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Monday, 31 August 2009

Time off and Climate Camp


Well I have not blogged since Friday and that is because I have actually taken some time off over this holiday weekend. I am a great believer in work-life balance and it is necessary occasionally for activists to recharge their batteries. Also with Green Party conference coming up next week, where I will be presenting a motion and an amendment, chairing a fringe meeting and speaking at another, plus contributing to various debates and meetings, I thought it vital that I come up for breath. So on Saturday I went down to Brighton for the day with my partner and just had a nice day on the beach. This was especially occasioned by the warnings from the Met Office and others that this might be the last opportunity to avail of good weather. I am also keen to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible via sunlight before the start of the second wave of the swine flu pandemic, which will hit sometime before Xmas. Although it is off the agenda at present, with several helplines closing down due to lack of patients, it will not be long before it is firmly back on the agenda.


Yesterday I popped down to Climate Camp and attended a session on 'Consumerism' with Neal Lawson of Compass and a speaker who was an expert on campaigning against food waste. I met Derek Wall there and heard that Molly Scott-Cato (Green Party Economics Spokesperson) had given an excellent talk on Friday about the evils of capitalist economics. I met Green Left comrades, including some from Manchester, and various other Greens. There was a very relaxing and positive atmosphere at the camp and a total absence of a police presence, which some told me made them feel somewhat strange as they are not used to it. One of the signs on the side of a marquee which amused me was notification of a speed dating session on the Saturday night. I can imagine the participants shuffling along the grass on the floor of the marquee when their alloted time was up. I was sorry that I could not spend more time at the camp but had to dash home to prepare for a major piece of construction which is happening in my flat this week in connection with soundproofing.


I have been working with others putting the last touches to the Green Left Newsletter which is going to the printers tomorrow in order to be ready for conference on Thursday. Today I popped down to the South Bank Centre in the Vauxhall constituency where half of London seemed to be out taking the sun. I saw an excellent series of Coal Board Film Unit documentaries about the life of miners, the earliest of which dated from 1935 and included a voiceover by W. H. Auden. The films indicated graphically the hard and demanding life of the miners and included a fascinating interview with the striking miners' wives during the miners strike in the 80s. This reminded me of a thoughtful article I read this week on the future of work, of which more anon. Meanwhile I continue to plan for my contributions at conference, where I will be from Thursday evening to Sunday.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Another benefits attack by New Labour


Not content with pushing through the Welfare Reform Act, one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation since the Poor Laws, New Labour has now decided to pick on the poorest section of society again in order to balance the books and pay the bills for the bankers bonuses, and assorted other items of large expenditure. The latest wheeze, according to the Times today, is to reduce the amount of money which those claiming housing allowance can get.


Currently, half of those receiving the housing allowance - around 300,000 people - are helped by a policy that allows them to keep up to £780 a year if they find accommodation that costs less than the maximum benefit. But from April 1 they will no longer be able to pocket the leftover cash in a move aimed at saving an estimated £160 million, the newspaper said.


As several Labour MPs have pointed out this will only have the effect of stopping benefit claimants shop around for cheaper accommodation and will encourage landlords to raise their rents. Result? More money for landlords and less for those on benefits. Not surprising that Frank Field MP comments: "This could have been decided in Tory Headquarters." You are right Frank, and so could many of the other policies on welfare and benefits emanating from New Labour at present.


Homelessness charity Crisis said people on £65-a-week jobseeker's allowance could lose 20 per cent of their income under the proposals.
The charity's chief executive Leslie Morphy said: ''This proposal is ill considered and potentially counterproductive. It beggars belief that the Government intends to introduce this when, by its own admission, it has no idea what the impact on claimants will be. We urge the Government to reconsider.''


But will Labour listen? When I attended the lobby of parliament several months ago with trade unions and anti-poverty campaigners, organised by the PCS, we were told that Labour and Tory MPs on the committee discussing the Welfare Reform Bill just laughed at and mocked those giving evidence who were living on the bottom rung of society. No, as we have seen recently from secretly filmed footage, Alan Duncan MP considers £64k per annum as "living on rations". Yet those living on £65 per week are expected to take a drop in income.


This is truly scandalous and another indictment of this government's actions towards the poor, especially now with raging levels of unemployment. I sincerely hope that Labour MPs will oppose this, including Kate Hoey, who has been known not to toe the party line on occasion. I shall be watching closely as will many people on benefits and trade unions.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Climate Camp reactions - compare and contrast


Climate Camp has arrived in Blackheath, the site of several revolts and upheavals in English history. The Guardian reports the following reaction from three local Lib Dem councillors:


"We are appalled at the disturbance caused to local residents and amenities.
We hope that both the Protesters and Police alike act with respect for the local community."

Aren't the LibDems meant to be green? asks the Guardian. Well, indeeed. Contrast this with the statement from the Green councillors in Lewisham below issued today as a press release to local papers.


Surprise as Climate Camp chooses Green Party stronghold

Lewisham's Green Party councillors have welcomed news that the 2009 Climate Camp has chosen Blackheath, the borough's famous green space, as its temporary home.

The venue was announced at the last minute this afternoon in a text message sent to activists around the country.

Lewisham is the Green Party's stronghold in London, with the largest group of Green councillors and a chance of electing the country's first Green MP at the next election in the Lewisham Deptford constituency. The party came second across the whole of Lewisham in this year's Euro-elections.

Cllr Darren Johnson, Green parliamentary candidate for Lewisham Deptford, said:

"We're really proud Climate Camp chose Lewisham as its base for communicating its hugely important and positive message.

"The campers have promised to be good neighbours and we are confident the heath will be left just as it was found. I'd urge local people to visit the site, see it for themselves and perhaps even pick up new skills at the camp's packed programme of workshops."

Cllr Sue Luxton, Green Party councillor for Ladywell added:

"Many may ask why, but it makes sense - Lewisham is the London area most likely to return a Green MP at the next election and has more Green councillors than any other. And Blackheath has a proud history of forward-thinking, grassroots people's movements going back to Wat Tyler's Peasant Revolt.

Romayne Phoenix, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Lewisham West, said:

"I will certainly be visiting the camp, and I expect to find a creative, family-friendly and inspiring atmosphere. While I want Green MPs elected, this kind of direct action is just as vital to a healthy democracy. I urge the police to keep their word by not harassing the campers or using heavy-handed tactics against what is a peaceful event."

Well by their deeds (and sometimes words) ye shall judge them. The Lib Dems have shown themselves up again as the voice of vacillation and being unable to support people seeking real change. Nick Clegg should tell them at their next conference: "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for whinging" as David Steel once told them many years ago to prepare for government. Soggy, wet and pathetic. Again the Greens have demonstated that they are party prepared to stand with the people against the corporations and those who would utterly destroy our planet.


Tuesday, 25 August 2009

'Restorative Justice in a Green society' - Open Meeting in Lambeth


I will be chairing this meeting next week and hope that many people from Lambeth and beyond will be able to come. This is particularly timely with the cries for blood and revenge which have been coming from some in this country and the USA over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. With the prisons full to overflowing and constant cries for more harsh penalties from the likes of the Daily Mail, there is a real need to reexamine the justice system.



Lambeth Green Party

Invites you to an open meeting on 'Restorative Justice in a Green society'

Where victims can tell offenders the effects of their actions

Offenders are held accountable and make reparation
Communities use problem-solving methods to resolve conflicts and children learn how to mediate

Martin Wright Vice-Chair, Lambeth Mediation Service
formerly director, Howard League for Penal Reform; policy officer, Victim Support

time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
place: Brixton St Vincent’s Community Centre, Talma Road, London SW2 1AS
Wednesday 2 September 2009


Monday, 24 August 2009

Climate Camp's Response to Inspector Knowitall




Climate Camp's Media team have posted the above response to the Met Police. It says it all really and the Camp, which is due to start on Wednesday, can certainly do without the delicate attentions of the Met police, with their history of inappropriate interventions, to say the least. As for the venue? Well the police will have to find out at the same time as everyone else.


And as for the argument that women police officers will be more understanding - well someone should ask that nice Commander Cressida Dick who so distinguished herself in the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes in my area of Vauxhall. Golden rule of British policing - nobody is ever responsible for any actions whatsoever carried out by the police. Ask the family of Sean Rigg in Brixton and countless others.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

In praise of Kentish ale and cider


I am going down today to see my hardworking friend and publican, Sarah Farrow, who runs the George & Dragon pub in the village of Headcorn in Kent. It was in Headcorn, just over three years ago, that the idea of forming Green Left was first mooted and where the 'Headcorn Declaration' our founding statement, was drawn up. Sarah was the Co-Convenor of Green Left last year, but running a successful village pub, especially in this economic climate, is a full time job and she effectively works around the clock, meaning that there is little time available for politics. Despite this, she has been a Parish Councillor in the village and also played a major role in the Headcorn Sustainability venture, setting up a small shop at the back of the pub selling local and sustainable produce. The picture shows Sarah behind the counter of the George & Dragon.


The George & Dragon has developed an enviable reputation for its food and local produce, as well as its aptly named local 'Double Vision' cider. It is a drink to be approached with caution. I am very concerned about the ongoing closure of local pubs, and some have jokingly given me the title 'Commissar for Pubs' but the fact is that the local pub, somewhat similarly to the Post Office, plays an essential role in the local community. I also think that they can be unfairly blamed for the rise in binge drinking, when often the blame can be laid at the doors of the supermarkets selling subsidised alcohol, whereas the pubs are hit by the full taxation.


Yesterday an article in a London paper pointed out how pub closures are now reaching six a week in the capital and demonstrated how pubs are trying to fight back by offering new services. One pub is offering to wash dogs while customers relax on the premises, thus cornering the dog owners' custom. Another is offering a postal and parcel collection service, so instead of having to go to the collection depot, which in my area is only open for a few hours a day, you can collect your post at the local pub.


Food is another major draw and the magazine 'Kent Life' had the following to say about Sarah and the George & Dragon and on pubs more generally:


"At The George & Dragon in Headcorn, another pub doing very well, its owners, Sarah and John Farrow, have taken the appeal of local food that bit further. “Our entire menu is dominated by local produce and if customers like what they have eaten, such as one of our pies, then they can buy some more to take home,” explains Sarah.
Food club
“They can also join our food club, which gives them a discount on the food we sell, plus the chance to come to events where local producers talk about what they do. We’ve found that food is making all the difference. It’s really integrated the pub with the local community and also given us a wider appeal across the county.”

The success of The George and Dragon and The Plough reveal that even in a difficult environment, by offering something a bit different there remains room to prosper. It might also illustrate that in the future more pubs will have to innovate and change if they want to thrive.


That said, Carole Dalgleish, of the West Kent branch of CAMRA, feels many issues still need to be addressed. “Our pubs, whether in towns or villages, are a vital part of their community, places where people from all backgrounds can get together and socialise,” she says.
“The pub plays a key role in any community and that needs to be realised, otherwise we risk losing more of them, which is something that I think we will all come to regret.”


Long live the local pub.

13 - Lucky for some


Discovered late last night that I have won 13th place in the list of Green bloggers in the Total Politics poll. I did not have a blog last year so this is the first time I have entered the poll.


Very honoured to be listed among the prolific, loquacious and informative bloggers of the Green movement. Thanks to all those who voted for me and thanks to James for encouraging me to start.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Herr Misery Guts and the German election


Germany, the EU's largest and most influential nation, goes to the polls next month in a general election where most commentators expect Angela Merkel and her conservatives (CDU) to be returned to power. Merkel has grown in stature as a German and European stateswoman and her policies are supported by about 38% of the electorate.


Frank Steinmeier, who is the Social Democrat leader, is perceived as completely characterless and a misery guts. Does this remind you of anyone? His party is sliding down the polls and commentators are drawing parallels with the UK Labour Party. His party is fractured with the left wanting to join up in a coaliton with Die Linke, the Left Party, which consists of former Social Democrats and the former Communist Party (PDS) of East Germany. The Right, led by Steinmeier, are against this but are facing electoral humiliation. Opinion polls suggest that they will be lucky to get 20% of the vote. Steinmeier is Germany's Foreign Minister but never really held a major political post before and is regarded as a dull political apparachik who worked closely for former Social Democrat Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, and was promoted for his loyalty. The German press are commenting that the Social Democrat party may be finished as an electoral force. It will be interesting to see how the Left in Germany will reconfigure after this election.


Meanwhile Steinmeier and the Social Democrats are being accused of stealing the clothes of the Greens in this election. Their manifesto includes a recently unveiled plan to create four million new jobs in Germany by the end of the next decade by investing in green-energy projects and retraining the unemployed to look after the country's increasingly elderly population. Nobody doubts that the plan is a good one. But the trouble is that Mr Steinmeier has been unable to convince voters that his idea is realistic. The polls suggest that only 13 per cent of voters believe him.


The German election is not without its joke figures, as indeed were the recent EU elections in the UK with the Jury List etc. Germany's latest candidate for chancellor has ferocious buck teeth, wants to make the bunny rather than the eagle the country's national symbol and has tried to copy President Obama with his campaign slogan: "Yes Weekend".

The grotesque joke figure of Horst Schlammer, played by the comedian Hape Kerkeling, is the newest addition to the German political scene and he has succeeded in livening up one of the dullest elections on record.
His satirical film Isch kandidiere (I am a candidate) goes on general release throughout Germany this week and is almost certain to be a box office hit. One in five Germans have said they would consider voting for him if his name were ever to appear on a ballot paper.

Mr Schlammer, is a Teutonic version of Sasha Baron Cohen's Borat. He sports a dirty brown raincoat, moustache and thick glasses and his clothes are normally covered with bits of food. He claims to be the deputy editor of a provincial German newspaper and recently set up his mock HSP (Horst Schlammer Party) to fight the general election. His manifesto pledges state-funded sun loungers and cosmetic surgery for all.
Mr Schlammer describes his party as "conservative, liberal, left-wing and a bit ecological". Asked about burning issues such as the financial crisis, he is disarmingly honest: "I have no solution," he admits. Swine flu? "I'm against it."

The satire coincides with another joke election campaign waged by "The Party" which says it wants to rebuild the Berlin Wall and banish pensioners to the former Communist east.


It seems that anti-politics and disillusionment with the managerialism of much current politics is alive and well in Germany also. Those looking for something different must seek out the Greens and Die Linke. But with the Germany economy apparently recovering and Merkel riding high in the polls it looks like several more years of business as usual. Perhaps Steinmeier and the SPD can issue a grim warning to New Labour about how not to proceed.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Vestas Meeting in Lambeth


News of a meeting to support the continuing struggle around Vestas organised by Battersea & Wandsworth TUC at the trade union run pub 'Bread and Roses' in Clapham, Lambeth. Well worth supporting as the battle continues.


Solidarity with Vestas workers
Public Meeting organised by Battersea and Wandsworth TUC

Thursday 20th August @ the Bread and roses pub (64 Clapham Manor Street) 7:30 pm
Nearest over ground; Clapham High street, under ground; Clapham North/Clapham Common
Directions; http://www.breadandrosespub.com/finding-us.aspx

Speakers From;

The RMT
Workers Climate Action
Campaign Against Climate Change

Workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory on the isle of Wight have now been evicted from the occupation of their factory. They took up the occupation after the company announced that they intend to move production of wind turbine blades to America, stripping workers of their jobs, offering paltry redundancy packages and removing from the UK a source of harnessing renewable energy – which the government claim to be dedicated to.

Although the workers have been forced to end their occupation, they are still fighting back. Turbines and production materials are still inside the factory so workers are keeping up their relentless picket.

This is why Battersea and Wandsworth TUC have organised a meeting of trade unionists and activists within south London as a sign of support and an opportunity to decide what further action needs to be taken to keep up the fight and raise awareness of the issue in our neck of the woods.

Contact Nadine for more info, directions, etc; 07946 172 mailto:461/%20nadine@bwtuc.org.uk

Massacre in the Amazon


Massacre in the Amazon: The Garcia Government vs Peru's Indigenous


Host:

<http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=100396931826> Alborada


Type:

<http://www.facebook.com/search/?o=4&sfxp=1&c1=4> Meetings - <http://www.facebook.com/search/?o=4&sfxp=1&c1=4&c2=31> Club/Group Meeting


Network:

Global


Price:

Free Entry




Date:

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Time:

6:30pm - 8:00pm


Location:

The Exmouth Arms (Function Room)


Street:

Starcross St


Description


Alborada presents a public talk:

Massacre in the Amazon: The Garcia Government vs Peru's Indigenous

On June 5, World Environment Day, Amazon Indians in Peru were massacred by the government of Alan Garcia in the latest chapter of a long war to take over common lands -- a war unleashed by the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Peru and the United States.

Come and hear about the latest developments in Peru and what we in Britain can do to help Peru's indigenous people and the wider social and environmental struggles taking place in the country.

"The Amazon struggle must continue, demanding respect for the rain forest.
The Amazonian natives know that what is at stake is their own survival. We hope that the world population becomes aware that they are fighting in defence of all humankind, the Amazon jungle is the lung of the planet."
-- Hugo Blanco (Peruvian social activist and director of 'Lucha Indigena'
('Indigenous Struggle'))

Speakers:
- Oscar Blanco (Son of Peruvian political figure Hugo Blanco)
- Derek Wall (Former Green Party Principal Speaker)

Thursday August 27th, 6-8pm (Talk starts at 7pm) The Exmouth Arms (Function Room), Starcross St, Euston, NW1, London
(http://www.exmouth-arms.co.uk/)
(3 mins from Euston underground station).
Free entry

::: More info: http://www.alborada.net/ / info@alborada.net

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Ten Reasons to Get the Troops Out of Afghanistan


At the Green Party conference in Hove on September 4th I will be putting a motion calling for the immediate withdrawal of UK forces from Afghanistan. With the news that 204 soldiers have now died in the conflict, not to mention thousands of Afghans, and the mounting numbers of wounded being brought back to the UK, the time has come for a serious rethink about this war.


At a fringe meeting at the conference on Thursday 3rd September at 7pm, Jeremy Corbyn MP, one of the few sane voices in the Labour Party when it comes to this war, and Farid Bakht, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate in Bethnal Green & Bow, will speak about the war. I am copying Ten reasons to get the troops out of Afghanistan from the Stop the War Coalition's website below. The calls for blood sacrifice continue from Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, and others and the Lib Dems and Tories call for more resources. Once the election is over on Thursday, the US will be calling for reinforcements from the UK and other NATO allies.


The mother of one of the soldiers recently killed there has called for the politicians to get out on the front line and see what it is like. Another officer in the Welsh Guards is also about to be court martialed for speaking out against the war. The time for empty rhetoric is over - there must be an end to this war.






  1. The death rate is rising on both sides. The number of British troops who have died is now higher than those killed in 6 years in Iraq. Fifteen soldiers died in the first two weeks of July alone. No one keeps track of the number of Afghan dead but it numbers tens of thousands since 2001. In May more than 140 Afghans, mainly women and children, were killed in one air strike.

  2. This is an unwinnable war. The Taliban was defeated in 2001 but is now growing in strength. Osama bin Laden has not been captured. The war is supposedly about defending the Karzai government. But his government is one of the most corrupt in the world. Neither he nor the occupation forces have brought any real improvements for the Afghan

  3. Gordon Brown claims the war is about combating terrorism. But there was no terrorist threat to Britain before the war in Afghanistan, or before the war in Iraq in 2003. It is those wars and their consequences that have made Britain a target. Even MI5 told the government the Iraq occupation was likely to increase not decrease terrorism.

  4. We are told this may have to be our ’30 years war’. We have fought for eight years and the situation is getting worse. Children as yet unborn will be dying if this war is not stopped.

  5. The war is spreading to Pakistan, which is a nuclear state, opening up the prospect of an even more terrible conflict.

  6. Life is getting worse for most Afghans under occupation. There is a huge refugee problem. Corruption is rife. While Tony Blair promised in 2001 ‘we will not walk away’ Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the United Nations life expectancy has fallen for Afghans since 2003. Far more is spent on the war and the military than is spent on reconstruction. Aid meant to help the Afghans is not getting through to those who need it.

  7. Britain has spent £4.6 billion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq every year – enough money to create 200,000 graduate jobs annually. We should be funding these jobs, not wasting more money on war. Unemployment must not become a recruiting sergeant for the army.

  8. More troops or helicopters won’t help. The NATO forces are not losing because they don’t have the equipment but because they are in Afghanistan.

  9. We were told that the war in Afghanistan was to liberate women. But women’s lives have not improved. Death in childbirth is rising. The Karzai government even tried to pass a law allowing rape in marriage. Despite all the talk about troops helping girls to go to school, less than a third of Afghan girls are in school and less than 10% can read and write, 7 years after the fall of the Taliban.

  10. The majority of Afghans do not want the war and occupation. The majority of British people think the troops should come home by Xmas at the latest. In two recent polls 56% (BBC and Guardian) and 59% (ITN) want the troops out.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Death of a spirited campaigner


Last week I received the sad news that David Hart, who had long been suffering from terminal cancer, had died. The news was also reported in the South London Press on Friday. David, was a seasoned activist in Lambeth for the rights of disabled people and for tenants and I had known him well for several years. We first encountered each other when he was a trustee of Transport for All, and I was working there. He later went on to become Chair, subsequently standing down as a trustee. We worked together on the campaign on Patient Transport when Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital Trust were refusing transport to holders of disabled persons' Taxicards and he was also active in the campaign against the large increase in council rents in Lambeth.


While standing in the Princes Ward by-election in June, David attended the hustings organised by the Lambeth Disability Forum, where he was a committee member and almost came to blows after the meeting with Lorna Campbell, the Labour Executive Member for Health and Social Care, as he refused to accept some of her statements. Never one to suffer fools gladly or to accpet spin, he was always at the forefront of struggle, despite his poor health. David was a journalist and had worked for The Times. An interview with him was recently published in the paper. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6789872.ece?token=null&offset=48&page=5

You can judge his fighting spirit by the article.


The last time I saw him was outside a polling station during the by-election, when he was with Ros Munday, the Tenants Council Chair, who was a close friend and carer. David was always determined to fight for the rights of marginalised people and particularly those of disabled people in Lambeth. He will be missed.

Manchester and Peterloo


Just back from Manchester from a very successful Green Left Summer Camp and participation in the march and commemoration of the 190th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre yesterday. We had a speech from various activists in the campaign to erect a suitable monument and from local Labour MP, Tony Lloyd, who pointedly only mentioned dissidents being suppressed in China but no mention of more recent events in our own island and probable police violence at the forthcoming Climate Camp in London. There was a lot of discussion about the sculpture to commemorate the massacre and that it should not be too abstract but encapsulate the nature of what happened.



Shelley wrote the poem 'The Masque of Anarchy' to commemorate the event but only one stanza was read out at the event yesterday rather than the twenty something stanzas which he wrote. I used to write a lot of poetry and take part in poetry readings in the 80s. The events at Peterloo and their commemoration over the weekend spurred me to take up my poetic pen again. So here are my efforts.


Peterloo


At Peterloo they fell and died

Those for whom Liberty's price was paid

Now Tomlinson and SOCPA are the theme

Where Freedom's corpse lies in the grave

Lord Liverpool and Captain Burleigh

Who called the Yeomanry to arms

Your heirs - Brown and Ainsworth

call for youthful blood in Afghanistan

And Orator Hunt would blanch with shame

Where blood stained the stones of Peter's Fields

There lie the bones of Socialism's hopes

Trod beneath the hooves of New Labour's cavalry


Read out the names of Peterloo and New Labour's dead -

Freedom, Liberty, Suffrage and the Price of Oil!

Friday, 14 August 2009

One year to go before support wanes for war


The US and NATO Commander in Afghanistan, General Mc Chrystal has given an astonishingly frank interview to the Wall St Journal. Further details on the Stop the War Coalition site. All of this suggests that as the bodies and the costs mount, time is running out for those supporting the war.




One year to prevent public support evaporating

General McChrystal defended the decision to focus first on Helmand. The current operation, one of the largest since the start of the war in 2001, was meant to disrupt the Taliban's lucrative drug operations there, he said.

The armed group reaps tens of millions of dollars annually from the sale of opium from Helmand, and the commander said he wants to have troops on the ground before local farmers start to plant their next batch of poppies in November. The US is working to persuade Helmand's farmers to replace their poppy fields with wheat and fruit.

The roughly 4,000 Marines in Helmand have been charged with putting McChrystal's thinking about counterinsurgency into practice. They are trying to build local relationships by launching small development and reconstruction projects.

General McChrystal said his new strategy had to show clear results within roughly 12 months to prevent public support for the war from evaporating in both the U.S. and Afghanistan. "This is a period where people are really looking to see which way this is going to go," he said. "It's the critical and decisive moment."

Iceland in uproar and Ireland in flux




There was a vicious joke doing the rounds in Ireland a few months ago at the height of the banking crisis which went as follows: "What is the difference between Iceland and Ireland?" Answer: "One letter and six months." There was a great deal of truth in this and the economic fallout in Ireland is seriously hurting the real economy with unemployment and emigration both rising, while there are even proposals on the table from the wonderfully named 'An Bord Snip' translated as 'The Snip Board' to cut the minimum wage and welfare.




This has led to considerable unrest and it was only a few months ago that enraged pensioners stormed the Irish parliament resulting in a u turn by the government on pensioners' medical cards. Farmers are also on the march as are the trade unions and others. Recently the closure of cancer services at a hospital in Sligo, in the north west of the Republic and the removal of those services to Galway, which is 86 miles away, resulted in two Fianna Fail members of the parliament for the area revolting and withdrawing from the party whip. This has left the government, which includes the Greens, dependent on the vote of the Speaker, and there is much talk of a general election by the end of the year.


But a new challenge now faces the Irish government, and particularly the Green Party which is a member of it. The government plans to pour billions of taxpayers' money into a toxic bank. The plan is called NAMA (National Assets Management Agency) which will take on all the bad debts of the Irish banks.
BACKGROUND
The current crisis has arisen out of a property bubble that was deliberately created by a tight alliance of Fianna Fail, the bankers and property speculators.
Banks were allowed to borrow funds from international money markets to push loans at customers who were desperate for housing. The government turned a blind eye while the banks ran their business on the equivalent of a low fuel reserve. As a result, Irish banks maintained the lowest ratio of underlying capital to the outstanding loans in the EU.
They were motivated by sheer greed as each of the top three banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland and Anglo-Irish - aimed at securing profits of over €1 billion a year. The more they hyped up the property market, the more profit they gained.
Just seventy directors controlled the Irish banking system but of these a mere twenty acted as executive directors and these were the main decision makers. They paid themselves outrageous salaries and, even after they left office in disgrace, they continued to enjoy pensions that were well beyond the reach of average workers. Brian Goggin, the former director of Bank of Ireland, for example, now lives on a pension of €626,000 a year – the equivalent of the wage of 17 average workers.
Table 2:
Salary Package and Annual Pension Entitlements of Directors of Three Main Banks.
Name of Director Total Salary Package Annual Pension Bank
Brian Goggin 3,998,000,000 626,000 Bank of Ireland
David Drumm 3,274,000,000 258,000 Anglo Irish
Eugene Sheehy 2,105,000,000 526,000 AIB
Colm Doherty 1,663,000,000 289,000 AIB
John O Donovan 1,581,000,000 202,000 Bank of Ireland
William McAteer 1,427,000 94,000 (DC) Anglo Irish
Declan Quilligan 1,366,000,000 147,000 Anglo Irish
Source: Bank of Ireland Reports and Accounts 2007; Anglo Irish Bank Reports and Accounts 2007; Allied Irish Bank Reports and Accounts 2008
The extraordinary feature of the NAMA scheme is that the very institutions which helped to cause the economic crash are being rescued.
But the government does nothing for those suffering the most from this crash – the poor, the unemployed or mortgage holders on negative equity.
Even before NAMA is introduced, the government has already poured billions into the banks in three main moves.
On September 30th 2008 the government announced a scheme to guarantee all the loans taken out by Irish banks. This guarantee covered a total of €485 billion and was the equivalent of 2.5 times the size of the Irish economy. This special insurance scheme was given to the banks at a reduced rate and so involved a subsidy of an estimated €425 million.
Since December 2008, the government has injected €4 billion into Anglo-Irish Bank to prop it up and to prevent foreign investors calling in loans as the company is barely functioning.
A further €7 billion has been injected into Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland.
In other words, even before NAMA has been introduced the government has already spent more than €11 billion propping up failed banks.
THE NAMA SCHEME
The plan drawn up by Bacon involves the transfer of mainly toxic loans to the tune of €90 billion to a state-run assets management agency, NAMA. It has already been acknowledged by the Minister of Finance that half of these loans are not ‘performing’. This means that the builders or speculators who took them out have ceased making the necessary re-payments. But the banks have not closed in on them. At first sight this may appear unusual. If you were a small borrower, for example, the banks would haul you before the court to demand their money back. But if you are a large Irish builder, the banks ‘roll over’ your loan – because they know that they can eventually hand over responsibility to NAMA to collect it. NAMA will take over these bad loans at a discount rate - most likely at a 25 per cent discount. If a builder was loaned €500 million by a bank, the state will buy that loan from the bank for €375 million and then chase up the builder for the assets if it is not paid. In all, the Irish state will pay out around €67.5 billion to take over toxic loans that were at one time supposed to be worth €90 billion.
But the reality is that they are worth nothing like this, since the property market has collapsed. The case of the Zoe Group which is owned by Liam Carroll illustrates this. Zoe owes the banks more than €1 billion and recently went to the court to seek some protection form its creditors. In evidence it stated that, if it was forced to sell off all its properties, the banks would still be left with a shortfall of €900 million. In other words, as Irish Times journalist John McManus put it, ‘based on this write-down value, properties on which it has borrowed €1.1 billion from eight banks would fetch €275 million if they went on sale this morning. That means a 75 percent writedown for the banks.’ If this example was typical, the assets backing the €90 billion in loans are only worth a quarter of their value - or €22.5 billion. But the Irish state will agree to pay €67 billion for these loans. It might not be as bad as that – but it also might because no one knows the exact repercussions. This government is taking on huge debts in a desperate gamble to save the banks.
WHY THIS MADNESS?
The government advances a number of reasons to justify this madness. The first is that we need banks to get credit and we just have to pay the price to fix them. In other words, the Irish state has to pump vast sums into the banks, in the hope that they eventually start giving out loans again and get the economy moving. There are however a number of problems with this argument: Most obviously, why should Irish society have to pay so much— just to get access to credit? Are there not cheaper ways of ensuring that this vital function is carried out? There is also no guarantee that even if billions are pumped into the banks, that banks will provide sufficient credit for society. They are more likely to adopt an extremely cautious approach – and will certainly not change their policy of depriving the poorest sections of society of credit. The other argument advanced by the government is that in the ‘long run’ the values of the underlying assets will improve – and so the state will incur no loss. But there is absolutely no evidence that this will occur – it is purely a hope.
Many of the Greens are opposed to this mad scheme and four constituency parties have called for a special Green Party convention to debate it. However, party leader John Gormley, is convinced that they will not gain the two thirds majority of votes needed to force the parliamentary party to vote against it. In today's Irish Times Gormley is quoted as saying:
“We have already held two special seminars on Nama for interested members, one of which was attended by the interim head of Nama, Brendan McDonagh” .
Mr Gormley said it was understandable that party members would like an input into such important legislation and a meeting of officers this weekend would see how that could be facilitated.
“You can crunch the numbers any way you like but Nama works out as the most preferable solution.
“We have already briefed our members on the issue and I am confident their views can be accommodated,” he said.
“Our strong commitment to party dialogue was evident in our recent convention on the EU Lisbon Treaty, which was endorsed by a two-thirds majority of our members,”
he said.
Many political commentators think that if the Greens now vote against NAMA, it will be the rock on which the coalition founders, leading to a general election. I sincerely hope that for the sake of ordinary Irish workers and taxpayers that the Irish Greens vote against this. The convention is due to take place before September 16th if one more constituency party calls for it.
Meanwhile in Iceland the banking situation is also causing uproar and could lead to the fall of the government again.
Over 3,000 Icelanders demonstrated outside parliament, the Althing, on Thursday (13 August) against a proposal to compensate clients of the online Icesave bank for money lost when it went bust last year.

Icesave was Landsbanki's online savings unit in the UK and the Netherlands and attracted over 320,000 British and Dutch savers with high interest rates.
When Landsbanki was nationalised in October 2008, the Icesave deposits were lost but only domestic clients' savings were guaranteed, creating anger in the UK and the Netherlands.
In June, the Icelandic government agreed with London and The Hague that Iceland would be provided with loans to compensate the foreign Icesave account holders to a certain extent.
But there is still one major problem. A large majority of the people of Iceland do not agree to the package for British and Dutch savers, who took advantage of the higher interest rates in Icesave before the bank collapsed.
To pay the bill Iceland needs to take a loan of almost €4 billion euro from the British and Dutch governments – close to €13,300 per Icelander.
One speaker at Thursday's protest, author Einar Gudmundsson, said Icelanders were being punished for the deeds of a private company. "A crime we as a nation had nothing to do with," he said, according to Reuters.
Iceland's prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, writes in an article published in the Financial Times that her government plans a 30 percent cut in public spending over the next three years to meet the obligations.
It is "a heavy burden for our population of 300,000" people, she adds in the article.
"Icelanders ..... are angry at having to take on the burden of compensation for the Icesave savings accounts of Landsbanki – a failed, privately owned, commercial bank, which attracted hundreds of thousands of UK and Dutch savers with high interest rates. The amount to be shouldered by Iceland is huge – about 50 percent of our gross domestic product."
The centre-right opposition party, The Independence Party has threatened to bring down the left-leaning government over the issue.
If they are succesful, Iceland's EU application as well as loans from the IMF needed to restore the country's economy could run into trouble.
The Indepence Party is traditionally opposed to EU membership, while the promise of IMF loans is linked to the Icesave deal.
Public support for membership of the EU has fallen over the summer with a majority of 48.5 percent opposed to entering the EU against 34.7 percent in favour, the latest poll published on 5 August showed.

This could be the biggest crisis yet for the Left Green/Social Democrat coalition government,whom many Icelanders believed would save them from the worst which big business and a neo-liberal economic modle had meted out to them. It looks like there could be more trouble ahead in the small country. Both countries lived way beyond their means but the same speculators and spivs who ran both economies and their cronies in government are being allowed to walk away with their ill gotten gains while the poor and the most vulnerable are being expected to bear the cost. It really is a shocking state of affairs and needs radical addressing.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Green Left Summer Camp - Manchester August 15th/16th


Every year Green Left holds a summer gathering called 'Summer Camp'. For the last two years it was held in Headcorn, Kent but this year it was felt to be better to hold it in the north and in the traditional centre of English radicalism, Manchester. This also coincides with the 190th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, in St Peter's Fields, in the city. We will be having a number of speakers and looking particularly towards the Convention of the Left in Brighton on September 26th at which Green Left is organising the 'Planet' workshop and Caroline Lucas MEP will also be speaking at the Convention, which is planned to take place at the same time and same city as the Labour Party Conference.


The recent European election campaigns in both the North West and West Midlands regions demonstrated how parties of the Left can work together and we are seeking to explore those options further. We are also less than a month away from the Green Party conference in Hove, at which Green Left will be holding two fringe meetings and probably nine months from a general election which is widely expected to see the election of a Tory government and the possible implosion of the Labour Party.


Adie Mormech will also be giving us an indication of what life is like in Gaza and how to organise radical and consciousness raising campaigns to offset the general disllusionment and malaise around electoral politics. Green Left has been at the forefront of many recent campaigns including those supporting the Vestas workers, the SOAS occupation for the rights of migrant workers and the anti-war movement. The year ahead is likely to see many more workers' occupations and climate actions, as well as an increasing resistance to the war in Afghanistan and Trident.




Green Left Summer Camp

Saturday 15th August

Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester M2


12pm Welcome and Introductions

12.15 to 1.15pm Campaigns - Adie Mormech (one of those recently arrested in Israel on a boat bringing relief supplies to Gaza)

1.15 to 1.45pm Lunch

1.45 to 2.45pm Working with the Left (Kay Philips, Chair of Respect North West and John Nicholson, Convention of the Left)

2.45pm to 3.45pm Increasing our profile in the Green Party

3.45pm to 4pm Break

4pm to 4.45pm The Peterloo Massacre and its resonance today (Paul Fitzgerald, Peterloo Memorial Campaign)

4.45pm to 5pm General Discussion and AOB.

There will be a meal in a central Manchester venue in the evening after the meeting.

We will be participating in the Peterloo Massacre Commemoration events on Sunday 16th August – details of which have already been sent out.


http://www.quakertrading.co.uk/central-manchester/getting-here

See above for details of how to get there. Open to members of Green Left.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Mandelson put on the spot over Vestas




News just through that climate change campaigners and activists for green jobs have targeted Peter Mandelson's house in London over the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight. As Mandelson is currently head of the government while Brown is on holiday he is answerable for this government's deplorable lack of action on the issue. What a terrible shock as one returns from one's summer hols in the Rotschild's villa on Corfu! Well done to the protesters.

Flu Pandemic - Meeting with the Director of Public Health for London


I attended this meeting with Dr Simon Tanner (Director of Public Health for London) as Vice Chair of the Patients Forum Ambulance Services (London) on July 28th, together with the Chair, Malcolm Alexander and another Forum member. We are now facing into the flu season, which will begin in late September and when the rate of infection is likely to pick up again.


Indications from the Southern Hemisphere are interesting, where Argentina has recorded the highest death rate so far. These countries are just coming to the end of the flu season and so their experience is worth studying. Data suggests that the virus is not mutating but also indicates that the seasonal flu has almost disappeared as a cause of death, to be replaced by swine flu. I still do not agree with Dr Tanner's view that public events should not be cancelled as these are likely be a significant source of infection - as we have seen with the schools over the last few months. It is also significant that Argentina's economy has already been badly hit by the pandemic, with its tourism industry having collapsed. This suggests that there will be a not insignificant impact economically in the UK, and this in a period leading up to the general election.


The question of how the NHS copes with the pandemic, and particulary how effective both drug distribution and treatment are, could also have a role in the play in the final judgement on Gordon Brown's government.




Patients’ Forum Ambulance Services (London) Ltd
PatientsForumLAS@aol.com

Meeting to discuss pandemic flu with the Director of Public Health for London- July 28th 2009

Simon Tanner, Director of Public Health
Andy Wapling, Head of Emergency Preparedness

Joseph Healy, Michael English and Malcolm Alexander

1) History of the Swine Flu Pandemic
Simon Tanner gave a brief history of the pandemic. He said that it appeared to have emerged in Mexico in April 2009 and that the virus does not cause a high level of mortality in the general population, but certain groups including pregnant women in their third trimester, people with respiratory illnesses, other chronic conditions and young people, appear to be more vulnerable to the effects of virus. He said it was more infectious amongst young people.

Simon said that the response to the current epidemic, provided public health experts with experience for dealing with a more serious epidemic should this occur, e.g. if the current virus mutated creating a ‘novel’ virus which could have a higher mortality.

We asked why it appeared that the Mexican epidemic had such a high mortality rate. Simon replied that this was probably because the rate of deaths compared to the gross infection rate was unknown, i.e. the denominator is unknown.

2) Current situation
Simon said that the spread of flu in the UK was being closely observed by the Health Protection Agency, which he described as “highly competent’ in this role. He said that the national policy had been one of containment, and had now moved on to the treatment phase. There are about 2000 new cases reported each day in London by either GPs or the Fluline. These cases are not confirmed serologically, but are either diagnosed by doctors or by the use of an algorithm by Fluline staff. Fluline started on July 26th 2009. Simon said that Fluline was in its development phase and acknowledged that it was flawed by having no language line service. We asked about the training of Fluline staff; Simon said that they received a few hours training to use an algorithm as a basis for putting questions to callers, which can identify whether their symptoms were consistent with swine flu. He said Fluline staff had onsite clinical backup. Simon added that NHS Direct would be placed under extreme pressure and therefore caller waiting time would be unacceptable, if the Fluline approach had not been adopted. He said that the system is working well so far.

There have been 16 deaths in London from swine flu so far. We asked if a peak infection rate was expected in September/October 2009 and Andy agreed that this was possible but not certain.

3) Tamiflu
Tamiflu works by halting the reproduction of the Flu virus, reduces the severity of symptoms, e.g. the incidence of pneumonia, and reduces by about one day the severity of the illness. It must be taken within two days of the onset of symptoms to be effective.

Simon said that 50-70% of people who have symptoms consistent with SF are accepting Tamiflu. He said that all those identified as having symptoms consistent with SF are being offered Tamiflu.

Simon said that there is a national stockpile of Tamiflu and the £1million GLA stockpile was now part of the national stockpile (it has been signed over by Boris Johnson to the NHS). He said that Tamiflu was stored in PCT stores. There are 125 distribution points in London at the moment and capacity to open 402 centres if necessary. In the current system a person phoning with flu symptoms who is diagnosed as having swine flu is given a number, which a friend or family member can take to the flu centre to get the supply of Tamiflu. People with symptoms are asked to collect Tamiflu within 2 days and currently the prescription for Tamiflu is not time limited. Tamiflu is funded centrally and the cost does not come from local PCT budgets. The active life of Tamiflu is 5 years.

4) Vaccination
Simon Tanner said that once a vaccine is produced for the swine flu virus that government policy is to vaccinate the whole population. There is a contract with two vaccine manufacturers (Smith, Kline and French and Baxters). The order is for 120 million doses, i.e. two doses for each person in the UK. The intention is to start vaccination in August and sufficient vaccine has been ordered to vaccinate half the population by the end of the year. We asked about post-vaccination testing for side effects, bearing in mind that this is a new vaccine and my cause harm to some people who are given it. Simon said that the first cohort would have blood tests to make sure that the response was adequate. We did not get an answer regarding side effects.

The vaccine would first be given to priority group, but it is not yet certain which groups will be designated as priority groups.

We asked whether the vaccine would be of any use if the virus mutated and we were told that it might be of no use if there was a new pandemic caused by a mutated strain.


5) Management of services to support the community
We asked if the voluntary sector is being fully involved the response to the pandemic. Simon said that this was the responsibility of the Borough based ‘flu committee’. He said that each Borough has submitted their plans to the Strategic Health Authority and these have been audited. This audit included as assessment of the involvement of the voluntary sector in local planning. The plans also included details of the care of vulnerable group in the community.

6) Publicity
We asked if the quality of the publicity about flu will be improved, e.g. by strengthening the messages about preventing infection on the transport system. Simon said the publicity campaign was very much tied to the national campaign and costs had to be contained. He said that symptomatic people were being advised to stay at home and that a main plank of publicity was to communicate well, to reassure the public and emphasise messages about personal hygiene.

7) Quarantine
We discussed the possible need for quarantine and the curtailment of public activities. We referred to the very high level of mortality in 1918 (5-6% of the population). Simon said that curtailment of public activities was not appropriate in the UK, and that quarantine does not appear to make any significant difference to the gross number of people who become infected or change the course of the epidemic. Simon said that government strategy had to consider business continuity, but in his view the effects on the GDP should not override the need for people to remain of work to contain the spread of the epidemic.

8) Closed communities
We discussed the problems for people in mental health wards, prisons and other places where their movements might be restricted or people who live in closed communities. We agreed that this was a very significant problem that must be tackled. He said there are a number of national guidance documents for PCTs, prisons and mental health units on the Department of Health website.

Andy Walling, Head of Emergency Preparedness at NHS London, said: "We would like to reassure people that NHS London is well-prepared - all NHS organisations have plans which have been practised and checked regularly. NHS London has put in place recently audited plans on how to prepare for flu pandemic and ensure that anyone who needs help will receive it."


End

Malcolm Alexander, Joseph Healey and Michael English.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Green Left and GPEx Elections


The ballot papers for this year’s GPEx elections will be going out to members from Monday. This year only two posts will be contested by postal ballot of all members, nominations for the other two posts will be reopened at conference. The two posts being contested are those of Chair and External Communications Coordinator. There are two candidates for Chair – Jayne Forbes and Rayyan Mirza and two for External Comms Tracy Dighton Brown and Rupert Read/Jason Kitcat (jobshare).

The Steering Group of Green Left considered these nominations at its meeting this week and we took the decision unanimously to give critical support to Jayne Forbes as Chair and Tracy Dighton-Brown for Ex Comms. So we are calling upon Green Left members to give them their support. It is, of course, up to individual members as to how they vote in these elections, but this is the recommendation of the Steering Group taking into consideration what we feel is best for the future of the party.

Joseph Healy
Co-Convenor

Vestas Occupation and Demonstration Tomorrow


Last night there was another demonstration in London for the Vestas workers outside the Dept of Energy and Climate Change, with Jenny Jones, Green London Assembly Member as one of the speakers. The bailiffs are due to move in today and remove the workers. A large demonstration is being called for tomorrow on the Isle of Wight - details below. People are being asked to travel from all over the country to the demo, which comes at a critical point in the campaign.
In the interim, Joan Ruddock MP, Minister of State at the Dept of Energy and Climate Change went to visit the Vestas factory yesterday but despite warm words about supporting the aims of the occupation, refused to commit the government to nationalising the factory, stating that it was up to the company. Once again we see New Labour falling back before the power of the market and pleading helplessness. Compared to the huge sums thrown at quantitative easing by the Bank of England yesterday or the nationalisation of Northern Rock, saving the Vestas factory would cost peanuts. Green jobs now!



Please forward to all your contacts

The Vestas Workers are calling for a day of action on next Wednesday with solidarity events being held around the country.

There is to be a Rally in support of RMT Vestas Workers and the Factory Occupation at 1 PM Saturday 8 August to be held in St Thomas Square, Newport, Isle of Wight. Please bring Banners and as many people as you can.

The Workers United will Never be Defeated

Regards

Richard Howard
Wessex Regional Secretary RMT

Thursday, 6 August 2009

'The War to end all wars' - Harry Patch


Visitors from across Europe will line the streets of Wells today for the funeral of the last survivor of World War I. ‘The War to end all wars’ or what some historians called the first of Europe’s two great civil wars of the 20th century will be marked by representatives of all the combatant nations. Radiohead have composed a song to Harry Patch’s lyrics which is a moving tribute to a lifelong anti-war campaigner. The song is on the Stop the War website.



As the Green Party's representative on the Stop the War Coalition's Steering Group, I mark the passing of the last survivor of that generation and salute his courage and determination in speaking out against all wars.


Harry's words to which Radiohead put their haunting music


I am the only one that got through

The others died where ever they fell

It was an ambush

They came up from all sides

Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves

I've seen devils coming up from the ground

I've seen hell upon this earth

The next will be chemical but they will never learn

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Peterloo Massacre 190th Anniversary


On August 15th Green Left will be holding its regular Summer Camp in Manchester, this is timed to coincide with the commemoration of the Peterloo Massacre, one of the most significant events in British radical history, which occured on August 16th in Manchester. I will be taking part in both events.


Green Left will be participating in the events of August 16th as part of a campaign calling for a proper monument to remember the bloody events of that day. We also regard it as particularly relevant in this year when police violence has led to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 demo, the criminalisation of many others, and the attacks on Climate Camp and many peaceful protestors over the last few months. Details of the Peterloo event are below.

190th PETERLOO MASSACRE ANNIVERSARY- SUNDAY 16th AUGUST 2009.

CAMPAIGNERS RAISE THE INFAMOUS 'LIBERTY CAP' IN MANCHESTER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ALMOST 200 YEARS.

SUPPORT FOR AN APPROPRIATE PETERLOO MEMORIAL REACHES NEW LEVELS, WITH ENTIRE DAY OF EVENTS.

This years commemorations of the Peterloo Massacre will be the biggest yet seen, with groups from the city and beyond rallying to St Peters Fields to honour those who gave their lives in the cause of economic justice and democracy.

EVENTS OF THE DAY

11am Peterloo historical guided walk by Paul Mason (BBC Newsnight correspondent, acting in a personal capacity. Paul has a long standing interest in the massacre.) Organized by Manchester Trade Council. The walk will finish at the site of the massacre in time for the main commemoration...

1pm main commemoration- Manchester campaigners will be met on the steps of G Mex by delegates marching in from Oldham and Middleton. (Following the original marching routes from 1819) Replica Peterloo banners kindly lent to the campaign by PROCESSION artist Jeremy Deller (one carried in from Oldham), will then be raised, along with 20 replica 'liberty caps' on poles. The red and gold liberty cap is an ancient symbol of political freedom dating back to ancient Greece, and has been used as an icon of freedom by many movements, including the French and American revolutions.

Liberty caps raised on wooden poles were a crucial icon during the 1819 protest, and were ruthlessly targeted with sabres by the yeomanry, resulting in many of the injuries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygian_cap

An extract from Shelley's 1819 'Peterloo' poem, 'The Masque of Anarchy' will be read, along with the names of those who died.

Guests will include Tony Lloyd MP, and Manchester City Councilors.

3pm to 5pm 'REUNION' at Cornerhouse art gallery, Oxford Rd. As part of the 'PROCESSION' exhibition, Cornerhouse are inviting all those with “a connection to any of these events” to “join us at this special informal event to meet others and share your stories.” See-

http://www.cornerhouse.org/events/info.aspx?ID=1527&page=0

7pm Music Event- 'Hear and Now'. Singer songwriter Claire Mooney and guests perform at Briton's Protection Pub to commemorate Peterloo and contemporary political struggles, organized by Manchester Trades Union Council. £3 / £1

8pm Music and poetry event‘ PETERLOO – SOLDIERS ON THE RAMPAGE’ will be presented for the first time on Sunday 16th August at The Angel Pub, Angel Street, Manchester. Tickets £5. Details- Martin Gittins 07760 430 577 email- http://uk.mc273.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=mgittins@ntlworld.com.

UNTIL 26th SEPT 2009 A month long exhibition commemorating Peterloo at the Central Library in Manchester- first floor. Includes period and modern items, including the mugs and liberty caps created by the campaign. Curated by Terry Wyke and Stephen Yates, opening hours Monday - Thursday 9am - 8pm and Friday and Saturday 9 - 5pm.

Said Paul Fitzgerald of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign: “We're stunned by the levels of enthusiasm this year. Just as we hoped, the campaign has swiftly bought to the surface an underground reservoir of passion about this massively significant, but much neglected event in Manchester's history.

With the Council's announcement of plans for a memorial in St Peter's Square, this is a crucial year for Peterloo. Our job now is to ensure that the design is informative, representative and appropriate. As we near the 200th anniversary, it's vital we put an end to the long and shameful tradition of neglecting or whitewashing the memory of this turning point in the history of democracy.

We invite everyone who cares about this issue to join us on the day and leave their mark on the site of this infamous event.”

PRESS CONTACT- Paul on 07800 535471

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Peterloo Memorial Campaign first bought this issue to light in 2007 with it's inaugural action on 16th August- pasting it's own accurate paper plaque over the disgraceful euphemistic old plaque on the side of the former Free Trade Hall. This led to the council installing a permanent ceramic plaque based on our paper one. It continues to campaign and lobby to ensure the memorial design is one that will inform those seeing it about what took place in the heart of this city.

See-

http://www.peterloomassacre.org/

The Peterloo massacre occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 gathered at a meeting to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the military authorities to arrest Hunt and several others on the hustings with him, and to disperse the crowd. Cavalry charged into the crowd with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

GPEx elections - Ex Comms Coordinator


The position of External Communications Coordinator is a vital one on the Green Party's Executive - it is essentially the person who controls all the media and PR work and works very closely with the Press Office. I have no hesitation in supporting Tracy Dighton-Brown for this position. I have known Tracy since she worked at the London Assembly with the Green Assembly Members but have had a lot more contact with her over the last year. Tracy has reorganised the Press Office completely and made it extremely efficient and candidate friendly, which is more than could be said for it in the past. As a candidate in the recent European elections in London, I found her responsive and supportive and the Press Office were always quick off the mark and did an excellent job both during the campaign and leading up to it.


Furthermore, Tracy is people friendly and has excellent communication skills, which are vital for someone in this sort of position. Even under the most intense pressure, which she experienced a great deal this year, partly due to the actions of some, whose actions bordered on harassment, she kept her cool and delivered an excellent election result in the European elections, including what many people felt was the party's best ever party election broadcast.


She also completely reorganised the positions of the Spokespersons and gave far more importance and visibility to equality and diversity issues such as LGBT and disability rights, and fully involved both the Disability and LGBT Spokespersons in the party's campaigns without ever descendig into tokenism.


Over the next year, going into an important general election, it is absolutely vital that the party retains her ability and skills. Backed by those who have the most experience in dealing with the Press Office, including the party's two MEPs and former Principal Male Speaker, Derek Wall, I am giving my full support to Tracy's re-election.


Tracy's election statement is here http://tracyforcomms.wordpress.com/

Vestas win court case


I have just heard from Green Left colleagues who are outside the courthouse in Newport that Vestas have won the repossession order against the occupying workers. There are already rumours that bailiffs are gathering. Andy Hewett and Pete Murry from the Green Party Trade Union Group and Green Left have been down there for the last two days supporting the occupation.


Judging by events in Dublin where Thomas Cook travel shops were raided this morning by police at 5am after the High Court had issued an order, and where workers,union officials and a pregnant woman were arrested, similar events may now occur in the Isle of Wight. The Dublin occupiers, who are protesting about appalling redundancy payments after Thomas Cook have operated in the city for 125 years and the CEO has just been paid a bonus of £7 million, will now appear this afternoon in the High Court charged with contempt. It has also been reported than another Vestas factory in Cowes, also in the Isle of Wight, has been occupied.


The following statement was issued by a number of trade union leaders. It is now essential that the TUC brings the government to task over this issue.


We are seeking the urgent intervention of environment secretary Ed Miliband to save the Vestas wind turbine factory (Police asked to ensure the Vestas protesters receive enough food, 1 August). We know he is committed to promoting green energy, but people will find it difficult to understand that just as the government has recently set out its low-carbon transition plans to tackle climate change, England’s only large wind turbine manufacturing plant is scheduled to close. Ed Miliband has said he is committed to consulting people up until the Copenhagen climate change summit in December and that, in this context, “it isn’t just about world leaders, but about real people affected by huge changes who need to make their voices heard”. We would now urge him to listen to the voices of the Vestas workers. Here are 625 people who not only want to protect their jobs, but also protect England’s wind-power industry.

The loss of jobs at Vestas will not only have a devastating impact on the Isle of Wight, even more so at a time of recession, it will also mean an almost criminal loss of expertise and jobs that are vital to fighting climate change. We believe that with the political will, even at this late stage, there is still time to take positive action to explore all the options that are available to save the production of wind turbines at the site and secure jobs for the future.

Chris Baugh Deputy general secretary, PCS
Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
Brian Caton General secretary, POA
Bob Crow General secretary, RMT
Jeremy Dear General secretary, NUJ
Gerry Doherty General secretary, TSSA
Sally Hunt General secretary, UCU
Chris Kitchen General secretary, NUM
Michael Leahy General secretary, Community
Lesley Mercer Director of employment relations, CSP
Bob Monks General secretary, URTU
Gerry Morrissey General secretary, Bectu
John Smith General secretary, Musicians Union
Matt Wrack General secretary, FBU
Charles Ward General secretary, AEP
David Cockroft General secretary, ITF

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Iraq War Inquiry - Another Whitewash?


As the Green Party's representative on the Stop the War Coalition's Steering Group, I attended a meeting a few weeks ago about the Iraq Inquiry to see if all the real evidence can be heard and whether it will be just another whitewash as the Hutton and Butler inquiries were. It has been wrung out of Gordon Brown and it is also clear that the Inquiry's findings are unlikely to be heard this side of the general election, but it is essential that all voices are heard, including those who have lost family members in the war, Iraquis themselves and those who have evidence of the pre-war collusion which took place involving Blair and Bush. Stop the War sent the following letter to the Inquiry's Chair, Sir John Chilcot, last week. We will see what the response is like.


In the interim, another war continues in Afghanistan, and the US calls for more British and NATO troops to be sent. A former Foreign Office Minister, Kim Howells, states that the British public have lost their stomach for fighting foreign wars. Perhaps Blair's 'muscular interventionism' and flouting of international law has something to do with that. The Tories, just as they did with Iraq, run along in the government's train, fully supporting the war effort. Can we expect more crocodile tears from them in the years ahead when all the details about this current war become clear?


Tonight at 7.30pm Lambeth Stop the War calls a public meeting on Afghanistan with John Rees of Stop the War at Clapham Methodist Church, Nelsons Row/Clapham High St, near Sainsbury's

Clapham Common Tube. More info: 07914311866








Sir John Chilcot,
Chair, the Iraq Inquiry
C/O The Secretariat
The Iraq Inquiry
35 Great Smith Street
SW1P 3BQ
30 July 2009

Dear Sir John,

I am writing on behalf of the Stop the war Coalition to ask that the Stop the War Coalition be given the opportunity to present evidence to the inquiry into the Iraq war.
As you may be aware, the Stop the War Coalition was the principal organisation leading the opposition to the war before it was begun in 2003, and to the subsequent occupation of Iraq. We organised the demonstration against the war in February 15 2003 which was the largest political protest ever held in this country. The Coalition had (and has) the support of a large and diverse range of organisations, including most major trade unions, religious bodies, political parties and campaigns. We have also worked closely with the Military Families Against the War organisation. Our President is Tony Benn, and our other officers include two members of parliament (Jeremy Corbyn MP and George Galloway MP), one member of the European parliament and two now-retired MPs, including Tam Dalyell, father of the House of Commons at the time of the war.

It was our contention at the time that the case advanced by the government for attacking Iraq was based on misinformation regarding Iraq’s weapons capability and regarding the Iraqi regime’s relationship with al-Qaeda; that the decision to attack was in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter; that government policy was based on secret undertakings made to the government of the USA; that the majority of the Iraqi people would not welcome an invasion; and that the government’s policy would make this country more vulnerable to terrorism rather than less. We believe that the Coalition’s position on all these points, shared as they were by millions of people in Britain, have been amply vindicated by subsequent events and revelations. It would be our intention to submit evidence to your inquiry on these issues, and to highlight the undemocratic nature of the government’s decision to go to war in 2003. It is our understanding that all this falls within your terms of reference.

As well as submitting our own evidence to the inquiry we would like to propose some other expert witnesses. We would therefore like to arrange a meeting with you or your representatives to discuss our suggested input and the procedure for submitting evidence.
Yours sincerely
Andrew Murray
National Chair
Stop the War Coalition

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Brighton Pride


Down to Brighton yesterday for Brighton Pride, which I never miss. The theme this year was 'the sea' and lots of suitably dressed sailors, seadogs etc. The Green Party had a float of a ship with Caroline Lucas as captain and all the men dressed as mermaids and the women as sailors. I met several of the watery crew later at the Green Party stall in Preston Park. Unfortunately the weather turned nasty in the afternoon and there was a veritable downpour. I ended up sheltering under a tree with friends at one point but the soggy weather was too much and I beat a retreat to the cabaret tent, where I always find top class entertainment. Some of the best performers there also peform regularly at the Vauxhall Tavern in Vauxhall, which is probably one of the best venues in London for alternative comedy and cabaret and is certainly the best for queer comedy. One of my favourite acts, 'Topping and Butch' were on stage in the cabaret tent entertaining us with their always up to date satirical songs on leading fashionistas and politicians. Also saw the indefatigable Peter Tatchell handing out leaflets in the park - apparently he and Caroline Lucas had spoken at a very successful public meeting the night before on 'Forty Years after Stonewall'.


Later went for an interesting chat about LGBT politics with Phelim Mc Cafferty, one of the Green Party's two Spokespersons on LGBTIQ issues and Nick, who works for the anti-homophobic crime section of the Council with the police. We discussed the possible outcome of the general election and how that will impact on equalities issues and LGBT rights in particular. The pub we were in was due for a visit from the LGBT Labour Group, but my partner and I had to get back to London. One of the problems for Londoners attending Pride is the chaos at Brighton station with the later trains, which can make the journey home a real nightmare. Last year we had trains so overpacked that police were pulling people out of the carriages. It should not be beyond the ability of the rail company to lay on extra trains for Pride and especially later ones.


Going down in the train with a group of Spanish gays and their friends sitting opposite, it was classic to see the Daily Telegraph reader behind casting horrified glances in their direction. Not only gays but foreign ones to boot! This is what I like about Brighton Pride - international, progressive, and open. And a chance for the LGBT community in Brighton to really strut their stuff. Long may it continue.