Wednesday, 26 February 2014

How companies have abused investor-state dispute settlement clauses in the past

As you should be aware now, the threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership still lingers over Europe and thus over the UK (the equally dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership looms over the USA and several other nations also, despite opposition from many US politicians particularly with regard to the 'Fast Track' clause), especially with its proposed investor-state dispute settlement clause which allows corporations (especially multinational corporations) to sue governments for lost profits or lost future profits, in international tribunals which are clearly stacked in favour of corporations.

Here are some key examples of just how dangerous investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms are to nations:

Vattenfall, a Swedish nuclear energy company, is suing Germany for lost future profits over its correct and safe decision to phase out nuclear power and decommission existing nuclear power plants on safety grounds; the Fukushima disaster and its aftereffects has highlighted the high potential dangers of nuclear energy to us and our environment.

Tobacco giant Phillip Morris is suing the Australian government over its decision to only allow plain packaging on cigarettes (passed in the interests of public health) using the terms of the Australia-Hong Kong bilateral investment treaty.

Oil giant Chevron, under the terms of the US- Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is suing Ecuador over future lost profits even though Chevron's actions caused huge amounts of damage to Ecuador's sensitive environment, particularly in Amerindian areas.

Also, this mechanism, designed to suit the interests of large,multinational businesses over small ones, can cause the unwanted expansion of monopolies or oligopolies, which even pro-free market governments generally want to prevent to at least some extent. A Canadian funeral home proprietor, Loewen, was initially successfully sued in the US state of Mississippi over its competititon-stifling practices. It then sued under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over expropriation of its profits. This not so well-known case highlights the dangers of how ISDS can be used by multinational businesses to bypass national court systems for their own benefit.

In light of these examples, remember, please, ladies and gentlemen, keep fighting against the threat of TTIP, and vote Green in the upcoming Euro elections to bring more Green MEPs into the European Parliament who will promise to block TTIP and also shift Europe towards a diverse, brighter future.




Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Conservatives' attempt to rebrand shows the scale of their deplorability-and their desparation

It has been reported that Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield (the seat I hope to contest in 2015), has seriously considered the request of Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who represents Harlow and unlike most Conservative MPs has skilled working-class roots, to rebrand the Conservative Party as the 'Worker's Party' to try and de-toxify its privileged image, and to replace its oak tree logo with a ladder.

To give you an idea of how hypocritic and disgraceful this rebranding attempt is, here are many examples of the damage the Conservative Party, helped by the treacherous Liberal Democrats, is doing to workers in the UK.

For example, they have throughout 2010-14:

-cut legal aid for employment cases completely,and many other things for that matter
-required people to pay excessive upfront charges to employment tribunals, which will be higher in unfair dismissal cases. Many working people cannot afford these new upfront charges.
-slashed important trade union facility time
-capped welfare payments, a lot of which go to people in work, at below-inflation increases
-allowed zero-hours contracts to proliferate across the country without remorse
-failed to take any real action against payday loan companies (in fact they have allowed major stakeholders in payday loan companies like Adrian Beecroft to lobby them)
-increased the time people would need to be in their employment before they are fully protected from unfair dismissal from 12 months to 24 months

Their other actions of reducing the top tax rate of 50p to 45p, and a sharp reduction of tax rates for large corporations and blocking a cap on bankers' bonuses show the Conservatives' total lack of respect for ordinary people in Britain.

This move also smacks of desperation-the Conservatives are still some way behind Labour in the opinion polls and the Liberal Democrat partners still trail behind UKIP, and this is just over a year before the next general election. They are just trying to win over UKIP voters who formerly voted Conservative and turn further right economically(Theresa May's pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act in the unlikely event the Conservatives win the next election is a key example) to appease swing voters in marginal seats in a desperate bid to win next time around. We need to act together quickly to make sure the Con-Dems are unseated in 2015,though, and importantly go out and vote against them rather than abstain.


Sunday, 23 February 2014

More on Ukraine and the floods

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now known that Yulia Tymoshenko has been officially freed from imprisonment, and that thankfully Viktor Yanukovych was by a significant majority removed from his post by Ukrainian MPs. It has not yet been confirmed when exactly this year new presidential elections will take place, on that front.

 As for the floods, it is clear that even the Met Office now believes that artificial climate change is a major factor in the recent British floods, and thankfully so do over half of the British population, which is increasingly turning against our rotten coalition in many different ways. It has also been exposed that the burning of moorland-for the wealthy elite's old pastime of game bird rearing and shooting-contributes to greater flooding in valleys, inside and outside of Yorkshire; the disregard for the environment by the wealthy minority unfairly dominating our society is clearly responsible for the extensive damage the floods have done and it is sadly not surprising they only took notice when places with significant numbers of Conservative voters (e.g. in Surrey) were threatened by the floods. In times of serious crises like these, the voices of all that crisis' victims should be heard, no matter what their political allegiance, where they live, or how well they are able to defend themselves against the crisis' effects.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Local by-election results (from 20/02/14) and other thoughts

The result of the only local by-election from yesterday featuring a Green candidate was as follows:

Lab 1201 (41.7%), Plaid Cymru 972 (33.7%), Con 381 (13.2%), Green 148 (5.1%), TUSC 101 (3.5%), Lib Dem 80 (2.8%).

In 2012, Cardiff Green Party had performed well, particularly in Cathays where it was close to winning council seats under the help of former Young Greens co-chair Sam Coates (now a county councillor in Oxfordshire). It is rather unfortunate that much of Cardiff Green Party's activity has ceased, given Plaid Cymru's low potential in Cardiff and in much of the eastern parts of Wales, especially Monmouthshire. This decline in activity, as well as Labour's bad deeds on Cardiff City Council, and also Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood's ecosocialist stance which can attract Green voters, helped Plaid Cymru come within a good distance of being able to win a seat in this ward next time around.

As for the other by-election in Birstall in the district of Charnwood, the Liberal Democrats were able to win it in spite of their low ratings nationally because of good organisation and their part and poor organisation on Labour's part, even though many constituencies in Leicestershire are either targeted or defended significantly by Labour from time to time, given the classic marginality of much of the East Midlands.

Regarding the ongoing troubles in Kiev, Ukraine which have dominated the news for the past week, it has just emerged that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will call an early election to 'restore national unity'. However, given the past behaviour of Mr. Yanukovych, I must unfortunately say that I have no confidence that the said early election will be free or fair-recent Ukrainian elections have shown clear evidence of electoral fraud, mostly by supporters of Mr. Yanukovych, which is partly connected with the consequent jailing of former leader Yulia Tymoshenko on largely spurious charges that happened. I can only hope that he is ousted from power, and not by a leader of a pro-EU party-as I have said before on this blog, Ukraine must determine its own course and it should kowtow to either Russia under Vladimir Putin or the EU under Jose Barroso.





Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The national day of action against ATOS and its crimes against people with disabilities and/or mental health problems

Ladies and gentlemen, if you came to any of the anti-ATOS demonstrations today that occurred across Britain, thank you for coming and showing solidarity.

I am pleased to say that in particular the main demonstration near ATOS' headquarters in Regent's Place, Camden, London, which I and several London Green Party members attended, had a good turnout and we were able to symbolise our solidarity with the friends and relatives of the thousands of people whose deaths are attributable to ATOS' actions. Bolsover's Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett both spoke out against the damage ATOS and Iain Duncan Smith have done to our nation and spoke of how a fairer alternative to help people with disabilities is needed.

Simply ending ATOS' contract will not solve the current problem-the entire system of Work Capability Assessments must be scrapped and a fairer, more honest system of helping people with disabilities and/or mental health problems get the specific support they need to either work or to be supported (in the rare cases when they are actually unable to work effectively) needs to be implemented. 



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

On tomorrow's upcoming anti-ATOS demo

Ladies and gentlemen, I call on you all tomorrow, if you can make it, to come to your nearest demonstration against ATOS, the company responsible for wrongly declaring thousands of people with disabilities 'fit to work' and thus responsible for thousands of deaths since January 2011 (estimates are >20,000 ATOS-attributed deaths at this time of writing), in protest of its grievous crimes against people with disabilities and mental health problems. I particularly hope that as many of my fellow Greens as possible can turn out , because the Green Party has rightly condemned ATOS' cruel, flawed and inconsiderate assessments from the start.

To find your nearest demonstration, please go to this link:  (list of locations of anti-ATOS demonstrations on right of page)

It has also been reported that ATOS could have its contract revoked after a damning report on the way it has conducted Work Capability Assessments. This will not be nearly enough in my opinion- ATOS, Iain Duncan Smith, and Esther McVey (who allowed and encouraged ATOS to commit these grievous crimes) should be charged with at least mass corporate manslaughter as well. They need to be brought to justice-and fast.




Monday, 17 February 2014

European Parliament election polls of February 2014-how are we and the left doing?

I have been able to obtain useful polling information about many European countries specifically for European Parliament elections coming up in just three months' time. Here is how we (and the left, by which I mean members of the European Left group) are performing at the moment by nation (note that some of this polling information may be from January 2014 and not February 2014):

Austria: Greens 14%; KPO (Communist): 1-2%?
Belgium: Green/Ecolo: 8.4%/11.4%; Workers' Party of Belgium: 2.7%/6.7%.
France: Europe Ecologie-Les Verts: 9% (I hope they now regret working with Francois Hollande's 'Socialist Party'!), Front de Gauche: 9%.
Germany: Greens 10%, Die Linke 10%.
Greece: Ecologist Greens: 2-3%?, SYRIZA 25.4% (which on current ratings will give them seven more Greek European Parliament seats than in 2009 :) )
Italy: Left Ecology Freedom: 2.4%; Tspiras List: ??
Netherlands: GroenLinks (not that left-wing at all despite its name!): 3.7%, Socialist Party (actually socialist!): 13.2%.
Portugal: Communist-Green (Democratic Unity Coalition): 9.2%, Left Bloc 6.9%.
Spain  Europe for the Peoples-Greens 3.2%, United Left (includes Initiative for Catalonia Greens): 12.6%.
United Kingdom Greens: 8% (no reliable data for significant left-wing groups)

As with last month's related post, I have unfortunately not been able to gather reliable polling data for all European nations that elect members to the European Parliament. I believe on average we and the left are performing well in Europe overall, for the most part. I will update this post if I have any further important information.

Regards, Alan.



Saturday, 15 February 2014

On the serious problems with housing in Britain-especially in London

Today, some of my Green colleagues from Islington, London, went over to Mount Pleasant to hold a demonstration against the numerous problems almost all Londoners (but the very rich) face regarding housing.

As the Crumbs for London group says, two-thirds of all houses or flats in London are bought up either by overseas investors who are only interested in making profits (which explains why many good houses in London have been left empty) or by private leaseholders demanding extortionate rents, which in addition to increased gentrification will soon cause many parts of London to become ghettoised. The majority of Londoners are left fighting over the remaining third of homes, and house prices are rising several times faster than the average wage, especially in Inner London (the boroughs that were in London prior to 1965).

Many other problems with housing affect London significantly but also all of Britain as well. The lack of social housing across the nation, which is a direct result of the mechanics of the 'right-to-buy' scheme that flourished under Margaret Thatcher's tenure; many former council houses are now in the hands of greedy leaseholders similar to the ones who proliferate London. The fact that homes have become investments for many rather than actual homes,which they should be, has contributed to the excessive house prices across the nation, and this shuts out most first-time buyers and most people under the age of 30. 

I believe that much needs to be done to deal with this major crisis. Firstly, empty homes that are not actually being used should be seized from those investors so that they can actually be used for housing-we cannot afford to let them lie when so many people are homeless or in search of housing that actually meets their needs. Secondly, proportionate rent controls should be introduced so that housing benefit would not need to be paid- all housing benefit actually does is waste millions of pounds' worth of  taxpayers' money by subsidising private landlords too selfish to give lower rents. Thirdly, councils need to be allowed to finance the building of social housing projects, which will also help halt gentrification of areas when it really is not needed. Fourthly, tenants need more rights than they do at present-the reality is not everyone will be able to fully earn their home, and certainly not all at the same time.

Well done to those who came to Mount Pleasant today to highlight these problems and help us campaign for a better future.

Regards, Alan.



Friday, 14 February 2014

My analysis of the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election result

In case you have been busy, the result of the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election of 13 February 2014 was as follows:

John Bickley, UKIP, 4,301 (18.0%, +14.5%)

Captain Chaplington-Smythe, Monster Raving Loony, 288 (1.2%) 

Reverand Daniel Critchlow, Conservative, 3,479 (14.3%, -11.0%)

Mary Di Mauro, Liberal Democrats, 1,176 (4.9%, -17.4%)

Michael Kane, Labour, 13,261 (55.3%, +11.2%)

Edward O'Sullivan, BNP, 708 (3.0%, -0.9%)

Nigel Woodcock, Green, 748 (3.1%)

As we all predicted, Mike Kane won for Labour, despite his exposure of being part of Labour's right-wing Progress Faction, which during the by-election campaign was fined heavily for accepting dodgy donations.

UKIP may have come second, but they had to work hard to achieve that, as metropolitan areas like Manchester have not shown themselves to be as friendly towards UKIP as rural and semi-urban areas (market towns,basically) have been. UKIP's racist nature is now well known across Britain, as there were reports of vandalism of UKIP activists' property during the campaign. Although they hoped to gain support from ex-Labour voters (John Bickley's parents were Labour voters), they as usual found it easier to take Conservative votes, and the Conservative vote dropped sharply in Wythenshawe and Sale East, mirroring their loss of votes to UKIP in Manchester Council elections in this part of Manchester.

The Liberal Democrats' vote fell more than many expected, and they (narrowly) lost their deposit as a result, with only 4.9% of the vote and their highest loss of vote share since 1945-they vote share dropped by 17.4%, worse even than in the Manchester Central by-election where their vote share dropped by 17.2%. With stories of sexual abuse/harassment by prominent Liberal Democrats including Lord Rennard and Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock being aired during the campaign, and given that the Liberal Democrats have shown no real commitment to liberalism or democracy during their time in coalition, a lost deposit is exactly what the Liberal Democrats deserved.

It is of course rather unfortunate that we Greens could not save our deposit in this by-election, despite the hard work we put in and despite floods across Britain being a major story. At least we can be content with the fact that we got 3.1% from a standing start (given that Wythenshawe is not exactly an area of good Green strength), better than our 2001 result and better than the BNP, whose vote did not collapse as badly as I thought it would, partly due to them at least trying to be active in Manchester when they have fallen apart elsewhere.

As for Captain Chaplington-Smythe of the Monster Raving Loony Party, his 288 votes is rather respectable by Loony standards, particularly for a candidate who had never stood in any election before and whom we had never heard of before this by-election was called. 

I would like to say well done to Nigel Woodcock for the efforts he put in during this short by-election campaign. Hopefully, this will bode well for us in the Euro elections in May 2014.





Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Why Green Parties in Britain and elsewhere need to have clear policies on the Arctic Ocean

Ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken before on the importance of protecting the Arctic Ocean particularly from oil and gas companies. It is clear that an international treaty needs to be made on the Arctic Ocean, similar to existing treaties on the Antarctic ice sheet (which for example ban military activity of any type occurring there) in order to protect it, indigenous communities living near the Arctic Ocean, and ultimately all of us.

This year, I am pushing for the Green Party to have a clear and firm policy on how we should all protect the Arctic Ocean, and I hope other Green Parties from across the world will implement similar policies if they do not already have them. The threats to the Arctic Ocean and major ice sheets in general are some of the greatest threats the world is facing this century-and we need to act on it as soon as possible to avoid the potentially devastating consequences of rising sea levels that will result from melting ice caps and resulting stream shifts.


Monday, 10 February 2014

How the effects of neoliberal capitalism and environmental degradation are to blame for the floods more than anything else

Ladies and gentlemen, the story of severe flooding in the South West (and to some extent the South East) has been occuring for weeks now, with the consequences of thousands of people evacuated, railway lines being rendered inoperable, and weakened flood defences unable to deal with the waves, and the latest news item of Somerset man Sam Notaro's home about to go under despite his best efforts at creating a flood defence of mud and clay around it.

Despite this, the coalition are as usual failing to respond to the UK's environmental needs and are still on course to do more damage, thanks to their failure to even sack Owen Paterson, the worst Environment Secretary Britain has ever known.

It is once again clear that the neoliberal capitalist system is to blame for allowing these floods to cause so much damage, as prominent left-wing activist Lindsey German pointed out earlier. The cuts and damage to important infrastructure (via privatisations and other methods) in the UK that have occurred in the last 30 years have left our nation unable to defend itself properly against natural disasters-this is not just limited to floods, but also windstorms (and dangerous tremors if fracking still goes ahead in the UK), which are becoming increasingly more common as artificial climate change is still progressing. More importantly, this system is too focused on growth and profit to be able to protect our natural world, even if it wished to. 

Britain is not the only vulnerable nation here-many other nations in Europe are threatened by the consequences and aftereffects of artificial climate change and temperature rises, and neoliberalism's failure to deal with this problem. I will once again say that for our sake and our earth's sake, a green and socialist alternative is there, and we need it now more than ever.



Saturday, 8 February 2014

My thoughts on disability and politics (especially youth politics)

Last night, I went to one of the open debates of the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) seminar on how to get young people more involved in politics. (Quite a few people from more liberal sections of Labour also attended.)

I expressed a particular interest because not only am I a Young Green, but also a Young Green who has a disability and who is passionate about countering the attacks on people with disabilities by the coalition government-especially via Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey, his partner-in-crime-and also much of the mainstream media. Disability hate crime has been rising in many areas since the ConDems first took power, as a direct result of their austerity rhetoric and disregard for our society's most vulnerable people. As Mahtma Gandhi once said, 'you can judge a government by the way it treats society's most vulnerable.'

As I have experienced and expressed before I joined the Green Party in 2012, the voices in particular of young people on the autistic spectrum almost never get heard to a wide enough audience, and they are particularly vulnerable to the predations of corporations and the right-wing, pro-neoliberal mainstream media. I have been trying to change that (and will continue to do so) not just through my experiences in the Green Party but also within NUS, where I have spoken many times and where I helped pass a motion to help student unions help get young people with developmental disabilities more active.

It is clear that if we are to work together and oust the neoliberal capitalist system that has corrupted our society for three decades, we need to inspire as many people as possible, particularly young people, to take action, regardless of whom they are, and resist the divide and rule tactics of the wealthy elite, and remind them there is a real alternative to what we face now across Europe.




Local by-election results (06/02/14) and other thoughts

In case you missed it, the results from the Sheffield local by-election (the only one of this week to feature a Green candidate) are as follows:

Sheffield, Arburthorne: Lab 1398 (52.2%), UKIP 482 (18.8%), Con 213 (8.0%), TUSC 204 (7.6%), Lib Dem 161 (6.0%), Green 143 (5.3%), English Democrats 75 (2.8%).

Most notable about this by-election is the significant drop in Labour's share, partly caused by UKIP and also by TUSC, which in local by-elections two or three months ago had been performing considerably worse. I am also sure they bear responsibility for the slight loss in our vote share. Interestingly, Left Unity, which sprung up just over two months ago, have not as far as I know fielded any candidates for upcoming local by-elections, but I hear they are thankfully supporting us in the North West for this year's European elections.

Speaking of by-elections, I will be keeping a close eye on news on the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, whose polling day is less than a week away now. I am proud of Nigel Woodcock, our candidate, for the hard work he has done so far, especially in highlighting Labour PPC Mike Kane's ties to the right-wing Progress faction of Labour and the disparities between the Wythenshawe and Sale parts of this constituency.

On another note, the Independent reported that experiments have apparently shown links between high levels of chloride in neonates to the development of autism later in life. This is not necessarily true and I know that disorders of the autistic spectrum cannot be linked solely to one or two causes (and especially not vaccinations). 

Regards, Alan.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Solidarity with Tube and UCU strikers

Like many Greens within the United Kingdom, I wish to give my support to those underground workers who are striking against Boris Johnson's foolish and inconsiderate plans to close ticket offices throughout the London Underground system.

 I will also give my support to UCU lecturers who are striking for fairer pay and conditions, and against the greed of university vice-chancellors. I ampleased to say this includes the UCU branch of the University of Hertfordshire, where I study.

Regards, Alan.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Bite the Ballot initiative and why we need to come out and vote

Today marks another anniversary of the historical Great Reform Act of 1832, one of the first ever steps taken towards fair democracy in Britain. 

As a result, a 'Bite the Ballot' initiative for National Voter Registration Day is spreading across Britain, encouraging young people and first-time voters to register to vote and then vote when the day comes, which is particularly important because the coalition government that hopefully will be voted out next year is mistreating young people particularly badly, knowing that young people are the least likely to vote in elections.

 The Electoral Reform Society has just revealed that a quarter of people aged 18-25 have never registered to vote in their lives.

One main problem we now face is that individual voter registration will now come into force, meaning that young people,especially students and those who move frequently, will find it difficult to register to vote in the constituency or local authority area they live in-yet another reason why first past the post should be scrapped.  As NUS President Toni Pearce points out, many students will now have to register to vote potentially as many as five times in a row in five different places.  We need to not let this deter us,though, from exercising our democratic rights.

 If you are a young person and are reading this post, please register to vote if you have not done so already, and please share this post with your friends so that we can all use our voice when it is needed most, and as soon as is possible vote out this heartless, inconsiderate coalition we have. As has been said so often, people throughout history have died to ensure that all of us adults have the right to vote in free and fair elections.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Green Songs and Poetry: I see love so green and verdant

I see love so Green and Verdant: (can be sung to the tune of 'Falling In Love Again')

My dearest love,

My beautiful white dove,

I see love so green and verdant.

And I do know,

Within this natural glow,

Our love shall be so radiant.


I want to dance with you

Like moths around bright light,

As love looks luminescent

Within this morning light,

Once I was lost,

Wandering and in despair,

Now that you are here,

I see love so verdant,

That nothing now can even compare.


I want to dance 'round you

Like moths around bright light,

As love looks luminescent

Within this morning light.

Let us be together,

Like birds of a feather,

Even in these hard years,

Of suffering, strife, and fear,

I can give love so green

Like no other thing here.