Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Season's greetings 2015 :)

Well, it is nearly the end of 2015, which so far in my life has been the most politically exciting, especially during the general election this May. It has also been a decisive crack in two party-politics in Britain (at least to some extent).

My brief Christmas message is that we should always continue to hope and work to achieve positive things, no matter how much fear anyone tries to put into us; it is the best way to combatting adverse events and making sure all that is good prevails.

Have a good Christmas, everyone, and Alan's Green Thoughts will return in the New Year :)

Monday, 21 December 2015

My analysis of the recent Spanish general election

Hola!

Yesterday's general election in Spain was quite sensational, particularly for the breakthrough by Podemos and its allies. Although Podemos did not achieve first place despite their strong performance in opinion polls, they managed to win a total of 69 seats, six of which I am proud to say will go to the Spanish Greens, Equo, who have been running joint lists with them. Given the dominance of the 'People's Party' and the 'Spanish Socialist Workers Party' during the current period of Spanish democracy (i.e. from 1975 onwards), this is a historic breakthrough.

Despite still topping the poll, the People's Party led by Mariano Rajoy was the clear loser in these elections, losing 1/3 of its seats and more importantly its majority in the Spanish Congress. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party surprisingly only lost 20 seats, due to the rise of Podemos, but it still recorded its worst ever election result. Notably, the PP and PSOE only polled 50.73% between them (compared to 73.8% in 2011!), which forms a decisive crack in two-party politics in Spain, which has somehow persisted despite proportional representation.

Podemos' rise also came at the expense of United Left, the former prominent left-wing party in Spain. IU lost 9 of its 11 seats, leaving it with just two deputies, both in Madrid, although by running with Podemos in Catalonia it has maintained representation there. Attempts by the Spanish government to block Catalonia's independence referendum hardened the resolve of left-wing nationalists, as the Republican Left of Catalonia trebled its seat total despite Podemos also running. The left-wing Basque nationalists were not so fortunate, however, as Euskadi Herria Bildu (EHB) lost 5 of their 7 seats, and the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party actually gained a seat despite a slight loss in vote share terms. The Galician nationalist bloc lost both of its seats, again due to Podemos' rise, even though Podemos' left-wing policies are not as courting of independence movements in Spain as I feel they ought to be.

Elsewhere, the Ciudadanos (C's) Party managed a substantial rise, mostly at the expense of PP, winning 40 seats; however, since the Ciudadanos Party have for now ruled out a coalition with the PP (particularly because of how far PP has been lurching to the right under Senor Rajoy's tenure with its draconian law on protest, amongst other things), their rise will just be another crack in two-party politics in Spain. The Union Progress and Democracy Party (UPyD) ended up losing almost 9/10ths of its vote share and all five seats it once had, probably due to the rise of the C's and divisions within UPyD itself; it even finished behind Spain's animal rights party which did not win any seats either. The other good news about this election is that turnout increased and that invalid and blank votes were substantially down from the 2011 elections-it is easier to cast a valid and meaningful vote when real and meaningful choices exist in elections.

However, there appear to be at present no viable coalitions which could emerge from this result, due to PP and PSOE being unwilling to work with each other, Podemos not wanting to play 'second fiddle' to PSOE and the C's not wanting to work with PP (and presumably not PSOE either). I believe the nationalist parties stand to be the kingmakers at present, because if they do not help form a government, new elections will have to occur soon as was the case in Greece in 2012 when SYRIZA first rose to the forefront.

Alan.


Friday, 18 December 2015

My analysis and thoughts on by-election results from this week and other thoughts

Readers, the results from local by-elections this week (one on 15/12/15, the others on 17/12/15) featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Spelthorne BC, Sheppertown Town: Conservative 858 (62.0%, +10.9%), UKIP 180 (13.0%, -7.5%), Liberal Democrats 154 (11.1%, -2.1%), Labour 123 (8.9%, -6.9%), Green 68 (4.9%).

East Hertfordshire DC, Hertford Heath: No Description (actually Conservative) 269 (52.0%, +6.7%), Lib Dem 101 (19.5%), UKIP 70 (13.5%, -1.8%), Lab 56 (10.8%, -1.7%), Green 21 (4.1%, -1.8%).

Brent LBC, Kensal Green: Lab 931 (53.4%, -1.0%), Lib Dem 417 (23.9%, +8.6%), Con 255 (14.6%, +2.8%), Green 102 (5.9%, -12.7%), UKIP 38 (2.2%).

Worcestershire CC, Stourport-on-Severn: Con 763 (28.7%, +9.2%), Independent Health Concern 725 (27.3%, +0.8%), Lab 581 (21.9%, -0.7%), UKIP 547 (20.6%, -6.9%), Green 42 (1.6%, -2.3%).

This week was particularly notable due to two candidates from main parties standing as 'no description' due to failing to fill out their nomination papers correctly, one of whom was standing in Hertford Heath's by-election, in the district where I currently reside. It ultimately made no difference there, even when the former Conservative councillor, Adrian McNeece, started supporting the Labour candidate. However, such an error did make a real difference over in Ryedale, which was won by the continuing Liberal Party (not to be confused with the Liberal Democrats, who they refused to merge with back in 1988).

It has not been a good week for the Green Party this week, particularly in Brent where the Liberal Democrats, like in Haringey, have been trying to regain some standing after their heavy losses in 2014 local elections (and the 2015 general election for that matter), which explains why Labour's vote share actually decreased slightly even though these places should theoretically be more favourable to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour.

In other news, MPs voted 296 to 261 to allow fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest, days after Britain signed the climate change agreement in Paris. Only four Conservative MPs rebelled (Zac Goldsmith, Jason McCartney, Sarah Wollaston and Andrew Turner), with Mark Menzies, Kevin Hollinrake, Nick Herbert, and Jeremy Quin voting in favour even though their own constituencies are fracking targets! Jim Fitzpatrick from Labour also voted in favour-but why?

Incidentally, 39 Labour MPs did not show up-so in theory this bill could have been defeated if those MPs had also ignored the archaic 'pairing system' that still exists within Parliament. It is times like this that are an important reminder of why Green support needs to grow strongly in rural areas (where in numerous cases locally we are the only effective opposition to the Conservatives e.g. in Mid Suffolk) as well as urban areas with lots of young people.

Alan.






Monday, 14 December 2015

Un oeuil sur France (an eye on France)

Yesterday, the second round of regional elections in France concluded, the first round having concluded last week. These were based on new and larger merged regions, generally merged only for administrative purposes and largely without any respect for long-established regional and cultural identities, such as those of Alsace-Lorraine and Savoy which did not get regions of their own.

It turned out to be a poor result for socialist and progressive forces in France, with the Parti Socialiste, led by the unpopular and disappointing Francois Hollande, only winning 5 regions on the mainland and finishing third in several despite allying with other left-wing parties. It consequently withdrew in the second round to keep out the dangerous, far-right Front National (FN) led infamously by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen-a tactic which worked. The centre-right Republicans, still led by Nicolas Sarkozy, won 7 mainland regions although it was hard not to improve on their performance when back in 2010, under the old regional system, the only mainland French province they won was Alsace (meaning that they notionally had control of zero of the new mainland regions had the mergers occurred before 2010). My allies in France, Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, sadly ended up losing nearly half their 2010 vote share in spite of the climate talks in Paris going on at the same time and EELV's respect for civil liberties (the state of emergency declared by M. Hollande has led to the banning of demonstrations within Paris) as well as people and planet.

The one good thing about the French regional elections, though, is that the Front National has failed to win a single region, despite finishing first in the initial round of elections particularly in north-eastern France (aka Nord-Pas-Calais-Picardy). This is not only due to tactical ploys by both LR and PS (depending on region), but also by significantly increased voter turnout in the second round. Turnout was just 49.9% in round one, but it increased to a much more respectable 58.4% in round two; voter apathy is advantageous to extreme-right parties like FN but enough voters eventually came out to stop Mme. Le Pen in her tracks when it mattered.

Amidst all this, a deal was finalised in the COP21 talks in Paris regarding the threat of artificial climate change. Even though this deal still keeps track of the need to keep global warming within this century to below 2 degrees Celsius, it must be made known that the wealthy elite, of whom many of the delegates came from, are the people who most need to make lifestyle changes and consumption reduction overall, and realise the burden of lifestyle adjustment to combat climate change should not fall disproportionately on ordinary people. After all, those at the top are the most responsible for driving unsustainable consumerist culture of all types in the first place which has led to the need for climate talks. There also needs to be a continued long-term focus on green energy and how it can transform all nations, since most current oil/gas/coal reserves need to be kept in the ground for the key targets within the COP21 deal to be met.

Alan.


Friday, 11 December 2015

My analysis of by-election results from 10/12/15 and other thoughts

Readers, the results from by-elections of 10 December 2015 that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

Bournemouth UA, Kinson South: Conservative 520/509 (33.9%), Labour 471/371 (27.7%), UKIP 313 (20.6%), Bournemouth Independent Alliance 168/116 (9.4%), Liberal Democrat 61/60 (4.0%), Green 63/54 (3.9%), Patria 8 (0.5%).

Harborough DC, Market Harborough Logan: Lib Dem 402 (45.2%, +9.0%), Con 303 (34.0%, -1.3%), Lab 82 (9.2%, -5.9%), Green 56 (6.3%, -7.1%), UKIP 47 (5.3%).

The Kinson South by-election was a rather interesting one, given that it was not only a double by-election but caused by administrative error which affected the result. It proved to be quite a close contest, but the Labour councillor who had lost her seat in May 2015 in that ward did not quite succeed in returning to Bournemouth council. Meanwhile, we at least improved on our 2015 result, and we managed to beat UKIP over in Market Harborough despite being squeezed by the Liberal Democrats there who almost lost their seat there in the last elections of Harborough council. In Blantyre (detailed results not covered due to no Green candidate present) in South Lanarkshire, Labour surprised many by holding that seat against the SNP's advances, the first time they have done so in a local by-election in over a year.

In other Scottish news, the long-running election petition against Alistair Carmichael (MP for Orkney & Shetland and Scotland's only remaining Lib Dem MP) finally concluded two days ago, with the case going in favour of Alistair despite the petitioners proving two of their three points regarding those false statements he made against SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Although this election petition did not succeed, I believe the case may still make prominent politicians of all parties be more careful about their media statements in future, especially during major election campaigns.

Alan.





Sunday, 6 December 2015

The ecologists of the 1983 UK general election: where are they now?

As a follow-on to my blog post of last year, entitled 'Our original ecologists: where are they now?' which you can find here: http://greensocialistalan.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/political-history-our-original-british.html , I have been looking into the history of Ecology Party candidates from 1983, the first time we stood more than 100 candidates in a general election. We also had much better coverage in Scotland and Wales than in 1979, and a candidate in Northern Ireland for the first time, giving us coverage in all four UK nations. In fact, we were the only minor political party to do so that year, and it confirmed our long-term status in British politics.

In the blog post mentioned above, I have already mentioned some of the people who stood on our behalf in 1983 (having themselves stood in 1979 as well), which includes Jonathon Porritt, Guy Woodford, Gundula Dorey, Clive Lord, Alistair Laurence, David Whitebread, Howard Hoptrough, Don Grimes, Stephen Lambert, Brian Kingzett, Peter Frings, Anne Rix, Cicely Marsh, and Peter Hussey.  Therefore, the list below consists of those whose 1983 candidature was their first (or as of 2015, their only) general election candidature:

Peter Lang (contested Hornsey & Wood Green in 1983, and London North in 1984 European elections): Peter is still active in the Green Party, and was a candidate in Haringey's local elections last year.

Sonia Willington (contested Battersea in 1983 and 1987, and also London South West in 1984 European elections): Sonia, or 'Sally' as she preferred to be called, sadly died of a heart attack in 2008, aged 77.

Deborah Sutherland (contested Hammersmith in 1983, and London West in 1984): Deborah defected to the Liberal/SDP Alliance some time afterwards, and stayed with them when they merged into the Liberal Democrats (and as far as I know she is still with that party).

Elizabeth Shaw (contested Tooting in 1983): (Unsure)

Frances Rose Baillie-Grohman (contested Putney in 1983): I am not sure whether Rose is still with the Green Party-perhaps a relative of hers (who I know via my good friend Julia Lagoutte) can give me some more information.

Roger Shorter (contested City of London & Westminster South in 1983, and Kensington in 1987): Roger became better known for founding Christian Ecology Link, where he is (or at least was) active. As for whether he is still a Green Party member, I do not know.

Timothy Cooper (contested Westminster North in 1983, Brentford & Isleworth in 1987, and Cambridge in 1992): Timothy is now better known for his Green Christianity articles-I believe he may have left the Green Party some time ago.

Janet Grimes (contested Fulham in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Mike Crowson (contested Hornchurch in 1983, Keighley in 1992): He was once national secretary of the Green Party when it was the Ecology Party; he now writes books on the occult and astrology.

Tim Rowe (contested Croydon North West in 1983): Tim now lives in the New Forest district, and is still a Green Party activist.

John Clarke (contested Twickenham in 1983): (Unsure)

Alexandra Presant-Collins (contested Kingston-upon-Thames in 1983): Alexandra contested quite a few local elections in Kingston-upon-Thames afterwards, but I have not heard anything further about her.

Alan Hassard (contested Lewisham East in 1983): Alan is better known for his research in behavioural psychology-I have not heard anything from him green-wise.

Cynthia Warth (contested Wanstead & Woodford in 1983): (Unsure)

Antony Jones (contested Wimbledon in 1983): (Unsure)

Jim Maclellan (contested Surbiton in 1983): (Unsure)

Brian Fewster (contested Harborough in 1983, Leicester South in 1987, Bosworth in 1992, and also the East Midlands European Parliament constituency's list in 1999 and 2004): Brian sadly died in 2008, aged 65, having been a long-serving Green Party activist.

Dinah Freer (contested North West Leicestershire in 1983 and Bosworht in 1987): Dinah is still an active Green Party member, having contested Leicester City's most recent elections earlier this year.

Rosy Stanning (contested Corby in 1983): (Unsure)

Geoffrey Dixon (contested Gainsborough & Horncastle in 1983): (Unsure)

Eric Wall (contested Derby South in 1983, Derby North in 1987 and 1992, and European elections of 1989): (Unsure)

Chris Davies (contested Leicester South in 1983): Chris is still an activist in Leicester Green Party and contested recent council elections.

Heather Goddard (contested Rutland and Melton in 1983): (Unsure)

Patricia Wood/Hewis (contested Newark in 1983 and 1992, Grantham in 1987): (Unsure)

Maureen Pook (contested Rushcliffe in 1983): (Unsure)

Robert Boenke (contested Epping Forest in 1983): He now lives in my hometown of Ware.

Nigel Callaghan (contested Peterborough in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Anthony Carter (contested Norwich South in 1983): (Unsure)

Tim Eiloart (contested Huntingdon in 1983): Tim sadly died in 2009, aged 72.

James (Francis Keeling) Scott (contested Bristol West in 1983): Is he related to the Ecology Party candidate for Christchurch & Lymington in 1979, or is he the same man with a name change?

Geoff Collard (contested Bristol South in 1983 and Bristol East in 2001): Still active within Bristol Green Party-I spoke with him in person briefly at the 2015 Spring Conference.

Roger Joanes (contested North Devon in 1983): (Unsure)

John Chadwick (contested South East Cornwall in 1983): (Unsure)

Edward Barnham (contested North Wiltshire in 1983): (Unsure)


Stephen Shaw (contested Plymouth Sutton in 1983): (Unsure)

Wendy Morgan (contested South Hams in 1983): (Unsure)

Keith Radmall (contested Northavon in 1983): (Unsure)

John Waters (contested Gloucester in 1983, and York in the 1994 European Parliament elections): (Unsure)

Paul Ekins (contested Westbury in 1983): Part of forum for the future with Sara Parkin.

Suzette Starmer (contested Oxford West & Abingdon in 1983): Still in Oxfordshire Green Party.

Reginald Mutter (contested Lewes in 1983): Reginald, an English lecturer at Sussex University, sadly died in 2012, aged 87.

Peter Spurrier (contested Horsham in 1983): (Unsure)

David Newell (contested Reigate in 1983 and Surrey East in 1987): (Unsure)

Alan Francis (contested Milton Keynes in 1983 and 1987, Milton Keynes North East in 1992 and 1997, Milton Keynes South West in 2001 and 2005, Milton Keynes North in 2010, Buckingham in 2015, and European Parliament elections of 1994, 1999 and 2004): Alan was notably one of just two opponents to Speaker John Bercow in the most recent general election, and currently holds our record for most general elections contested in a row under the Green Party banner (eight).

Ian Flindall (contested Slough in 1983, Uxbridge in 1987 and 1992): Ian now lives in Cornwall where he has contested the more recent of Cornwall's local elections.

Geoffrey Darnton (contested Reading East in 1983, and earlier he contested Lancaster in 1974 as an independent): Geoffrey now lives in Bournemouth and at this time of writing is currently contesting a local by-election in Kinson, Bournemouth.

Charles Porter (contested Ashford in 1983, 1987 and 1992): I believe he is, or was, a GP in Ashford-I have not heard much about him recently.

David Conder (contested Canterbury in 1983 and North Thanet in 1987): (Unsure)

Martin Sewell (contested Gravesham in 1983): Currently a Church of England minister in Gravesham, and he has spoken out recently about the importance of respecting ecology within the church.


Peter Spurrier (contested Horsham in 1983): (Unsure)

Jonathan Sherlock (contested Chichester in 1983): (Unsure)

Victoria Murray (contested Hereford in 1983): (Unsure)

Felicity Norman (contested Leominster in 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005 and its successor North Herefordshire in 2010; contested European Parliament elections in 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009): She is currently a Green Party councillor in Leominster, and her daughter, Daisy, has also been a candidate herself in 2010 and 2015.

Nicholas Charlton (contested Warwick & Leamington in 1983): (Unsure)

John Churchman (contested Bromsgrove in 1983 and 1992): (Unsure)

Derek Rudd (contested Halesowen & Stourbridge in 1983): Derek is still an active Green Party member in Stourbridge, having contested local elections there as recently as 2012.

John Hurdley (contested Birmingham Edgbaston in 1983): I believe he is still a Green Party member over in Birmingham, since he signed the nomination papers for one of my Birmingham colleagues in the most recent general election.

Mike Shipley (contested Stockport in 1983 and 1987, Greater Manchester East in 1984 and 1989 European Parliament elections, and Peak District in 1994 European Parliament elections): Mike now lives in High Peak, Derbyshire, and is currently a co-chair of the Green Party's regional council.

Robert Gibson (contested Westmorland & Lonsdale in 1983, Copeland in 1987 and Penrith & the Border in 1992): Not too sure-although I have found out that he did not defect to UKIP at any point (the initials R.A. Gibson of a UKIP candidate in 2005 in Cumbria were purely coincidental).

Frank Smith (contested Hyndburn in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Anthony Holgate (contested Chorley in 1983 and 1987): He defected to the Labour Party at least a few years ago and is currently a Labour councillor in Chorley, where he still lives.

Neil Chantrell (contested Warrington South in 1983, and earlier in Warrington at a 1981 by-election): He is still alive but I do not know whether he is still in the Green Party.

Stephen Tooke (contested Bridlington in 1983): (Unsure)

Stanley Shepherd (contested Shipley in 1983): (Unsure)

Michael Penney (contested Keighley in 1983): (Unsure)

Robert Adsett (contested Bradford South in 1983): (Unsure)

Douglas Jacques (contested Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1983, Sunderland South in 1987, and Brigg & Cleethorpes in 1992): He became a councillor in Glanford until that authority was abolished via the Local Government Act 1994; I am not sure of any recent activity from him.

Alistair Whitelaw (contested Glasgow Hillhead in 1983 and 1987, Glasgow Central in 2010, Glasgow South in 2015, Strathclyde East in 1984 and 1989 European elections, and also Glasgow list in Scottish Parliament elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007): Alistair is still an active Green in Scotland locally and nationally.

Linda Hendry (contested Edinburgh South in 1983 and 2001, Edinburgh Central in 1987 and 1997, Edinburgh West in 1992, European Parliament elections in 1984, 1994, and 1999, and Scottish Parliament elections in 1999 and 2007): Linda is still active in the Scottish Green Party in Edinburgh.

Margaret Harty (contested Aberdeen North in 1983): (Unsure)

Patrick Marks (contested Dundee West in 1983): (Unsure)

Alistair Nicol-Smith (contested Edinburgh Pentlands in 1983): (Unsure)

Nicolette Carlaw (contested Paisley North in 1983, and earlier Glasgow Hillhead by-election of 1982): (Unsure)

David Mellor (contested Paisley South in 1983, and Paisley North in 1992, not to be confused with former Conservative MP David Mellor, by the way): (Unsure)

David Allison (contested Central Fife in 1983, and Dundee West in 2005): Left the Green Party some time ago but I am not sure why, since he contested Dundee West as an independent.

Stuart Dobson (contested Dunfermline West in 1983): (Unsure)

Timothy Flinn (contested North East Fife in 1983): (Unsure)

Pamela Ross (contested Angus East in 1983): (Unsure)

Graham 'Brig' Oubridge (contested Swansea West in 1983, Carmarthen in 1987, and Swansea West in 1992): He now lives in Salisbury, and I have met him and his wife a few times at conferences.

Graham Jones (contested Cardiff West in 1983): (Unsure)

Marylin Smith/Wakefield (contested Ceredigion in 1983 and 1987, and the 1989 Vale of Glamorgan by-election): (Unsure)

David Hoffman (contested Pembroke in 1983): (Unsure)

Noel Thomas (contested Ogmore in 1983): (Unsure)

Alwyn Jones (contested Pontypridd in 1983): (Unsure)

Malcolm Samuel (contested North Antrim in 1983, East Londonderry in 1987, European elections in Northern Ireland in 1989, and East Londonderry as an Independent in 2005): He left the Green Party of Northern Ireland some time ago, but I do not know why.

As with last year's 'where are they now?' post of mine, I have generally only found out this information via internet research or personal meetings with some of the people I have mentioned above who are still in the Green Party, but I do what I can with regards to the history of the Ecology/Green Party.

Regards, Alan.




























Saturday, 5 December 2015

Why so-called 'safe spaces' are not necessary and can actually be very unsafe

Much in the news recently outside of politics: the creeping danger of so-called 'safe spaces', a phenomenon that has spread across many US universities and is creeping into more prestigious UK universities, unfortunately, and spreading to areas it does not need to be in.

These 'safe spaces', designed supposedly to protect people from oppression, can actually be dangerous to many. Here are some main reasons why:

1. They are out of touch with real life.

The real world (and real life politics, for that matter) is not a safe space, and can never be made a safe space. In order to tackle the oppression and inequality that exists in our world, we need to face it, counter it, and speak out for a better world for everyone, not just for particular groups or individuals. Creating division using safe spaces is not a useful long-term solution to these problems and actually makes them worse in some cases.

2. They are overly intolerant of even minor mistakes or faux pas.

As a person with autism, who has personally felt how badly safe spaces can be misused, and who has had problems with social understanding as a result of my condition, I know how intolerant and aggressive 'safe spaces' can be to people like myself. Even accidentally saying the wrong thing (which you may think is just normal from your perspective and not even supposed to offend) can invite abuse and aggression from others in such a space without good cause, which proponents of safe spaces claim to be preventing.

3. They are overly restrictive of free speech, which is important in a democratic society.

I am not talking about hate speech or shouting 'fire!' in a crowded theatre-I am talking about constructive arguments that advocate a different point of view within a topic, particularly a controversial one. Having a controversial but not intentionally offensive view about something is not an excuse to 'no-platform' someone (who is not advocating hate speech of any type) especially when some people would like to hear them speak even if others do not.  Free speech is a human right-you might not want to come to a particular debate but that is no excuse to shut it down for the people do want to come to it and hear dissenting thoughts.

4. University students and others can get along just fine without them.

When I was studying at the University of Hertfordshire during my undergraduate years, not only was there no 'safe space' policy, but no-one, including myself, even talked about safe spaces. We were a very diverse group of people, taking in all nationalities and cultures (with a wide array of societies to match) and we all interacted well with each other and respected each others' differences remembering that we are all human beings.

Friday, 4 December 2015

My analysis and thoughts on the Oldham West & Royton by-election (and also local by-elections)

Readers, the result at the Oldham West & Royton by-election came in relatively early for a Parliamentary by-election (1.15 am), and it was as follows:

Sir Oink A Lot (real name Sean Alec Jones), Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 141 votes (0.5%).

John Bickley, UKIP, 6487 (23.4%, +2.8%)

Jane Brophy, Liberal Democrats, 1024 (3.7%, +0.0%)

James Daley, Conservative, 2596 (9.4%, -9.6%)

Simeon Hart, Green Party, 249 (0.9%, -1.0%)

Jim McMahon, Labour, 17,209 (62.1%, +7.3%).

All UKIP's campaigning effort, smearing of Labour, and taking advantage of the right-wing media's attacks of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, ultimately came to nothing. UKIP's campaign did have some effect, though-the Conservative vote share was halved and the Liberal Democrats failed to take back protest votes that had gone over to UKIP at the 2015 general election. In fact, Labour increased its majority in percentage terms despite not having significant numbers of Lib Dem or Green voters left to win over tactically. This is probably also attributable to the fact their candidate was local and knew the area well (Jim McMahon is leader of Oldham council, and also has working-class roots being a truck driver's son) whereas John Bickley, despite nearly having won the Heywood & Middleton by-election, is not local and is becoming more of a carpetbagger for UKIP.

Not only did the Lib Dems lose their deposit again, they also made no progress at all in terms of vote share, and this may likely be the case in future by-elections where they are no longer remotely competitive or never really have been. I was particularly disappointed, though, in how we Greens lost half our vote share even though the aforementioned Jim McMahon was not on the left, unlike the late Michael Meacher, his predecessor, and even though we have been doing reasonably well in spite of Labour (or at least that part loyal to Jeremy Corbyn) moving leftwards. Amazingly, despite Oldham West & Royton being a very safe Labour seat and despite the fact it is December and therefore very cold outside, by-election turnout only dropped to 40% from 60% (somewhat below average).

Here are results of local by-elections which featured Green Party candidates which polled on the same day as Oldham West & Royton:

Newham LBC, Boleyn: Lab 1440 (72.1%, +7.9%), Lib Dem 181 (9.1%), Con 171 (8.6%, -12.4%), Green 117 (5.9%), UKIP 78 (3.5%), Independent 10 (0.5%).

Shropshire UA, Meole: Con 490 (43.1%, -11.8%), Lab 303 (26.7%, -11.0%), Lib Dem 223 (19.6%, +12.3%), UKIP 64 (5.6%), Green 56 (4.9%).


We had not stood in either of those wards last time they had an election (which occurred in each case before the Green surge), and neither is particularly favourable territory for us nor are they marginal. I am therefore pleased for our performance there, and it should make up at least a little bit for our lacklustre performance in Oldham West & Royton. I would like to reiterate that we should be present in all parliamentary by-elections whether we are weak or strong in the area, in the same way the other four major parties in the UK do.

Incidentally on the subject of by-elections, it has just been revealed that two current MPs (who have not been named) are facing police investigations over their expenses, so keep a look out for one or two potential by-elections in the coming year.

Alan.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

That list of 72 and other thoughts

Yesterday, on the debate about whether Britain should stage air strikes on Syria or not (to counter the threat of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as Daesh), MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of air strikes by 397 to 223.

How did a margin of 174 on that vote emerge with a government majority of only 10, you ask?

The key answer: 72 'opposition' MPs in Britain (66 Labour, 6 Liberal Democrat) ignored voters' pleas not to back air strikes and voted in favour of them, for various reasons. It has been reported that 15 Labour MPs were swayed by just one pro-air strike speech, from Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central.

Here are the 72 MPs in question:

Heidi Alexander (Labour, Lewisham East)
Ian Austin (Labour, Dudley North)
Adrian Bailey (Labour, West Bromwich West)
Kevin Barron (Labour, Rother Valley)
Margaret Beckett (Labour, Derby South)
Hilary Benn (Labour, Leeds Central)
Luciana Berger (Labour, Liverpool Wavertree)
Tom Blenkinsop (Labour, Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland)
Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter)
Tom Brake (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton & Wallington)
Chris Bryant (Labour, Rhondda)
Alan Campbell (Labour, Tynemouth)
Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat, Orkney & Shetland)
Jenny Chapman (Labour, Darlington)
Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat, Sheffield Hallam)
Vernon Coaker (Labour, Gedling)
Ann Coffey (Labour, Stockport)
Yvette Cooper (Labour, Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford)
Neil Coyle (Labour, Bermondsey & Old Southwark)
Mary Creagh (Labour, Wakefield)
Stella Creasy (Labour, Walthamstow)
Simon Danczuk (Labour, Rochdale)
Wayne David (Labour, Llanelli)
Gloria De Piero (Labour, Ashfield)
Stephen Doughty (Labour, Cardiff South & Penarth)

Jim Dowd (Labour, Lewisham West & Penge)
Michael Dugher (Labour, Barnsley East)
Angela Eagle (Labour, Wallasey)
Maria Eagle (Labour, Garston & Halewood)
Louise Ellman (Labour, Liverpool Riverside)
Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat, Westmorland & Lonsdale)
Frank Field (Labour, Birkenhead)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour, Poplar & Limehouse)
Colleen Fletcher (Labour, Coventry North East)
Caroline Flint (Labour, Don Valley)
Harriet Harman (Labour, Camberwell & Peckham)
Margaret Hodge (Labour, Barking)
George Howarth (Labour, Knowsley)
Tristram Hunt (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central)

Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central)
Alan Johnson (Labour, Hull West & Hessle)
Graham Jones (Labour, Hyndburn)
Helen Jones (Labour, Warrington North)
Kevan Jones (Labour, North Durham)
Susan Elan Jones (Labour, Clwyd South)
Liz Kendall (Labour, Leicester West)
Peter Kyle (Labour, Hove)
Chris Leslie (Labour, Nottingham East)
Holly Lynch (Labour, Halifax)
Siobhain McDonagh (Labour, Mitcham & Morden)
Pat McFadden (Labour, Wolverhampton South East)
Conor McGinn (Labour, St Helens North)
Alison McGovern (Labour, Wirral South)
Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West)

Bridget Phillipson (Labour, Houghton & Sunderland South)
Lucy Powell (Labour, Manchester Central)
John Pugh (Liberal Democrat, Southport)
Jamie Reed (Labour, Copeland)
Emma Reynolds (Labour, Wolverhampton North East)
Geoffrey Robinson (Labour, Coventry North West)
Joan Ryan (Labour, Enfield North)
Ruth Smeeth (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North)
Angela Smith (Labour, Penistone & Stocksbridge)
John Spellar (Labour, Warley)
Gisela Stuart (Labour, Birmingham Edgbaston)
Gareth Thomas (Labour, Harrow West)
Anna Turley (Labour, Redcar)

Chuka Umunna (Labour, Streatham)
Keith Vaz (Labour, Leicester East)
Tom Watson (Labour, West Bromwich East)
Phil Wilson (Labour, Sedgefield)
John Woodcock (Labour, Barrow-in-Furness)

Are you represented by a non-Conservative MP, and was your MP on that list of 72? If so, please tell me.

It is clear that 12 years on from that vote on the Iraq War, so many MPs have still not learned lessons about needlessly going to war and causing the deaths of innocent people, or about what democracy really means. Democracy actually means rule by the people, not rule by an out-of-touch elite who fail to represent people they are supposed to represent.

The split in Labour over Syria may have a short-term impact on the Oldham West & Royton by-election (and also a long-term impact since future Labour splits on important votes are likely), where polls have just closed and where UKIP have been claiming an ability to make a surprise gain (it must be noted here that UKIP's sole MP, Douglas Carswell, voted for air strikes on Syria as well).


Saturday, 28 November 2015

My analysis of by-elections from 26/11/15 and my criticism of the Autumn Statement

Readers, the results of local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates this week were as follows:

Fife UA, Dunfermline North: SNP 1166 (43.5%, +11.9%), Labour 719 (29.6%, -18.7%), Conservative 304 (12.5%, +5.9%), Liberal Democrat 230 (9.5%, -4.1%), Green 63 (2.6%), UKIP 58 (2.4%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Fife UA, Rosyth: SNP 1214 (45.2%, +9.4%), Lab 926 (34.5%, -13.2%), Con 245 (9.1%, +3.3%), Lib Dem 97 (3.6%, -3.5%), UKIP 88 (3.3%, +0.7%), Independent 66 (2.5%), Green 51 (1.9%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Newport UA, Bettws: Independent (Janet Cleverly): 336 (31.8%), Lab 294 (27.9%, -10.3%), Independent (James Jordan) 275 (26.1%),Con 114 (10.8%), Green 29 (2.7%), Lib Dem 7 (0.7%). Independent gain from Labour.

Lancaster DC, Carnforth & Millhead: Con 545 (54.9%, +8.5%), Lab 320 (32.3%, -3.3%), Green 52 (5.2%, -12.8%), Lib Dem 38 (3.8%), UKIP 37 (3.7%).

Wiltshire UA, Salisbury St Edmund & Milford: Con 425 (36.7%, +13.7%), Lib Dem 262 (20.9%, -22.1%), Lab 232 (20.0%, +5.6%), Green 215 (18.6%, +11.0%), Independent 45 (3.9%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

Our good result in Wiltshire shows that we are continuing to move onwards and upwards in the South West and Cornwall, and absorb much of the vote that used to rally behind the Liberal Democrats in their pre-coalition days. The absence of UKIP in the Wiltshire by-election also helped the Conservatives to a considerable extent, given how UKIP cost the Conservatives large numbers of council seats (and control of several councils) in 2013 (when Wiltshire UA last had local elections). We were squeezed substantially in Carnforth & Millhead by the Conservatives and Labour (both parties have substantial support in that ward).

The Autumn Statement was released three days ago, and as expected from a statement by George Osborne, there are so many things wrong with it. The cuts to DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), to Dft (Department for Transport), and to Communities and Local Government in particular show the Conservatives' disregard for people and planet, especially with planned tax breaks for shale gas. Rises in defence spending at the expense of other important departments (such as Culture, Media and Sport) are not necessary either especially when scrapping Trident alone can stop cuts to so many other departments, and the Cabinet Office does not need any extra money either.

As for loans for part-time and postgraduate students contained in the Autumn 2015 statement, beware-the interest rates on such proposed loans are not yet known!

Alan.

Friday, 20 November 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 19/11/2015

Readers, the local by-election results featuring Green Party candidates this week were as follows:

Ashford DC, Aylesford Green: Conservative 110 (23.5%, -21.5%), UKIP 109 (23.2%), Labour 106 (22.6%, -32.4%), Ashford Independent 92 (19.6%), Liberal Democrat 42 (9.0%), Green 10 (2.1%). Conservative gain from Labour.

Norfolk CC, South Smallburgh: Liberal Democrat 1383 (56.4%, +25.8%), Conservative 697 (28.4%, -1.0%), UKIP 219 (8.9%, -17.8%), Labour 103 (4.2%, -5.3%), Green 52 (2.1%, -1.6%).

Norfolk CC, Watton: Conservative 822 (45.6%, +18.2%), Independent 793* (44.0%, +20.4%*), Labour 103 (5.8%, -5.4%), Green 81 (4.5%, +0.3%). Conservative gain from UKIP.

Surrey CC, Epsom West: Conservative 612 (23.6%, +10.8%), Epsom & Ewell Residents Association 591 (22.8%, +0.0%), Liberal Democrats 588 (22.7%, -5.4%), Labour 578 (22.3%, +2.1%), UKIP 168 (6.5%, -9.7%), Green 58 (2.2%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

*The Independent candidate in Watton, Keith Gilbert, was endorsed by both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

Like a previous post of mine on by-elections last year, these results have once again shown the absurdity of first past the post in a multi-party system, especially at local level. In Ashford, just four votes separated the top three candidates, and just 18 separated the top four candidates, partly due to the terrible turnout of 19% in that by-election. The Conservatives' close wins in the three elections where they made gains are largely attributable to tactical voting, since two of them were on less than 25% of the votes cast. The Liberal Democrats' close third-place finish in the Epsom West division is actually lucky for them since not only did we stand this time around, but also the Lib Dems lost all of their council seats in Epsom & Ewell earlier this year.

Unlike last week, none of these by-elections had remotely fertile territory for the Green Party, but it remains the case that in any ward or division, anywhere in the UK, Green Party support will exist somewhere.

Alan.



Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why Britain has no need for 'metro mayors' and should not accept them

Recently, it has been reported in relevant local media that the effects of devolution deals are coming soon to the West Midlands and Merseyside, resulting in the creation of 'metro mayors' (mayors of large swathes of metropolitan areas):

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/its-official-greater-birmingham-elect-10453892

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/business-secretary-defends-devolution-deal-10456534#rlabs=1%20rt$sitewide%20p$9 (related article also mentioning devolution for 'Greater Manchester')

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-greens-slam-devolution-second-10457438

Britain does not need any of these 'metro mayors' anywhere, and they would not be a good idea for local devolution and democracy. Here is why:

1. Lack of real accountability. In Britain, mayors as a whole have too much power, and not enough accountability to the public or to elected councillors, and this problem increases with the size of the authority. Also, these devolution agreements have not actually involved we, the general public, at any point despite their wide-ranging impact on us-only authority leaders and government ministers were consulted.

2. Cost of metro mayors. Metro mayors and combined authorities are unnecessary and a waste of money vitally needed to protect important local services, especially given the inefficiency of having so few having considerable power over such large, populous areas.

3. Oversized areas are not good for local devolution. Decentralisation and devolution are important given that Britain should really be a federal nation anyway, but devolution needs to be more local and be given to rural areas and towns as well as metropolitan areas. Also, the metropolitan areas in the West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester etc. are large enough to have their own distinct identities and manage themselves, and therefore they do not need combined metro mayors or combined authorities; such deals could also undermine local democracy in practice.

Friday, 13 November 2015

My analysis of yesterday's local by-elections and thoughts on Aung San Suu Kyi's recent victory in Myanmar

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

Shropshire UA, Belle Vue: Labour 546 (47.8%, -28.7%), Conservative 282 (24.7%, +1.1%), Liberal Democrats 240 (21.0%), Green 75 (6.6%).

Dorset CC, Weymouth: Green 663 (34.9%, +12.0%), Conservative 561 (29.5%, +5.9%), Labour 417 (21.9%, -7.3%), UKIP 174 (9.1%, -7.8%), Liberal Democrats 87 (4.6%, -0.8%). Green gain from Labour.

The top story is that we managed a decisive strike against Labour over in Weymouth, Dorset (notable lately for having some very marginal wards), and with this Claire Sutton becomes our very first county councillor ever elected in Dorset. (Incidentally, she was the Labour councillor for that division from 2005 to 2009.) We have proven yesterday that with strong campaigns, a focus on the green message, and a good local campaigner, that we can win elections without Labour's help, and indeed against Labour despite Jeremy Corbyn having tried to win over Green voters.

In other good news internationally, it has now been confirmed that Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy have won a majority in the first free elections in Myanmar/Burma since 1990, and the votes for both houses have not even been fully counted yet. Parties supporting military rule have been conclusively rejected, with the Union and Solidarity Development Party, led by Burmese President Thein Sein, set to win as few as 30 seats at most in the House of Representatives (15 of the seats up for election have not yet been declared at this time of writing), despite attempts of electoral fraud by it in some townships. Many of the other seats were won by the interests of the various national minorities in Burma, many of whom have been brutally persecuted by the Burmese military regime (especially the Karen and Rohingya peoples).

Aung San Suu Kyi has finally got the confirmed democratic victory she has longed for, but there are still many challenges to overcome in the NLD's first years of power. Since the military-supporting USDP was not entirely wiped out at this election, since 25% of the seats in both Burmese houses are still represented by unelected and unaccountable military appointees, and since constitutional changes need a 3/4 majority (not a 2/3 majority), it will be still almost impossible to correct flaws within the Burmese constitution. Secondly, Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be President because the aforementioned constitution does not permit those who have non-Burmese spouses or children (despite being Burmese themselves) to run for President of Myanmar. Thirdly, when the NLD takes power it will need to make sure peace can be made with minorities who have suffered so badly under the Burmese junta, and (since it can still pass laws with just a simple majority) make sure reparations can be made to them, and solve other problems currently ongoing in Myanmar.

Alan.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

My analysis of and thoughts on the recent Croatian parliamentary election

A few days ago, Croatia held its most recent parliamentary election, with the two opposing coalitions of Patriotic Coalition and Croatia is Growing neck and neck at many points in opinion polls leading up to Croatia's election day of 8 November. It was the centre-right Patriotic Coalition, led by the Croatian Democratic Union, who emerged top of the poll in the end, though, if only by 59 seats to the 56 for Croatia is Growing, led by the Social Democrats.

Part of the reason was the emergence of the liberal Bridge of Independent Lists (MOST) which managed to win 19 seats; the Croatia is Growing coalition lost 18 seats in this election. Even though MOST is really a classical liberal party in the manner of the FDP in Germany, it was able to take large numbers of more moderate SDP voters particularly given the fact that the left-wing Croatian Labourists had joined the Croatia is Growing coalition.

Such a decision caused two of the six Croatian Labourist MPs to defect to Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) in protest. However, despite having elected an MEP last year and strong showings earlier in the campaign (I once believed ORaH would win 12 seats), ORaH sadly failed to win a single seat in the new Croatian parliament, managing 1.8% of the vote nationally. Croatia's electoral districts are all evenly distributed (each elects 14 MPs; there are also separate districts for overseas voters and minority groups in Croatia ) and each has a 5% threshold. ORaH did not manage to pass this threshold even in district I (the capital, Zagreb, in effect) which was clearly their best result. Minor parties outside those representing minority groups of Croatia (Serbs, Hungarians, Roma, Albanians, Czechs/Slovaks, and Italians) overall found this election to be a difficult one, with the final result showing only a total of 17 seats out of 151 not being represented by the Patriotic Coalition, Croatia is Growing, or MOST.

I believe from current conditions it is likely that a moderate, centrist SDP-MOST coalition will form, given that MOST's liberal stance will bring it strongly into conflict with the more hardline right-wing parties of the Patriotic Coalition. Due to the rather fragmented nature of Croatia's parliament, however, it will be by no means stable and it will almost certainly have to rely on the support of parties representing minority groups (who have 8 seats in total from this election; a Croatia is Growing-MOST coalition would not have quite enough seats for a majority).

Alan.





Monday, 9 November 2015

More on the Oldham West & Royton by-election

Readers,

I am pleased to say that it has been confirmed that Simeon Hart will be standing for us again in the Oldham West & Royton by-election.

Here is who he has to face:

Sir Oink-A-Lot (Official Monster Raving Loony Party)
John Bickley (UKIP)
Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrats)
James Daly (Conservative)
Jim McMahon (Labour)

The OMRLP candidate is the only addition to the list of parties that also stood in this constituency earlier this year.

I wish the best of luck to Simeon in this by-election, and even if we do not win I hope we can perform better than in the last general election.

Alan.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Analysis of by-election results from yesterday and other thoughts

Readers, the result of yesterday's by-election in Torbay which had a Green candidate was as follows (there was another in Aberdeenshire but no Green candidate stood):

Torbay UA, Clifton-with-Maidenway: Liberal Democrats 1069 (69.2%, +39.3%), Conservative 234 (14.8%, -13.7%), UKIP 158 (10.0%, -9.7%), Labour 53 (3.3%, -9.0%), Green 43 (2.7%, -6.8%).

It was a truly thundering comeback for Adrian Sanders, the newly elected Liberal Democrat councillor who just six months ago in the 2015 general election lost his Torbay parliamentary seat to the Conservatives having previously held it for 18 years (alongside so many of his colleagues that day). We were quite heavily squeezed by this comeback of his, and as it turns out every other party standing was, even the second placed Conservatives who almost took one of the seats in Torbay's last round of council elections. Conversely, on the same day in the rural Aberdeenshire ward of Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, the Conservatives won a council seat from the Liberal Democrats in a rare double by-election with the SNP holding the other, despite the Liberal Democrats still retaining some strength in rural Aberdeenshire.

I am also pleased to hear hat my fellow Greens in Oldham will be standing Simeon Hart in the Oldham West & Royton by-election, who fought this seat at the last general election as well. Please donate to our crowdfunding effort via this link so we can spread the Green message across as much of the constituency as possible: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/green-party-oldham-west-and-royton/

Alan.


Monday, 2 November 2015

Five reasons why the Green Party should stand a candidate in the upcoming Oldham West & Royton by-election

Readers, the first by-election of this Parliament, caused by the death of left-wing Labour stalwart Michael Meacher, will occur on 3rd December 2015 (the writ has been officially moved). In that constituency, my fellow Greens stood a candidate, Simeon Hart, earlier this year, and I believe we should have a candidate in this by-election for five reasons:

1. The Green Party is now a major UK political party rather than a minor party, even if we only have one MP at present. In order for us to continue to be the green alternative, and advocate Green policies to the people, we need to stand in every Parliamentary by-election whether the seat is winnable for us or not.

2. The Labour candidate might not necessarily be on the left or even be that progressive, so our candidature will help give the voters of Oldham West & Royton a real choice whichever person Labour chooses.

3. By-elections in a constituency can usually attract media coverage for a seat that otherwise cannot attract such useful coverage (often because the constituency is a very safe seat; Oldham West & Royton does fall into this category but by-elections are less predictable) in general elections. If we do well (e.g. by saving our deposit when we did not do so last time round) this will be a positive boost for the green message in Britain.

4. Making sure voters have a Green choice generally improves turnout in elections. Some of our better performances in 2015 also coincided with substantially increased turnout in the respective constituency compared to 2010, even when the constituency was safe for a particular party (and especially when it was competitive and marginal).

5. If we stand, protest voters who dislike the Conservatives and Labour for one reason or another can avoid having to vote for UKIP in this by-election, and can instead vote for us.

Friday, 30 October 2015

My analysis of by-election results from 29 October 2015 and other thoughts

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

Brentwood DC, Shenfield:  Conservative 852 (58.5%, +0.8%), Liberal Democrats 483 (31.7%, +4.3%), UKIP 85 (5.6%, -2.8%), Labour 49 (3.2%, -3.3%), Green 16 (1.0%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

Peterborough UA, West: Con 1174 (46.4%, +1.1%), Lab 742 (29.4%, -2.3%), UKIP 415 (16.4%, +1.6%), Lib Dem 103 (4.1%), Green 94 (3.7%, -4.5%).

Most of yesterday's by-elections took place in villages or small-town areas which were all outside the South West, and the Green Party is more active in urban areas particularly with large numbers of young people, and towns that have a 'naturally green' feeling. Our medicore result in the West ward of Peterborough-a ward that will be abolished when Peterborough gets new ward boundaries next year and 3 extra councillors-was probably due to the fact that the Liberal Democrats stood this time when they had not earlier in May. As for Shenfield, notable for being the terminus of a commuter line to London Liverpool Street (I frequently use a connection to London Liverpool Street, but from Ware), the Liberal Democrat councillor who resigned had only won her ward (otherwise safely Conservative) due to a local split in the Conservatives a few years ago; this was psephologically just a case of reverting to type.

On another (positive this time) note, Shaker Aamer, who was wrongly detained without trial in Guantanamo Bay for 13 years, is finally coming home to the UK. I would like to thank everyone who campaigned for his release over the years so he could return home and be reunited with his family, particularly his young son who Shaker has never seen before.

Alan.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Restricting or over-encouraging birth rates does not solve problems

Earlier today, China finally stated it plans to reverse its one child only policy (and replace it with a two child policy), which had been in force since 1980 initially to curb extensive population growth. China was for many years the only country with a population greater than one billion, and even now India's population has reached the one billion mark, China is still the most populous country on Earth by a considerable margin of hundreds of millions.

36 years of having a strict and harshly enforced one child policy (even when relaxed in some circumstances) has had substantial and detrimental effects on China socio-economically and psychologically. Birth rates in China are well below the expected replacement level of 2.1, the rate needed to keep a population stable in the long-term. This is being exacerbated by the fact that China, like many wealthier nations in the Western hemisphere, now has a substantial elderly population with ~20% of its population being over the age of 65-China still has no free national healthcare system, and the elderly population will likely expand significantly over the next few decades. The gender imbalance, caused by numerous sex-selective abortions of female foetuses (since males are still valued more in Chinese society, especially in rural areas) is another serious problem with the one child policy, causing a serious imbalance of 117 males to every 100 females.

The fact that children are forced to grow up as only children as a result of government policy also often causes psychological harm, since having no siblings to relate to and knowing that they will be the one great hope their parents have places undue stress on them in a country that is harshly competitive, is intolerant of free speech, and where the consequences of failure are particularly dire.

On the other side of the argument, giving too many incentives for giving birth also causes serious long-term problems. Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu is a key example since the prohibition of birth control and strong encouragement to conceive many children meant that children parents could not or would not take care of were abandoned in grim and uncaring orphanages throughout Romania, especially when those children had disabilities or other birth defects; even though those orphanages have been closed down the consequences of over-encouraging population growth are still being felt today.

It is becoming clearer that over-consumption of resources, rather than total global population, is a key contributor to accelerating artificial climate change and increasing scarcity of important resources like fresh water. Using laws to restrict or overstimulate population growth for socio-economic or environmental purposes not only does not solve problems but can exacerbate them and cause problems of their own which can be very difficult to reverse. It is better that we focus on tackling overconsumption of resources and promoting sustainable and fair lifestyles, and given our current prosperity, our population will generally remain stable when we cease government interference (either pro-population growth or anti-population growth) with national or global birth rates, and have as fair a redistribution of wealth and resources as possible.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

On the recent Polish general election- Polska kieruje ostro w prawo

Two days ago, Poland held its general election, although because it took a long time to verify results (despite the derisory turnout of 51%) I was not able to write this post yesterday. The result was a sharp turn to the right and a clear victory for the Law and Justice Party (PiS) led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, brother of former President Lech Kaczynski (who died in a plane crash in 2010). Needing to present an acceptable face to former Civic Platform (PO) voters, he declined to run for Prime Minister of Poland and instead asked Beata Szydlo to do so. It worked well, since Beata was able to steer the Law and Justice Party towards the first ever single-party majority (235 seats out of 460) in the history of Polish democracy, although given the unstable majority she is likely to seek out a coalition partner, probably the centrist Polish People's Party which managed to avoid losing out. Meanwhile, under the eye of Ewa Kopacz (who became Polish PM after the resignation of Donald Tusk, and the second woman to hold that office; the first was Hanna Suchoka), Civic Platform suffered a substantial blow, dropping from 39% to 24% of the vote partly due to liberal, younger voters it had picked up switching to newer parties (like the populist Kukiz '15 movement) and more conservative and morally conscious voters switching to Law and Justice. Ironically, despite its conservative, right-wing stance, Law and Justice pledged to restore some welfare payments (as long as they were family-related; this is one thing I would approve of in spite of my disagreement about much else of what PiS stands for).

Kukiz '15, led by musician Pawel Kukiz, won 42 seats on a populist platform and finished third even though their socio-economic policies are not so clear and in spite of their strong promotion of a first past the post system for future elections in Poland (outside this new movement there have been no calls for such a system even though the Polish Senate, Poland's upper house, is already elected using this system). The centrist party Modern received 28 seats from a standing start, due to its moderate policies winning over former PO voters, and to a lesser extent dissatisfied Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) voters. The SLD entered in an alliance with Your Movement (formerly Palikot's movement), Labour United, the Greens, and the left-wing Polish Labour Party, but only achieved 7.55%, which is worse than SLD's single party performance of 2011. Although the Polish system of list proportional representation uses a 5% threshold for single parties, this threshold increases to 8% for an alliance of two or more parties. This sadly means the first ever transgender MP anywhere in the entire world, Anna Grodzka, is out of the Polish Sejm for now.

There are quite a few reasons for the disappearance of the SLD and allies from the Polish Parliament of 2015. One is the fact they were being led by Leszek Miller, who as PM infamously presided over the Rywin-gate corruption scandal, and neither Leszek nor SLD has a good reputation amongst most Poles (in fact it has been getting worse even since their catastrophic 2005 defeat), and the ex-communist past of many of its prominent members only adds salt to the wound. Another is the appearance of Razem, Poland's newest counterpart to Podemos, SYRIZA et al. with its collective leadership, its opposition to TTIP, its platform of democratic socialism, and its liberal social policies. It achieved a remarkable 3.62%, sadly not enough to gain any seats but it definitely proved there was room for an alternative. Had it formed earlier than 2015, it might have been able to make enough prior groundwork to breach the 5% threshold.

Two good things occurred in this election in my personal opinion-one was that the extreme right-libertarian KORWiN party, led by the notorious and eccentric Janusz Korwin-Mikke, did not do well enough to enter the Sejm either, managing just 4.76%. The other is that Poland will have in just 23 years (i.e. most of the time in its recent history for where multiparty democracy has existed) have had three different female Prime Ministers, which is a remarkable achievement especially when the only 24.1% of MPs in the Sejm are women. (Norway, by contrast, notable for its consistently strong representation of women by international standards, has only had two different female PMs, one of whom, Erna Solberg, is the incumbent.)

Alan.

Friday, 23 October 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 22 October 2015

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

Bury MBC, Tottington: Conservative 1046 (52.2%, +3.4%), Labour 619 (30.9%, +2.0%), UKIP 198 (9.9%, -4.4%), Lib Dem 87 (4.3%, +0.8%), Green 54 (2.7%, -1.8%). Conservative gain from Labour, all changes are since 2012.
Oxford BC, Northfield Brook: Lab 509 (77.9%, +7.0%), UKIP 60 (9.2%), Con 47 (7.2%, -4.3%), Green 28, (4.2%, -7.0%), TUSC 9 (1.4%).

Westminster LBC, Bryanston & Dorset Square: Con 582 (49.7%, -1.8%), Baker Street No Two Ways 218 (18.6%), Lab 167 (14.3%, -5.7%), Green 116 (9.9%, -6.4%), Lib Dem 46 (3.9%, -8.3%), UKIP 42 (3.6%).

The last of the three above by-elections is particularly notable due to the publicity of the issue of two-way traffic being implemented on Baker Street, reported for having the potential to cause traffic chaos according to local media. It was strong enough in fact for an independent to register a new political party specifically for that single issue, which partly explains why it was not only us that lost out-the Labour and Liberal Democrat votes fell significantly as well due to progressive voters (and a few Conservative voters, although keep in mind that turnout in central London at election time is generally relatively low). I personally believe there not to be a good reason for a resdesign of Baker Street to be open to two-way traffic, and the £15 million cost of this proposal is hardly justifiable given the number of councils facing yet more sharp cuts to their budgets.

Worryingly, there was another significant swing from Green to Labour (7.1%), even if in a ward that is generally heavily Labour anyway (the Independent Working Class Association, once challengers to Labour in safe working-class wards, is long gone in Oxford). As for the Tottington by-election, it is worth noting that even in the mid-1990s Conservative nadir this ward elected Conservative councillors, and the main reason that Labour made a gain here in 2012 in the first place was due to a local scandal in the Bury borough (six other Conservative wards in Bury were lost to Labour that year as well).

One important thing from these elections is how useful it is to be focused on local issues when campaigning in elections (especially by-elections), an area that has been a Green Party strength for many years.

Alan.


Thursday, 22 October 2015

My tribute to Michael Meacher

Two days ago, long-serving left-wing Labour MP for Oldham West (latterly Oldham West & Royton) Michael Meacher died. He had served as an MP for more than 45 years. I never met him personally; a few years ago he planned to show up to a political session I went to, but due to unforeseen circumstances he did not do so.

Michael first came to prominence in the Oldham West by-election of 1968, where Labour lost to the Conservatives as they did in several other by-elections in otherwise safe seats in the middle of Harold Wilson's second term as Prime Minister. However, he recaptured the seat in 1970 from Keith Campbell (the Conservative MP who had taken Oldham West in the 1968 by-election) and held it until 1997, when it was replaced by the Oldham West & Royton constituency he represented until his death.

Michael was notably one of the more left-wing Labour MPs, and was a supporter of such figures as Tony Benn and latterly Jeremy Corbyn, who in his final days he was pleased to be serving under. During his time, he remained resolutely on the side of the progressives, opposing the Iraq war and many aspects of Blairism, and during the last Parliament he stood on the side of other long-serving left-wingers like Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell when large numbers of Labour MPs failed to do so. At the time of his death, he was one of the last remaining MPs first elected before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, and had he been sworn in just some hours earlier then Gerald Kaufman he would have been Father of the House as well.

Posted in memory of Michael Hugh Meacher, born 4 November 1939, who departed this life on 20 October 2015, aged 75 years.