Friday, 28 August 2015

Why this year's Dissolution Honours List is the most disgraceful I have ever seen

45 new peers have been recently nominated in the Dissolution Honours List 2015-all by the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party, as usual (A DUP nomination for the House of Lords was denied by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, who also barred the former Liberal Democrat MP for Yeovil, David Laws)

As expected, David Cameron gave into cronyism by appointing the majority of these new peers (26), with the Lib Dems nominating 11 and Labour nominating 8. He also gave large numbers of other honours, minor and major, to:

-People who were just staff in the Prime Minister's Office or those of his friend, George Osborne (Phillipa Rudkin, who just manages George Osborne's constituency office in Tatton, received an MBE; David's own constituency manager, Caroline Balcon, got an OBE; his former deputy chief of staff, Oliver Dowden who is also Conservative MP for Hertsmere, got a CBE, with his current deputy chief of staff, Catherine Fall, getting nominated for a peerage; and to top it off, Barry Norton, the leader of West Oxfordshire Council, which is solidly Conservative and covers David's constituency of Witney, will receive a knighthood)

-Several Conservative MPs who had just retired, like James Arbuthnot and Sir George Young (both of whom, like David Cameron, went to Eton), cementing a stereotype of the House of Lords being a retirement home for old politicians.

-Otherwise unremarkable, unknown (and certainly unelected by voters) people in key internal positions, like Conservative Party deputy chairman Stephen Gilbert.

-Andrew Lansley, who whilst Health Secretary helped pass the Health and Social Care Act 2012 relieving him and future Health Secretaries of the long-standing duty to provide a national healthcare system and allows private healthcare providers greater involvement in the NHS. He had previously accepted donations from private healthcare firms who benefit from this law, and many existing peers have links with these firms as well.

-Douglas Hogg, the 3rd Viscount Hailsham, who stood down as a Conservative MP in 2010 over the expenses scandal when he over-claimed for a moat of his country estate; he was also denied a peerage just four years earlier as a result. He is also an old Etonian and so was his late father, Quintin Hogg aka Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone (not to mention Douglas' grandfather, 1st Viscount Hailsham and Chancellor under Stanley Baldwin).

-Michelle Mone, a director of a lingerie firm and a major donor to the Conservative Party.

The Liberal Democrats were no better in this regard, nominating two MPs who had just been voted out by we, the people, in their respective seats (Lorely Burt in Solihull and Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey & Wood Green), and their other nominations were all politically connected as well. Labour was just the same, nominating several retired MPs (notably including Alistair Darling and David Blunkett) and their senior campaign strategist, Spencer Livermore.

It is not just the House of Lords that needs to be abolished or replaced-the entire honours system needs to be scrapped altogether. What really matters is what you do, not what title(s) you might hold or be awarded.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

We do not need women-only carriages-here is why

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn has recently called for the introduction of 'women-only' carriages on railway journeys to tackle the significant problem of street harassment on public transport, and some people are backing up this proposed initiative.

I do not believe this is a proper solution at all, however, to this problem.

First of all, many trains on major commuter routes, especially going to London, are simply too overcrowded to make the implementation of women-only carriages possible. Secondly, although the majority of street harassment is perpetrated by men, not all of it is, and only a minority of men actually engage in street harassment anyway. Thirdly, gender segregation on transport does not tackle the root causes behind the incidence of street harassment in daily life.

We should instead look at why there is a significant amount of street harassment occurring in the first place, why some people think street harassment is acceptable when it is not, raising awareness of what street harassment is and how it impacts peoples' daily lives, the factors that encourage some people to do this, and the way we as a society respond to incidents that construe street harassment.

Friday, 21 August 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 18/08/15 and 20/08/15

Readers, the results from by-elections from yesterday (and one from 18/08/15) which all featured Green Party candidates, were as follows:

Orkney UA, West Mainland: Orkney Manifesto Group 593 (51.4%), Independent 446 (38.6%), Green 115 (10.0%). Orkney Manifesto Group elected at stage 1.

Durham UA, Shotton and South Hetton: Labour 595 (52.0%, +8.9%), North East Party 214 (18.7%), UKIP 131 (11.45%), Liberal Democrat 107 (9.35%), Conservative 67 (5.85%), Green 19 (1.65%)

Cornwall UA, Pendarves: Con 325 (30.3%, +0.4%), Lib Dem 311 (28.9%), Lab 220 (20.5%, +1.6%), UKIP 89 (8.3%, -23.5%), Mebyon Kernow 85 (7.9%, -11.8%), Green 31 (2.9%), Independent 13 (1.2%).

West Oxfordshire DC, Witney North: Con 264 (33.9%, -15.8%), Lib Dem 201 (25.8%, +19.8%), Green 136 (17.5%, +3.2%), Lab 114 (14.6%, -4.0%), UKIP 64 (8.2%, -3.2%).

I am pleased in particular about our progress in Witney North, although another local by-election comeback from the Liberal Democrats (who obtained a 17.8% swing from the Conservatives in their favour) prevented us from achieving second place, but we still achieved third place ahead of Labour. Our respectable debut in Orkney is also a good sign given that Orkney generally only elects non-partisan councillors (the Orkney Manifesto Group councillors were previously independents, who formed their own group to advocate the particular interests of the Orkney Islands).

Regionalism is also on the rise in the North East, with the North East Party making a strong start in a by-election in Durham Council (the North East Party did not exist when Durham Council last held elections in 2013). This may also be attributable to neither of the Independents from 2013 standing this time, and also the fact that this division is in the Easington constituency, which currently has the North East Party's strongest base (they made their first parish council gains in nearby Peterlee).

Over in Cornwall, however, Mebyon Kernow was not able to make nearly the same impact in Camborne, partly because of intervention and targeting by the Liberal Democrats who nearly gained the Pendarves division having not even fielded a candidate there in 2013. It was UKIP who suffered the heaviest loss, though, losing nearly three-quarters of their vote share in a division they had narrowly gained (notionally) from the Conservatives in 2013. I believe that in Cornwall it will be useful for the Green Party to ally with Mebyon Kernow in future elections, given that last time in many of the divisions of Cornwall Council, we and Mebyon Kernow did not stand against each other anyway (we fielded no candidate in any of the four council seats MK won, and MK conversely had no candidate in either St Ives council seat) and the fact such a pact worked reasonably well when it was tried for the 2005 general election.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Perspectives about work need to change fundamentally to tackle youth unemployment

Recently, Matthew Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, outlined the Conservatives' latest plan in their attacks on young people-'boot camps' for unemployed people of the age of 18-21, supposedly to prepare them for work.

The reality is that these boot camps will be a complete waste of time and money, and not do anything to tackle youth unemployment-here is why.

1. Boot camps cannot create the suitable jobs young people want to enter. It is not young people's fault that youth unemployment is so high in the UK-it is the fault of the bankers and corporations who started the Great Recession, as well as governmental failure to actually create new jobs or tax the rich more heavily so that more can be invested in job creation. The money that will be wasted on these boot camps if these plans go ahead could be better used for regeneration projects that are better for lowering youth unemployment in the long-term.

2. It would be easier for people aged 18-21 to find work if there was a balanced focus between academic and technical skills. Many employers advertise in some jobs not actually requiring university education that applicants with degrees are preferred or required, which already shuts out young people in this age bracket. Also, a lack of investment in technical skills Britain needs more of, especially in green technologies, means that young people who are less academically inclined are losing out in the jobs market and finding it difficult to compete-this gap needs to be plugged.

3. Current and future deterrents for young people entering further and higher education, such as high fees and the scrapping of maintenance grants, are continuing to make youth unemployment worse. Many young people who wanted to enter university but were deterred by the lack of support and the prospect of surmounting debt are finding it difficult to get useful work, especially that which pays a living wage (as opposed to a minimum wage) and which is not zero-hours. Making higher education free and reintroducing grants for those who can demonstrate the merit and effort is what we need.

We should instead look at the fundamental reasons behind high youth unemployment, try to help regenerate communities whose loss of traditional industries have been responsible for long-term unemployment of many of their residents, and help young people to aspire to their dreams and hopes. We also need to try and resolve the imbalance between the availability and prospects of academically inclined and of technically inclined jobs, and expand the green sector of the job market in the long-term.


Friday, 14 August 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from yesterday (13/08/15) and other thoughts

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

Exeter BC, Pinhoe: Conservative 755 (42.3%, +7.2%), Labour 749 (42.0%,+5.5%), UKIP 143 (8.0%, -11.5%), Liberal Democrats 63 (3.5%,+0.1%), Green 62 (3.5%, -1.4%), Independent 11 (0.6%). Conservative gain from Labour.

Powys UA, Glasbury: Lib Dem 457 (44.4%), Con 415 (40.3%, -10.9%), Ind 106 (10.3%,-8.0%), Green 52 (5.0%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Falkirk UA, Denny & Banknock: SNP 2576 (69.1%), Lab 549* (14.7%), Con 431 (11.6%), Green 170 (4.6%). SNP elected at the first count.

Warwickshire CC, Nuneaton Whiteside: Con 1281 (58.4%, +5.5%), Lab 503 (22.9%, -8.5%), UKIP 292 (13.3%), Green 119 (5.4%, -10.3%).

*The Labour candidate in the Denny & Banknock by-election, Andrew Bell, was dropped as a candidate by the local Labour branch earlier this week after he was caught making sectarian, anti-Catholic comments on Facebook, although his name still remained on the ballot.

There has been some speculation on Twitter as to whether the phenomenon of 'Corbynmania' (on the basis that Jeremy Corbyn has a good chance of being elected Labour leader) has been responsible for Labour's underperformance this week, and given that the Conservatives gained Pinhoe ward (where UKIP's vote fell heavily, and even when Labour holds that ward the Conservatives are in a respectable second place) and had a 7% swing to them in the Whiteside division of Warwickshire (located in the town of Nuneaton, traditionally a key battleground between Conservative and Labour), it may have played a part. It is still not certain whether Jeremy will win the Labour leadership contest in the end, let alone manage a full term (if this Parliament lasts a full five years, anyway, given the low and unstable Conservative majority).

Also, if you are a Green Party member and are reading this blog, and have not voted yet in the 2015 GPEx elections, you still have two weeks left to vote. I am standing for the post of Local Party Support Coordinator, because I have experience in providing local party support
within Hertfordshire, and because if you vote for me I will endeavour to help every area in England and Wales have its own Green Party (meaning more and more people will have the chance to vote Green locally and nationally), I will make sure Green Parties in rural areas get more equitable support (as we have a lot of potential there as well as in urban areas) meaning that we can win representation even in the remotest parts of the country, and in particular utilise grassroots support to help anti-fracking campaigns and other environmental campaigns succeed.

Regards, Alan.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

On the recent mass migration through Calais and on how to remain united against racism and anti-immigrant propoganda

Readers, in light of not only the news of thousands of migrants fleeing via Calais to the UK, but also the recent racially-aggravated stabbing of teacher Vincent Umoza in Bradford, it is important that we not only tackle racism and anti-immigrant myths, but also the root causes of racism and anti-immigrant feeling, which can often develop in childhood (the boy who stabbed Mr Umoza was only 14 years of age).

Given that racism and anti-immigrant propaganda and myths have been on the rise since the Great Recession started, what important things should we all do?

1. Remember that fundamentally we are all human beings, regardless of race, gender, disability, orientation, religious belief etc. In particular, our children should know this as well as respect for diversity and free thinking, and the good it brings to us all, needs to be taught from an early age. Given that dangers such as long-term austerity and adverse artificial climate change affect all of us, now more than ever is a time to remain united and resist the divides the capitalist establishment foists on us.

2. Know that the small, very wealthy elite are the real enemy here. Many migrants flee their countries because they have no real choice, and capitalist interests have played a hand, to one degree or another, in civil wars and other conflicts that have ravaged many poorer nations. Many dictators and other authoritarian regimes abroad whose policies and brutality cause many people to flee their homeland, often in fear for their lives and those of their families, are generally aided by the same capitalist interests e.g. some European countries are still granting export licenses to export arms to Saudi Arabia, which has one of the world's worst human rights records.

3. Boycott newspapers and other media that promote stories designed to denigrate migrants and other vulnerable groups in society. This is not just limited to the right-wing newspapers that are The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Express, by the way. Independent online media and blogs can be useful for getting the truth out to us.

Friday, 7 August 2015

My analysis of local by-elections from yesterday (06/08/2015)

Readers, the results from yesterday's by-elections featuring Green Party candidates (all in Scotland this week) were as follows:

Glasgow UA, Calton: SNP 1507 (54.5%, +24.5%), Labour 814 (30.0%, -24.6%), Conservative and Unionist 129 (4.75%, +2.1%), UKIP 103 (3.8%), Green 99 (3.65%, +0.7%), Independent 47 (1.7%), Liberal Democrats 18 (0.7%, -0.3%). SNP elected at stage 1.

Glasgow UA, Anderston City: SNP 1441 (48.1%, +18.5%), Lab 857 (28.6%, -21.7%), Green 414 (13.8%, +3.3%), Con 164 (5.5%, +0.8%), Lib Dem 66 (2.2%, +0.5%), UKIP 43 (1.4%), Libertarian 12 (0.4%). SNP elected at stage 6.

Glasgow UA, Langside: SNP 2134 (49.9%, +12.3%), Lab 932 (21.8%, -14%), Green 579 (13.55%, +5.05%), Con 379 (8.85%, +1.5%), Lib Dem 125 (2.9%, -4.35%), UKIP 65 (1.5%), TUSC 62 (1.5%, -1%). SNP elected at stage 2, SNP gain from Green.

Glasgow UA, Craigton: SNP 2674 (54.2%, +22.8%), Lab 1643 (33.3%, -20.1%), Con 300 (6.1%, +2.5%), Green 136 (2.8%, +0.7%), UKIP 95 (1.9%, +0.9%), Lib Dem 87 (1.8%, +0.9%). SNP elected at stage 1.

South Lanarkshire UA, Hamilton South: SNP 1881 (48.0%, +15.4%), Lab 1396 (35.5%, -16%), Con 349 (8.9%, -0.3%), Green 127 (3.2%) Christian 77 (2.0%, -1.1%), UKIP 43 (1.1%), Lib Dem 32 (0.8%), Pirate 13 (0.3%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Back in 2012, the SNP had performed reasonably well in Glasgow, even if back then Labour retained majority control without much of a problem. If these local by-election results are anything to go by, however, the SNP will surely oust Labour easily from Glasgow City locally next time around (in 2017) just as they did at a Parliamentary level three months ago. Our loss in Langside was an unfortunate event but with the SNP doing so well at the first count, it was inevitable than even with relatively few transfers they would win the seat from us. The good news is that even where we were not initially strong, our vote share has increased when Labour has fallen back so heavily.