Friday, 29 July 2016

My analysis of by-elections from this week and why approving the Hinkley nuclear plant is a serious mistake

The results of by-elections featuring Green Party candidates from this week were as follows:

(27/07/16)

South Hams DC, Totnes: Liberal Democrats 812 (44.2%, +26.7%), Green Party 499 (27.1%, -6.4%), Independent Labour* 391 (21.3%), Conservative 137 (7.4%, -6.6%). All changes are since May 2015.

*The Independent candidate was actually a member of the Labour Party and had been selected with haste, but she was not eligible under national Labour Party rules having been a member of that party for less than a year prior to the close of nominations.

(28/07/16)

Haringey LBC, Harringay: Lab 1054 (46.2%, +4.2%), Lib Dem 765 (33.6%, +3.3%), Green 325 (14.3%, -2.6%), Con 99 (4.3%, -1.6%), UKIP 36 (1.6%).

Newport UA, St Julian's: Lib Dem 948 (53.7%, +11.9%), Lab 432 (24.4%, -21.3%), UKIP 156 (8.8%), Con 135 (7.6%, -4.9%), Plaid Cymru 71 (4.0%), Green 25 (1.4%).

Sutton LBC, Carshalton Central: Lib Dem 1250 (43.4%, +5.7%), Con 1061 (36.9%, +11.7%), Green 211 (7.3%, +0.4%), Lab 176 (6.1%, -3.2%), UKIP 150 (5.2%, -11.5%), CPA 29 (1.0%, -1.2%).

It was a most disappointing moment when the Green Party failed to win that Totnes seat from Labour, who did not defend it and this is largely due to the internal turmoil Labour is still going through with Owen Smith's challenge to Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.
The Liberal Democrats benefitted from it instead, recovering from the drubbing they had received in the Totnes constituency last year when their vote collapsed leaving them in fifth place behind the Green Party; their gain also meant that the Liberal Democrats have taken official opposition status (to the usually-dominant Conservatives) from my Green colleagues in South Hams district council.

The Liberal Democrats have been experiencing many local by-election revivals this year, which included their easy hold in St Julian's even though their former councillor, Ed Townsend, had only narrowly held on in 2012 due to a strong personal vote; with a new candidate they managed a 16.6% swing from Labour. However, due to UKIP's inexorable decline, the Conservatives edged close to them in Carshalton Central's by-election, the only one this week to record an increase in the Green vote share; we also managed third ahead of Labour, UKIP, and the Christian Peoples' Alliance. Given that Carshalton & Wallington, the Liberal Democrats' last parliamentary foothold in Greater London, will almost certainly be abolished in the next round of boundary changes, this result could spell bad news for them.

Amidst all this, the proposed new nuclear plant near Hinkley, Somerset, was approved by the board of EDF (Electricite de France, France's national electricity company) even though it will increase the energy bills of already hard-pressed users and businesses and generate considerable nuclear waste even though no real plans have been made for storing it safely. The British government has wisely (especially in light of the foolish decision to abolish DECC) called for further scrutiny of the project. However, this project needs to be scrapped altogether, not merely halted.

Nuclear energy is essentially the videocassette of clean energy (carbon-free energy), due to its inherent danger, the need to store nuclear waste for thousands of years at least (much like most of the contents of an old cassette tape, it does not break down naturally within a realistic time frame), the fact uranium is also a non-renewable energy source, and the large amounts of space needed to build nuclear plants (as opposed to wind turbines and solar panels). It is a dead-end we need to break out of and we do not have enough space for enough nuclear plants to replace electricity generated by fossil fuels. We instead need to invest more in renewable energy, especially wind, solar, and hydro-electric energy, and the development of technologies utilising it, for this will be key to giving Britain a secure future, meeting our energy needs in the long-term, and combatting long-term unemployment in former industrial/mining areas.

Alan.






Friday, 22 July 2016

My analysis of local by-elections from 21/7/16 and why a 'Progressive Alliance' will probably not happen

The results of yesterday's local by-elections that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

Hackney LBC, Hackney Central: Labour 1354 (75.2%, +11.1%), Green 178 (9.9%, -13.0%), Liberal Democrats 113 (6.3%, -1.1%), Conservative 101 (5.6%, -0.2%), Independent  55 (3.1%)

Reading UA, Southcote: Lab 934 (64.1%, +0.2%), Con 381 (26.1%, +1.3%), Lib Dem 77 (5.3%,-0.9%), Green 66 (4.5%,-0.6%). All changes are since this May.

It is rather unfortunate that there were only 2 Green Party candidates across the 12 local by-elections that occurred yesterday, especially when they came from far and wide across England and Wales. The Southcote by-election showed hardly any change for any party at all, but we sadly fell backwards significantly in Hackney, long an area of good Green support, despite fielding a former Young Greens co-chair (namely Siobhan MacMahon). This is possibly due to the 'Corbyn effect' even amidst the infighting within the Labour Party.

There has been much talk of a 'progressive alliance' being formed against the Conservatives in the media lately, initiated by the Green Party. However, recent events show why this is unlikely to actually occur:

1. Turmoil within the Labour Party that will likely have long-term consequences, and could even split it in two a la the SDP of 1981.
2. Internal differences in core issues might cause it to fail anyway.
3. Not only will Labour and the Liberal Democrats not cooperate with the Green Party or aligned parties in the G/EFA group, they will not cooperate with each other at present.
4. Green MP Caroline Lucas' bill to not only bring in proportional representation in Westminster but also reduce the voting age to 16 was not supported by many Labour MPs; so many abstained but enough voted with the Conservatives (although Ben Howlett, Conservative MP for Bath, actually voted in favour) to get the bill rejected (it was rejected by only 81 votes to 74, with the Greens, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Plaid Cymru united in favour of it). Many Labour Party MPs also ally on the Conservatives on key issues, including the recent vote to renew Trident.

I believe instead the Green Party must do what it can to win on its own and broaden its appeal so it can do so. We won Brighton Pavilion in 2010 with no help from any major or minor political party whatsoever (and from third position in 2005, not second), and our surge was also achieved without help. We also remain united on our core values, have real respect for the British electorate, and can bring a really alternative vision which can bring fairness and prosperity to all based on ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and peace.

Alan.








Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Who voted to stop renewing the bomb?

Yesterday, Parliament took a vote on renewing/replacing Trident, Britain's nuclear missile system (actually owned by the USA, and costing £100 billion over 30 years at £3.33 billion per year) and shamefully voted to renew it with a majority of 355 when 140 Labour MPs (60% of the Parliamentary Labour Party) sided with the Conservatives to renew it despite opposition to it by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; Crispin Blunt (MP for Reigate) was the only Conservative MP to vote against renewing Trident.

The list of MPs who voted against renewing Trident (and therefore for scrapping this phenomenonally expensive and dangerous waste of space) include not only the sole Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, but also:

All 3 Plaid Cymru MPs (Liz Saville-Roberts, Hywel Williams and Jonathan Edwards)
All SNP MPs except for the two that were absent
All 3 SDLP MPs (Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie, and Alistair McDonnell)
All Liberal Democrat MPs except for Greg Mulholland (MP for Leeds North West; he was probably absent on the day of voting).
And these 47 Labour MPs:
Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington)
Graham Allen (Nottingham North)
Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central)
Nick Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne East)

Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield)
Richard Burgon (Leeds East)
Dawn Butler (Brent Central)

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford & Isleworth)
Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)
Sarah Champion (Rotherham)
Anne Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead)
Paul Flynn (Newport West)

Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham Deptford)
Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green)
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland)
Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West)

Nia Griffith (Llanelli)
Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley)

Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East)
Carolyn Harris (Swansea East)

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)

Imran Hussain (Bradford East)
David Lammy (Tottenham)
Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford & Eccles)

John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)
Rachael Maskell (York Central)

Alan Meale (Mansfield)
Ian Murray (Edinburgh South)

Lisa Nandy (Wigan)
Kate Osamor (Edmonton)

Stephen Pound (Ealing North)
Angela Rayner (Ashton under Lyne)
Marie Rimmer (St Helens South & Whiston)
Nas Shah (Bradford West)

Tulip Siddiqui (Hampstead & Kilburn)
Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Andrew Smith (Oxford East)
Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington)

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central)
Graham Stringer (Blackley & Broughton)
Jon Trickett (Hemsworth)
Keith Vaz (Leicester East)

Catherine West (Hornsey & Wood Green)
Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge)


At the same time, nearly 2/3 of all recognised nations have called for a global ban on all nuclear weapons, which are the only dangerous munitions not banned by any international treaty. If South Africa managed to successfully disarm all its nuclear weapons, then so can Britain (and the other 8 countries with nuclear weapons on standby)

Alan.





Friday, 15 July 2016

My analysis of local by-elections from 14 July and thoughts on Theresa May's first cabinet

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

Islington LBC, Barnsbury: Labour 1192 (51.6%, -5.7%), Liberal Democrats 409 (17.7%, +8.1%), Conservative 367 (15.9%, -2.4%), Green 302 (13.1%, +1.2%), Independent 40 (1.7%).

Newham LBC, Forest Gate North: Lab 1150 (52.5%, -4.0%), Green 681 (31.1%, +16.5%), Con 301 (13.8%, +0.6%), Lib Dem 57 (2.6%, -2.8%).

North Norfolk DC, Astley: Lib Dem 319 (40.8%), Con 198 (25.3%, -30.7%), UKIP 133 (17.0%), Green 81 (10.4%), Lab 51 (6.5%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.


Wiltshire UA, Trowbridge Grove: Lib Dem 421 (45.9%), Con 196 (21.4%, +6.9%), UKIP 123 (13.4%), Lab 77 (8.4%), Independent 74 (8.1%), Green 27 (2.9%). Liberal Democrat gain from Independent.

The public infighting within Labour caused them considerable damage, since in addition to their poor results here, they lost Byram & Brotherton in Selby to the Conservatives and were soundly beaten in the Marchog by-election in Gwynedd. Only in the Wibsey by-election in Bradford did they manage a good result. Meanwhile, we managed a 10.5% swing towards us in the Forest Gate North by-election, and given the rock solidly Labour nature of Newham we managed an excellent result, even if it is not on the scale as our recent near-miss in Lambeth last month where the swing in our favour was 28%. However, we could not be match that result elsewhere, especially when the Liberal Democrats were on the march in Astley and Trowbridge, where they won spectacularly as they did in both Cornish local by-elections (where there was no Green candidate).

Meanwhile, Theresa May's first cabinet has just been formed and despite the departure of some of the worst ministers I have ever known (especially George Osborne, Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan, Oliver Letwin and John Whittingdale), it contains bad appointments of its own. The worst is Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary, especially given that she did not know whether climate change is real when she first took ministerial office and has shown no respect for or knowledge of environmental issues, which Britain must deal with soon. Jeremy Hunt has been retained as Health Secretary even after all those debacles with the junior doctors, and appointing Boris Johnson to Foreign Secretary has already caused international mirth and resentment given his previous offensive remarks about foreign countries in his old columns for the Daily Telegraph.

This cabinet will clearly be just as bad as the last one in many ways, especially with the Department for Energy & Climate Change not only being abolished but also being merged with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (you can probably see where this is going!) happening at the same time. I say that we must continue to fight for environmental protections to be retained, for the protection of our hard-won human rights and for Britain to stay with the ECHR (it does not need to be in the EU to do so), and to secure for ourselves a fair future for everyone and future generations.

Alan.




Tuesday, 12 July 2016

My analysis of the recent Australian general election

I initially planned to post this analysis last week, but due to the long time it takes to fully count votes in Australian elections and to transport postal votes, I had to delay it even though polling day was on 2nd July.

There was a lot of potential in this election for a truly multi-party breakthrough in Australian politics in the House of Representatives, but due to the use of Alternative Vote (as opposed to Single Transferable Vote) and collusion between Labor and the Liberals to keep other parties out (by telling their voters to put the Greens, Xenophon Team et al. last in order of preferences) this did not happen. Our Green colleagues achieved that crucial second place in more divisions than in 2013, and in fact topped the 1st preferences poll in the Batman division in Melbourne's suburbs, but despite achieving strong swings from Labor those gains did not materialise in the end. However, the Greens nevertheless remain more popular than ever in Australia and are set to make many more gains at state and federal level in the next few years (especially in the state of Victoria).

The centrist Nick Xenophon Team, which can be seen by some as a successor to the now defunct Australian Democrats (counterparts to the UK's Liberal Democrats), managed to win one division, Mayo, which not coincidentally was nearly won by the aforementioned Australian Democrats in 1998; the winner in question, Rebekah Sharkie, also happened to be a chief adviser to the defeated Liberal MP, Jamie Briggs. NXT hopes in the divisions of Barker and Grey (which like Mayo are in the state of South Australia), however, did not materialise even though both candidates managed to finish a good second.

The unspoken story in this election amongst parties other than Labor or Liberal is the near-complete collapse of the Palmer United Party, which was founded by billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer in 2013 and ran candidates in all 150 divisions for the Australian House of Representatives, winning the division of Fairfax. However, Clive's incompetence and bullying manner have since driven many important activists away, with many candidates already declaring they would not stand for PUP again just months ago. Only one candidate, Martin Brewster (a nephew of Clive) stood for PUP, in the marginal division of Herbert, and he achieved a derisory 302 votes (especially notable when voting is compulsory in Australian elections). The PUP stood Senate candidates in every state, but their vote share collapsed to less than 1% in almost every state and they lost all 3 Senate seats as a result. Their collapse also precipitated a new surge in the vote for the racist and hardline nationalist One Nation Party, which finished a reasonably strong third in several Queensland divisions where PUP once had its strongest support base; this is nothing new since One Nation won 11 seats in the Queensland state of elections of 1998 from nowhere.

In all, Labor, led by Bill Shorten, managed to win 14 seats from the Liberal/National Coalition, led by Malcolm Turnbull, but this was not quite enough to overturn the Coalition majority, which was reduced to 2. The divisions Labor won from the Liberals were (notionally due to boundary changes especially in New South Wales and Western Australia) Bass, Braddon, Burt (newly created but notionally Liberal), Cowan, Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Longman, Lyons, Macarthur, Macquarie, and Solomon. However, the Liberals in turn gained Chisholm from Labor when its MP, Anna Burke, retired, in a manner reminiscent of the Conservatives' gain of Southampton Itchen from Labour last year in the UK. Despite the Liberals' knife-edge majority in the House of Representatives and the fact they have no realistic chance of forming a stable coalition in the Senate (which uses STV not AV), they can continue to govern in practice with the help of Bob Katter from Katter's Australian Party and Indi's conservative-leaning Independent Cathy McGowan.

Australia really needs to ditch the unproportional and unfair AV system for its parliamentary elections and in its state elections (in fact Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have already switched to using STV multi-member divisions) and embrace multi-party politics when so many voters are tired of the old Labor-Liberal pendulum, especially with few real differences between those two parties.

Alan.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Exposing Theresa May

Earlier today, Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire since 2010, pulled out of the Conservative Party leadership race, leaving Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead since 1997, to run unopposed meaning she has effectively been confirmed as Britain's next Prime Minister.

Despite the fact that Andrea's views on many matters in addition to her Eurosceptic stance lean her closer to UKIP than the Conservatives (in fact former UKIP leader Nigel Farage endorsed her for Conservative leader) mean that there are many people who prefer Theresa May to Andrea Leadsom, Theresa's record in Parliament and as Home Secretary shows she is no better:

-In the 13 years she represented Maidenhead as an opposition MP (i.e. 1997 to 2010) rather than as a government MP (2010 to present), she voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, against banning fox hunting, against an investigation into the Iraq war, and against bans on smoking in public places. It is for those reasons that the Liberal Democrats tried to use their unsuccessful 'decapitation' strategy in Maidenhead (and other constituencies with prominent Conservative MPs, especially Michael Howard in Folkestone & Hythe) at the 2005 general election.
-Since 2010, she consistently voted for raising tuition fees even when she had voted against them in opposition, for welfare cuts to our society's most vulnerable people, for Royal Mail privatisation, for restricting legal aid even where it is actually needed, and for everything else supported by the parliamentary Conservative Party no matter how unethical or immoral the proposed law is.
-Her record as Home Secretary since she took up this office in 2010, almost immediately after David Cameron took office, is in my opinion the worst I have ever seen. She has called for Britain to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights and repeal the very important Human Rights Act, has been responsible for pushing through intrusive mass surveillance laws, has advocated 'anti-extremism' laws which could potentially catch out almost anyone opposed to government policies or the Establishment in general, and has resolutely supported other restrictive and unfair laws like the 'Gagging Law' which make lobbying by trade unions and charities very difficult whilst giving corporations a free rein in that respect.

Despite being on the 'Remain' side of the EU referendum, it appears she only has respect for the pro-corporate, pro-business parts of the European Union and not the environmental and trade protections within it, or its support of human rights (at least compared with that of the Conservative Party).

Given that she will officially become Prime Minister this Wednesday, and that she has confirmed she will not call an early general election, those of us who are progressive and who campaign for a better future for us all and an end to the neoliberal consensus must do all we can to thwart the plans of the Conservative Party, campaign to protect our hard-won human rights, environmental protections, rights at work and other things that have helped Britain become a better society, campaign for a society that respects refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants, and to campaign for the fair and sustainable future we and our descendants need.

Alan.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Why I'm endorsing Martie Warin for Green Party Leader

I, Alan Borgars, candidate for Green Party Deputy Leader, believe Martie Warin should be our next Green Party Leader. And here is why:

Martie has worked hard to get the green flag flying across North East England (and County Durham in particular), which is sadly the only region of England where there are no Green Party councillors on any principal authorities (unitary authorities and metropolitan boroughs, since there are no longer any county councils in the North East nor any district or borough councils). He has served well as a parish councillor in Easington, and therefore has already shown to have useful experience of elected office which all Green Party leaders should have or should get.

Martie also has good experience of trade union activism, and environmental activism (which I also have, having helped fight a successful campaign to stop an incinerator being built in Hatfield where I lived during my undergraduate years), which are both particularly important in the current British scene and will be in the long-term. He is also the youngest candidate standing for Green Party leader and has a wide plethora of experience, and therefore I believe he can help the Green Party bring the voice of ordinary young people in Britain into the consciousness of voters.



Monday, 4 July 2016

Green Party Deputy Leader campaign: Alan's Frontline Five

I am pleased to tell you that I am officially confirmed as running for Green Party Deputy Leader, along with six other candidates (three men, three women) from across England and Wales.

Here is why you should vote for me:

1. I believe the Green Party can and will be a potential party of government in Britain over the next two years. Now more than ever does our country need systematic, fundamental change, and we are the ones who can implement that change for the better. We need to make ourselves a party that can be trusted with the economy, with our NHS, to deliver a fair welfare system, to have an effective approach to crime, and to deliver a fair immigration system whilst still advocating our four green pillars of ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy and nonviolence.

2. I promise to ensure that Green Party members in all areas-rural, urban, and metropolitan-are properly supported so that we can be available as an alternative everywhere in England and Wales.
 
3.I believe that green politics is for everyone in the UK and can work for everyone, no matter who they are or where they are. It has been shown that green politics has support from all corners, from places as far afield as Weymouth, Leominster, York, Brighton, and Rochford I will help further this aim by linking the green vision more with the everyday concerns of voters in the UK, and help push environmental issues further into voters’ consciousness by making better use of media coverage and getting a wider array of spokespeople speaking on programmes like Question Time.
 
4. I will ensure that there are good relations between all groups in the Green Party of England and Wales, whatever their age, ethnicity, gender, orientation, disability, religious beliefs, position within the party, or any other circumstances, so that we can all work together for the common good and for our green vision. In particular, I believe in greater candidate diversity of all types.

5. I will help the Green Party represent the voices of the dispossessed and those hurt by austerity and elitism most, including young people and disabled people like myself. I also believe the Green Party should be the ones to promote acceptance and real understanding of neurodiversity in society (encompassing autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental differences).


Friday, 1 July 2016

My analysis of yesterday's by-elections and other thoughts

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

Luton UA, High Town: Labour 505 (39.7%, -13.5%), Green 273 (21.5%,+3.8%), Liberal Democrats 181 (14.2%), Conservative 141 (11.1%, -17.1%), Independent 102 (8%), UKIP 69 (5.4%).

Mole Valley DC, Leatherhead North: Lib Dem 862 (56.6%, +23.4%), Con 340 (22.3%,-6.4%), UKIP 157 (10.3%,-7.3%), Lab 135 (8.9%, -7.2%), Green 28 (1.8%, -2.4%). All changes are since May 2016.

Bexley LBC, St Michael's: Con 909 (37.4%, +2.7%), Lab 840 (33.5%, +11.5%), UKIP 456 (18.4%, -14.7%), Lib Dem 117 (4.7%), BNP 105 (4.2%, -6.2%), Green 54 (2.2%).

These are the first local by-elections in the post-Brexit era of the UK. Far from there being any surge for the United Kingdom Independence Party, given that UKIP wanted Britain to leave the EU more than any other British political party, UKIP's vote share dropped sharply once again, most notably in Bexley where back in 2014 they finished second to the Conservatives in the 3-member ward, actually winning one of the seats. Despite the news about a coup against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the old Blairite faction of the Labour Party, with Wallasey MP Angela Eagle intending to challenge Jeremy for the Labour leadership, it was Labour who came close to winning the St Michael's local by-election. Meanwhile, my fellow Green Lyn Bliss was able to make a good stride in Luton due to the lack of presence by Labour, the local and national splits within the Conservative Party (the Independent candidate there, John French, was a local Conservative who did not get selected by his local Conservative association) and the fact she was the only candidate who lived in High Town ward itself. As for Leatherhead, it is just another sign of the Liberal Democrats' recovery in their stronger areas especially in light of last week's referendum.

On the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, I honour everyone who died in that conflict, those who survived it, and the families of those who died in that battle and of the veterans of that battle, since no World War I veterans survive today. Another reason for this centenary should be to remember why peace is important and how we must maintain that peace and avoid the mistakes of the past.