Sunday, 30 November 2014

It is not just in Britain that we Greens are moving forward

Readers, I am pleased to say that not just in Britain, but also British Commonwealth nations (many of which still have first-past-the-post electoral systems), Green Parties are moving forwards and making strides.

The state of Victoria, Australia, held a legislative election yesterday, which resulted in the Liberals losing power after only one term, a significant blow to Australia's rabidly anti-green, neoliberal Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (now ex-Liberal Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine, was overheard blaming Tony Abbott for his defeat, apparently). More importantly, though, our Green counterparts in Australia won their first assembly seat in the division of Melbourne, covering an area Adam Bandt (the only current Green MP in Australia's federal House of Representatives) represents. I give my thanks to the successful Australian Green in question, Ellen Sandell, who at just 30 years of age has made that significant breakthrough. They also nearly gained the division of Richmond from Labor.

The Australian Greens also gained two more seats in the Victoria legislature's upper house, the Legislative Council, and would have gained more had it not been for the quirk in Australia's particular STV system, which allowed unconventional single-issue parties such as the Australian Sex Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party to gain seats despite a comparative lack of support. In federal and state by-elections, the Australian Greens have also made comparatively good strides.

Elsewhere in British Commonwealth nations, the Green Party of Canada two months earlier
managed to win only its second state-level assembly seat in New Brunswick-David Coon won the riding of Fredericton South, and the New Brunswick Greens finished second in the safely Liberal riding of Kent North. I hope this will encourage the Green Party of Canada to contest harder when Canada's next federal election comes around sometime next year.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the various Green Parties combined (GPEW, SGP, GPNI) have now overtaken the Liberal Democrats in terms of prospective parliamentary candidates selected across the country-keep up the good work :)

Alan.

UPDATE: The Australian Greens, via Sam Hibbins, also won Prahran from the Liberals in the lower house of Victoria in the Victoria state election I mentioned.

Friday, 28 November 2014

My analysis of yesterday's local by-elections (from 27/11/14) and my tribute to PD James

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

Aberdeenshire UA, Troup: (1st preference votes): SNP 1159 (46.1%, +6.4%), Conservative 574 (22.8%, +1.9%), Independent S 391 (15.5%), Liberal Democrat 141 (5.6%, +3.6%), Labour 140 (5.6%, -0.9%), Green 68 (2.4%), Independent M 43 (1.7%).

Midlothian UA, Midlothian East: Lab 1294 (32.9%, -2.7%), SNP 1260 (32.1%, -10.8%), Ind 780 (19.8%), Con 331 (8.4%, -0.7%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lib Dem 68 (1.7%)

Oxford CC, Blackbird Leys: Lab 509 (75.7%, +8.4%), UKIP 91 (13.5%, -7.0%), Con 27 (4.0%, -1.6%), Green 21 (3.1%, -1.4%), TUSC 13 (1.9%), Lib Dem 11 (1.7%, -0.4%)

Oxford CC, Northfield Brook: Lab 401 (70.6%, -1.0%), Con 65 (11.4%, +0.0%), Green 50 (8.8%, -2.5%), TUSC 34 (6.0%), Lib Dem 18 (3.2%, -2.5%)

Oxfordshire CC, The Leys: Lab 879 (71.0%, -10.5%), UKIP 168 (13.6%), Con 77 (6.2%, -1.4%), Green 57 (4.6%, -2.8%), Lib Dem 30 (2.4%, -1.0%), TUSC 27 (2.2%).

Despite the very strong showing of the SNP in current opinion polls, this has not necessarily translated into increased support in local elections where STV is used and not FPTP (at least not by much). In STV, tactical voting can be even more problematic than under FPTP, as Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, and Dail elections in the Republic of Ireland, show. In the Midlothian local by-election, the Independent probably advocated that his supporters use their higher preferences to vote Labour to stop the SNP winning; there is enough SNP strength in rural Aberdeenshire to obviate this, usually.

Back in Oxfordshire, my view that the Socialists (the Socialist Party is the largest component of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) sometimes hold the Green Party back has sadly been proved once again-our vote shares, which should have increased in Labour wards as safely as Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook, where left of Labour potential also exists, have actually gone down partly due to TUSC's intervention. Although as usual they did not poll well they at least managed to come ahead of the hapless Liberal Democrats in the city council by-elections (they also managed this in the Charville by-election in Hillingdon, where we Greens sadly did not stand), and only come three votes behind them in the county council by-election. Strangely, the county council by-election featured a swing from Labour to UKIP, but the city council by-election in Blackbird Leys (UKIP did not stand in Northfield Brook) actually featured a swing from UKIP to Labour!

Out of the by-elections without Green Party candidates, the most notable (at least for psephologists) is Bridlington Central & Old Town in East Yorkshire-UKIP has just taken one of the only two remaining council seats in Britain that was held by the continuing Social Democratic Party (SDP), which formed in late 1990 after David Owen wound up the old SDP following its disastrous performance at the first Bootle by-election of 1990; in that by-election the old SDP finished with less than half the votes of the Monster Raving Loony Party's then leader, Screaming Lord Sutch. The continuing SDP did not even stand a candidate in the by-election following the death of former Bridlington Mayor Ray Allerston, even though they put forward two candidates for the two seats of that ward in the last local elections for East Yorkshire Unitary Authority in 2011. I wonder what the continuing SDP's only remaining district councillor, Tony Taylor (he represents Aberavon ward on Neath Port Talbot UA for the SDP), is thinking now. Speaking of dying local parties, the Idle Toad, which once was active in Lancashire, has now been wound up and deregistered.

I would finally like to pay tribute to the novelist Phyllis Dorothy James (later Baroness James), aka PD James, who sadly died at the age of 92 recently. I will remember her not only for her detective thrillers, but more importantly her dystopian novel, Children of Men, (set in a future where human fertility has ceased completely due to male sperm counts plummeting to zero) which I quite enjoyed reading a few years ago.

Alan.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Political history: For a few hundred votes more....

40 years ago, two general elections took place in the UK. February 1974 is much better remembered, not only for the strong Liberal surge which shook both the Conservatives and Labour (the Conservatives more so) and the first real establishment of Plaid Cymru and the SNP as a force in British politics, but also for a hung Parliament that resulted. The October 1974 general election by contrast is less well-known today, partly because a majority government did come out of it and also because of the lower turnout.

Both were very tightly fought, though-the Conservatives were just ahead of Labour in terms of vote share (37.8% to 37.5%) but ended up with four seats fewer because of the unfairness of first past the post; the Liberals were even more hard done by since nearly 20% of the votes cast only rewarded them with just over 2% of Westminster seats (14 out of 623 mainland seats, although they only put forward 517 candidates). In October 1974, the Liberals fielded a candidate in almost every single mainland constituency (except Argyll, Glasgow Provan, Fife Central, and Lincoln where they supported Dick Taverne) meaning for the first time in the history of universal suffrage in Britain, each constituency had at least 3 candidates standing (1979 had three two candidate contests, in Birmingham Handsworth, Dudley West and Salford East, the last time that this has happened, and ever will happen, in any UK constituency)

With Labour only coming out of it with a majority of three, it was already looking unstable, and within three years Labour (by now under the rather weak James Callaghan) ended up having to make a pact with the Liberals under David Steel, which ultimately resulted in a vote of no confidence in March 1979, infamously won by a single vote.

What I can say is this, however: a swing of just 1% more in Labour's favour would have pushed enough crucial marginal into their hands to form a stable enough government for five years- eight seats alone that were held by the Conservatives over Labour were held with a majority of one percent or less.

I believe a majority of 19  that would have been given had those eight seats (Plymouth Drake, Croydon Central, Beeston, Bosworth, Brentford & Isleworth, Aberdeen South and Reading North) would have been workable (correct me if I am wrong) in those circumstances, and that vote of no confidence mentioned above (which was a strong contributing factor in the decisive majority the Conservatives won in 1979) would never have happened.

What else might have been had what I described above happened? I leave it to you, the readers of my blog, to make your own opinions here :)

Alan.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Green songs and poetry: Reclaim the stolen land

Reclaim the stolen land (I read this at an event last weekend):

People of Britain, let us come and occupy
On every square, every space, of public land.
Land stolen from our ancestors by the filthy rich,
Using force and capitalism's grabby hands.

Let us be fazed by nothing,
Not the police, not corporate guards, no-one,
Let us stride and thus fear nothing,
Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow, the square shall be won.

People everywhere, let us reclaim the stolen land,
That has been despoiled by the rich, abused by the Crown.
Let us block the entry of those dirty fracking drills,
That blot the grass and trees and turn our drinking water brown.

Remember, this land was really ours all along,
Those peers do not really own it, they just took it without asking.
Let us strive to reclaim the stolen land,
To restore its glory, to let it become vibrant and shining.

Friday, 21 November 2014

My analysis of the Rochester and Strood by-election and the same-day local by-elections

Readers, in case you have not seen it already, the results from the Rochester and Strood by-election were as follows:

Mike Barker, Independent, 54 (0.13%)

Christopher Challis, Independent, 22 (0.05%)

Norman 'Hairy Knorm' Davidson, Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 151 (0.38%)

Jayda Fransen, Britain First, 56 (0.14%)

Stephen Goldsborough, Independent, 69 (0.17%)

Clive Gregory, Green Party, 1,692 (4.22%, +2.71%)

Geoff Juby, Liberal Democrats, 349 (0.87%, -15.5%)

Naushabah Khan, Labour, 6,713 (16.8%, -11.7%)

Nick Long, People Before Profit, 69 (0.17%)

Dave Osborn, Patriotic Socialist Party, 33 (0.08%)

Mark Reckless, UKIP, 16,867 (42.1%)

Charlotte Rose, Independent, 43 (0.11%)

Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative, 13,947 (34.8%, -14.4%)

Unlike with Clacton, it was not a foregone conclusion that Mark Reckless would win, even though all polls showed him ahead of the Conservatives. However, Kelly Tolhurst made several of the same mistakes as Eastleigh's Conservative candidate, Maria Hutchings (incidentally, I could briefly see Kelly with Maria during the live by-election coverage leading up to the result) despite being local and more genuine (Mark, by contrast, was not born in the constituency, is privately educated and an Oxford alumnus), by pandering to UKIP on immigration and by her terrible performance at the two by-election hustings. I greatly dislike both the Conservatives and UKIP, but I believe for the record that Kelly could have won narrowly had she not been so abrasive and argumentative.

I was hoping that we would save our deposit in this by-election, given how well we are doing nationally, but sadly that did not happen-maybe it is just the demographics of this seat.

The Liberal Democrats' vote share, by the way, is the worst for any major party in the entire history of the United Kingdom-not just since World War II, and is the very first time any of the three parties have polled less than 1% of the vote in a by-election. Quite frankly, the Liberal Democrats would have done better if they had not bothered to field a candidate in the first place.

And the answers to my five by-election questions about Rochester and Strood are:

1. If Mark Reckless wins, how much will he win by? He did win, of course, but only by 2,920 votes-a margin of only 7.3%.

2. Can Labour push the Conservatives into third place, given that there is more potential for them here than in Clacton? No, they finished third as they did in Clacton, although their performance was somewhat better.

3. Will the Green Party's Clive Gregory beat the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby, and will he save his deposit? He got almost five times the Liberal Democrats' vote, but sadly it was not enough for him to save his deposit.

4. Will the turnout remain as buoyant as Clacton's? Not quite-turnout for the Rochester and Strood by-election was slightly lower at 50.6%, a drop of 14.3%.

5. How well, or not, will the other eight candidates do? And who will get the (metaphorical) wooden spoon? Only one, the OMRLP's Hairy Knorm Davidson (who had actually achieved decent results by OMRLP standards back in Faversham & Mid Kent) got more than 100 votes; the other 7 candidates put together could not even achieve more than the 349 votes the Lib Dems polled. The wooden spoon went surprisingly to Christopher Challis, with a dismal 22 votes.

This was certainly an interesting by-election, with a wide plethora of candidates, although with a clear indication that the lessons of Eastleigh have not been correctly learnt just yet.

Meanwhile, there were three local by-elections going on-here are their results (NB: if you stayed up to watch the Rochester and Strood by-election live you will already know about one of them):

Medway UA, Peninsula: UKIP 2,850 (48.3%), Conservative 1,965 (33.3%, -20.9%), Labour 716 (12.1%,-8.5%), Green 314 (5.3%,-2.1%), Liberal Democrats 60 (1.0%, -5.3%)

Stockport MBC, Bramhall South & Woodford: Con 2080 (53.2%, +8.2%), Lib Dem 1502 (38.3%, +5.4%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lab 132 (3.4%, -5.5%)

Swansea UA, Uplands: Independent (Peter May) 671 (32.8%), Lab 533 (26.1%, -13.1%), Lib Dem 215 (10.5%, -22.2%), Green 179 (8.8%, -9.7%), Independent (Pat Dwan) 158 (7.7%), Con 154 (7.5%, -2.1%), Plaid Cymru 105 (5.1%), TUSC 31 (1.5%).

The fact that the Medway by-election occurred at the same time (although its declaration was one hour earlier) as the Rochester and Strood by-election gave a large boost to UKIP, even though the Peninsula ward is actually in the Gillingham and Rainham constituency nearby. As with the by-election, there was a large swing from Conservative to UKIP.

At least the Lib Dems have one crumb of comfort in the fact their vote share increased in Stockport's local by-election, partly because the Labour candidate was not local and did not campaign much (Labour have no realistic chance of winning in many parts of the borough of Stockport which are not in the city of Stockport itself; Bramhall is in the Cheadle constituency); we managed to finish ahead of Labour despite not having stood there before. Not all Liberal Democrat-strong territory is necessarily good for the Green Party, alas.

Meanwhile in Swansea, former Lib Dem PPC Peter May, who came only 504 votes short of winning the seat of Swansea West in 2010, won the 'naturally liberal' ward of Uplands, where the late great Dylan Thomas once lived. We Greens are recovering somewhat in Wales, but the intervention of Plaid Cymru (they did not stand here in 2012) split our vote when they could have supported us (Plaid Cymru is somewhat stronger in wards in Swansea East). Even for Swansea, the Conservatives' sixth-place finish, especially without a UKIP candidate in this by-election, is rather poor. As for Peter May, I suspect he would probably have become MP for Swansea West in 2010 if Charles Kennedy was still Lib Dem leader then and not Nick Clegg.

The Rochester and Strood by-election will probably be the last Westminster by-election of this parliament, with less than six months to go before the general election of 2015 takes place. In the meantime, the Green Party is getting more and more PPCs ready across England and Wales :)

Alan.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My questions about the Rochester and Strood by-election and other thoughts.

Readers, I would first of all like to thank everyone who came to today's Free Education Demo in London, especially those of you from the Green Party, and in particular the Young Greens, who helped get the march organised. I am sorry I could not be there, but I am glad that so many came. After all, many countries in Europe have free higher education, so we can, and we should also have it for both undergraduate and postgraduate education (particularly important to me since I want to become a psychologist one day).

Secondly, polling day for the Rochester & Strood by-election is tomorrow and it has been a rather interesting campaign. I am hoping Clive Gregory will have done well enough to save his deposit in the end (since he has not got a realistic chance of winning this by-election, unfortunately), especially with a YouGov poll showing the Green Party as high as 8%. There has undoubtedly been some campaigning from the eight 'minor candidates' (all candidates except Labour's Naushabah Khan, our Clive Gregory, the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby, Mark Reckless for UKIP and the Conservatives' Kelly Tolhurst) but sadly the media sometimes just has not enough time (or enough fairness in the BBC's case) to hear them all in equal measure to the Greens, the Lib Dems., Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives.

It appears that a UKIP win is now a given in this by-election, even though it was not from the start; Kelly's abrasive, argumentative and rude manner will undoubtedly play a major factor in the Conservatives' defeat here, and also how much of a swing to UKIP they take when the results come through. However, what happens regarding how well the other eleven candidates do is still debatable at this point.

My five by-election questions for Rochester & Strood are:

1. If Mark Reckless wins, how much will he win by?
2. Can Labour push the Conservatives into third place, given that there is more potential for them here than there was in Clacton?
3. Will the Green Party's Clive Gregory get his deposit returned, and will he beat the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby?
4. Will the turnout in this by-election remain more buoyant than that of Clacton?
5. How well, or not, will the four independent candidates and the four minor party candidates poll in this by-election, and who will take the (metaphorical) wooden spoon?

Please feel free to give your own answers to my five questions :)

Regards, Alan.

Friday, 14 November 2014

My analysis of by-election results from 13/11/14 and other thoughts

Readers, there were three local by-elections yesterday featuring Green Party candidates, and the results were as follows:

Cambridge CC, Queen Edith's: Liberal Democrat 933 (36.5%, -4.7%), Labour 790 (30.9%, +1.1%), Conservative 614 (24.0%, +7.7%), Green 222 (8.7%, -2.7%).

Wigan MBC, Douglas: Lab 874 (59.4%, -0.7%), UKIP 452 (30.7%, -0.9%), Con 80 (5.4%, -3.0%), Green 37 (2.5%), Community Action Party 29 (2.0%).

Wokingham UA, Bulmershe & Whitegates: Con 726 (35.4%, +8.4%), Lab 498 (24.3%, -10.0%), Lib Dem 448 (21.8%, +4.1%), UKIP 275 (13.4%, -1.6%), Green 105 (5.1%, -1.0%).

(NB: All percentage changes in vote share are since 2014)

The fact that the Liberal Democrats regained Queen Edith's ward is not surprising-Labour's win in 2012 was a serious shock, given how that ward elected Conservative councillors until 1992 and Lib Dem councillors from then onwards, usually. I am surprised that we Greens did not make an advance even though this ward is in the South Cambridgeshire constituency and not the Cambridge constituency.

In Wigan, the Community Action Party was once a strong force, but it went into decline a few years ago and once ended up de-registering at one point. They returned earlier this year but it is clear that they are no longer as influential as they once were. Speaking of local parties in decline, the Mansfield Independent Forum (who Mansfield's elected Mayor, Tony Eggington, is a member of), which once controlled Mansfield council, has not even fielded a candidate for an upcoming by-election caused by the death of one of their own councillors. The continuing SDP's base in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, may be about to fade away again as they could not find anyone to replace long-serving Ray Allerston (who sadly died two months ago and whose wife was once Mayor of Bridlington) for a by-election due to take place in two weeks' time.

The result from Wokingham, meanwhile, is indicative of the Liberal Democrats' long-term decline in Berkshire as a whole, which in my opinion started when David Rendel lost his Newbury seat to Richard Benyon in 2005. In several seats in Berkshire in 2010, there were significant swings from Liberal Democrat to Conservative (outside Slough, Reading, and parts of Bracknell, there is little Labour support to speak of in Berkshire) and Wokingham proved no exception.

The Rochester & Strood by-election is now only six days away-apart from UKIP winning (in all likelihood), what will happen on the day with so many candidates?

Alan.



Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Politics and psychology: Why real long-term solutions are needed in both areas

There is not often much mention of psychology or psychiatry in relation to politics in the wider discourse, but I was luckily able to gain such insight today after a drop-in session at a stress relief centre in London.

One strong relation between politics and psychology/psychiatry is the excessive use of drugs in psychiatry, when evidence demonstrates that in the long term anti-depressants and other drugs are not nearly as effective at solving mental health problems as therapy and direct help. In fact, an acquaintance of mine told me she had actually experienced anxiety-related tremors as a side effect of a drug supposedly designed to cure significant anxiety and/or depression. The excessive use of drugs and the over-reliance of the medical model in the management and understanding of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder etc. is down to the influence and lobbying of large pharmaceutical companies and private healthcare providers (e.g. GE Healthcare and GlaxoSmithKline) not just in Britain and the USA but also many other countries; many drugs are produced privately by companies primarily seeking to make a profit rather than in the actual interests of patients they intend the drugs to be sold to, or the doctors who need to prescribe such drugs.  I also believe that the same influence of the large pharmaceutical companies was a factor in the prohibitions of cannabis and psychotropic mushrooms across most of the world, even though these are naturally-growing herbs when anti-depressants, beta-blockers etc. are all artificial and produced with chemicals, hence the nasty side effects of many psychiatric drugs.

Meanwhile, there needs to be more concentration, both in politics and psychology, on long-term solutions and tackling the root causes of issues like these-but our political system is fundamentally too focused on short-term issues rather than long-term issues. Medical doctors (GPs, in particular) should also not be involved in curing psychological illnesses of any type-they are inclined to use the medical model naturally (instead of the psychosocial model which is much more effective) because they are primarily trained to treat physical illness-not mental illness. Therefore, the influence of psychologists, and especially psychotherapists, needs to be increased in the field of psychiatry and solutions to mental health problems.

Relating back to politics, my wish for long-term solutions to pressing problems, and wanting to change the political culture rather than just a few politicians, explains why I am a loyal supporter of the Green Party, and why the Green Party is still polling an average of 6% despite a relative media blackout by the BBC and many newspapers (although the blackout is whitening up, slowly but surely) in election polls. We Greens are focused on long-term solutions to Britain's problems, not just the issue of artificial climate change. UKIP, despite its current high polling, will, like the SDP of the 1980s, turn out to be nothing more than a drug, politically, albeit one with long-term, harmful side effects, which the SDP exacted on the LibLabCons even after they merged into the Liberal Democrats in 1988.

Alan.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Thoughts of the day

Readers, I would firstly like to thank everyone who wore white poppies yesterday (sadly I forgot to get one myself) in remembrance of peace and all those who conscientiously objected during the First World War, as well as those who died in that war.

Secondly, I am very pleased to say that the Green Party of England and Wales' membership has now passed the 25,000 mark, meaning that at the rate we are recruiting members, we could soon have more members than the Liberal Democrats by the time the general election comes around :)

Thirdly, even though it was not binding, as the Spanish Cortes in Madrid kept reiterating, 80% of Catalonians voted for independence in their own independence referendum yesterday, which is a clear indicator of smaller states' desire for greater autonomy in Europe and greater powers, particularly over finance.

Alan.

Friday, 7 November 2014

My analysis of local by-elections from yesterday (6/11/14) and last night's hustings for the Rochester & Strood by-election

Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections are as follows (they were only two, and both had a Green Party candidate, I am pleased to say):

Cornwall UA, Megavissey: Conservative 348 (32.2%, +8.2%), UKIP 281 (26.0%, -1.6%), Labour 204 (18.9%, -10.8%), Liberal Democrat 197 (18.2%, +4.3%), Green 50 (4.6%, -0.1%).

Rugby BC, Bilton: Conservative 668 (42.0%, -12.2%), UKIP 325 (20.4%), Liberal Democrat 280 (17.2%, +8.1%), Labour 212 (13.3%, -8.1%), Independent 60 (3.8%), Green 37 (2.3%, -7.7%), TUSC 10 (0.6%, -4.3%).

A pretty poor night for the left of Britain-our vote share held up in Megavissey but the Conservatives managed to win it. Cornish local elections have become very volatile recently, with Megavissey having been effectively a four-way marginal since Labour gained it from the Conservatives in 2013. Bilton, an affluent suburb of Rugby, sadly proved worse for us, and especially the Socialists, despite our previous good showing in a safely Conservative ward.

Nevertheless, there has been some good news for us recently.

First of all, there were some hustings last night at St. George's Hotel, Rochester (sitting on the borders between the constituencies of Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford) for the Rochester & Strood by-election, where voters will go to the polls in just 13 days' time from now. I am pleased to say our candidate, Clive Gregory, managed to put in a good performance, remain focused, and he used positive thinking and correctly blamed bankers for Britain's problems. Meanwhile, the Labour and Conservative candidates, Naushabah Khan and Kelly Tolhurst, often dug at each other and on immigration just pandered to the right-wing mainstream media as expected (Kelly more so). There was also not really a significant difference between their manifestos, either. The Lib Dem candidate, Geoff Juby, looked somewhat downcast, but he was more respectful, in all honesty, and less occupied with negative campaigning than I expected (in the past, Liberal Democrat candidates in by-elections have been notorious for printing leaflets which focus more on attacking a Labour/Conservative candidate rather than real policies). As for UKIP's Mark Reckless-he did not even bother to turn up for the hustings; his non-appearance, and lame excuse for not showing up, was rightly greeted with boos and cries of 'Shame!' from the audience.

Despite only appearing as guests, two other candidates did get invited to speak briefly (there was not room or time to accommodate all 13 by-election candidates within the hustings) at the end. Mike Barker, an independent, dressed in a Father Christmas costume (even though we have not reached Christmas time yet!) was mainly focused on the issue of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, a World War II ship, lying in the River Medway with unexploded bombs, but did not speak on other important issues also affecting Rochester & Strood. Nick Long, on behalf of People Before Profit, spoke mainly about extortionate house prices and rents, and the effects this was having on the large commuter population of this constituency given how high rail fares are. I hoped to ask the candidates a question about bringing the railways back into public hands or about TTIP, but sadly this topic did not come up in the hustings.

On a final note, I am pleased to say that Caroline Lucas has been awarded 'MP of the year' once again, and that you should tune in to BBC1 tonight at 9pm to see her appearance on 'Have I Got News For You?'

Alan.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The 2014 US midterms: How did our Green counterparts do across the pond?

Readers, speaking on the 409th anniversary of Bonfire Night aka Guy Fawkes Night, I have been keeping an eye (somewhat) on the results of US midterm state and congressional elections.

There may not have been gunpowder, but there was certainly treason and plot-especially regarding the dirty campaigns (very common in US politics) many candidates pitched against each other.

Our Green US counterparts were sadly not able to field candidates in every senate, congressional and gubernatorial election this time, due to a very unfair feature of US politics known as the 'ballot access law'. Various types of this law exist in all 50 states of the USA, and these laws require potential candidates to acquire a substantial amount of signatures from electors within the remit of the election in question, which can be as high as 5% of the electorate in that context. This can be tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of signatures in each election, very difficult if you do not have the vast resources of Democratic or Republican candidates and are in a large, populous state (e.g. Texas). The other major issue is of course the lack of spending limits in any electoral campaign in the United States, because of a Supreme Court decision on the matter-these campaigns regularly cost upwards of tens of millions of US dollars.

The US Green Party did not win any of the elections they contested this year, unfortunately, or even beat any Republican or Democrat candidates, because of this grievous unfairness in US politics that makes British politics, with its antiquated FPTP system and right-wing dominated media, look fair.

Our transatlantic counterparts had some moments to shine, though, in a way, with Howie Hawkins receiving 5% of the votes for Governor of New York state-the best result they have ever polled in New York gubernatorial electoral history. Anita Rios over in Ohio's gubernatorial election also did well for the US Greens, with nearly 100,000 votes and 3.3% of the votes cast. Notable defeats in this year's gubernatorial elections include then-incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois, instrumental in helping rid Illinois of capital punishment, Wendy Davis in Texas, famous for her successful filibustering of an anti-abortion law the Texas legislature tried to push through last year, and Sam Parnell in Alaska, the only Republican incumbent governor to be defeated this year, if narrowly and by an independent.

In the congressional elections, Matt Funicello managed the best US Green Party performance by far, polling 11.3% of the votes in New York's 21st congressional district-the cosmopolitan nature of New York probably has a part to play in that result. Outside New York, the best Green results in the USA's midterm congressional elections were in Illinois' 12th district and Minnesota's 8th district, where Paula Bradshaw and Robert 'Skip' Sandman polled 5.7% and 4.3% of the votes in their respective district. As for the senate election, where the Republicans won 7 seats from the Democrats and crucially gained control of the US senate (they also gained control of the US congress, with a majority of 51 House of Representatives seats), the best the US Greens could manage in a senatorial election amidst all the enormous spending the Republicans and Democrats mustered was nearly 2%. Ironically, this was in Delaware's senatorial election-Delaware is politically the most conservative of the north-eastern US states, an area which is traditionally notable for its liberalism and progressivism (by US standards, anyway).

With both TTIP and TPP coming up, the outcome of last night's US elections is very worrying. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are committed to neoliberalism and continuing US imperialism in some form or another, as President Obama has proven in his tenure, but it is widely acknowledged that the Republicans are worse than the Democrats-many Republican candidates at present are so right-wing, so misogynistic, so nasty etc. even UKIP would be reluctant to accept British equivalents of them as candidates!

Even when the odds seem so heavily stacked against us, we Greens need to keep trying nonetheless to get our message across-wherever we are in the world.

Alan.




Monday, 3 November 2014

A few things I missed....

Readers, I have been quite busy these past few days, and I need to update on a few things.

First, the Ukrainian Parliamentary election. I did not post the day straight after the election because so many results in this election have been delayed due to ongoing tensions in Ukraine, and the Crimean constituencies (and several constituencies in the Donetsk region)are under rebel control and thus have not held elections at all. (Ukraine, like Germany and Hungary, uses a mixed-member system for its elections.) One constituency which was partly in Crimea and partly in Donetsk had a turnout of 1%-worse than that of by-elections in students' unions in the UK, even my old one!

The overall result proved a decisive victory for pro-European parties in Ukraine, as the Petroshenko Bloc, People's Front, and Self Reliance all came above the main Pro-Russian Ukrainian party, the aptly named Opposition Bloc. It was also a notable disaster for Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, which lost more than four-fifths of its seats and only polled 5.7% of the vote, finishing sixth. In the FPTP constituencies of Ukraine, there were 96 independent candidates elected out of the 200 constituencies able to hold elections.

The worst thing about the Ukrainian parliamentary election in my opinion, however, was that the Communist Party of Ukraine, the largest left-wing force in Ukraine by far, lost every single one of its list seats-and polled very poorly in the single-member seats. Its Presidential candidate also in practice pulled out of that election, but the deadline to withdraw had passed when he announced his withdrawal. The two Green Parties of Ukraine did not come anywhere near the 5% threshold for list seats either, with 0.25% and 0.24% of the votes cast. A dark day for progressive politics this was indeed-by the way, pro-Europeanism does not count as progressive when the European Union under Jean-Claude Juncker and co is riding even further up the neoliberal capitalist track.

Separate elections were held in Donetsk and Lugansk, interestingly, but there is little to say apart from the fact that the lame and almost certainly fabricated (by the authorities) excuse of 'making too many errors in its submitted documents' was used to shut out Donetsk's Communist Party completely from elections there. The Donetsk Republic Party had an easy win over the liberal-ish Free Lombass coalition in the (unrecognised) Donetsk Republic's first ever elections.

A similar thing happened in parliamentary elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina two weeks before the Ukrainian elections-no socialists or progressives were elected into the Bosnian and Herzegovina (social democrats are not real progressives but rather soft apologists for neoliberalism). Many Eastern European nations have many right-wing and soft centrist parties, but few if any significant left-wing parties. United Left's entry into the parliament of nearby Slovenia back in July sadly could not prove enough of an inspiration to socialist voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as the Socialist Party could only poll 1.15%-well short of the mark needed to gain a seat (there are only 42 seats in Bosnia-Herzegovina's parliament, one of the smallest in Europe).

I would finally like to add that so far the Green Party, still polling well on 7% in national polls, has selected candidates for nearly a quarter of all England and Wales constituencies so far-keep up the good work and let us try and get a full slate of 573 candidates for next year's election! (or as close to a full slate as we can, anyway)

Alan.