Friday, 31 October 2014

While we Greens were away (and yet present on the same day)....

Last night, I am pleased to say Caroline Lucas put on a great performance on Question Time- now BBC Question Time just needs to invite other Greens who would be good panellists, like Shahrar Ali (our male Deputy Leader), Amelia Womack (our female Deputy Leader), and our PPC for Cambridge, Rupert Read.

At the same time, though, there were no Green Party candidates in any of yesterday's local by-elections. But two interesting things did happen nonetheless.

Firstly, despite all the media hype, UKIP did not win the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner after all-even though the previous Labour incumbent, Shaun Wright, resigned over the scale of the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, and the police's failure to properly protect children. Labour's candidate, Alan Billings, won this election on the first round, even though his first preferences were only just over the 50 per cent mark (at 50.02%, no less!)
Amazingly, turnout stayed rather the same-but then again, the turnout of the inaugural Police and Crime Commissioner elections back in 2012 was so low (average of 15%) it could not really get any worse! The Liberal Democrats did not stand in this by-election and both Labour and the Lib Dems have said they want to scrap unnecessary Police and Crime Commissioners-so does the Green Party.

Secondly, the SNP managed to hold in the North Coast & Cumbraes by-election in North Ayrshire,which also resulted in a crucial decline in the Labour vote. Recent surveys have varied in how many seats the SNP will gain from Labour (our fellow Greens in Scotland might gain Edinburgh East if we work at it) next year; one poll even showed that Labour could be down to as few as 4 seats (with the Lib Dems only holding Orkney and Shetland and the Conservatives and Unionists losing their only Scottish Westminster seat) with the SNP ending up with 54 (or 90% of all Westminster seats in Scotland!). Only time will tell how many gains the SNP will make-and whether it could hold the balance of power in the same way Bloc Quebecois could have held the balance of power in Canada (they became the Official Opposition in the Canadian Parliament in 1993 to the Liberals, partly because the Progressive Conservatives lost so many seats that year).

In the meantime, let us all continue supporting the Green Party and their alternative message, and get them included in at least some televised debates.

Regards, Alan.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

My message to Andrew George and other supposedly Green-minded Liberal Democrats

Readers, the BBC, aka the Biased Brainwashing Corporation, recently stated that Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives (a constituency where my fellow Greens plan to make substantial progress), is hoping that a deal between the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party can be done for the next general election.

However, there are three main reasons why the Green Party should never accept any such deal with the Liberal Democrats.

First of all, despite claims made by supposedly 'green-minded' Liberal Democrats and 'Green Liberal Democrat' PPCs like Ros Kayes (LD PPC for Dorset West) and Jane Brophy (LD PPC for Altrincham & Sale West) , the Liberal Democrats have in practice actually harmed environmental causes whilst in coalition with the Conservatives. Only a few Liberal Democrat MPs voted in favour of a decarbonisation target, and Lib Dem MPs have consistently voted in favour of bills that endanger our environment, such as the Deregulation Bill and the Infrastructure Bill, which was first moved by a Liberal Democrat peer (and former MP for Richmond Park), Susan Kramer aka Baroness Kramer.

Secondly, Liberal Democrat MPs have no qualms about supporting the failed system of neoliberal capitalism which is fundamentally incompatible with green values. Most Liberal Democrat MPs have voted consistently in favour of austerity measures. I will also say this to Mr George:you have only rebelled a few times this Parliament, and despite your vote against the bedroom tax last year, you proved yourself rather hypocritical by voting to allow Lord Freud to keep his job as Welfare Minister when he does not deserve to. Your colleagues, Messrs Tim Farron and Julian Huppert, despite being somewhat different from the Orange Bookers that make up the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs, have started out well but then have in reality just become like every other Lib Dem MP when it comes to crucial votes.

Thirdly, the Liberal Democrats have betrayed their values and their core promises to voters in this Parliament (not just the promise to scrap tuition fees for students!) and this government has become neither liberal nor democratic under the coalition's tenure. Not only have the Liberal Democrats failed to get any electoral reform, they have also helped the Conservatives pass laws that strip many of vital legal aid entitlements for no good reason, that allow the use of secret courts, and that inhibit our right to protest and freedom of assembly. They also backed a proposal for a British invasion of Syria (which thankfully did not pass as some Conservative MPs rebelled) and for a second British invasion of Iraq when they voted against the first one back in 2003.

It is clear that the Green Party can do without the Liberal Democrats and their self-serving opportunism, and that such a proposed deal would drag the Green Party down and greatly tarnish our alternative credentials. We are already showing we are in line to win seats without the Liberal Democrats' help, especially when several of our 12 tentative targets are themselves held by Lib Dem MPs.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Class Lines ,Regional Lines and Politics

Readers, it has been confirmed that Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected President of Brazil after the second round run-off. Even though she was not my favourite candidate, it is better that she was elected instead of the right-wing candidate Aecio Neves.

It was a rather close runoff though, with Dilma defeating Aecio only by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6% in the second round. More importantly, there were reports that urban and working-class voters were much more inclined to support Dilma, whereas upper-class (and upper-middle class) voters in Brazil were more inclined to support Aecio. Support for Aecio was also stronger in rural areas outside the Amazon.

Class lines and regional lines are prominent in politics elsewhere of course-but in Britain it is particularly pronounced. Polls have shown that despite the Conservatives' woes, they continue to lead among people whose socio-economic status would be stated by the National Readership Survey to be AB' (professional or managerial, basically), whereas amongst people whose socio-economic status is C1 (clerical or service), C2 (skilled working class), or DE (unskilled or casual workers, and also those not in work generally) are more likely to vote Labour or UKIP. These polls also show that there are generally more Liberal Democrat and Green voters amongst the 'ABC1' strata than the 'C2DE' strata of society.

Whether the Conservatives are tied with Labour or some points behind, they are still leading in the South East and South West, and Labour are considerably ahead in the North, particularly the North East. In bad years either for Labour or the Conservatives, regional lines are clearly visible in all general elections since 1983 (when major boundary changes occurred which in particular merged many under-sized seats and split many over-sized seats that existed for the 1979 general election) and notably for 1983, 1997, and 2010.

In 1983, Labour fell to its lowest ebb in recent memory with 209 seats-and notably, it won no seats at all in the South East region, only one (Bristol South) in the South West region, and only two (Thurrock and Ipswich, both lost by Labour in 1987 but regained in 1992) in the East of England region, but nevertheless still dominated the North East, Scotland, and Wales in seat terms. Conversely in 1997, when the Conservatives fell from 343 seats (notionally) to 165, they ended up with no seats at all in Scotland and Wales, and only one (Hexham, by a slim majority) in the North East region, but still held more than half the seats of the South East region, and also more than half the seats in the East of England region. Up until their strong South West revival, the region with the most seats held by the Liberals/Liberal Democrats was Scotland (8/23 in 1983, 9/22 in 1987, and 9/20 in 1992).

At present, the Conservatives hold almost all the seats in the South East and East of England regions (74/84 an 51/58 respectively, giving them 40% of their seats from just two regions of the UK!), but only one Scottish seat, eight Welsh seats (most held marginally), two North East seats (Stockton South will likely be lost next year). Labour, meanwhile, hold only eight seats in total across the two Conservative-dominated regions mentioned earlier, but most of the seats of the North East, Scotland, and Wales (and nearly two thirds of the North West's seats as well; the Conservatives won over half the North West's seats in 1983 and 1987). Nearly half the Liberal Democrats' current seats are in just two regions (Scotland with 11 and the South West with 15), and there are no Lib Dem MPs in the East Midlands at present.

Meanwhile, the top three targets (first to hold, second and third to win) for me and my fellow Green Party members for next year's general election are in the South East (Brighton Pavilion), the East (Norwich South), and the South West (Bristol West). We are winning over many ex-Labour voters, yet we experienced our strongest surge in the South West, the weakest region for Labour due to the Liberal Democrats' presence (we are taking more Lib Dem voters than Labour voters, though, depending from area to area).

It would be so much easier to blur or break these lines with the introduction of proportional representation, so that we would no longer have to vote tactically (now useless since there are almost no real differences between the LibLabCons)-and Vote For Policies shows that people who would vote with their heart will generally vote Green anyway by plurality, regardless of where they live.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

More on general election predictions-where are the best nationalist hopes in the UK?

With the general election now just over half a year away, with the SNP in the process of selecting PPCs, and with PPC selections in Northern Irish constituencies well under way, it is time to look at predictions for nationalist parties in the UK (SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Sinn Fein, and Mebyon Kernow) and their best shots at gains next year.

Five best shots for the SNP (okay, on current polling, the SNP will win a lot more than 5 extra seats, but these seats should be no problem for them):

1. Gordon (odds of SNP win 8/13): A lot of seats in which the SNP are second place are held by Labour-Gordon is a clear exception and in fact has very poor prospects for Labour. There has been speculation recently that SNP leader, Alex Salmond, plans a return to Westminster, and Gordon includes Alex's Scottish Parliament seat of Aberdeenshire East (the Westminster equivalent was merged into Gordon in 1983). With its long-serving Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce retiring, an SNP gain looks likely.

2. Dundee West (odds of SNP win 6/4): The SNP already hold Dundee East, and even the less nationalist seat of Dundee West holds good prospects for the SNP thanks to Dundee council area overall giving a 'Yes' vote last month. A 10% swing is needed, but with Labour having betrayed so many Scottish voters by siding with the ConDems in the successful 'No' campaign, and with Scottish Labour in a bit of disarray, the SNP can win here if they try.

3. Argyll & Bute (odds of SNP win 11/10): When this seat was just Argyll before 1983, the SNP briefly gained an MP. Although the SNP only polled fourth here in 2010, it was good fourth as they were only 5,700 votes behind current Lib Dem MP Alan Reid in a competitive four-way contest, so the SNP have one of their best chances here. Both the Lib Dems and Conservatives are polling poorly in Scotland (the Lib Dems especially so!) and Labour do not have a strong enough local base in this rural constituency to actually win.

4. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (odds of SNP win 5/4): This seat is notoriously held by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. It would be a very nice (electoral) scalp if the SNP won this seat, even though Danny polled more than twice as many votes as SNP candidate John Finnie did in 2010. If the SNP can get Labour voters to tactically support the SNP in this often-competitive seat, a narrow if notable win is possible.

5. Ochil & South Perthshire (odds of SNP win not known at this time): On paper, this is the SNP's top target, and Labour currently holds this seat. It also includes Clackmannanshire, where there will undoubtedly be a significant Lab-SNP swing which will also occur in Glasgow, Dundee, and many traditional Labour strongholds in Lanarkshire.

Five best shots for Plaid Cymru:

1. Arfon (odds of Plaid Cymru hold 5/6): The old seat of Caernarfon ,which was replaced by Arfon in 2010, was actually safe for Plaid Cymru. However, Labour is more competitive in Arfon, which was actually a notional gain by Plaid Cymru from Labour. Its current MP, Hywel Williams, is nevertheless actually a decent MP who unlike most Labour MPs sides with the real opposition in the House of Commons (i.e. Green MP Caroline Lucas plus all MPs from SNP/PC, and Respect MP George Galloway when he can be bothered to show up).

2. Ceredigion (odds of Plaid Cymru win 7/4): Plaid Cymru held this seat from 1992 to 2005, but had a significant swing from them to the Lib Dems in 2010. I hope they can win it back, though. The student electorate will recognise that Plaid Cymru do actually present a real difference to the LibLabCons, and neither Labour nor the Conservatives are in play here at all. It may be wise for Wales Green Party to back Plaid's PPC, Mike Parker, for tactical reasons, despite our good potential.

3. Ynys Mon (good chance of Plaid Cymru win): This is Plaid's top target to win (from Labour), and in a by-election for the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat last year they increased their hold decisively over Labour. Meanwhile, this is the worst seat for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and UKIP will undermine the Conservatives significantly-this is one of a handful of Welsh seats where UKIP can poll respectably.

4. Aberconwy (odds of Plaid win 20/1): This is actually quite competitive, and Guto Bebb, this seat's Conservative MP, has not exactly done himself any favours, especially with that debacle with one of his constituents! Plaid Cymru may have come fourth here in 2010 but they are not far behind the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, or Labour-and the Lib Dem protest vote may end up going to Plaid.

5. Llanelli (at least an outside chance of a Plaid Cymru win): Labour have held Llanelli continuously since 1922, but Plaid Cymru are in a strong second place here. They have also on two occasions won the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat; they only lost that in 2011 by 80 votes, and because of an Independent candidate which split the Plaid vote. With the right candidate, and some help from tactical voting, Plaid can just about win Llanelli.

As for nationalists in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein could potentially win Belfast North next year, extinguish the unionist presence in Belfast at a Westminster level, and ensure that the nationalists, not the unionists, have a majority of Northern Irish Westminster seats for the very first time (they currently have 8, the unionists have 9, and the Alliance Party has 1). I of course support the Green Party in all of Britain, but we sadly cannot win everywhere. In Scotland, our best chances will be where the SNP is not able to gain sufficient traction to win (e.g. in Edinburgh; the Scottish Green Party saved their only deposit in Edinburgh East back in 2010), and in Wales we have generally contested seats where Plaid Cymru is not in contention (e.g. in Cardiff). Meanwhile, it would currently take a miracle for Mebyon Kernow to elect an MP, especially as it is clear that the 2005 MK-Green pact in Cornwall will not be repeated this year (it was not in 2010 either).


Saturday, 25 October 2014

The interesting opponents we face in the Rochester & Strood by-election

Readers, I thought this would not be out until Tuesday 28th, but the statement of persons nominated for the Rochester & Strood by-election was released yesterday.

Here are the 12 opponents our Green Party candidate, Clive Gregory, will have to face:

Mike Barker (Independent, asked Respect MP George Galloway if he could stand as a Respect candidate, but he got no reply)

Christopher Chalis (Independent, focused on small business issues)

Hairy Knorm Davidson (OMRLP, has stood as OMRLP candidate in Faversham & Mid Kent in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010)

Jayda Fransen (Britain First)

Stephen Goldsborough (Independent, standing on Christian platform)

Geoff Juby (Liberal Democrat, contested Medway in 2001 and 2005 and this seat in 2010, which replaced Medway following boundary changes)

Naushabah Khan (Labour)

Nick Long (People Before Profit, stood for Lewisham West in 2001 as an independent socialist and Lewisham West in 2005 for the Green Party)

Dave Osborn (Patriotic Socialist Party, once announced on Facebook that he would stand in Clacton but in the end he did not do so)

Mark Reckless (UKIP, formerly Conservative of course. His background of Marlborough School and Oxford University is as elitist as Douglas Carswell's)

Charlotte Rose (Independent, sex workers' rights campaigner who stood in Clacton earlier this year)

Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative, Medway councillor and unusually for a Conservative, pro-Palestine)

I honestly do not know how this by-election will turn out with this long and colourful line-up of candidates....but I hope we at least beat the Liberal Democrats, even with one of our former colleagues on our tail.


Friday, 24 October 2014

My analysis of recent local by-elections (from 23/10/14) and my tribute to Gough Whitlam

Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green candidates were as follows:

Durham UA, Burnopfield & Upton: Labour 446 (44.9%), Derwentside Independent 445 (44.8%), Conservative 83 (5.7%), Green 68 (4.7%).

Durham UA, Evenwood: Lab 546 (38.2%, -7.8%), Con 396 (27.7%, -0.3%), UKIP 309 (21.6%, -4.45), Independent 108 (7.5%), Green 72 (5.0%)

Gloucestershire CC, Mitcheldean: Con 959 (38.4%, +14.0%), UKIP 550 (22.0%,+2.7%), Independent 455 (18.2%), Lab 278 (11.1%, +0.8%), Lib Dem 150 (6.0%, +0.3%), Green 106 (4.2%, +0.4%).

Forest of Dean DC, Newnham: Independent 321 (38.5%, -1.6%), Con 216 (25.9%, -4.9%), UKIP 102 (12.2%), Lab 100 (12.0%, -1.0%), Green 70 (8.4%, -7.7%), Lib Dem 25 (3.0%).

Shepway DC, Folkestone Harvey West: Conservative 385 (36.4%, -18.8%), UKIP 293 (17.7%), Liberal Democrat 262 (24.8%, +3.4%), Green 61 (5.8%), Labour 57 (5.4%, -18.0%).

I am very pleased that my good friend, Jasmine Heywood, managed to beat Labour, given that she is only 19 years of age (and thus one of the youngest Green Party candidates to stand in a local by-election) and that we have never stood in that ward before. Labour's collapse was also rather spectacular-it is clear that we are acquiring former Labour votes in areas like Folkestone, but sadly, so are UKIP (even though the Conservative vote was also hit substantially). The significant loss we got in the Newnham by-election can be partly attributed to the Lib Dems standing when they had not done so in 2011, as well as some of our protest votes going over to UKIP.

By the way, the Labour candidate in the Burnopfield & Upton by-election really did win by one vote-were there any recounts?

Even though we did not stand in the North Oban & Lorn by-election up in Argyll & Bute, Scotland, it is notable nevertheless. It is the first Scottish local by-election held since the Scottish independence referendum of 18 September, and it delivered a decisive victory for the SNP, although because of the strength independent candidates have in rural Scottish areas like Argyll & Bute, the SNP had to wait until the second STV count to actually win. I also found out today that the so far only SNP MP to have represented the Argyll & Bute Westminster constituency, (from 1974 to 1979) Ian MacCormick, died on the same day that the results of that referendum were announced.

I would like to now pay tribute to Edward Gough Whitlam, former Prime Minister of Australia, who has died at the age of 98. He was the last decent Prime Minister of Australia in the same way Harold Wilson was the last somewhat decent British Prime Minister-in both the cases of Messrs. Whitlam and Wilson, every one of their successors was successively worse than the last. Gough Whitlam is notable for having been undemocratically dismissed by Sir John Kerr, the unelected and unaccountable Governor-General of Australia, in 1975. Gough was notable for having during his term of office introduced the first legal land rights for the Aboriginal people of Australia, who had hitherto been oppressed by the white European colonial elites that still dominate Australia today. In his tenure, his government got Australia to support sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa, withdrew all Australian troops from the Vietnam War, and ended both capital punishment and conscription throughout Australia.

However, he was undermined by the CIA and by MI6, to the point where they were somewhat responsible for persuading John Kerr to dismiss Gough in 1975 when Australian Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser (probbaly funded by the intelligence services also) used his majority in the Australian Senate (he did not have one in the Australian House of Representatives) to block supply. Notably at the same time, MI5 and notable British elites like Airey Neave and Louis Mountbatten (aka Lord Mountbatten), undoubtedly also aided by Margaret Thatcher some years before she became Prime Minister, tried to undermine Harold Wilson at the same time, which partly explains why Harold Wilson resigned as British Prime Minister in 1976.

So farewell, Mr Whitlam. But do not worry-one day soon, albeit in Britain, another good Australian will help fairness, morality and compassion rise again in politics and at least start us on our way to purging free-market capitalism not only from Britain, but also the rest of the world. And this Australian's name is Natalie Louise Bennett-the current Green Party leader :)

Regards, Alan.

UPDATE: By-election results added whose news came in late.

There is still time to defeat two dangerous bills!

Readers, the Infrastructure Bill and Deregulation Bill are quite advanced in terms of legislation stages in Parliament, but there is still time to defeat them both.

Both threaten the integrity of our forests and our environment in general-even after a public outcry persuaded the Con-Dems to avoid selling off our forests to private developers and aristocrats.

Why does the Infrastructure Bill threaten our forests and our land?

The Infrastructure Bill, currently going through the House of Lords (where it started under former Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer, now Baroness Kramer) will essentially allow the government to sell of any public land, without consulting local authorities or local communities. Only lands owned by the Crown are exempt-unsurprisingly. Anything else, especially our forests, could be sold off to private developers who have no concern other than profiteering and speculating on the land.

Why does the Deregulation Bill threaten our forests and our environment?

The most dangerous clause of the Deregulation Bill, which passed through the Commons and is now in the Lords, will require most public bodies to have a duty to 'promote economic growth' at the expense of other priorities. Even the Forestry Commission is not exempt from that particular clause-this puts our forests in great danger if the Forestry Commission found itself forced to not oppose another road-building project, for example. Other environmental bodies will also have their essential duties threatened under that clause as well.

Please find any petitions and information you can relating to these two bills, as well as any other bills that threaten our land or any natural parts of it (trees or otherwise), and help us defeat them so we can protect our environment from neoliberal greed.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

My thoughts on how well we will do in our twelve tentative targets

Yesterday afternoon, whilst I was working in Cambridge, a Lord Ashcroft poll revealed that the Green Party had pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place-a day I had been anticipating for months.

Crucially, we Greens are now polling at 8% nationally-our joint-highest ever in a general election poll in the UK-whilst the Liberal Democrats are only polling 7% (they have pretty much reached their nadir, given the state of recent polls which never show the Lib Dems polling lower than 6-7%, the worst ratings for the Liberals/LDs in nearly 40 years).

The Guardian also released a report of 12 seats we could either win outright or at least have enough potential to win in the future. Although I believe that Caroline Lucas will retain Brighton Pavilion on our behalf, if narrowly in a very tight fight with Labour's Purma Sen, and that we could win Norwich South via Lesley Grahame, we will need to do a lot of work to win the other 10 seats in question, especially when many of them will be well contested by two or more of the three major parties. Given what is happening in the 12 seats mentioned, and our past and present performance locally (I believe each seat in the next general election will have its own story to tell, especially if we contest all UK Parliamentary seats in the end rather than just 75-80% of them), here is how I believe we will do next year in those tempting twelve:

Brighton Pavilion: Green hold, despite the issues on Brighton and Hove council. Caroline Lucas' personal vote and hard work will see her through in 2015 in my opinion, although we must be vigilant against any tricks Labour might have in Brighton Pavilion. The Conservatives will fall back somewhat (despite the fact that a Green seat means poor UKIP potential) and we will absorb a substantial amount of the collapsing Liberal Democrat vote (the same will help us in neighbouring Hove)

Norwich South: Could be either Labour gain or Green gain-the Liberal Democrats have basically no chance of holding it (odds 20/1 or worse). I hope our exposure of Labour's failures in Norwich locally will help us, as will our alternative vision in an academic seat like this one. If we do not win this seat in 2015 we will almost certainly win it in 2020, given that Labour under Ed Miliband in 2015-2020 will if history is anything to go by perform even worse than the ConDems economically and socially.

Bristol West: Liberal Democrat hold (just about) with a small but nonetheless notable chance of a Green gain. My fellow Greens in Bristol came top of the poll locally in the wards of Bristol West, even though the middle-class nature of Bristol West generally lends itself well to the Liberal Democrats (and in fact has done for several decades now). Labour will find it difficult to win Bristol West due to the size of Stephen Williams' majority, and the Conservatives, who held this seat for 112 years before Labour won it from third place, are now far behind. Incidentally, this is one of a handful of British seats that has always had an Ecology Party/Green Party candidate on the ballot in every general election since 1979.

St Ives: Tricky to call this one-I think we will have to wait until 2020 to win it at least, even though we will try our best. Andrew George stands to lose St Ives, much of whose electorate appears to be of a progressive liberal type overall, and therefore a large swathe of natural Lib Dem voters could come to us, despite Andrew's rebellious nature by Lib Dem standards. Strangely for a seat with good Green potential, strong UKIP potential also exists-they saved their deposit in 2010 when they only saved 99 deposits out of 558 nationally (though they found it easier to pass the 5% threshold in the South West region).

Sheffield Central: Labour hold for now-we can get it in 2020 if we push hard enough to win over student voters, however. The Liberal Democrats came so close to winning this otherwise safely Labour seat in 2010, but the 'Nick Clegg' effect will see a particularly strong collapse in the Liberal Democrats' vote-possibly even in Sheffield Hallam. We have done well before, so we should make a considerable advance.

Liverpool Riverside: Labour hold-difficult for us to win due to the high core Labour vote in this part of Liverpool, and also due to this seat's poor turnout. Liverpool Wavertree, however, might become viable for us if the former Liberal Democrat vote goes our way and not Labour's way, given that we are the official opposition on Liverpool council.

Oxford East: Labour hold-but we can win this in 2020 if we push hard enough and absorb enough ex-Lib Dem votes. Given our activity in Oxford, I am surprised we have never performed well enough in Oxford East to save our deposit (by getting more than 5% of the votes cast) despite having stood a candidate continuously since 1987 (and since 1983 in Oxford West & Abingdon's case, possibly 1979 if you include the independent ecologist who stood in Oxford, which was not split until the 1983 boundary changes). We are once again on the up in Oxford, though, despite Labour's efforts to stymie us (e.g. by calling local by-elections before the students have come back from their holidays!)

Solihull: Likely Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat due to the small majority Lorely Burt has. However, whichever way this seat goes in 2015, there is at least some chance we can win Solihull in 2020, as we are now the official opposition on Solihull Council and we have notably gained several ex-Lib Dem councillors. One of them, Howard Allen, is our PPC in Solihull. Meanwhile, Labour never have been competitive in Solihull and are even less in play now.

Reading East: Conservative hold-unfortunately, this is the most difficult seat of the 12 for us to win. The student electorate of Reading is not as friendly towards us Greens as that of Oxford or Cambridge, and despite the ex-LD potential we can draw on we are in the long haul for this seat-this should not deter us from trying our best,h owever, particularly given long-serving councillor Rob White has been reselected.

York Central: Labour hold for now-but we have more potential here than in the old City of York seat that existed prior to the 2010 general election. The old City of York seat also had more potential for the Conservatives, who won it on some occasions (1950-66 and 1983-92). We are winning significant numbers of ex-Labour votes as well as ex-LD votes, so I believe we might win York Central in 2020, if we can keep building locally in York UA's elections. Incidentally, our PPC for York Central, Jonathan Tyler, is one of our 'original ecologists' (he stood for Birmingham Edgbaston in 1979).

Holborn & St Pancras: With long-serving Labour MP Frank Dobson retiring, and with our leader Natalie Bennett standing here, a Green win is plausible, but Labour will put up a strong fight to hold this seat (I still do not know who their PPC is at this time of writing). This seat has very strong Green potential anyway, and inner London secured us some of our best results locally, with us finishing second overall on aggregate vote share in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Lewisham earlier this year.

Cambridge: Tricky to call this one-a Green win outright is possible for us next year, but both Labour and the Liberal Democrats still remain competitive in this fundamentally academic seat. If Rupert Read, our PPC, can take the right approach, I believe he can push through whilst Labour and the Lib Dems are at each other throughout the campaign. We may have had some problems in Cambridge locally, but we are still performing well.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Thoughts on yesterday's marches/Green songs and poetry: (Sometimes) you should get yourself disconnected

Yesterday, readers, I came down to London for the Britain Needs a Pay Rise March, which concluded with a good rally at Hyde Park. Thank you to everyone who took part, including the Green Party, RMT, CWU, NUT, NASUWT, Unite, UNISON, UK Uncut, and so many other organisations. With tens of thousands of us marching in London, as well as in Glasgow and Belfast, all mainstream media gave us coverage- even the Biased Brainwashing Corporation (as I like to call it these days, Private Eye style) put our march as one of its top three stories on its website.

At the same time, there was an Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square, where the Metropolitan Police tried to unlawfully evict my colleagues from Parliament Square; however, byelaws exist to protect our right to peaceful protest in these spaces. Public squares are not private property, by the way-Westminster City Council is a public and elected body, not a company.

The poor pay we are receiving, wherever we work, is symptomatic of the capitalist system that oppresses us, divides us, damages us mentally and physically, and does catastrophic damage to our environment in its relentless hunger for profits. Much of the advanced technology we see and use has actually made this worse in many ways, as many of us are becoming increasingly psychologically disconnected from each other when we are pressured to check the latest Tweet or Facebook status update, or new online sensation.

I believe that we need to try and be more connected to the natural world, and our planet, and not so much to all this technology. Here is a parodic song about it:

(sometimes) You Should Get Yourself Disconnected:

At some point, at some point, at some point,
You should for now get disconnected
Cause those constant online updates,
Have made you so distracted.

I see so many Tweets,
I see so many
Facebook updates.
So much buzzfeed,
So much to get on my plate.

We should get back with nature,
We should admire the trees,
Let's power done for a short time,
To save the birds and the bess.

(Sometimes) You should get yourself disconnected,
From your over-hyped iPhone,
Also that fancy new tablet,
And that new plasma TV.

(Then we can admire the trees....)

Those fancy smartphones are so dear,
Yet they'll only last two years.
What's the point of a huge techno-wave
When most of it is quickly thrown away?

We need to power down and remember,
Our planet must last forever.
The high tech pace stresses us constantly,
We should all find nature and relax quietly.

(Sometimes) You should get yourself disconnected,
From your over-hyped iPhone,
Also that fancy new tablet,
And that expensive plasma TV.

(Then we can admire the trees....)

We all need to get ourselves reconnected
With the earth, sea and sky,
This is all so much more precious,
Than a few more minutes on Sky(pe)

Friday, 17 October 2014

My analysis of local by-election results from 16/10/14 and other thoughts

Readers, the results of local by-elections from yesterday that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

Bolton MBC, Harper Green: Labour 1176 (50.7%, -6.3%), UKIP 777 (33.5%, -9.3%), Conservative 282 (12.2%,+0.0%), Green 38 (1.6%, -2.2%), Liberal Democrat 28 (1.2%, -1.7%), Independent 19 (0.8%).

Kingston-upon-Thames LBC, Tudor: Con 1062 (41.0%, +0.1%), Lib Dem 725 (28.0%, +10.3%), Lab 314 (12.1%, -2.1%), UKIP 269 (10.4%, -0.9%), Green 219 (8.5%, -7.5%)

York UA, Westfield: Lib Dem 1804 (60.2%, +25.8%), Lab 588 (19.6%, -23.8%), UKIP 398 (13.3%), Con 113 (3.8%, -10.0%), Green 87 (2.9%, -5.5%), English Democrats 5 (0.2%)

All in all, it has sadly not been a good night for my fellow Greens. I especially did not expect a significant swing from Green to Lib Dem in Kingston-upon-Thames, given that we fielded a Young Green, Ryan Coley, and that young people are much more likely to vote Green than Lib Dem (or UKIP) at the moment. The Greens are also still polling at 5-7% of the vote, neck and neck with the Lib Dems at times.

The Westfield local by-election was also a shock-not only did our vote share go down significantly, but also the Liberal Democrats won it from Labour on a 24.8% swing in their favour, at a time when the Liberal Democrats are struggling to avoid being pushed into fifth place in the polls. Also, Westfield ward is in York Central (a safely Labour constituency) and not York Outer (a Conservative leaning Con-LD marginal), where we are stronger. Despite this, the 'racist right' vote was stronger in York Central than in York Outer in 2010-and UKIP ripped the rather weak Conservative vote apart in that ward despite finishing a poor third. And just so you know, the pathetic English Democrats result of 5 votes is not a misprint.

On another note, I would like you to come and join the TUC demo 'Britain Needs a Pay Rise!' tomorrow, especially in light of Lord Freud's cruel ableist remarks and the fact that almost all of us are getting only below-inflation pay rises whilst rich executives are getting pay rises of 21% on average. I will be at the main march in London,please come and join us if you live in or near London.

Regards, Alan.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

We need to do a lot more than oust Lord Freud to truly help people with disabilities in the UK

Readers, you may be aware of the awful, ableist comments Conservative peer Lord Freud (real name David Freud) has made, claiming it is okay to pay people with disabilities only £2 per hour for work, less than a third of the legal minimum wage of £6.50 per hour.

As a person with autism, whose job involves helping people with disabilities, I will say that it is absolutely not okay to underpay people just because they have a disability.

Not only do we need a living wage, this living wage needs to apply to all who work-regardless of whether they have a disability or not.

Also, so many people with a disability have given important contributions to British society, like former athelete and crossbench peer Tanni Grey-Thompson. Quite a few notable MPs past and present have had disabilities as well.

Therefore, we are right to call for the sacking of Lord Freud as Welfare Minister, a role he has held for far too long. If you have not already signed a petition calling for David Freud's sacking, then please do so as soon as possible.

Sadly, as peerages are for life, David Freud will still be able to claim a £300 per day allowance he does not deserve (nor does Olly Grender, on a related note!) and does not need anyway-being the great-grandson of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and with several Freuds having been prominent in British society (Lucian Freud was a well renowned painter, and Clement Freud was a long-serving Liberal MP and one of the first celebrity television chefs) he inherited considerable wealth from his relatives, giving him an easy life without the peerage.

What we need to call for also is the total abolition of the House of Lords, the scrapping of all work capability assessments, which harm people with disabilities whoever administers them, and for the media to be stopped from inciting disability hate crime. I also believe we as a country all need to develop a better understanding of disability issues overall, so that we can truly appreciate and respect diversity and difference. I may have a disability, but nonetheless, in spite of the challenges I face in my daily life, I have been able to make useful contributions to my community and also to the Green Party.  


Monday, 13 October 2014

Happy anniversary, readers!

Dear Readers,

Today marks my first day in full-time paid work, and also the first anniversary of Alan's Green Thoughts :)
Please keep reading and watching my blog- I would also like you to sign petitions to ensure the Green Party is included in election debates that will occur in the next few months. If UKIP can be included in general election debates on various media, then so can we. We have one MP, one Peer, 3 MEPs, 2 London Assembly members, and 172 councillors across UK local authorities, despite the lack of media coverage given to us.

Regards, Alan.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Great Britain and the Irish Republic: United today in saying no to the crooked establishment

Readers, I would like to thank those of you who took part in anti-TTIP actions across the UK today, whether you leafleted, canvassed, asked people to sign petitions, or otherwise. We need to do our best to defeat both TTIP and CETA (Comprehensive European Trade Agreement) both of which are corporate power-grabs which will undermine our standards, our democratic rights, and our environmental protections if they are ever passed.

I also ask you to only vote for parties which oppose such agreements and instead call for fair trade-which means the Green Party since the other four largest UK political parties (Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative, and UKIP) support such agreements and the neoliberal capitalist model in general.

Meanwhile over in Ireland, two Dail by-elections yesterday showed a collective rejection of the establishment there (that is Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour).

The most decisive of these was Dublin South West, where the Socialist Party of Ireland, standing under the Anti-Austerity Alliance label, gained another TD in the form of Paul Murphy, Ireland's Socialist MEP from 2009 to 2014 when People Before Profit split the Socialist vote enough to cost Paul his European seat. This time, however, Paul won after eight counts in a tight contest with Sinn Fein's not-as-left-wing candidate, Cathal King, who nevertheless polled an impressive 30.3% of the 1st preference vote, compared to 27.2% of the 1st preference vote for Paul. As for People Before Profit's vote splitter,Nicky Coules, his attempt (unlike Brid Smith's) failed badly, as he finished eighth out of eleven, and did not even poll enough votes to be able to reclaim election expenses. Nor did the Green candidate, Francis Duffy, who finished ninth, although he performed better than in 2011.
It is time for the left in Ireland to reunite in time for the next general election there in 2016 and avoid vote splitting to defeat the Fine Gael-Labour coalition and prevent Fianna Fail's return to power.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, and Labour were the real losers in this by-election,however. Their candidates, Cait Keane, Pamela Kearns, and John Lahart, polled just 8.8%, 8.5%, and 8.6% of the 1st preference vote respectively-even if these vote shares were combined, they still would not have defeated either Paul or Cathal. Water charges, which are unfair and unjust especially with the high unemployment that still exists in Ireland, were the key issue in the Dublin South West by-election, and the voters of Dublin South West correctly and effectively said, 'stick yer feckin' water charges up yer capitalist ****!'

Over in rural Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent turf-owner Michael Fitzmaurice was elected, despite the best efforts of Fianna Fail's Ivan Connaughton, who failed to be elected as one of Roscommon-South Leitrim's TDs in 2011. Fine Gael's Maura Hopkins, the only woman in this contest, meanwhile finished third-Connacht, where these counties lie, is pretty conservative socially and psephologically by Irish standards. Sinn Fein made a strong advance but their candidate, Martin Kenny, just could not get enough useful transfers in the end to make the final counts. Another disappointment here in my opinion is that of young entrepreneur Emmet Concorran, who despite having some reasonably fresh ideas could only poll 3.8%.


Friday, 10 October 2014

My analysis of the by-election results of Clacton and Heywood & Middleton

Readers, the results of the by-elections from Clacton, and Heywood and Middleton, were as follows (in case you did not stay up long enough to see them live early this morning):

Clacton by-election, 9/10/14:

Douglas Carswell, UKIP: 21,113 (59.7% from standing start)

Andrew Graham, Liberal Democrats: 483 (1.3%, -11.6%)

Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope, Monster Raving Loony Party, 127 (0.4%)

Charlotte Rose, Independent, 56 (0.2%)

Bruce Sizer, Independent, 205 (0.6%)

Chris Southall, Green Party: 688 (1.9%, +0.7%)

Giles Watling, Conservative: 8,709 (24.6%, -28.4%)

Tim Young, Labour: 3,957 (11.4%, -13.8%).

Heywood & Middleton by-election, 9/10/14:

John Bickley, UKIP: 11,016 (38.7%, +36.1%)

Ian Gartside, Conservative: 3,496 (12.3%, -14.8%)

Abi Jackson, Green Party: 870 (3.1%)

Liz McInnes, Labour: 11,633 (40.9%, +0.8%)

Anthony Smith, Liberal Democrats: 1,457 (5.1%, -17.6%)

As unfortunately predicted, it was the case of the purple tide crashing through, especially in Clacton. I was also shocked at the fact it nearly did so in Heywood & Middleton- when Labour were expected to hold the seat easily.

I pondered some questions about these two by-elections, and the answers were:


1. How much will Douglas Carswell win Clacton by? His majority was 12,404, or a staggering 35.1%. Better than that of even George Galloway in Bradford West-his majority by comparison was only 10,140, or 30%.

2. Did Douglas Carswell beat Dick Taverne's record? Yes, alas-he scored 59.7% of the vote for UKIP from nowhere, whereas Dick Taverne got 58.2% of the vote from nowhere in Lincoln back in 1973.

3. Could there be a swing large enough against the Conservatives that Labour get second place  by accident? No. Even though the swing from Conservative to UKIP was 44.1%, virtually equalling that of the Bermondsey by-election of 1983 (the swing there remains the largest in any British by-election), Labour still fell to third place.

4. Will the Green Party candidate, Chris Southall, beat the Liberal Democrats (and hopefully also save his deposit)? Chris did indeed beat the Liberal Democrats' candidate, Andrew Graham, and finished fourth (our highest place finish so far in by-elections this parliament), but sadly he did not save his deposit.

5. How well, or not, will the two independent candidates poll? Bruce Sizer could not even get half of the votes of the Liberal Democrats, whose vote share of 1.3% is the lowest in any British by-election in decades. Charlotte Rose got less than half the votes of Monster Raving Loony Party leader Howling Laud Hope.

(Heywood & Middleton):

1.Will UKIP's rise stall Labour's recovery in terms of vote share (which is what happened in the South Shields by-election back in 2013) in Heywood & Middleton? Yes-UKIP only missed out on winning Heywood & Middleton outright by 617 votes, and Labour's vote share only increased by 0.8% in a seat where they should have recovered better,logically.

Just how far might the Conservative vote fall? They lost, in percentage terms, more than half their previous vote share.

3.Will the Liberal Democrats defy poll ratings for this by-election and save their deposit? Yes, but only just-but the Lib Dems found it worthy cause for celebration given they had lost so many deposits in by-elections (including Clacton the same morning).

4.Will we Greens make a good first impression (in terms of results) here? Kind of-we got 870 votes from a standing start, pretty good for a constituency which nearly elected a UKIP MP, but we did not get our deposit back :(

5.Given the much higher publicity about Clacton, how much of a drop in turnout will occur in Heywood & Middleton? The turnout dropped from 57% to 36%-not as bad as the drop in turnout in Wythenshawe & Sale East (which is also in Greater Manchester).

In Heywood & Middleton, I believe the limp performance of Labour during its conference, as well as its failure to properly address the real issues of the nation (especially economic ones and our failed economic system), was the key reason it made little recovery in this by-election and nearly lost the seat to UKIP. Labour has clearly not learned its lesson from the Scottish Independence referendum-three weeks on, Labour is still polling considerably behind the SNP in Scotland. I also believe we Greens won some of those ex-Labour votes, especially amongst younger voters; Abi is a Young Green, after all.

Over in Clacton, I am pleased to say that Chris not only increased our vote share but also because of his efforts, the Green Party was the only party from 2010 to also increase the number of votes from what they polled in Clacton in 2010-Chris polled 535 votes in 2010 and managed to increase that to 688 this time, in spite of the turnout dropping from 64% to 51%. Even in constituencies as unfavourable to us (and as favourable to UKIP, conversely) as Clacton, we are still moving forwards and campaigning for real change.

In this by-election, Douglas Carswell and UKIP made lots of noise about how the elite was disconnected from ordinary voters and how they were pushing for change. Both of these general statements  from UKIP are complete lies.

John Douglas Wilson Carswell (full name of Douglas Carswell) ,just like Nigel Farage, was publicly educated-he is an old Carthusian (he boarded at Charterhouse, one of the five all-male public schools where a large proportion of British judges were educated). Even though he did not attend either Oxford or Cambridge (but rather UEA and King's College London), he is still in reality part of the same elite UKIP decries. UKIP's treasurer, ex-Conservative Stuart Wheeler, is a multimillionaire Old Etonian who was also Oxford-educated, just like David Cameron and several of his cabinet secretaries. And several hereditary peers (not all of whom sit in the House of Lords) are also UKIP members-one, David Verney, is 21st (yes, 21st!) Baron Willoughby de Brooke. One of their MEPs is William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth- the Conservatives by contrast do not have any hereditary peers (or even life peers at the moment, but they once did back in the days when British European elections were held under FPTP) who are MEPs. Another hereditary peers, Richard Bridgeman (aka the Earl of Bradford), almost became a UKIP MEP in 2004. This information alone shows that UKIP is just as elitist, patriarchal, and pro-capitalist as the rest of the Establishment (Labour not quite as much,though).

As I have said before, though, you can (and should) always vote Green for real change in Britain, and for a better and brighter future for us all.

Regards, Alan.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Political history past and present: Nearly got it....and my eve of poll thoughts about Clacton/Heywood & Middleton

Tomorrow, voters in the constituencies of Clacton and Heywood & Middleton will go to the polls, and there has been a lot of speculation, mainly as to how much Douglas Carswell will win Clacton by under his new colours and how much UKIP will be able to stall Labour's recovery in Heywood & Middleton.

Over the last few decades, there have been many, many parliamentary by-elections in the UK, featuring all sorts of candidates in addition to the mainstream candidates of Labour, Liberal/SDP/Lib Dem, and Conservative. There have been many cases of swings which are almost always unachievable in general elections anywhere. And there have been quite a few close finishes in British by-elections, and British general elections, where candidates missed out by a few hundred votes.

Here are some of my favourite close runs from British electoral history-people who never quite made it to the House of Commons:

Roger Pincham: Once Liberal Party treasurer, Roger contested Leominster five times for the Liberals but never won it despite his efforts-he was only 579 votes short of winning this seat in October 1974. Boundary changes to Leominster in 1983, which increased its electorate and bolstered the Conservative vote share, essentially put an end to his hopes of becoming a Liberal MP.

Claire Brooks: Another serial Liberal candidate who did not quite make it-she contested Skipton quite a few times, falling only 590 votes short in October 1974. Like Roger, Claire was stymied on her last attempt there by boundary changes strongly favouring the Conservatives-the fact that Ripon had been won by the Liberals briefly proved irrelevant. She did prove successful locally, once becoming Mayor of Skipton.

Christopher Walmsley: Contested West Derbyshire twice for the Liberals-he only missed winning this seat in the 1986 by-election by 100 votes, almost the closest on record (and the closest for a seat held by the incumbent party rather than gained by an opponent)

Andrew Date: Even in the landslide of 1997, there proved many Conservative seats that proved out of reach for non-Conservative challengers- but Andrew came within just 132 votes of becoming the first Labour MP to represent South West Bedfordshire (which includes Dunstable & Leighton Buzzard) in 27 years (the old seat of South Bedfordshire is largely coterminous to this seat)

Eddie Lopez: By all rights, he should have become the Labour MP for Slough in 1992. The only reason he did not was because a Mr. Declan Alford confused Labour voters by using the description 'the Labour candidate' (as opposed to 'Labour Party candidate') on the ballot paper. The Conservative majority that year was lower than the votes polled by Mr. Alford.

Stuart Mole: One of the best campaigners for the Liberals in the 1970s, in just nine years he pushed the Liberal vote in Chelmsford, not previously known for its Liberal tradition, from 9% to 41%. It was in the 1983 general election that he really captured attention-he missed out on unseating long-serving Conservative MP for Chelmsford, Norman St. John-Stevas, by just 378 votes. Surprisingly, he fell back when Norman retired-perhaps there were just no more Labour voting clusters to squeeze.

Alan Watson: Stood for Richmond, then Richmond & Barnes, four times for the Liberals, coming only 74 votes short in 1983. Had he stood in 1992, he might have unseated Jeremy Hanley in the same way Paul Tyler unseated Gerry Neale in North Cornwall that year.

Brian Seymour-Smith: Came only 582 votes short of winning Meriden in the 1997 general election. If he had been able to get a swing of just 1% greater, he would have been Meriden's first Labour MP in many years (the reason why Meriden is safely Conservative today is because its pre-1983 boundaries included the area now in the North Warwickshire seat).

Roger Roberts: He came rather close for the Liberal Democrats in Conwy in 1992 and 1997, falling less than 5% short of winning each time.

Ian McMinn: He came just 238 votes short of winning Hexham in 1997. Had he won it, the entire North East region would have ended up with no Conservative MPs at all that time.

There are of course many more besides-notably, one of my fellow Greens in Suffolk, Mark Ereira-Guyer, almost won Bury St Edmunds (back when he was part of Labour) from the Conservatives back in 1997.

I also ponder some questions of my own about the Clacton by-election, and to a lesser extent Heywood and Middleton's by-election:

My five personal questions about the Clacton by-election:

-How much exactly will Douglas Carswell win Clacton by under UKIP?
-Will he beat Dick Taverne's record of 1973 by polling more than 58% of the vote from a standing start?
-Could there be a swing against the Conservatives large enough that Labour potentially beats them to second place by accident?
-Will the Green Party candidate, Chris Southall, come ahead of the Liberal Democrats (and possibly save his deposit) as I hope?
-How well, or badly, will the two independent candidates in Clacton, Bruce Sizer, and Charlotte Rose, poll?

My five personal questions about the Heywood & Middleton by-election:

-Will UKIP's rise stall Labour's recovery in terms of vote share (which is what happened in the South Shields by-election back in 2013) in Heywood & Middleton?
-Just how far might the Conservative vote fall?
-Will the Liberal Democrats defy poll ratings for this by-election and save their deposit?
-Will we Greens make a good first impression (in terms of results) here?
-Given the much higher publicity about Clacton, how much of a drop in turnout will occur in Heywood & Middleton

Please feel free to provide your own answers to the above questions, readers :)


Monday, 6 October 2014

Postcards from Latvia, Bulgaria, Brazil, and back home in Britain

Yesterday, Brazil held its general election, and of more noteworthiness, its presidential election.

It appears so far that as predicted, incumbent Dilma Rousseff of the so-called 'Workers' Party' (which is not really left-wing anymore) has been re-elected President of Brazil, in spite of a strong challenge from Marina da Silva and Dilma's failure to properly tackle serious economic and social inequalities in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.

Since the departure of the famous Luiz Inacio da Silva ('Lula' to Brazilians) as President, the Workers' Party of Brazil has been going downhill somewhat, and has adopted a more centrist stance (which is considerably better than either of the major parties in the USA, admittedly) economically. This allowed Marina da Silva to win as much as 22% in the first round of the presidential election, but it was not enough to make it to the runoff, where Dilma faces Aecio Neves, presidential candidate of Brazil's Social Democratic Party (in reality centre-right, like Portugal's own Social Democrats). These votes will not be decided until 26 October, and Brazil's parliamentary results have not been fully released yet for some reason, so I cannot comment further here, apart from saying that the left-wing (some say far-left) Socialism and Freedom Party has elected a few more deputies by the looks of preliminary results.

Meanwhile, there were also parliamentary elections in Bulgaria and Latvia the same weekend-and sadly, both produced bad news for progressive politics in many ways.

Despite the fact that last year, the centre-left Coalition for Bulgaria had ended up forming the coalition despite not being the largest party in the Bulgarian Parliament (the centre-right GERB remains the largest party), their vote share collapsed substantially, falling from 26% to just 15%. GERB meanwhile recovered a bit of lost ground, but newer parties in Bulgaria (many right-wing) were the main beneficiaries of this year's election. The junior coalition partners, DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms), went up from 11.3% to 14.8%, just some thousands of votes short of becoming the second-largest party in Bulgaria. Frighteningly, the far-right Patriotic Front polled 7.3% of the vote, much of it presumably coming from ex-voters of ATAKA, Bulgaria's main extremist party. Another interesting new entry into the Bulgarian Parliament is the Alternative Bulgarian Revival (ABV) movement, a left-wing party started by ex-socialist Georgi Parvanov, who was once President of Bulgaria and has chiefly called for fairer taxation.

The Bulgarian Greens sadly did not come close to winning parliamentary seats, especially with two other parties calling themselves greens (Party of the Greens and Left and the Green Party) in this election, who split their vote (a similar thing happened in Hungary earlier this year).

Over in Latvia, the battle for first place in the polls was tightly fought, with the centre-left Harmony coming out on top once again, but with only 24 seats compared to the 31 it won in 2011. Much of Eastern Europe is turning sharply right psephologically-and Latvia proved to be no exception this time when the main right-wing parties, the centre-right Unity and neoconservative, right-wing National Alliance, gained 3 seats apiece, giving them 23 seats and 17 seats respectively in the new Latvian Saeima. The Union of Greens and Farmers, largely agrarian as opposed to being truly green, also won most of the seats back that they lost in 2011. Two new parties entered the Latvian Saeima: an association of provincial parties called Latvia for the Regions and a pro-Russian (but not left-wing unlike the Latvian Russian Union) party called For Latvia From the Heart gained 8 and 7 seats apiece. Sadly, the Latvian Russian Union did not win any seats this time, even though they have an MEP who sits in the Green-EFA group. Most disappointing of all, the Socialist Party of Latvia, the most left-wing component of the Harmony Centre alliance, did not even contest this parliamentary election-but why?

Meanwhile back in Britain, I am pleased to say that there is a good chance that the Green Party could beat the Liberal Democrats in both the Clacton by-election and the Heywood and Middleton by-election-in particular, our candidate for Heywood and Middleton, Abi Jackson did us proud on the most recent Sunday politics show. We are also still polling at well, on 7% (neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats), although worryingly the Conservatives have now overtaken Labour in multiple opinion polls for the first time in more than two years, probably due to the somewhat limp performance of Labour at their conference and the promises of tax cuts made at the Conservative conference. With our growing support, I wish Abi Jackson and Chris Southall the best of luck on Thursday 9th-I will be watching the result live in case you ask :)


Friday, 3 October 2014

My analysis of recent local by-election results (from 02/10/14) and other thoughts

Readers, in case you missed them, the results from the local by-elections of yesterday which featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

Haringey LBC, Woodside: Labour 1331 (56.3%,-0.5%), Liberal Democrat 482 (20.4%,+8.6%), Green 191 (8.1%,-3.4%), UKIP 161 (6.8%,-0.5%), Conservative 140 (5.9%,-1.8%), TUSC 35 (1.5%,-1.3%), Independent G 23 (1.0%,-0.7%).

Cumbria CC, Windermere: Lib Dem 1061 (51.6%), Con 810 (39.4%), Independent 123 (6.0%, Green 61 (3.0%).

South Lakeland DC, Windermere Town: Lib Dem 416 (64%), Con 184 (28.3%), Green 50(7.7%).

South Tyneside MBC, Westoe: UKIP 676 (40.9%), Lab 625 (37.9%), Con 219 (13.3%), Green 90 (5.4%), Lib Dem 41 (2.5%).

I was hoping within Windermere that the absence of a Labour candidate would boost the Green vote in that area-however, unlike most of the country, the Liberal Democrats remain popular in the picturesque South Lakeland District, so I was left disappointed. Also, unusually for an area with very little Labour support, there is little UKIP support either- UKIP did not even stand in either of Windermere's local by-elections.

The Liberal Democrats did surprisingly well in Woodside, given that polls are as usual showing them nothing but woe and that Woodside ward, despite being in the relatively cosmopolitan Hornsey & Wood Green constituency, has never been won by any Liberal Democrat candidates in its history. As expected, it returned a large Labour majority, as it always has done.

In other news, I am very pleased to be a non-portfolio candidate in this year's elections to the Young Greens National Executive Committee. I will say that I am committed to increasing accessibility, increasing transparency and accountability in the Young Greens, and helping ensure the Young Greens Committee remains committed to core green values and ethics. I therefore hope that those of you out there who are Young Greens will vote for me #1 for Young Greens NEC, and come to our convention in Brighton on the weekend of 25 October to 26 October :)

Regards, Alan.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The corrupting psychology of neoliberalism and the 'free market'-and how we should all counter it.

In the Guardian yesterday, writer Paul Verheaghe stated, correctly, that 'neoliberalism brings out the worst in people'. And he had a good point, as well.

As I graduated in psychology, I think we need to explore this fully so that not only can we see the problem, but also help everyone counter it. Almost always, evil has to be seen in order to be exposed and expunged.

The ideology of neoliberal capitalism has been rather successful at fooling people around the world, even though it has been exposed as a failure many times, for one reason: the neoliberal culture, and its appendages (particularly the media) has exploited flaws in human psychology and corrupted it.

UKIP, despite being even more pro-neoliberal and right-wing than the three major parties, has been able to cast itself as an 'alternative' party well to a significant proportion of the electorate (even though we Greens can see UKIP for what it really is, as can many other progressive voters and thinkers), for this reason: It has played on the fears of many old and less well-off voters; fear (of many things, not just immigration, stoked up by such media as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail to distract their readers from the real causes of Britain's problems) is what has driven many of UKIP's voters.

On the other hand, I and the rest of the Green Party offer a positive message and alternative-a message of hope, of courage, and compassion, that things can change if we vote for change and work for change.

Neoliberalism itself encourages, and is driven by, many negative psychological traits: greed, wanting to maintain power at any cost at others' expense, distorted cognitive perceptions (especially regarding people), harmful lowering of interpersonal proximity (the expansion of big business is a key contributor to that problem, as people are becoming more and more disconnected at work and in their daily lives generally), increasing overall levels of apathy and antipathy (which explains the poor turnout in elections not only in Britain but also in many other nations over the past two decades), and damage to existing relationships, even close ones (such as with family or with lovers). The pro-profit, pro-corporate, overly individualistic culture of neoliberalism has ruined so many lives because of that.

These same psychological influences have also explained why so many people are finding it difficult to break out of this model even today, despite works such as those by Thomas Piketty. However, positive psychology can be used to overturn the effects of neoliberalism that have occurred in our society and on our planet  (with enough time and effort, of course).

We need to all inspire hope, courage, solidarity, compassion, sympathy in order to help us all overthrow the neoliberal consensus (aka the Washington consensus), and in spite of all the bad news and bad vibes floating around this world of ours, it is possible (and I believe it is necessary) to encourage all those positive things. Wherever we are, and when we need to, I ask you all to ask people to reach as high as they can, to face up to their fears and find new ways forward, to help those who need help and to stand by our friends and colleagues, and to show kindness rather than scorn and/or pity to vulnerable people. And in that, we must also counter temptations of greed, hate, and sloth that free-market capitalism keeps trying to steer us further and further towards.