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Monday, 30 November 2009

Climate Scepticism and Liars

With the unbelievable news over the weekend that Nick Griffin of the BNP who spoke out against climate change last week in the European Parliament is being sent to the Copenhagen Summit as a representative of the EU - the meeting below is very timely. Fresh from claiming that the BNP are the defenders of the planet they are now the vanguard of a new movement challenging the orthodoxies of climate change. Well hardly surprising that someone who once denied the holocaust now denies climate change will lead to the extinction of thousands of species and the possible deaths of many millions of people in a world ravaged by drought and famine.







INDEX ON CENSORSHIP EVENT






FREE SPEECH & COPENHAGEN SUMMIT


"Saying the unsayable: is climate scepticism the new Holocaust denial?"







3 Dec, 6.30 - 8pm, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road.



RSVP to: bookings@freewordonline.com







The Copenhagen Summit will debate one of the most important public issues of

the past thirty years. Many scientists and advocates predict climate change

will kill potentially hundreds of millions of people worldwide over the

coming decades. This begs the question: is there a special responsibility

for the media to exercise restraint in reporting climate change? Or are we

witnessing the rise of an unchallengeable orthodoxy?







On our panel debating "Saying the unsayable: is climate scepticism the new

Holocaust denial?" are:







George Monbiot







George Monbiot is one of the UK's leading environmental campaigners and the

author of the bestselling books The Age of Consent, A Manifesto for a New

World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, as well as

the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed and No

Man's Land. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian. His website is:

www.monbiot.com







James Delingpole







James Delingpole is a libertarian conservative journalist, broadcaster and

author of Welcome To Obamaland, I've Seen Your Future And It Doesn't Work,

How To Be Right, and the Coward series of WWII adventure novels. His website

is: www.jamesdelingpole.com/







Further reading







James Delingpole, "Climategate reminds us of the liberal-left's visceral

loathing of open debate", Daily Telegraph, 24 Nov 2009







http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017760/climategate-reminds-us-of-the-liberal-lefts-visceral-loathing-of-open-debate/







George Monbiot, "The threat is from those who accept climate change, not

those who deny it", The Guardian, 21 Sep 2006.







http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/sep/21/comment.georgemonbiot

Value for money?

On Saturday I attended the event on employment rights and the impact of the European Court of Justice cases organised by IER (Institute of Employment Rights) and SERTUC (South East Region TUC). It was a well attended conference and there was a wide range of unions represented (including someone from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions) and a number of pensioner groups and former trade unionists.

The first speaker, Professor Keith Ewing, an expert on employment law, posed the question to the conference on why the vast amounts of funding being paid into the Labour Party by the trade union movement was not leading to any improvement in the situation concerning employment and labour law in the UK. He suggested that instead of subsidising Labour, the primary aim of the trade union movement should be to pay for legal challenges in the courts concerning employment law and that money remaining should go to the Labour Party. His point is a very valid one, as John Hendy QC, also an expert on labour law, compared trade union rights in the UK to those of Russia and Turkey and unlike anywhere else in the EU. He outlined one recent industrial dispute where a strike involving workers at Metrobus was ruled illegal because the ballot was held on a Friday and the information sent back to the trade union officials at 5pm, which is when they had left work. The ballot result was sent over the national union HQ on the Monday morning and then registered in accordance with the employment law and returned to the local union officials, and the employer was given the result on the Tuesday morning. This resulted in no material loss to the employer, yet the courts ruled that the union had acted contrary to the employment laws of the UK.

It was quite clear from the conference that British trade unions are working under a handicap which does not apply to workers and unions in the rest of the EU. Indeed there was strong evidence from the discussions that the main drive against workers rights is coming from the British government and not the EU and that within the EU, it is the UK which is pushing for faster and deeper implementation of laws detrimental to trade union rights. Another speaker was John Monks from the ETUC (European TUC) who argued that he was glad that a French commissioner had been appointed as Commissioner with responsibility for financial dealings as he would be much more prepared to use regulatory controls than a UK one. John Monks also called on the TUC and the UK unions to support a European workers action day in March, to ensure that workers across the EU were not called upon to pay the price for the greed and rapaciousness of bankers and the financial institutions.

The conundrum of how to work with a British Labour government which has done nothing to weaken Thatcher's anti-union laws and attempted to privatise the Royal Mail, was addressed by Billy Hayes, the General Secretary of the CWU (Communication Workers Union). Hayes argued that it was only by working with allies within the Labour Party that the privatisation of Royal Mail had been prevented and quoted Tariq Ali saying: "The only difference between the Tories and Labour is 5%. But it is within that 5% that we must operate." Hayes also went on to compare the situation with postal services in other EU states and gave the example that the UK system is so open to privatisation that the Irish Post Office (An Post) can bid for contracts in Northern Ireland by paying a fee of £1,000 whereas the Royal Mail cannot bid for the postal services in any other EU state, including the Irish Republic. Hayes also pointed to France, where Sarkozy had just given considerable subsidies to the nationalised postal service, stating that the privatisiation of the French postal service would not be in the French national interest. For Hayes it was clear who was responsible - the Labour government. Yet his union is one of their biggest sponsors! Many in the audience pointed out that it is only electoral calculations which have prevented Mandelson from privatising the Royal Mail this time and that if New Labour are returned they will try again, as indeed will the Tories.

Keith Ewing had pointed out that it was only necessary for the UK government to register services as being protected by national pay and conditions clauses and it would have the impact of making all employment in those services 'protected' . This would not mean protectionism but that all EU workers working in that field in the UK or working for subcontractors based in another EU state, would have to be paid under the same terms and conditions as workers in the UK. This had already been done by many other EU states. Again, it was a failure of political will on the part of the Labour government which meant that this had not been done. So in the "race to the bottom" and the removal of workers rights and terms and conditions, it is not the EU which is primarily responsible, but the Labour government of the UK which wants its economic space to be the most deregulated in Europe as before it boasted that its financial services were also.


There is a grim lesson here for the British trade unions, which so far has only been learnt by the RMT, PCS, and one or two others. You are paying your oppressors. Even Billy Hayes had to admit that the conditions of neither of the two Warwick Agreements with the trade unions have been met - one of those conditions in Wawick 1 was a commitment to a state run Royal Mail - this government has tried to end that. The Green Party is committed to trade union rights and national control of public services and would implement many of the rights which UK workers are losing rapidly under the excuse that it is the EU which is implementing this. Time for trade unionists to wake up before the general election and to smell the coffee.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Benefits and Rights for workers and disabled people




Disability benefits and the cost of social care have been in the news a lot recently with the consultation on the Social Care Green Paper etc and the threat to remove Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance for those over 65. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the concept of the European Union is supposedly to support the free movement of labour and of peoples. This seems not to be happening when it comes to disabled people. Many benefits and pensions are portable, i.e. they can be taken and used in other countries of the EU when the person goes there to live or work. This applies to DLA. However, it would seem that the DWP does not like this nor does it like the fact that the European Court of Justice ruled that DLA claimants whose benefits were removed by the DWP are trying to have them restored. So it has set up a tribunal which is taking ages to hear cases and is also trying to wriggle out of reasons for restoring the benefits. The excellent Green MEP, Caroline Lucas, has written to the Minister to complain about this miscarriage of justice and the letter below is on her website. Just another example of how Greens are fighting for workers rights and the rights of disabled people also.

http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/2009/11/27/correspondence-about-workers-rights/

Tomorrow I am attending a conference organised by the Institute of Employemnt Rights about how EU law is impacting on workers rights. This is a huge subject area and many of the recent European Court of Justice rulings are affecting this. The conference at the TUC, Congress House in London will be addressed by a number of leading employment law academics and trade unionists. It is vitally important that as trade unionists and as citizens we engage fully and are knowledgeable about what is happening in the EU, both in terms of rights being extended by the European courts and in terms of limitations being placed on those rights as workers and citizens. The recent court rulings in these cases could lead to "a drive to the bottom" and remove whole elements of bargaining rights and protection for UK workers. Greens are opposed to this and stand fully behind the European trade union movement and its call for stronge rights for workers and against social dumping.

European Court of Justice cases:


Developing a strategy for trade unionists


A full-day conference


SATURDAY 28th NOVEMBER


TUC Congress House, Great Russell Street,


London WC1B 3LS

Organised by The Institute of Employment Rights inassociation with SERTUC.

Confirmed speakers include: Prof Keith Ewing, John Hendy

QC, John Monks (ETUC). Chairs: Carolyn Jones, IER and

Megan Dobney, SERTUC

For the past two years trade unions throughout Europe have been coming to terms with the implications of fouR decisions from the European Court of Justice. The Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxembourg cases sent shock waves through the labour movement, threatening not only trade union collective action but also democratic decisions of governments. As we reach the 2nd anniversary of the first two cases, this FREE event aims to combine informed legal and academic opinion with practical experiences from different sectors of the labour market.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Banker's Prayer or Moloch's Hymn


This was inspired by the CEO of Goldman Sachs saying that the bank was doing "God's work".


The Banker's Prayer


Our chairman who art at Goldman


Blankfein be thy name

Thy rally’s come, God’s work be done

In the Dow as it is in the Nasdaq

Give us this day our daily gain

And forgive us our frontruning, as we punish those who frontrun against us

And bring us not under indictment

But deliver us from regulators

For thine is the cashflow, and the power, and the bonuses, forever and ever.



Amen

Mike Shedlock

Palestinian campaigner against the Wall arrested on his return from Norway

Mohammed Othman needs your help. He was returning from a tour of Norway where he was speaking about the wall which Israel has built along the West Bank to divide the Palestinian and Israeli communities. Mohammed was told: “his human rights work would not be helpful as he is now in the hands of the State of Israel”. This is chilling. Mohammed is a campaigner with the organisation "Stop the Wall Campaign." Details below from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders





The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Mohammad Othman, a volunteer with the “Palestinian Grassroots Stop the Wall Campaign”[1], who remains held in administrative detention since September 22, 2009, without charges or being able to know the reason for his arrest.


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

According to the information received, the next hearing in Mr. Mohammad Othman’s case will take place on Sunday November 8, 2009.

It is feared that Mr. Othman be placed under indefinite administrative detention, without charge or trial, for a renewable period of one to six months[2]. Another hearing will also take place on the same day on the fact that Mr. Othman is not allowed any more to see his lawyer since his recent transfer to Beersheva prison, where he is no longer detained in solitary confinement.

On September 22, 2009, Mr. Mohammad Othman was arrested at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank as he was on his way back to Ramallah from an advocacy tour in Norway, during which he was engaged in a number of speaking events and meetings with Government officials.

On September 24, 2009, Mr. Othman was transferred from Huwwara provisional detention centre to Kishon (Jalameh) interrogation centre, located near Haifa in northern Israel. He was subsequently placed in solitary confinement.

On September 27, 2009, Mr. Othman was interrogated for the first time. During the interrogation session, he was questioned about his friends and family and was asked to provide their telephone numbers along with his personal e-mail address. In addition, the interrogators asked him broad questions about his work.

On September 29, 2009, the Military Court at Kishon interrogation centre extended Mr. Mohammad Othman’s detention period for ten days. On October 8, 2009, the Salem Military Court, in the northern West Bank, prolonged his detention for a further twelve days[3]. During neither of the two court hearings, the Israeli interrogation police did provide any charges against Mr. Othman, but contended that an extension of his detention period was necessary for further interrogation. The first time the military judge rejected the interrogators’ initial request to extend Mr. Othman’s detention period to twenty-three additional days, arguing that no clear allegations exist as only two short interrogation sessions had taken place during the previous eight days of his detention. The judge did agree, however, to a ten day extension period, based on “secret information” that was made available to him by representatives from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA). At the court hearing in Kishon, Mr. Othman’s lawyer questioned the ISA officers about the content of the undisclosed information and the reasons for Mohammad’s detention, but received no answer.

On October 19, 2009, the Salem Military Court extended Mr. Othman’s detention period for another eleven days and, on October 27, 2009, his detention was again extended for an additional 13 days. On November 1, the appeal against the extension of his detention was denied.

Mr. Othman was interrogated several times after his first court hearing, and at times the interrogation sessions lasted from 8:00 am until midnight. During one of the sessions, he was threatened that he could spend a total of 180 days in interrogation. He was also indirectly threatened with life imprisonment as the interrogator told him the story of a human rights activist from Nablus who received a life sentence. He was also threatened that “his human rights work would not be helpful as he is now in the hands of the State of Israel”. Mr. Othman has been repeatedly insulted and verbally assaulted during the interrogations. Mr. Othman would also been interrogated daily about his trips to Europe and contacts with European organisations, as well as on issues relating to his human rights activities as a volunteer with the “Stop the Wall Campaign”. He was also asked questions about other staff members of the campaign.

The Observatory calls upon the Israeli authorities to release Mr. Mohammad Othman immediately and unconditionally as his detention seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and therefore contravenes the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

Besides, the Observatory urges embassies of European Union member States in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to attend the hearing due to take place on November 8, 2009, in accordance with the Guidelines of the European Union on Human Rights Defenders, as well as to urge the Israeli authorities to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in order to create an environment where human rights defenders can operate freely.

Actions requested:


Please write to the authorities in Israel urging them to:


i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mohammad Othman;


ii. Release Mr. Mohammad Othman immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;


iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Mohammad Othman and all human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;


iv. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and Article 12(2), which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the [...] Declaration”;


v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Israel, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Addresses:

* Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919, Israel. Fax: + 972 2 651 2631 / 02-670-5475, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il, pm_eng@pmo.gov.il * Mr. Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence, 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel. Fax: +972 3 691 6940, Email: minister@mod.gov.il. * Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91035, Israel. Fax: +972 2 628 7757 / +972 2 628 8618 / + 972-2-5303367. Email: sar@mfa.gov.il * Mr. Yaakov Ne’eman, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010, Israel. Fax: + 972 2 628 7757 / + 972 2 628 8618 / + 972 2 530 3367. Email: sar@justice.gov.il / tifereth@justice.gov.il * Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il, Fax: +41 22 716 05 55 * Embassy of Israel in Brussels, 40 avenue de l’Observatoire, 1180 Uccle, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 373 56 17, Email: brussels@israel.org

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Israel in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Israel.

[1]

Notes :

[1] The Campaign voices opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s continuation of land confiscation as well as to Israel’s human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, including those resulting from the construction of the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank.

[2] Based on Israeli military orders, a military judge can authorise the detention of Palestinian detainees for up to 90 days, which can be extended for another 90 days by the judge of the Military Appeal Court, if the detainees are deemed to “pose a threat to the security of the State”. The status of administrative detention denies all civil and political rights to the detainees. Therefore, the authorities do not have to charge the prisoner, nor to bring him to trial.

[3] The October 8 decision was appealed at the Military Court of Appeals in Ofer on October 14, when the judge declined the appeal.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Irish Police to join national strike

There have been discussions here about a 'winter of discontent' from the trade unions, with strikes brewing on the London Underground, buses etc. Yesterday saw the settlement of the Leeds bin workers strike, which lasted for 11 weeks, and where it seems from reports that the workers received a reasonable settlement, thanks to the unions.

But things are much worse in the Irish Republic. The budget next month is expected to be the most savage in decades and cuts in the public services are at the heart of it. This follows on from a decision by the government to prop up the banks and to create a 'toxic bank' in the shape of NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and to pour millions of taxpayers Euros into it. According to some economists it could virtually bankrupt the nation for two generations. Now the Fianna Fail/Green government have decided to take on the public sector and the unions have declared a national strike today, with possibly another to follow next month. Schools, council services, public offices etc will be closed. Even the staff in the Irish parliament in Dublin are striking. For the first time in living memory, the Irish police, the Gardai, are joining in the strike, albeit those off duty. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/24/ireland

For many Conservatives the measures being taken against the public sector in Ireland are the blueprint for what they would like to do in the UK - and they are watching developments in Ireland with great interest. They are also quite content to take on the unions and, if possible, defeat them. Their plan is to considerably reduce inheritance tax and assist their friends in high paid positions, at the expense of the lower paid public sector workers. You can already hear this in the economic discourse. Of course, New Labour, after gratefully taking the unions money during the general election, might be planning something similar if Mandelson et al have their way. So the outcome of the strikes and the struggle of the unions in Ireland is important and we should hope that the public sector workers will prevail. The government in Dublin have had no hesitation in protecting the profits of thier cronies and speculator friends and now the public sector workers and those on welfare are being asked to take the blame. As a trade unionist and a radical Green, I send my full support to the Irish workers. It was the great Irish trade union leader Jim Larkin, leader of a major strike in Dublin in 1913, who said: "The employers cannot carry on industry nor accumulate profits if they have not got the good will of the workers or their acquiescence in carrying on such industry."

Protest against whitewash and debate over the war in Afghanistan



Blood on their hands protest today from 9.30 to 12.30 outside the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Westminster



The inquiry into the Iraq war is currently underway and will be taking evidence in public from today. The chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcott, claims that it will not be a whitewash but already it is beginning to look that way. Chilcott has already discounted the possibility of Tony Blair or any members of his government being charged for war crimes. The families of those killed in the war are outraged. Military Families Against the War will be joining the protest organised by Stop the War Coalition tomorrow.


And this evening, Bill Rammell, the Armed Forces Minister, will debate the war in Afghanistan with Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition and Bruce Kent of CND at Friends Meeting House, Euston, just across the road from Euston station from 6.30pm.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Freedom Pass Cut


News today in London all over the Evening Standard and elsewhere, that the Oyster card - until now only usable on TfL run Underground and bus lines etc, can be used from Jan 1st next year on all overground railway lines in London. This had been campaigned for by the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, but had been resisted by the private rail companies. This will now open up London's transport network considerably and encourage more use of public transport across the capital. Apparently there is even going to be a new Oyster London map.


However, there has been news recently that the Freedom Pass - the subsidised free travel provided to London's several million pensioners and disabled people, could be under threat. The Pass is normally issued for 2 years in April and is due to be reissued next April. This time, however, the Pass will be issued for five years. This was welcomed recently by London Councils, the body representing all of London's local authorities, which had secured a deal with the government. Freedom Pass holders are also entitled to use bus services in English cities and towns under the same conditions. The government has now reneged on its offer throwing the whole Freedom Pass scheme into chaos. London Councils has denounced the government's decision, stating that it will leave each London borough short of about £1 million in funding. It has also caused serious concern in the older and disabled people's movement - there is a report of it here



This is a disgraceful decision by the Dept of Transport and leaves each London borough having to pick up the tab from hard pressed council tax payers. I have raised questions about this with Jenny Jones AM, the Green Assembly Member who sits on the Transport Committee of the GLA. She has told me that the London councils are determined to protect the Freedom Pass for older and disabled Londoners and that there will not be any cuts in its provision. However, it means that these councils have to recoup the money from elsewhere or make cuts in expenditure. At a time when councils are struggling to maintain services, I would request the government to urgently reconsider its decision. They should also remember that pensioners and disabled people have votes and will not forget this callous decision to cut funding for a service which ensures that people in these groups do not become housebound and have some decent quality of life.

Green/Red Film Night in Clapham tomorrow


News below of a series of films being shown at the Bread and Roses, the trade union owned pub, in Clapham tomorrow night, at which my friend and comrade, Teresa Delaney, from Green Left will be speaking. Teresa is likely to be contesting Stockwell ward on May 3rd for the Green Party in the Lambeth council elections.


Countdown to Copenhagen Film Night organised by Battersea and Wandsworth TUC


Tuesday 24th November 19 00 to 21 00 at Bread and Roses pub, 68 Clapham Manor St, SW4 (about ten minutes walk from Clapham Common Tube station)


The night will allow trade unionists and green activists info on the issues being discussed at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen.


Films include 'Save Vestas' - a film about the campaign to save the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight and which brought the Red and Green movements together in the effort to save green jobs.


Plymouth Stop the Nuclear Waste Dump - Plymouth is where nuclear submarines are decommissioned. If Trident was scrapped these docks could provide thousands of green jobs producing renewable energy equipment with very little extra investment.


And now that elections are in the air - we had a training day yesterday for council and general election candidate in Lambeth, hosted by Cllr Becca Thackray of Herne Hill ward. Here is a pic of myself and Rebecca Findlay, general election candidates for Vauxhall and Streatham, together with Cllr Adrian Ramsay from Norwich, who was leading the training day. Adrian is expected to give Charles Clarke a run for his money at the general election in Norwich and has a strong chance of becoming one of the first Green MPs. This could be very critical, judging by yesterday's headlines of a possible hung parliament, according to the latest IPSIS Mori poll.



Friday, 20 November 2009

Their yesterday is our tomorrow


Last night I attended the largest ever pre-launch event of LGBT History Month in the British Museum. Speakers included the Deputy Director of the museum, which has now launched a LGBT history trail and reference was made to the excellent Hadrian exhibition and others, which have featured LGBT history and major LGBT figures in world history. We also heard from ground breaking projects such as the 'Military Pride' project in the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, which is now touring around various towns in the region, but there is still an exhibition running in the museum, and which includes hours of oral archives from those LGBT people who served in the armed forces right through from before World War II. Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, spoke about the importance of the cultural economy and how culture is one of the main methods of changing how LGBT people are regarded in society. He made reference to plays by LGBT playwrights running in major theatres and exhibitions by LGBT artists such as David Hockney.


We were encouraged to support the 'A Day in Hand' campaign http://www.adayinhand.com/

as the last barrier to be breached in tackling homophobia, but as one speaker from the black LGBT organisation Ruckus made clear, this is not always feasible and he described moving from Hampstead to Kentish Town as being similar to moving from London to Zimbabwe in terms of levels of homophobia. All of the speakers mentioned the rising levels of hate crime and homophobic violence and stressed how important the work of some of the projects present last night was in tackling this, as it is predominantly young people who are carrying out these attacks and the work of 'Schools Out' should be particularly mentioned in this respect. One of the curators of the British Museum pointed out how Camden schoolchildren had been brought to the museum that day and shown artefacts and objects from all over the world and from a range of civilisations, which demonstrated that homosexuality was a central part of many different civilisations and is in no way a modern or a Europen phenomenon.


I was also interviewed by the LGBT youth radio station http://www.fyiradio.net/ and will be broadcast there next week speaking about the significance of Vauxhall for the LGBT community in London, on Greens combating homophobia in Eastern Europe and on the importance of young people getting out to vote and voting against the BNP in areas such as Barking etc.


Altogether an inspiring evening and congrats to all who worked hard to pull it off. As Michael Cashman MEP also said, the British Museum also deserves a vote of thanks for hosting the event and for fully supporting LGBT history related activities. There were too many inspiring projects last night to mention but more information can be gained from the LGBT History Month website and certainly people should attend local events in February because, as Trevor Philips, Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said last night "LGBT history is part of all our history and we have many identities - black, disabled, female, male, etc." But we are reminded on a daily basis that persecution continues of LGBT people in Iran, Uganda, Lithuania etc and we must continue to resist it.
Finally, as was pointed out in one of the speeches, the struggles for LGBT rights of the past are what have produced the rights we have today but that struggle must be continued, or we risk, as in Weimar Germany, losing those rights in the future.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A voice for the voiceless


Last night I was very fortunate to meet someone who is a real hero and a dogged campaigner - a person who is really on the front line when it comes to the struggle to save our planet. His name is Cristian Dominguez and he is the National Secretary of Environment and Resources of CSUTCB (Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajodores Campesinos de Bolivia) United Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia. Cristian is on a tour of Europe and is paricipating in the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen from Dec 7th to 18th. He is part of the Bolivian delegation and comes to the summit with real hopes of getting an agreement and bypassing China and the US if necessary. He is particularly seeking the support of European climate activists and Greens.


Cristian goes along with the view of the Bolivian government that strict controls on climate change are necessary in Bolivia but also supports the need for a global agreement. He also survived a recent massacre in Pando, Bolivia, where mercenaries at the command of a Right wing politician, who is a candidate for the Vice Presidency in Bolivia in the elections there next month, killed many Amazonian peasants, including women and children.


After meeting a group of us from the Green Party Trade Union Group and the International Coordinator, Cristian came and addressed a meeting of the London Green Party and asked for our support at Copenhagen and afterwards. We promised him our full support and solidarity. Cristian mentioned in his speech "those who have no voice. The animals and insects of the Amazon and the Nature of which we are the protectors." He also spoke of the attempts to kill or silence him and his people, who stood in the way of greedy landowners and corporations.


Meeting someone like Cristian is inspiring, for whom protecting the environment is not a lifestyle choice but a matter of life and death. We all owe him and his people a debt of gratitude and can only hope that their voices will be heard above the hubbub of lobbyists and interest groups at Copenhagen.


Monday, 16 November 2009

LGBT History Month Pre Launch Event


No don't worry it is not yet February, which everyone knows is Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender History Month. The pre launch event is always held in November and traditionally at the HQ of whichever organisation is sponsoring it that year and where that organisation's line of work will be the prevailing theme. This year, rather appropriately, it is at the British Museum and is dealing a lot with themes of history.


As a historian myself, I always find LGBT History Month fascinating, but it also holds out an important political purpose, particularly in this era of mounting homophobic violence, in indicating the oppression which existed in the past and how it was overcome. Also with the rise of the BNP and its kindred Fascist groupings across Europe, never has there been more need for a good history lesson.


Many organisations will have stands at the pre launch event this Thursday including Gay's the Word bookshop, Manchester Military Pride (who ran a fascinating exhibition in the Imperial War Museum North) University of Brighton 'Count me in' and the ever revealing Hall Carpenter Archives.


The speakers at the event will include Michael Cashman MEP, Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture and Sport, Trevor Philips of the Equalities and Human Rights and Commission and many others from LGBT Forums in Camden and further afield.


Keep an eye out for the programme of events in your area this February. Further details here. And if your Council is not organising anything - ask them why not.




Copenhagen and the Social Care Green Paper


Have not blogged over the weekend as I was busy on Saturday meeting our first ever Green Party of England and Wales member elected to the committee of the European Green Party, Steve Emmot, who I am sure will do an excellent job.


Afterwards, together with Steve, I attended the International Committee meeting where we heard a number of very interesting reports back from the recent EGP Council meeting in Malmo, Sweden, of which more anon. With the Copenhagen Climate Talks looming quickly into view, the European Green Party is also organising a number of events around this in Copenhagen. I have just discovered that the train for activists from London to Copenhagen is now fully booked. I know that a number of Green Party activists from Manchester and other places are going, together with a sizable delegation from Climate Camp and the Campaign Against Climate Change. I wish them luck, but with the announcement from the Singapore summit and Obama's latest statements on the US position, it seems that Copenhagen is going to be a complete anti-climax. This is to be deplored and no amounts of statements promising agreement next year are going to make up for the feeling that a historic opportunity has been lost. The world's leaders are truly fiddling while the planet literally burns.



On Friday, having co-authored a report on the Social Care Green Paper, I submitted the Green Party's proposals to the Dept of Health. The Green Paper is a major consultation on what should happen regarding the payment of social care for those aged over 65 in the future and also about the future of Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance for those over 65. There was a suggestion of examining DLA for those under 65, but there was such a huge outcry from disability activists and others that the government dropped this proposal - for the moment. My local Age Concern branch in Lambeth has issued a good response to the consultation, as have many other disabled and older people's organisations across the country. The Green Party's response is below.


There is a huge looming question about the future of care in this country, with a decreasing number of carers, many of whom subsidise the state to the tune of millions, by providing care for their partners and relatives for a paltry carers allowance. The numbers of carers is shrinking rapidly, while the number of older and particularly disabled older people continues to rise. One suggestion is that many of the jobs in the future in the UK will be centred around health and social care. This will probably be the case but training and funding for this has got to be provided as a priority.


A basic suggestion from me would be that less 'vanity projects' should as Trident should be scrapped, along with neo-imperialist wars in the Middle East and elsewhere and this money ploughed into areas of expenditure which are desperately needed and which will provide employment for many young people - health and social care. Seems logical does it not? But not for the arms industry and those other non-productive lobbying groups who used to support New Labour but are now turning their amorous attentions towards the Tories.


Friday, 13 November 2009

Poems and speeches


I spoke last night at a demonstration outside the Ministry of Defence organised by Stop the War Coalition to protest about the arrest of Corporal Joe Glenton for speaking out against the war several weeks ago at the anti-war rally in London. Peter Tatchell was also there and we were the only political party represented.

We were photographed wearing gags, to mark the fact that Joe Glenton had been silenced. We heard later that students from Essex University were protesting outside his prison in Colchester. I read the statement from Caroline Lucas which I posted on Wednesday and also an anti-war poem. I described this as being particularly apt, as the day before had been Armistice Day and we were within feet of the cenotaph. The war poets of World War I, who are now regarded as heroes and literary giants. were threatened with being pronounced 'insane' or being shot in their day for speaking out agains the madness of the war - just as Joe Glenton is being punished now. It was also appropriate to be outside the MOD on the day that the press broke the news about large bonuses for senior civil servants there, when squaddies in Afghanistan are lucky to earn a low wage. The poem I read is below. It is as true today as when it was written early in the last century.


The Two Sides of War


All wars are planned by older men

In council rooms apart

Who call for greater armament

and map the battle chart


But out along the shattered field

Where golden dreams turn gray

How very young the faces were

Where all the dead men lay


Portly and solemn in their pride

The elders cast their vote

For this, or that or something else

Which sounds the martial note


But where their sighless eyes stare out

Beyond life's vanished toys

I've noticed nearly all the dead

Are hardly more than boys


Grantland Rice


The poet served in World War I and knew something of which he wrote, unlike the government ministers and senior civil servants to despatch young men to their deaths without a second thought.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Speaking Truth unto Power


Tomorrow I shall be taking part in the protest outside the Ministry of Defence in support of a brave man and soldier, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who because he spoke out against this war at the anti-war march several weeks ago (having been told not to) has now been arrested and faces very serious charges. The poll in the Independent today and the discussion tonight on Channel 4 News (appropriately enough on Armistice Day) indicates the growing opposition in Britain to the war.


Caroline Lucas MEP has issued the following statement and information on the protest is also below. I hope that all who stand for justice and for the rights of those, like Joe Glenton, who speak truth unto power, will come and support him there.


Green leader praises arrested soldier's "heroic resistance" to Afghanistan war

--

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP has sent a personal message of support to Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who was arrested yesterday on charges of desertion following his refusal to return to fight in Afghanistan - and for his appearance at an anti-war demonstration last month.

In her email to the soldier, she said: "I would like to express my admiration for your decision to take a courageous and principled stand against the war in Afghanistan. You have the support of the many people in the UK and abroad who passionately oppose this ongoing conflict, which increasingly appears unwinnable.

"The US-led invasion of Afghanistan has resulted in a tragic loss of life, an ever-more dangerous and unstable country, and the installation of a fundamentally corrupt political leadership. Those on both sides continue to lose their lives on a daily basis - while the idea of promoting peace feels very far away.

"At the very least, the brave men and women who sign up to be sent into conflict - to risk their lives on the front line - deserve to be told the truth about the war they are fighting in and what they are fighting for.

"L/Cpl Glenton, I hope your heroic resistance to the reckless and misguided foreign policy played out in Afghanistan will increase the pressure on the UK Government to accelerate an exit strategy and withdraw our troops."

In response to the arrest of L/Cpl Glenton, Stop The War Coalition has arranged an emergency protest to take place tomorrow (Thursday 12 November) outside the Ministry Of Defence in Whitehall at 5pm. For more information, visit the STWC website - http://www.stopwar.org.uk/


Joseph Healy, Green parliamentary candidate for Vauxhall, will be attending the rally.


EMERGENCY PROTEST AT THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
DEFEND LANCE CORPORAL JOE GLENTON
THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER, 5PM
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, WHITEHALL
(OPPOSITE DOWNING STREET)
Facebook Event - Please circulate:
http://bit.ly/2h9IOf

*******************************

1) ANTI-WAR SOLDIER ARRESTED: PROTEST NOW

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, the soldier who faces desertion
charges for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has been
arrested and charged with five further offences for leading
Stop the War's demonstration in London on 24 October and for
expressing his opposition to the media in defiance of orders.

The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment in
addition to the sentence of three to four years that Joe could
get if the desertion charge is upheld.

Joe's mother, Sue Glenton, has spoken out against his arrest:
"You've got government ministers, army commanders and MPs
speaking every day in support of the war. What's so scary
about a Lance Corporal having his say? My son is only speaking
out for what he thinks is right."

Joe's arrest and imprisonment are signs of panic by the
government and military commanders, faced with an ever growing
majority of the British public opposing the war and an
increasing number of prominent voices in the media calling for
the withdrawal of British troops.

A poll published in the Independent shows that only one in
five voters believes that Britain's military presence in
Afghanistan is helping to protect the country from terrorism,
as Gordon Brown insists. The same poll shows that 48 percent
of voters think the war in Afghanistan increases the risk of
domestic terrorist attack.

Stop the War has launched a campaign to defend Joe Glenton and
his right to freedom of speech. (For updates see
http://www.stopwar.org.uk/.)

A protest has been called outside the Ministry of Defence in
Whitehall on Thursday 12 November at 5pm and we list below
what you can do to support the only serving soldier who has so
far had the courage to stand up for what many in the army
believe; that this is a futile and unwinnable war.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

* EMERGENCY PROTEST AT THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
If you live in London, please try to join the protest on
Thursday 12 November, 5pm, at the Ministry of Defence,
Whitehall (opposite Downing Street)
FACEBOOK EVENT (Please circulate): http://bit.ly/2h9IOf

* WRITE TO DEFENCE SECRETARY BOB AINSWORTH
EMAIL: defencesecretary@mod.uk or ainsworthr@parliament.uk
WRITE: Secretary of State for Defence, Floor 5, Main Building,
Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HB
FAX: 020 7218 6538

* COLLECT PETITION SIGNATURES
The Defend Joe Glenton petition can be downloaded here:
http://bit.ly/10gDKb

* WRITE LETTERS OF SUPPORT TO JOE GLENTON
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton
Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC)
Berechurch Hall Camp
Colchester
Essex CO2 9NU

* EMAIL SUPPORT
defendjoeglenton@gmail.com


Soldier arrested for speaking out against the war


Attended Stop the War activists meeting last night. Corporal Joe Glenton, the soldier who spoke at the STWC Afghan war demo three weeks ago, has been arrested for speaking at the demo. There is a possibility of a demo outside the MOD in London on Thursday at 5pm about this. This has been called at obviously short notice. Demo is inside exclusion zone, so police permission supposed to be applied for. Many students and young people at the meeting and strong support for an action. Seems a lot of new activists against the war. Please monitor STWC website for further info.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Article in US magazine on Ireland


I was contacted last week by the US magazine /Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought/ (S/R) published for members of the Greens/Green Party USA. The S/R Editorial
Board is interested in printing my essay, "The rise and fall of the Irish Greens." Rather appropriate as there are many Irish Americans and Irish emigrants in the US. Their website is here www.greens.org/s-r/


The news from Ireland of splits (Donegal) and disbandment (West Cork) does not surprise me. As someone who travels to Ireland regularly to see family and friends (just had another friend from Dublin to dinner last night) anger and disillusionment with the Irish Greens in this Fianna Fail dominated government is rampant. The signing up to the NAMA toxic banks deal is the last straw as far as many Green members and voters are concerned.


Friday saw a massive trade union march through Dublin of public sector workers determined to fight the cuts of the present government which seem targeted at the poor and public sector workers. There is also talk of a general strike later this month. Rough times ahead and the cuts agenda being implemented by the present government in Dublin gives a taste of what may lie ahead here under a Tory administration.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Empty bleatings of the warmongers


As the warmongers gather at the Cenotaph today to mourn those who have died in past wars and those who have died in current ones, many of their comments ring hollow. The true voice of those trying to stop this war, such as Corporal Joe Glenton, currently being court martialed for refusing to serve in Afghanistan, and the families of those killed in the war, one of whom appeared on Newsnight this week
are being marginalised. Exactly the same happened, of course, in the First World War, when the war poets were marginalised and some of them declared 'insane'. It is clear that this war is useless and only leading to the deaths of Afghans and those sent to fight for NATO's war aims -which nobody understands. There is an excellent article in today's Observer by the Defence Correspondent, on why we need to get out now http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/08/observer-debate-afghanistan


I will be going to the meeting below on Tuesday, as the Green Party's delegate to Stop the War Coalition, together with our International Coordinator, Farid Bakht. While the Lib Dems continue to dissemble and opinion polls show mounting opposition to the war - we must keep up the pressure on the war machine to stop it. My bet is that the Lib Dems will come out against the war before the general election - but only if mounting casualties and opinion polls convince them that it is safe to do so. The Green Party and Stop the War Coalition, together with some brave left Labour MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn, have been against the war from the beginning. Now is the time to speak up and to end this madness. I will be going along to speak to those such as Lambeth Stop the War who have been the resistance to this mad and dangerously wrong war.




StWC London Activists' Meeting: Open to all

Tuesday 10 November 6 to 8pm, The Indian YMCA41 Fitzroy Square London W1T 6AQ (Nearest tube: Warren Street)


NATO's Afghan strategy is in tatters, the comically fraudulent election has been abandoned, with the fraudster declared the winner. The death toll on all sides is rising, as Obama gets ready to announce tens of thousands more troops to fight an unwinnable war.

Following Stop the War's excellent Bring the Troops Home demonstration on Saturday 24 October, we are calling a London Activists Meeting for Tuesday 10 November.
We'll be discussing how to bring about a national debate on Afghanistan, our strategy for ensuring that the Afghan War is a prominent issue in Britain's general election, likely to take place in Spring 2010, how to strengthen local Stop the War groups, the student anti-war movement, the Iraq Inquiry, the international anti-war strategy, future demonstrations, etc.
The meeting is open to all. Please bring any ideas you have for future Stop the War activities. In particular we would like to invite people who are new to Stop the War, who have just set up a Stop the War group or who have experiences to share of developing a local group.
If you require futher information please contact Stop the War's national office:Email

office@stopwar.org.uk


This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


Tel 020 7801 2768

Friday, 6 November 2009

Duckhouses, Power and pullouts


Last night, together with thousands of Lambeth and Southwark residents, I celebrated November 5th by attending one of the three fireworks displays provided by Lambeth Council in Brockwell Park. It was more difficult than ever to enter the park because of the new traffic intersection being built at the front gates which meant that people were funneled through a narrow entrace in the middle of the road works, but we got there just as the fireworks were starting. Luckily the rain held off and the display was well worth seeing as usual.


However, it is worth considering the history of the Guy Fawkes event and its modern relevance. Clearly as every school child knows, it was an attempt to blow up James I and his parliament by a group of conspirators deeply worried about the persecution of Roman Catholics in England and the succession of a new king who was seen as even more extreme in this regard than his predecessor, Elizabeth I. This history has been used very effectively in recent years in the film V where the hero, a latter day Guy Fawkes, is battling against a totalitarian state and a parliament which has become a rubber stamp. Which brings us back to today.


Dissatisfaction with our electoral system is at boiling point. The MPs expenses row has brought things to a halt but it has also brought to the fore the issue of our broken electoral system, which the Green Party has been arguing about for years. More and more people are coming around to the view that the fall in turnout for elections and many of the problems emanating from our legislature is due to the fact that most MPs have merely become lobby fodder and that the current electoral system ensures that all the major parties need only address a handful of voters in some key marginals. while leaving the concerns of much of the electorate unaddressed. This is proving to be truly corrosive and there is a growing movement for change spearheaded by Make My Vote Count. Yesterday to mark Guy Fawkes Day they held a publicity stunt on the Thames outside parliament where they floated a raft disguised as a duck house down the river. The duck house, of course, having featured in the recent expenses expose carried out by the Daily Telegraph.




There is real and crying need for change. Just how far removed the politicians and some of their civil servants are from reality was revealed last week when the Justice Dept put forward proposals for cutting the costs of the general election by limiting the number of polling stations and also possibly increasing the cost of a candidate's deposit, thus ensuring that less smaller parties would be eligible to stand. And this at a time when turnout is at an all time low. The story was carried in the The Times
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6897013.ece where it was reported that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was distancing himself from his own officials findings. However, who knows what this government has up its sleeve next?


In the meantime there is an appeal below from Make My Vote Count and I hope that as many people as possible will sign up to it. Unfortunately time is running out before the next general election and the Labour Party and the government need as much pressure as possible brought to bear on them from the public.


Remember, Remember the 5th of November ... duckhouses, Power and pullouts.

http://VoteForAChange.co.uk/10000

This afternoon the Vote for a Change campaign have floated a model of a duck house down the River Thames to Westminster. For those inside Parliament, the message is simple: 'you can't duck change'. There is no possibility of effective self regulation at Westminster. The fundamental questions - like how we hire and fire our MPs - can't be left to politicians. But it can be left to the voters on Election Day with a referendum on the voting system.

Today's action is one of a series of campaign activities piling up the pressure on MPs in the run up to the Queen's Speech on 18 November. Our activities range right the way from a meeting next week with Gordon Brown and one-to-one lobbying of Labour MPs; to supporter emails to a "rogue's gallery" of high profile electoral reform opponents; taking the Gravy Train to MPs of all parties who are roadblocks to reform; and getting 60 young people together outside Parliament dressed as zombie politicians for a Halloween stunt.

http://www.voteforachange.co.uk/blog

Adding another notch to our lobbying of Labour MPs and decision-makers, this coming week's edition of the New Statesman magazine contains a 32-page pullout section on electoral reform. You can pick up a copy of the New Statesman from your local news stand.

We've also set an ambitious goal: 10,000 letters to those MPs who are resisting reform and propping up our rotten political system for their own benefit. Can you help us reach 10,000 today by sending a letter now?

http://VoteForAChange.co.uk/10000

We want voters to be in the driving seat of shaping a new politics. We are excited that a new campaign - POWER2010 - is offering people exactly that chance.

POWER2010 are seeking your ideas for changing the way we run our country. Those ideas with most support will become the POWER2010 Pledge - and form the basis of major campaign activity both immediately before and during the General Election.

To add your idea - for instance on electoral reform - go onto the POWER2010 site:

http://www.power2010.org.uk/page/s/yourideas

Like I've just done, you can also sign this letter from Power2010 to the three main Party leaders telling them that the Kelly review (on expenses) was not enough ... it's now time for the people to be given a genuine say in how our democracy is run.

http://www.power2010.org.uk/notenough

Together we will change politics. For good.

Thank you,

Malcolm

Director, Make Votes Count

6 Chancel Street
London SE1 0UU
(t) 020 7928 2076
(f) 020 7401 7789
(m) 07733322148
http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/activismhub
http://www.voteforachange.co.uk/

Thursday, 5 November 2009

False promises


So now we know. David Cameron's promise to run a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was not worth the piece of paper it was written on. Almost as good a promise as Tony Blair's to give the people of the UK a referendum on the treaty (err Constitution actually). This will further deeply corrode people's trust in the promises of politicians. But it also brings to the fore the question of what the Tories are actually concerned about regarding the Lisbon Treaty. The defence provisions which require states to continually upgrade their military hardware? No. The provisions on the privatisation of public services and the neo-liberal economic agenda? No.


No the Tories main concerns are about workers rights, more holidays and giving paternity leave. With the longest hours in Europe and the least holidays the 'mine's a duck pond' Tories want us to work longer and have less time off, with the resulting increase in stress and impact on family life, children left alone etc. Seamus Milne puts the point well in today's Guardian:


"The truth is that dogma is, if anything, clung to even more tightly in London than in Brussels, and its grip has to be broken in both. Criticism of the European Union has for too long been dominated by a phoney chauvinistic Euroscepticism that ignores the real interests that have driven its development. Cameron's posturing yesterday about "referendum locks" and a bill to prevent the transfer of further powers to the EU does nothing to challenge that. Like New Labour, the Tories positively embrace loss of democratic or national sovereignty when it comes to corporate, or US, power."


I share concerns about the increasing loss of power to the EU elite but the Tories would just like us to be more like the good ol USA. And David Cameron has also promised that the NHS will be safe from spending cuts under a Tory government. Well I think we all know what will happen with that promise as well.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A jab in time saves...


Last week I attended the Clinical Governance Committee of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust in my capacity as Vice Chair of the Patients Forum. I was quite surprised to hear the Medical Director, Dr Fiona Moore, tell the meeting that she had not yet recommended LAS staff to avail of the swine flu vaccine. I questioned her on this and asked her was it not NHS and Dept of Health policy for all frontline health staff to take the vaccine. She confirmed that it was but that she had not yet received sufficient assurances regarding its safety. Rather disconcerted by this reply, as I was aware that my local GP was having a swine flu vaccination clinic on Saturday, I contacted the Chair of the Forum, the nationally known health activist and National Association of LINks Members Chair, Malcolm Alexander. Malcolm wrote to Dr Moore and surprisingly within days she had reversed her decision, stating that she was recommending vaccination of all LAS staff. This rather surprised me but is indicative of the confusion surrounding this issue.


The voluntary sector organisation where I work, which deals with many vulnerable older and disabled people, many of whom are in poor health, was contacted regarding vaccination by Lambeth Council last week. As many of our staff are frontline staff visiting people in their homes, Lambeth Council offered to provide vaccination sessions for the voluntary sector in the borough. This, I thought, was a responsible and correct step. Imagine my surprise and disappointment then when the Director told me that almost nobody had taken up the offer and that two members of staff had stated that under no circumstances would they take the vaccine. He pointed out that vaccination was voluntary and that he could not do anything more. The ironic thing about this is that one member of staff is currently very ill with swine flu and I would have thought that this would have spurred people on. Unfortunately many people have been taken in by hysteria and disinformation about vaccination and I fear that the consequences may be serious for both workers and patients in the health and social care fields. One need only see what is happening in Ukraine at present to be worried.



I was vaccinated on Saturday, together with my partner. We have had no problems whatsoever other than some swelling in the area which was injected. As someone who has been active in anti-flu campaigns and has been pushing hard on the issue in the NHS over the last few years, I am very disconcerted by the anti-science and frankly absurd position adopted by some people, many of whom should know better. My great grandfather and grand uncle were both carried away by the 1918 pandemic within the course of 24 hours and I have always taken this illness very seriously. It only right that frontline health and social care staff be vaccinated now, along with all those in the high risk groups. I fear that a busy winter lies ahead for our hospitals and GPs and they need all the help they can get.

Standing up for LGBT rights against hate crime


Went on Friday night to the inspirational and moving event held in Trafalgar Square against homophobic hate crime hosted by Sandy Toksvig. Images here on You Tube



Speakers included Chris Bryan MP and Maria Eagle MP from the Labour Party, Richard Barnes the Deputy Mayor of London for the Tories and our own Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly for the Greens. Letters were also read out from Gordon Brown and David Cameron. LGBT choir and orchestra were in attendance. I was present with members of the Green Party LGBTIQ Group and Green Left. We held candles in the darkness and listened to some very moving speeches and pieces of music. St Martin in the Fields church flew the rainbow flag.


I was very proud to see thousands of LGBT people and their straight friends demonstrating against hatred and intolerance. Appropriate also that a message from Harvey Milk's gay nephew was also read out. Inspiring also that last night on my way home from a meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum I spotted two gay men holding hands near Waterloo station. We will not be terrorised or driven from the streets of London.