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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Statement from Green Left on Salma Yaqoob and Birmingham Hall Green Constituency


Statement from GL re Birmingham Hall Green Constituency


The Steering Committee of Green Left voted unanimously last night to support the following statement. We believe that in this week of the failed New Labour conference and following on from last Saturday's Convention of the Left in Brighton, it is a significant step in the direction of forging a new progressive and Left unity in British politics.


“Green Left calls upon our fellow Greens in Birminghamnot not to stand a candidate in the constituency of Birmingham Hall Green in the coming general election in order to give a strong, progressive and environmentally aware candidate the chance of taking the seat. We believe that Salma Yaqoob of Respect is the candidate most likely to do this and her victory would be a victory for all those opposing the policies of privatisation, war, greed, racism and environmental destruction.

We believe that this is an opportunity for the progressive movement in Birmingham to unite behind one candidate and not to make the mistakes of the European election, where a divided Left opened the way to the election of racists and bigots. For the benefit of the people of Birmingham and of radical politics in this country we ask the Green Party in Birmingham to stand aside and not to oppose Salma Yaqoob. We are firmly of the belief that this will benefit both the Green and progressive movements in this country and send out a signal that we are serious in challenging the neo-liberal economic policies of the three main parties as well as Fascism and racism.”

Joseph Healy
Co-Convenor Green Left

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Go East where the gravy is fine


I do occasionally skim through the financial pages of various newspapers and tend to alight on the more academic economic articles written by economists. I am not an economist by training but as part of my background in studying history I also studied economic history. Sometimes I feel that this is an aspect of economics which economists often ignore - have we been here before? Clearly anyone with a knowledge of the South Sea Bubble speculative disaster in the 18th century or the Great Depression could have foretold that predictions of permanent growth and economic sunshine were fatuous. Which reminds me. Now that the Labour Party conference is heralding Gordon Brown as the man who saved the UK from the great depression Mark 2 etc, is this not the same Gordon Brown who only a couple of years ago predicted "an end to boom and bust"? Ah yes but memory is a strang thing and most politicians hope that the electorate have forgotten their errors by the time of the next election.


Which brings me back to the news which I read last Friday that the Head of HSBC Bank was moving to Hong Kong. This news was related to thousands of HSBC staff in the City of London but they were assured that this would have no impact on the operations of the bank in the UK or the importance of the City. Of course HSBC was originally based in the British colony of Hong Kong and relocated to London after the colony was returned to China. The news has created jitters in the City and I think it should do so. This is an indication that China's and Asia's economies are where the future is and that the City of London (on which the sun never sets) is beginning to wane. The whole basis on which the Thatcher government of the 80s built their so called economic strategy was that the City and the service sector would constitute UK Plc, whereas manufacturing industry, with all its attendant apprenticeships, exports etc, could go to the wall. The City would be the head of the British economy, the rest the body. The problem is that during the 80s and 90s, and into the new century, it became a bloated head, leaving very little as a body.


I predict that HSBC is the harbinger of change and that as the economic centre shifts east many other banks and financial institutions will do likewise. They will use the threat of this to blackmail the UK government over bonuses etc, as they will realise that without them the UK economy is a very shrunken creature indeed. So they will demand more and more - these wealth creators and titans of finance. The international rating of the UK will continue to fall and this will accelerate. To put it bluntly, the UK is producing and exporting next to nothing in comparison with other EU countries and the voodoo economics of Thatcher and her New Labour and Conservative successors still dominates. Like the Bourbons, the government has learned nothing from history and from this recent unregulated financial disaster. Staff responses at HSBC ranged from those who claimed that some people might think that London was no longer the global headquarters but that there would be no day to day difference, to those who believed that it was a symbolic move and was bad for London in the long term. Banks will follow capital and the City of London is heading into a long term decline.


It is best that the UK economy adjusts as quickly as possible to the new situation in the world and the pressing twin issues of job creation and climate change. The old Thatcherite model of the City as be all and end all is ending and there must be a clear economic strategy of new green industries and new green jobs. The manufacture and production of things must be placed back at the heart of a new economic model and the casino capitalism of the City abandoned as a last century mistake. To fail to adjust to the movement of the global economy eastward and to be caught napping will ensure that Britain's only source of revenue in the future will be tourism and television comedies. There is a crying need for planning and for putting Britain back to work as part of a real green economy and not as part of an inflated Potemkin village, which is what the City of London really is. The Green Party is looking forward and preparing for this new economy whereas the other parties are still floating up and down in the wake of the last banker's yacht sailing east down the Thames.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Germany moves to the Right


With the news that Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their allies the Free Democrats (FDP) have gained enough votes to form a new government, it seems that the Thatcherite tax cuts agenda of the FDP will be a central part of the agenda of the new government, now that Merkel is free of the restraining hand of the Social Democrats, who are the real losers in this election. They have secured their lowest share of the vote since the early 60s. The other winners are the Die Linke (the Left Party) which was the only party to come out strongly against the Afghan war, and Die Grunen (the Greens). Both parties have increased their number of seats substantially and Die Linke have gained over 12% of the national vote, whereas the Greens are on 10%. There can be no doubt that Germany's involvement in the Afghan war and cuts in social welfare, together with mounting unemployment have had an impact on this.


Apart from a likely rightwards turn now in economic policy, principally at the behest of the FDP, the other change will be that the move towards ending nuclear power in Germany will come to a shuddering halt. It is also unlikely that the new government will do anything about Germany's involvement in the war. Furthermore, the FDP leader, Westerwelle, will now become Germany's foreign minister. Merkel's Atlanticist foreign policy will continue, while maintaining a close relationship with Russia (the so called Ostpolitik) which will not go down too well with the rest of the EU. Howevere, Obama's decision to remove the US Starwars bases from Poland and the Czech Republic, will considerably improve relations between the EU and Russia, particularly Germany.


The collapse of German Social Democracy is a story which is being played out across Europe and mirrors the results in France and elsewhere in the European elections. Hopefully the SPD will now learn its lesson and build stronger links with the Die Linke and the Greens, and abandon its pro-war policies, which already was beginning to happen during the course of the election campaign. Just as in the UK, there is a real need for the parties of the Left to sit down and work together. Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the Convention of the Left in Brighton on Saturday but I heard that it was very interesting. Caroline Lucas's speech went down extremely well and she said that the Greens are a party of the Left and an anti-capitalist party. The German Greens need to seriously re-examine their position on the war and some other policies. Above all they should clearly eschew any suggestions about entering into coalitions with the Christian Democrats in some of the federal states.


I will be going to the Steering Group meeting of Stop the War Coalition on Saturday, where I am sure the electoral results in Germany will be hotly debated.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Solidarity protest with migrants in Calais in London


I will be going to the French embassy protest next Tuesday called by No Borders to protest at the way that the French authorities have treated the migrants in Calais and against their collaborators the UK government. As Yasmin Alibhai Brown wrote a few days ago in the Independent, there is a certain hypocrisy in the British wanting these people removed when many of them are there as a result of UK actions in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of an economic system which robs their countries for the benefit of multinational and UK businesses.


I hope that as many people as possible will go to the embassy on Tuesday to demonstrate and show our support for these people who have become the scapegoats of racism and xenophobia.



No Borders London call for action in solidarity with migrants in Calais!


Join us in a demonstration at 5.30pm, on Tuesday 29th September 09, outside the French Embassy, 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT.


On the morning of Tuesday 22nd September, French police bulldozed the area known as the 'jungle' in Calais where migrants were living, destroying their homes and possessions and detaining around 300 people, including 132 children. Other migrants left before they could be detained, and have been driven to sleep rough on the streets of Calais, Paris and elsewhere. UK Home Secretary expressed his 'delight' at this devastating move by the French authorities, as it aims to stop migrants reaching the UK. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas falsely claimed that 'genuine' refugees would claim asylum at the first EU country they came to, regardless of whether they had familiy in other countries - and ignoring the fact that many migrants had not had the chance to claim asylum had they wanted to. European countries which migrants commonly travel through to reach France and the UK do not adhere to the UNHCR guidelines on hosting refugees.


In Greece, fewer than 1% of asylum claims were accepted last year, while in Italy thousands were intercepted and turned away without even having their claims looked at.We believe people should have freedom to move and live where they choose. We believe that adults and children should not be detained against their will, having committed no crime. In solidarity with migrants in Calais and everywhere, we demand that the French authorities release the 300 people that are being detained! For hourly updates on the situation in Calais, visit calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com

Belgrade Pride


The banning of Serbia's first LGBT Pride march since 2001, when it was attacked by violent homophobic thugs, is a real setback for LGBT rigths in that country. Serbia is moving slowly towards applicant status to be a member of the EU and such developments show that it still has a long way to go. This is in stark contrast to Hungary, where Budapest Pride went ahead successfully this summer after the authorities agreed to offer full protection to Hungary's LGBT population as well as visitors. Budapest Pride was also attacked last year.


The European Green Party has issued the following statement about Belgrade Pride and it is a reiteration of the fight for LGBT rights in Europe which the Green parties, together with other progressive political forces are leading. There can be no place in our continent or in a future EU member state for such surrendering to the naked forces of homophobia and intolerance.




25.09.2009

EUROPEAN GREENS CONDEMN DE FACTO BANNING OF BELGRADE PRIDE

The Spokespersons of the European Green Party have expressed their dismay that the Pride event due to take place on Sunday 20th September was de facto cancelled by the Serbian authorities as a result of threats of violence and intimidation by far-right extremists.

EGP Co-Spokesperson Ulrike Lunacek, who is also an Austrian Green MEP and is herself a lesbian, said: “Last Sunday’s Pride event in Belgrade should not only have been a real celebration for Serbia’s LGBT community but also an important sign of progress regarding the human rights situation in Serbia as a whole. However, by retracting their earlier promises to ensure the protection of all those taking part in the Pride event in the face of threats of violence from extremist ultra-nationalist groups, the Serbian authorities have effectively handed those very groups a victory and have shown that they are not able or willing to guarantee their citizens their Human Rights as covered by the European Convention. This is an extremely worrying situation for everyone who cares about human rights in Serbia and in the Balkans and Europe as a whole.” Several members of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, including Lunacek, have formulated some critical questions to the Commission about its reaction to this denial of the freedom of assembly by the Serbian authorities.

EGP Co-Spokesperson Philippe Lamberts, who is also a MEP for the French-speaking Green Party Ecolo, continued: “We European Greens will continue to scrutinise the situation in Serbia and work alongside LGBT activists and human rights defenders to keep up the pressure on the Serbian authorities to so that people are no longer denied their right to gather and demonstrate peacefully because of the government and police’s inability or lack of will to guarantee security for Pride or similar events. What is clear is that the Serbian government must take urgent measures to strengthen legislation so that those who incite violence are charged and punished, and not rewarded as they have been in this case. Any failure to do this promptly will show that Serbia still has a huge amount of progress to make regarding human rights, equal opportunities and anti-discrimination measures before it can be considered ready to join the EU.”


Graham Burgess
Media and Communications Officer
European Green Party
Office no: +32 (0)2 626 0724
Mobile no: +32 (0)477 902 023
graham.burgess@europeangreens.net
http://www.europeangreens.eu/


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Green Humanism v New Labour Cruelty


Scenes of the closure of the makeshift refugee camp in Calais today shown on BBC News are truly shocking. Many of those being taken away are crying and devastated. It is a human tragedy. The heartlessness of Alan Johnson and his remarks show how far New Labour has gone in aping the BNP and their agenda. Caroline Lucas's humane and progressive statement stands out in marked contrast.


NEWS RELEASE
From the office of South-East England’s Green MEP Caroline Lucas

22 September 2009

GREEN EURO-MP VOICES DISGUST AT ‘INHUMANE’ RAID ON CALAIS MIGRANT CAMP

- British and French governments’ plot to deport ‘Jungle’ asylum seekers breaks EU human rights law, says Green Party leader

Green MEP for the South East, Caroline Lucas, today responded angrily to news that French police have raided the ‘Jungle’ camps in Calais, reportedly detaining 278 people – 132 children of whom are said to be children (1).

Police have swooped on a squalid tented area known as ‘The Jungle’ outside Calais, home to hundreds of refugees and migrants from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. Around a fifth of them are thought to be children, living in desperate and dangerous conditions, sleeping rough, with little access to sanitation or resources.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP said:

“Today’s mass clearance and destruction of the ‘Jungle’ camps by the French authorities, involving the detention of hundreds of refugees, is simply unacceptable – and must be condemned by the international community.

“Rather than fulfilling their responsibilities to seekers of asylum under both EU and international law, the French and British governments are turning a blind eye to the suffering taking place on their own doorsteps. Home Secretary Alan Johnson‘s glee in the wake of this aggressive police raid is particularly disturbing.

“The plan for mass deportations of these refugees rides roughshod over the European Convention on Human Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Geneva Convention. And given that so many facing expulsion are children, the plans may also breach the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"This short term ‘solution’ is not only inhumane – it will not work. The French are not playing their part in allowing people to claim asylum in Calais, and must commit to making the official procedures for seeking asylum more accessible to those in need. Equally, other EU Member states must recognise their duty to share the responsibility.”

The majority of refugees in the ‘Jungle’ have had no contact with official authorities since entering the EU. Many face a risk of deportation before they have even been interviewed in order to determine whether they are seeking asylum and are, therefore, protected by EU asylum law. They are also often at the mercy of ruthless people traffickers within the camps.

Caroline Lucas MEP concluded:

“Many migrants into France and the UK are fleeing in part from the dire consequences of the West’s foreign policy mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given this reality, you would hope that these governments would take their responsibilities to the international community more seriously.

“It is disgusting that vulnerable people from some of the world’s most troubled countries are treated so inhumanely on European soil. Many residents in the camps are genuine asylum-seekers and not illegal immigrants. It is crucial that those people fleeing persecution and war have free access to the correct information so that they know they can make a genuine claim for asylum.”

In a letter to the European Commission back in July, the UK’s Green MEPs called for an immediate suspension of plans to deport around 1,800 individuals from the ‘Jungle’, warning that the planned action – being taken jointly by the French and British authorities under the Evian Agreement – would be in direct breach of EU and international law on human rights and refugees.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hundreds-of-police-clear-calais-migrant-camp-1791269.html

A previous attempt at a mass deportation was overruled by the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the operation would contravene the European Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the trilateral agreement signed in 2002 by UNHCR with the Afghan and French governments, which stipulates that "the return of Afghans who do not enjoy protection… will be carried out in a gradual, ordered and humane way.

For more information on the work of Dr Lucas MEP, please contact Melissa Freeman on 0207 407 9935 / 07950 382149 or carolinepress@greenmeps.org.uk

http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/


Melissa Freeman
Media Officer to Caroline Lucas MEP
Suite 58
The Hop Exchange
24 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TY
Office: 020 7407 9935
Mobile: 07950 382149
Email: carolinepress@greenmeps.org.uk

Bolivia and Spain


While in Spain last week I watched a press conference between President Morales of Bolivia and Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain. Morales was clear about his views on the United States and saw Spain as a key player in handling contacts between Latin America and Europe. This should come as no surprise, as not only is Spain the traditional colonial power in the region, with linguistic, cultural and historical ties, but now there are many thousands of Latin American immigrants living in Spain, many of whom have EU passports because their grandparents were European immigrants. An example of this is the large Argentinian community there, many of whom hold Italian passports.


One of the highlights of the press conference was an announcement by Zapatero that Spain was cancelling its debt with Bolivia.Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said 60% of the amount will be cancelled outright and 40% deposited into a fund for education projects. Zapatero told a joint press conference with Morales the deal was part of Spain's "commitment to the development of Bolivia and Bolivians" which will also include "a major training programme for young people." I think this is an excellent and real example of a European state carrying out its responsibility towards the developing and poorer nations.


Morales was due to discuss the upcoming nationalization of Bolivia's electricity sector, in which several Spanish companies have stakes.


An agreement was also to be signed to allow Bolivian residents in Spain and Spaniards in Bolivia to vote in each others' municipal elections.
Before beginning his official visit, Morales presided over a rally of some 7,000 Bolivians in Leganes near Madrid , pledging to fight for the legalization of undocumented Bolivian immigrants in Spain.
"When Spaniards and Europeans arrived in America, our grandparents never said they were illegal," he told an ecstatic crowd.
Only 98,000 of Spain's estimated 250,000 Bolivians are legally in the country.
The rally was seen as having a strong electoral flavour, as Bolivians resident in Spain are allowed to vote in the December 6 presidential and legislative elections.
The visit was Morales' first to Spain as head of state.


Naturally questions about President Chavez of Venezuela came up also at the press conference. Morales made it clear that he is standing as an ally of Venezuela and that Colombia's actions are provocative. Colombia is the main ally of the US in Latin America and its armed forces are the largest and have received considerable financial support from the US. Zapatero, for his part, in an attempt to be conciliatory, said that Latin America needed to be united and that only as a united region could it be influential. Morales has been particularly incensed about the decision by Colombia to allow the US to have military bases on its territory.


Morales has made quite an impression in Spain as the first indigenous Latin American president and is clearly speaking out also for Latin American immigrants in Europe. Spain is about to introduce its fourth major legal change in immigration laws in the last few years, largely as a response to the mounting level of unemployment in the country.


Colombia's actions in Latin America are increasingly bellicose and are leading to concerns from Bolivia and Venezuela that some military action is in the pipeline. The role of US bases in Latin America is a very topical one at present, although the situation has improved under Obama. However, this latest deal with Colombia will lead to increased tension. Progressive Europeans must support progressive presidents such as Morales against militarisation and economic hegemony.


There is an interesting article on the mounting tension in the region in Green Left Weekly http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/811/41736

Monday, 21 September 2009

Time and tide


Yes back after a holiday on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, it is time to take stock and add up the dates. Holidays are a time for reflection and relaxation but there is always a return to business. In Spain there was much talk of 'El Crisis' - the economic meltdown - with insults and accusations flying in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament) between the Socialist government and the Partido Popular (Conservative) opposition. A major economic thinktank is predicting unemployment levels of 20% for Spain by next year. I remember when Ireland had levels of 25% in the 80s when I was in my early twenties and the social misery it caused. Unemployment here too continues to mount.


Last week in the Independent a political journalist claimed that Labour ministers had told him that the general election would happen in April, with parliament being dissolved in March. This may indeed be the case with the clock ticking and time running out for the present government. Their only hope now is that there will be an economic miracle before the spring - but that is most unlikely.


Time is also running out for NATO in Afghanistan. Today General Mc Chrystle warns of a military failure unless more troops from Europe are sent soon. In the interim the allegations of electoral fraud there increase daily, while the death of six Italian troops last week has led to mounting concern in Italy and in Germany, where the issue has moved to the centre of the general election due on Sunday.


Yesterday I helped with the Lambeth Green Party stall at the Urban Green Fair in Brockwell Park, run by Shane Collins of the Green Party and many other environmental activists. The stalls and tents contained many different organistations, all campaigning to save the planet and the local area before time runs out. One of the regular questions at the stall was "when are the elections?"


Today is the equinox. The end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Seasons move on and the days grow shorter. Hopes grow and dim over the Copenhagen Climate Summit - reports already indicate that the US is not going to go as far as the EU and the Green movement hoped.


Meanwhile the planet warms. The bankers continue to collect their bonuses. The arms manufacturers and the soldiers both carry on. The general election draws nearer and the lists of promises grow longer. The Lib Dems engage in some form of political sadomasochism - "No, we will be more savage than them and remove more public services." The spirit of Thatcherism and Gradgrindism persists. "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times."


The icecap melts at the Arctic. The shadows lengthen. Time and tide wait for no man, nor for any movement. Is it too late? What must be done? The nettle must be grasped and a different better world fought for. The clock ticks. It is for this that one strives against all the odds and the naysayers.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Bronwen Maher's speech

Just realised that I forgot to post former Irish Green councillor Browen's Maher's speech which she delivered to the Green Left fringe at conference. Bronwen hails from Dublin as I do.

See http://bronwenmaher.wordpress.com for a full version of the speech.

Conference feedback


Back from conference in Hove last night and feeling really hopeful but exhausted. The two Green Left fringes were really exceptional, only let down by the fact that Jeremy Corbyn MP was unable to attend the Afghanistan one but his place was taken by Tom Willis from Sussex University Students Union and Stop the War Coalition activist. Farid Bakht also gave an excellent presentation.


This was followed on Friday by the motion on the war which reiterated the party's support for an immediate withdrawal of UK forces from Afghanistan and for NATO forces to follow. It also called for a peace conference and the protection of the rights of refugees and minorities in Afghanistan. As Caroline Lucas said in her speech on Friday "we are a bold party with bold policies" and it is clear that we are now the main anti-war party along with Respect. I proposed the motion and was very happy to see it passed nem con and as the party's national delegate to Stop the War Coalition I will be reporting back on this. I also reminded the conference of the major demonstration in London on October 24th against the war in Afghanistan organised by Stop the War and others.


The Green Left fringe on the green coalition experience on Saturday with former Irish Green councillor Bronwen Maher was also fascinating and I was the other speaker. Thanks to second generation Irish Councillor Romayne Phoenix from Lewisham for chairing it. Bronwen publicised the event in Ireland beforehand and it has received extensive coverage in the Irish press. The text of Bronwen's speech is to be found here


I also attended the Green Party Trade Union Group fringe on Welfare and Low Pay and was proud to propose an emergency motion on behalf of the Group supporting the efforts of trade unions to organise migrant workers and deploring the removal of cleaners from Latin America working at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London last June with the connivance of the management after it became clear that the cleaners had unionised. The motion also praised those student activists who occupied SOAS for days and secured a promise that nothing like that would happen again.


Another highlight for me was the meeting organised by the Equality Trust indicating the strength of the economic and environmenal argument that more equal societies are not only healthier and less violent but also more ecologically aware. The research presented demonstrates clearly that social justice and environmental concerns must go hand in hand.
Caroline Lucas's speech on the need to transform UK politics also first class.


Good to see some good candidates elected on to the Executive and various committees - congratulations especially to my Green Left colleagues and friends Andy Hewett and Farid Bakht/Phelim Mac Cafferty who were elected to the posts of Campaigns and International Coordinators respectively (the latter being a job share).


The party's policy on Israel and Palestine was also updated and I took part in the workshop on that.


I opposed the motion on the recall of MPs because I believe that it will be used essentially by right wing press and populist movements to deselect MPs who have a radical or leftwing agenda, as happened in California with Schwarzenegger. The motion was passed but I believe that an amendment is necessary to ensure that any such recall mechanism was not used for such purposes but only on grounds of illegal or inappropriate behaviour. I am quite fearful of the power of populist movements at present - witness the fuss around Esther Rantzen when nobody knows what her policies are - just that she is well known and agin the sitting MP.


It was good to see old friends at conference and get to know new ones. The Green awards at the end of conference is an excellent innovation and I was glad to see Cllr Romayne Phoenix win one for 'Green Campaigner' which she most certainly has been over the last year. I also have an award to deliver to fellow Lambeth member Remco Van der Stroep for organising the European election campaign bus tour in London.


I am now off on a well earned holiday for ten days and shall resume blogging on my return. The TUC conference next week promises to offer more interesting news and the Labour Party and Lib Dem conferences are soon to follow.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Conference 2009


I will be setting off to Hove this evening to attend the Green Party conference and will be especially involved in several fringes organised by Green Left, as well as proposing a motion on Afghanistan calling for immediate withdrawal of British troops.


Unfortunately I will arrive too late and miss the Standing Order Committee's report on the disputed internal election, which will be held this afternoon. Last night I chaired a meeting of Lambeth Green Party, and it was very much the view of the members there (very few of whom are attending conference) that the ballot for the External Communications post should be extended to all the membership and they felt quite aggrieved about the ERO's decision, so we will see what happens.


I will be chairing a Green Left fringe meeting tonight on Afghanistan with Jeremy Corbyn (Labour MP for Islington and Officer for Stop the War Coalition) and Farid Bakht (Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bethnal Green & Bow) both speaking. Also for the first time, Stop the War Coalition will have a stall at conference, which is especially apt as this issue moves more and more to the central political agenda. Tomorrow I will be proposing a motion calling for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a regional peace settlement.


There is also a motion on health spending (that UK health expenditure must remain at the EU average) and I am proposing a motion that this be at Western European average rather than the low levels of expenditure found in some Eastern European states. This again is very relevant as many of the meetings I have had with NHS officials over the last few months have made it clear that there will be a total freeze on health spending from 2011 and possibly severe cuts.


I am also speaking at a Green Left fringe on Saturday, together with former Irish Green Party councillor, Bronwen Maher, about what has happened since the Irish Greens entered the coalition with Fianna Fail two years ago. The meeting is on Greens in coalition and the Irish experience. Needless to say, both of us are very opposed to what the Irish Greens have been doing there.


There is also a fascinating panel discussion on 'Just Transition' which is the idea that harmful and non-sustainable industrial production can be turned around to useful and sustainable, thus protecting jobs and creating green industries. Caroline Lucas will be speaking at that, together with several trade union activists. And the Trade Union Group, whose Treasurer I am, will be hodling a fringe meeting on Saturday on 'Welfare and Low Pay' with several experts in this area including the party's Disability Spokesperson. This is a really important issue with the government's current savage attacks on welfare - likely to be further cut by an incoming Tory administration - and the numbers of people now unemployed.


I will also, of course, take part in discussions on many other motions, including some important organisational ones, as well as voting for candidates for the new Green Party Executive and committees. I am unlikely to have time to blog, so will try and do an update on my return from conference on Sunday. I will also be meeting many people whom I have not seen for a few months at least, and in some cases over a year.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Whoopi speaks out for Budapest Pride


Last year while in Vienna on holiday, I spotted the local newspapers full of horrendous photos of far Right thugs attacking the marchers at Budapest Pride. Budapest Pride will be held again this coming weekend and so far 13 embassies in Hungary have sent their support. Along with them Whoopi Goldberg has sent a message of support - good for you Whoopi.



The recent European elections showed a large increase in the Far Right vote in Hungary and there have been visible signs of their increasing influence. Along with Whoopi Goldberg I give my full support and that of the Green Party to those taking part in Budapest Pride. I hope that all goes well and that the Hungarian authorities and Budapest police do all they can to ensure that the event passes off peacefully.
There is no room for homophobic violence in Hungary and in the new states of the European Union. I will also be asking other European Green parties and our MEPs to ensure the safety and rights of Hungarian and EU citizens taking part in Budapest Pride. Fascism and homophobia should have no breathing space in either London or Budapest.