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Friday, 30 October 2009

Breakthrough in Honduras

After months of repression and the attempts of the constitutionally elected president of Honduras, President Zelaya, to return to power following a coup, it appears that a breakthrough has happened.

This is only due to the persistence of Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy, while the coup leaders have arrested and beaten up his supporters outside. However, it appears that external pressure and the constant support of the people and trade unions have forced the hand of the coup leaders. President Zelaya may shortly be returned to office.

Apart from its implications for Honduras, this coup was also vitally important in Latin America, as it was a test case to see whether old style coups by the military and oligarchy were still acceptable in the region. This has been proved not to be the case and is a victory for the forces of democracy throughout the continent as well as those clamouring for social justice and human rights. Although the US and Hilary Clinton have given support to Zelaya, it is primarily the Latin American states, particularly Brazil and Venezuela, which have been most supportive. The US has been lukewarm in its support and tried to discourage Zelaya from returning to Honduras. Only his steadfast belief in the people of Honduras and in his own democratic legitimacy have sustained Zelaya and it looks as if he will return to power as a victor in Honduras.

This is also a grim warning however, that the forces of the vested interests and the oligarchy will oppose radical politicians who threaten their power base and wealth. This is what happened in Venezuela and elsewhere and demonstrates that reactionary forces are still at work, and are encouraged by some in the US administration and the Republicans. Hopefully Zelaya can now take office peacefully and implement his social and economic reforms.

No to Hate Crime Vigil in Trafalgar Square Tonight

NEWS FROM LGBTGreens In the GREEN PARTY of England and Wales

Remember Ian Baynham and all victims of LGBT hate crimes LGBTGreens: Now is the time to stand up to the Bigots together!

Phelim Mac Cafferty, National Spokesperson for LGBT Greens: “Talk of an era of acceptance must surely be open to challenge. Sadly there is overwhelming proof once again that deep-rooted homo, bi and trans phobia is alive and on our streets. In the last month alone, Londoner Ian Baynham and Brightonian Andrea Waddell have both been murdered while Liverpudlian James Parkes has been hospitalised- all of them for either their sexuality or gender identity. “Now is the time to make an urgent stance. When stats from police authorities show increases in violent crimes on our communities, we need to unite to show the maximum opposition to those who attack us. We call on everyone to get to Trafalgar Square at 8PM tomorrow evening (Friday) to stand firm against hatred.[1] To those who can’t make it, please note the 2 minute silence at 9PM in memory of those who have died.”

Jean Lambert MEP, London’s Green MEP said: “The Met reported a significant increase in homophobic crime across London this year, even though it is estimated that three quarters of homophobic hate crimes still go unreported. Two thirds of those who did report incidents found they were not referred to advice or support services. It is essential to support victims of crime and change our culture so that everyone can feel safe on the streets.”

Phelim Mac Cafferty continued: “While leading Police sources rightly talk of an increase in reporting as an indication of engagement with the LGBT community, the latest violent hate crimes[2] speak of a renewed hatred, which has been sparked in part by the prominence of the violent, fascist BNP.” “The savage murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square- a glance away from Soho- at only 10:30pm is a sad indication of how emboldened homophobes have become in the last period.[3] What unites the attacks on Ian Baynham and James Parkes, sadly, is the young age of their attackers.”

Chair of the London Assembly, Darren Johnson stated: "Homophobic bullying is still rife and far too many schools have failed to put clear policies in place to confront it. If we want to eliminate gay hate crimes we must begin that work in our schools."

Phelim Mac Cafferty concluded: “We achieved assurances from the Home Office in 2007 that Criminal Justice legislation would now come down heavily on those who perpetrate hate crimes against lgb people. Now LGBT Greens will push for: (1) target incitement of hatred on the grounds of gender identity through re-writing the law. We believe that often some of the worst discrimination and violence is felt by trans people; (2) lobby for sufficient investment (with the police and other crime-prevention agencies) in specific research into the prevalence of hate crime and perceptions of safety within the LGBT community so that hate crime trends reduce;(3) harmonise hate crimes legislation so that homophobic and transphobic crimes are dealt with on a par with racist crimes;(4) outlaw the performance, sale, promotion and broadcasting of music and other arts which incite hatred and violence towards lgbt people. (5) police forces throughout the country which have yet to adopt and implement action plans on homophobic and transphobic hate crimes to be compelled to do so in the next 6 months.”

ENDS --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[2] Met Police annual increase +16% to April 2009; Greater Manchester Police report +63% increase

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Against Homophobic Violence

As a gay man and an officer of the national Green Party LGBTIQ Group I am growing deeply concerned about the increase in homophobic violence across this country. I will be going tomorrow night (Friday) to the vigil in Trafalgar Square from 8pm to 10pm against homophobic violence, together with both straight and LGBTIQ friends, calling on Londoners to unite against this scourge following a recent homophobic murder there. There is a similar vigil happening in Liverpool, where another young gay man is seriously ill in hospital following an attack.

It is also incredible that at this time, the Met Police in London are backtracking on the number of officers responsible for dealing with the LGBT community in London and this particularly affects areas such as Vauxhall, with a large LGBTIQ population and many venues. I would appeal to the Metropolitan Police Authority to address this issue urgently and also for Lambeth Council not to consider any moves to backtrack on the provision of these officers. It is also something which I will bring to the Police Consultative Committee in Lambeth. The report is below.

On Channel 4 News this week we saw horrific figures about the dramatic increase in homophobic attacks, mainly due to negative stereotyping of the LGBT community by young people in schools and this is now leading to attacks by many young people. As Brian Paddick pointed out, a whole new generation is being infected with homophobia. I would also urge LGBT venues to support the vigil tomorrow and for as many people as possible in the community to support it. The candlelit vigil will go from Soho Square to Trafalgar Square at 7.30pm.

QX Magazine, No. 764, 29th October 2009, p.40

THE METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE has been accused of watering down LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) Liaison Officers in London at a time of increased reports of homophobic hate crime. Latest Met figures show the number of reported crimes has risen by 18% since last October and there have been a number of murders of gay men in the last year. This month, 62-year-old Ian Baynham died after being beaten by teenagers in a homophobic attack in Trafalgar Square. can report that one London borough, Southwark, no longer has a full-time LGBT Liaison Officer. Jenny Jones, a member of the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Association, told she did not think the changes in Southwark would work and added that she would raise the issue with the MPA’s committee. “I spoke to the Borough Commander. Instead of having one officer trained [in LGBT policing], she said one officer for each ward – that’s 33 wards in the borough – would be trained. I don’t know whether that’s going to work. That’s a high level of expertise and that’s considering the high level of homophobic hate crimes.”

The two officers currently filling the role in Westminster will shortly take on other responsibilities and it is not clear how they will be replaced. Lambeth has also been suggested as a borough that is considering changing the role, although understands that all full and part-time LGBT Liaison Officers will continue in their roles. All three boroughs have a high proportion of lesbians and gays, due to popular gay areas such as Vauxhall and Soho. In Westminster, gay groups are concerned that LGBT Liaison Officers may be replaced with Equality Officers, who would address policing issues relating to race and religion, along with sexual orientation. Policing boroughs are free to chose how to police their individual areas according to the needs of local communities. Currently, there are around 215 LGBT Liaison Officers. Not all are full-time. Previously, Westminster had two full-time officers, while Southwark had one.

Nick Maxwell of Age Concern told he feared that losing some LGBT Liaison Officers would lead to older gay people becoming too scared to report gay hate crimes. He said: “It’s a water-down of the LGBT service. Equality Officers would focus on race and religion and LGBTs would be left out in the cold. It’s also about building trust. From our perspective, when we work with LGBT Liaison Officers, reporting [of crime] increases. Older people often used to experience homophobia from police. Many of those in my group say they have even been blackmailed by police. So a lot of reports aren’t happening. But LGBT Liaison Officers do increase reporting.”

Bob Hodgson, co-chair of the MPS LGBT Advisory Group, said he had been assured that this was not a Met-wide strategy. “One or two London borough have removed full-time Liaison Officers and replaced them with part time roles, or roles that aren’t so clear,” he said. “We have been working robustly with the Met this week and I have been assured it is not a policy to replace LGBT Liaison Officers with Equality Officers in Westminster. They are changing personnel but we have been assured that LGBT Liaison Officers will stay in place and will not be called Equality officers. We don’t think it is a costcutting thing, it seems to be more about redeploying resources. Any reduction in LGBT Liaison Officers is not acceptable to us.” Superintendent Steve Deehan of Southwark police, said that although full-time LGBT Liaison Officers were no longer working in the borough, he was looking to “enhance” the role and part-time officers were still working. He admitted that there were “constraints” on where officers could be deployed. He said: “All organisations are looking at their financial position right now. I came to this new post knowing that we weren’t deploying our full range of staff to deal with homophobic hate crime. We have four teams across the borough, dealing with north and south. There are a lot of gay staff in this borough – I’m from the LGBT community, my chief inspector is from the LGBT community, and one of those teams is one-third gay staff. Are we deploying them properly? Our staff have grown up with gay people, with positive gay role models – they are capable of dealing with the gay community.”

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, accused the Met of complacency this week after the rise in reported homophobic hate crime was revealed. He told “We want a Metropolitan Police Service where all 140,000 staff are gay friendly, not just two in each London borough. And the issue is working out how we get to that position. We have had concerns that too often having just one LGBT Liaison Officer in a borough that might have 150,000 LGBT people simply lets other officers off the hook. There has been huge progress in the Met but there is still an element of complacency when providing for its LGBT taxpayers as well as the general public.” A Met spokesman emphasised the service’s commitment to the LGBT Liaison Officer role and the “unique combination of professional and life skills”. He said: “The deputy commissioner is going to write to all boroughs to state our position of LGBT Liaison Officers and that they should be kept in place. There is no plan to lose the role in Westminster – the borough will continue to have two full-time LGBT Liaison Officers.” The Metropolitan Police Association, which acts as a watchdog to the Met, said it could not comment until the issue had been raised at its committee.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Greens stand aside for Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham

Green Left has issued the following statement following the news that Green Party members in Birmingham have voted not to stand a candidate against Salma Yaqoob in the forthcoming general election in Birmingham Hall Green constituency. I believe that this is an example of non-sectarian progressive politics in action and more is needed if we are to confront the reactionary political forces ranged against us, which is going to lead to penury and destitution among those on benefits and the most marginalised in our society, along with increasing destruction of both our planet and our public services.

Green Left Statement

Green Left welcomes the decision of Birmingham Green Party to stand aside in the parliamentary constituency of Hall Green to let Salma Yaqoob of Respect contest the general election there. The decision, which was endorsed by 86% of Green Party members there, is another step in forming an alliance between those forces on the Left of British politics campaigning against war, privatisation, the ongoing march to environmental disaster and Fascism. We regard this as an historic step in the campaign for the next general election and for progressive politics in this country.

Joseph Healy

Sue Tibbles


Green Left

Employment and Support Allowance Statement on First Anniversary

The government's appalling Welfare Reform Bill has completed its passage through the House of Lords - further stigmatisation of single parents and the unwaged due to follow. Below is a statement issued by the Green Party's Spokesperson on Disability regarding Employment and Support Allowance which is one year old today.

"People on out-of-paid work benefits generally look on the introduction of Employment & Support Allowance as an act of state terrorism. Thus it is appropriate that the Parkinson's Disease Society and the National Autistic Society condemn the way most Employment & Support Allowance claimants have been forced toward the harsher and stingier 'conditionality' of Jobseekers Allowance," Green Party Disability Spokesperson Alan Wheatley said today.[1]

Employment & Support Allowance was introduced on 27 October 2008 -- a year ago today. Survey figures released by the National Autistic Society and Parkinson's Disease Society show that a great many people with autism or Parkinson's Disease are being unjustly treated by Atos Medical Services who conduct the assessments on behalf of the DWP. "That these bodies stand out against such injustices helps restore their credibility with the disabled people that disability charities represent," Mr Wheatley said. "High-salaried chief executives with major national disability charities are frequently seen as state salaried employees, colluding against the interests of the disabled people they purport to represent.

"It is also helpful that Citizen's Advice Scotland has spoken out against Employment & Support Allowance,"
says the Green Party of England & Wales Disability Spokesperson. I doubt that 'leader in global public services reform A4e would be so outspoken against ESA." A4e, seen by some local authorities as a cheaper option than traditional Citizen's Advice Bureau services, is mainly known as a welfare reform scheme provider.[1] [2]

"The Green Party stands for social justice rather than the privatisation of the welfare state. Privatisation of the welfare state amounts to colonisation and commoditisation of the lives of the most vulnerable,"
says the Green Party Spokesperson.[3]


Employment and support allowance slammed on first birthday

27 Oct 2009

3. 'Writing off workfare: for a Green New Deal, not the Flexible New
Deal', the Green Party response to the Welfare Reform Green Paper,
was published in October 2008.
Its authors Anne Gray and Alan Wheatley are working on a follow-up

Monday, 26 October 2009

No Platform for Fascists

Yesterday at its general meeting in London, Green Left reiterated its support for the position of No Platform for Fascists.

Green Left opposes the BNP and other Fascist parties being given air time on the media and totally opposes members of the Green Party sharing a platform with them on any such occasions.

We also totally oppose sharing public platforms with their candidates and call upon all Green Party parliamentary and other candidates to do likewise. Green Left opposes all attempts to mainstream Fascism and racism and is committed to ensuring that the victims of the BNP and other Fascist organisations are supported by not doing anything to assist the dissemination of their vile and disgusting views.

Troops out demo

Meant to blog abou this earlier but spent most of yesterday at the Green Left meeting in London.

I marched on Saturday with a sizeable contingent of Greens and carried the Green Left banner for part of the march. There was a Green Party stall at both ends of the march and thanks are due to Andy Hewett, the Campaigns Coordinator, for a good hard hitting leaflet on the war and the Green Party's policies. At the start of the march I saw the press conference where the military families spoke and a statement from Coroporal Joe Glenton was read out as we were told that he would be arrested if he spoke at the demo - he is already facing court martial for refusing to go back to Afghanistan. There were many groups and organisations represented on the march and along the route we received hoots of support from passing motorists and a number of people on the pavement applauded us.

At Trafalgar Square, the Green Party's speaker, International Coordinator Farid Bakht, was introduced as the representative of a party which has "always supported Stop the War Coalition". Other speakers included Tariq Ali, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Tony Benn and representatives of various student and Muslim organisations. For me the most powerful speakers were the military families. They included Joe Glenton who said: "I am marching to send a message to Gordon Brown. Instead of sending more troops, he must bring them all home. He cannot sit on his hands and wait while more and more of my comrades are killed." Also Peter Brierley, whose son died in Iraq and who refused to shake the hand of Tony Blair at the recent Iraq war service in St Paul's Cathedral. He made the sombre point that each time he attended an anti-war demo he met more relatives who had lost loved ones in the various wars.

There was also the grandmother of a soldier from Scotland, whose son died in Afghanistan in August. She made the powerful point that he had always attended CND marches with her and had only joined the army because of the lack of any other career prospects where he was living. This is another of the real hidden messages of this war - that those living in areas of high unemployment and with the welfare system being systematically dismantled by New Labour are being forced into the army and on to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. When they return they are psychologically and physically maimed and statistics show that large numbers self harm or often end up homeless and in great social need.

George Galloway compared the courage and integrity of the military families with the self serving approach of those such as General Dannatt, who had lobbied the politicians for more troops to be sent to the front and more resources to be expended. Galloway said: "Who represents the face of noble and honest Britain. Who is more courageous? The families who stand beside us here or General Sir Richard Dannatt and his ilk? While Dannatt goest to the House of Lords for his efforts, Corporal Joe Glenton goes to the glass house." He is absolutely right and the developments around this war show how out of touch the politicians are with the people who elect them.

Tariq Ali addressed the crowd and asked them if they wanted Tony Blair as President of Europe? A loud 'No' was the response. Truly, if EU leaders choose a war criminal and liar such as Blair as President of the EU in just a week's time, then the body politic not just here but throughout the EU is very sick indeed.

The wars, the list of killed and wounded, and the massive spending on arms continue. We must continue to support those who speak for truth and justice and against the merchants of death. The military families and the anti-war movement is the decent face of Britain. Tony Blair, the Tories who support the war, and the generals are the face of shame and hypocrisy. Joe Glenton and all those soldiers who speak out against the war deserve all of our support and admiration. Blair and his gang in the New Labour government deserve our undying contempt and opposition.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Troops out of Afghanistan

Troops out of Afghanistan March tomorrow at 12 noon in London.

I am not going to blog now on last night's Question Time which I still think was a major error on the part of the BBC and was completely contrary to my No Platform view. However, one of the worst moments of the programme was when Nick Griffin confronted Jack Straw as to who had the blood of more Muslims on his hands. Straw was silent. What could he say? He was Blair's Foreign Minister during the Iraq War and is now a member of the government which is increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

We are at a crucial turning point in the Afghan War. Karzai has been exposed as a fraud and a second runoff in the election is necessary. This is the cue for Obama and NATO to announce further levels of troop increases and a renewal of the war against the Taliban. The real danger also exists of the war spilling over the border into Pakistan, which itself is destabilised by the war. Never have the Taliban been stronger in both countries.

Meanwhile the dire economic statistics produced today with its inevitable increase in youth unemployment will lead to more young people signing up as the only escape from poverty and a benefits system incapable of even providing a decent standard of living and being systematically demolished by New Labour and the Tories in the Welfare Reform Act.

This is why it is crucial to signify opposition to the war tomorrow on the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. It is our money and our blood, together with the lives of thousands of Afghan civilians which is being expended on this war with no purpose.

Details of Rob Johnson's song 'North West Frontier' here which is about the war.

The march is from Speaker's Corner at 12noon to Trafalgar Square. Farid Bakht, International Coordinator is speaking for the Green Party. Hope to see many of you there.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Anti War Greetings from Germany

I spent last night leafleting Brixton Underground station for the 'Troops out of Afghanistan now' demonstration being organised by Stop the War Coalition on Saturday. It is vital that we get a good turnout and demonstrate to the government and the warmongers that there is growing support for the anti-war movement and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The issue of the war loomed large in the recent German general election and was one of the reasons why Die Linke, the Left Party, did so well as the only party with a clear anti-war policy and a demand that German forces withdraw from Afghanistan. However, there are many within the German Green Party, Die Grunen, who think likewise. The group who are pressing for a change in policy in the German Greens are called 'Die Grunen Friedensinitiative' and are mainly based in Munster, a city with many radical Greens. They have sent the following message of support for Saturday's march and will be trying at the German Green Party conference to get a change in policy. The war is growing increasingly unpopular in Germany also. They have also asked us a send a message of support for the anti-war demands to the German Green Party conference in Rostock.

Dear Joseph,

we send to you our best wishes for the demonstration at Saturday "Bring the troops home from Afghanistan". We would like to encourage you and our friends of the British greens and the British peace movement to send a powerful anti-war-signal to Europe from your demonstration. A success of your demonstration will be a strong support for us and the German peace movement.

The same weekend we have the national conference of the German green in Rostock, and Sunday we discuss Afghanistan. It's our hope, in Rostock will also be seen a sign of peace, the demand for a withdraw short-term, e.g. meaning in the next 6 months.

Best wishes

Wilhelm Achelpöhler
Grüne Friedensinitiative

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Support for the postal workers

On Monday night the London Federation of Green Parties unanimously passed the following motion at the request of the Green Party Trade Union Group, of which I am Treasurer. The point was also made that the CWU is one of the trade unions with the strongest policies on environmental issues and that its struggle to protect public services is very much in line with that of the Green Party.

The Green Party Trade Union Group will continue to work closely with the CWU and other unions on a number of issues including the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Conference, where Tony Kearns of the CWU always plays a major part.

It is also now clear that Royal Mail is trying to smash the trade union and reduce workers' pay and conditions. Mandelson, who is the author of the plans for part privatisation of the Royal Mail, can only appeal for both sides to go to ACAS. Kate Hoey, the Labour MP, against whom I am standing in Vauxhall, said at a CWU rally some months ago that she was not surprised that the London region of the CWU was holding a ballot on disaffiliation from the Labour Party, as the Labour Party had done nothing to support them. In the interim, that is how the London region has voted. As Kate is sponsored by the CWU, I trust that she will speak out clearly and directly to give support to the union in this struggle. The Green Party certainly has.

“The LondonFederation of Green Parties states its support for a universal postal service and its support for in its dispute with Royal Mail management. Are using the 10% fall in postal communication relative to digital an excuse to force through cuts to postal workers earnings often using threats and intimidation and wrecking conditions of service.

This is a difficult time to be a postal worker, but postal workers continue to deliver a vital public service. They are, through their Union, willing to negotiate reforms but are not prepared to be bullied.The national agreement that resolved the 2007 dispute stipulates the continuing provision of reasonable local earnings levels and that to assist development of a fourth Phase of Royal Mail modernisation, consultation and negotiation will take place. Management are not currently complying.

GPTU therefore supports the CWU decision to ballot on national strike action.In the event of a CWU national strike we call on GP members to support CWU picket lines “

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Questioning Question Time

I am absoloutely opposed to the BBC's decision to allow the BNP's Nick Griffin to speak on Question Time and think it is the start of a process of 'mainstreaming' Fascism in the way that it has happened in Italy, where Fascists are in government and busts of Mussolini are a regular feature in local tourist shops - which I saw myself when I was in Sicily last year. I believe that we are witnessing a major seachange in UK politics and although I do not think his appearance on Question Time will lead to millions of new votes, it will give them considerably more publicity than they warrant and will influence some people strongly.
There is an argument that they will fall flat on their faces and be shown to be the liars and charlatans that they are, and I heard a similar argument from some recently at the Regional Council of the Green Party which I attended at York last weekend. I believe that we simply do not know and political data will not show us this until later but I still think that they are a credible political threat and should be treated as different from normal political parties.

I have always believed in no platform for Fascists and there are some who argue that this line is no longer effective now that they hold political office in the London Assembly and the European Parliament. But I am of the opinion that their diseased ideas must be contained and that arguing politely with them is not the way to do it. Furthermore, the recent attacks on the streets by the English Defence League on Muslim and other targets, indicates the old Fascist action of having two faces, which dates back to the Weimar Republic and Mussolini's Italy. One for the respectable middle classes and one for dealing with the Jews/Muslims and other political opponents on the streets and striking fear into your opponents. Only last weekend I heard that a major anti-Fascist campaigner in the Green Party is having to move house because of Fascist threats and hatred.
Though they may deny it, there is a clear link between the BNP and the EDL and also between the events such as the murder of a gay man in the middle of London recently by several young people, who are being influenced by the climate of hatred and intolerance created by these people.

That is why meetings and protests such as the one below are so important. A pig may dress in a suit and seem reasonable but it is still a pig. Fascism and the BNP will damage your health and that of your community. Like swine flu, it must be isolated.

Questioning Question Time

Emergency public rally

Wednesday 21 October, 7pm

Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL (Holborn tube)

Hosted by Unite Against Fascism

Speakers:Peter Hain MP Michael Rosen Hugh Lanning PCS Sabby Dhalu UAFKen Livingstone (invited) Dr Abdul Bari MCB (invited) Weyman Bennett UAFJon McClure Reverend & the Makers Gillian Walnes The Anne Frank Trust UKMartin Smith LMHR Supported by: BECTU, SERTUC, Anne Frank Trust, PCS, Unite the union, CWU, TSSA, Musicians Union, ASLEF and Love Music Hate Racism

Keep the Nazi BNP off Question Time

Thursday 22 October, 5pm onwards- recording of programme approx 6.30-7.30pmBBC Television Centre, Wood Lane (nearest tube White City)
Speakers include:
Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary Gerry Morrissey, BECTU General Secretary Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary
CWU representative The Anne Frank Trust UK representative Sabby Dhalu, UAF Joint Secretary
Weyman Bennett, UAF Joint Secretary Plus others tbc
LARAG will have its banner there-please let us know if you plan to go
Followed by a gig at Ginglik in Shepherd’s Bush hosted by Love Music Hate Racism
featuring live music and an ‘Alternative Question Time’ at Ginglik, 1 Shepherds Bush Green, W12. Doors open at 7.30pm starts 8pm. Artists include South London singer Mpho and DJ Rugrat. Entry £6/£3 l l 020 7801 2782

Friday, 16 October 2009

Homophobic murder in London

Hate Crime Vigil
Soho Square 7pm 30th October

In response to the recent attack in Trafalgar Square, the rise in the number of homophobic attacks in London, and previous hate attacks, a vigil has been organised in Trafalgar Square on Friday 30th October 2009, 8pm.
Event organisers state that the aim of the vigil is to show the world that this anti-sociable behaviour is unacceptable in London.
For further details about the event, join their group on Facebook by clicking this link: HATE CRIME VIGIL
If you’re interested in marching through Soho and helping to get people to join in along the way, meet us at Soho Square at 7pm. The aim is to get people out of the bars and on to the streets. Details here: FACEBOOK
As we say, it’s important that you join in, because this wasn’t just a homophobic attack. It was an attack on everyone’s right to walk through their city without fear of attack. This is about everyone, str8 and gay.

We are hoping that Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly and Green Party Assembly Member, can speak. Green LGBT Group members will be there including me. It is simply appalling that such a murder can occur in Trafalgar Square at 10.30pm within sight of the supposedly LGBT friendly area of Soho. It demonstrates that homophobia and intolerance are on the march again encouraged by the likes of the BNP.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Rethink Afghanistan

A very good documentary here which is on the Stop the War website about Afghanistan entitled 'Rethink Afghanistan'. As a historian I am just speechless at the stupidity and blindness of the US and NATO regarding the lessons of history in that country.


Rethink Afghanistan is an important must-watch documentary
which lays bare the reality behind the politicans' and
generals' "failure is not an option". WATCH HERE:

We are not all in this together

Were you not inspired by the Tory conference? A group of millionaires and company directors telling us all how we need to suck on lemons to get the country of its mess which they and their ilk, the bankers, created in the first place. Boris Johnson even gave the game away by giving a speech calling for sympathy and understanding for the financial services industry and why London needs them.

And as for Osborne's asinine comment that "we are all in this together." Well if you believe that you will believe that Adolf Hitler is still alive in a spaceship on Mars. A rather apt description of what is really going on here

Same old Tories, same old lies but with a bit of early 21st century Blairite spin. I think there should be a health warning on all their election material.

Voting Tory can seriously damage your health and that of your family and the public services they rely on.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Don't you know there is a war on?

The current debates in Washington and throughout European capitals about whether to send more troops to Afghanistan may seem remote and as having nothing to do with the price of bread in Vauxhall but the fact is that the UK's involvement in these wars has had a huge impact on public expenditure and, of course, loss of lives.

The Sun newspaper, not noted for its opposition to the war, but currently critical of government policy, recently ran a truck along Brighton seafront during the Labour Party conference, with a large billboard on the back with the words "don't they know there is a war on?" This was an apperal to Labour ministers and others to properly equip and support the troops and this was emphasised by a debate with Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, and others organised by the Sun where military families confronted Mr Ainsworth about what was happening in Afghanistan.

But it is clear that these criticisms go nowhere near enough and are merely about strategy, although they are having an impact on support for the war, which is dropping like a stone. Now comes the news that General Dannatt has become a Tory and is about to be made a peer. He has developed a reputation as a government bashed but there are deeper questions to be asked. It appears that he is also something of a Crusader, and I mean that in its original mediaeval sense. Witness what he wrote about Christianity and Islam while still serving as Head of the Army. Dannatt wrote in the Daily Mail, that moutpiece of xenophobia and intolerance:

"When I see the Islamist threat, I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind … There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I am responsible for the army, to make sure that its moral compass is well aligned and that we live by what we believe in … It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British army."

This is pure Islamophobia and prejudice. The army and the state should not be aligned with any religion but to attack other and no religions in this way is very reactionary. So it comes as no surprise that Dannatt is a Tory is disguise. It also raises another issue which is the involvement of the military in politics, a development which we should be very wary of. The Tory Party are playing with fire elevating such persons to prominent positions within their hieararchy. But then the army and the Church have been central pillars of the Tory Party since the 18th century. After Osborne's speech on reducing benefits and doing all he can to increase unemployment, there will be no shortage of 'dole queue recruits' to feed into the mincer in Afghanistan and elsewhere. As Jeremy Corbyn MP said last Saturday at the Stop the War Coalition meeting, these will not come from his constituency in Islington but predominantly from areas of high unemployment and deprivation such as South Wales and the northern cities.

Meanwhile the sheer scale of the expenditure for the war continues to boggle the mind. All of this feeds down to local level, to less Council services, less funding for the NHS and education etc. The UK, trying to keep its imperial presence abroad, continues to spend far far more on defence and wars than any other EU country. This is one of the main reasons for the much lower level of public services and infrastructure in this country compared to most of continental Europe. We are basically spending a fortune on wars and foreign adventures. Will this be factored into the Tory cuts? I very much doubt it. But the public services will be starved so that more Dannatts can strut about in gold braid and business will boom for the arms merchants.

For all of these reasons I will be leafleting Underground stations in Lambeth over the next two weeks leading up to the national march on Saturday 24th October in London calling for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. First stop will be Stockwell station tonight.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Electoral Reform would empower the Left

This article by Peter Tatchell of the Green Party appeared in a recent issue of Labour's Tribune magazine. He rightly argues for electoral reform but unfortunately it seems that the Labour government has fluffed it. Gordon Brown announced his intention at the Labour conference to move to a new system but only after the next general election. Labour has had 12 years to introduce a fairer and more representative electoral system and has consistently failed to do so. Only now with the prospect of a Labour defeat does it even appear on the horizon.

The Tories, if they win the next election, will never reform the voting system and we will be stuck with the present totally unrepresentative system for a long time indeed. The bigger question is, with the Labour Party considerably weakened and the possibility of an independent Scotland within the next few years, could this system condemn England to a permanent Tory government? Peter argues persuasively that electoral reform will strengthen the Left in the UK.

Reform the vote to empower the left

Changing Britain’s electoral system would benefit Labour and radicalise politics, says Peter Tatchell

Tribune – Labour’s left-wing weekly – 2 October 2009

Labour defenders of Britain’s corrupt voting system claim that electoral reform is irrelevant to ordinary people’s lives. It’s a middle class preoccupation, they say. What matters are policies on jobs, housing, education and health. Even those who concede that the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system is unfair often say that electoral reform is not a priority, given the recession and rising unemployment.

How wrong they are. Bad policies flow directly from the way the FPTP voting system allows parties with minority support to form majority governments and to then impose unpopular right-wing policies, like Thatcher’s poll tax and Labour’s planned cuts in housing benefit.

Most of the British public are left-of-centre on most issues. But majority progressive opinions are often not represented in parliament by a majority of MPs. Every government since 1950 has taken power based on less than 50% of the popular vote. None has won majority public support. Voters for progressive small parties, like the Greens, have no MPs at all.

In the 2005 election, Labour won 35% of the vote but bagged 55% of the seats. Of eligible voters, only 22% voted Labour. Yet Labour won a 66 seat majority. This is not democracy. It echoes the gerrymandering and ballot-rigging of two centuries ago, which galvanised the Chartists to campaign for a democratic, representative parliament.

The electoral process is ‘rigged.’ In 2005, it took an average 26,906 votes to elect a Labour MP, 44,373 to elect a Tory MP and 96,539 votes to elect a Lib Dem MP. Not since the rotten boroughs of the eighteenth century have elections been so corrupt.

This democratic deficit is a direct result of FPTP, which allows the election of MPs and governments with minority support. FPTP enabled Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair to win landslide majorities based on popular votes of only 35% to 44%.

If there was a fairer, proportional voting system, we would have never had the Thatcher and John Major governments and, as a result, never had “New” Labour and the ditching of socialism under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Recent political history would have been different - and better.

With proportional representation (PR), neither Thatcher and Major nor Blair and Brown would have been able to form stand-alone governments.
Supported by only a minority of voters, they would have had to form coalitions, which would have curbed policy excesses, such as the Iraq war.

If there had been PR in the 1980s, either Thatcher would have had to go into coalition with the Lib Dems and other minor parties (which would have scuppered many of her reactionary policies) or Labour might have been able to form a coalition with the Lib Dems and others, which would have meant no Conservative government in the 1980s – sparing Britain the social destruction of Thatcherism.
Some defenders of FPTP complain that if we switch to PR Labour might never again win a majority of seats and form a government in its own right. But if Labour can’t persuade a majority of voters, it doesn’t deserve to form a government (ditto the Tories). Democracy is supposed to be about the will of the majority. It cannot be reconciled with a voting system that persistently allows parties with minority support to form governments with huge majorities.

If the last three elections had been conducted under PR, Labour would not have won an overall majority of seats. But there would be Green MPs and more Lib Dem MPs. On many issues, these two parties are to the left of the Labour government. They would have had a radicalising influence. Blair and Brown would have been forced to depend on Lib Dem and Green support; probably resulting in no post office closures, Trident renewal, ID cards, expanded nuclear power, privatisation of public services and no British troops in Iraq.

With PR, the Tories might never rule alone again; thereby preventing a repeat of Thatcherite exremism. We’d see the election of MPs representing the Greens and radical left parties, as happened under Scotland’s PR system. This would shift the political centre leftwards.
Labour would be radicalised because it would have to rule in coalition with radical left, Green and Lib Dem MPs (who, despite their flaws, are more left-leaning than Gordon Brown on many issues). Labour could end up more or less permanently in power as part of a radicalising coalition. This is infinitely preferrable to having the Tories in government.

A democracy requires a parliament that reflects the people’s will; where the proportion of seats won corresponds to the proportion of votes cast. This means finishing the parliamentary reform process begun by the Chartists. We need a new Chartist movement to secure PR and a representative parliament.

The Scottish Parliament election system is a practical example of a fairer electoral process. Electors vote for both a constituency MP and for a party list. This combines the accountability of single member constituencies with additional ‘top-up’ MPs based on the total list vote received by each party; thereby ensuring proportionality between the number of votes cast for a party and the number of seats it wins.
This system works in Scotland, why can’t we have it at Westminster?

The ‘Vote for a Change’ campaign is calling for a referendum on voting reform the same day as the next general election. Polls show that a majority of people want a fairer electoral system. It would benefit Labour and the left. Gordon Brown should let the people decide.

* For more information about the fair votes campaign: and


Monday, 5 October 2009

National 'Bring the troops home' march

I attended the Stop the War Coalition Steering Committee on Saturday representing the Green Party. Everyone is mobilising toward the national withdrawal from Afghanistan march on Saturday week, Oct 24th and are looking for Green support in this. Towards this end they are asking local Stop the War groups to adopt Underground stations and give out leaflets about the demo over the next two weeks. It would be great if local Greens can help with this in their areas and approach local STWC groups or get leaflets from them. The National STWC is very short of funds at present and leaflets were being sold on Saturday. Also can we encourage local parties to adopt Underground stations etc. If local parties outside London could concentrate on transport hubs to distribute leaflets for the demo that would be great. They also want support from TU branches etc.

Manchester STWC reported that they were beating people off their stall there is so much support. Many buses are being chartered to come to the national demo. No details on who the speakers are yet but I am liaising with officers. They are also going to run a general election campaign, giving support to candidates who they feel are anti-war, although they admitted that this could be difficult in some constituencies.

Gordon Brown and Cameron will be reading out lists of casualties at the opening of parliament on Oct 14th, the war is growing more and more unpopular and devouring more resources. However, there are mounting concerns that the cuts in benefits and growing dole queues are leading to 'dole queue conscripts' particularly from working class areas and areas with high youth unemployment.

As regards London there are two areas of action at present.

. On Tuesday, Joe Glenton, the soldier being court martialled for
refusing to fight in Afhghanistan is appearing at a public meeting in Haringey together with George Galloway MP.
. In Hackney, there is a War Showroom, where teenagers are invited
in to play video games in order to encourage them to join up. STWC are trying to campaign against this and Hackney Greens are involved in supporting this.

The national 'Bring the Troops Home' march will be setting off from Hyde Park Corner on Saturday 24th October. It is imperative that we have a good Green Party turnout for this.

It is also possible that Blair the war criminal could be nominated as President of Europe within weeks and STWC are trying to get MEPs and others to speak out about this, plus a possible protest action in Brussels.
It is absolutely vital that as many people as possible turn out to express their revulsion for this war, which continues to maim and kill thousands of Afghans and soldiers from many countries. There are increasing concerns that 'dole queue conscripts' will be used to fight this war because of mounting youth unemployment especially in working class areas of the north and Scotland. The talk today from the Tory conference is how to reduce benefits further, including cutting Incapacity Benefit from many of the most vulnerable in our society and bringing in private companies to make profits on the back of those being forced into low waged and unskilled jobs. Many people affected by this will be those with mental health and other long term conditions and the army waits for them with open arms. The twin attacks by Labour and the Tories on the benefits system and the unemployed will mean a recruiting jamboree for Brown's war, where the US is about to ask the UK to send many more troops to Afghanistan. The costs of the war also continue to mount and in an atmosphere of cuts mania, it must be asked how many public services, including hospitals and schools are going to cut to maintain this pathetic imperial charade in Afghanistan.
It may appear to some that by marching against the Iraq war nothing was altered, but consider how much worse the situation could have been if there had been no anti-war movement and it contributed substantially to the removal of Bush and a partial withdrawal from Iraq. Opposition to the war is at an all time high and people must demonstrate that on the streets of London on October 24th. This government and the Tories already have enough blood on their hands.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

We never promised you that

Ireland has voted Yes to the Lisbon Treaty under tremendous duress from the combined ranks of the EU bureaucracy, most of the media and the most right wing business elements in the country, including Ryanair and Intel. Even the US Chamber of Commerce joined in, chorusing that Ireland would be cast out into the cold and darkness if it dared vote no. The government and the main opposition parties, including the Greens, also joined in this deception. Yes posters from both the governing Fianna Fail party and the opposition Fine Gael party carried the slogan "Yes to Lisbon and yes to jobs". The people fell for it.

Now the news emerges that yesterday at the referendum count the Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, was interviewed by Irish state television, RTE, and asked "was it the promise of jobs that swung the Yes vote?". To which he replied "We never promised jobs as a result of the Yes vote."

So now we have it. The comment has shocked Ireland and left a bitter aftertaste. Already many US multinationals like Dell have up sticks and moved to Poland. There is a photo of Lenihan with the jobs posters here. All I can say to the Irish people is, don't say that you were not warned.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Lambeth UNISON supports Environment Reps


The Lambeth Branch of UNISON - the second largest trade union in the UK - has voted to establish environmental reps in workplaces across the Borough. At a meeting of the Lambeth Branch Committee on 15th September, Branch activists agreed to encourage Lambeth UNISON members to elect environmental representatives within their places of work.The TUC has a led campaign for establishing environmental representatives in the workplace with the same rights as other union reps. Currently union branches can elect environment reps, but they do not have the same rights as shop stewards or health and safety reps. For example, they aren't able to take paid time off work to undertake their duties.According to the Carbon Trust, workplaces directly produce around 40 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions.

UNISON lead the way in the union movement by becoming the first trade union to sign-up to the environmental campaign Stop Climate Chaos. UNISON nationally have published a suggested “job description” for workplace environmental representatives and a model agreement for branches to try to negotiate with employers for time off for environmental representatives.Several Lambeth UNISON members who are not currently representatives have show an interest in becoming environmental reps and Lambeth Branch previously took a leading role in the recruitment of Union Learning Representatives.

The Branch also agreed to establish a working group to consolidate detailed recommendations to submit at the Branch AGM and negotiate basic agreements with our employers in an attempt to secure recognition of the role of environmental representatives and appropriate time-off arrangements.The proposer of the motion, UNISON shop steward James Caspell, stated: “Given that the disastrous social and economic consequences of climate change are driven by the current economic system, the labour movement is a vital agent in the fight against it. The creation of environmental reps is a positive step to combat climate change from within the workplace“

Branch Secretary Nick Venedi added, “Trade Unions and their branches should have the right to establish workplace environmental representatives who have the same rights at work as other trade union representatives. This will include appropriate facilities and time off to undertake their duties”

Ireland votes today

I am an Irish citizen and an internationalist and pro-European but I am opposed to the Lisbon Treaty as I was opposed to the European constitution, which this in effect is. Because the Irish voted No last time, they are being called upon to vote No again. Many people in Ireland resent this. The French had the right to a referendum on this Treaty removed and the Irish are the only people in Europe who will be given the right to vote. Essentially the Treaty being presented to the Irish people today is the same treaty which was before them the last time, with some guarantees, which many legal experts believe are not worth the paper they are written on.

Last night I went on an Irish programme on a local radio station in St Albans to argue the case for a No vote. The news that Tony Blair could be the President of Europe within weeks if the Treaty is ratified in Ireland is really the icing on the cake. And as I said on that programme, would really alienate the EU from large sections of the globe, not to mention the entire Muslim world.

Last night I received an SMS from my brother in Dublin with the words "for independence and sovereignty, vote No." Below is an appeal from Green activists and academics from across Europe, which I totally agree with. And if Father Jack is against it then it is good enough for me.

A message to the Irish people:

The European Union has great potential to be a force for good in thiscontinent and this world. We can see some of this potential realised inthe role it has played in preventing major wars on its territory since1945, and more recently in the lead role it has played on mattersenvironmental.
But today, the E.U. is suffering from a legitimation crisis, a'democratic deficit' of huge proportions. Since the Enlightenment theidea of self-rule by free and equal citizens has been the cornerstone ofEuropean democracy. Constitutions can give expression to this idea ofshared freedom and thus serve as the basis for democratic institutions.They can, however, only do so, if we have reason to believe that theconstutions are understandable and acceptable to the citizens.

The Lisbon Treaty is effectively the constitutional treaty for theEuropean Union. The major part of its content has been rejected inreferenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005 and in Ireland in 2008.It needs to be thoroughly revised in a transparent and democratic mannerbefore it is brought back to the citizens of Europe for approval.
In that context, the referendum that your country is holding next week stands as a unique beacon of hope.

We would ask you this: don't vote against the Lisbon Treaty out of petty nationalism. (The island of Ireland knows all too well of what excessesof fervour about national identity can lead to, in terms of humansuffering.) Be internationalists: as intellectuals from differentEuropean countries outside your borders, we are asking you to speak forus. Hundreds of millions of European citizens have been denied a voiceat the ballot box: exercise that power on our behalf.
Vote against the undemocratic project of Lisbon. Vote so that all of uswill be given that same right that you, rightly, have been given.

Our common future is in your hands. Force them to stop, to think again,to democratise.
Please vote No to the Lisbon Treaty, on October 2nd.

Thomas Wallgren, Finland, Head, Department of Philosophy, University ofHelsinki

Susan George, Paris, France, Author, Board Chair of the Transnational Institute

Rupert Read, UK, Reader in Philosophy, UEA, Norwich

Mladen Dolar, Professor, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Mikael Böök, Project Manager, Helsinki, Finland

Dr. Steen Brock, Associate Professor, Dr. Phil.,Department of Philosophy, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Dr. John Collins, School of Philosophy, UEA, UK

George Daremas -Greece, Sn. Lecturer, University of Indianapolis -Athens campus

Haris Golemis, Nicos Poulantzas Institute (Greece)

J.P.Roos Professor,Dept Social Policy,POB 18, 00014 University ofHelsinki, Finland

Dr Derek Wall, Visiting Tutor, Dept of Politics, Goldsmiths College, London.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Demonstration for Calais Migrants at French Embassy

Several members of Green Left joined in a protest organised by No Borders at the French embassy on Tuesday evening and I was among them. We were not allowed anywhere near the building itself and had to stand across the street. Andy Hewett from Green Left (who is also the party's Campaigns Coordinator) also read out a statement of support from the French Greens, which is here below in the original French and a translation. I posted about this last week but the images from Calais were truly horrifying.

All the more shame on Gordon Brown for making a distinctly anti-immigrant pitch during his speech to the Labour conference and for introducing policies on hostels for single parents which originated with the BNP. The Sun may have deserted them but they still have some support from the Daily Mail. I have one word for those who applauded these types of ideas at Brighton and it is stronger than "chumps". I wonder if Lord Mandelson has any concerns about Russian oligarchs becoming immigrants in this country. No? Thought not.

Calais : cachons cette misère que nous ne saurions voir

L’évacuation spectaculaire de la « jungle » est une opération de communication inhumaine et inutile qui ne règle en rien le problème de fond.La fermeture de Sangatte comme nous l’avions prévu n’a fait que déplacer le problème. Il en sera de même pour le ratissage de Calais.La grande majorité des réfugiés sont partis avant l’arrivée de la police. Quant à ceux qui ont été interpellés, que vont-ils devenir? Va-t-on les renvoyer dans un pays en guerre où ils risquent la mort en dépit des conventions internationales. Que va-t-il advenir des mineurs? Le problème n’est que masqué temporairement et réapparaîtra.Les gouvernements français et européens doivent prendre leurs responsabilités face au drame humain des réfugiés kurdes et afghans et leur donner l’asile au lieu de les chasser à coups de bulldozer. Il faut rétablir pleinement la convention de Genève en Europe au lieu de choisir la stratégie de la terreur et du désespoir. Cette opération hautement médiatique n’est qu’une mise en scène politicienne. Comme à chaque veille d’élection, le gouvernement s’empresse de secouer le cocotier des questions de migration.

Djamila Sonzogni, Jean-Louis Roumégas,

Calais: hide the misery that we could not see
The dramatic evacuation of the "jungle" is an inhumane and unnecessary PR exercise that does not solve the underlying problem.The closure of Sangatte, as we predicted, merely moved the problem. It will be the same for the sweep of Calais.The vast majority of refugees had left before the police arrived.
As for those arrested, what will become of them? Will they be returned to countries at war where they risk death, in spite of international conventions. What will happen to the children? The problem has been masked temporarily and will reappear.The French and European governments must accept their responsibilities towards the human drama of the Kurdish and Afghan refugees and give them asylum, rather than sweeping them away with bulldozers.We must fully restore the Geneva Convention in Europe instead of choosing the strategy of terror and despair.
This media event was highly political. As with every election, the government is quick to stir up migration issues.
Djamila Sonzogni, Jean-Louis Roumégas