Thursday, 28 April 2016

Why the verdict on the Hillsborough disaster matters in the long-term

Earlier this week, a jury at the inquest into the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989, which resulted in the tragic deaths of 96 people (95 of them fans of Liverpool FC, who were playing against Sheffield FC), concluded that those 96 people were unlawfully killed and that police failures were entirely responsible for their preventable deaths. It took 27 years to achieve such a verdict, due to the cover-ups, smears, vilifications of innocent people and falsifications of statements by the police in conjunction with a compliant and prejudiced media.

Nevertheless, this is one of the biggest victories of the people against abuses and misues of power by police, which frequently still go unpunished today. After all, in the public's eye, police forces are supposed to protect the safety of the people and uphold the law as passed by Parliament and elected MPs, rather than abuse their position of power to falsely accuse innocent people of immoral actions and cover up their own responsibility for the disaster.

It is also an important example of how the truth is more powerful than a thousand lies, no matter how well these lies might be spun by the powers that be more concerned about themselves and their own self-interest than principles that really matter to us all, of which justice is one. No matter how long things might take, we must stand up for fairness, honesty and justice in all we do, for these principles will prevail when we act. I also hope this verdict can help families and friends of victims who have so far not been compensated over the loss of their loved ones receive compensation and bring the surviving negligent police officers who were present at the disaster and could have at least tried to prevent this tragedy, yet failed to do so, to justice over the preventable deaths of wholly innocent people.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Meanwhile, over in Canada...

Amidst all the campaigning that is occurring in British elections, it is time to give analysis on elections that have occurred recently in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In Saskatchewan's elections, which occurred two weeks earlier on 5th April, the Saskatchewan Party, allied to the Canadian Conservatives, managed to increase their seat total by 2, partly due to boundary changes giving Saskatchewan's Legislative Assembly three extra ridings from this year. Another reason was despite the fact that only six months ago, their Conservative affiliates had suffered a resounding defeat to the Liberals, they were able to capitalise on their only main competitor, the New Democratic Party, being in disarray nationally and regionally after what amounted to a vote of no confidence in Thomas Mulcair (the federal NDP leader) was successfully called for by NDP members. Even though the NDP captured two seats from the Saskatchewan Party, Prince Albert Northcote and Regina Douglas Park (where the regional Green Party leader there, Victor Lau, was standing) their leader, Cam Breton, lost his own riding in the election as a clear example of the NDP's overall failure to make real progress in Saskatchewan. The Liberals, meanwhile, remained uncompetitive despite having recovered and my Green colleagues there could not make much progress either.

Manitoba's election, which has just finished, produced a much worse day for the NDP. Although they retained many of their seats in the provincial capital, Winnipeg, they lost hold of crucial ridings in northern Manitoba like Thompson, Swan River and Kewatinook and only narrowly held on to Flin Flon and The Pas; many suburban ridings were also captured by the Progressive Conservatives who in Manitoba have just ended 17 years of NDP administration. Although it was not the worst NDP administration in a Canadian province by any means, the general desire for change was strong and electoral swings in Canada, as I have noted before in my blog, are generally considerably stronger than in the UK. The Liberals there only managed to gain two extra seats and Rana Bokhari failed to capture Fort Rouge from the NDP, but their recovery in vote share terms played another part in the NDP's heavy losses since the NDP lost 21 seats out of 35 on an average swing from NDP to Conservative of 15.5%.

The Green Party of Manitoba managed their best performance ever, though, despite fielding only 30 candidates across the 59 ridings of Manitoba which limited their potential. Although they unfortunately did not gain any seats in Manitoba's legislative assembly, David Nickarz almost captured the riding of Wolseley, missing out by only 384 votes to the NDP's Rob Altermeyer, and they polled over 10% in several more Winnipeg ridings. Had they fielded a full slate or close to a full slate, they might have been able to win an assembly seat due to more voters perceiving them as a viable alternative party who could get their policies passed into law.

The future nevertheless continues to look bright for the Green Party of Canada, as long as they continue to get more organised at all levels-municipal, provincial, and federal.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Think Twice: Why you should definitely vote on the EU referendum

Recently, Rupert Read claimed in the Green European Journal that we should spoil our ballot papers when we come to cast our votes in the EU referendum on 23rd June, or not vote at all:

I believe this notion to be an incorrect argument-here is why:

1. Spoiling your ballot paper or boycotting votes achieves nothing. In elections and referendums, whatever the choice, you should always vote even if the best choice is not always available, so that you can make your voice heard. All spoiling ballot papers actually does is waste time, and boycotting votes is just as ineffective in practice. I instead advise that if you have a right to vote in elections, you should use it to achieve what you believe in or at least the best possible outcome.

2. We can make a difference in the EU membership referendum. It is true that Cameron's planned negotiations over British membership of the EU are clearly only designed to benefit his interests and those of British elites, and not us. We however can use this referendum to demand better EU reforms ourselves-the European Union is in great need of internal and external reform and it needs to be much less controlling and intrusive.

3. This referendum is long overdue and we need to make our votes matter. Only very rarely does Britain get the opportunity for direct democracy of any type (unlike Switzerland or Ireland), and this EU membership referendum is one of these. With so much having happened in the 41 years since the last EU membership referendum was held in the UK (back when it was actually the European Economic Community, or EEC) we must use this opportunity to decide Britain's next course of action, and make the will of the British people imprinted in EU history.

So instead of spoiling your ballot paper, do cast your vote in the EU membership referendum on 23rd June, whether your circumstances and values lead you towards voting for Remain or towards votin for a Brexit. And make your own informed choice about this matter-this crucial vote must belong to we, the people, not to the media, not political elites, not business leaders, or anyone but us.


Friday, 15 April 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 14/04/16 and other thoughts

The results of yesterday's local by-elections were as follows (all were in local authorities not scheduled to have elections this year):

Cornwall UA, Menheniot: Conservative 532 (40.5%, +2.5%), Liberal Democrats 472 (35.9%, +11.6%), UKIP 177 (13.5%, -17.7%), Labour 67 (5.1%), Green 65 (5.0%).

Cornwall UA, Wadebridge West: Lib Dem 604 (43.5%, +19.2%), Con 356 (25.6%, -39.9%), Lab 222 (16.0%, +5.8%), Independent 111 (8.0%), Green 95 (6.8%).

Taunton DC, Halicorn: Lib Dem 389 (43.0%, +2.6%), Con 222 (24.6%, -10.9%), Lab 133 (14.7%), UKIP 118 (13.1%), Green 42 (4.6%, -19.5%).

Our poor result in Taunton can be explained by the fact that only the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Greens contested that ward in 2015; both Labour and UKIP contested it this time and won over a lot of 'protest votes' although this did not stop the Lib Dems increasing their majority in that by-election. The importance of personal votes was reinforced in Cornwall's by-election, where the Liberal Democrats easily won Wadebridge West following the departure of Scott Mann, now Conservative MP for North Cornwall.

If you are reading this and live in Britain, this is also your last chance to register to vote in these elections if you have not already done so-voter registration for all UK elections this year closes at 4pm on Monday 18th April.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

It is not just David Cameron that needs to go-my statement on the Panama Papers scandal

There have recently been calls for David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister, to resign over the Panama Papers scandal (which prompted the resignation of Icelandic PM Sigundmur Gunnlaugsson) which has revealed that he and his family (and many contemporaries of his) have stashed billions of pounds' worth of funds in offshore tax havens, despite claiming that the government will be committed to 'tackling tax avoidance'. I believe these calls to be legitimate, given how we have all been deceived and that he has broken the trust of British people time and time again just so he can aid a minority of wealthy donors to the Conservative Party and businesses that many Conservative MPs are involved in directly and indirectly.

However, it is clear that David Cameron's resignation will not be enough-this problem is international and spreads deeply. Also, when Icelandic protestors called for their entire government to step down, a no-confidence motion by the Pirate Party failed, so this is clearly not an option for Britain.

What needs to be done is for the people of Britain to vote out the Conservatives, locally, regionally and nationally, as soon as is possible, to as far as is practical stop buying from businesses that engage in tax avoidance and tax evasion, to make it clear that this offshore money needs to be paid back to us as it should have been and used for our needs as a whole, and to make it clear that this corporate lobbying has got to stop. After all, the amount of money hidden in offshore trusts would pay for all the welfare needs of many, many countries.


Friday, 8 April 2016

Let the Green flag fly across Britain in 2016

The race is now firmly on in the UK's 2016 elections-for the Scottish Parliament, Northern Irish Assembly, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly, Mayor of London, Police and Crime Commissioners, and lots of English councils all around the country.

I am particularly pleased to say that the Green Party be standing in every ward in the following council areas:

Amber Valley
Calder Valley
Cannock Chase
Mole Valley

North Hertfordshire
South Lakeland
West Oxfordshire

There will also be many, many more Green Party candidates in other councils in England. We are also standing in the other three mayoral elections, those of Bristol, Liverpool, and Salford, where the Green Party candidates are respectively Tony Dyer, Tom Crone, and Wendy Olsen. There are also Green Party candidates for Police & Crime Commissioner elections in Avon & Somerset, Merseyside, Norfolk, Staffordshire, Sussex, and West Mercia, who are Chris Britton, Paul Woodhead, John Coyne, Martin Schmierer, James Doyle and John Raine respectively.

In Northern Ireland, there is a good chance of the Greens winning a second Assembly seat in Belfast South as well as retaining theirs in North Down. Over in Scotland, Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone et al. will be aiming for the best Scottish Green Party performance ever.

We have some excellent lead candidates for Wales Green Party in the Welsh Assembly election, specifically Alice Hooker-Stroud, Duncan Rees, Amelia Womack, Lisa Rapado and Pippa Bartolotti. Sian Berry is not only Green Party candidate for Mayor but also the lead candidate on the London Assembly list for the Green Party, where we stand to gain an extra Assembly Member.

Finally, Christine Gilligan-Kubo is our candidate in the Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough parliamentary by-election, which takes place on the same day.

Now, more than ever, green principles will be important locally and nationally. Vote Green on 5th May!


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Diverse Thinking: My poem for World Autism Acceptance Day 2016

Readers, it is World Autism Acceptance Day today, and to celebrate especially the novel and inventive ways of thinking used by autistic people past and present, diagnosed and undiagnosed, here is my poem:

Diverse Thinking:

You can't immediately see my differences
So you just expect me to think and act the same way
Even though just by neurological circumstances
My mind was moulded from a different clay

I don't always need to see it that way
Just because everyone else happens to
Often you need to think outside the box
And without looking to people know what you should do

Then you find out I have autism
And immediately think I can't think properly
My ideas are somehow deviant and weird to you
Just because they don't match your view of 'normally'

I might not necessarily immediately know
Where Sally would look for her marbles
But in your attempts to make me see your perspective
You're also clearly not without your foibles.

Remember,the minds of autistics past and present
Like Alan Turing, Vincent Van Gogh,
Temple Grandin, and so many others,
Have helped us all think forwards from the off.

See, my diverse thinking can actually be quite wonderful
When you need it and it can entertain you a lot,
Just remember we can and do speak and think for ourselves.
(Since 'Autism Speaks' most certainly does not!)

Friday, 1 April 2016

My analysis of local by-elections from 31/3/16 and other thoughts

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

Richmondshire DC, Richmond Central: Richmondshire Independents 236 (35.0%), Liberal Democrats 205 (30.4%, -18.3%), Conservative 156 (21.3%, -6.6%), Green 77 (11.4%, -10.2%).

Dundee UA, Maryfield: (1st preference votes) SNP 1383 (49.5%, -1.3%), Labour 634 (22.7%, -13.7%), Conservative 294 (10.5%, +3.3%), TUSC 142 (5.1%, +3.3%), Green 116 (4.1%), Liberal Democrats 85 (3.0%, -0.7%), Independent 73 (2.6%), UKIP 69 (2.5%).

With five weeks remaining until the 2016 elections in the UK, it is clear the SNP will still be on course to maintain its outright majority in the Scottish Parliament, possibly even if my Scottish Green colleagues manage their best year ever. The result in Richmondshire can be attributed to the fact that the local Liberal Democrats fielded someone who lived some distance from Richmond town itself (the Richmond in Yorkshire, not the Richmond in London!) and this was poorly received by local residents, especially when the Liberal Democrats had tried this before and when the Richmondshire Independents candidate had served on the town council and thus knew the area.

I would like to say on the crisis of the British steel industry that the British government's attitude towards the matter has been disrespectful and inconsiderate to the thousands of people who will lose their jobs, especially when they blocked an EU measure to restrict cheap Chinese steel imports, which have influenced Tata Steel's decision to pull out of the UK (Tata Steel owns the majority of remaining UK steel-making operations). I furthermore believe that it can play a part in helping Britain transition to a green economy even if it is not really green in of itself, particularly since steel can be easily recycled and since it can be useful for constructing some of the necessary new renewable energy infrastructure that Britain needs.

Finally, nominations for Mayor of London for 2016 have closed, and with 12 candidates competing,  the race is now on for Green Party candidate, Sian Berry. If you are reading this blog, Sian, I wish you the best of luck, believe that green politics is more important than ever, and believe the green vision for Londoners will work.