Monday, 29 August 2016

How to make sure the Anthropocene era does not become our last

Scientists have recently declared that the Holocene era, where all settled agricultural and later industrial human civilisation developed, has given way to the Anthropocene era due to the fact human impacts have left a permanent mark on Earth:

Worse still, there is evidence to suggest that with pollution levels already past 400 ppm, with potentially as much as 75% of all Earth species set to become extinct by 2300, with critical Arctic ice melting more rapidly than ever before, this era could possibly be the Earth's last.

So what do we all need to do fundamentally to make sure this era is not the last? Three key examples:

1. Phase out any use of crude oil-based products. This is not only important in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also for preventing any further pollution of our oceans by plastics and plastic-based products, which are invariably derived from crude oil and other harmful chemicals. A recent call for the banning of microbeads (and not just by the Green Party) is a key step forward in this regard. All of these can be replaced with natural, environmentally friendly things.

2. Try and achieve a more balanced diet systematically even if we do not entirely phase out meat eating. Industrial meat production is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions even if it is one of a number of significant emitters; the soil degradation and loss of crops caused by overproduction of meat and the chemicals involved in the process is also a serious problem worldwide. Overfishing and fishing using large and indiscriminate nets is also a substantial contributor to environmental damage and animal cruelty.

3. Bring about systematic change and achieve the green transition in the long-term. Our fundamental economic and social system bears strong responsibility for causing this era to be dubbed the Anthropocene era in the first place, because of its reliance on values that recklessly cause damage to our planet and our environment no matter how good other intentions might be; these include continuous growth, consumption, and greed. This is an international problem which we must solve from the grassroots, but we can do it if we work together and not let our differences divide us. The green transition needs to involve a recognition and acceptance of the fact we have limited resources which we must share fairly, that we all fare better if we are in commune with our planet rather than constantly trying to exploit it, that we must find balances in life, and that future generations matter as well as present generations.

There are of course other things we must do for survival through the Anthropocene Era, but it is definitely possible to learn from our past mistakes and make sure we prosper rather than fall.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

A recent history of 'Progressive Alliances'-do they actually work?

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's only MP, has been broaching the subject of Progressive Alliances again publicly, even though Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has given no indication that he will change his mind, and nor has Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron shown any real interest.

A look at recent histories of progressive alliances, not just in Britain but also in Europe, shows that the idea is not all it is cracked up to be:

1992, Green Party-Plaid Cymru in Wales: This was primarily responsible for electing Plaid Cymru MP Cynog Dafis in Ceredigion (otherwise a reliable Liberal/Liberal Democrat seat) but otherwise did not give much help to either party given that it only occurred in a few other Welsh constituencies and did not substantially increase Plaid Cymru's vote from 1987. It collapsed by 1995 and has never been revived since even though it could have been successful in the long-term.

1996-2007, Olive Tree in Italy: A very wide tree this was as well, comprising the Democratic Party of the Left, the Italian People's Party, Italian Renewal, Federation of the Greens, Italian Socialists, and Democratic Union. It won 45% of the Chamber of Deputies seats and nearly 50% of the Senate seats in 1996, but initial optimism faded in just a few years, in a similar manner to Tony Blair's Labour government of the UK (which was in fact anything but progressive all along). The most radical two parties, the Communist Refoundation Party and the Federation of the Greens, left the alliance the soonest, The remaining Olive Tree parties formed the Democratic Party, in reality just as in line with neoliberalism as most social democratic parties in Europe.

2003, GroenLinks-SP (and GroenLinks itself in general, which was formed out of several different parties with different radical backgrounds): GroenLinks, the Netherlands' largest Green Party, formed an alliance or lijstverbinding with the Socialist Party, the largest clearly socialist party in the Netherlands for the 2003 elections. However, neither party made any headway and GroenLinks actually lost two seats. GroenLinks has not always been an easy alliance and goes from strength to strength, with the animal rights party PvdD taking some supporters of GL, although it is currently polling well again.

2012 French legislative election: Every deputy of the EELV (the French Green Party) who was successfully elected received endorsement from Francois Hollande's Parti Socialiste (PS), as were some unsuccessful candidates. However, with Francois' (and PS')plummeting approval ratings, his failure to deliver on key issues like fair taxation, and his increasingly authoritarian attitude means that EELV will probably not welcome such endorsements next time.

2014, MSZP/DK/PM/Egyutt-2014 in Hungary: Formed in response to Fidesz' neoconservative regime and gerrymandering of the electoral system (by lowering the number of MPs to 199 from 386 and by having more SMC seats than list seats) in the hope it would be enough to overcome Fidesz' supermajority. However, due to the bad reputation of its leading figures, such as Gordon Bajnai and Ferenc Gyurscany, as well as corruption scandals within the Hungarian Socialist Party, it barely made a real dent in Fidesz' supermajority. The Unity coalition dissolved soon afterwards.

2014, Internet Party-MANA in New Zealand: The MANA Party, a progressive Maori interests party in New Zealand/Aotearoa, formed a pact with the online rights Internet Party which was founded by Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (real name Kim Schmitz). Kim's subsequent arrests over illegal downloading and the international furore this caused was a key factor in Hone Harawira, MANA's only MP, losing his seat; the coalition won just 1.74% of the vote and gained no seats at all. This coalition has since split up.

2015, Democratic Left/Polish Labour Party/Green Party in Poland: Called United Left and led by former Polish PM Leszek Miller, whose tenure was marked by 'Rywingate'. He is still a relatively unpopular figure in Polish politics, and the general shift to the right in Poland caused this alliance to poll just 7.55%, meaning that it lost all parliamentary representation (The normal threshold is 5% but for coalitions it is instead 8%), partly due to the more left-wing Razem Party winning support from lapsed DL voters. Needless to say, it dissolved within months.

2015, Croatian Labourists et al. in Croatia: The Croatian Labour Party joined up with centre-left (in reality soft social democratic and neoliberal) parties in the Croatia is Growing coalition; the perceived betrayal caused half of its six sitting MPs to defect to Croatia's main Green Party, ORaH. It retained 3 seats in the Sabor in spite of this opportunistic collaboration, although it has since abandoned any alliance with Croatia's Social Democrats.

2015 (both January and September), SYRIZA-Ecologist Greens: This coalition helped the Ecologist Greens, Greece's largest Green Party, gain representation in the Hellenic Parliament for the first time (they came within 0.1% of winning seats in May 2012 standing on their own). They currently have 2 MPs in Greece and Giannis Tsironis serves as Environment Minister.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

My tribute to Brian Rix

Brian Rix, aka Lord Rix, former Mencap chair and disability rights campaigner, passed away earlier today.

He was not only well-known for his acting, especially in farcical Whitehall comedies of the 1960s and 1970s, but more importantly in my opinion for his tireless work campaigning for the rights of people with learning disabilities, especially after his first daughter, born in 1951, was diagnosed with Down's syndrome. Back then, children with learning disabilities still had no educational or vocational rights and some were still being sent to long-stay hospitals even as they were going into decline in the long-term and even as the ableist science of eugenics was being disowned by many. He was secretary general of Mencap for eight years starting in 1980, and later chair and president of this organisation right up until his death. In those 36 years of Brian's campaigning, we have come a long way on the road to understanding and acceptance of people who have learning disabilities (and other disabilities in general) but it is still a road we need to keep travelling along. However, I particularly credit him with his (initial) opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill, making sure carers of disabled people have a right to short breaks from work, and helping the 2006 Electoral Administration Act uphold disabled peoples' rights to vote, especially those with learning disabilities.

To him, therefore, I give my farewell, and thank him for undertaking this noble quest so that British society can become more welcoming and inclusive of disabled people and for making sure their voice could be heard and their rights could be exercised at the same level as everyone else.

Posted in memory of Brian Norman Roger Rix, born 17 January 1924, disability rights campaigner and actor, who departed this life on 20 August 2016, aged 92 years.

Friday, 19 August 2016

By-elections analyses from 18/08/16 (and 11/08/16)

Readers, the results from local by-elections from 11th and 18th August featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:


North Ayrshire UA, Irvine West (1st preferences): SNP 1164 (37.5%, +0.7%), Labour 1029 (33.1%, -7.1%), Con 639 (20.6%, +8.6%), Socialist Labour 131 (4.2%, +2.6%), Green 94 (3.0%), Liberal Democrats 48 (1.5%, -3.2%). Labour gain from SNP at stage 6.


Gravesham BC, Pelham: Lab 494 (46.2%, -4.5%), Con 325 (30.4%, -3.4%), Lib Dem 101 (9.4%), UKIP 91 (8.5%), Green 35 (3.3%, -12.3%), English Democrats 24 (2.2%).

Kent CC, Gravesham East: Con 1758 (36.0%, +10.2%), Lab 1538 (31.5%, -5.5%), UKIP 1272 (26.0%, +2.1%), Green 209 (4.3%), Lib Dem 110 (2.3%, -1.6%). Conservative gain from Labour.

Richmondshire DC, Catterick: Con 228 (41.8%, +1.4%), Lib Dem 203 (37.2%), Independent 112 (20.5%), Green 3 (0.5%, -15.4%).

Wandsworth LBC, Tooting: Lab 1467 (58.5%, +13.3%), Con 644 (25.7%, -2.2%), Lib Dem 267 (10.6%, +4.7%), Green 116 (4.6%, -6.8%), SDP 15 (0.6%).

Even though the Green Party is having its leadership and deputy leadership election as we speak, with six days still remaining until voting closes, this has been one of the worst local by-election weeks for the Green Party in years, although since it is August and many voters are on holiday this should not be taken too badly. Conversely, UKIP had one of their best local by-election weeks in many months, by holding onto both Northwood seats in Thanet despite their poor record on Thanet council, trouble with some of their next potential leaders (e.g. Bill Etheridge being caught by his fiancĂ©e hiding Viagra pills and Jonathan Arnott, a top contender, pulling out of the race early), and the scandalous circumstances in which the former UKIP councillors ended up resigning (both Helen Smith and Konnor Collins were charged with shoplifting from a garden centre, Helen was also arrested for dangerous driving and Konnor aka Kevan was exposed as having faked his military service history).

Going back to the Green Party elections, this week is your last chance to vote for me, Alan Borgars, #1 for Deputy Leader this year to put the Green Party on the fast train to victory. You can do so via:
Hurry-voting closes on Thursday 25th!


Monday, 8 August 2016

Thoughts on the run-up to the US Presidential election of 2016

We are now just three months away from the US Presidential election, with Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump fighting out such a heated contest bloated with hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate money and private donations, with a little bit of grassroots donations thrown into the mix. Out of all recognised democracies, the USA is the most infamously two-party of them all, with such strict requirements for minor parties to even get onto ballot papers (these vary by state, however) and with no limits on campaign spending meaning that other parties have no realistic chance of competing with the Democrats and Republicans, even though among minor parties the Libertarian and especially the Green Party are gathering more support than ever from a growing field of American voters tired of the same old Punch and Judy charade and the endless amounts of negative campaigning from both the Democrats and Republicans. This has been exacerbated by Bernie Sanders' unfortunate loss of the Democrat nomination, with many of his supporters now preparing to vote for Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein. As for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, his rise in support is likely the result of moderate Republican voters angered at Donald Trump's extremist and outrageous stance on issues like immigration a la John B. Anderson in 1980 (who attracted some votes from liberal-leaning Republicans in light of Ronald Reagan's then radical economic stance)

1. Will there be a breakthrough in this election?

It is very unlikely but with recent opinion polls showing that the Democrat and Republican candidates are attracting just 80% of the vote between them, the lowest level since 1992, this will be a great leap forward in pushing through the two-party dominance, and one that will probably last unlike that of Ross Perot. In particular, Jill Stein's rising popularity should bring climate change and environmental issues further into the minds of American voters, with many coastal areas at risk from excessive flooding and hurricanes.

2. How hard is it to win electoral votes actually needed to get accepted as President of the USA?

Very, very hard indeed. Most states use a winner takes all method and Electoral College votes are not evenly distributed at all because the 50 states are all different shapes and sizes. Only eleven populous states altogether need to be won by a candidate in order to win 270 electoral college votes and thus become President: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Several of these are also key swing states that generally predict the outcome of the entire US Presidential election. Even in state campaigns, the amount spent on campaigns is in the tens of millions-money which only the pro-corporate Democrats and Republicans really have.

3. Could tactical voting be a substantial factor again as it was in 2000?

Not necessarily, since with only three months to go Donald Trump is lagging considerably behind Hillary Clinton in the polls. Only in swing states like Ohio and North Carolina is it likely to be seen to a substantial extent, thus squeezing out 'minor party' candidates. The polarising nature of both Hillary and Donald, and the increasing popularity of 'minor parties' at a local and state level, means that American voters are more likely to vote for what they believe in than ever before.

Friday, 5 August 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 4/8/16 and why I would reject a Progressive Alliance with Labour anyway

The results from the two local by-elections of yesterday featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Ashford DC, Beaver: UKIP 373 (42.1%, +11.6%), Labour 243 (27.4%, -3.6%), Conservative 240 (27.1%, +0.2%), Green 31 (3.5%, -3.8%).

Brighton UA, East Brighton: Lab 1488 (57.5%, +11.1%), Con 514 (19.9%, -2.6%), Green 286 (11.1%, -8.5%), UKIP 152 (5.9%), Lib Dem 116 (4.5%, -3.4%), Independent 31 (1.7%).

Even though Brighton's Labour Party's meetings were suspended during the by-election campaign in East Brighton amidst Owen Smith's challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, Labour actually managed a swing of nearly 10% against the Green Party even though our candidate was a respected activist within the area. Meanwhile, in Ashford, UKIP made a surprise gain caused by dissatisfaction with many working-class Labour voters over Jeremy's leadership of Labour even though UKIP is in flux at the moment with its own leadership election. The Conservatives made no headway in either of these by-elections, or any others that occurred yesterday, despite having a 10 point lead over Labour in national opinion polls. However, since Theresa May only took office last month, this is just a 'honeymoon period' for the Conservatives that could turn sour soon enough as it has done for both Labour and the Conservatives in the past. Turnout did not drop that much in yesterday's by-elections despite the fact that at this time many British people are on holiday somewhere, and this would be particularly true of many Conservative (and Liberal Democrat) voters who tend to be drawn from more affluent sections of the British people.

Earlier this week, Jeremy stated in national media as well as The Brighton Argus that he would not enter a Progressive Alliance with the Green Party, even in Brighton. However, I would likewise not accept a Progressive Alliance with Labour either for three good reasons (other reasons do exist, of course):

1. Labour have shown themselves, particularly over the last two years, to care more about their entitlement over the progressive vote rather than defeating the Conservatives; at the same time they won 14 council seats from my Green colleagues earlier this year they made an overall loss of 18 councillors nationwide, with some of these in key battlegrounds like Amber Valley and Calderdale (see my blog posts of May 2016 for further details). Labour has also shown itself not to care much about the general green agenda (especially regarding solutions to global warming and environmental damage), no matter what some more radical Labour MPs have tried to claim.
2. Generally speaking, only Labour would benefit from such a pact and it would be detrimental to the Green Party and green politics in the long term. In only two constituencies, Somerton & Frome and the Isle of Wight, did the Greens come ahead of Labour without also winning the constituency. It would also deprive so many voters of the chance to vote for a forward-thinking alternative with new ideas and a genuine willingness to change our broken political and socio-economic systems in the UK.
3. The Green Party can win elections without help, and indeed has had to. In fact, it was Labour we won Brighton Pavilion from in the first place back in 2010 (and before 1997, it was a safe Conservative seat). The same applies to our early council gains in areas like Malvern Hills, Stroud, and Torridge. Green potential exists everywhere, and all of you can benefit from our vision in at least some meaningful ways.