There was an error in this gadget

Thursday, 30 April 2009

May Day Low Pay Rally

Tomorrow is May 1st, the traditional date for the workers international movement to celebrate the rights and achievement of workers and trade unions across the globe. One of the most important campaigns which the Green Party has been supporting in this country is the campaign for a Living Wage and nowhere is that more relevant than in London where thousands of migrant workers, who are often not unionised, are exploited by ruthless employers.

Tomorrow I will be going with the Green Party Trade Union Group to support Jean Lambert on a demonstration about low paid cleaners and catering staff at some of London's leading academic institutions. Details below.

- Jean Lambert MEP to speak at Living Wage rally in Bloomsbury
- Drama and music as campaigners demand justice for low-paid workers

Jean Lambert, London’s Green Party MEP, will make a May Day call for the London Living Wage (LLW).

Jean will join students, staff and union activists from the university colleges in Bloomsbury on a march this Friday 1 May, International Worker’s Day, to call for all employees to be paid a Living Wage, currently £7.45 in London.

The march, organised by the newly-formed Bloomsbury Living Wage Campaign, will stop at each of the educational centres around Russell Square, for speeches, drama and music.

Organisers have planned a special stunt to highlight the contribution low-paid, mainly migrant caterers and cleaners make to London.

The London Living Wage [1] is the minimum hourly rate of pay needed to ensure a decent standard of living, but workers at some Bloomsbury universities are still being paid the minimum wage – just £5.73. Many are forced to take on several jobs simply to make ends meet.

Campaigners have won commitments to pay all staff at least the Living Wage at four London universities – Queen Mary, the London School of Economics, SOAS and most recently Birkbeck. They are hoping for similar success at UCL, the Institute of Education, King’s, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and London Met. They also want the institutions who have adopted the Living Wage to commit to all aspects of the London Living Wage package – not just the minimum salary – including union rights and decent sick and holiday pay.

Jean Lambert MEP, an expert on employment and a longstanding campaigner for worker’s rights, has pressed the European Commission to ensure EU rules support Living Wage policies. She said:

“The Living Wage campaign is one of the most important movements in London, and I’m proud to be joining this march and taking the May Day message of ‘Low pay – no way!’ to the Bloomsbury colleges.

“London’s universities are some of the best education establishments in the world. It’s time they set a similarly high standard for treatment of their staff. The capital is blighted by long hours and low pay, but everyone deserves a decent wage for their time.

“The recession has created difficult times for businesses, but workers should still receive fair treatment. We need justice for all.”

The May Day rally begins at 12 noon on the main steps outside SOAS, at 10 Thornhaugh Street, London (just off Russell Square).


Notes to Editors

The Living Wage is the rate of pay that enables a worker to ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. The London Living Wage Campaign estimates that as many as 400,000 people in the capital are paid less than the living wage. Service sector workers, including cleaners, security guards and caterers, are particularly vulnerable and can also face exploitation.

Jean Lambert is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. In October 2005 Jean was named MEP of the year for her work on Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004.

For more information please contact:

Rosie Lavan, Media Assistant
Tel: 020 7864 9965

London's Green MEP backs training scheme for refugee groups

More excellent work being done by Jean Lambert with the refugee communities in London.


From the Office of Jean Lambert MEP London’s Green Party Member of the European Parliament Immediate release

Jean Lambert MEP is backing a new scheme which will support refugee groups launch green projects.

Jean, London’s Green Party MEP, will speak at The Environment Event, the launch of a training programme at the Evelyn Oldfield Unit (EOU) in Holloway this evening [Wednesday 29 April].

EOU, which supports community work by refugee organisations across London, will offer training courses to groups thinking of setting up environmental projects – from recycling to horticulture or neighbourhood renewal schemes.

About 50 people are expected to attend the launch, and there will be a chance for participants to network at a ‘market place’ with community groups already running environmental projects.

Jean has worked extensively on asylum and migration issues in Europe, and has strong connections with refugee communities across London. She said:

“I am very pleased to be supporting this important scheme which will boost the involvement and representation of refugee communities within the environmental sector. Encouraging people to take pride in the environments in which they live is an excellent way of developing a sense of belonging for those who have moved to London. I wish the EOU, and all the groups they support, every success with this.”

The EOU’s work with refugee and migrant community organisations (RCMOs) has highlighted the under-representation of these groups in the environmental sector.Tzeggai Yohannes Deres, CEO of the EOU, said:

“Refugees tend to come from countries with higher levels of rurality and therefore tend to be more mindful of local environmental concerns. The environment is also one of the major causes of refugees globally. For those now living in the UK, this is an opportunity to increase their connection with their locality, to be able to play a contributory role to the community and to improve the quality of their local area. There are also significant health benefits to be explored. For existing RMCOs, it is also the chance to diversify in to a new sector where there are many opportunities. The connections between local and global, migration and settlement and community-led solutions are core to this work.”

The EOU, the leading organisation in this sector, is collaborating with the London Community Recycling Network to launch this event and to set up a support programme for interested groups, both those from refugee communities and those who wish to work with refugees more effectively.


Notes to Editors

Jean Lambert is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. In October 2005 Jean was named MEP of the year for her work on Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004.

For more information please contact:
Rosie Lavan, Media Assistant
Tel: 020 7864 9965

For further details of the scheme or the work of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit, visit or call 020 7700 8213.

Rosie Lavan

London Media Assistant
Office of Jean Lambert MEP, London's Green Party Member of the European Parliament Suite 26, Tulip House 70 Borough High Street London SE1 1XF

Tel: 020 7864 9965

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Workers Right and Workers Deaths

Yesterday was International Workers Memorial Day and I went together with members of the Green Party Trade Union Group to take part in the march and commemoration ceremony for workers who have died at work as a result of accidents. The march was supported by several unions including, GMB, CWU, ACTT and UNITE.
The day began at the statue of the construction worker opposite Tower Bridge Underground station. A number of speeches were given by trade union officials and this was followed by a minutes silence for all those who had died at work. Wreaths were also laid at the statue. Black balloons were also released. The march then made its way through the city and past many construction sites, where workers on the sites were addressed by the demonstrators. We then made our way to the Health and Safety Executive and union activists from there came out and addressed the rally. They said that the Executive was underfunded and that they fully supported the need for proper safety checks to be in place at working sites. They applauded the rally as we moved away towards City Hall.
Outside City Hall we were greeted by a brass band playing such classics as the Italian partisan song 'Bella Ciao' and 'the Internationale'. Trade union officers gave speeches about how more and more workers were dying as a result of the complete lack of health and safety checks and that no action was being taken against unscrupulous employers. Furthermore, they pointed out that they had asked the Welsh and Scottish Executives to strenghten the laws around this and had been supported, whereas when they approached Westminster they were rebuffed!
They also told us that the DWP was consulting to see if International Workers Memorial Day could receive official recognition. One of the interesting contributions was from the CWU who told us that many postal workers were being injured each year by dangerous dogs and that if the attack happened on private property they had no comeback. One or two postal workers had received injuries so serious that their lives had been placed in danger. They also lambasted the Labour government for its support for post office privatisation. I introduced myself to several of the trade union officers as a European Parliamentary Candidate for London and received the response from one that he was considering voting Green in the general election.
The picture on the left shows me sitting beside the construction workers' banner outside City Hall. The other picture shows the banner of the campaign around the Battersea Crane disaster, where relatives of those who died are still seeking justice. It is appalling that the directors and managers of companies often responsible for the deaths of workers get away scot free.
I was joined by Cllr Romayne Phoenix from Lewisham and other members of the Green Party Trade Union Group.

Workers Rights and Workers Deaths

I was out all day yesterday. Firstly, I went to a demonstration organised for International Workers Memorial Day (more on that below) and later I went to hear the excellent Craig Murray give his evidence on UK goverment complicity in torture to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights at Westminster, and I will blog on that later.

But on the issue of workers' rights; our Green MEPs, and particularly Jean Lambert, have been working hard on this issue and particularly on the UK opt out from the Working Time Directive. This was mentioned on the demonstration yesterday by the speaker from the GMB as one of the demands of the union movement. Unfortunately he only mentioned "the Socialist MEPs" but did say that they had been forced to break with the Labour government and vote for the Directive. The issue was discussed yesterday in Brussels and Jean's press release follows:

Date: 28 April 2009


- Hollow victory on Working Time Directive means UK workers can still be forced to sign away their right to a 48 hour week

Negotiations between the European Parliament and the European Council - the last of which were held last night - have failed to reach a compromise position on the Working Time Directive. The European Parliament voted to end the UK's opt-out from the Directive in December 2008, but after weeks of negotiations the UK Government has refused to back down.

The Directive, which is intended to protect workers’ health and safety, limits working time to 48 hours per week on average over a 12 month period and MEPs want the opt-out from the Directive phased out over three years.

Nearly five million people in the UK regularly do unpaid overtime, on average completing £4,955 worth of free work a year and more than half of British workers say they have experienced symptoms of overwork and burnout.
Indirect results of long hours include tiredness on the roads, with symptoms of stress and fatigue often worse than being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Reducing the UK's long hours could also help to solve other health problems such as excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity.

In her report 'I Must Work Harder? Britain and the Working Time Directive', London Green MEP, Jean Lambert, argues that excessive working hours puts workers’ mental and physical health at risk, as well as endangering those around them.

Commenting on the negotiations, Jean Lambert MEP, who is a Member of the European Parliament's Employment Committee, said:

"The Council's behaviour is deeply frustrating. It’s disgraceful that the UK Labour Government, a party with its roots in fighting for workers’ rights, has fought to reduce protection for workers in this instance and left them open to exploitation by employers.

“To use the recession as an alibi is merely a smokescreen, since they have never had any intention of losing the opt-out. Parliament has offered compromises in half a dozen meetings over the last few weeks, but an intransigent Council refused to even consider them and stayed behind a red line of never ending the opt-out. This was despite Parliament offering a solution, for example, for a definition of on-call time for emergency services that would have ended the need for the opt-out.

"Greens support the European Parliament position for a maximum of a 48 hour average working week. This Directive already provides a good degree of flexibility for both workers and employers, while respecting the health and safety of workers and the general public.

"There should be no opt-outs on health and safety legislation. These opt-outs also create an unacceptable situation where EU countries compete on labour standards, reducing protection for workers in the long term."

Notes to Editors

Member States opposed to compromise: UK, Germany, Malta, Estonia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Poland.

Jean Lambert's report 'I Must Work Harder? Britain and the Working Time Directive' is available at

To arrange an interview with Jean Lambert MEP, please contact:

Georgina Bloomfield, Media Officer
Tel: 0207 407 6280

Suite 58, The Hop Exchange
24 Southwark Street

Monday, 27 April 2009

Truth will out

Tomorrow at 1.45pm, Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who lost his post for speaking out against the use of torture by the UK and its allies will give evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. I will be going along to support him and he has called for as many people as possible to do so as he is going to be the object of some vicious personal attack from New Labour members of the committee. Need to be there about 30 minutes earlier because of security checks. His press release is below:


Thatcher RoomPortcullis HouseTuesday 28 April 1.45pmFormal Evidence Session on UK Complicity in TortureParliamentary Joint Committee on Human RightsWitness: Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan(currently Rector of the University of Dundee).

In 2004, Craig Murray told us that:
- The British Government was complicit in the most vicious forms of torture- He had been the victim of a lurid smear campaign initiated by New Labour- The government was lying about all this
In 2004, much of the public and media was not willing to accept that the government would cooperate with torture or with false allegations against an innocent man. Many still had trust in the basic honesty and decency of government.
The evidence that Craig Murray was telling the truth about torture has now become overwhelming, including from the case of Binyam Mohammed. The UK “benefited” continually from intelligence passed on from the CIA waterboarding programme and from torture in countries including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Egypt.
Craig Murray suffered the most high profile sacking of any British Ambassador for a century. But in 2005 the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee refused to hear him in evidence, despite allowing Jack Straw to appear and attack him.
Astonishingly, this is the first time Craig Murray will ever have been allowed to give formal evidence in the UK on his grave allegations, and be questioned on the truth of his testimony.
As the Scotland Yard investigation proceeds into MI5 and MI6 collusion in 16 cases of torture, Craig Murray will argue that it is not the security service operatives, but the Ministers who set the policy – and specifically Jack Straw – who should be facing criminal charges.

Contact: Craig Murray on 07979 691085 or craigmurray@mail.ruTranscript of Craig Murray's formal evidence statement is at

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Stop the War Annual Conference

It was a busy and full day at the Stop the War Coalition Annual Conference in Camden, London. Around 350 delegates from England, Scotland and Wales were packed into the meeting with stalls from a range of organisations ranging from CND to socialist booksellers. The day was divided into sessions on various themes with prominent speakers on each subject, punctuated by various resolutions being taken on the issues being discussed. These themes ranged from ‘Obama and the War on Terror’ and ‘Troops out of Afghanistan’ to ‘Palestine’, ‘Muslims and Civil Liberties’ ‘Iraq’ and ‘Building Stop the War’ – I spoke in the last session. Speakers included Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Lindsey German, Seamus Milne of the Guardian, Mohamed Asif (Afghan Society) Daud Abdullah, John Rees, Sarah Colborne (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign) Karma Nabulsi (Palestinian journalist) George Galloway MP, Craig Murray (former UK Ambassador to Uzbekhistan) Walter Wolfgang (Labour CND) and Tahmeena Bax (student activist).

The resolutions called for continuing action on Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. One called for support for the EDO Decommissioners who put an arms factory in Brighton out of production and who will be put on trial soon. Another called for the ending of US drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan and included a quote from Amnesty International on this: “A pattern of killings carried out with these weapons appears to reflect a US government policy condoning extra judicial executions.” There was a resolution calling for support for a national demonstration in Edinburgh to coincide with the meeting of NATO Defence ministers (13th to 17th November) there. A resolution on Iraq stated: “We oppose the puppet government in Iraq; we oppose the economic, political and military agreements between the US/UK and Iraq, which are designed to guarantee the exploitation of Iraq’s oil wealth by US/UK companies and to ensure that Iraq remains a client state of the US...” A resolution on police violence stated: “In the light of this escalation of violence (referring to the G20) by the police, the STWC must take every action to ensure our lawful and democratic right to protest is respected. Stop the War should also support the demands for a full and independent enquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson, and into policing of demonstrations.” A resolution calling for a national petition to be circulated calling for NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan was supported. Walter Wolfgang also presented a resolution calling for STWC to work with CND on campaigning against US missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as the closure of the Fylingdales and Menwith Hill bases in Yorkshire, and for the abandonment of Trident. Other resolutions supported the student occupations over the last few months and called for the slogans ‘Jobs not Bombs’ and ‘Welfare not Warfare’ to be used on demos. There were also resolutions calling for support for Gaza and the Palestinian cause. STWC has now decided that Gaza and Palestine will be one of its main concerns in future.

Two of the best speakers in my estimation were Craig Murray who asked for support next Tuesday, when he is giving evidence on torture before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights at 1.45pm in Portcullis House in, what he thought was very ironic, the Thatcher Room. He believes that he will be given a rough ride by the committee. I intend to be there to support him. He spoke about the process of terrorising the Muslim community now being rolled out to terrorise everyone, or at least those who protested. He indicated that the intelligence community, where he has many links, told him that there was no intelligence whatsoever regarding the recent arrests of Pakistanis in Manchester over an alleged bomb plot – the Prime Minister even went on television to confirm it. Murray believes it was a cynical piece of news management as Jacqui Smith’s expenses and Ian Tomlinson’s death had been the main items the day before. It was for the same reason that they were released without charge on Budget Day.

Seamus Milne said that the War on Terror has now lasted longer than World War II. In contrast to New Labour’s assertions, he believed that the occupation of Afghanistan was increasing the risk of terrorism on UK streets, not decreasing it. But he believed that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had made clear the limits of US power – this was because of both the internal resistance in both countries and the global resistance to the wars. The US had just changed the terminology from War on Terror to Overseas Contingency Operation. The centre of the resistance to the Afghan war was Pakistan and if Afghanistan was Obama’s Vietnam, then Pakistan could be his Cambodia. He believed that a war on Iran by the US and Israel was quite possible. The effect of Gaza etc had been to remobilise the Muslim community in the UK. The key to ending the wars was public opinion in the aggressor states – the US and UK.

It was an interesting day and covered a wide political and geographical range in the Arc of War from Palestine to Afghanistan. One of the only contentious resolutions was the attempt to allow Hands off the People of Iran to affiliate, as had been tried two years ago. The Green delegates voted in favour of this, along with the Communist Party of Great Britain and some others, but it was heavily defeated. One of the most facile speeches I ever heard against the resolution was given by a young Iranian (whose parents were political refugees) and whose view was that resistance to the Teheran regime could not come from outside the country. If people wanted to protest, then he suggested that they flew to Iran and did it there – it would only cost £300! Apart from that there seemed to be general unanimity on most issues. A synopsis of my speech to the conference is here
Interesting also that the attacks on Climate Camp at G20 were mentioned several times and STWC have issued a statement that should the police use the riot police, kettling or photographing demonstrators at the Palestinian Solidarity Demonstration on May 16th, the STWC will end all cooperation with the police. The conference was determined that the right to protest would be upheld and that both the Muslim community and the anti-war movement needed to protect each other. As one speaker said: "We cannot function with them and they cannot function without us."

Friday, 24 April 2009

Charlatans, Cures and Homophobes

The Green Party's national LGBIQ Group has issued the following press release. It is incredible that decades after Kinsey and other leading researchers have declared that various sexual orientations are mainstream and normal that religious cranks and homophobes are still peddling their lies.


LGBT Greens: Being LGBT is not a disease!
Anglican Mainstream Organisation should be stopped from preaching their so-called ‘treatment’

For Immediate Release

Green Party activists today expressed their horror at the news that there is a conference in London organised by the Anglican Mainstream Organisation this weekend, aimed at informing delegates about ‘curing’ gay men and lesbians.
“Being lesbian or gay is not a disease!” said Lesley Hedges, spokesperson for the Green Party’s LGBTIQ group and an experienced mental health counsellor. “This kind of mistaken 'treatment' is not just a waste of time and resources, it can be extremely harmful. It is based on the fundamentally unsound idea that there is something wrong with variant sexualities.
Lesley continued: “The World Health Organisation removed Homosexuality from the classification of diseases in the Statistical and Diagnostic Manual in 1990. Significantly, this is used by clinicians to identify mental health problems.[1] The fact that no reputable and ethical therapist would try to change someone’s sexuality speaks volumes about what sort of ‘treatment’ is being advocated by the Anglican Mainstream Organisation. There is a real danger that people referred for such treatment will have an increase in the self-hatred they feel.”
“Young people are especially at risk, especially those whose family and friends do not understand and support them when they begin to understand their sexual identity. That identity is an important part of anyone’s psychological makeup and as stats assert: LGBT youth are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide, which develops from their experience of negative attitudes.
“This kind of so-called treatment,” concluded Lesley “should not be available as it can harm people who are in an already vulnerable state. Claims that being gay or lesbian is a disease not only hark back to a by-gone era but are also about actively blocking the advances that LGBT people have won.
“Anglican Mainstream Organisation: we will not go back into the closet! We are now more able to live openly and comfortably in our neighbourhoods and feel accepted where we work, study and relax. You will not drive us back into the closet through your so-called treatment.”

Notes for Editors: Phelim Mac Cafferty Media spokesperson for the LGBT Group on 07765 474 621

Afpak and Stop the War

Tomorrow is the national conference of Stop the War coalition in London and has an impressive line up of speakers and workshops. Several of us will be attending as Green Party national delegates. With the news last night of the advance of the Pakistani Taliban to within 70 miles of the capital Islamabad, things are beginning to look very serious in what the US military planners refer to as AFPAK (Afghanistan and Pakistan).
On Channel 4 News last night the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK stated that the future of Pakistan stood in the balance. Clinton, the US Secretary of State, also denounced the Pakistani government for allowing the Swat valley to fall under the Taliban, and Channel 4's Diplomatic Correspondent said that the next target of the Taliban was the province of Punjab. If they take Punjab, then it is likely that Pakistan will enter into a civil war and alarm bells will ring in both London and Washington.

All of this is stemming from the unstable situation in the region and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which has been in train for 8 years now. I am going next week to see a very interesting trilogy of plays on Afghanistan and its history at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn entitled 'The Great Game'. The introduction to the season below is a good starter for anyone following events in this region and how they will impact on us and the West in general. We are, after all, being implored as Europeans, to send more troops to support NATO's efforts there. It is our forces and our taxes which are feeding the war there and which may lead to a massive conflagration across the whole region.

The Great Game: Afghanistan
The aim of this festival is to explore Afghan culture and history. Afghanistan is likely to be the most important focus of British, European and American foreign policy for the rest of this decade, and for many years to come. Through these plays, exhibitions and films it is hoped that audiences will more fully understand how this policy has evolved; and through debate and discussion lessons from the past can be used to better inform action for the future.
“The Great Game” was a term used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. The Term “The Great Game” was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel ‘Kim’ (1901).

Speakers at the Stop the War conference will include Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekhistan, Tony Benn * Karma Nabulsi * Ken Loach *
George Galloway MP * Rose Gentle * Seumas Milne * Daud
Abdullah * Jeremy Corbyn MP and Lindsey German

SESSIONS: * Barack Obama and the War on Terror introduced by
Tony Benn, * Troops out of Afghanistan with Rose Gentle and
others, * Palestine with Karma Nabulsi and others, * Muslims
and Civil Liberties with George Galloway MP and others, * Iraq
Briefing with Sami Ramadami, * Building the Stop the War

South Camden Community School
Charrington Street, London, NW1 1RG
Saturday 25 April: 10.00am to 5.00pm.

The conference is open to any member of STWC.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

UNISON Vote to ban BNP nurses

Below is the statement of the Green Party's Health Spokesperson, Stuart Jeffreys, on the UNISON vote to ban BNP members from nursing. I wholeheartedly support it. I have also stated that as a candidate for the European election in June I will not share a platform with any representative of the BNP.

BNP nurses should be banned from nursing

Police officer are banned from being members of the BNP or promoting the BNP and yesterday UNISON voted unanimously to call for BNP members to be banned from nursing.I find it hard to imagine how a profession that has been built on caring and compassion can be compatible with racism. As a registered nurse myself, I would find it very difficult to understand how an openly racist nurse could provide care to without discrimination.Well done to Unison (which I have recently rejoined after the debacle of the Unite elections), and I hope the NMC take heed of this call.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Another absentee councillor

It would appear that some Labour councillors are not receiving sufficient public subsidy - poor things! Some of them are forced to go AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave). The latest case of this is in Prince's Ward in Lambeth (in the parliamentary constituency of Vauxhall). It would appear that Cllr Townend moved some time ago to Henleave in Bristol in order to get the nomination to become a parliamentary candidate there. Clle Townend was successful in his ambition and continued to live in Bristol while drawing on his councillor's allowance of £10,212 per annum.

According to today's South London Press: "Townend continued to draw on his allowance as a Lambeth councillor, claiming that he was able to represent the ward despite living elsewhere." When it came to light, however, that he had only attended two meetings over the last year, his claim was called into question. On Friday Cllr Townend resigned and had the audacity to do so on a Bristol radio station! Lambeth Council has confirmed that he has resigned and says that a by election date will be set soon. And they wonder why politics has fallen into disrepute? I hope he serves his new constituents better in Bristol that his old ones in Lambeth, if elected that is. Somehow I expect that there will be a dramatic fall in Labour MPs elected next time.

Witchunt against Jeremy Bowen and the cowardly BBC

Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East Correspondent, has recently been condemned by the BBC Trust for a piece which he wrote last June about the Israel - Palestine conflict. Today I sent a message of support to Jeremy Bowen as a European Parliamentary Candidate for London and received the following message in response:

"Dear Joseph

Thanks very much for your support, which I appreciate greatly. Thanks too for taking the time to write.


Jeremy Bowen."

This is the same BBC which would not run by charity appeal for Gaza several months ago. It really is becoming a disgrace in terms of fairness and honest reporting of the Middle East.

Here is an article by Robert Fisk, the well known Middle East correspondent of The Independent, about Bowen and the BBC.

The BBC Trust is now a mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby which abused Bowen.
It’s report on Jeremy Bowen’s dispatches from the Middle East is pusillanimous, cowardly, outrageous, factually wrong and ethically dishonest.
But I am mincing my words.
The trust – how I love that word which so dishonours everything about the BBC – has collapsed, in the most shameful way, against the usual Israeli lobbyists who have claimed – against all the facts – that Bowen was wrong to tell the truth.

Let’s go step by step through this pitiful business. Zionism does indeed instinctively "push out" the frontier. The new Israeli wall – longer and taller than the Berlin Wall although the BBC management cowards still insist its reporters call it a "security barrier" (the translation of the East German phrase for the Berlin Wall) – has gobbled up another 10 per cent of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" that Arafat/Mahmoud Abbas were supposed to negotiate. Bowen’s own brilliant book on the 1967 war, Six Days, makes this land-grab perfectly clear.
Anyone who has read the history of Zionism will be aware that its aim was to dispossess the Arabs and take over Palestine. Why else are Zionists continuing to steal Arab land for Jews, and Jews only, against all international law? Who for a moment can contradict that this defies everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own?

Even when the International Court in The Hague stated that the Israeli wall was illegal – the BBC, at this point, was calling it a "fence"! – Israel simply claimed that the court was wrong.
UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 called upon Israel to withdraw its forces from territories that it occupied in the 1967 war – and it refused to do so. The Americans stated for more than 30 years that Israel’s actions were illegal – until the gutless George Bush accepted Israel had the right to keep these illegally held territories. Thus the BBC Trust – how cruel that word "trust" now becomes – has gone along with the Bush definition of Israel’s new boundaries (inside Arab land, of course).

The BBC’s preposterous committee claims that Bowen’s article "breached the rules [sic] on impartiality" because "readers might come away from the article thinking that the interpretation offered was the only sensible view of the war".
Well, yes of course. Because I suppose the BBC believes that Israel’s claim to own land which in fact belongs to other people is another "sensible" view of the war. The BBC Trust – and I now find this word nauseous each time I tap it on my laptop – says that Bowen didn’t give evidence to prove the Jewish settlement at Har Homa was illegal. But the US authorities said so, right from the start. Our own late foreign secretary, Robin Cook – under screamed abuse from Zionists when he visited the settlement– said the same thing. The fact that the BBC Trust uses the Hebrew name for Har Homa – not the original Arab name, Jebel Abu Ghoneim – shows just how far it is now a mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby which so diligently abused Bowen.
Haaretz gave considerable space to the BBC’s findings yesterday. I’m not surprised. But why is it that Haaretz’s top correspondents – Amira Hass and Gideon Levy – write so much more courageously about the human rights abuses of Israeli troops (and war crimes) than the BBC has ever dared to do? Whenever I’m asked by lecture audiences around the world if they should trust the BBC, I tell them to trust Amira and Gideon more than they should ever believe in the wretched broadcasting station. I’m afraid it’s the same old story. If you allow yourself to bow down before those who wish you to deviate from the truth, you will stay on your knees forever.
And this, remember, is the same institution which said that to broadcast an appeal for medicines for wounded Palestinians in Gaza might upset its "neutrality". Legless Palestinian children clearly don’t count as much as the BBC’s pompous executives.

How do we solve this problem? Well I can certainly advise viewers to turn to Sky TV’s infinitely tougher coverage of the Middle East and – I admit I contribute to this particular station – I can recommend the courage with which Al-Jazeera English covers Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian-Israeli war.

I can well see how BBC executives will say that this article of mine today is "over the top". Jeremy Bowen may indeed think the same. But the First World War metaphor would be correct. For Bowen and his colleagues are truly lions led by BBC management donkeys.

Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk is an English journalist and author. He is the Middle East correspondent of the UK newspaper The Independent, has spent more than 30 years living in and reporting from the region, and won awards for his work. He lives in Beirut, Lebanon. His 2005 book, "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" with its criticism of Western and Israeli approaches to the Middle East, was well-received by critics and students of international affairs, and is perhaps his best-known work.This author's articles
Source: The Independent
Control of the "Great Middle East" Hamas and Fatah reach 'historic accord' 'We Are Neither Obstinate nor Gullible' Secret US-Iran meetings held in Geneva U.S. shipped 989 munitions containers to Israel week before (...) Gen. Odierno: US May Ignore Iraq Deadline Because of (...) Iraqi protesters call for US exit World Depression: Regional Wars and the Decline of the US (...) Israel’s War Crimes The Persistence of Cynicism Israel Asserting Middle East Supremacy: From Gaza to (...) + + +
Resistance in Palestine Behind the U.S. gov’t boycott Palestinian Civil Society Launches “Israel Review Conference” (...) Israel will not cooperate with UN Gaza inquiry Israeli exports hit by European boycotts after attacks on (...) Israel seizes Hamas political leaders CIA report: Israel will fall in 20 years "Color Purple" author tours Gaza Russell Tribunal on Palestine World Court scrutinizes Israeli wall despite opposition War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's (...) + + +

Monday, 20 April 2009

Bolivian Imbroglio

I recently watched John Pilger's documentary about US influence in the world and particularly its role in Latin America entitled 'The War on Democracy'. Pilger outlines numerous attempts by the US and the CIA to destabilise and overthrow regimes in Latin America which were not to its liking.

Now it would appear that there has been an attempt on the life on President Morales on Bolivia. Obama has claimed at the Americas Summit at the weekend that the US was not invovled in any way and that coup attempts such as this were to be condemned. But the Bolivians continue to assert that the US was involved.

There is also an Irish connection in that one of the alleged mercenaries who was involved in the plot and killed by Bolivian police was an Irishman and this has produced a great deal of interest in Ireland. Some years ago we had the Irish training the FARC leftwing guerillas in Colombia, and now there is an Irishman involved in a Right wing plot in Bolivia. The Irish press is full of stories about this individual's background and possible motives. Some details are here

There has long been an Irish connection with Latin America from the days of Bernardo O'Higgins in the War of Independence against Spain.

Two of the mercenaries are still alive so a lot may yet come out at the trial. This could prove interesting for Obama's relations with both Bolivia and Venezuela and if it is proved that there was CIA involvement, may really poison the atmosphere.

Green Left Meeting

I chaired the Green Left general meeting on Saturday which was well attended and addressed a number of issues. We were joined by Ben, a speaker from Climate Camp, who told us about their G20 experiences and also about some actions in the pipeline. We agreed to keep channels of communication open. We also had an observer from Socialist Resistance, the ecosocialist group attached to Respect, who told us a little bit about what they were up to. At the tail end of the meeting we were joined by a speaker from the new Anti-Capitalist Party in France, who are currently running at 15% in the polls and expected to gain anything up to 10 seats in the European Parliament, which is an astonishing achievement, if it happens, for a party only formed in 2007. He stated that they were keen to work with some of those on the Green list in France, such as Jose Bove, but not as keen about others, such as Daniel Cohn Bendit.

There was a close vote on whether to continue taking part in the Left Unity talks, but we agreed to continue doing so, although many of us think that it is not leading anywhere and many of the groups have already pulled out. We also decided to adopt 'Workers for the World Unite' as one of our slogans, although some of us thought that it was inappropriate and too workerist. One of my colleagues went so far as to accuse me of "mad, inverse workerism" because of my oppposition to the slogan. I think it is a great slogan and clearly draws on its famous 19th century forbear, but I think it more suitable for use by the Trade Union Group, as I believe that it could alienate those who do not see themselves as 'workers' or who are excluded from the labour market.

We also discussed a new pamphlet on the economic crisis which we will be launching at Housman's radical bookshop at King's Cross in London on May 27th, with the possible involvement of a celebrity (but I am bound to secrecy on that at present as it has not yet been confirmed). We agreed to support the People's Charter, although many of us feel that it is designed to appeal to those who want to feel that the Labour Left are still capable of having an impact in the Labour Party and is not at all as radical as we would like. I also gave the example of Alice Mahon, the long term Labour Party member and ex-MP who resigned from the party in disgust over its policies at the weekend. My only surprise was that it had taken her so long to wake up.

Other issues included a report by me on Stop the War Coalition, the forthcoming Climate Change Trade Union planning meeting and an agreement to send a delegation, together with the Green Party Trade Union Group, to Levellers Day in Burford, Oxfordshire on May 16th. There will also be a Green Left stall there. I will not be going as my duties as a London European Parliamentary Candidate mean that I will need to be in London and will probably be taking part in the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign march on that day.

We also condemned the initative of the RMT/CPB/Socialist Party in backing 'No to EU. Yes to Democracy' in the European elections and regard it as a Stalinist inspired political disaster. We issued the following statement:

Green Left has been shocked and disappointed by the decision of the RMT to stand candidates in the forthcoming euro elections. We had hoped for RMT support for a coherent environmental plan, including an ecologically sustainable public and publically owned transport system.

We fear that the current RMT electoral platform does not offer this within the context of a sensible political program and may have damaging consequences such as splitting votes and allowing the election of far right racist candidates, or endangering the seats of green Euro MPs who have a very good record of promoting workers’ rights in Europe.

Inspite of this Green Left will continue to actively support the RMT’s legitimate Trade Union activities and its campaigning for an ecologically sustainable public and publically owned transport system, but we cannot currently advise a vote for RMT candidates, which would currently be a wasted and dangerous vote.

We also had news that Ian Angus will be in the UK in September and we are hoping that we can get him to speak about his new book. Ian is the editor of Climate and Capitalism and hails from Canada. More about him here

All in all it was a positive meeting and I look forward to our AGM on June 20th in London.

Friday, 17 April 2009

ILGA Pledge for European Elections 2009

I have signed up as a European Parliamentary Candidate for London to the International Gay & Lesbian Association's Pledge to promote equality and to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The Greens in the European Parliament have a record second to none and it is interesting when looking at which countries and which parties have signed up that the Greens across Europe are very much in the lead. Disappointing to see that so few candidates so far have signed up from the Eastern European states which joined the EU in 2004 or from Bulgaria and Romania. However, I can vouch for the fact that the Polish Greens and the Green parties in countries such as Romania are campaignig strongly on LGBT issues and against discrimination. They often have to operate in difficutlt circumstances and deserve all our support.

You can follow who has signed up here

Also interesting to see who has the best record on LGBT issues in the European Parliament.

ILGA-Europe is calling upon candidates for the European Parliament elections 2009 to sign this pledge to promote equality and to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in their role as member of the European Parliament.

ILGA-Europe’s 2009 European Election Pledge summarises the key issues that we want to see advanced at the EU level over the next five years. These are:

1. Adopting ambitious EU legislation on equal treatmentI pledge to continue to support and to actively work towards the adoption of an EU multi-ground anti-discrimination directive as an essential step in ending the hierarchy of rights.

2. Ensuring the right to free movement in the EU for LGBT peopleI pledge to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are able to exercise their right to free movement in the EU with their families, including by closely monitoring the implementation of the Freedom of Movement Directive and by supporting measures to increase mutual recognition of partnerships.

3. Increasing explicit recognition of transgender people’s rightsI pledge to call for explicit recognition of the rights of transgender people in EU law, including by ensuring adequate coverage of transgender people in future EU gender equality legislation and policy and by closely monitoring implementation of the Gender Equality Directives with regard to their coverage of transgender people.

4. Combating homophobia and transphobia through criminal lawI pledge to call for a Framework Decision on homophobic and transphobic violence, hate crime and hate speech following the recommendation issued in the legal study on homophobia of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

5. Promoting an inclusive definition of familyI pledge to promote a definition of family which recognises the diversity of family relationships, and to ensure that the needs of LGBT families are increasingly reflected in EU policy and legislation (e.g. the Parental Leave Directive).

6. Acting as the EU’s fundamental rights watchdog, including on LGBT rightsI pledge to hold EU Member States accountable to their human rights commitments and to be a voice against human rights violations targeting LGBT people in the EU (e.g. freedom of assembly, asylum of people at risk of persecution).

7. Protecting LGBT rights in Europe beyond the EUI pledge to promote the human rights of LGBT people within the European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU Central Asia indicative programmes and Enlargement through political dialogue and recommending adoption of inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

8. Protecting LGBT rights in the worldI pledge to support Parliament resolutions and actions condemning human rights violations against LGBT people outside the EU and calling for the end of criminalisation of homosexuality.

9. Calling for an explicit commitment to fundamental rights from the new EU CommissionI pledge to prioritise the commitment to fundamental rights and equality in the approval of the new European Commission and to call for an explicit expression of this commitment by all the members of the EU Commission.

10. Ongoing commitment to the EU agenda in the area of non-discrimination and equalityI pledge to support programmes that ensure continued EU funding for effective and necessary action to combat discrimination and promote equality on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Here is the statement of the Green Party Trade Union Group on the decision by the RMT to back the 'No to EU. Yes to Democracy' campaign in the European elections on June 4th. The sheer political myopia of the Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party in backing this campaign, particularly in London, is mind boggling. And as for democracy! There has been no democratic process within the RMT about this decision whatsoever, with £40.000 of members' money from the political fund being spent on it and no democratic procedure for selecting candidates. Instead the CPB, true to its Stalinist traditions, has engaged in a backroom stitch up.

What is even worse is that the slogan appeals to the worst aspects of xenophobia and echoes the 'British Jobs for British Workers' so beloved of the Daily Star, Sun etc. It could also endanger the seat of London's Green MEP, Jean Lambert, who is one of the members of the European Parliament who has done most for trade unions and workers rights. As one colleague in Green Left said to me, it is firmly in the tradition of "the working class right or wrong" rather than a clear headed radical initiative. It is also doomed to failure, but in the process will damage the progressive cause in general. I would have thought that Bob Crowe would have had more political sense than to be lulled into this political cul de sac by the CPB and the Socialist Party.

The GREEN PARTY TRADES UNION GROUP has been shocked and disappointed by the decision of the RMT to stand candidates in the forthcoming euro elections. We had hoped for RMT support for a coherent environmental plan, including an ecologically sustainable public and publically owned transport system.

We fear that the current RMT electoral platform does not offer this within the context of a sensible political program and may have damaging consequences such as splitting votes and allowing the election of far right racist candidates, or endangering the seats of green Euro MPs who have a very good record of promoting workers’ rights in Europe.

Inspite of this GPTU will continue to actively support the RMT’s legitimate Trade Union activities and its campaigning for an ecologically sustainable public and publically owned transport system, but we cannot currently advise a vote for RMT candidates, which would currently be a wasted and dangerous vote.P.Murry (Secretary) pp GPTU tel 07736525187

Re elect Jean Lambert

June 4th is the date of the European election. Latest opinion polls conducted by Eurobarometer show that there is likely to be a low turnout - they predict 22%. This could be enough to let the BNP into the European Parliament. It is essential that as many people as possible, and that includes all EU citizens in London, vote for Jean Lambert on that day. Today I encouraged a Greek woman working in my office to register and on Tuesday spoke with a Hungarian guy who is going to get all his Hungarian friends in London to vote. The spectre of Fascism hangs over Europe and it is quite possible that these parties will gain many seats in the new European Parliament.

The Green Group in the Parliament have stood up for migrant rights, the LGBT community and workers rights, including a fairer work/life balance and the end of the long hours culture. Nobody has done more for these campaigns than Jean Lambert, London's Green MEP. It is essential that Jean holds her seat and continues the good work which she has been doing for Londoners over the last ten years.

Information on Jean's work can be found here

You can also follow Jean's campaign at or on Facebook at - and then when you are sufficiently inspired, you can volunteer to help by emailing

You can also listen to Jean's views in her own words at YouTube via videos like the one below....

It's no wonder that Mark Thomas has endorsed the Green Party

Vote for Jean and the Greens on June 4th in London.

Police brutality at G20 documentary

Watch Newswipe at

And for more info on what happened at the G20 protests watch this episode of Newswipe which includes some shocking images. It appears that the police have been let off the leash by this government and we are moving towards criminalising dissent. As Churchill said: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Protest against police brutality today

With mounting concern over policy brutality I hope that this protest is well supported. New Labour has presided over a situation where we are rapidly becoming a police state.


Called by Stop the War, CND, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and
British Muslim Initiative.

More video evidence has emerged of the unrestrained brutality
of the policing on the G20 demonstrations. Stop the War has
experienced the same kind of policing on the Gaza
demonstrations in January this year and also at the George
Bush demonstration in June last year.

In one incident on the 3rd January march, police attacked
marchers in the Hyde Park underpass, creating a situation
which could have led to serious injury and death. Many
complaints were made to the IPCC [Independent Police
Complaints Commission] but that body chose not to proceed with
an investigation. The IPPC is now discredited and must be

It is clear that there is now a co-ordinated attempt by the
police to criminalise peaceful protest in this country. This
is a conspiracy against our democracy which requires serious
investigation. We will be protesting outside Scotland Yard on
Thursday 16 April to make this point.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Legacy of Iraq

It was supposed to be the war to bring democracy and human rights to Iraq. Yeah, tell that to the Iraqis. Clearly one of the groups whose situation has actually worsened since the fall of Sadam is the LGBT community in Iraq. Here is an article from today's Independent by Hasan, a young gay Iraqi refugee in the UK. It is simply unbelievable that the UK government is still contemplating returning LGBT refugees to Iraq. The Green Party's new migration policy passed at our conference in Blackpool recently and a full part of our European election manifesto promises to give full rights to LGBT refugees who come to this country.

As a gay man and a candidate for the European Parliament in London I am proud to support it and call upon New Labour, the architects of the disastrous war in Iraq to stop sending LGBT refugees back to Iraq and other countries where their lives are endangered. This should be put to the Labour LGBT Group the next time they start spouting about the wonderful improvements for the LGBT community under Labour.

Dozens of young men and boys killed by death squads in Baghdad
By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor
Monday, 13 April 2009

Hasan: Our optimism after the fall of Saddam has turned to despair
My boyfriend was killed by the police because of his sexuality. Policemen came to his house, 10 minutes away from mine, put him in a police car, arrested and killed him. They told his parents it was because of his job. He was working for Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender). For six months I didn't go out, I didn't do anything – just grieved for him. He was killed because of who he is.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, we – the gay community – were very optimistic. We thought that we would live in a democracy and felt safe with US troops around. So we started to print leaflets that promoted freedom for gay and lesbian people.
But members of our group started being arrested for it. The leaflets weren't political, they were just spreading gay rights.
We have the right to exist and be who we are, but this offended the government. The leaflets had our email addresses and telephone numbers, so the government and the militias came to find out who was distributing the leaflets.
In 2004, the situation got much worse. People began to be killed in the streets, burnt alive and mutilated for being gay. We were a target for the government and militias. I fled to the UK; I feel very safe here but get emails every day about more killings in Iraq. And the problem is that the UK Government doesn't allow us to stay with refugee status even though Iraq is one of the most dangerous places on earth for homosexuals and a war is being waged by the parts of the Iraqi government on gay people. In the UK, I can't work or study because I've been denied the right to asylum, but my only option is to go back to Iraq, face my family and my community and be killed.
Four members of our organisation have already been deported. I am fighting for my right to stay by re-applying for asylum with the help of Iraqi LGBT. Otherwise, I have no future. On Thursday, we will protest outside the Home Office to highlight the homophobic killings. I wish someone would listen and help us; this has been going on in Iraq for years and no one cares.

Hasan, 26, is gay. He moved to the UK nine months ago from his home in Babel province, south of Baghdad, after receiving death threats. His boyfriend was killed because of his sexuality.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Visteon Occupation Statement by Green Left

Green Left has issued the following statement on the occupation of the Visteon factory by workers in north London which I fully endorse.

"Green Left pledges its support and solidarity with the Visteon workers who have taken occupation of their factory to mark their defiance against losing their jobs at short notice, without wages owed or compensation. Green Left also rejects any attempts by the parent company to use the economic crisis as an excuse to impose reduced conditions upon the workers in order to protect the interests of their shareholders.

In a week that has revealed figures indicating the biggest drop in UK industrial production in four decades - including a 12.5% drop in output on the previous year in February alone, the biggest loss since records began - it is clear that it is the workers who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.

Instead of redundancy and a sense of alienation, we need our skilled workforce to help build a sustainable alternative to the current mode of production, not throw them onto the scrapheap. Their vital skills can be used to produce socially and environmentaly useful components, and to build the public transport and renewable energy infrastructure that is essential to achieving this sustainable alternative. In the same spirit that inspired the Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976 to democratically organise and plan to convert production from military equipment to socially useful products, Green Left strongly supports any move by the Visteon workers to organise to develop their own strategy, and to use their skills to produce for the benefit of people and planet, and not be dictated to by the drive to produce profits.

Green Left supports the Visteon workers in their struggle, and other workers who take a similar action to defend their jobs against the self-interest of those who exploit them for profit.

Workers for the world unite."

Andy Hewett
Green Left Steering Group

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

An Unhappy 60th Birthday Celebration for NATO

I am just recovering from the events of last weekend, which included being teargassed (although I was not at the epicentre of that) and spending 17 hours on a coach trying to reach a besieged city. But it has made very obvious to me and to those who were in Strasbourg for the protests over the 60th anniversary NATO Summit the level of militarisation which Europe is now undergoing and a brief introduction for the citizens of one French city of what occupation feels like.

I left London with a group of anti-war activists from all over England and Scotland on last Friday at 6am. Firstly, we were photographed by the Met before we even left and our licence plates were radioed through by the police to some distant authority either here or in France to warn them that we were en route. All was plain sailing, literally in the case of crossing the Channel, until we reached the outskirts of Strasbourg. All routes to the city had been blocked by the French authorities and it took us over two hours to reach our destination, trying a variety of various side roads. I finally got to where I was staying at 1am, having spent 17 hours travelling. I found my hotel full of police and the whole city centre closed off to all. 25,000 police had been drafted in for the summit. We later found out that the rail lines from Germany had been cut and that the Schengen Agreement had been suspended to disallow democratic protest at the wars which NATO is planning and the billions of pounds, Euros and dollars being spent from our public purse to continue hegemonic policies. There are some indications of the fortification of the city here from this French site and the views of the people living there

The following morning we discovered that all the streets leading out of the city and towards the Rhine were being blocked by the CRS, the feared French riot police. Only residents living in the zone who had passes were allowed through and then only on foot or by bicycle. Together with a group of French trade unionists, an Irish peace activist living in Geneva and a German living in Switzerland, we tried to get through the various cordons. All routes seemed blocked off. To add to this surreal lock down of an entire city, a huge military convoy trundled through the city, with soldiers perched arrogantly on the top of the trucks and massive military helicopters (I counted five) hovered directly over the houses. Some of those I was with who had been at the European Social Forum meetings in Genoa etc, had said they never had witnessed anything on this scale. The French trade unionists has also never seen this level of police power and command of an entire city. One of them asked the police "Is this the Sarkozy democracy?"

Finally, as we managed to be mistaken for tourists, who were allowed into the tourist zone, we were able to make our way across the city to the demonstration which was in the harbour area. The original idea had been for the demonstration to meet on the Europa Bridge which links France and Germany but the Germans had shut down all rail links into Strasbourg. One person who had asked at the railway station about trains to Germany was told that all trains were cancelled.

The first thing we saw was large numbers of anarchists, called 'the Black Block' gathered near the Europa bridge. They were amassing paving stones and many were wearing masks and scarves. A large fire was burning on the bridge and German police with armoured cars and water cannon were on the other side of the bridge blocking access to Germany. Large numbers of police patrol boats were also in the Rhine. The Black Block had already set fire to a former customs post on the French side and plumes of smoke were rising. This was to become the leitmotif of the protests and the images which the media flashed around the world, totally ignoring the 30,000 demonstrators who marched for an end to war and NATO. The Black Block would later set fire to and destroy a hotel and several petrol stations, bus shelters and phone boxes in the area of the demonstration.

Back at the rally we heard various speakers including Bianca Jagger and Oliver Besancenot of the Left Party in France. Then the German person announcing the speakers told us that two groups using non violent direct action had managed to block the Summit for several hours that morning. Of course, none of this was reported in the media. I also saw French Greens there with Green pennants flying and spoke to them briefly. As the speakers continued we could see rising plumes of smoke from nearby and police firing tear gas from helicopters at the anarchists. The acrid smell of tear gas pervaded the area. The demonstration finally moved off and I was carrying a banner with Kate Hudson, Chair of CND, Andrew Murray, Chair of Stop the War Coalition and others. As we approached one of the bridges we could see that a ring of steel was drawn up with police vehicles with armoured fronts, it was similar to scenes from Northern Ireland riots. We turned into a narrow street over a goods railway line, which was surrounded by factories. By this time we could see that the Black Block had set fire to a hotel ahead and it was burning furiously. We allowed the fire engines to go through the demonstration.

The march came to a halt in this narrow street as the police had closed off the road ahead. I thought that this would be a perfect ambush site and this was indeed what happened. The police were now firing tear gas across the bridge behind us and we sat in the street hoping to move forward. The Black Block then moved several goods wagons across the line, effectively blocking the street and the police were coming from that direction. We could hear explosions ahead as tear gas was being fired. With the aid of several experienced international activists I made my way back along the rail line towards the river. This was because we could see that the Black Block were leading the rest of the demonstrators into a situation where they would be used as a shield and this is exactly what happened. Shortly afterwards the police tear gassed and attacked the demonstration. Panic then ensued and people tried to escape whatever way they could. I saw an unconscious woman being helped into a fire engine and several wounded journalists.

On our way back we found all routes back into the city closed off. Even the rail lines were being patrolled by the CRS. Finally at one check point we showed our papers to the CRS and were allowed through into the city. Passing through an area of social housing, with mainly ethnic minority inhabitants, we asked ourselves why none of these people had protested. The problem, which was discussed by many the following day at the conference, is that the French anti-war movement has not included the Muslim or ethnic minority groups at all and thus is much hampered. Indeed it was clear, when we could see their faces at all, that all of the Black Block were white.

There are some images of the demo here from a French site As you will see the actions of the Black Block jeopardised considerably the other demonstrators and left them open to the considerable police brutality which was on display.

The following day at the conference we heard speeches from the US and Japanese peace movements, both of whom, especially the Japanese sent a considerably sized delegation. We also heard from the those opposing NATO membership of their respective countries in Ukraine and Georgia and I also made contact with one of the Russian speakers from a group based in St Petersburg. John Rees from Stop the War Coalition was announced as "representing the largest anti-war movement in Europe" which is probably the case. Rees in his speech attacked the militarisation of Strasbourg by the authorities but also criticised the Black Block for their actions. He added that the anti-war movement needed to take these alienated youth on board as otherwise their political frustration and aggression would be directed elsewhere. He also made the very strong point that Obama had only succeeded in getting a few thousand troops for the war in Afghanistan, whereas it had taken the French and German governments to send more than 35,000 police and security forces to pen down the anti-war movement in Strasbourg. The anti-war movement had to continue to be the internal resistance in Europe to NATO's wars in Iraq and Afpak (Afghanistan and Pakistan).

Kate Hudson made a strong speech from the floor attacking the "political cowardice" of the Black Block in using others as a human shield and then disrobing and melting into the general demonstration. She also asked what was the political point of smashing up bus shelters in a working class part of the city which were used by poor people to access public transport. This was applauded loudly by many present.

Some Irish speakers invited people to attend a major peace protest there in September and assured us that it would be impossible to block access over the borders as Ireland was an island. When some of these same speakers protested over the use of tear gas and violence by the police, some of the Greek contingent replied that they were being tear gassed all the time and that it was part of confronting the state in many of these continental countries. But it is clear that the NATO states are prepared to militarise their own societies and put their own cities under occupation in order to drive through the war agenda.

After leaving the conference and going back to the peace camp where many of the activists were staying, we discovered that the roads to the camp had been blockaded by the CRS and those leaving the camp were having their baggage searched along with their persons. The police were confiscating anything described as "propaganda". This included papers from the conference and banners in English, many of which they could not understand anyway. One our party had a camera and managed to take photos of this. I promised to raise this with our MEPs on my return to London as I am certain that it is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Outside the cordon sanitaire, many locals waved goodbye to our coach which had a police escort to the motorway. Indeed one of the things which impressed me the most was the number of peace flags, stating 'No to NATO' which were hanging from balconies throughout the city.

A long journey to London lay ahead, which was incident free, but I was glad that I was present for this historic protest, which I hope will not mark the beginning of a new era of NATO led wars. 60 years is enough. It is time for NATO to collect its pension.

Monday, 6 April 2009

No to War! No to NATO!

I have just returned from the international protests to mark the 60th anniversary NATO Summit in Strasbourg and the counter summit held on the following day. I will report on these events later. But for the moment here is the statement from the International Coordinating Committee of No to NATO issued on April 5th . This includes Stop the War Coalition and CND. I support it completely and went to Strasbourg to support those opposing war and aggression.

60 Years are more than enough: No to NATO. No to War!

Our actions against aggressive NATO military policy during its 60th birthday from April 1st to 5th 2009, and at the end of the worldwide week of action of the World Social Forum in Belem, have been a great success despite massive obstructions. Our goal is to dissolve and dismantle NATO.

Along the lines of 'No to NATO - No to War!' thousands of people protested and participated in the international demonstration, the international conference, actions of civil and pacifist disobedience and the camp.

People from peace movements from all NATO countries were united to democratise and demilitarise the relationships between the people and to search for new forms of peaceful cooperation.

The German and French governments fear of their own citizens was obvious. It's the only explanation for the massive obstruction for the people living in this region, the police brutality, the many chicanes, the partial closing of the borders and the invalidation of the Schengen Treaty. Basic democratic rights were trampled on. Violence comes from the poweful and ruling. We want the end of the militarisation of the interior. We are defending Democracy.

The old NATO of confrontation of the two blocks with arms races, nuclear missiles, nuclear war plans lost its function at the end of the cold war. The new "global NATO" threatens with worldwide, unlawful military policy of intervention - hundreds of thousands of people and the environment, prevents the civilising of international politics, and blocks solutions to global challenges. With the adoption of the preemptive strike strategy from the Bush era the danger of new wars, even with nuclear weapons, threatens.

Because of this we demonstrated on April 4th 2009 for a political and peaceful answer to international conflicts, for the withdrawal of all troops - and an end to the war - in Afghanistan, disarmament, countering poverty, the protection of the environment, social justice and the realisation of human rights. We are against the militarisation of the European Union and against the Lisbon Treaty because it imposes a role for NATO on the EU. We want all foreign military bases, and all military structures used for wars, to be closed. We want the military budgets to decrease noticeably and the transfer of the resources to counter the rising global social problems, all the more in the biggest crisis for 80 years. The way out of the global crisis is not the martial rearrangement under the dictate of capital.

Our goal is a peace - spreading Europe in a world of solidarity. This is what we are going to work for.

Our participation in the 'birthday celebration' of NATO and other actions on April 4th in US, Turkey, Cyprus etc, were the start of numerous further actions against NATO in 2009 and in the following years. We stood up for freedom, we will resume our resistance against war and authoritarian states. We will continue our international cooperation 'No to NATO. No to War!'

60 years after the founding 20 years since the end of the confrontation of the blocks we No to NATO as a requirement for a world without war, for peace, justice, solidarity and democracy.