Friday, 31 July 2015

My analysis of by-elections from yesterday (30/07/2015) and other thoughts

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

Aberdeen UA, Hilton/Woodside/Stockethill: SNP 1690 (55.1%), Labour 771 (25.15%), Conservative and Unionist 350 (11.4%), Green 130 (4.25%), Liberal Democrats 125 (4.1%). SNP elected at first count.

Aberdeen UA, Kincorth/Nigg/Cove: SNP 1939 (61%), Lab 606 (19.1%), Con 313 (9.8%), Lib Dem 207 (6.5%), Green 114 (3.6%). SNP elected at first count.

North Kesteven DC, North Hykeham Mill: Con 286 (40.1%, -19.2%), North Hykeham Ind 180 (25.2%), Lab 161 (22.6%), Green 64 (9%), Lib Dem 22 (3.1%). Conservative gain from Lincolnshire Independent.

Given that we often struggle to find candidates in large rural counties such as Lincolnshire (we did not even have a parliamentary candidate for Sleaford & North Hykeham last time around) we have made a good start in North Hykeham, where the Liberal Democrats used to have substantial local strength. Rural areas and coastal towns are under the greatest amount of danger from the adverse effects of climate change, so expanding a Green presence into these areas (where we do not already have one) will be just as important as developing such strongholds as Brighton, Bristol, Norwich, Oxford and Stroud. It must be said that the SNP performing well in STV by-elections, where only one seat is up for election (as opposed to four in a standard STV local election), is pretty much par for the course, especially where the SNP's main opponent is Labour as it was in those two local by-elections in Aberdeen City.

In other news, Tim Ireland's election petition against Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, has been struck out without going to a hearing about its allegations-simply because he and his lawyers served the notice on her constituency address instead of her home address, rather than on the content of the petition. (Another petition in Woking, filed by Ruth Temple, which had no merit anyway as there was no reason why Jonathan Lord was not eligible to stand, has apparently been withdrawn, leaving only the petition against Alistair Carmichael still pending at this time.)

So, for those of you who may have to end up filing election petitions in future, make sure you know what you are doing before you file them (the security costs for filing an election petition in the UK are quite steep), note that constituency office addresses (as opposed to home addresses) are generally not stated on statements of persons nominated for a particular election, check your legal facts before filing, and if you do find leaflets containing statements which you know or reasonably believe to be defamatory or libellous, or which lack the required election imprint, keep them as evidence.

Alan.





Tuesday, 28 July 2015

For fair job-sharing in Parliament, proportional representation is needed as well

Sadly, I have heard that two of my Green Party colleagues, Sarah Cope and Claire Phipps, earlier today lost their High Court bid to bring a judicial review of a returning officer's decision to reject their application to stand as job-share MPs in Basingstoke in the 2015 general election. (A similar attempt by Independents at a job-share in Weston-Super-Mare was rejected by the returning officer there as well, on a related note.) Sarah is a single mother with two young children to look after and Claire has hypersomnia, causing her to sleep for 12 hours per day (most adults sleep for 7-8 hours per day) meaning neither of them can be full-time MPs in practice.

Parliament still needs substantially better representation of women and people with disabilities than it does at present, so job-sharing will be useful in moving forwards in this regard. I believe, however, that electoral reform will be a fundamentally more important step in achieving this and breaking up two-party dominance as well, because multi-member, proportionally represented (whether via party list or STV) constituencies by themselves can allow job-sharing MPs, if they are large enough. The first-past-the-post system itself is not only unfair in terms of representing voters, but is also indirectly discriminatory towards women, people from ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities etc. It also means that if the local MP is failing to listen to voters, is suddenly incapacitated, or has caring responsibilities, people have no alternative representative to come to about national issues or grievances, whereas they will do in a multi-member Single Transferable Vote constituency (as a few voters from the Republic of Ireland have stated online).

Alan.













Friday, 24 July 2015

My analysis of local by-elections from 23/07/15 and my thoughts on recent betrayals

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

Elmbridge DC, Long Ditton: Liberal Democrat 770 (50.6%, +4.4%), Conservative 611 (40.2%, -4.7%), Green 79 (5.2%), UKIP 61 (4.0%, -4.9%).

North East Lincolnshire UA, Croft Baker: Lab 768 (37.0%, -3.0%), Con 513 (24.7%, -1.9%), Lib Dem 323 (15.6%, +11.3%), UKIP 318 (15.3%, -8.1%), TUSC 85 (4.1%, +2.3%), Green 66 (3.2%, -0.7%).

Given that it has been 12 years since we last contested the Long Ditton ward of Elmbridge Council, I am pleased that we were able to beat UKIP, who even in the most affluent parts of Surrey can post respectable results. I must also state that the Liberal Democrat recovery in the Croft Baker local by-election, which partly explains why our vote share dropped slightly there, is not that surprising-they won that ward in the few years after the illegal invasion of Iraq under Labour, and given the Liberal Democrats' then opposition to the Iraq war they were able to secure large swings from Labour both locally in many areas and also in by-elections of the 2003-05 period. UKIP's vote share once again dropped significantly in all of the local by-elections, and it polled a derisory 38 votes in the Harrow Road local by-election in Westminster (where we should have had a candidate in place, in my opinion).
A national opinion poll the same day by Ipsos Mori has also shown UKIP falling behind the Liberal Democrats and only drawing level with the Green Party, and I believe we can overtake UKIP in the national polls soon enough.

Labour's abstention on the Welfare Reform Bill's second reading, which will result in £12,000,000,000 worth of cuts to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain, who have already been hit hardest by austerity, shows that its poor performance at the most recent general election (especially its losses of numerous safe seats in Scotland to the SNP) has not changed it at all-with most Labour MPs abstaining (notably, not a single Labour MP from the South West region voted against that second reading) the Conservatives, supported by no-one except sole UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, easily got a second reading (the Lib Dems opposed it, and even the DUP opposed it). Just 48 Labour MPs opposed it-and most of these were among nominators of (and/or supporters of) Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race. Was your MP among those brave enough to oppose this dangerous bill?

Alan.


Friday, 17 July 2015

My analysis of by-election results from 16/07/15 and other thoughts

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

Kingston-upon-Thames LBC, Grove: Liberal Democrat 1577 (59.9%, +26.4%), Conservative 688 (26.1%, -4.8%), Labour 223 (8.5%, -14.0%), Green 88 (3.3%, -9.7%), UKIP 58 (2.2%). All changes are since 2014.

Norfolk CC, Gorlston St. Andrews (in Great Yarmouth): Con 876 (42.7%, +15.3%), Lab 773 (37.7%, +1.8%), UKIP 285 (13.9%, -22.8%), Lib Dem 66 (3.2%), Green 51 (2.5%).

Norfolk CC, Mile Cross (in Norwich): Lab 749 (51.8%, +7.2%), Con 279 (19.3%, +8.7% ), Green 209 (14.4%, -6.8% ), UKIP 148 (10.2%, -9.6%), Lib Dem 62 (4.3%, +0.1%).

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, surely invigorated by newly elected leader Tim Farron, managed to win the Battle Town by-election in Rother and amazingly, Llay in Wrexham. We sadly once again felt a heavy squeeze, particularly in Kingston-upon-Thames where it seems the Lib Dems are determined to restore their status there (and elsewhere in South West London) and UKIP fell back once again, particularly in Gorlston St Andrews where they finished a poor third in a division they had won in 2013. This is likely due to the unfavourable circumstances (for them) surrounding the reason for the by-election (their previous councillor was disqualified for putting false information on nomination papers).

Despite the fact that strong campaigner Tim Farron was elected yesterday as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, I do not believe they will be able to make as notable a recovery as under either Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe or David Steel, if they make a recovery at all. This is because the UK is moving away from two-party politics in the long-term, as even if UKIP fade away me and my fellow Greens are here to stay, particularly in the South West where we have a good chance of replacing the Lib Dems as the main opposition to the otherwise dominant Conservatives, and people are less likely to vote for any party simply as a protest. The Lib Dems not only lost so many seats in May without gaining any in return but also fell back heavily in many seats they were trying to recapture or target (Watford is a notable example) and have lost large portions of their local base outside their strongest areas. With strong Green support more firmly established in key areas now, some places that once elected Lib Dem MPs, or came close to doing so (particularly areas with a high student electorate) will now not do so for the foreseeable future.

Alan.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Why preserving a fair right to strike, and repealing anti-trade union laws in Britain, matters

The Conservative government's proposed Trade Union Bill, which will make it almost impossible for legal strike action to take place due to the unfairly high strike thresholds it sets (50% turnout, without recourse to online ballots for all types of strikes, with an additional threshold of 40% of all eligible union members for people working in 'essential public services') if it is passed, will receive its first reading next week, and the more important readings (second and third) soon after.

Therefore, we need to state clearly, and now, why the right to strike matters so much to us.

The right to strike (and thus withdraw labour) is important when the capitalist system fundamentally creates substantial inequalities between the majority of us who work for an employer in some capacity, and the often very wealthy employers themselves, and also creates enough unemployment to make switching employers difficult. By being able to strike, we can make sure we are paid fairly and on time, we can ensure we are able to work in a safe environment, we can make sure we have good working conditions, we can try to hold our employers to account, and so we all have a good chance to succeed within our workplaces (for those of us who are employed as opposed to self-employed).

Whilst we are at it, we also need to campaign for the repeal other anti-trade union laws (and other laws harming our employment rights) which Labour failed to repeal the last time they were in power, such as bans on secondary picketing, requirement of two years' service before unfair dismissal claims can be made (when unfair dismissal claims should be allowable no matter how long you have worked for an employer),  and particularly having to pay extortionate fees before cases can be taken to an employment tribunal.

It is important to remember that protection of our employment rights benefits all of us-whether we are employed, self-employed, unemployed or otherwise, and whether we are low earners or high earners.

Alan.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

We need to appreciate autism-not try and 'cure' it or work around it

I give special thanks to my friend Emma Dalmayne, who spoke on 'Autism Kom Unity' yesterday (which I co-host on Kensal to Kilburn radio every month), for inspiring me to write this particular post.

If you live in Britain, Ireland (where Fiona O'Leary has been covering this topic: http://www.eveningecho.ie/cork-news/quack-treatments-for-autism-are-abuse/) , or the USA in particular, you may recently have come across con artists trying to sell 'cures' for autism (and other conditions for that matter) to you, your family or your friends.

It is important to remember that because autism has a neurological basis, there is no cure-and also, autism needs to be appreciated and respected anyway. False cures such as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) are illegal in the UK for a reason-they are dangerous and can kill.

It is important that we continue to expose these fake cures and stop them being proliferated anywhere. If you see any seller trying to market a chemical compound as a cure for autism (such as chlorine dioxide, or a mix of sodium chloride and water), I advise you to do all of the following:

1. Report them to the Trading Standards Authority; under the Trades Description Act 1968 it is an offence to supply a false or misleading description to goods, which is what those sellers are doing by marketing 'autism cures'.

2. Warn your family and friends about how dangerous these solutions can be if given to children (or indeed anyone), not just by word of mouth but also through social media. There are well-documented cases of children with autism suffering permanent intestinal damage as a result of being given these 'cures'.

3. Report these sellers to the police-the sellers of fake autism cures are obtaining money under false pretences and are causing substantial harm.

Rather than trying to cure autism when there is no cure and never was, or use therapies such as ABA to try to eliminate the autistic behaviours that are not actually harmful either to the child or to others, we should appreciate the useful things autism, and people with autism, can bring and have brought to all of us and that we all have our quirks and idiosyncracies in the end.

Alan.




Friday, 10 July 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 09/07/2015

Readers, the results from yesterday's by-elections which featured Green Party candidates (all except the local by-election in Gwynedd that was contested only by Plaid Cymru and a splinter group known as Llais Gwynedd), were as follows:

East Sussex CC, Old Hastings & Tressall: Labour 961 (56.5%, +7.4%), Conservative 368 (21.6%, +6.0%), UKIP 174 (10.2%, -12.2%), Green 149 (8.8%, +0.5%), Liberal Democrat 48 (2.8%, -1.6%).

Hastings BC, Central St Leonards: Lab 481 (44.0%, -9.1%), Con 259 (23.7%, +10.9%), Independent 184 (16.8%, +9.5%), UKIP 77 (7.0%, -8.8%), Green 75 (6.9%, -0.9%), Lib Dem 17 (1.6%, -1.5%).

Hastings BC, St Helens: Con 663 (43.5%, +3.6%), Lab 557 (36.5%, +2.1%), Lib Dem 136 (8.9%, -5.1%), UKIP 120 (7.9%, -13.9%), Green 48 (3.1%).

Hounslow LBC, Brentford: Lab 1292 (54.0%, +7.9%), Con 664 (27.7%, +13.2%), Green 209 (8.7%, -4.8%), Lib Dem 116 (4.8%, -1.3%), UKIP 113 (4.7%, -7.4%)

Hyndburn DC, Spring Hill: Lab 778 (55.3%, +5.4%), Con 475 (33.8%, -0.5%), UKIP 137 (9.7%, -6,1%), Green 17 (1.2%).

Sandwell MBC, Newton: Lab 1152 (59.1%, +11.1%), Con 452 (23.2%, -5.7%), UKIP 310 (15.9%, -7.3%), Green 36 (1.8%).

North Lanarkshire UA, Thorniewood (1st preference votes): SNP 1555 (47.0%), Lab 1410 (42.6%), Con 149 (4.5%), Scottish Socialist 81 (2.45%), Green 51 (1.55%), Christian Party 33 (1%), UKIP 29 (0.9%). SNP elected at stage 6.

Although none of these by-elections saw any change of hands, it is nevertheless noteworthy how unstable UKIP's support really is, since it fell sharply in all of these by-elections where the media was not paying attention. One useful feature of Green support is that it is considerably more stable in the long term, as these results showed even though we only managed an increased vote share in one of these by-elections.

The sharp Conservative increase in the Brentford by-election is perhaps not as surprising as one may think-having been heavily knocked back in Hounslow's most recent council elections of 2014 (they were reduced from 25 councillors in the borough to a rump of just 11, their heaviest local defeat in the Greater London area eclipsing Hammersmith & Fulham and even Ealing), and having lost the Brentford & Isleworth constituency to Labour two months ago, they likely wanted to show they were not uncompetitive even though they have not won the Brentford ward in decades. However, the fact that the Community Group did not stand in this by-election was also a factor (their voters were probably not that inclined towards Labour). On our side, we have usefully retained third place and retained more of our vote share than UKIP did.

It may be summer now, but I can assure you that all will be not quiet on the local by-election front (except regarding the overall turnout in said local by-elections in July and August).

Regards, Alan.

UPDATE: Full result of Thorniewood local by-election is now available and has been added to this blog post.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

An alternative July 2015 budget

Today, George Osborne announced the first budget of this Parliament, the first announced by a Conservative majority government for 19 years.

Here are just five reasons why this budget is so bad for many people in Britain:

1. Cuts to tax credits which so many families in work rely on. In London and other affluent areas where living costs are high, many people living on low wages cannot meet their basic needs without relying on tax credits.

2. The freezing of benefits and public sector pay will drive more and more people to desperation. There has been a below-inflation public sector pay for years now, and large numbers of public sector jobs have disappeared or have been outsourced to infamous private contractors like CAPITA or G4S. Other benefits, especially disability and out of work benefits, will be hit hard to the point where there will be even more needless deaths of vulnerable people under this government.

3. The compulsory national minimum wage increase will be almost worthless by the time it is implemented. The £9.00 per hour living wage (more for London) needs to be implemented now-the inflation that will have occurred by 2020 will make the increase almost meaningless especially when small businesses are getting no help to make sure they can meet this requirement without going under.

4. Limiting child tax credit is just a class-discriminating form of population control. Wealthy people, who individually (and on aggregate) consume much more than people are not wealthy, will not be affected by this at all and will easily be able to conceive as many children as they wish, whereas limiting tax credit is a form of unfairly limiting how many children families can have simply because they are not lucky enough to earn as much as others and punishes those who had no control over whether they would have twins/triplets/quadruplets etc or not.

5. The cut in corporation tax and breaks to upper middle class families shows whose side the Conservatives are really on (and have been on in living memory): At 20%, corporation tax in Britain is already much too low considering how larger corporations (alongside banks) were responsible for the financial mess we are still suffering from.

By contrast, here are five useful objectives an alternative and green budget can achieve for Britain:

1. Tackle the growing threat of artificial climate change before it gets too late. As has often been repeated, 'there is no economy on a dead planet.' We must place the issue of resource distribution, consumption, and how our activities affect the planet first, and adapt our economics to be sustainable and respectful of not only the planet's needs but ultimately the needs of most humans (i.e. not just a wealthy elite).

2. Make sure a living wage is introduced now and that people who need help get help now, and not have to wait until 2020. People's living needs and pressures will not wait-they need to be met as soon as possible, and we need more wealth equality now, not later.

3. An increase (rather than a decrease) in corporation tax for larger corporations, and a tax of financial transactions. Both of these would bring in billions of pounds of revenue and avoid having to make the proposed £12,000,000,000 of welfare cuts completely.

4. Cut the cost of living by bringing energy, utilities and public transport back into public hands. Britain has high living costs by European standards, especially in London because of the fact our railways and energy are still in private hands. The fact that Transport for London has taken control of a few suburban rail services in London is a useful step forward but all routes need to be in public hands and under public control to make a difference.

5. Instead of getting students into more debt, relieve them of this unfair debt altogether. 9% of £15,000 is £1,350 and 15% of £21,000 is £3,150-collectively, this could all instead be used to create more jobs and counter the deficit Britain has rather than have to be paid towards the Student Loans Company. Maintenance grants need to be kept so that young people are not put off university by the prospect of already enormous annual debts. The young generation, myself included (I am a 24 year old graduate wanting to take up postgraduate psychology education, who aims to be a psychologist one day), will become Britain's next generation of key innovators, leaders, thinkers, and shapers, and we deserve respect not unfair constraint and debt.

There is a better way ahead for Britain than what Gideon is planning-we need to keep on fighting for it until we get it.

Alan.




Monday, 6 July 2015

Greece says no to the unfair bailout terms-what next?

Yesterday, Greek voters decisively rejected the bailout terms offered by creditors, by a margin of 61% to 39%, which is also a rejection of any further austerity in Greece. Currently, critical supplies of food and medicine are about to run out and Greek citizens are only able to withdraw up to 60 Euros per day (approximately £45) from ATMs.

I am very pleased with this result, but what are its potential implications elsewhere within Europe and particularly the Eurozone, where unemployment rates are much higher than in non-Eurozone European nations?

1. Greece could be forced to exit from the Euro, and other nations could then follow. There could be negative economic effects from reintroducing pre-Euro currencies, but this may be a small price to pay, in my opinion, from freeing one's nation from the shackles of the European Central Bank by leaving the Euro. I believe the situation would be much easier if the Euro had not been introduced in the first place. However, Greeks are still largely in favour of Greece staying within the Eurozone, fearing even greater economic ruin if Greece is forced to leave the Euro.

2. This result could boost the prospects of anti-austerity parties, movements and organisations elsewhere in Europe. Spain, which is having parliamentary elections at the end of this year, has been hit almost as bad by austerity as Greece has been. Podemos is still polling well in Spain, and with the knowledge that left-wing governments can achieve something against austerity, should see a rise in support.

As for other consequences beyond the two above, I am not so sure yet-but this a key step forward in the fightback against austerity and for a fairer alternative.

Friday, 3 July 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 02/07/15 and my short tribute to the victims of the Tunisian beach massacre

Readers, the results from this week's local by-elections (one on 30th June, one on 2nd July) featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Cardiff UA, Pentyrch: Conservative 561 (37.8%, -16.8%), Plaid Cymru 543 (36.6%, +24.5%), Labour 324 (21.8%, -7.9%), Independent 24 (1.6%), Green 22 (1.5%, -1.3%), Liberal Democrat 10 (0.7%, -0.9%).

Richmond-upon-Thames LBC, Hampton Wick: Lib Dem 1189 (43.0%, +25.0%), Con 1081 (39.1%, -10.6%), Green 237 (8.6%, -9.9%), Lab 185 (6.7%, -7.2%), UKIP 69 (2.5%), Ind L 7 (0.3%). Lib Dem gain from Conservative.

The result in Pentyrch, where Plaid Cymru came just 18 votes short of winning the seat, shows that a revival of the Green Party-Plaid Cymru pact that occurred in 1992 would be very useful in Cardiff in particular. After all, we finished ahead of PC in Cardiff Central in the most recent general election, but PC performed well in Cardiff West when we did not (Pentyrch is in Cardiff West). Had we helped obtain a joint Green Party-Plaid Cymru candidate in this contest, the Conservatives would almost certainly have lost that local by-election. I also believe this pact will work very well across Wales, for Plaid Cymru does much better in the North and West of Wales than in the East of Wales.

Meanwhile, the result in Hampton Wick shows a crucial stroke of recovery by the Lib Dems, who squeezed us heavily in order to gain a seat from the Conservatives, vacated by Tania Mathias who notably defeated Vince Cable back in May in Twickenham. Perhaps our second place finish in that ward was boosted by European elections turnouts-Britain needs to stop the practice of holding any local elections on the same day as either European elections or general elections.

On another note, I will now pay tribute to the 38 victims of the massacre on a Tunisian beach, including the 30 Britons who died, comprising people of all ages and backgrouds. Even though I did not know any of the 30 personally, I nevertheless wish for them to be remembered by we, the people of Britain.

Alan.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

On how to properly help children with mental health issues and my tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton

Readers, last night you may have watched a programme entitled 'Kids In Crisis' on Channel Four. This programme has highlighted the severe lack of local provision for children needing psychiatric treatment in many parts of Britain, especially in Cornwall and Northern Ireland.

Relocating children hundreds of kilometres away from their parents so they can get the treatment they need can actually harm their recovery in the long-term, as can shifting them multiple times when the money spent on the moves and of housing children so far from home could easily be spent on more localised units.

Here is what I believe needs to be done to help tackle mental health issues within childhood and adolescence in Britain (remember, many mental health conditions have a childhood cause):

1. The creation of a young adult mental health services division (for people aged 16-25). The automatic transferral of a patient as soon as they turn 18 from adolescent to adult mental health services is problematic and can prove detrimental to their long-term recovery. This is because in today's society, the period of young adulthood is now separate from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in its own right, and young adults feel different psychosocial pressures to older adults (those over the age of 25). People with mental health conditions are people as well, and they will usually want to socialise with their peers (especially when younger) rather than those considerably older or younger than they are.

2. Healthcare, especially regarding mental health, needs to be in the community and be as localised as is possible. Not only does it cost large amounts of money (and travel time for NHS doctors, psychiatrists etc.) to house children who need help so far from their families, it also hurts children and their families overall even if the treatment they are getting is sufficient for their needs. People with mental health conditions should be able to get help as locally as possible, and all counties and major cities within Britain should have at least one specialised centre.

3. We as a whole need to be more appreciative of children and what childhood really means. If we appreciated our children more, stopped the negative portrayal of young people within the media, and did not put our children under so much pressure in social and academic life, we can fundamentally lower incidence of mental illness within childhood.

On another, unrelated note, I wish to pay tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton, who sadly passed away at the age of 106 yesterday. Sir Nicholas will be best remembered for rescuing 669 children in the Czech Republic (part of Czechoslovakia then) in 1939, which was a key part in the Kindertransport mission by the British to rescue as many (predominantly Jewish; Sir Nicholas was born to German Jewish parents) children from the Nazis, and thus save them from the Holocaust. His feat also been commemorated in three films by Matej Minac, produced in 1999, 2002, and 2011 respectively.

Alan.