Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Why the Green Party and the message of green politics must reach out to everyone

Last week's narrow Brexit vote was not merely the result of anti-immigration feelings. It was also the result of feelings of decades of disillusionment with politics, alienation from the benefits and wonders of a modern, advanced society, and mistreatment by an out of touch elite. It resulted in the biggest working-class revolt in Britain since 1945, when the Conservatives under wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill were decisively booted from office by the electorate just after he had helped Britain and the Allies win the Second World War and defeat the Nazis. The electorate wanted assurances that things would change and that there would be secure employment and opportunities, and it was Clement Attlee and Labour who gave it to them. And 71 years later, much of the working-class population (and many other people dissatisfied with the faults of the EU and the perceived narrow-mindedness of the current establishment) of Britain have played a key part in bringing about the Brexit vote as a result of the EU failing, in their eyes, to give them the change they want, to bring long-term employment back to areas that have suffered losses or declines of their traditional industries, or to be democratic and accountable in a meaningful way.

The strong Leave votes were not merely confined to areas dominated by the white working class, either. The London borough of Newham only voted to remain by a margin of 5% despite the fact it has the highest ethnic minority population in the UK, with the 2011 census recording that 2/3 of Newham's population defined themselves as either Asian, black, or mixed race. The city of Leicester nearly voted to leave as a council area even though only half its population self-defines as white. And class and wealth boundaries were crossed when it came to older voters turning out to leave-Christchurch and Eastbourne, for example, each voted to leave by a large majority despite having nicer and more genteel seaside resorts, due to the high number of over-65s living there.

The people living in these types of area can benefit from green policies and values just as easily as students, bohemians, intellegentsia and young people can. The mines and heavy industry may have gone, but community spirits and long-term employment can return to these areas if innovations in green technology are expanded in Britain and distributed fairly across the country. We can all benefit from clean and renewable energy investment, especially in hydro-electric power to supplement wind and solar power. Working together to create cooperatives and to bring our transport infrastructure back into public hands will also revitalise these areas, as will investment in environmental operations to keep pollution levels down, our beaches clean and safe, and a sustainable and eco-friendly tourism industry flourishing.

The Green Party has already shown how it can reach out to disaffected and alienated voters, a key example being Solihull where we are the official opposition and have councillors in the large council estates of Chelmsley Wood and Smith's Wood, which are populated by people who have benefitted from our fair and honest representation and those who we need to listen to. We must not assume that we know what they want-we need to get out to where they live, ask them about their concerns and wishes, listen to them, and then explain how our green vision can help them and bring new (and real) hope.

With a United Kingdom general election likely to occur by the end of this year, or at least early next year (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-referendum-general-election-when-will-it-be-october-boris-johnson-michael-gove-david-cameron-a7106041.html) ,increasing uncertainty over Britain's future as a result of the vote to leave the EU, and with the people needing a voice for real change now more than ever, we Greens must get out there now, bring a message of hope, regeneration and unity in the face of danger and fear, because grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom, social justice can benefit everyone and everything and make sure Britain can have a secure future with or without the EU.

And I will ensure the green message reaches out to those voters, and the millions of young people who did not vote in last week's referendum and who have the most to lose from possible consequences of Brexit, if I am elected as the next Green Party Deputy Leader this year. Now more than ever, it is time that young and disabled people like myself come to the forefront of British politics and make sure that the voice of Britain's young generation is listened to and respected.

Alan.





Monday, 27 June 2016

My analysis of the Spanish general election of June 2016

Yesterday, Spain went to the polls for another general election even though it was only held because the Cortes could not form a government after the last election of December 2015, causing King Felipe VI to invoke his right to dissolve the Cortes after 3 attempts to find a Prime Minister to govern for the next term failed.

Despite the fact that this election occurred only six months after the last one, and the fact not much had actually changed, voter turnout increased albeit only by 1/6th of a percent. In seat terms, though, very little change occurred. The Partido Popular, still led by Mariano Rajoy, won 14 extra seats but this was not enough to put it in a firm position to form a stable government, as the Citizens Party only lost 8 seats and will likely again refuse to cooperate with the PP for reasons of differing principles. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE, lost a further five seats whilst surprisingly, a pact between United Left and Podemos, called Unidos Podemos, failed to win any extra seats and actually lost support during this election. This may be due to declining positive perception of Podemos' leader, Pablo Iglesias. The only other party to lose or gain any seats was the Basque Nationalist Party, losing 1. Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) continued to decline into irrelevance, with their vote share falling to 0.2% from 0.6% and finishing behind the communist Zero Cuts-Green Group alliance.

Otherwise, little has happened here, although political parties in Spain will probably be more willing to negotiate than last time even if simply to avoid the prospect of a third general election in the space of one year. However, the left in Spain is in a weaker position to form a coalition this time than the right, although any such coalition that forms will still have to be rather compromised.

Alan.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The day we voted to leave the EU-an analysis

It is official-by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%, a wider margin than was predicted, voters in the UK have voted to leave the European Union, on a turnout of 72% and with 'Leave' finishing over one million votes ahead of 'Remain'.

The impact was rather immediate, with the pound hitting its lowest value against the Euro and US dollar since 1985 and with David Cameron promising to resign as Prime Minister this October, which will in all likelihood trigger a snap general election later this year.

In light of all the socio-economic statistics which would favour Britain remaining an EU member, and so many economists and campaigners calling for a remain vote, why did it happen?

1. Rebellion against 'the Establishment' by disillusioned and poorer voters.

The council areas that gave the heaviest Leave votes by a considerable margin share key characteristics with each other. Hartlepool, Boston, and Thurrock, for example, which all voted to leave the EU by a more than 2-1 margin (a 3-1 margin in Boston's case!), have a lot of older voters and a considerable white working class population which has felt alienated from the benefits the EU provided to Britain and has felt that the EU is too controlling and does more harm than good. These areas have also often suffered the decline and loss of their local industries and they often hold the EU responsible for their failure to recover and stifling of opportunities.

Many key pro-EU proponents were 'Establishment' figures or 'elite' institutions and despite the eloquency of their arguments actually turned many voters away from the EU because those voters perceived them as out of touch with their everyday lives and concerns, although a lot of anti-EU advocates were largely just in the campaign to suit their own vested interests rather than the will of the people, which mattered above all else in this vote. This vote showed that the people of Britain are no longer willing to simply trust reputable figures who they perceived as representing an out of touch elite, and want a greater say in their future. 

2. Divisions between us.

Never before has the United Kingdom been so divided; Scotland voted decisively to remain, and Northern Ireland also voted to remain overall, but England voted decisively to leave and of course had far more electors. Most areas of Wales also voted to leave, if narrowly. It is clear the UK can no longer work as an overly centralised nation; it must be a federal and balanced nation if it is to continue.

3. Lack of accountability within the EU.

The distant nature of the EU, with corresponding democratic and accountability deficits, was frequently cited as a reason for Britain to leave the EU, and perceived distance was a key factor in determining the outcome of the referendum. Its controlling nature was also cited by many as a reason for Britain to leave the EU and reclaim sovereignty they believed had been lost e.g. over fishing laws.

4. Remain's campaign was not good enough.

People wanted real change even if they might have been inclined to support the EU, and the Remain campaign failed to make any real case for reforming the EU for the better if Britain had voted to stay in. Remain's image during the campaign could also have been better, since the image that is presented to voters matters so much. Remain mostly spoke of security and continuity and expert recommendations, which were in fact often perceived as boring, staid, and sometimes elitist.

This historic referendum result represents, first and foremost, the biggest rebellion by ordinary British people since the uprising against the Poll Tax in 1989-and all they had to do to achieve this revolt was go to a polling station and mark an 'X' next to 'Leave' on the ballot.
What we must now concentrate on is how to make sure Britain can continue to progress and have a secure and sustainable future, and how to meet clear demands for change that the public ask for.

Alan.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

My final thoughts on the EU referendum

Just four days remain before the all-important EU referendum vote on 23rd June comes for the United Kingdom, although many voters have already cast postal votes.

I believe that some important questions still need to be answered, however.

1. How close will it be in the end?

Very much so-even in light of recent events which some believe have swung opinion more back towards remaining in the EU, polls have consistently been neck-and-neck between the remain and leave sides of the EU referendum, with a significant portion of undecided voters in each poll (usually 8-10%), and I believe they will remain so in the final days leading up to the vote.

2. Could Welsh and Scottish voters end up deciding the final result?

Yes, given that it is known that Scotland and Wales have generally been more pro-EU than England (particularly true in Scotland). Even in London, English voters are very divided over the EU referendum issue, depending on their circumstances. However, given how well Scotland and Wales have benefitted from Britain's EU membership, they are more favourable towards the EU than England and their votes will be decisive.

3. Can we avoid unfair trade deals like TTIP by exiting the EU?

Not necessarily. Even though exiting the EU would exempt Britain from TTIP, it is likely that David Cameron, George Osborne and co would negotiate a worse free trade agreement between Britain and the USA, and we the people would be unable to stop it in practice. With major parts of TTIP having been leaked, the chances of it ever coming to pass now within the EU are now slim to none, given that some European nations such as Greece are already planning to veto it.

4. If Britain exits the EU in the end, will this trigger demands for EU membership referendums in other EU states?

Yes, it will. As the last few years have shown, the United Kingdom is not the only nation in the European Union where Euroscepticism is strongly on the rise. Denmark, France, Germany, and Sweden, for example, have not only seen substantial rises in support for Eurosceptic parties (and not just on the right of the political spectrum, either) but also increasing dissatisfaction with the EU and in particular Europe-wide freedom of movement. Belief that the EU is too controlling and too authoritarian is also being felt more by poorer nations in the EU such as Greece and Spain, who have been hit worst by the global recession of 2008 and are still not recovering from its aftereffects. Even if Britain votes to remain, demands for similar EU membership referendums will likely occur in at least a few nations over the course of the next five years.


When you come to vote in the EU referendum, listen only to your heart, your head, and your conscience when casting your vote-do not let the press decide this referendum; it must be decided by us alone. And we must make a case for reform to the EU if we stay in; we cannot simply carry on as before.




Friday, 17 June 2016

My analysis of the Tooting by-election

The results of the Tooting parliamentary by-election were as follows:

Rosina Allin-Khan (Labour), 17,894 (55.9%, +8.7%)

Des Coke (Christian Peoples' Alliance), 164 (0.5%)

Alex Glassbrook (Liberal Democrats), 820 (2.6%, -1.3%)

Howling Laud Hope (OMRLP), 54 (0.2%)

Zirwa Jawaid (Independent), 30 (0.1%)

Elizabeth Jones (UKIP), 507 (1.6%, -1.3%)

Ankit Love (One Love Party), 32 (0.1%)

Akbar Ali Malik (Immigrants Political Party), 44 (0.1%)

Graham Moore (English Democrats), 50 (0.1%)

Esther Obiri-Darko (Green Party), 830 (2.6%, -1.5%)

Zia Samadani (Independent), 23 (0.1%)

Bobby Smith (Give Me Back Elmo), 9 (0.03%)

Smiley Smillie (Independent), 5 (0.02%)

Dan Watkins (Conservative), 11,537 (36.1%, -5.8%).

Sadly, on the same day this by-election took place, Jo Cox, who had only been elected as Labour MP for Batley & Spen 13 months ago, died after being shot and stabbed just outside a constituency surgery she was holding in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Tributes and condolences have been paid to Jo not only from her widower, Brendan, and her two children, but also from politicians  and activists across the British political spectrum. The count in the Tooting by-election was suspended for two minutes as a mark of respect for Jo, and EU referendum campaigning was also suspended by many activists likewise.

Within the Tooting by-election itself, Labour managed to more than double Sadiq Khan's numerical majority in spite of the turnout dropping from 69% to just 42.5%, and therefore nearly quadruple the percentage majority from 5.3% to 19.8%, easily electing Rosina Allin-Khan as Tooting's newest Labour MP. Even though Conservative candidate Dan Watkins had performed well to keep the Labour majority in check in Tooting at the last general election, when the tide was turning towards Labour in Greater London, he failed to make headway and in fact there was a 7.3% swing from Conservative to Labour, significant given how increasingly difficult it is for significant swings from Conservative to Labour or from Labour to Conservative to occur in an increasingly multi-party situation.

This occurred, in my opinion, for three important reasons. Labour knew the seat was marginal and would therefore have to pull out the stops in order to defend the seat successfully, particularly with the entrenched gentrification across Wandsworth, the borough in which Tooting lies. Divisions in the Conservative Party regarding the EU referendum, and questions surrounding illegal overspending in elections by Conservative MPs also damaged the Conservatives' reputation. Also, when Rosina Allin-Khan was selected, she was a junior doctor and the junior doctors' strikes were still fresh in the memory of the public, who are generally unsympathetic towards Jeremy Hunt's handling of the NHS.

Even though Esther Obiri-Darko did not save her deposit as I hoped she would given the Green Party's good performance in London, she at least retained third position with such a tight squeeze for votes going on in Tooting; all other candidates suffered as a result and UKIP recorded their worst result in England in six years.

Independents and minor party candidates are usually easy to find in London by-elections, but they almost always struggle to make an impact let alone save their £500 deposit; the Tooting by-election proved to be no exception. Of the minor candidates, only the Christian Peoples' Alliance's Des Coke polled more than 100 votes; he was also the only minor party candidate to beat the Monster Raving Loony Party Leader 'Howling Laud' Hope, who achieved just 54 votes but still beat 7 of the 14 candidates who stood. Ankit Love's attempt proved a complete failure once again after finishing bottom of the poll for Mayor of London, as he only polled 32 votes. For only the second time in the history of British by-elections, two candidates polled less than 10 votes each, and a special wooden spoon award goes to local musician George 'Smiley' Smillie-he only polled five votes in this by-election, and that is the (joint) lowest ever recorded in British by-election history, tying with the late Bill Boaks (Glasgow Hillhead, 1982) and Kailash Trivedi (Kensington, 1988).

In six days' time, Britain will hold its EU membership referendum-stay tuned.

Alan.






Friday, 10 June 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 9 June and why I will be voting to remain after all

The results of yesterday's local by-elections were as follows:

Essex CC, Basildon Laindon Park & Fryerns: UKIP 2034 (42.6%, +8.3%), Labour 1600 (33.5%, -4.4%), Conservative 878 (18.4%, +2.9%), Green 264 (5.5%, +3.3%).

Lambeth LBC, Gipsy Hill: Lab 1220 (43.4%, -24.7%), Green 1184 (+32.4%), Con 210 (7.5%, -5.8%), Liberal Democrats 84 (3.0%, -1.7%), UKIP 73 (2.6%, -1.8%), Independent (Robin Lambert) 24 (0.9%), TUSC 19 (0.7%).

North East Lincolnshire UA, South: Lab 758 (47.4%, +4.9%), UKIP 462 (28.9%, -3.4%), Con 312 (19.5%, +0.8%), Green 40 (2.5%), TUSC 26 (1.6%, -0.5%). All changes are since 2015.

Southwark LBC, Surrey Docks: Lib Dem 1523 (51.7%, +22.8%), Labour 629 (21.1%, -0.9%), Con 380 (12.9%, -6.3%), Green 218 (7.4%, -6.4%), UKIP 187 (6.3%, -9.5%), Independent (John Hellings) 10 (0.3%).

We almost secured a surprise win this week as we actually did last week, but despite achieving a swing of 28.5% against Labour we could not quite win the ward of Gipsy Hill, even with our support of local libraries which Labour-controlled Lambeth council is planning to close. But we are nevertheless continuing to show that our green vision can and will work anywhere in England and Wales.

Labour overall, in the run up to next week's Tooting by-election, the penultimate important poll of 2016 (right before the EU referendum vote), have had a very poor week in by-election terms. This may be due to divisions occurring in Labour over the EU referendum debate, as UKIP's by-election gain in Basildon proved; Basildon is one of the few areas where UKIP have reliable organisation and UKIP have generally done poorly in local by-elections in the last year, especially county council by-elections. And far from making headway in marginal Surrey Docks, the Liberal Democrats held on with a substantially increased margin, almost certainly due to tactical anti-Labour voting. This will be of little comfort to them in the long-term, since the constituency in which Surrey Docks lies, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, will almost certainly not survive the next round of boundary changes and in the absence of Simon Hughes, they will likely fall further behind.

With less than two weeks to go before the EU referendum vote, I will be voting for Britain to remain in the EU after all, having weighed up the facts and potential consequences of both 'Bremain' and 'Brexit'. However, I nevertheless leave it to you to decide whether to vote for Britain to stay in or leave the European Union, and in the run-up to 23rd June I ask you to fact-check all information you receive from both sides before making your decision.

Alan.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Why good autism acceptance laws are needed everywhere

In recent news, the island nation of Malta became the very first country to pass an Autism Acceptance Law (not merely a law to improve awareness of autism) which involves the creation of an Autism Advisory Council which must have autistic representatives, improvement of diagnostic techniques, and promotion of autistic people's right to self-determination.

However, despite its promises and its recognition of the importance of respecting the potential of autistic people like myself, it fails to tackle the major issues autistic people face in Malta just as they do in Britain and elsewhere-high levels of unemployment and a lack of respect for autistic self-identity by the non-neurodiverse population. In Britain, the unemployment rate for autistic people, whichever position they occupy on the spectrum, exceeds 80%; by comparison the population in Britain as a whole has on average an unemployment rate of only 6% as of 2016. I myself have experienced both of these issues. This is why the input of autistic people in any law concerning their welfare must be included and valued.

Nevertheless, despite its flaws, this breakthrough demonstrates why there is a need for good autism acceptance laws to be adopted in Britain, and for our wishes to be respected. Awareness is not enough; understanding and acceptance are what we want from those who are not autistic and have not (directly or indirectly) experienced autism.

Alan.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about my Green Party Deputy Leader campaign

For those of you who are interested in the Green Party Leader/Deputy Leader contest, whether you are in the Green Party or not, here are some questions you might be asking about it and specifically my bid to become the next Green Party Deputy Leader?

1. When will we know who is standing and when will the results be released?

Nominations close on 30th June, so you will know in July. The results will be announced at the beginning of September just before the Green Party's Autumn Conference in Birmingham.

2. How do I vote in this election if I am not already a Green Party member?

You need to be a Green Party member in order to vote in these internal elections. To join the Green Party (if you are not already a member), use this link: https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

3. How long have you been a member of the Green Party (in relation to Sian Berry not being eligible to stand for leader), and could you tell us about your experience?

I have been a member of the Green Party since 2012, I have stood in local elections three times, all in Hertfordshire, and I was parliamentary candidate for Hemel Hempstead in the 2015 general election. I have been a regional officer and served on the Green Party's Equality and Diversity Committee since March 2014. I have also helped promote many Green Party campaigns.

4. What is your position on the whole Lucas-Bartley co-leadership bid?

I believe they are strong contenders for leader, especially when Caroline Lucas has led the Green Party before, but success for them will be by no means certain contrary to what some activists might be saying. I certainly do not believe their candidacy will go uncontested.

5. What is your stance on the EU membership referendum taking place on 23rd June?

I am not advocating either a stay or leave stance, but I will instead leave this decision to you, encourage you to use your vote in this referendum, and to fact check all 'In' or 'Out' material online and offline you receive regarding the debate before you cast your vote




Friday, 3 June 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 2 June 2016 and other thoughts

Readers, the results from by-elections of 2nd June featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Rushmoor BC, Aldershot Park: Labour 525 (45.9%, -8.7%), UKIP 314 (27.4%), Conservative 264 (23.1%, -7.6%), Green 41 (3.6%). This is a deferred election; therefore all changes are since 2012.

Mid Suffolk DC, Barking & Somersham: Green 212 (34.5%), Con 210 (34.2%, -7.5%), Liberal Democrats 154 (25.1%, +13.2%), Lab 38 (6.2%).

Lewes DC, Lewes Bridge: Lib Dem 545 (44.6%, +18.5%), Green 343 (28.3%, +10.0%), Lab 212 (17.4%, +0.9%), Con 117 (9.6%, -3.1%).

Our strength continues to grow in Mid Suffolk, with Anne Killett's election giving the Green Party seven councillors in Mid Suffolk, the highest ever in Mid Suffolk Green Party's long history. Our by-election win was also helped by the absence of the local group Suffolk Together from this by-election, who used to have a significant presence in rural parts of Suffolk.

Despite already having one councillor in the Lewes Bridge ward, we were unable to gain a second despite our best efforts and clearly establishing ourselves as the challengers to the Liberal Democrats in Lewes; their former MP Norman Baker only narrowly lost the constituency of Lewes last year and they appear determined to at least remain competitive even if the constituency of Lewes is split up in the next round of boundary changes.

If you have not yet registered to vote in time for the EU referendum, please do so as soon as possible-every vote will count in this crucial opportunity. The deadline for registering to vote in Britain's EU membership referendum is 7th June; you can register via https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote







Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Why I would make an excellent Green Party Deputy Leader

Just over two weeks ago, I declared to you that I will run for Green Party Deputy Leader in 2016: http://greensocialistalan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/i-will-run-for-green-party-deputy.html

So, you ask, why would I be a good Green Party Deputy Leader?

In summary, it is because I passionately care about green politics, because I believe green politics should be for all seasons and all weathers, and because I want to help the Green Party become a real force for change in Britain. I believe this can all be done by ensuring the Green Party can reach out more to urban and rural areas as well as metropolitan areas and university towns, show how green politics and green values can appeal to all of you regardless of where you are or who you are, by linking environmental concerns to key voter priorities such as the economy, crime, and our NHS, by improving organisation so that the Green Party will be available to vote in every constituency of England and Wales and in all areas, and by helping green concerns get better media coverage.

It is time for a sea of change, and a new green direction for Britain.

Alan.