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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Cat among the parliamentarians


Attending a reception yesterday in the House of Commons to launch the report 'Every Disabled Child Matters' the lobby was full of media correspondents eagerly awaiting the result of the Speaker ballot. Alan Wheatley, the Green Party's National Disability Spokesperson, and I were in the company of various MPs, including the Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Norman Lamb and the Conservative Spokesperson on Health, Ann Milton, along with the Minister with responsibility for disabled children.


I was joined by Jeremy Corbyn MP, whom I know from Stop the War Coalition. As we were discussing the interim results of the latest round in the Speaker ballot - and he was predicting that Bercow would win - he suddenly drew my attention to a large mouse running along the floor of the Members Dining Room, right beside Alan's foot. "Very ecological" he commented. I suggested that they should have some parliamentary cats to carry out effective ecological vermin control but also to join the other fat cats languishing on the parliamentary benches. Jeremy agreed and said that MPs had now overtaken bankers in the unpopularity stakes. I can always offer my own feline friend to the parliamentary authorities on a hourly basis, but it would need to be listed in the expenses register.

Mark Steel


A good interview here with Mark Steel about the state of the Left in the UK today and some of his experience as a former member of the SWP. He also has positive things to say about the Greens and was a guest speaker at the Green Left fringe at Green Party conference last year in Reading. Went to see an excellent show he did last year on the history of the French Revolution.




Thanks to the Socialist Unity site for this link and to Salman Sheen a Green blogger.


There’s a bit in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where the eponymous character starts paraphrasing Moby Dick. “I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!” he cries. Tracking down comedian Mark Steel can be a bit like that. Between appearances on shows like QI, Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week, and his stand-up performances, including this year’s Mark Steel’s In Town broadcast on Radio 4 from the more obscure parts of Britain, it’s hardly surprising he has a somewhat hectic schedule.

But, in the wake of the disastrous European Elections, Steel was kind enough to talk to me about that perennially gloomy topic, the state of the Left today, and the few rays of light he’s seen.
Thirty years after Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the British Left is still sitting on the steps of the amphitheatre shouting “Splitters!” It’s an unfortunate pattern that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Mark Steel, who wrote in the Independent earlier this month that the Left, despite seemingly facing ideal conditions for success, “has a self-destruct button, and can’t stand being popular.” But did he have high hopes for Respect following the greatest mass movement of our time? “Respect had difficulties, but it had potential,” he says. “Whether something succeeds or not is not just a matter of whether it has a figurehead that gets on the news and so on, although that is very helpful, but it’s about getting a group of people in every area who seem to be doing things.” It seems an obvious starting point and Steel is quick to point out that it’s nothing new. “Going back to the English Civil War, that’s how agitation groups managed to get some sort of hearing. It’s not just being on the radio and saying things that people like.”

Of course, the state of the Left would be more depressing than even I imagined if the only successes it could tout were almost four centuries ago. Steel’s more recent inspirations can be found in the Scottish Socialist Party. “The SSP managed to get to a point where it could get 7% of the vote across the whole of Scotland,” he says. “That’s because Tommy Sheridan and his colleagues were known through the 90s, not just because they campaigned over the poll tax, but also when people who refused to pay had bailiffs coming round, the SSP organised people in the area to defend that person’s property.” It was a tactic, Steel argues, that was very successful both in the short-term and in the long-term. “In the short-term it meant people’s armchairs weren’t dragged out by the bailiffs. In the long-term it meant the poll tax was defeated.” Steel notes that they won themselves an immense amount of credibility over that. People trusted them. “They won an enormous amount of respect. But then they pressed the self destruct button.

But they did manage to get to that place first. And similarly, Respect did win in Bethnal Green. You can laugh at all the cat business. But it took an immense amount of organisation. George [Galloway] had won such respect because of his constant agitating over the war. But it wasn’t just that. There’s a company in Brick Lane that a lot of Bengali people put their money into and it went bankrupt, and George has campaigned over that and won concessions. It’s a combination of local everyday life things and the big issues such as the war in Iraq that made people trust him.”
In the end, though, Respect “tore itself apart in a feud about nothing that anyone can work out.” Did Steel find himself won over by Galloway’s Respect Renewal in light of his successes? “I’m not a member of Respect and I’m not going to be. But the Socialist Workers Party caused that feud. They’ve admitted as much now. In their own words, they ‘went nuclear’. They justified it as a Left-Right split. But once you end up categorising Ken Loach as a witch hunter then you’ve gone a bit haywire haven’t you?”

Following the election of two BNP members to the European Parliament, the SWP put out an open letter to the Left urging unity for the next election. It’s unusually conciliatory tone seemed to some bloggers to be a step in the right direction. “I don’t think anyone will take the blindest bit of notice,” Steel says and it’s not hard to miss the sense of bitterness in his voice now. “It’s hilarious! You can’t go round trashing everything and everybody and then… you know, it was awful, really, really awful. It was particularly awful for longstanding SWP members, because you’d think, what the hell are we doing?” Steel is a great fan of Linda Smith, the chair of Respect Renewal. He describes her as “one of the most principled trade unionists I’ve ever known, a really, really gutsy woman.” But, “because she took the George Galloway side, the SWP called her a ballot rigger and invented this entirely fictitious story that she’d rigged her election position. You can’t then a year later write a letter to her and say ‘well let’s let all that be past and let’s see if we can set up something else.’” Steel’s friends would seem to agree with him. “I’ve got a mate who says it’s like an alcoholic going back to his wife and saying ‘I’ll be different this time I promise!’”

Steel himself did not have the easiest of divorces from the SWP. It would be hard to imagine Alex Callinicos’s review of his memoir What’s Going On? being so negative if he were still a member of the party, whilst a certain capitalised colloquialism for the female anatomy has been amongst the more hateful comments he has received. “One bloke called me a TWAT and he was a twat. He wrote about a hundred comments on my website, each one managing to beat the previous ones in their incoherence and madness.” But Steel does not regret his experiences over the past decades. “If you leave something you’ve been in for a long time, most people say they don’t regret it except that they wish they’d left a couple of years earlier. It’s a bit like when your marriage breaks up. I probably should have left a bit earlier.” But, he says, “When I joined the SWP, it was young and a natural home for people who wanted to campaign over every issue. Not only that, it had the ideas.” The party’s analysis of the collapsing Soviet Union as a state capitalist society is a case in point. “It doesn’t mean that socialism is redundant, it proves that those states were not socialist in the first place, which is what we always said. If you believe that those countries were socialist, either you defend them on the ridiculous ground that these barbaric bloody places were the sort of regimes that we should aspire to recreate, or you conclude that socialism is bound to end up with people in gulags for looking at the regional politburo officer the wrong way.”

I ask Steel if there’s anywhere in the world that he does consider socialist and if there’s any country he draws encouragement from. “I think Cuba you can draw encouragement from, but I don’t think it’s socialist,” he says. “Venezuela I don’t believe is in the control of the working class, but Chavez has clearly gone out of his way to protect his working class base by using the oil money to fund projects that the ruling class hate. Henceforth three times they’ve risen up in rage, with the backing of George Bush, to try to overthrow the democratically elected government and every time he was forced back by a genuine uprising. I think anyone vaguely interested in human decency must be encouraged by that.”

Mark Steel believes that Chavez in Venezuela has done exactly the sort of thing the Left should be doing here. “I would imagine in Venezuela, lots of people would think ‘oh yeah he goes on about socialism and anti- imperialism and this, that and the other, and I sort of half follow what he’s going on about, but I tell you what, the schools are better since he was in.’ And that’s what socialists have to do. You win a hearing on the bigger issues by proving that you can handle the day to day issues.”

For Steel, this can’t be achieved by tiny parties shuffling themselves into different transient alliances. It has to be built from the bottom up with campaigners taking principled stances on the issues that matter to people. “I saw the Green Party doing that in lots of areas. There was a point when the socialist groups would do that, but the Greens have occupied that territory now.”
It’s easy for me to understand where Steel’s coming from. Although I spent a fraction of the time he did in the SWP, I am a former member of Respect who has found a new political home in the Green Party. But, I put it to Steel; can the Greens ever whip disaffected socialists like us into the kind of flag-waving fist-raising zeal of the past? “I don’t know,” he says after some thought. “There is going to be some tension between a Green Party outlook and a socialist outlook. The Greens are not based on trade unions. But there is socialist contingent in the Greens that is growing.” Steel spoke at their conference last year. “I was very impressed with them,” he says. “Caroline Lucas is a very impressive character. There are people in the Greens, Jonathon Porritt type characters, who are very much establishment people, free market, friends with Prince Charles, which doesn’t sit easy with someone on the Left. But they’ve definitely moved towards a more agitational stance and I think that socialists could certainly feel comfortable within the Greens.”

Of course the Greens, despite substantially increasing their share of the vote in the European Elections, significantly failed to increase their number of seats. Steel often jokes that he jinxes every cause he supports. But what’s really holding the Left back? “It’s not because the SWP and George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan are all bonkers. The reason that these people are to different degrees bonkers is because it has been very, very difficult to promote socialist ideas in Britain in recent times. The working class movement in this country was smashed much more seriously than anywhere else in Western Europe, by Thatcher’s laws initially, and then ideologically by Blair.”

Steel cut his political teeth in Thatcher’s Britain. But it is for Tony Blair that it seems he reserves most of his angry incredulity. “The extraordinary thing about Blair is not just that he said and did what he did, but that the bulk of the labour movement went along with it, however grudgingly. Even at the end, after Iraq, after all that had gone on, all the privatisation, all the scandals, he spoke at the TUC and apart from Bob Crow and a few people from the RMT, they just let him.” There’s a bit in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when another character, one James T. Kirk, tells a young officer: “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.”

On his website, Mark Steel jokes, “I’ve spoken at lots of demonstrations and union meetings and protests, and appeared at quite a few benefits, and yet capitalism still seems to rule the world.” And perhaps it’s in this that we can find our greatest inspiration in these troubling times. Throughout his career Steel has successfully used comedy as a vehicle for politics and politics as a subject for comedy. The leftists who’ve been prepared to satirise their own viewpoints have always had more resonance for me than those who are dour and right-on to the point of humourlessness. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from people like Mark Steel, is that laughing at our beliefs can stop us crying because of them.
http://www.marksteelinfo.com/

Refugee Week Award


Last week was Refugee Week and together with other members of Green Left I spent some days trying to help the SOAS cleaners, many of whom have already been removed to Latin America. Yesterday I learned that Peter Tatchell won the London Citizen of Sanctuary Award 2009. Peter works tirelessly for those at the margins of society and said some months ago at a fundraising event that he answers several hundred appeals for help every day. As Peter says below, it is important that the vital work of organisations such as No Borders and the Refugee Council is acknowledged, especially now in these times of increasing racism and xenophobia with the Labour government giving in to the BNP's agenda on migration and refugees and ministers such as Phil Woolas spouting editorials from the Daily Mail.


Happening to come across an issue of the same rag, I saw two articles only a page apart last week. The first was on how travellers and Roma were receiving priveliged treatment in GP sugeries and from the NHS - the second was on the latterday pogrom of Romanian Roma in Belfast. Surely no connection? It is vital that such peddling of hate and prejudice continues to be challenged. And the work of these organisations is vital.




To mark Refugee Week 2009, Peter Tatchell was one of three public figures honoured with the London Citizen of Sanctuary Award 2009, in recognition of his work campaigning on behalf of refugees.

The other winners were Labour MP Neil Gerrard and actress Juliet Stevenson.

All three were honoured at a ceremony at the New Players Theatre in London on Sunday night, 21 June 2009, which included a performance of the Asylum Monologues by the troupe, Actors for Human Rights.

London City of Sanctuary is part of a growing network of British cities and towns dedicated to promoting a culture of hospitality and welcome to people seeking sanctuary from persecution, including persecution on the grounds of their politics, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

See its website here:
http://www.cityofsanctuary.org/london

Accepting his award, Peter Tatchell said:

“I accept this award with honour, gratitude and humility. I am just a small part of a vast network of individuals and organisations who support refugees fleeing persecution. Many of these refugees have suffered arrest, imprisonment, torture, rape and attempts to kill them.

“Cumulatively and collectively, we are helping transform their lives for the better. This is hugely rewarding emotionally – for the refugees, and for all of us involved in helping ensure they have a place of sanctuary here in London.

“I would like to pay tribute to the magnificent work of organisations such as the Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Medical Justice, Bail Circle, Bail for Immigration Detainees, No Borders, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, Lesbian and Gay Asylum Team and many others.

“Together, over the years, these organisations have made a huge positive difference to the lives of tens of thousands of refugees,”
said Mr Tatchell.

Conservative Party joins new Right Wing Coalition in the European Parliament


In their drive to distance themselves from the main right of centre European People's Party, the UK Conservative Party has joined a new grouping in the European Parliament. During the recent European election hustings in London, one of the Conservative candidates said that the EPP was "too confessional",i.e. that it believed in a European federalist agenda and therefore that the Tories had to go into the wilderness and find new allies. Well now they have and some of those allies are very strange indeed. This confirms what many said during the election campaign and also what several questioners have raised during TV programmes such as 'Question Time' when Kenneth Clarke, for example, looked tortured last week when trying to address the issue.


All of this begs the question of whether 'the nasty party' remains such and if David Cameron's shiny new coat of paint is just covering up the same old habits - rampant homophobia, xenophobia and various other forms of bigotry and prejudice. Peter Tatchell of the Green Party gives his take on the latest developments below. As the old proverb goes "Birds of a feather fly together."


Tories ally with anti-gay Polish MEPS

New Euro alliance is an insult to Jewish, gay and women voters

London – 22 June 2009

“The modern, liberal image that David Cameron has been trying to cultivate is seriously damaged by his decision to team up with Poland’s homophobic Law and Justice Party (PiS),” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

“This party has strong links with the misogynistic and anti-Semitic Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja.”

Mr Tatchell was commenting on the formation of the new political bloc in the European Parliament, which includes British Conservatives and the Polish Law and Justice Party.

“Jewish, gay and women voters will be appalled to see the Tories cooperating with such a nasty, bigoted party. It calls into question the sincerity of David Cameron’s professed conversion to progressive Conservatism,” said Mr Tatchell.

See this news story about the prejudiced policies of the PiS:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/02/david-cameron-alliance-polish-nationalists

http://www.petertatchell.net/

You can follow Peter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell or join the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Campaign Facebook group at http://tinyurl.com/cj9y6s

Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East www.greenoxford.com/peter and http://www.petertatchell.net/

Monday, 22 June 2009

Green Left AGM


Green Left is now 3 years old and had its AGM on Saturday in Archway, north London. We had members present from Norwich, Manchester, Luton, Brighton, West Midlands, Tameside and, of course, many from London. After introductions and the minutes of last year's AGM, Martin Francis from Brent Green Party, who is an activist in the anti-Academies movement, led off with a fascinating description of the history of the privatisation of schools under New Labour and the ideological and practical resistance. Martin, who is a former headmaster, is standing in a council by election in Brent next month, and deserves all the support he can get. The issue of the Lewisham Bridge school campaign was raised, where the protesters are still on the roof after a campaign lasting many weeks but are about to be evicted. There were very strong views expressed about the actions of some Green councillors in Lewisham on this issue but a motion of censure was defeated and it was agreed to bring this to autumn conference instead. The London region had already last week passed a motion reiterating the party's opposition to Academy schools and calling upon all elected representatives to follow national party policy.


I then gave an update on the results of the European elections in various countries across the EU and how the Greens, the Left and the Far Right had fared in the different countries. This then led to a general discussioin about the political direction of Europe and what the electoral fallout had been in the UK. Most concern was obviously about the success of the BNP and some people expressed the view that the tactics of Unite Against Fascism and Hope not Hate had failed utterly in the North West region, where Nick Griffin had been elected.


The members of the outgoing Steering Group then gave their reports of what had happened over the last year and it was felt that there had been many successes for Green Left, including spearheading motions to party conference on the economy and migration. Our involvement in various campaigns was also noted, the latest of which was the occupation at SOAS, where our members had taken the lead, together with many other groups from the broad Left. Votes of thanks were passed for the hard work of our Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Pete Murry, and our Political Outreach Officer, Andy Hewett.


The new Steering Group was elected and the members are as follows:

Co-Convenors - Joseph Healy (Lambeth) and Sue Tibbles (Oxford)

Secretary - Andy Hewett (Greenwich)

Treasurer - Pete Murry (Brent)

Membership Secretary - Pete Murry (Brent)

Political Outreach Officer - Andy Hewett (Greenwich)

Press Officer - Phelim Mac Cafferty (Brighton)

Trade Union Liaison Officer - Sue Tibbles (Oxford)

Youth and Students Officer - Aaron Kiely (Canterbury)

International Liaison Officers - Jane Ennis (Camden) and Joseph Healy (Lambeth)

Regional Reps - North West, Gayle O'Donovan (Manchester) East, Malcolm Bailey (Luton) South East, Phelim Mac Cafferty (Brighton) South West, Nick Foster and Katie Buse (Bristol) West Midlands, Roy Sandison, East Midlands, Paul Frost (Mansfield)


There was then a discussion on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan led by Farid Bakht from London who is a journalist on South Asian issues. We agreed to continue our support for and involvement in Convention of the Left which will be held in Brighton in late September to coincide with the Labour conference. Several of our members are on the Steering Group of the Convention.
We also agreed to co-sponsor an event with Socialist Resistance, also in September in London, on 'Climate Change and Capitalism' which will see the noted Ecosocialist writer and editor, Ian Angus, who is based in Canada, speak and there will be a speaker from Green Left also. We agreed to place an ad in the Morning Star and to have a link to the Morning Star from our website. It was felt that although we do not agree with much of what the CPB gets up to, that the Morning Star is a newspaper read widely by those on the Left in UK politics and as such, that we should have access and contact with it.


We then had some discussion on motions going forward to the autumn conference of the Green Party, as the list is now up on the members' site. We also discussed the possibility of organising one or two fringes at the conference covering issues such as Afghanistan, as there is a motion on this, but also on building a new Left in Britain and inviting speakers from other groupings such as Respect.


We finished up discussing forthcoming campaigns and there were requests from those outside London to organise more meetings in the regions. Unfortunately, we did not have time to discuss the Summer Camp, which will be held near Manchester this August to coincide with the 190th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre and we hope to take part in that commemoration. We also discussed the urgent need for more funding and we are going to organise a fundraising event in the near future, plus issue requests for members to make out Standing Orders. A request to increase our subscription charge to more than £5 per annum was defeated, as it was felt that in these recessionary times it could put off more unwaged and low waged members.


We were joined by two Polish Greens, one of whom runs a left wing website in Poland which I have looked at and contains some very interesting articles both in Polish and English. They joined us in the local pub afterwards for a few drinks. Here is the website and some info from Wiki http://www.krytykapolityczna.pl/English/menu-id-113.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krytyka_Polityczna


We got through most of the important business and I find myself Co-Convenor for another year. Green Left has its work cut out with a general election within the next year, the continuing economic crisis, the rise of Fascism and the difficulties of buiding a broad Left in this country. The year ahead will carry many challenges both within and outside the Green Party. The experience of the Irish Greens, which Caroline Lucas alluded to at the recent Compass 'No Turning Back' conference, is a warning to us all of what can go wrong. Our purpose continues to be 'Greening the Reds and reddening the Greens.'


Friday, 19 June 2009

Iran Protest


We are witnessing a titanic stuggle in Iran for democracy and to creat a more liberal state than the one which has existed since 1979. Many commentators have pointed out that it is a very youthful nation and many of these young people want a more tolerant and open country. Today the Supreme Leader, Khameni, has supported the validity of the elections and called for the demonstrations to stop. The die is now cast. I suspect that the full powers of the state will be turned on the protesters soon and we could see real bloodshed - not that there has not been some already.


Last night Peter Tatchell went with members of Outrage and others to protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London. There they met Iranians in London who were also protesting. A report and pictures of the protest are below.


Gays join Iran democracy protest in London

Ahmadinejad admits that gays exist in Iran and that they voted against him

London – 19 June 2009

Click here for PHOTOS – Credit: Peter Tatchell/OutRage!. Free use – no charge http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/3641118304/in/set-72157619868981423/
NB: Click on the desired photo and then on the magnifying glass to bring up the high resolution version for downloading. The photos include both gay and straight protesters.


Nearly 600 people – both straight and gay – joined last night’s demonstration in London in solidarity with the Iranian people’s mass protests for democracy and human rights.

The rally was held outside the Iranian Embassy and included a gay contingent comprising members of OutRage!, Iraqi LGBT and gay Muslims.

“Although there were a few awkward looks, we received a mostly warm welcome from the predominantly straight Iranian protesters,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who had encouraged people to turnout on Thursday night, to coincide with the mass protests in Tehran the same day.

“Some thanked us for joining the demonstration; others specifically emphasised their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
(LGBT) rights. It was a very positive move to have a visible gay presence at the rally. I think we generated considerable goodwill from many of those in attendance.

“We joined the protest to show our solidarity with the heroic freedom struggle of the Iranian people.

“We support Iranian LGBTs who demand an end to state-sponsored homophobia, including the repeal of laws that result in the arrest, imprisonment, flogging and execution of queers.

“We also support Iran’s defiant women’s rights activists, the jailed trade unionists, the beaten and murdered students, the persecuted Baha’is and Sunni Muslims, and Iran’s oppressed ethnic minorities, the Arabs, Kurds, Baluchs and Azeris. Their struggle is our struggle, because human rights are universal.

“At a speech at Columbia University in New York in 2007, the man who claims the Iranian presidency after the recent disputed election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, boasted that there are ‘no gays’ in Iran.

“But now in his latest broadside against the pro-democracy protesters in Tehran, he has accused his political opponents of ‘officially recognising thieves, homosexuals and scumbags’ in order to win their votes. The old tyrant has let the cat of the bag. Gay people exist in Iran and they - and millions of others - voted against him. Hurrah!”
said Mr Tatchell.

See The Guardian newspaper:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/18/iran-election-protests-mahmoud-ahmadinejad

Further info: Peter Tatchell 0207 403 1790

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Stop Barroso!


Today and tomorrow the Summit Meeting of the EU is being held and one of the issues on the agenda is the reappointment of Barroso as President of the European Commission. Barroso is supported by the conservative block in the European Parliament and by the conservative governments in France and Germany. But the Greens are determined to build up a coalition within the Parliament to prevent Barroso from being re-elected.


Details of why a Commission headed by Barroso would be a disaster for the EU are here


With the Copenhagen Climate Conference at the end of the year and the Swedish Presidency due to begin next month, it is essential that the EU is headed by someone of vision with progressive views and not by someone who stands for more of the same.

SOAS Occupation Ends


Yesterday the occupation of SOAS by the students in protest over the arrest and deportation of cleaners, many of whom were UNISON members, ended. The protest, which was supported by the London Green Party and Jean Lambert MEP, ended when a series of demands were agreed to by management. These were as follows:


1.SOAS will write directly to the Home Secretary within 12 hours of the end of the protest, requesting that he grants exceptional leave to remain in the UK those cleaners who are still being detained. In addition, SOAS will request the immediate return of those who have been deported and exceptional leave to remain for those forced into hiding by Friday's raid.


2. SOAS will open discussions with ISS, and separately with UNISON, UCU and the SU, to review in detail the events of last Friday.


3. SOAS will discuss the possibility of bringing cleaning services in-house at the next scheduled meeting of its Governing Body.


4. SOAS will leet with the relevant unions to discuss health and safety issues relating to immigration raids and acknowledge UCU policy of non-compliance with immigration raids.


5. SOAS will not take action against those involved in the protest.


This is a victory for the students and for those trade union activists from UCU and UNISON who took part in the protests. Jonathan Buckner, a student Green Left member, spent more than 24 hours in the occupation. It is ironic that all of this should have occurred during Refugee Week, where SOAS is one of the sponsors. We now have to see if the management will keep its side of the agreement and what will happen to those cleaners still held at Yarls Wood and awaiting deportation.
But there are more long term issues also involved which include the Labour government's request for lecturers and universities to act as unofficial immigration officers by reporting students who are deemed not to be in the colleges legally. UCU, the college lecturers' union, has refused to cooperate with this racist and anti-human rights policy. As one speaker, who works in the field of migrant rights, said at the SOAS demo - how long before immigration officers are entering student classrooms and removing students at gunpoint? And should lecturers and educationalists be expected to act as an arm of the state?
All of this must be grist to the mill of the BNP. By its anti-migrant rhetoric and actions, the Labour government is continuing to feed that paranoia and hatred which has led to hundreds of Romanians in Belfast being evacuated from their homes because of racist attacks. And these are EU citizens who have every right to live anywhere in the UK. In this Refugee Week there has never been a more urgent need to protect the rights of refugees and migrants.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

More on SOAS Occupation




The student occupation at SOAS continues. News today was that the university authorities had gained an injunction to evict the students. However, by this afternoon news had come through that negotiations had started between the Director and the students. In the meantime, Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert, issued the following press release:




GREEN MEP DEMANDS ANSWERS AFTER SOAS REMOVALS


From the Office of Jean Lambert London’s Green Party Member of the European Parliament Immediate release: 16 June 2009

Jean Lambert MEP has written to the Home Office after it emerged that five of the SOAS cleaners arrested on Friday 12 June were removed from the UK over the weekend.

Jean has asked the Home Office to clarify the procedures that immigration officers are expected to follow, after details of the detention and arrest of the staff emerged.

Those close to the situation have explained that cleaners were summoned at 6.30am on Friday to attend what they were told was an ‘emergency staff meeting’ – instead they found themselves in a closed space where over 40 immigration officers in full riot gear were waiting to arrest them. At the detention centre, they were denied access to legal or union representation and no interpreter was provided, so that many of them, as native Spanish speakers, were unable to communicate. It is believed that immigration officers were called in by ISS, the cleaning contractor, even though it has employed many of these staff for years.

It has emerged that six cleaners have been removed and others could face removal within days.

There are grave concerns about the health and wellbeing of those arrested:
it has emerged that one of the cleaners is six months pregnant, and another is believed to have suffered a heart attack brought on by the ordeal. Many of their families are unaware of their whereabouts.

On Friday Jean joined fellow Green Jenny Jones, member of the London Assembly, in condemning the raid at SOAS [1]. Last night, the London Federation of Green Parties passed an emergency motion in support of the workers. Today, [Tuesday 16 June] Jean said:


“This dawn raid was utterly deplorable – a sly, underhand action which seems to have been calculated to cause maximum intimidation and distress. The draconian scare tactics are all the more shameful now we learn of the particular vulnerability of some of those arrested.

“Such raids raise fundamental questions about the status of migrant workers and their right to dignified treatment which in this case was forcefully denied. We need to know why and how this particular sequence of events came about. That’s why I have written to the Home Office seeking clarification of the procedures immigration officers are supposed to follow. I will ask ISS and SOAS to clarify their role in this targeting of workers, many of whom have been employed by the contractor for years. It is also imperative that the families of those involved are told where their relatives are being held, and remain fully informed as to their welfare and status.”

Jean also expressed solidarity with the students and activists currently occupying SOAS in protest at the treatment the staff received from immigration officers.

“It is heartening to see the display of support from students and activists at SOAS who are prepared to speak up for the rights of these workers and I support their campaign.

“We cannot allow this raid to leave other migrant workers in London too afraid to demand the basic employment and civil rights to which they are entitled. We must redouble our support for those, like these workers, who have campaigned for the rights of workers and the living wage across London.
[2]”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Jean Lambert is one of eight MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. Jean was first elected in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.

[1] See http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/news_detail.php?id=477

[2] The workers who were arrested and detained on Friday had been active in the “Justice for Cleaners” campaign, also championed by student activists, to win the London Living Wage and trade union representation.

For updates on the situation at SOAS, visit http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/

For more information please contact:
Rosie Lavan, London Media Assistant
media-assistant@jeanlambertmep.org.uk
07760 220424




My thanks to Green Party colleagues Pete Murry and Shahrar Ali for the photos from inside the occupation and outside today.

SOAS Occupation


Last night the London Federation of Green Parties passed an emergency motion supporting the demands of the students in occupation of SOAS at London University. We also had a speaker from the occupation address the meeting. Several Green Left activists and Green Party Trade Union Group members attended the demo yesterday afternoon, and one of them, Jonathan Buckner has been there overnight. Morale is high and there will be another demo this afternoon attended by Jeremy Corbyn MP and Tony Benn. I salute the brave stance that the students and union activists are taking at the college.






We call on the directorate to request the secretary of state to immediately release the detainees and to prevent the deportation of the three cleaners who are still in detention in the UK.
For the directorate to release a public statement condemning what has happened to the SOAS cleaners and calling for their immediate release and return.
To campaign for the return of the cleaners who have already been deported.
To bring all contract staff in house. SOAS should not use contractors, ISS or others.
To keep immigration officers from entering campus under ANY circumstances or other forms of collaboration with immigration or police. Universities are for education not for state violence and oppression.
A year's wage as reparations for all detained and deported staff.
To hold accountable SOAS managers who were complicit in facilitating the raid and detention of the cleaners, refusing to aid a sick worker and a pregnant woman.
To reinstate Jose Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS UNISON branch chair.
To respect the right to organise in Trade Unions unimpeded.
To provide space and resources for a public meeting to build support for the SOAS 9 and other migrants, in education and beyond, affected by immigration control and racism.
Amnesty for all those involved.

One of the detained cleaners today stated, “We’re honest people not animals. We are just here to earn an honest living for our families. SOAS management are being unfair.”
Joanne, one of the occupying students said,“Universities should be sanctuaries: places free of violence and aggression. SOAS’s reputation as a university has been tainted today due to the complicity of state brutality in the arrest of the cleaners.”
Graham Dyer, lecturer in Economics of Developing Countries and SOAS branch chair of lecturers’ union UCU, said:“Our fight has united lecturers, staff and students and has rocked SOAS management. Those managers are now lashing out.
“It is a disgrace that SOAS management saw fit to use a seat of learning to intimidate migrant workers. This is their underhand revenge and we will do all we can to stop migrant workers paying the price.”
The campaign to stop the deportation is supported by Tony Benn, MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, film director Ken Loach, and many trade unionists and student activists.
John McDonnell MP said:“As living wage campaigns are building in strength, we are increasingly seeing the use of immigration statuses to attack workers fighting against poverty wages and break trade union organising.
“The message is that they are happy to employ migrant labour on poverty wages, but if you complain they will send you back home. It is absolutely shameful.”
Ken Loach said:
“This raid is the action of a bully. Migrant workers are amongst the most vulnerable – poorly paid and far from home.
“Recent action by Unison to secure better wages and conditions at SOAS was good news. Now we wonder if the SOAS cleaners are being targeted because they dared to organise as trade unionists.”
The current occupation is a reflection of broad outrage against these actions by all sectors of society. This raid is widely seen as a continuation of current trends to remove immigrant labour and to maintain impossibly low wages.
Cleaning contractor ISS used the same tactics against tube cleaners that went on strike with the result that key activists were deported. The use of immigration law is bering used for union busting.
contact: Clare Solomon on 07958 034 181 Email: freesoascleaners@googlemail.comBlog: freesoascleaners.blogspot.com

Friday, 12 June 2009

Bread and Roses in London


This morning, accompanied by a colleague from the Green Party Trade Union Group, I went along to a demonstration organised by the UNISION branch at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University. On May 1st I had taken part in a May Day demo there with members of the Green Party Trade Union Group and Jean Lambert MEP speaking about the rights of migrant workers in the college, many of whom work in the catering and cleaning departments and who were demanding the London Living Wage. Some of the colleges, including SOAS, have acceeded to these demands but others have not. The leading activist among the migrant workers and a UNISON member is Stalin Bermudez. He was recently sacked and we went along today to protest at a SOAS Board meeting about this. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that at 7am, members of the Border Agency police had raided the college and taken away 9 migrant cleaning workers for possible deportation.


I addressed the rally, together with the UNISON branch officers, and said that Jean Lambert would support the workers and do everything possible to limit their terrible ordeal. I compared what was happening to the plot of Ken Loach's film, Bread and Roses, which I recently saw again on Film 4. It is incredible that such things are happening in London today and striking on a Friday, there is a strong possibility that the workers will be deported before they can gain proper access to legal representation - although the union is doing all it can for them.


Jean Lambert and Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones have issued the following press release.


ELECTED GREENS CONDEMN ARREST OF SOAS WORKERS


From the Office of Jean Lambert MEP Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12 June 2009

Jean Lambert MEP and Jenny Jones AM have condemned the arrest of nine cleaning workers at SOAS this morning [Friday 12 June].

It is believed that the staff, mainly of Ecuadorian and possibly Colombian origin, have been arrested and are being processed for deportation.

A demonstration had been organised at SOAS this morning in support of Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS Unison branch chair, who was sacked earlier this year after a highly controversial disciplinary process. A Unison representative arrived at the college, just off Russell Square, at 7am this morning to discover a number of immigration control officers who had detained and were processing cleaning staff, and interrogating them about their status. The union received no prior warning.

The Green Party has pledged its full support for the staff, and Jean Lambert MEP is already in contact with the union, who are arranging legal representation. Unison and UCU were holding an emergency meeting to decide on subsequent action.

Jean Lambert, London’s Green Party MEP, said:

“The circumstances and aims of this raid are utterly deplorable. These cleaning staff have been treated like criminals, and the timing of the raid is particularly reprehensible – first thing in the morning at the end of the university term, with fewer people around to intervene. Luckily, the union has been on hand to help arrange legal assistance for those arrested, and it is also fortunate that the demonstration – ironically called to highlight existing concerns about the treatment of SOAS staff – meant that this raid was noticed and immediate steps could be taken.

“I reiterate and reinforce the support already pledged by the Green Party, and I will be monitoring this case and its outcomes closely. Today’s events highlight the need to find ways for people to regularise their status so that their vital contribution to London and society in general is recognised. It also makes the Strangers Into Citizens campaign, organised by London Citizens, still more urgent.”

Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly, said:

"The effect of such ruthlessness on these workers and on their families is a cruel punishment. Workers have the right to be treated with courtesy and this raid is beneath contempt. Is this really how the Government tells them how to behave?"

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Jean Lambert MEP is an expert on employment and asylum and immigration issues and is an active campaigner for the London Living Wage. On 1 May 2009 she addressed a May Day Living Wage rally at the Bloomsbury colleges in London. Stalin Bermudez also spoke at this demo.

Jenny Jones is a Green Party Member of the London Assembly. She sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority.

For more details of the London Citizens Strangers Into Citizens campaign visit http://www.strangersintocitizens.org.uk/

For more information please contact:
Rosie Lavan, London Media Assistant
media-assistant@jeanlambertmep.org.uk
07760 220424

A Far Away Country Of Which We Know Nothing


The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, North London, is to be congratulated for its excellent programmes of political plays. Over the last few weeks I have been to see several of the trilogy which is entitled 'The Great Game' and which deals with the history and politics of Afghanistan. I believe it is essential for audiences in the UK to understand what exactly are the history and geopolitics which affect this country - an area of Central Asia which is now where the UK, and the US, are fighting a major war. Not a day goes by without the announcement of further casualties and this is withoug mentioning the major loss of civilain life there also.


The war has now spilled over into Pakistan and the Americans are now deeply worried about the prospect of Pakistani nuclear weapons being seized in transit or taken by rogue army officers. Indeed this conflict will soon eclipse Iraq as the major battleground for the UK and NATO. It involves the Central Asian states, Iran, Russia and Pakistan and India.


'The Great Game' was a series of short plays by a range of writers and dealt chronologically with British, Soviet and US/UK involvement in the country. The first part of the trilogy dealt with the disastrous First and Second Afghan Wars involving the British and acted as a grim warning to all potential invaders in this harshest of lands. Part One ended with a reforming king, who had the support of Lenin's Soviet Russia, being driven from power by the conservative mullahs and tribes for his attempts to change this ancient land.


The Second Part dealt with the Soviet invasion and the communist governments, including an interview with the former Communist President, Najibullah, whom the Taliban castrated and hung from a lamppost in Kabul as a warning to all infidels. It ended with the coming to power of the Taliban and a play set in Kabul zoo, where a female head of a UN agency was shocked by the brutal justice of the Taliban, who fed two criminals to the lions, who had killed two of her UN workers. The Taliban minister stated: " Who are you to seek to impose your ideas of justice on us.?" This continuing refrain about the role of the outside world (whether Imperial Britain or Soviet Russia) in the affairs of Afghanistan echoed through all of the plays.


The Third Part brought us up to date with the overthrow of the Taliban and the continuing NATO war. One of the plays also dealt with the views of British squaddies there, unsure of why exactly they were there and of whether there should be negotiations with the Taliban. In some senses this was a full circle to the first play in Part One, where several redcoated British soldiers who had witnessed their entire army being massacred on the retreat from Kabul in the 1840s, gazed in blinking incomprehension on the merciless terrain and its, to their eyes, strange inhabitants.


This is the sort of theatre which is sorely needed in Britain - informative, moving and witty. The Tricycle should be congratulated. It is a pity that many of the peformances were sold out and many people could not see it. I sincerely hope that it will be produced again. Further details here.


Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Tale of two cities


There is an interesting electoral map on a Labour blog showing the Labour, Green and BNP votes. What is quite interesting is that there is a direct correlation between the Green and BNP votes, i.e. the Greens are stronger in the areas with low BNP votes and vice versa. It demonstrates again, as the Assembly and Mayoral elections did last year, that there are now 2 Londons. One is multicultural and liberal - the other is closed, reactionary and xenophobic.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009

LGBT Community - Deepen resistance to Fascists


NEWS FROM THE GREEN PARTY of England and Wales LGBT GROUP

http://www.lgbtgreens.org.uk/

Delight with strengthened Green Vote
Wake-up call to all who oppose racism and homophobia!
LGBT Community: Deepen resistance to fascists

For Immediate Release
8.6.9

In the European elections, the Green Party Greens held seats in London and south-east England vote while the vote increased by 44% compared with 2004.[1]

Party leader Caroline Lucas was re-elected comfortably, with the South East Green Party vote up by half, from 8% to 12%, finishing ahead of Labour. Jean Lambert successfully defended her London seat, overtaking UKIP with a vote of nearly 18%.

Dr Lucas's bid for election to the Westminster Parliament received a huge boost from Brighton and Hove, where the Greens came first- almost 6,000 votes ahead of the Conservatives. Caroline Lucas will be contesting the Brighton Pavilion seat in the general election.

Phelim Mac Cafferty, Joint National Spokesperson for LGBTGreens stated:
“We are delighted with the significant up-turn in Green votes, especially in areas like Brighton and Hove where we pushed the Tories into 2nd place. However we are horrified by the success of the BNP in winning 2 seats. Andrew Brons narrowly took the final MEP place in the Yorkshire & the Humber region BNP leader Nick Griffin took the final MEP place in North West England.[2]

“Nick Griffin, who has a 1998 criminal conviction for incitement to racial hatred, for distributing material denying the Holocaust polled 132,094 across the NW region. BNP candidate Andrew Brons, started his fascist career in the National Socialist Movement, an organisation that was consciously established on Hitler’s birthday. He is a former activist in the National Front- so much for the BNP not being a fascist party any more. [3]

“This is a turning point in British politics. This is the biggest electoral success of fascism in the UK ’s history. The BNP have managed to do what Mosley's Blackshirts in the 1930’s could not: gain seats in national elections.

“Our greatest worry is that the BNP vote threatens to ‘normalise’ their place in politics like Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in France and the Freedom Party in Austria . The cash, increased public profile and confidence will all help the BNP try to show themselves as a reasonable party.

“However, behind the suits and upcoming appearances on Question Time, the real face of the BNP will be unveiled. Behind the sharp suits there are criminal convictions[4], fists and boots.[5] We know already that where BNP members are elected and where they have a public profile, racist and homophobic violence increase.

“Figures from the Metropolitan Police in London, where the BNP have an assembly member, indicate a substantial rise in racist (+8.8%) and homophobic (+15.9%) hate crimes to April 2009[6]. Figures from the North West where the BNP have a number of councillors and where their campaigning has deepened are more shocking still. With Griffin sitting in Brussels they could yet get much worse: Greater Manchester Police reported a 63% increase in homophobic crime in the last year.[7]

“This must be a warning call: LGBTGreens now call on the community to exercise vigilance about the BNP’s activities to ensure that this is the BNP’s highest point in politics. It is vital that the LGBT community help in mobilising the largest possible national movement to drive the BNP out of the political mainstream. The BNP should be prevented from having any more oxygen to peddle their racist lies and holocaust denial.

“Further we must ensure that the Nazi death camps, where hundreds of thousands of LGBT people were ritually tortured and gassed and shot to death, serve as a warning from history that we can never forget.”

ENDS




Monday, 8 June 2009

European Elections - London and Ireland


I attended the count last night at City Hall as a candidate and several things stand out for me. Firstly, I am immensely pleased that Jean Lambert has been returned to represent London again in the European Parliament and that she has gone from 8th out of 9 seats to 5th out out of 8 seats. The results indicated a large increase in votes for the Greens and particularly pleased that our vote share in Lambeth showed us in fourth place, just behind the Lib Dems.


I am also hugely relieved that London has remained free of the plague of the BNP - unlike some other regions of the country. The biggest disappointment of the night was the news that Fascists have taken seats in Yorkshire and the North West. I am very critical here of the role of No2EU which bummed (as expected) but which also took crucial left votes away in the North West and allowed Griffin in. Green Left has been critical of this group and issued a statement some time ago about their position. Their slogan was xenophobic, their selection system (which mocked their slogan of 'Yes to Democracy' )was anything but democratic - and I hope now that those involved will have a long hard think about the role they have played in this election.


It was interesting that in the acceptance speeches only the Lib Dem MEP (Sarah Ludford) and Jean Lambert, for the Greens, referred to what had happened about the BNP and addressed the issue of equalities etc. The Labour MEP, Claude Moraes, did not issue a word. He himself is an ethnic minority MEP but remained stumm on the issue of Fascism and racism! This from the party which has supposedly been leading the fight against the BNP but whose actions on welfare reform, privatisation etc, have been the biggest factors in increasing their support.


It was also satisfying that the Green vote in London was larger than that of UKIP. Gerard Batten's speech was off the wall and it was interesting that none of his party were in the chamber, so that it was greeted with silence. Perhaps it tells us something about the mood in the UKIP camp. This was the man who said, at a hustings I attended in Enfield, that there was no such thing as global warming!


The London results were:

Seats:Tory 3Labour 2Lib Dem Green UKIP


Votes:
Conservative
479,037
27.4(+0.6)
3

Labour
372,590
21.3(-3.5)
2

Liberal Democrats
240,156
13.7(-1.6)
1

Green Party
190,589
10.9(+2.5)
1

UK Independence Party
188,440
10.8(-1.6)
1

British National Party
86,420
4.9(+0.9)
0

Christian Party-Christian Peoples Alliance
51,336
2.9(+2.9)
0

Independent - Jan Jananayagam
50,014
2.9(+2.9)
0

English Democrat
24,477
1.4(+0.6)
0

No2EU
17,758
1.0(+1.0)
0

Socialist Labour Party
15,306
0.9(+0.9)
0

Libertas
8,444
0.5(+0.5)
0

Jury Team
7,284
0.4(+0.4)
0

Independent - Steven Cheung
4,918
0.3(+0.3)
0

Socialist Party of Great Britain
4,050
0.2(+0.2)
0

Yes 2 Europe
3,384
0.2(+0.2)
0

Independent - Sohale Rahman
3,248
0.2(+0.2)
0

Independent - Gene Alcantara
1,972
0.1(+0.1)
0

Independent - Haroon Saad
1,603
0.1(+0.1)
0


The results from the Irish Republic show that the Irish Greens have been devastated, losing all their council seats in Dublin and winning no seats in the European Parliament. I have always believed that it was a massive historical mistake to enter the coalition government with the corrupt and politically (and now also economically) bankrupt Fianna Fail party and I told the Irish Greens this on many occasions when I met them. The turn against the government there because of the economy, but also because of decisions taken around other issues, such as the appalling construction of the motorway through the world heritage site of Tara, which the Irish Green Environment Minister allowed, has come back to plague them. Coming from Dublin, I was aware of the great anger and disillusionment in the country towards the present government and towards the Greens for being the tail that did not wag the dog, but continued to do Fianna Fail's bidding. As a result of this many radical Greens, including Patricia Mc Kenna, for whom I have great respect, left the party. I sincerely hope that there is now a revolt within the party by grassroots members.


I have always argued and will continue to argue that Greens are a radical force or they are nothing and entering rightwing coalitions, whether nationally or locally, should never be an option. The Greens must be a progressive force on the left of European politics opposing Fascism and racism, which are now stalking the continent once again. And they must remain true to their founding principles and act as a beacon of hope for the non-sectarian Left.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Princes Ward By election


I attended the count on Friday at Lambeth Town Hall and did not blog yesterday due to sheer exhaustion after this and the European election campaign. I am going tonight to the Euro count at City Hall.


The results for the by election are below. Labour held the seat against all the odds. Seeing as how we had only a fraction of the resources that Labour and the Lib Dems had, I think we did quite well. Labour had tellers from Southend at the polling stations and an army of canvassers, some of whom worked in Labour Party HQ!


I would like to thank Cllr Thackray from Lambeth and other Lambeth Green Party members who helped me, as well as Pete Murry, Andy Hewett and Alan Wheatley from Green Left. Alan carried out a disability audit of polling stations on election day. I would also like to thank those voters in the ward who supported me. I think that the promises Labour made in the by election will return to haunt them.


Breakdown of results:Labour - 1726 (40.69% of votes)Lib Dem - 1396 (32.9% of votes)Conservative - 707 (16.67% of votes)Green - 320 (7.5% of votes)English Democrat - 93 (2.19% of votes)Total Votes = 4242 The turnout was 43% which was above the national average.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Why Vote Green Today?


Down at Vauxhall station this morning giving election leaflets to commuters, then off to the polling stations in the Princes Ward By election in Lambeth, where I am standing. Turnout is up in Princes Ward but in a nearby polling station outside the ward the turnout is lower, as this is where there is Euros only polling. Difficult to say how the by election will turn out - the count is tomorrow morning at Lambeth Town Hall. However, I was cheered by a number of voters leaving the polling station and giving me a thumbs up or telling me that they had voted for me.


Spotted the leader of Lambeth Council (Steve Reed) going around with a small army of canvassers. I still think that Labour will do badly in this by election but tomorrow will tell.


Off to vote now and then back to the polling stations. Alan Wheatley, the Green Party's Disability Spokesperson, accompanied me this morning and raised some issues with Presiding Officers and the Chiefl Executive of Lambeth Council about disabled access at some of the polling stations. After Alan's visit,I spotted ramps being brought into use at some of the polling stations.


As to why anyone should vote Green - Peter Tatchell says it all in today's Guardian.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Smog alert - Green MEP calls on Mayor to reduce air pollution


NEWS RELEASE

From the Office of Jean Lambert MEP

London's Green Party Member of the European Parliament



2 June 2009



FIRST SUMMER SMOG WARNING AS TEMPERATURE RISES



- London Green MEP urges Mayor to cut air pollution to protect health



Jean Lambert, London's Green Party MEP, has expressed concern over the health implications, particularly for children and those with existing breathing problems, of the first predicted summer smogs.



The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued the warning yesterday that the current hot weather is likely to lead to the first summer smog episode of the year. Moderate ozone levels have been recorded across the UK, but weather conditions suggest ozone concentrations will reach high pollution levels. [1]



Jean has worked extensively to raise awareness of the air pollution crisis London faces, and has challenged the Government over its failure to act on this issue. [2] Today, she said:



"While the warning from Defra alerts us to smogs in rural areas, we must remember that air pollution in London is already at dangerously high levels.



"It's been great to see Londoners out enjoying the sunshine over the past few days, and we'd all love to see a long hot summer. But we must be alert to the health implications. The levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in London have been far exceeding EU limits specifically designed to protect human health for years.



"Only a fortnight ago new figures based on EU research revealed that 4,400 Londoners die every year as a result of the terrible air quality in this city - that's more than four times previous estimates from the Mayor of London. [3] Smog should be a thing of the past: I hope Defra's warning proves stark enough for the Government to take decisive action on this issue at last."



Defra is urging the public to take measures which can help to reduce pollution and Jean is calling on the Mayor to do the same:



"I hope this warning will encourage the Mayor to heed Green calls for serious investment in infrastructure across the capital to increase walking and cycling and reduce traffic and harmful emissions."



ENDS



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.



[1] Ground level ozone is formed when sunlight acts on nitrogen dioxide and other atmospheric substances close to the ground. The pollutants that cause ground level ozone come from a range of sources, including petrol and other fuels. For the full warning from Defra, plus further advice, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2009/090601a.htm



[2] For more information on Jean's work on air quality, see http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/issue_detail.php?T=S
<http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/issue_detail.php?T=S&id=57> &id=57



[3] See http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/news_detail.php?id=469




For more information please contact:



Georgina Bloomfield, Press Officer for Jean Lambert MEP



Suite 58 The Hop Exchange

24 Southwark Street

Lodnon

SE1 1TY



Tel: 0290 7407 6280

Mob: 07988 790 889



Web: http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/ <http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/>



Join Jean's Facebook group at www.tinyurl.com/jeanlambert

Waterloo Express


So it's the last lap now. Only a little over a day until polling day. I was out this morning with Andy Hewett from Greenwich leafleting commuters at Charing Cross station but did not get there as early as him (7.30am) as I had the usual candidates' emails etc to answere from voters and organisations. We had a quite good response and several people telling us that they had already voted Green.


This evening I am leafleting the busiest commuter station in Europe - Waterloo - which is rather appropriate for Europe's largest scale election. Joined by colleagues from Lambeth Green Party and others from further afield in London, we hope to jog the voting interest of tired workers returning home from their toil, and encourage them to think big and think Green!


It was interesting that on Question Time last week some in the audience were saying that they had not seen any material or campaigners in this election. Well in a city the size of London it is difficult to reach several million people, especially for a small party like the Greens. But our Freepost leaflets have been sent to many homes and our local parties have been leafleting like mad.


However, now is the last push and we will be trying to reach out to the hordes of commuters dashing home like a swarm of worker bees returning to the hive. But for workers, patients, parents, consumers and others June 4th is an important day and Londoners need reminding that more Greens in the European Parliament will mean a fairer and higher quality of life for those living in this most international of cities. So we will hope to reach out and in those few minutes before they board that train convince them that there is something worth voting for.

The BNP Threat


Attended a hustings organised by the PCS Union last night in Stratford, East London. There were many supporters of No2EU in the audience from the Socialist Party etc but also some mainstream trade unionists. The issue of the BNP threat was raised and some of the speakers on the platform tried to dismiss it. The Lib Dem candidate, who was a former Lambeth councillor and a lecturer in Politics, said that it was very serious. He had just been watching Roberty Carlyle's portrail of Hitler in the tv drama series 'Hitler, the rise of Evil' which portrays the dictator's life from fighting in the trenches in 1918 until coming to power in 1933.


As a historian, I agreed very strongly that there is a real danger and pointed out that Italy is where Fascism has now gone mainstream. Last year visiting Sicily, I was shocked to see busts of Mussolini in all the tourist shops. I also revealed last night, which produced shocks from those listening, that the Italian state was now awarding veterans pensions to those who had fought for the Salo Republic. This was Mussolini's statelet in Northern Italy, which is probably best known as a result of Passolini's film, but which was a byword for cruelty and anti-Semitism and where the most barbaric practices were carried out with partisans and those opposing Fascism as its victims. As many correspondents from Rome have reported recently, it is as if Italy is suffering from historical amnesia.


The increasing divisions in the UK between the haves and the have nots and New Labour's courting of the anti-immigrant and racist vote have created the conditions for the BNP to thrive. It is absolutely essential that they do not win a European seat on Thursday but in the longer run it must be a priority to address the reasons for their rise and to give those people who feel that they have no future in Brown's and New Labour's UK Plc, a vision and a place in creating a new and more equitable democracy. This is one of the main reasons why I am standing on Thursday as a candidate for the European Parliament for the Green Party.

Monday, 1 June 2009

What kind of politicians do we want?




This video by Jean Lambert MEP explains Jean's background and why she entered politics. It also answers the question of what sort of politicians we want. Even more reason to vote to re-elect Jean Lambert as London's Green MEP on Thursday.

What kind of politicians do we want?

UK Gay News endorses Greens on June 4th




UK Gay News has endorsed the Greens on June 4th stating that the record of Green MEPs is superb. I am very pleased to see this as one of the four LGBT candidates standing for the Greens in this election and one of the two candidates in the London region.


I am also hoping that my opposition to a homophobic church group receiving funding from Lambeth Council to take over the former Lilian Baylis site, and which is being supported by the Labour candidate, will get the support of LGBT voters in the Prince's Ward by election in Lambeth on Thursday. Details of the debate around the site etc, which were discussed at the hustings organised by the Vauxhall Gay Business Foundation last week are available on the local blog 'Lurking Around SE11'


Once again, Labour candidates demonstrate that they may seem supportive of the LGBTIQ community but when push comes to shove......