Sunday, 22 December 2013

My thoughts on 2013/see you in 2014

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the turbulent year that was 2013 is almost at an end.

It has sadly been a year mostly of instability and despair-but also a year of moving on.

It has seen the deaths of three great heroes of our time-Hugo Chavez, Seamus Heaney and Nelson Mandela-and also the death of Britain's greatest modern villain,Margaret Thatcher.

It has seen Euroscepticism rise significantly,particularly in Britain.

It has shown us that five years on from the financial crisis, the threats get worse and worse-but this year has shown the potential definitely exists for us to fight against them.

It has seen so much, to summarise. My next update will be in the new year of 2014.

Best wishes,

Alan.

 

 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

My Winter Solstice/Christmas Message

Well, it is now the Winter Solstice, aka the shortest day of the calendar year, and thus almost the end of the year. This year, I must say, has been rather turbulent.

I thus wish to send this Christmas message to my blog's readers:

When enjoying the festive season, please also respect the environment and our well-being whilst you do so. 

For a few examples, remember to buy gifts and cards that will last rather than items that will generally end up getting junked. And if you wish to buy chocolate for a gift, perhaps to someone you love, please make sure it is fairtrade and thus please do not be tempted to buy those Quality Street, Roses etc. gift boxes. And also, if you need to wrap gifts, please do so responsibly and find wrapping paper you can recycle.

On another note, seasons' greetings to you all :)

Best wishes, Alan.


 









 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Local by-election results (19/12/13)

Readers, the results from yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green candidates are as follows, in case you missed them:

Bolton, Harper Green: Lab 744 (51.3%), Con 325 (22.4%), UKIP 252 (17.4%), Green 60 (4.1%), Lib Dem 53 (3.7%).

West Sussex (county), Haywards Heath East: Con 649 (35.5%), UKIP 576 (31.5%), Lab 346 (19%), Lib Dem 201 (11%), Green 55 (3%)

Mid Sussex (district),  Haywards Heath Frankland: Con 414 (45.6%), UKIP 269 (29.6%), Lab 103 (11.3%), Lib Dem 91 (10%), Green 31 (3.4%).

Highland Council, Black Isle (1st preference votes): Ind Barclay 1342 (32.8%), Ind Fraser 633 (15.5%), SNP 594 (14.5%), Lib Dem 489 (12%), Green 362 (8.8%), Ind Phillips 304 (7.4%), Lab 194 (4.7%), Con 175 (4.3%). Mrs. Barclay (the widow of Cllr. Bill Barclay, whose death caused this by-election), was elected.

I am at least glad we Greens increased our vote share in Black Isle, the most interesting of these contests-the Highlands are not exactly renowned for Green strength but conversely have generally had a particularly strong Liberal Democrat presence, at least at Westminster level.

These are of course the last local by-elections that will happen this year, and surprisingly, turnout was not as bad as similar local by-elections two weeks ago, given that many people want a break from political news at this festive time of year. 


Alan.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Russia has shown some decency to protestors for once-but it needs to relax in general

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say how thankful I am that the three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot-wrongly jailed on charges of 'hooliganism' not so long ago when they were just protesting against Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime-and also the 'Greenpeace 30' (30 Greenpeace activists detained for blocking a Gazprom ship searching for oil in the Arctic Ocean, which for everyone's sake needs to be protected from oil and/or natural gas exploration) will be released following an amnesty from Russia.

But it is clear that the Putin government must improve significantly on the human rights front in Russia, especially with regards to freedom of expression, free and fair elections, and LGBT rights. These human rights should be respected in all nations across the world, from culture to culture. Russia needs to also deal with the significant levels of inequality caused largely by the actions of its infamous oligarchs.

I hope, over the next year, following this amnesty, the Russian government will at least try to change in these regards.

Alan.

On two recent deaths-who is actually more worthy of remembrance?

Ladies and gentlemen, the media in Britain has given significant reports on two recent deaths. One is of Dr. Abbas Khan, who went into the bombarded city of Aleppo, Syria to practice field medicine but was captured by Syrian troops loyal to Bashar Al-Assad and later found dead in his cell-likely at the hands of his captors. The other death is of Ronnie Biggs, infamous for his participation in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, his escape and subsequent evasion of capture for 35 years.

In relation to these two deaths, what I should say is this: Dr. Khan deserves to be remembered and mourned. He went into the job of field medic in Syria despite the brutal civil war Syria is undergoing, and the near-suicidal risk he took into trying to save the lives of people caught in the crossfire between rebels and Syrian government forces. There are few doctors anywhere who would risk this, even those more passionate about saving lives and keeping people healthy than most. The world should be thankful for people like Abbas Khan.

Ronnie Biggs, on the other hand, does not deserve to be remembered. He was merely a rather average small-time crook who happened to participate in a robbery (much) more spectacular than most at the time, and he is remembered more for his daring escape from Wandsworth Prison and years of exile than anything else. What he did was clearly and incontrovertibly wrong- he stole enormous amounts of money just for personal gain, and put an honest train driver, Jack Mills, out of work and into a premature death. It is only the escape Ronnie performed and his success in evading capture (before he voluntarily returned to the UK in 2001) that means people today know who he was. Most of the other participants of the Great Train Robbery have been forgotten, after all, and this crime would, in all likelihood, have just faded into criminological history had it not been for Mr. Biggs' lucky escape attempt all those years ago, which kept memories of the crime alive. 

There are some people we should remember-and some who we should forget so we can move onwards. From Alan.

Monday, 16 December 2013

On those who are leaving the SWP and other thoughts

Ladies and gentlemen, there has been much talk about those who are leaving the SWP rapidly and in droves, including Ian Birchall, biographer of SWP founder Tony Cliff.

Some speculate whether this will result in the SWP's final demise, after its long and mostly parasitic existence. The SWP is something the progressive elements of Britain can really do without; one protest group even destroyed an unmanned SWP stall down near Sussex University; I myself am quite tired of the SWP gatecrashing demonstrations and marches.

As I have said before, the SWP are not real socialists and contribute nothing useful to the British left. The newest socialist alliance, Left Unity, has wisely not let the SWP itself inside but rather those members who have renounced the SWP; the exodus is largely because of the Comrade Delta scandal. I am glad for those people who have left and renounced the SWP, and I hope that as many of them as possible will come and join the Green Party (as long as they respect core green values), and still remain progressive activists.

I have also heard that less than two years on from its introduction, Michael Gove's free schools project-designed fundamentally to remove schools from democratic control and accountability-is falling apart at the seams in many areas. As a key example, the Discovery New School, a free school opened in Sussex two years ago, will close down next year because of the terrible quality of its education; a free school in Derby is facing closure for the same reason. Pressure from parents in Barking and Dagenham, London means a referendum on academisation will be held across the borough and it should go against academisation. These are just a few examples of how fundamentally unworkable the free school programme is and how communities like ours can fight back against it.

Alan.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

What is bad for our environment is also bad for our health

Readers, you may have heard before about the fact that we humans, like all other living things, are dependent on our environment. This is one of the main reasons we must protect our environment, respect it, and try to avoid buying products that are linked to environmental damage, either directly or indirectly.

We also need to know that much of what is bad for the environment-pollution, 'fast food', soil degradation-is also bad for our health as well.

Excessive pollution over the decades-via emissions from coal, from petrol, from diesel, from other harmful gases-has proven itself to be a factor in increasing rates of cancer, infertility, developmental delay and other health problems in much of the world, especially in densely-populated areas. 

The proliferation of fast food in developed (and to a lesser extent, developing) nations has been linked to rising rates of obesity and diabetes, which contribute to higher rates of death from heart problems in these societies. Fast food also often uses palm oil in its production, and palm oil production has been causing rainforest decimation and destruction of the habitats of endangered species in Africa and Asia. 

The use of nitrate-based fertilisers to increase production of food is somewhat responsible for food crises that have occurred in recent years, and has also damaged the quality and nutritional benefits of our food. Pesticides that have been linked to the killing of bees and other insects are sometimes used on our food as well, and this has had harmful effects on long-term human health.

These are just some of the many examples in how things that are bad for our environment are also bad for our health. Please comment if you can list other examples.

Alan.

 


 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

On sovereignity

Ladies and gentlemen, in my honest opinion, the decision of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his People's Party government not to allow a referendum on Catalan independence shows yet more of his contempt for the freedom and democratic rights of the people of the various regions of Spain-as he has already shown in his willingness to impose crippling Troika-led austerity and his call for a ban on unauthorised demonstrations outside the Spanish Congress.

Polls show that consistently over half of the people of Catalonia would vote for Catalan independence, and due to the economic crisis' significant effects on Catalonia this proportion is increasing. 

Mr. Rajoy's arguments that 'an independent Catalonia would be forced to exit the EU' and that 'Catalans should not follow Scotland's example' reveal much about his authoritarian rule of Spain and his unwillingness to recognise that international finance was responsible for this economic crisis. The unemployment rate in Spain exceeds 25%, and is at least double that for young people in Spain. Only Greece's economic situation is worse in Europe.

Given the current situation, Catalonia would be wise to do as much as possible to break away from Spain, in the manner Scotland is trying to do so with respect to Great Britain. It should not be deterred by the threat of being forced to leave either the EU or NATO if it breaks away from Spain, as no nation wishing to respect its own sovereignity or the sovereignity of other nations should ever be a member of either the EU or NATO, which has shown itself to be nothing more than an international, pro-imperialist and terrorist organisation that has not been brought to justice yet. 

I hope this will also prompt greater support for peaceful Basque independence from Spain.

On the issue of another important type of sovereignity-food sovereignity, Brazil's Congress is threatening to repeal a law banning the use of terminator seeds (which are sterile seeds designed purely for corporate profit) as was wisely recommended by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000. Food sovereignity-control of one's food source-is essential for humanity, and we must do all we can to fight efforts from multinational agri-businesses such as Monsanto and Syngenta to undermine it simply to inflate the profits of their shareholders. Given that Brazil is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, Brazil's Congress should think wisely, respect the wishes of ordinary people not major landowners, and not repeal their moratorium on terminator seeds.

Alan.

 

 







 

 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My thoughts of the day

Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for not updating my blog yesterday, but I have been very busy recently with Christmas-time arrangements and short-term financial trouble.

I am thankful to all those leaders who flew over to South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela-although Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) accidentally referred to him as 'Nadiba' when Mr. Mandela's nickname was 'Madiba'. Oops!

Quite a few old, former Conservative MPs like Terry Dicks are still unrepentant about their views of Mr. Mandela whilst former Conservative PM Sir John Major correctly states that Margaret Thatcher's government was incorrect to oppose sanctions against South Africa-which in any case should have been imposed earlier under Labour in the 1970s under Harold Wilson and latterly James Callaghan, given that the Soweto riots and the notorious death of Steve Biko happened in the 1970s.

In other news, those protestors have successfully pressured Thai Prime MInister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, to call a snap election. What these pro-monarchists are actually trying to achieve are a reversal of important reforms Thai governments have been achieving for a few years now, and people like them were also responsible for the attempted coup against Thaksin in 2006. The people of Thailand need to realise that Yingluck is actually on the right track overall, at least for the most part, and remain vigilant of their government nevertheless to make sure Thai elites do not try to manipulate or overthrow Yingluck and her supporters. I hope Yingluck is successful in this snap election.

Meanwhile, today is human rights day (the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which is a good time to remind you of once again how we must fight back against the EU-US Free Trade Agreement and the equally dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership-we must not allow corporate rights to trump human rights, which both these agreements will effectively permit if passed via investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a dangerous type of clause that allows corporations to sue democratically elected governments via secret, stacked offshore tribunals. We need to start this soon.

Regards, Alan.



 



 

 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

My tribute to Nelson Mandela

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank those of you who paid online tributes or other tributes to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first black President of South Africa and an all-round hero in the struggle for human rights, who sadly died on 5 December this year.

I know that his legacy, his courage, his perserverance against South Africa's despicable apartheid regime, and his ability to forgive will be remembered for many generations to come.

I thank the Green Party once again for paying tribute to his hard work.

I must say,however, that it is a pity that since Thabo Mbeki (who was later succeeded by Jacob Zuma, current President of South Africa) took over from Nelson Mandela, that the ANC has neglected some of its fighting legacy in some ways, which partly explains why there is still grave levels of inequality in South Africa, as well as high rates of HIV/AIDS infection (although to be fair, many other nations are also affected by this problem), and also corruption within much of the ANC's leadership.

What must be remembered is that the struggle for human rights and equality goes on, and many of us in Britain and elsewhere in Europe are facing a great struggle of our own, that against the divisive neoliberal policy known as austerity-which affects most of us regardless of race, gender, disability, or other factors. If we keep perservering together against austerity, I know that we together can overcome it, just as the ANC overcame South Africa's apartheid regime.

So, readers, remember Nelson Mandela, his struggle against racism, what he went through, and what he achieved not only for black South Africans but for others across the world, for as long as you live.

Posted in memory of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born 18 July 1918, who departed this long walk of life on 5 December 2013, aged 95 years.



 


Friday, 6 December 2013

Local by-election results from 5/12/13

The results from local UK by-elections involving Green candidates are as follows:

Glasgow, Shettleston:  Lab 2025 (53.5%), SNP 1086 (28.7%), Con 224 (5.9%), UKIP 129 (3.4%), TUSC 68 (1.8%), Lib Dem 53 (1.4%), No Bedroom Tax 50 (1.3%), Green 41 (1.1%), Socialist 35 (0.9%), Christian 34 (0.9%), Britannica 31 (0.8%), SDA 6 (0.2%)

Liverpool, Riverside: Lab 1055 (70.9%), Green 144 (9.7%), UKIP 119 (8.0%),  Lib Dem 64 (4.3%), TUSC 49 (3.3%), Con 39 (2.6%), English Democrats 9 (0.6%), Cooney (Ind) 7, Goudie (Ind) 1 (0.1%)

Manchester, Ancoats & Clayton: Lab 965 (57.5%), Liberal 219 (13.1%), UKIP 138 (8.2%), Green 106 (6.3%), Con 75 (4.5%), Pirate 72 (4.3%), BNP 46 (2.7%), Lib Dem 31 (1.8%), TUSC 17 (1.0%), Comm League 9 (0.5%).

Nuneaton and Bedworth, Arbury: Con 395 (40.4%), Lab 369 (37.7%), UKIP 109 (11.1%), Green 56 (5.7%), BNP 35 (3.6%), TUSC 8 (0.8%), English Democrats 6 (0.6%).

Although these by-elections were remarkably interesting in the choice of candidates, the turnout for all of them ranged from deplorable to just awful, with Liverpool Riverside's by-election having a turnout of 11%-surely one of the lowest turnouts for a local by-election on record! Partly as a result of these terrible turnout figures, there were several candidates who got fewer than 10 votes.

We Greens have strength in some parts of Glasgow, although Govan has sadly never been one of them-and with 12 candidates including ours in a part of Glasgow dominated by Labour and the SNP, it was quite an uphill struggle. John Flanagan's no bedroom tax ticket fared pretty badly here, considering his respectable performance in the Govan local by-election nearby some time ago. As for hopeless Scottish Democratic Alliance (a somewhat right-wing, Eurosceptic, Scottish Independence party) leader James Trolland, he at least got more than one vote.

Our notable upswing in Riverside is well-deserved, as we Greens have perservered in that area for many years against Labour's overwhelming dominance of Liverpool in general. Our candidate there, Martin Dobson, was selected to contest the Westminster seat of Liverpool Riverside in 2015, and I hope he can at least obtain second place, particularly with the Con-Dem vote in decline (it dropped further still in this seat). One surprise in this ward is that three candidates got fewer than 10 votes, including the English Democrats who contested this ward in 2012.

In Manchester's Ancoats and Clayton ward (which had a by-election not so long ago) the old Liberals (whose original members refused to merge with the SDP in 1988) achieved a surprising second place from nowhere to otherwise completely dominant Labour. Peter Birkinshaw contested again, and tried his best in a crowded field, with UKIP and the Pirate Party (to a lesser extent) on the up in many Manchester wards. As with Liverpool, the already weak Con/Lib Dem vote declined even further,as did the vote of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Although we Greens are making good progress in Nuneaton, we sadly did not do as well as we hoped even though this ward's by-election was caused by the disqualification of its Labour councillor, which I hoped would give us Greens an upsurge similar to the one we experienced in Warwickshire as a whole earlier this year. Owing to the low turnout and the particular circumstances, this was a surprising but nevertheless narrow Conservative gain, with TUSC failing to make any real impact at all despite having built a base in many areas of Warwickshire, especially Rugby. 

Even though both Welsh local by-elections were in Cardiff wards, Cardiff Green Party did not contest either of them even though it had done so in both cases before, and fielded candidates in all Cardiff wards in 2012-why? At least Cardiff voters who otherwise would have voted Green could (and did to a slight extent) vote against Labour via Plaid or TUSC, the latter of which are at least making progress on their otherwise poor results.

On another note, I will write my special tribute post about Nelson Mandela, who sadly passed away yesterday aged 95, tomorrow. I will remember his legacy for as long as I still live, or at least whilst I still have a functioning memory (life is pretty uncertain, you know).

Alan.



 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The defenders of democracy are the real patriots-not the elitist Establishment who attack them

Readers, in recent news, the Guardian's editor, Alan Rushbridger, was questioned by ConDem MPs about his exposure of whistleblowing hero Edward Snowden's relevations of how the NSA and GCHQ spied on us without us ever knowing it. He was deemed unpatriotic and was told he endangered national security.

It has become increasingly clear, with hindsight, that 'national security' has largely just been used to justify human rights abuses and other abuses of power by elites from across the world, and that many real patriots throughout history, who actually cared about their nation rather than just pretending to, promoted democracy, freedom and transparency, and a fairer nation, which is the message Mr. Rushbridger is rightly trying to bring across, rather than despair, division and hate as the pro-corporate right-wing media under Rupert Murdoch and Viscount Rothermere always do.

Speaking of patriotism, the ConDem government which has been in power these last 3 years has been the least patriotic of all-it is willing to sell any Britsh asset it can that is not nailed down and does not even to pretend to act in Britain's interests-only those of transnational corporations. As was once said, 'a merchant has no country'-this phrase has never been truer in modern times.

If we really care about Britain, then we should defend democracy, defend freedom, defend integration, and also fight for fairness and a better society-and against the current Establishment who have mis-governed for decades. 

Alan.

 
 

 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My thoughts on education and how British education standards can be improved

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been revealed tonight on Channel Four news, in the Independent and elsewhere that PISA tests British children of GCSE age only overall scored 26th in mathematics, 23rd in reading and 20th in science out of 65 nations which PISA tests occurred in-no better than 4 years ago.

Not surprisingly, ConDem Education Secretary Michael Gove tried to spin this to say that education policies under Labour had failed, forgetting to mention that 3 of the past 4 years have been spent under the ConDems. Labour's education reforms have not turned out well in some areas,yes, but the ConDems' proposed 'reforms' to education will actually cause standards to slip even further-especially with the increased academisation Mr. Gove wants.

Differences in educational culture, and also social culture, account for much of the more signifcant  differences between nations-and especially us and East Asian nations, whose cultures often place a particularly high value on education compared to European nations.

The UK's education system does have several flaws that contribute to its rather medicore standing that should have been ironed out some years ago. Class sizes in British secondary schools tend to average at around 30 pupils per class in state schools (independent schools in Britain have half this number per class)-most equivalent publicly-run schools in other developed nations only have 20 pupils per class on average, and large class sizes have shown to be a particular barrier to improvement of education standards in many state schools because teachers are not able to focus on some pupils' individual needs when it is necessary for learning, particularly with a persistent minority of disruptive pupils that most state secondary schools have.

The fact British children start school at the age of 5, and not 6 as happens in most nations (and in the view of educational psychologists, should happen here as well), and the excessive amount of testing young children have faced (and will face if Mr. Gove's reforms come through) means that the pressure young children come under can put some off education throughout the rest of their schooling, particularly in crucial periods. Although examinations are important, they should only be used in the later and final stages of compulsory education. Also, what must be remembered in light of the reduction of coursework components in many qualifications is that both coursework and examinations have importance-coursework allows pupils to demonstrate the long-term effort they are willing to make and (closed book) examinations can be useful in determining natural aptitude (among pupils without memory problems,anyway). As shown from stories in China and Hong Kong, an excessive focus on examinations is not that good for education overall , even with the high standards of education China and Hong Kong have, because frequent moments of stressful cramming can be psychologically damaging to human health in the long run, especially for those who fail.

Finally, the influence of corporate-driven media and businesses on children ,which is pretty problematic in the UK, needs to be reduced signifcantly, so that British children have more useful and realistic, but nevertheless good, role models to aspire to and to work towards, rather than for example, often-promoted and heavily publicised glamour models and pop stars, whose status far fewer people can ever potentially attain. 

Any thoughts, readers? 

Alan.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Ukraine needs to assert its own position in Europe

Ladies and gentlemen, for the past few days or so there have been significant and now violent clashes between pro-EU protestors in Ukraine and pro-Russian opponents.

One side wishes to embrace the EU and potential economic growth, the other wishes to stay allied to Russia as Ukraine has done since it gained independence from the former USSR in 1991, along with many other ex-Soviet republics.

Ukraine, being the largest nation entirely within Europe at 604,000 square kilometres (2 1/2 times the size of the United Kingdom) and with a population of 45 million as of 2013, could potentially exert much influence in Europe in some years' time (if just because of these factors).

Ukraine does not need either Russia or the EU, in my honest opinion. Russia under Vladimir Putin is exerting uncomfortable levels of influence over nations close to it that should be self-determining, and Russia itself is pretty undemocratic due to frequent and widespread election fraud, as well as infrequent repression of journalists and human rights activists of all types. Partly because of this, similar actions have occurred in Ukraine under its current President, Viktor Yanukovych, of which the unjust jailing of Yulia Timoshenko has been the most shameful.

The EU, especially the unelected and easily corrupted European Commission, would in some ways be even worse for the Ukraine if Ukraine were to join it The pro-neoliberal, 'common market' policies of the EU (e.g. the Common Agricultural Policy) would ultimately cause serious damage not only to Ukraine's economy but also Ukrainian society itself. It is becoming clear that the general public of Eastern European nations overall are not faring that well in the European Union on at least a few levels. Particularly in light of the threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Ukraine should stay well out of the EU, as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have wisely done.

I thus believe that the best outcome for Ukraine would be to assert its own, self-determined individual position in Europe rather than either rely on the influence of Russia or rely on prospective EU membership. 

Any thoughts on this matter?

Alan.

 

 



 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Left Unity has now emerged officially-what will come of it?

Readers, Left Unity, whose members hope to bring the various 'hard left' parties of the UK together to fight as one united force, hosted its founding conference at the Royal London Hotel yesterday.

Some of you may have already watched its founding video live-what did you think?

I am not sure what will come of Left Unity, but it may finally break the cycle that left-wing alliances in Britain have suffered under for many years. By not including the leech-like cult known as the Socialist Workers' Party, Left Unity might at least achieve something useful, somewhere.

I do of course remain a loyal Green Party member, but in my opinion it might potentially be worth the while of some local Green Parties to work with some Left Unity members in order to achieve a common goal of removing the ConDems from power and preventing Labour's return, and thus finally move the UK away from the neoliberal consensus.

We shall have to wait and see,though.

Alan.