known as the EU-US free trade agreement. This is designed to 'harmonise regulations' between the US and the EU.

In reality, this 'free trade' agreement is the most dangerous corporate power grab ever to have been attempted, aside from the equally dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The reason for this is because clauses of the agreement, which I hope the European Parliament will never approve, allow corporations, especially trans-national corporations, to sue governments over common-sense health and environmental regulations simply on the grounds that it will lead to 'loss of profit'.

This means that governments across the EU and also in the USA will feel unable to pass new legislation (or worse, may even be pressured by corporations into repealing existing legislation) that is important to public health, workplace safety, workers' rights, or our environment. Concerns have already been raised about the fact that this agreement, if implemented could make privatisation of once-public health services irreversible (at least without withdrawing from the EU first).

The size of the economy of the EU and the USA also means that the TTIP has very serious implications globally.

Also, this agreement will not even bring any real growth or any real economic boosts to nations that are part of it-it will just transfer abusive levels of power to corporate giants like Monsanto, Bayer et al.

Therefore, so that we can protect our freedoms, our rights, our health, and our environment, we must campaign to make sure that the EU-US free trade agreement is never allowed by the European Parliament to progress-or if all else fails, campaign for Britain to exit the European Union so that the agreement's disastrous potential consequences can be escaped.

Regards, Alan.

 







 

 

Monday, 21 October 2013

The real reasons for there being a deposit requirement in UK Parliamentary elections

For some time now, I have been doing research of by-elections and general elections of the past in my spare time.

I have also noticed how the deposit system, which the UK Electoral Commission says is to 'ensure only serious candidates stand for election' (and thus deter timewasters of the likes of the late Bill Boaks and the still living David Bishop) is not effective at deterring frivolous candidates at all.

In the 1984 Chesterfield by-election, which was won by Tony Benn after he had lost his seat of Bristol South East in 1983, when the deposit required to stand in a Westminster election was just £150 (the percentage of votes needed to have it returned,though, was 12.5%), 17 candidates stood, 14 of them losing their deposit. Only 6 of them in fact even got more than 100 votes apiece.

Partly because of this, and the fact that Margaret Thatcher faced 10 opponents in her seat of Finchley alone in 1983 (half got fewer than 100 votes apiece, and the Ecology (now Green) Party's Simone Wilkinson was the only non-major candidate there to beat the late,great Screaming Lord Sutch), the deposit required to stand in Parliamentary elections was raised to £500 in 1985, although as a concession the threshold to retain it was lowered to 5%.

Since 1985, there have been 36 by-elections featuring 10 candidates or more; many of the candidates who have stood could be described as frivolous or semi-frivolous (as their cause had no real long-term prospect of gaining major support). By contrast, there have only been 6 by-elections from 1977-1984 with 10 or more candidates in each of them (there were no UK by-elections before 1977 featuring 10 candidates or more). In this Parliament alone, there have been 6 by-elections with 10 or more candidates, out of 14 held in Britain so far in this Parliament.

Thus, deposits are not effective at deterring timewasters from elections or by-elections.

What the £500 deposit requirement actually does, is stifle the growth of minor but serious parties (we Greens have tried to do our best against this problem,as have others) ,discriminate against independent candidates with a serious intention (especially those who have disabilities), and makes it difficult for people on average incomes to stand for election and give voters a real alternative to the 3 major parties of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative. Even those major parties have lost deposits in some by-elections due to tactical voting; Labour lost their deposits in both the Newbury and Christchurch by-elections of 1993, in all likelihood because of tactical voting to defeat the Conservative candidates there.

I thus believe that the system of deposits should be scrapped and instead replaced with a requirement, as exists in several European countries, to gain more signatures from voters in a region before they can stand; this in my opinion is a better way of deterring timewasters-the only joke/frivolous party that was able to gain the right to stand widely in the 2013 German elections (and not in all states either) was Die PARTEI, Germany's answer to Britain's Monster Raving Loony Party. 

Also, the first past the post system should be scrapped (and replaced with STV or open-list PR) as well as the deposit requirement. The public needs a fair chance across Britain to choose from alternatives to the mainstream.

Regards,

Alan.
 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Green Songs and Poetry-Build a Bonfire, expanded version

My next pro-Green/anti-establishment song is based on a chant originally invented by Manchester United FC, which goes to the tune of the old US folk song 'My Darling Clementine'. A different chant sung to the same tune has been sung at student protests and anti-government protests for years now.

My expanded version of it goes like this (remember to sing it in the key of B flat major,like those protestors did):

1. Fellow marchers, fellow victims,
Of this kleptocracy,
If you want to help me oust the ConDems,
Come and sing this chant with me,

Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the Tories at the top,
Put the LibDems in the middle,
And we'll burn the f***ing lot!

2. 'Cause those ConDems, 'cause those ConDems,
From their fancy hearths in Whitehall,
Have let those bankers rob us blind,
While forcing cuts on us all.

Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the Tories at the top,
Put the LibDems in the middle,
And we'll burn the f***ing lot!

3. Help us fight back, but remember,
Don't be fooled by Labour's clout,
'Cause they offer no real solution 
That will root those bankers out!

Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the Tories at the top,
Put the LibDems in the middle,
And we'll burn the f***ing lot!

4. So therefore, fellow marchers,
All across our once-great land,
Let us fight to kick out the ConDems,
To bring new hope to our land.

So build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the ConDems at the top,
Throw Labour in for good measure,
And we'll burn the f***ing lot!

Next time there is a great march, please remember to sing this chant.


Alan.






 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

'Eco-capitalism' is a delusional fantasy that will never work-here's why

Over the past few years, I have heard about 'responsible capitalism', 'green capitalism', and related terms.They all point to the idea that it is possible to be environmentally friendly and still maintain a capitalist system where profits and growth continue to be possible despite environmentally protective controls.

However, eco-capitalism is in fact impossible because of capitalism's fundamental and fatal flaws, which mean that capitalism cannot be trusted to preserve our environment or ourselves.

All forms of capitalism are based principally on the idea that profit and growth should take precedence, overall, above other priorities. In fact, capitalism would not exist without growth, and therefore it will inevitably damage the planet and human society whatever it did. Also, for capitalism to keep continuing in our society ad infinitum, infinite resources and an infinite population are needed-neither an infinite population nor an infinite amount of resources exist on Earth, or ever will.

The serious effects of neoliberalism, which has been the dominant type of capitalism across much of the world for 30 years ever since Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Helmut Kohl (the last of these three is the only one still living today) gained and consolidated power in the UK, the USA, and West Germany (as it was then) in the early 1980s, has in particular exposed capitalism's inability to protect (or at least not harm) human society and nature no matter how much pro-environment legislation is enacted.

 For an environmentally friendly society to exist, we not only need to conserve resources but we also need to share them and distribute them fairly so that preservation and conservation, both fundamental to environmentalism, can be maintained. Capitalism is by contrast fundamentally built on selfishness and greed, and thus can never be relied on to conserve resources.

In conclusion, for we, the human race, to be truly environmentalist, we also must be socialist and democratic at the same time.

Alan.

 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Stupidity Is Not A Crime!

The dangerous Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which has received surprisingly little media attention compared to equally dangerous 'gagging law', somehow made it through a third reading in the House of Commons a few days ago, despite the excessively wide scope of the use of IPNAs (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance) and PSPOs (Public Space Protection Orders) contained within the Bill, as well as clauses making it practically impossible, especially with recent cuts to legal aid, for innocent people who have been wrongly convicted to get their convictions quashed.

The major issue with IPNAs is that they can be sought by local authorities and NHS trusts (in addition to the police), and can be used to prevent a specific person, even one who has never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, from engaging in behaviour which the authority considers 'likely to cause a public nuisance', which does not have an objective legal definition. This is because all of us have different definitions of what constitutes a 'public nuisance', do we not?

If this Bill becomes law, quirky habits that some of us have, which many of our friends do not consider annoying but a few people do, could potentially become illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

Also, PSPOs will in practice be targeted against protestors and vulnerable groups like homeless people (even though doing so is a violation of the Human Rights Act) which will trample on our hard-earned rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of movement across public ground or private ground normally made accessible to the public.

Both of these, under the Bill, will have a low standard for approval-'balance of probabilities' instead of the tried and tested 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

On another note, the powers local authorities would have under this Bill would also allow them to issue IPNAs to illegally block central government projects they disagree with even though they are not supposed to be able to do this-key examples include HS2. The amount of time police and courts that will be wasted on these injunctions will also mean that resources needed to catch people actually dangerous to the public will be allocated to these unnecessary and unfair injunctions.

To summarise, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is badly made (no surprise, as Theresa May proposed it), dangerous and in fact illegal to enforce in practice.

Please give me your thoughts on this.

Alan. 





Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fairness is needed in Higher Education-not just for students but also for staff

Yesterday, the Young Greens (the part of the Green Party that caters to those under the age of 30) published a report of the damning inequalities between the pay of Vice-Chancellors and senior staff at universities and the pay of most of their staff.

 http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/pay-ratios-point-to-massive-inequality/2008207.article

The lack of real university democracy is somewhat responsible for this. Across Great Britain, many courses are being cut unnecessarily by unelected and unaccountable Vice-Chancellors and senior managers, who not only often ignore the reasonable requests by democratic Student Unions to protect students' interests but in some cases repress student activism, as has been shown at the Universities of Sussex and London, and in an undemocratic decision by university managers at London colleges to close the University of London Union.

Universities are supposed to be public institutions, dedicated to higher education and knowledge. Yet many universities are at the moment being run in a neoliberal or semi-neoliberal way i.e. like a business, as the pay gaps of many prominent British universities show, with Surrey being the worst, and Bath employing the highest number of minimum wage staff, as opposed to living wage staff.

It is clear that those students amongst us who read this need to work with ancilliary staff and our lecturers (who, whilst often well-paid compared to an average worker, still earn less than 1/5 the salary of their Vice-Chancellor) to campaign for a living wage and also for universities to be more democratic and accountable not only to students but also to the public at large, so that they are run for the benefit of the public and not the benefit of businesses seeking to exploit newly qualified undergraduates/postgraduates.

I wish to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Alan.




Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Zara Kitson's the one for Dunfermline :)

For those of you out there living in Dunfermline, Scotland, the Scottish Parliament by-election there is just 9 days away now.

Zara Kitson's campaign video, which you should watch, explains well why you should vote for her on 24th October:

http://zarakitson.org/2013/10/10/zaras-campaign-video/

Thank you,

Alan.


Agreement of the People-Your Opinions, Please

In early July this year, in a university in South London, I met a group of people from the Republican Socialist Alliance, a few of whom I had seen at the first national people's assembly.

They showed me this: http://www.agreementofthepeople.org/agreement.html

It is clear in Britain that the current, 'sham democracy' situation we face must come to an end- but remember, we will have to fight for it and then strive to maintain a real democracy once we bring it.

So I ask, what are your thoughts on the 'Agreement of the People' some of my friends have been talking about? Please post them.

Regards, Alan.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Green Songs and Poetry- The Green Flag

I first sung this song at the Spring 2013 Green Party conference in Nottingham, and my friends in the Green Party enjoyed it-it is based on the old tune 'The Red Flag'

1. The people's flag is deepest green,
Let us bask in its verdant sheen,
We'll emblazon it day and night,
To guide us through the morning light.
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
'Though Liberals flinch and Tories sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!

2. That people's flag was deepest red,
But thanks to Kinnock and  Blair it's dead.
Although they have had the old flag bound,
Our new flag will rise from the ground.
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
'Though Liberals flinch and Tories sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!

3.So, fellow Greens, let us sound our horn,
To shine on our world a new dawn,
A dawn that brings prosperity,
Fair justice and equality!
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
Though Liberals flinch and Tories sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here! 

I hope you like it :)

Alan.
 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Introduction

Hello,

I am Alan, sometimes known (at least online) as Lotus.

I am a concerned green socialist from Hertfordshire who believes that in these tough economic times we face, action must be taken to reverse the tide of austerity and inequality.

If you want daily or near-daily updates about democracy, human rights, green politics across Europe and elsewhere, and also good modern ideas for a sustainable economy and equal society, then please read my blog.

Thank you for reading :)