Sunday, 28 September 2014

Green songs and poetry: Take me back, my lady Greensleeves

I have loved the song Greensleeves for quite a few years now.

However, with much talk of feminism in the news, especially over the good efforts of Feminist Initiative in Sweden and with actress Emma Watson's speeches on the importance of feminism and equality in our society, I feel it would be wise to write a new version of Greensleeves, particularly for men who have failed to treat their lovers properly or with fairness, like a young man from my home county of Hertfordshire who was caught cheating on his girlfriend; the news got out far and wide. (NB: I do treat women I love properly and with respect, in case you ask)

Take Me Back, My Lady Greensleeves:

Alas my love, I did you wrong,
By failing to show true love and fairness.
But I have seen the error of my ways,
And from you I seek forgiveness

Please, please, my lady greensleeves,
Now I truly appreciate your charms,
Please, please, my lady greensleeves,
Take me back, into your loving arms.

I truly miss all the good times,
That we lovingly enjoyed together,
So sorry am I, my dearest love,
As I rue what I did in this rainy weather.

Please, please, my lady greensleeves,
Now I truly appreciate your charms.
Please, please, my lady greensleeves,
Take me back, into your loving arms.

My sweet, I understand you were not at fault,
I know this was all down to my wrong choices,
But I can prove worthy of your love again,
And I long to hear your sweet, soothing voice.

Please take me back, my lady greensleeves,
This time I will show true love and respect,
Please, please, my lady greensleeves,
And let us again show love and affect-ion.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The honourable 31 LibLabCon rebels who voted against another war in Iraq-and further developments

Yesterday, by a huge majority of 524 to 43, Britain's MPs voted in favour of military intervention in Iraq (Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond suggested intervention in Syria as well, but this would be illegal) regarding the threat of Islamic State (IS) fighters in northern Iraq. As before, the three main parties sided with each other for the most part. Shockingly, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, the Most Reverend (he is unworthy of this title in my opinion) Justin Welby, stated that 'this action is the right course of action' even when the legacy of the Iraq war shows that this is the wrong course of action to take-we need to address issues back home and how IS arose in the first place.

British and US imperialism were responsible for those recent wars of the Middle East, and it is well known they were really starting those wars to steal vast quantities of oil under the excuse of fighting for 'humanitarian reasons', which is another actual reason why those air strikes were made-reports show that IS has access to a relatively large oil cache on the Iraq-Syria border, which US air strikes are targeting.

However, alongside our good friend Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, honourable as ever, the 6 SNP MPs, 2 of Plaid Cymru's 3 MPs (one did not show up for some reason), the 3 SDLP MPs, and Respect MP George Galloway voted against military intervention. And so did 31 MPs from the 3 main parties-Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Conservative.

Here are those 31 mainstream party rebels-was your MP among them (in case you do not live in Brighton Pavilion's boundaries but still live in England)?

Diane Abbott (Labour, Hackney North & Stoke Newington)
Graham Allen (Labour, Nottingham North)
Richard Bacon (Conservative, South Norfolk)
John Baron (Conservative, Basildon & Billericay)
Anne Begg (Labour, Aberdeen South)
Ronnie Campbell (Labour, Blyth Valley)
Martin Caton (Labour, Gower)
Katy Clark (Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran)
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North)
Ian Davidson (Labour, Glasgow South West)
Paul Flynn (Labour, Newport West)
Gordon Henderson (Conservative, Sittingbourne & Sheppey)
Stephen Hepburn (Labour, Jarrow)
Kate Hoey (Labour, Vauxhall)
Adam Holloway (Conservative, Gravesham)
Kelvin Hopkins (Labour, Luton North)
Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge)
Sian James (Labour, Swansea East)
Mark Lazarowicz (Labour, Edinburgh North & Leith)
John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington)
Iain McKenzie (Labour, Inverclyde)
Nigel Mills (Conservative, Amber Valley)
Austin Mitchell (Labour, Great Grimsby)
Grahame Morris (Labour, Easington)
George Mudie (Labour, Leeds East)
Mark Reckless (was Conservative, is now UKIP, Rochester and Strood)
Linda Riordan (Labour, Halifax)
Barry Sheerman (Labour, Huddersfield)
Dennis Skinner (Labour, Bolsover)
Graham Stringer (Labour, Blackley and Broughton)
Mike Wood (Labour, Batley & Spen)

Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, despite resigning from the shadow front bench in protest of Labour siding with the ConDems in this debate, did not actually vote against military intervention but rather formally abstained.

Incidentally, Mark Reckless, one of just six Conservative rebels in the debate (and three of them,himself included, represent constituencies in Kent, notably) has become the second Conservative MP to defect to UKIP in just a month. Like Douglas Carswell, Mr. Reckless has also resigned his seat to recontest it under his new political colours-however, Rochester and Strood has more Labour potential than Clacton did even though the Medway area where Rochester lies showed strong support for UKIP in the European elections earlier this year. Incidentally, the Rochester and Strood seat also lacked a UKIP candidate in 2010....

Alan.



Friday, 26 September 2014

My analysis of recent local by-election results (from 25/09/14) and other thoughts

Readers, there were two local by-elections featuring Green candidates yesterday, in case you missed them. The results from said by-elections were as follows:

Epping Forest, Epping Hemnall: Liberal Democrat 607 (43.3%, +0.8%), Conservative 386 (27.6%, +6.5%), UKIP 339 (24.2%, -1.4%), Green 69 (4.9%, +0.6%).

Somerset County Council, Frome North: Conservative 1,111 (46.5%, +10.8%), Liberal Democrat 836 (35.0%, -2.3%),Labour 163 (6.8%, -3.9%), Green 139 (5.8%), Independent LD 139 (5.8%).

Although the Lovelace by-election in Guildford did not feature a Green candidate, I feel compelled to comment on it nevertheless, for this reason. There was a 45% swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat in that ward, which is otherwise safely Conservative (with low potential for UKIP). The issue of potential housebuilding on greenbelt land, strongly prized by most Surrey voters, is believed to be the prime cause for the off-scale swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat here, as well as the fact that Guildford's Conservative association was unwilling to support the candidate (who was selected by Mole Valley Conservatives).

The Liberal Democrat gain of Epping Hemnall ward is less surprising; they had won that ward in 2012 and 2013 and it was only in their great nadir of 2011 that they failed to win that ward. As UKIP were already doing well, there was precious little ground for them to gain which they had not already gained from the Conservatives. I was hoping that the Green Party would do better, with the absence of a Labour candidate and with a morale boost across the district from our first local win in Epping Forest earlier this year.

As for Frome North, after narrowly holding it in 2013, the Lib Dems lost it to the Conservatives due to two prominent factors. The first was the absence of a UKIP candidate this time-was the Conservative winner Eurosceptic and right-wing enough for the local UKIP branch? The second was a former Liberal Democrat councillor standing as an independent, which split the Liberal Democrat vote fatally, even if not by much. Meanwhile, we Greens did pretty well from a standing start, causing some damage to the already weak Labour vote in this division, and hopefully my colleagues in the Mendip District (which also includes the Wells constituency, another very tight Lib Dem-Conservative marginal) will have a Green PPC ready soon for Somerton and Frome, where former Newbury MP and Old Etonian David Rendel has apparently been selected for the Liberal Democrats.

Recently, there was a report on membership of significant parties within the United Kingdom, and some rather interesting statistics spring to light:

The Green Party has the highest proportion of members with a university degree (and also those who tried to get a university degree) at 60% of the membership; I, as a psychology graduate (which is better than being a PPE graduate in my opinion), proudly count myself amongst that. The Liberal Democrats, whose former supporters we Greens are winning a sizable number of votes from, especially in naturally liberal and progressive areas like Hampstead, come next with 50% of their membership having been to university at least.

Two important statistics in the same report need some seeing to by all major parties: ~20% of electors self-define as retired (normally due to old age), but 30% of political party members self-define as retired. It has often been quoted that the average age of Conservative Party members in particular is as high as 68, and the average age of UKIP members is probably at least 60. Also, two thirds of party members are male, and this is especially prominent amongst the three main parties. I hope we Greens can inspire more women to get involved in politics-after all, we are the only major party in the UK to currently have a female leader (Natalie Bennett) and speaking further on diversity, we are the only significant UK party to have any non-white deputy leaders (Shahrar Ali) amongst us. Since the Green Party now has over 19,000 members, and almost certainly will get 20,000 by the end of this year, I hope the British public can aspire further and further to real change for the better.

Alan.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Shining the green light on devolution and local power

Over the last few days, there has rightly been much talk on the subject of further devolution within the United Kingdom, especially within England which unlike Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland has never had any regional assemblies or an English Parliament. (A proposal for a North East assembly was overwhelmingly rejected 10 years ago, and plans at the time to create more assemblies were cancelled. Labour was in power then and the North East region is the most solidly Labour region of England psephologically)

Although it is obvious that the parts of England need more power, 'English votes only on England-only laws' is not the correct solution and it will clearly benefit the Conservative Party at the expense of the other parties in the House of Commons, without actually devolving real power to local level in England. The United Kingdom, especially England, is one of the most centralised nations in the world, and changing it from a centralised nation into a federal nation similar to the way Germany is will be increasingly necessary not only to reinvigorate local government but also ensure fairer distribution of resources. London and the South East have far more resources per capita for transport than the North East does, for example-this disparity needs to end.

Labour's failure to call for proper decentralisation, as well as its decision to side with the ConDems on the Scottish independence referendum, is already costing them dearly-their lead over the Conservatives is narrowing in England and the SNP are now in first position in opinion polls about voting intention in Scotland, when up until a few months ago they were consistently polling (an albeit strong) second behind Labour; this means Labour in Scotland will lose several seats to the SNP in its strongholds next year. Also, lots of new members have now joined the SNP, to the extent where it is the UK's third largest political party in terms of membership, and Scottish Green Party membership has doubled over the course of less than a few weeks. Hopefully, this advance for the Scottish Greens can indirectly encourage the SNP to stop being 'Tartan Tories' and distance themselves more from the failed neoliberal doctrine.

As for devolution itself, apart from the prominent idea of a Cornish Assembly, I believe England does not need its own parliament, as it is a patchwork of different cultures and regions that socially and culturally are small nations in their own right (or nearly so,anyway). Instead, there should be regional assemblies with strong powers across England, and I believe these assemblies should consist of the following:

Assembly of Lancashire: Counties of Lancashire, Merseyside (not the Wirral as that was traditionally in Cheshire), Greater Manchester (except for the Borough of Stockport, Altrincham, Sale, etc. that used to be part of Cheshire, and not Saddleworth either which will be transferred back to Yorkshire where it originally belonged).

Assembly of Cumberland-Northumbria: Counties of Cumbria, Northumberland, City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear (once part of Northumberland)

Assembly of Durham: City of Sunderland, County Durham, Stockton-On-Tees, Hartlepool.

Assembly of Yorkshire: Counties of North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, West Yorkshire (includes Leeds, Bradford, Saddleworth etc.), City of York, Middlesborough, Redcar.

Assembly of Lindsey: North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire (and also City of Peterborough, which was once part of Northamptonshire), Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Rutland.

Assembly of West Mercia: Cheshire (also Wirral, Stockport Borough, Altrincham, and Sale), Herefordshire, Shropshire ,Worcestershire.

Assembly of East Mercia: Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall).

Assembly of East Anglia: Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire (including Huntingdon), Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex.

Assembly of Wessex: Gloucestershire, City of Bristol, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire.

Assembly of Sussex-Kent: West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Kent.

Assembly of Cornwall: Cornwall, Isles of Scilly.

Please feel free to comment on my ideas for regional assemblies in England or if you have any similar ideas of your own :)

Alan.






Tuesday, 23 September 2014

On environmental and human rights

Readers, I would like to thank everyone who came along to People's Climate Marches on Sunday 21st, the Autumnal Equinox of 2014. I am pleased to say that the People's Climate March in London had an attendance of 30,000 and counting, even if this did not match that of the People's Assembly March held at the summer solstice. The fact that millions of people around the world, including famously UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, marched in 160 nations worldwide for climate justice and to demand action on artificial climate change makes up for that.

Earlier, Amnesty International, who I am a member of, stated that 'environmental rights are human rights'. In case you are perplexed by this statement, here is why environmental rights are human rights as well:

1.We all have a right to food, water, and shelter. We need to protect our planet and conserve and reuse resources in order to maintain this fundamental right and need.

2. We have a right to life as well-just as we should protect human life, we should protect animal life when we can. We also depend on our planet to survive, via means of clean air, uncontaminated food, uncontaminated water, and a suitable climate.

For these reasons, the proposed free-trade agreements known as TTIP and TPP violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on many grounds.

TTIP will violate our human rights simply by: subjugating our rights to clean water, clean air, uncontaminated food, fair justice, a proper education, and others to the profiteering whims of multinational corporations (many environmental laws which those corporations seek to have overturned protect some of our human rights). The use of international arbitration tribunals in these agreements via means of ISDS, where corporations can sue governments but not the other way around, which involve unknown corporate lawyers as judges, will involve a particularly egregious bypassing of remotely fair and democratic processes that are used in our courts. Even the European Court of Justice is more transparent and fair than any of these proposed tribunals (and the ECJ is not exactly on our side as previous judgements of that court have shown).

I believe Amnesty International needs to join the fight against TTIP, TPP, CETA and other 'free-trade agreements' worldwide, as soon as possible, to protect our human rights, and so do other human rights organisations.

Alan.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Politically, statistically small changes can have significant consequences

Yesterday, New Zealand held its most recent parliamentary election, which as expected elected National Party leader John Key to another term of office as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Although each of the parties in the election only gained or lost one or two seats apiece for the most part, these small changes brought large consequences.

First, the National Party increased its seat total from 59 to 61, giving it an overall majority in the New Zealand legislature all by itself. (however, Mr. Key is likely to still ask United Future and the libertarian right ACT party for confidence and supply as he did last time). This partly happened because of the turmoil the New Zealand Labour Party is in right now-its leader, David Cunliffe, is much less popular than John Key, who among leaders of Commonwealth countries is not that controversial or hard right by the standards of the day, compared to Stephen Harper or Tony Abbott. The Labour Party only lost two seats to be fair, but one particularly unfortunate note is that far from gaining any seats, my Green colleagues in New Zealand actually lost one seat overall.

New Zealand First, a populist party led by former National Party member Winston Peters, made the biggest gains in this election, going up from 7 seats to 11, only two behind the Green Party of Aotearoa (the official name of New Zealand's Greens). Interestingly, New Zealand First also opposes the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), an international trade deal equally as dangerous as TTIP, which New Zealand plans to participate in, although this is  for nationalist reasons rather than environmental and social justice reasons, which are better for stating why the TPP should not be ratified by any country.

In another blow for progressive politics, the Internet-MANA coalition only polled 1.2% of the vote in New Zealand, and failed to win any seats-even left-wing Maori activist Hone Harawira, the leader of the Internet-MANA alliance, lost his own single-seat electorate of Te Te Toikerau to Labour. (In New Zealand, a party can potentially gain list seats if it wins even one single-seat electorate, even if it does not otherwise pass the 5% threshold).

Further on the theme of small changes having significant consequences, let us go back to the 1992 general election of Britain, which before polling day could have produced a hung parliament but in the end the Conservatives, now under John Major, won with a majority of 21 (significantly down from their 102 majority of 1987,though) which they lost through by-elections and defections alone throughout the 1992-1997 period even before the Blair landslide. Research shows, however, that if even as few as 10,000 to 20,000 more Conservative voters had switched to Labour in 1992, the Conservatives would almost certainly have lost their majority completely and the Liberal Democrats would have overall gained seats in the election rather than losing seats overall, which could have resulted in a peacetime coalition government back then. As many as 20 Conservative seats out of the 336 they won in 1992 were held by less than 1,000 votes apiece. (mind you, even some seats which Labour won from the Conservatives were held just as narrowly, in a general election whose turnout of 77.7% was the highest in 18 years, and even the next general election's turnout overall probably will not be as high even though another hung parliament seems a probable outcome at present). Always good to wonder what might have been if just a few thousand votes had swung another way in the end....

Alan.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A letter from me to left-wing nationalist groups in Britain

Even though Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom, the strength of the Yes vote in areas that are normally solidly Labour, combined with increasing resentment of the three major parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative) and a need for major change and devolution across the whole of the United Kingdom, gives hope for the various centre-left to left-wing nationalist groups within the United Kingdom. The groups in question are the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Mebyon Kernow. (It may also be worth talking with Yorkshire First, as their vote share was better than average in North Yorkshire in this year's European elections compared to other parts of Yorkshire and the Humber).

Given that the Green Party is unlikely to field a full slate of candidates across England and Wales (the Scottish Green Party may not field a full slate either) it would be wise, given how divided the right is in the UK (there are four right wing parties of significance) and that the Green Party is in the same European group (G/EFA) as the SNP and Plaid Cymru, for some cooperation to occur at the 2015 general election. For example, I believe the Scottish Greens should not stand against the 6 sitting SNP MPs (but should stand everywhere else if possible), and that Wales Green Party should not stand in the 3 seats Plaid Cymru currently holds (or Ynys Mon, Plaid Cymru's top target).

I believe this can be a useful strategy for the next general election, given that it will help provide all of the British electorate with a progressive alternative even if not everyone will be able to vote Green in 2015, and help ensure further devolution in all regions of the UK when needed. There are several seats in the UK where the potential for a win by a nationalist group (Plaid Cymru/SNP) is reasonably high; these include Ynys Mon and Ceredigion in Wales, (and maybe Aberconwy on a very good election year), and Ochill & South Pershire and Gordon in Scotland.

Together, we can all help provide a new vision for Britain, one of hope, fairness, equality, sustainability and peace.

Alan.

Friday, 19 September 2014

And then that fateful day came....

Yesterday, as you all know, the voters of Scotland were asked,

'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

And unfortunately, by a rather significant majority, more significant than exit polls predicted they voted..... No.

Apparently the result in Fife, heavily in favour of 'No', (45% Yes, 55% No) which has a population of just over 300,000 (the third highest of Scottish local authorities) was the final decisive factor. The heavy pro-union result across Edinburgh, with an electorate of 378,000, second only to Glasgow in terms of electorate, (only 38.9% voted for independence there!) was even more decisive for confirming a 'No' result, in my opinion. One important thing that must be noted is this: which council areas were least in favour of independence, and which were most in favour? As it turns out, only four council areas in the whole of Scotland voted Yes to independence

Council area:                       Yes-No vote (%):
Dundee City                         Yes 57.3%, No 42.7%
West Dunbartonshire           Yes 54%, No 46%
Glasgow                              Yes 53.5%, No 46.5%
North Lanarkshire                Yes 51.1%, No 48.9%

(Inverclyde was extremely close, with the gap between the Yes and No votes just 0.16%)

I was hoping that the result would be considerably closer, so that at least there would be hope for the future even if the United Kingdom remained a united nation. But with a gap as wide as 10.8% in favour of staying in the union, it is unlikely that further devolution will come to pass in practice-after the failed 1979 devolution referendum, similar promises did not come to pass.

I would like to thank everyone who campaigned for independence, and who voted for independence in the polls, and also for the high turnout of 84%. I would like to give an honourable mention to the cities of Dundee and Glasgow, and the nearby areas of West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire, who early on gave hope for the 'Yes' side.

Alan.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Thoughts of the day

Now that nominations for the Heywood & Middleton by-election and the Clacton by-election have finished, I can reveal that the Green Party is thankfully standing in both by-elections, with Abi Jackson in Heywood & Middleton and Chris Southall in Clacton.

Here is who we have to face in terms of opponents in Heywood & Middleton:

UKIP: John Bickley (contested Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election earlier this year)

Conservative: Iain Gartside (lives in nearby Bury North, one of only two Greater Manchester constituencies to be represented by a Conservative MP)

Labour: Liz McInnes (lives in Rossendale & Darwen)

Liberal Democrat: Anthony Smith (he might save his deposit this time when the Liberal Democrats have lost so many so far in recent by-elections)

And here are our opponents in Clacton:

UKIP: Douglas Carswell (no comment needed!)

Liberal Democrat: Andrew Graham (used to be mayor of Bishop's Stortford, near to where I live now)

Official Monster Raving Loony: Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope (maybe he will beat the Liberal Democrats this time around-he nearly did so last year in South Shields!)

Independent: Charlotte Rose (?)

Independent: Bruce Sizer (apparently a hospital consultant-will he be standing on a health related theme a la Paul Baggaley of Newark's by-election?)

Conservative: Giles Watling (formerly starred in British sitcom Bread, and chosen by open primary)

Labour: Tim Young (a councillor in Colchester, not so far from Clacton)

Given the amount of coverage Douglas Carswell got when he defected, I am surprised we only face seven opponents in this by-election. Unusually, John Black of the Scottish Jacobite Party tried to get nominated (why?) for this by-election, but the returning officer ruled his nomination invalid as his party is only registered to contest elections in Scotland-not England.

With 23 days of campaigning, I wish Abi and Chris the best of luck, and hopefully we can get at least one of our deposits back, given that the Green Party is polling 6-7% in election polls, tying with the Liberal Democrats' poll ratings sometimes (hopefully we can overtake the Lib Dems in the polls in a few months' time :) )

On another note-with only two days to go, I am hoping that the Yes campaigners in the Scottish independence referendum will do all they can to get those undecided voters to support independence-there is so much a Yes vote could spark for the UK, including further devolution of parts of England, especially Cornwall and Yorkshire.

Alan.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Three Landtagswahlen in a boat, not to mention the Swedish general election

Hello, readers, while many of you have been busy with affairs in the UK, three German states, all in former East Germany, held Landtagswahlen (elections for state parliaments), and Sweden held its 2014 general election yesterday.

I will go first to the elections of the German states of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia respectively.

Saxony:

This election actually concluded two weeks ago, but I thought it would be best to group it with the Brandenburg and Thuringia landtag elections for convenience.

There was a relative lack of change for four of the main parties in that landtag-the CDU only gained 1 seat, Die Linke lost two (including one of the only two non-CDU held Direktmandaten, and the SPD gained four but thankfully could still not overtake Die Linke; the Greens meanwhile unfortunately lost one seat; the seats in the landtag itself were reduced from 132 to 126 for an unknown reason. As expected, the right-wing, anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered a state parliament for the very first time, winning 14 seats and coming fourth overall. As also expected, the classical liberal FDP crashed out of the landtag, dropping from 10% of the vote to 3.8% of the vote, with the consequent loss of all 14 seats and finishing behind the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Thankfully, the NPD lost their 8 seats as well, even if only by 0.05% of the votes cast.

Brandenburg:

This proved an outright disaster for Die Linke, by the standards of eastern provinces. Probably due to their collaboration with the SPD (a mistake I hope they will never again repeat!) in Brandenburg in the past, they went down from 26 seats to 17 and worse still, Die Linke were pushed into third place by the CDU, who only gained 2 seats partly due to the entrance of AfD. AfD's performance was the best of the three recent landtag elections; they won a frighteningly high 12.2% of the vote and 11 seats. At least the Greens managed to gain one seat when they have been losing seats in recent landtag elections of note.

The defection of an SPD legislature member to the Free Voters of Brandenburg (FW aka Freiwahlen) allowed the Free Voters to gain 3 seats, all via Direktmandaten, in the Brandenburg landtag. This state election is the most humiliating the FDP have had to endure-they finished in ninth place (down from fourth in 2009), losing all 7 seats and with a derisory vote share of 1.5%, behind that of the Pirate Party and NPD.

Thuringia:

Finally, some good news for the German left-Die Linke gained one seat overall, whilst the SPD lost six seats in Thuringia. Unfortunately, the CDU gained 4 seats at the same time, which means the grand coalition (CDU-SPD) can just about continue in Thuringia (the CDU now have 34 seats, the SPD now have just 12, less than half that of Die Linke's 28 seats; 46 seats are needed for a majority). On seats basis, a Die Linke led coalition between Die Linke, the SPD, and the Greens is just about possible (1 seat majority), and in my opinion it would allow the German left to not only keep the right-wing CDU out of the Thuringian administration but also to implement progressive and socialist policies in a state parliament for the first time in many years. However, the SPD and the Greens are unlikely to cooperate with Die Linke as junior partners any more than the CDU is willing to allow AfD to become a junior coalition partner at any level. 

The FDP lost all 7 of their seats in Thuringia and finished 6th behind the NPD with only 2.5% of the vote-pretty much par for the course in Germany now. The FDP over the last few decades, has helped shift Germany well to the right economically, has joined coalitions of just about any type in Germany when it can, and it is now paying the price for its backstabbing ways.

With all those recent losses, the FDP now has only 64 seats across the various German state parliaments out of a possible 1,857, amounting to only 3.4% of all German landtage seats, no MPs at all in the Bundestag, and just 3 MEPs when it won 12 in 2009. In the next few years, the FDP may ultimately meet its demise, or at least a permanent split-recent events have shown that the FDP is effectively finished as a significant force in German politics.

The Swedish general election:

Despite optimistic predictions for progressive parties in Sweden's polls right up to the election yesterday, the overall result was a great disappointment to left-wing greens like myself. Feminist Initiative only managed 3.1% of the vote and did not make it into the Swedish Parliament (aka the Riksdag) in the end; the Greens actually lost 1 seat even though previous election polls predicted they would gain at least a few, and the Swedish Left Party (Vansterpartiet) only gained 2 seats overall. Worse still, the far-right Swedish Democrats ballooned in support, finishing with 49 seats (more than twice their 2010 total) and coming third overall in the election.

However, it can conclusively be said that as predicted, Frederik Reinfeldt is no longer Prime Minister of Sweden, as his Moderate Party (the Swedish equivalent of our own Conservative Party, albeit not quite as right-wing) lost 23 seats, nearly three times the losses of his coalition partners (Centre, Liberal People's, and the Christian Democrats) put together. The Social Democrats actually only gained 1 seat, and even with the combined support of the Swedish Greens and Swedish Left, they will not have enough seats to form a majority (the total seats of these 3 parties only comes to 158, 17 short of a majority). This is a serious problem as the Social Democrats are not as committed to anti-privatisation measures as the Greens and Left are-one notable example is that the Social Democrats do not oppose free schools, which have been one of Sweden's most notorious social disasters, but just want more quality control on them-not good enough. In my opinion, the Greens and the Left must stand firm on such issues to help Sweden turn away from the overly pro-free market model, and not concede to the SDs' leader, Stefan Lotven unless they absolutely cannot avoid it.

On another note, heading back to Britain, I am pleased to say the Green Party will be standing in the Heywood and Middleton by-election of 9th October after all, and that if Scotland votes for independence this Thursday even though the 'No' side of the referendum campaign is still in the lead, I believe devolution should spread across England as well, because England, like Germany, has many cultural and social differences between its regions. In particular, Yorkshire and Cornwall would benefit well from devolution-they have demonstrated with their dialects, cuisine, and social attitudes that they are almost small nations in their own right.

Alan.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Scotland needs independence not home rule!

With only five days to go before polling day of the Scottish independence referendum, and with polls still relatively close, all is heating up on the independence debate, in mainstream and non-mainstream media alike.

I still firmly believe (despite living in England) that Scotland should become independent, by the way :)

I also believe that the equivalent of 'Home Rule' for Scotland will not be good enough any more than 'Home Rule' would have been for Ireland had that come about rather than outright independence. Home Rule would still mean in practice being under the mercy of those banks and corporations which Jim Sillars rightly railed against recently,having to have the Queen as the head of state rather than an elected president, not being able to establish a new consensus more suited to Scotland's needs, and not having true independence from the Westminster establishment . Back in the 19th century when Home Rule for Ireland was debated, attempts to secure it failed, and what Ireland (well, apart from six of the nine counties in Ulster province,a) really wanted-and thankfully got, eventually- was true independence from the United Kingdom. 

Ireland, like all nations of the 20th century that declared independence from one or more imperial powers, has never looked back since.

Also, if Scotland votes for independence rather than for increased devolution (which probably will not happen anyway despite dubious promises from the LibLabCons; the three main parties cannot be trusted to deliver anything useful nowadays; previous promises of increased powers after the failed 1979 devolution referendums did not come to pass at any time during the long combined tenure of Thatcher and Major), all of Britain will have hope of breaking the grip of a wealthy elite that has oppressed Britain for so many centuries, and will be on the way to finding a better way of making things work on our island.

Alan.

 




Friday, 12 September 2014

My analysis of recent local by-election results (from 11/09/14) and other thoughts

Hello, readers, if you are watching, the results from yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Carlisle City Council, Castle: Labour 364 (38.4%), Conservative 212 (22.4%), UKIP 208 (22.0%), Liberal Democrat 121 (12.8%), Green 42 (4.4%).

Cumbria County Council, Castle: Lab 389 (37.7%), Con 245 (23.7%), UKIP 235 (22.8%), Lib Dem 112 (10.9%), Green 51 (4.9%).

Newham LBC, Beckton: Lab 1006 (51.0%), Con 584 (29.6%), UKIP 215 (10.9%), Green 70 (3.5%), Lib Dem 43 (2.2%), Christian Peoples' Alliance 33 (1.7%), TUSC 21 (1.1%).

Out of these by-elections, the Beckton by-election was notable because of the death of its prominent councillor, Alec Kellaway. Mr. Kellaway had a rather chequered political history during his time in Newham:

-For eight years he was an SDP/Liberal Democrat councillor in Newham, and for a brief period the only opposition councillor to Labour in Newham.
-In the Newham North East by-election of 1994, Alec Kellaway had been the Liberal Democrat PPC but he infamously defected to Labour just before the poll closed; it was too late for him to withdraw by then so he simply avoided campaigning. The Liberal Democrats lost their deposit in that by-election as a direct result.
-From that point until his recent death, aged just 60, he served loyally as a Labour councillor in  Beckton ward.

Despite the fact that Beckton, like all wards in Newham, is safely Labour, many candidates competed hoping to provide an opposition voice-any opposition voice-on this monolithically Labour council. Both the Labour and Conservative vote shares fell, but Labour's vote share fell more, from 58% to 51%. I believe we, the Green Party, tried our best given that unlike Forest Gate ward where we are strong, Beckton is not exactly friendly towards progressive politics (it had the strongest Conservative vote of any Newham council ward in 2014 and the CPA vote was reasonably respectable as well). UKIP did frighteningly well in a council whose ethnically diverse demographics are generally hostile towards UKIP, and was probably responsible for the collapse in the Christian Peoples' Alliance vote in that by-election. I was surprised at the very poor result of TUSC here-Newham has had useful potential for the hard left in the past, and TUSC did reasonably well in Newham overall by London standards.

There was a strange disparity between the result for the Castle ward of Carlisle City Council and the Castle division of Cumbria County Council-we improved our vote share in the Castle division but lost vote share in the Castle ward. A tight battle for second place between Conservative and UKIP also must have taken place, given the closeness between the results of both parties in both Carlisle by-elections.

In other news, despite the strength of the recent anti-TTIP European citizens' initiative, the European Commission refused to accept the initiative, which has rightly called for a hearing of TTIP in the European Parliament and the reopening of talks on CETA, a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada that also includes an ISDS clause. It is becoming clearer and clearer that a way must be found to abolish the European Commission rather than simply reform it-its total lack of respect for democratic virtues means and lack of accountability mean it is not worth reforming, and power should be in the hands of the European Parliament anyway.

Alan.
 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

More on Clacton (with a little bit of Heywood)

Hello, readers. I would first of all like to inform you that my new twitter account is @watermelonalan in case you do not already follow me.

Secondly, I am very pleased to say that Essex Green Party activist Chris Southall, who stood for Clacton in 2010, will be standing for the Green Party in the Clacton by-election of 2014. Despite the attention UKIP and the Conservatives are getting in terms of media coverage of this by-election, I believe that we should be at least able to beat the Liberal Democrats (and better yet save our deposit this time, given how well we are polling nationally), who had one of their worst performances in England in 2010 in this seat.

With only five days to go before nominations close for the Clacton by-election, it will be interesting to see who else throws their hat into the ring. After all, it already appears on this by-election's Wikipedia page that there will be at least seven candidates standing.

On a small note, the Heywood and Middleton by-election will also take place on 9th October, but despite the rather close date we still do not know who we will be standing in that by-election. One thing I can be pretty sure about on the Clacton and the Heywood & Middleton by-elections, though, is that the results will not indicate a very happy 48th birthday for a certain David William Donald Cameron.

Alan.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Corrections, apologies and additions

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to blog post #200 of Alan's Green Thoughts!

I hope that so far you have enjoyed reading my blog and I will continue to keep up with news on green issues, socialism, democracy, history, and the like.

However, as some readers have pointed out, I have made a few mistakes on this blog from time to time. Although I generally try to correct them before my blog posts reach you, a few inevitably sneak through the net.

I would like to make the following corrections and additions regarding my blog:

Blog post #8 'The real reasons for there being a deposit requirement in UK Parliamentary elections': Simone Wilkinson stood on a joint ticket (Women For Life on Earth and Ecology) not just an 'Ecology Party' ticket. (correction)

Blog post #13 'Well done these Young Greens': The male and female co-chair roles do not actually exist, as the Young Greens constitution simply says that of the two co-chairs, 'one must not self-define as male'. (correction)
Charlene Concepcion was re-elected as Young Greens Treasurer also in October 2013 (addition)

 Blog post #15 'Perennial candidates you may not have heard of': Jitendra Bardwaj polled 61 votes in Luton East in 1979-not 60. Helen Anscomb's highest vote total was actually 231 in North West Hampshire in the 1997 general election. (correction)

Blog post #114 'Thoughts on the Hungarian Parliamentary election of 2014' The highest number of constituency votes (Hungary uses MMP for elections) was polled by the Homeland Not For Sale Movement. (addition)
 Fidesz retained its supermajority after all. (addition)

Blog post #163 'Results and my analysis of recent Canadian by-elections' Camille Labchuk's vote in Trinity-Spadina's by-election was 1,880, giving her 5.4% of the vote not 5.6% of the vote (correction)
'Brian Doeher' should read 'Brian Deheer'; he also polled 453 votes not 449. (correction)
Larry Ashmore polled 991 votes-not 1,042 votes, giving him 5.4% of the vote not 5.8% of the vote. (correction)
Kevin Clarke scored 315 votes in the Scarborough-Agincourt by-election. (addition)

Blog post #167 'Our original British ecologists-where are they now?' Jonathan Porritt never left the Green Party and is still a member today. (As for whether he will contest elections again, I do not know.) (correction)
Brian Kingzett died some time ago. (addition)
 David Corry is still a Green Party member. (addition)
Geoff Garbett and Jonathan Tyler both plan to contest the 2015 general election, in Camborne & Redruth and York Central respectively. (addition)  

I would finally like to apologise for any alarm or distress that may have been caused to Amelia Womack and/or her friends through a particular blog post created a few months ago, which I have since deleted.  

 Please continue to watch, read, and share my blog :)

Best wishes, Alan.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Analysis of recent local by-elections (from 04/09/14) and thoughts on other by-elections

I should have posted this on Friday 5th September, but I was at Green Party conference then and I had limited internet access (it costs me a lot of money to use the internet on my mobile phone and as it is not a smart phone I cannot really write blog posts on it :( )

The results of local by-elections from 4th September that featured Green candidates were as follows:

Oxford City Council, Carfax: Labour 168 (44.2%), Liberal Democrats 101 (26.6%), Green 63 (16.6%), Conservative 24 (6.3%), UKIP 24 (6.3%).

Shepway District Council, Folkestone Harvey Central: UKIP 287 (27.9%), Con 224 (21.7%), Lib Dem 198 (19.2%), Lab 196 (19.0%), Green 96 (9.3%), TUSC 29 (2.8%).

One important point needs to be made on the Carfax by-election-it was essentially rigged so Labour could win it easily, as my fellow Greens hold the other two Carfax council seats. Labour deliberately moved the writ to make sure the by-election was outside university term time so they could avoid losing it (the majority of residents in Carfax ward are students at Oxford University)-as a result of their moving of the writ to 4 September, turnout plummeted to 8.6%-the worst turnout in local by-election history in peacetime ever recorded in the United Kingdom.

As for the Folkestone Harvey Central by-election, I am glad we Greens did reasonably well when we had not stood there in 2011. There have many comments recently on how the Green Party is taking the fight to Labour (and rightly so, because we care about the wishes of ordinary voters when Labour does not), and here we probably helped Labour get pushed into fourth place, just behind the Liberal Democrats. UKIP's win, as often as ever with a poor winning percentage (27.9%) is not that surprising as they have been making so many inroads in Kent over the last few years, even in reasonably genteel places like Folkestone and Canterbury. One issue that marred our performance was the Socialists (the Socialist Party is the main component of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition aka TUSC) splitting our vote (I believe they split our vote and not Labour's; most genuine left-wing voters in the UK stopped voting Labour years ago)-I am surprised they would poll as well as even 2.8% here as in 2010, TUSC did not field a single general election candidate anywhere in the whole of Kent (yet they stood one in Spelthorne, in even posher Surrey!)

On the subject of Parliamentary by-elections, I am pleased to say that the Green Party will be standing in Clacton against Douglas Carswell-the writ has formally been moved for 9th October, just for the record-nominations will likely close pretty soon. Within this by-election, we Greens will do our best to provide a good alternative to the voters of Clacton-on-sea and continue to expose UKIP for the pro-neoliberal sham they really are.

Whilst I was away at conference, I learned another Parliamentary by-election will occur soon-this time in Heywood and Middleton, Lancashire. The Labour MP for this safely Labour constituency, Jim Dobbin, who had been the MP here for more than 17 years, passed away aged 73 years on 6 September whilst he was visiting Poland on a Council of Europe delegation. I will give more news on the Heywood and Middleton by-election (which has not been called yet and may take place as late as early 2015) as it develops.

Alan.





 

 

Monday, 8 September 2014

My opinions on the Autumn 2014 Green Party conference,Birmingham

Hello, everyone, I am back from Green Party conference in Birmingham, which I really enjoyed-thank you to everyone who came along :)

As I have much to say and much to do over the next few days, I will summarise what, in my personal opinion, were the best and worst points of the Birmingham Green Party conference.

Good points:

1. I finally got reunited with two fellow Greens I first saw at a Young Greens Summer Gathering in Gloucestershie last year-they were Julia Lagoutte and Kate Billington, who I also helped out in the conference quiz. I am particularly pleased that Julia's mother, Diana, is Green PPC for Hereford & South Herefordshire, a marginal seat which should give us some traction :)

2. I was re-elected to the Equalities and Diversity Committee by my fellow Greens for another year. This means I can continue my hard work on issues surrounding disability and mental illness.

3.  The Green Party Disability Group re-launch was a great success-thank you,Paul Weaver.

4. I managed to hand out a sizable number of copies of 'The Watermelon' at conference, particularly to Young Greens.

5. It was a very vibrant and exciting atmosphere, especially with so many people attending. I had a great time with Greens young and old, new and experienced, especially with my knowledge of election facts past and present.

6. I finally got to meet with the Electoral Reform Society-I went to their reception and I hope soon electoral reform will come to the UK.

7. I sung well on the Open Mic night at the Gosta Green pub, and my song, 'People of Britain, arise' was much appreciated :)

8. I heard that the 'yes' side of the Scottish independence referendum is now in the lead-they now just need to maintain it until that fateful day.

9. I have heard that we Greens will stand a record number of parliamentary candidates next year across England and Wales (at least 400)-let us scatter the right-wing establishment and make them fall!

10. My Arctic Ocean motion was passed overwhelmingly this time, when I was worried that it would not get heard due to little time being left on the last day. I am glad for Bill Rigby of Harrogate & Knaresborough Green Party for his help with my speech on that motion.

Not so good points:

1. Sadly, one of my London colleagues, Alex Rendall, failed to be re-elected to the Equalities and Diversity committee this year-it was a close result,in all likelihood.

2. The confusion over one of the main plenaries stalled a lot of conference business significantly-I was no exception to being a bit dazed and confused on that note, unfortunately.

3. I felt depressed on the first day of conference,although fortunately my mood improved during the next few days.

4. The breaks between sessions were a bit too short, and I felt rushed in having to quickly go from one place to another (how I felt at my very first conference in Nottingham!)

5. I felt slightly jealous (only being honest) about the fact my colleague from Norwich, Ash, had a baby of her own (Meredith)-at times, I got distracted by thoughts of wanting a child of my own (and soon).

6. When trying to reach where I was staying in Birmingham initially, I ended up getting lost in the maze of Birmingham's suburban streets. I also learned that the suburban rail network in Birmingham is poor on Sundays-I expected an early morning Sunday train as I am used to in Ware, and there was not one from Yardley Wood.

7. Some of my good friends who I had seen at previous conferences sadly did not come this time (or I might have just missed their appearance).

Overall, however, I felt very lucky and I feel that this has been the best Green Party conference I have been to so far, even when it was so busy. For now, onwards and upwards with local and national campaigns, and especially parliamentary candidate selections far and wide.

Kind regards, Alan.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

My recommendations at Green Party conference

I am heading off to the Autumn 2014 Green Party conference in Birmingham tomorrow morning. I will be leaving by coach from London Victoria coach station at 9 am sharp tomorrow to reach the conference in Birmingham by midday.

Now the final timetable has been confirmed, here are my personal recommendations for Green Party conference fringes that I believe you should attend:

Any day: If you are a conference first-timer, please attend at least one of the conference first-timer sessions, the earlier the better.

Friday: General election training session at 6.30 pm, Adrian Cadbury room-especially if you are a prospective parliamentary candidate.

Saturday: Green Party Disability Group relaunch, 2.30 pm, Conference 3.
Of the 6.15 pm fringes, I recommend either the anti-TTIP fringe or the fringe on everyday sexism, which are in rooms Conference 1A/B/C and Room 145 respectively.

And of course, please come to our conference quiz at 8 pm if you can :)

Sunday: A Green Voice-Meet Your MEPs, 9.15 am, conference 1A/B/C (unless you prefer the C motion workshops)

Any of the hustings for committees at conference.

Writing the 2015 general election manifesto-12.30 pm, Great Hall.

Get Organised! Getting a new generation unionised and organised-5.30 pm, Conference 1A.

And please come to our Open Mic Night at the Gosta Green pub at 9 pm-I will be one of the performers.

On another note, I will be standing for re-election to the Green Party's Equalities and Diversity Committee, which I have been on since March this year-please vote for me and help ensure that my hard work on the topics of disability and mental health can be continued so that we can continue to be a diverse and progressive party.

Kind regards, Alan.



 

 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Green songs and poetry: People of Britain arise!

Let the people arise (first two verses to the tune of 'God Save Our Queen'; this is a parody of our national anthem, and includes tunes from the other nations of the British Isles i.e. Scotland the Brave, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Ambhran na Fiann):

 (first and second verses to tune of 'God Save Our Queen')


1. Let us all save Britain,
Our noble island of Britain,
From misery and pain!
Let us be victorious,
Happy and glorious,
And overthrow the elite's tyranny over us!
We'll save Britain!

2.People of Britain,arise,
Scatter the Establishment,
And make them fall!
Confound Cameron's politics,
Frustrate Miliband's old tricks,
Stop Farage's racist right-wing fix,
We'll save you all.

(third verse to tune of 'Scotland the Brave')

3.So, let us march from London to Inverness,
Together we will undo the bankers' mess!
For if we can get the people to turn left,
We can put an end to the elites' grand theft!
(fourth verse to tune of 'Land of My Fathers', the Welsh national anthem, but in B flat major)

4. The selfish wealthy cruel elite  
Have tried to sweep us right off our feet,
But we are brave and strong in this fight for good,
To protect people and planet, water and wood...

(fifth verse to tune of 'The Soldier's Song', the Irish national anthem) 

 5. Free people are we,
Whose lives are pledged to Britain,
Some have come
From a land beyond the wave,
We shall help you all be free
No more shall our land of sun and rain,
Be one to drive us to an early grave.
If we strive hard, we shall all prevail,
For people and earth, we shall not fail!
Our solidarity shall echo, far and fast,
We shall bring true peace and hope at last!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Green thoughts of the day

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who took part in anti-TTIP leafleting activities on Saturday 30th August, in 610 various locations across the nation. I would like to also thank 38 Degrees for organising it so we can raise awareness of how dangerous TTIP is and why we must persuade governments across the EU to stop it ever coming into force.

Secondly, on the Rotherham child abuse scandal, I must say that the reason behind these child care scandals of the past few decades and the failure to respond to them adequately and timely are due to systematic problems that occur all across Britain-not just in Rotherham. It is not just our practices and checks that need to change, but also our culture that fails to value the well-being or development of children enough, and which does not value sufficient standards of accountability or fair responsibility, both are which are needed when we strive to protect our children.

Finally, the results of Green Party Executive (GPEx) elections have just come in, and here is what I have to say.

I am above all very disappointed that Will Duckworth failed to be re-elected as Deputy Leader,despite the hard work he has done for the Green Party over the last two years especially in the West Midlands. Shahrar Ali of Brent Green Party narrowly beat him to this post by just 37 votes-1,314 to 1,277 on the second round. The election of Amelia Womack to the second Deputy Leader post was a foregone conclusion,it must be said-I hope it will be she and her inspiring work who helps break the apathy that is prevalent amongst younger voters (those of age 18-24) next year.

I give my congratulations to Natalie Bennett, Richard Mallender, Derek Wall, Romayne Phoenix, Howard Thorpe,Judy Maciejowska, Penny Kemp,Claire Phipps,Matt Hawkins,Mark Cridge,Sam Riches, Caroline Bowes, and Martin Collins who were elected or re-elected to the Green Party Executive today in the respective positions they stood for, and I wish you all the best of luck so that we can emerge from the next general election as true challengers to the LibLabCons and UKIP-the neoliberal capitalist establishment must fall, and soon!

Regards, Alan.