There was an error in this gadget

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Europe marches against the cuts and austerity

From Lisbon to Liverpool and Dublin to Dubrovnik, the trade unionists and workers of Europe marched in Brussels today against the cuts. With them were the National Pensioners Convention and the RMT, along with other UK trade unionists. This is the people of Europe saying NO to the bankers and peddlers of austerity.

They were joined by all of the Green MEPs and the Federtion of Young European Greens.

Monday, 27 September 2010

European Day of Action against cuts on Wednesday

The Coalition of Resistance rally to see off the trains with those taking part in the Brussels demo as part of the European Day of Action against cuts is at St Pancras Eurostar terminal at 7.30am on Wednesday. Press will be coming and there will also be leaflets in major European languages plus banners etc. Trade unions from 30 countries, together with  pensioner groups and others from civil society will march in Brussels. I will be along to support those travelling on the two Eurostar trains to Brussels, which includes one train booked by the National Pensioners Convention and the second by the RMT. This coincides with the Spanish general strike and actions across the continent.

The crisis and austerity programme being introduced across Europe is causing enormous hardship to the poor, the unwaged and the vulnerable. It is vital that we as Europeans and as socialists act together against this cancer of our time.  As the Green Left representative on the steering committe of the Coalition of Resistance I send my full support to those marching in Brussels and in other European capitals on the day. There will also be a a TUC rally at Congress House in London from 2pm to 5pm.

I hope that the British trade union movement will seize the cudgels and mobilise against the pauperisation of millions and the ideological crusade against the poor and the vulnerable. There is no time to lose.

Pour une Europe contre la pauvreté et d'austérité. Une Europe de l'emploi et l'égalité

Für ein Europa gegen Armut und Strenge. Ein Europa der Beschäftigung und Gleichstellung

Por una Europa contra la pobreza y la austeridad. Una Europa de puestos de trabajo y la igualdad

Por uma Europa contra a pobreza e austeridade. Uma Europa de postos de trabalho e igualdade

For a Europe against poverty and austerity. A Europe of employment and equality

Friday, 24 September 2010

The return of Ken

News just in - as expected Ken Livingstone has been selected as Labour's Mayoral candidate for 2012. It was clear that he would win against the hapless Oona King, despite the efforts of New Labour figures in the party to block Ken. Already written off by the Evening Standard as a hopeless over the hill loser, I expect that Ken will give Boris a run for his money and I would expect him to win. By 2012 'the winter of discontent' will seem like a tea party. Unemployment will be raging, cuts will have bitten hard and there will still be no sign of the economic miracle predicted by the Coalition - witness similar developments in Ireland and they are further down the road.

Ken made mistakes and was overtaken by hubris in the last years of his mayoralty, but he is still capable of putting forward real and radical policies and has shown many times that he still has popular support. Many of the ideas he supported in the 80s are now considered mainstream. But he must move away from the cronyism and inner cabals with Socialist Alliance which bedevilled his last regime and also concentrate on both equality and environmental issues.

I saw him speak at the Green Party conference a year or two ago and it was clear that he was keen on working with the Greens. Obviously the Greens in London have to see any election manifesto which Ken and the Labour Party produce before there can be any consideration of second preference votes. But with Oona King there would have been very little chance of any such consideration. I know of several friends who are going to be campaigning for Ken. Also the Coalition of Resistance are going to approach Ken to see if he and his campaign will sign up to the Coalition's demands. I certainly hope that he will. Fighting the cuts and protecting Londoners pensioners and others, will clearly be a large part of Ken's campaign. But distancing himself from the City and large scale anti-environmental projects, which were a feature of his last term in office, must be a central feature of any new campaign.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Convention of the Left tomorrow night in Manchester

I am speaking tomorrow night at the Convention of the Left in Manchester as a member of a panel addressing the cuts in Europe and internationally. The Convention is timed to coincide with the opening of the Labour Party conference in Manchester. I last attended the Convention two years ago but was not a speaker on the platform, although I spoke from the floor and also at a worshop. Several of my colleagues in Green Left are on the organising committee of the Convention and I look forward to seeing them again. I will be representing both Green Left and the Coalition of Resistance, on whose steering committee I sit as the Green Left representative.

It is vitally important that the Convention acts as a counterpoise to the Labour conference. We are likely to see the annointing of a new Labour leader on Saturday. But whoever that leader is, and it will definitely be one of the Millibands - they will not stray far from the New Labour orthodoxy - nor the demand that the deficit be reduced. So they will not depart in any significant way from the ConDems who call for a return to the conditions of the 30s. It will be 'cuts with a more human face' if you like. There are those in the Labour Party, like John Mc Donnell, who is also addressing the Convention, who disagree with this policy, but they are in a small minority and the Left of the Labour Party has never been more powerless after the Blair and Brown years. Although what is said at the Convention may not get much publicity outside of Manchester or the Morning Star it is important that it presents an alternative vision, just as the Coalition of Resistance does. This week the People's Charter announced their support for the Coalition. My vision is a tripartite movement of the united Left - Coalition, Convention and Charter - against the cutters and destroyers of the post 1945 settlement.

As for my theme of unrest across Europe, two items caught my attention today. Firstly, the news from my native Ireland that the cuts and merciless austerity drive of the Irish government has led to a double dip recession. Secondly, the scenes of massive demonstrations from Bucharest below. I was in Romania in June and saw the beginnings of these protests. Today was also the general strike in France. The Europe of the People is moving against the Europe of Capital!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

London Ambulance Service AGM on Tuesday @ 1pm

The following message was sent out today to all London LINks members but any member of the public interested in London's NHS or the London Ambulance Service may attend the AGM on Tuesday and put questions to the Board of the Trust. Some of the issues raised by the Patients Forum are at the bottom of this invite.

Dear London LINks,

London Ambulance Service AGM next Tuesday, 28th September at 1pm at LAS HQ, Waterloo Road, SE1 (near the Old Vic)

Next Tuesday (September 28th) sees the AGM of the London Ambulance Service at the LAS Headquarters in Waterloo from 1pm. The meeting is open to the public and I hope that as many LINk members as possible will attend. We need to ensure that the voice of LINks is heard and I would hope that LINk members will put questions to the LAS Board at the AGM.

The Patients' Forum has covered a wide range of issues over the last year – stroke services, equalities issues within the LAS, first responders, the Olympics, Category B calls, Patient Transport Service etc. and we will asking for updates on many of these issues and others at the meeting.

I attach a list of issues that we have raised with the LAS and you might like to pick issues from this list to raise with the Chief Executive and Chair, and the Forum’s Annual Report where we have asked for responses from the LAS on a range of issues but have not yet received them.

It is really important that we make our presence felt and scrutinise the Board of the LAS at this AGM, particularly as they prepare for Foundation Trust Status.

I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday at the AGM.

Best wishes

Dr Joseph Healy

Patients' Forum Chair

Some issues you might like to put to the LAS Board on September 28th 2010

Category A Response

Forum Recommendation

The LAS should carry out a retrospective study of the 4591 patients who were classified as Category A in 2009 but did not receive a Category A response, to assess the consequence of them not receiving a Cat A response.

The LAS should provide clinical outcome data to justify providing a Category A service within 8 minutes for some patients, 19 minutes for others.

The LAS should plan for a gradual increase in the number of life- threatened patients who receive a service within 8 minutes. Costing should be provided for 1% increase in performance above the current 75% response within 8 minutes.

The LAS should demonstrate how they intend to achieve Clinical Performance Indicator completion rates of 95%.

Staff training and multi-disciplinary reviews of patients’ care

The LAS should arrange for all paramedics and technicians to be supported and encouraged to meet with A&E and other hospital clinical staff in formal multi-disciplinary meetings, to review and learn from the care of patients who have been in their care.

Commissioners should ensure that funding supports staffing levels sufficient to enable all front line LAS staff to participate in training programmes that ensure they are fully, continuously and appropriately trained to carry out their duties to the highest possible standards. This should include participation in multidisciplinary reviews of patients’ care.

Patient Transport Services (PTS)

That the LAS adopt the Forum’s Quality Standards for PTS. These have already been accepted by the North East London PCT sector, and negotiations are continuing with the other commissioners and the London P Programme.

User involvement, choice and patient centred services are at the core of this recommendation.

Communications with patients

The development of a programme to recruit Emergency Operations Centre staff that can practice clinically in more than one language.

Research to assess the potential clinical impact on patients who receive a slower service because they cannot clearly describe their symptoms because of communications difficulties.

LAS support and fund LAS staff who speak a second language to take the Institute of Linguists Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI)

The LAS should be given the highest priority for access to the Language Line interpreting services and provide evidence that audit is carried out, of languages provided for users of the LAS.

C1 Driving Licences for new paramedics

That the LAS make available resources to pay C1 costs for 30 new entrants to the LAS each year (approximately £30,000) whenever there is a period of active recruitment.

That payment of C1 costs for 30 new applicants are targeted at groups under-represented in the workforce and advertised as bursaries.

Diversity in the LAS workforce

That the LAS should welcome advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the means of bringing about a transformation of the workforce in terms of its diversity and the way it reflects the population of London.

That the LAS should work with voluntary sector organisations in London to establish, in the medium term, the means of recruiting new staff from underrepresented communities.

That the LAS should examine recruitment procedures and ‘cultures’ within the LAS to discover if there are any factors which prevent the development of diversity in the LAS front-line workforce.

Mental Health Care

The LAS should review the care of treatment of people suffering from severe mental health problems who are taken from a public place or their home to assess the clinical outcomes and the patients’ views on the care received.

The LAS should give consideration to developing an expert cadre of paramedics trained as mental health practitioners.

The LAS should develop an assessment tool to ensure that the LAS, police, social services, GPs and mental health practitioners are working effectively when mental health assessments are carried out on patients with severe mental health problems.

Patient specific protocols should be actively promoted for patients with severe mental health problems who are regularly admitted to hospital to avoid the use of general A&E services.

The report on the LAS 2008 Mental Health Conference and the recommendation developed by participants should be published by the LAS.

The Camden Pilot for assessment of patients with mental health problems should be rolled out across London.

Complaints and Incidents

The LAS should provide the Forum with details of all recommendations arising from the investigation of patients’ complaints.

Recommendations arising from each LAS complaint should be provided immediately the investigation is finished. This should be followed by six monthly reports on implementation of these recommendations with evidence of impact, outcomes and enduring improvements to service.

The LAS should develop systems to provide assurance that recommendations from complaints have an enduring influence on service improvements over the long term, and this evidence should be provided to complainants.

The LAS should routinely provide the following information to the Forum:

• Ombudsman’s investigations of complaints against the LAS, with any recommendations.

• Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs), outcomes and recommendations.

• Coroner Rule 43 recommendations to the LAS

Details of all current SUIs and SUI outcomes should be reported at public LAS Trust Board meetings and published on the LAS website.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Protest at Russian embassy last night

A protest was held at the Russian Embassy in London in support of two anti-fascist activists who are in custody in Moscow, for their involvement protesting against the proposed Moscow to Saint Petersburg highway. I am pictured below with comrades from Socialist Resistance and others.

On July 28th this year hundreds of anti-fascists and anarchists demonstrated outside the administration building in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. They were protesting in defence of the Khimki Forest which would have portions destroyed for the new toll highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

As a result of the demonstration and the public attention generated on July 28th, the authorities reacted by arresting two well known activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov. They now potentially face up to 7years for disorderly conduct despite there being no evidence as yet of their involvement.

One might ask why a bunch of anti-fascists and anarchists would be so heavily involved in a campaign to save the forest. The reasons become simple upon learning that the Khimki authorities and the subcontractor involved with the forestry project used violent tactics, hiring nationalist thugs to go and disrupt and beat up the environmentalists at their camp and protests.

Journalists who were covering the story were also illegally arrested. Editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper and critic of the Khimki administration, Mikhail Beketov was severely beaten. More alarming is the case of Sergei Protozanov who worked at a local opposition paper and was murdered six months after Beketov’s incident with similar surrounding circumstances.

Now the Centre for Extremism Prevention and the FSB have been forcibly questioning activists for their involvement with the antifascist movement. Whilst detained they have been subjected to physical coercion and their residences illegally searched. These actions are violations of both Russian and International Law.

The authorities are willing to review the proposed route of the highway now due to growing protests amounting for over 3 years, but Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov remain in police custody. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for the end September.

The reality of war - Afghanistan and Central Asia

The Woodstock literary festival was held last week and one of the speakers was the Independent's legendary Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk. Fisk put forward the view, with which I totally agree, that the media are currently sanitising war reporting, and that the public should really be shown the full barbarous reality of war and its outcome. Fisk believes that if this happened that the public in the US and UK etc would find it much more difficult to distance themselves from the wars and allow the politicians and generals to ride roughshod over their views, which is what is happening now. Opinion poll after opinion poll in this country show that the majority of the public want British troops withdrawn from Afghanistan but the politicians continue to ignore their views. People should be much angrier about this and Fisk believes that the real images of war, which the BBC and Channel 4 etc disguise, would really lead to a wave of revulsion and outrage.

An article in last week's Morning Star made the point that the Afghan war is becoming increasingly similar to the war in Vietnam in that it is destabilising the surrounding countries, due to the attempt by the occupying powers to secure their interests in both the theatre of war and the neighbouring state. In the case of Vietnam it was Laos and Cambodia which were affected, the US bombing and napalming both in an effort to root out communist sympathisers. In the Afghan war it is Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The effort of the US forces to maintain an airbase in the latter country, and also to counter Russian influence in the country and the region generally, has In Kyrgyzstan the US intervention has contributed to two revolutions.

"The massive Manas air base is the key transit point for the Afghan war, with troops and material passing through the enormous facility. Some 55,000 US soldiers flew through Manas this May. Most Kyrgyz were very unsettled by a huge chunk of their land being leased to the US to fight a war. Widespread belief that supply contracts for the Manas base were being used to bribe the families of the president were significant factors in two revolutions.

President Askar Akayev was ousted by the relatively non-violent tulip revolution in 2005. A belief that his son-in-law was being paid off by Manas contractors was an important influence on the revolutionaries.

His successor president Kurmanbek Bakiyev fell in a bloodier revolution this April. Again, suspicion about where the money from the Manas contracts went was an important influence on the revolution.

The companies involved in supplying the fuel deny any wrongdoing, but they are very opaque.
They are based in Gibraltar, with allied offices in London. One of the Manas fuel companies has registered offices it shares with Elegant Escorts & Dating Ltd above a row of shops on the Finchley Road, north London, which does not build confidence.

A US congressional committee has launched an investigation into the Manas oil contracts. Investigation head Congressman John F Tierney emphasised "the significance of the allegations of corruption at the base as a driver of the revolution" in Kyrgyzstan."

Solomon Hughes also points out that General David Petraeus's "counter-insurgency" manual contains 86 references to Vietnam-era strategies for use in Afghanistan. The destabilisation of Pakistan is obvious for all to see and the issue was discussed at last Saturday's Steering Committee meeting of Stop the War Coalition which I attended. So the war continues to spread and to cause more and more security risks in the UK. It is also having a detrimental effect on the surrounding states and stoking up further civil wars and regional conflicts. The only way out is a negotiated settlement with all parties but NATO is not yet prepared to do this. Several speakers at the Stop the War meeting did not believe the drawdown dates of 2011 being given by Obama for the US and 2015 by Cameron for the UK. There is no end of this conflict in sight and the waves from the war spread out to engulf Pakistan, the Stans and finally Iran.

Fisk is right that only the broadcasting of the true images of the war will bring home to the UK public the real impact which the NATO forces are having there and not the sanitised images of coffins coming through Wooton Bassett, which no matter how poignant, do not reveal the horror of this war on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As Wilfred Owen wrote in the magnificent anti-war poem 'Dulce Et Decorum Est':

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Pipe Down - Documentary on the struggle of a small community on the west coast of Ireland against Shell

Pipe Down from Cian O on Vimeo.

Winner - Best Feature Documentary - Waterford Film Festival 2009 *

Pipe Down is an hour long documentary that tells the story of a rural community in Co. Mayo in Ireland, who have been battling the oil giant Shell over their plans to put a dangerous raw gas pipeline through the community and complete construction of a gas processing terminal that is a threat to their delicate environment.

The documentary features interviews with Colin Joyce of Shell Ireland; Willie Corduff, a local farmer & one of the Rossport Five; Pat O'Donnell, a local fisherman; Gerry Coyle, a County Councillor for the area (Fine Gael); Eoin O'Leidhin & Diane Amber, activists with the Shell-to-Sea group; Terence Conway, a spokesperson for the Shell-to-Sea group; and Niall Harnett, who co-ordinates the solidarity camp in the area.

One of the real disgraces of the campaign is that the Irish Green Party, once supporters of the campaign, refused to support them once they got into government and a Green (Eamonn Ryan) became Minister for Energy and Communications.

Caroline Lucas on why the Lib Dems have sold out

Caroline Lucas argues cogently and passionately that the Lib Dems have sold out on their core principles. Nick Clegg's announcement in the Independent at the weekend that they were not a party of the Left and that those who supported the party following the Iraq war and Charles Kenneddy's more progressive leadership can now find a home elsewhere in the final nail in the coffin for any viewpoint that they are out to change British society in a significant way. Rather it is the final proof that they have indeed become the Yellow Tories which many have long accused them of being.

The dash for the Arctic - New resource wars and environmental disaster

With global warming speeding up the race for the Arctic and its oil and gas deposits is on. Already Norway and Russia have signed a treaty about carving up the Barents Sea and the depositis there. Now Canda and Russia are arguing about the Lomonosov Ridge and control of a large part of the Arctic Ocean. Not only would this be a disaster for the global climate but also the impact on the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic would be immense. Already Greenpeace protesters have been off the coast of Greenland protesting about the impact of oil drilling there, where a large new oilfield has just been discovered.

We have recently seen the impact of a deepwater oil drill going wrong in the Gulf of Mexico but the impact of such an accident in the Artcic would be unimaginable. It would be far more difficult to deal with because of the extremes of temperature etc and it would hugely damage the Arctic's wildlife, particularly the krill on which so much of the ecosystem there is dependant. There is also the danger of future wars, as is referred to in this Russia TV report, along the lines of the resource wars we have seen in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Coming out at school

Q Boy, the gay rapper, presents an interesting report on how more LGBT teens are coming out at school. He returns to his old school where he suffered from homophobic bullying. Back in my school days (late 60s and early 70s) the gay rights movement was in its infancy in Ireland but I came out quite early at 19, after having left school, and went on to be one of the LGBT veteran activists in Ireland in the late 70s. Intolerance in Ireland at that time made coming out at all very difficult and I did experience bullying at work and elsewhere. Really good that teens are coming out now and challenging school place homophobic bullying which is a real problem in this country. One of the best quotes in this report is: " you do not choose who you fall in love with." A lot more work needs to be done in this area in schools.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Protest at Russian embassy for Khimiki hostages

Picket the Russian Embassy, 13 Kensington Palace Gardens, from 5.45pm, Monday 20th September. High St Ken tube. Banners and placards welcome.
Called by Green Left and Socialist Resistance

We are organising a protest this Monday in conjunction with the Russian collective Chto Delat and would be very grateful if you could publicise it as widely as possible. The protest is part of a series of international actions in defence of the Khimki hostages.

These are two grassroots antifascist activists (Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov) who are currently in custody in Moscow on fabricated charges facing the prospect of very heavy prison sentences. Their campaign put a temporary halt to construction of a planned Moscow-Petersburg toll highway through the Khimki Forest. In essence, they have been taken hostage by local authorities and police officials. If they are tried and convicted they could face seven years in prison. Meanwhile, police and other law enforcement agencies continue their hunt against other activists, especially those with connections to the antifascist movement.

Over the past three years, forest defenders have suffered numerous arrests and other forms of harassment by local police, as well as physical attacks carried out by “anonymous” hired thugs, including neo-Nazis. These actions by the Khimki administration and its partners are explained by the significant commercial interest they have in seeing that the highway construction project is completed.

The next pre-trial detention hearing for the two young men is scheduled for late September. International Days of Action are taking place to demand their release. Our main slogans are Freedom for Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov! and End the Persecution of Forest Defenders and Antifascists! For more details, go to the Khimki Battle website.

A busy week - strikes, book launches and demos

It has been a busy week on several fronts. On Monday I chaired my first meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, with an invited speaker from the GMB union whose Patient Transport drivers in South London are due to take industrial action next week. With the Head of Human Resources of the Ambulance Service present, he stated that the new company about to take the Patient Transport contract for the South London NHS Trust, had a long catalogue of failed companies behind them and were being pursued by the Revenue and Customs. Dave Powis, the shop steward, stated that the Savoy Cars vehicles were less well equipped than the LAS ones and that his colleagues were genuinely worried about patient safety. The LAS replied that they were taking legal advice on the issue of the staff transfers so could not say too much but that they were determined that all staff being transferred under TUPE (transfer of undertakings) would receive their legal employment rights and terms and conditions.

Since the meeting I have been in contact with the GMB and have received yesterday an article from Private Eye which is most concerning and which I intend to bring to the attention of the NHS and the public, but more of that anon.

On Tuesday I attended the book launch of 'Green Left and the rise of Ecosocialism' at the Venezuelan embassy with author Derek Wall, Hugo Blanco from Peru and Labour MP and leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn. A video of the event is available here on the Green Left blog. The event was well attended and included some Latin Americans. It also gave me a chance to meet people whom I had not seen in some time including my friend, fellow Green Left member and Kent publican Sarah Farrow, who had travelled up to London for the occasion. I also had not seen Derek for some time and he seemed in very good spirits after conference and the Deputy Leader election etc. I also saw the legendary Hugo Blanco for the first time and must pay tribute to his son Oscar for his excellent translation from the Spanish.

I managed to get a night off for good behaviour on Wednesday, having worked during the day (yes I am one of the new legion of part time workers) but had to deal with some of the issues arising from the Patient Forum meeting on Monday. One of these is that the Royal College of Art is holding a display open to the public about the design of a new ambulance for London and two Forum members are serving on the consultation team. The exhibition is open to members of the public and I hope that some will attend other than Forum members. Details are below.

You are welcome to attend a less in depth evaluation of the new design on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th September.

Location: Royal College of Art, Helen Hamlyn Centre, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU

Time: 10:00 – 16:00

The project group have redesigned the inside of an ambulance and created a mock up of it for people to look at. They also have a working wall and a computer simulation for people to try. You will then be asked to complete a questionnaire and give your opinion on things such as seating and comfort, lighting, privacy issues, access/egress issues, side loading v back tail lift loading, ease of access for wheelchairs, infection control, cleanliness and use of technology.

Please note - this is open to everyone to attend.

Then last night together with other members of Lambeth Green Party and activists from the UNITE and UNISON unions and various Left activists, I took part in a protest against the privatisation of the pathology lab at Kings College Hospital, outside the AGM of the King's College Hospital NHS Trust. The Trust is about to hand over control of the lab to Serco, a private company now bidding to hive off large sections of the NHS. The UNITE members working in the lab are currrently balloting over strike action and we heard that the staff at Guy's and St Thomas Hospital, where Serco already control some facilities, are now balloting for strike action. I read an article some weeks ago in the Financial Times stating that Serco were licking their lips and hoping to take over large contracts in the NHS due to the Health White Paper which Andrew Lansley had produced. George Graham from Lambeth Greens will be writing a piece about this for our newsletter and took a photo of us at the demo.

This morning I met Andrew Burgin, acting Chair of the Coalition of Resistance, to discuss actions around the European Day of Action against the Cuts on September 29th. In the interim, I have been dealing with some issues arising from my membership of the international committee, including a meeting with the Green Party delegates who will be travelling to the European Green Party Council meeting in Estonia later in the month.

Tomorrow I have the Steering Committee of Stop the War Coalition which is going to take up most of the day. An activist's work is never done!

Finally, an interesting view on Greens and the Labour Party from Tribune magazine with an honourable mention of Green Left.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Patient transport strike in South London

I have just heard from the GMB union that there will be a patient transport service strike in the service offered by the South London NHS Trust next week because of the refusal of Savoy Cars, the new contractor, to honour agreements with the employment contracts. I have invited one of the shop stewards, Dave Powis, to address the Patient Forum meeting tonight about what is happening. Stand by for more news on this.

Conference feedback and Derek Wall's booklaunch in London

I have not been at party conference this weekend, the first I have missed in about six years. I have just announced that I am standing down from GPRC, the Regional Council, after one year because of the many other things I am involved in. Friends at conference are sending regular feedback on what is happening and I am spotting the occasionl newspaper article such as the one in yesterdays's Independent

I was very pleased to hear that I have been elected to serve on the international committee, having served on it for half of this year. I was also pleased to hear that the shadow cabinet motion, to which I was utterly opposed, was referred back. Some very good emergency motions passed, including the one deploring what is happening to the Roma in France. I was not in favour of  the party supporting AV in the referendum, regarding it as a really flawed electoral system and something which Nick Clegg called "a miserable compromise" before the election. However, the party has voted to support the campaign in the referendum. I will not be playing any role in that campaign and will have to consider how I react to it as an individual.

There are some good people elected on to the executive and the committees and I look forward to working with them. I am not fully aware yet of how other motions fared, although I was against the 'steady state economics' motion which I consider nothing like as radical as what we should be supporting in a period of cuts which may return us conditions not unlike those of the 30s.

Of course I am sorry that Derek Wall was not elected Deputy Leader but it was a good campaign and he was always the underdog with the party Leader and much of the party machine against him. Under the circumstances he did quite well and raised a number of important issues in his campaign. Unlike some I do not see it as a slap in the face for Green Left or the Left in the party generally. I am going to hear Derek speak tomorrow at the launch of his book on 'Green Left and the rise of Ecosocialism' at the Venezuelan Embassy in London where Hugo Blanco, of whom I have heard great things, is also speaking. Bolivar Hall is quite central and close to Warren St station and the launch is at 7.30pm.

Tomorrow I have another meeting of the steering committee of the Coalition of Resistance and am pushing hard for an event to mark the European Day of Action against the Cuts, when there will be general strike in Spain etc. The TUC's reaction to all of this is way too mild and too late in my opinion and I just hope that some of the more radical unions such as the PCS begin to push them towards action. The problem, to some extent, is that they are hampered by Thatcher's anti-trade union laws which New Labour did nothing to change. But the time for a general strike is fast approaching. If the Spanish and French can do it, then why not the British? The apparent contradictions are personified by John Monks's statement on the Spanish strike.

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum meeting on new research etc tonight

Tonight is my first meeting as Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, the largest patient and public involvement body in the country. Tonight we are discussing the wide range of emergency medicine and other research which the LAS carries out. We will also be recruiting members to a new consultant group on ambulance design being organised by the LAS and hearing about the industrial dispute in South London where 50 staff of the LAS are being transferred over to Savoy Cars after the contract was awarded by the South London NHS Trust to them instead of the LAS. The GMB union has been invited to send a speaker to the meeting.

'Ground breaking new research in the LAS’ – Gurkamal Virdi (London Ambulance Service Research Dept)

Monday September 13th 2010


Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Joseph Healy or

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander

BSL signers will be available

Nearest Tube: Waterloo British Rail: Waterloo Buses:1,4,26,77,68,168,171,172,176,188,507,243,341,381,507,521


Friday, 10 September 2010

Time to Go - Continuing down the cul de sac in Afghanistan

On Wednesday night I attended a meeting organised by Stop the War Coalition in parliament. It was held on the eve of the first ever vote on the Afghan war - a war which has now lasted longer than the First and Second World Wars combined. The good news is that a new cross party parliamentary group has now been formed called 'Time to go' and Caroline Lucas is joint convenor of it. Speakers included Joan Humphries from Military Families Against the War,who lost her grandson in the Iraq war, Caroline Lucas, Paul Flynn (Labour MP for Newport) and Plaid Cymru MP, Jonathan Edwards. Mohammed Asif, an Afghan political refugee living in the UK was a fascinating speaker.

Paul Flynn MP, a member of the new group, says: "At the moment Parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that. The Government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality." He went on to say that Nick Clegg had said at Prime Minister's Questions that day that "the corner was being turned in Afghanistan". His response to that was that so many corners had been turned in Afghanistan over the last 9 years that the government and UK policy there must have gone around the block at least six times!

Caroline Lucas said that the names of the dead had been read out at PMQ and that it had seemed endless and terribly sad. The idea that the UK was safe as a result of this war had to be challenged and that the country suffered from historical amnesia as anyone who read what had happened during previous British interventions in Afghanistan must know. She also referred to the recent Wikileaks figures on civilian casualties which had shown a deliberate cover up of the figures by the US military. Caroline also condemned the 'enhanced blast weapons' being used in Afghanistan which were terrible weapons sucking the air of out anyone's lungs in the area where they fell and destroying their internal organs. The US military had also admitted the killing of 14 Al Quaida militants in the Pakistan border area but another 700 innocent civilians had been killed in the same raids. The Bagram airbase was also a human rights obscenity as no lawyers were allowed in to see it and it held 5 times as many prisoners as Guantanamo. Furthermore, the UK was fully complicit in the operations of this camp. The US spent 20 times more on military expenditure in Afghanistan than development aid and the UK 10 times more.

Mohammed Asif, who made it clear from the start that he was no supporter of the Taliban, said that recently the Director of the CIA had admitted that there were less than 200 Al Quaida activists in Afghanistan. Ten thousand British troops in Helmland province could not go safely outside their bases. Only 26 families benefited from the current regime in Afghanistan and all of these families had been based in Western states. Karzai and NATO's claims that they were there because of women's rights had also been discredited by the recent law allowing Shai women to be raped in marriage. Most government ministers were foreign citizens - German, US etc who had been placed in positions of authority by the West - why were there no Afghan citizens in those posts? Corruption was higher than the annual budget and many in power were drawing huge sums out of the country to buy property in Dubai.

The UK could save £5 billion for badly needed public services by withdrawing. The war was failing and only 9 out of 63 districts were safe for holding election campaigns in. Finally, he said that 80% of Afghans were against the occupation and wanted a political solution.

Those at the meeting were quite clear that the vote would not be won but that at least the debate had been held and the arguments finally heard. Indeed yesterday evening the Commons voted to continue the war with the honourable exception of a handful of brave MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Labour and Plaid MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn and Jonthan Edwards.

It is also a disgrace that so few MPs turned up to debate such an important issue

The campaign agains the war continues with a national demonstration in London on November 20th.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lib Dems caught out again with another yellow lie on Disability Living Allowance

Anne Wollenberg, who is a recipient of DLA, writes in Disability Now magazine about the mendacity of the Lib Dem promises on DLA during the general election.

According to Anne and others who contacted the Lib Dems during the election campaign there were no plans to cut DLA or to move to the 'medical model' of disability, which disability campaigners have argued against for years. Now it appears that they want to move to a simpler medical test and we all know what that means. Let's be clear what DLA is - it is a benefit which is not work related and not income related, but based on your needs and the concept is to assist disabled people to live a full life in the community.

Almost 20% of people on DLA work, I am one of them, and the extra money from DLA assists with mobility and care needs. It is also a gateway benefit, which means that receiving DLA also receive other benefits such as Housing Benefit and Freedom Passes - also many people caring for people on DLA receive Carers Allowance. The removal of DLA from many disabled people would effectively stop them from contributing fully to society, plunge them into poverty and have a huge impact on their mobility. But for the Lib Dems none of these questions are relevant, it just seems to be part of the Orange Book/Tory agenda of saving money and cutting benefits. Ironically it could result in people who are working and receiving DLA no longer being in a position to work as their support system would effectively be removed. DLA was introduced in the early 90s clearly as a part of the 'social model' of disability and was a big step forward for disabled people. It is already quite difficult to claim and there are a mountain of application forms to go through. The proposal to hand over the testing of DLA claimants to ATOS Medical Services, a private company whose testing staff are not medically qualified, and whose wrong decisions re other disability benefits are already clogging up the DWP appeals system, is monstrous.

Disabiled people are going to have to oppose these callous moves in every way possible and I have been pressing for the full involvement of the disabled community in the Coalition of Resistance. As for the Lib Dems, well it would seem from the comments of many disabled people that the infamous statement on their election leaflets "only the Lib Dems can win here" will soon to demonstrated to be as false as their pre-election promises on disability benefits.

Monday, 6 September 2010

EU has a duty to uphold the rights of Roma people - Green MEP

What is happening in France with the Roma and deportations is truly shocking and conjures up images of the deportations of Roma and others 70 years ago. The Greens in the European Parliament are speaking out against this. I will also be in contact with my friend in Bucharest who is an activist in the Romanian Green Party. Europe is a Europe of the Peoples or it is nothing.


- Comments follow President Sarkozy’s widely criticized deportations of Roma from France to Romania

MEPs will congregate on Tuesday (7 September, 3pm) to debate a proposed resolution on the European Parliament’s formal response to the expulsions of Roma people in France.

The plight of the Roma people is back on the political agenda in Parliament following controversial moves by the French government to deport planeloads of Roma to Romania as part of a general crackdown by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

MEPs and the Council have repeatedly asked the European Commission to draw up a cohesive strategy and programme for the EU wide integration of the Roma – but so far it has failed to do so.

As a member of the Greens/EFA group, one of four EP political groups which condemn Sarkozy's government for the expulsions, the Green MEP for the South East said he was horrified by the mass deportations – and urged the EU to uphold the principles of its own laws by taking a hard line on France’s draconian policy.

Keith Taylor, the Green Party’s MEP for South East England, said: “Roma people are European citizens, yet some of their most fundamental rights – including freedom of movement within the EU – have been abused. It seems clear that the actions of the French government are driven by xenophobia, and represent a blatant flouting of France’s obligations under international law.

“In case there was any doubt, the Romanian Interior Minister Vasile Blaga scotched the French justification for the deportations – that the individuals were criminals – when he revealed that not a single Romanian deported from France last week appeared on any French or Romanian police databases.

“The Parliament and Commission must not ignore this injustice. It must act swiftly to draw up a common European strategy for the Roma people which addresses the many challenges they face in a fair and humane way. The Greens believe that the EP resolution should go further and will therefore seek to amend it in Strasbourg on Tuesday. We are also calling for a legal challenge against this strategy of persecution.”

There are an estimated 10-12 million Roma people in the EU, representing the largest ethnic minority. Other member states, such as Italy, have also been criticized for their historically poor treatment of the ethnic community. Romania is calling for recognition of Roma human rights and a wider policy of integration.

While Greens have made clear their plans to speak out against the expulsion of Roma, the conservative EPP group has said it will attempt to block criticism of Sarkozy’s actions.


Notes to Editors

For more information on the work of Keith Taylor MEP, please contact Melissa Freeman on 0207 407 9935 / 07950 382149 or

How Ireland was sold to the banks

A good article here in the Sunday Business Post by Vincent Browne explaining how several generations in Ireland have been put in hock to the banks and how the Greens in government there have been part of the shameful decision. Many Green Party members were opposed to the Anglo Irish Bank deal and NAMA and as a result have left the party. It truly is disgraceful and I expect it will be regarded as a black day indeed in the annals of Irish history. More and more pigeons there are coming home to roost, while more and more young people leave the country. A sorry state of affairs indeed.

London Ambulance Service Board meeting and news

Last week I attended the board meeting of the London Ambulance Service for the first time as Chair of the Patients Forum. Officially these meetings are open to the public - in reality the only member of the public who attends is the Chair of the Patients Forum, although other non-LAS people, such as the Commissioning Officer for the LAS, who gave a presentation, was also listed as a member of the public.

The meetings last for about 3 hours, on this occasion 3 and a half. I had been told beforehand that the most interesting papers being presented would be those by the Chief Executive and the Medical Director. Having been the Vice Chair of the Forum for two years and a member for a year before that, I am fairly up to speed with what is happening with the LAS. Pity the poor member of the public who wandered into the meeting, however, as it is riddled with jargon and 'in house' technicalities. There were several issues which drew my interest and some of these were referred to by Board members also. One was the extensive academic research being carried out by the LAS and we are basing our next Forum meeting on Monday around this, with a presentation and a question and answer session on it. In fact, I had a query from a Guardian journalist about the reseach and I was quite happy to point out just some of the areas of research, many of which have been published in serious medical academic journals. Some of the projects and publications etc are here.

SAFER 2: Care of older people who fall: an evaluation of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new protocols for emergency ambulance personnel to assess and refer to appropriate community based care.

Investigators: Prof. H Snooks (Swansea University); Mary Halter (Kingston and St George’s University of London); Dr Rachael Donohoe (LAS), Prof. Niro Siriwardena (East Midlands Ambulance Service); Richard Whitfield (Welsh Ambulance Service).

Direct Angioplasty for Non-St-Elevation Acute Coronary Events (DANCE).
Investigators: Dr Miles Dalby (Royal Brompton & Harefield); Mark Whitbread (LAS)

Immediate Management of the Patient with aneurysm rupture: Open Versus Endovascular Repair (‘IMPROVE’).
Investigators: Prof. Janet Powell (Imperial College, London); Dr Fionna Moore (LAS).

Understanding and improving the experience of parents and carers who need advice when a child has a fever.
Externally-led research studies
Principal Investigator: Prof. Terence Stephenson (University of Nottingham)

Identifying Emergency Personnel at Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Principal Investigator; Dr Jennifer Wild (Institute of Psychiatry)


• Rea TD, Fahrenbruch C, Culley L, Donohoe RT, Hambly C, Innes J, Bloomingdale M,Subido C, Romines S & Eisenberg M (2010) Randomized trial of CPR with chest compression alone versus chest compression plus rescue breathing. New England Journal of Medicine; in press.

• Halter M, Vernon S, Snooks H, Porter A, Close J, Moore F, Porsz S. (2010) Complexityof the decision-making process of ambulance staff for assessment and referral of older people who have fallen: a qualitative study. Emerg Med J.;doi:10.1136/emj.2009.079566.

• Siriwardena, NA, Shaw D, Donohoe R, Black S & Stephenson J (2010) Development and pilot of Clinical Performance Indicators for English Ambulance Services. EmergencyMedical Journal; 27: 327-331

• Siriwardena, Donohoe R, Stephenson J & Philips P (2010) Supporting research and development in ambulance services: research for better healthcare in prehospital settings. Emergency Medical Journal; 27: 324-326

• Shah, SA; Bhopal, R; Gadd, S and Donohoe, R. (2010) Out of hospital Cardiac Arrest in South Asian and White populations in London: database evaluation of characteristics and outcome. Heart; 96: 27-29.

• Barratt H, Wilson M, Moore F, Raine R. (2010) The implications of the NICE guidelines on neurosurgical management for all severe head injuries: systematic review. Emerg Med J. 27:173-8

• Deakin CD, Clarke T, Nolan J, Zideman DA, Gwinnutt C, Moore F, Ward M, Keeble C,Blancke W. (2010) A critical reassessment of ambulance service airway management in prehospital care. Emerg Med J. 27:226-33.


Rachael T Donohoe; Jennifer Innes; Stephen M Gadd; Mark Whitbread; Fionna Moore;Douglas Chamberlain. (2010) Characteristics of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and factors associated with survival in London: A four-year study. Annals of Emergency Medicine

The Patient Care Conference which the LAS usually holds each year in a central London location is being changed and will there will be a number of smaller events held in different parts of London to draw on the views of local communities there.

On the issue of non-emergency Patient Transport Service, it is clear that the LAS is losing more and more of the share of the contracts across London to private companies, many of which are glorified taxi firms. This has resulted in the situation where the staff of the LAS who have been working in the PTS for the South London NHS Trust are in the process of being transferred over to Savoy Cars, to whom the Trust have given the PTS contract. These staff have called for industrial action and their union , the GMB, states that Savoy Cars are not recognising the union and also are not paying Outer London weighting. There are over 50 staff in the process of being transferred under the Transfer of Undertakings procedure. I raised this issue at the board meeting and was told that the industrial action had now been dropped, that negotiations were continuing and that the transfer of staff would now happen on October 1st. However, I am determined to hear the union's side of things and am in the process of inviting a GMB rep to the Forum meeting next Monday.

I also asked why the LAS is not using the Forum's offer to involve local communities in the bidding for PTS contracts. The Forum has put together a list of basic demands for patient transport in London and not many of the companies currently being awarded the contracts are complying with them. The Financial Director replied that the LAS as a bidder could not be involved in the commissioning process but the point is that the LAS would hold many of these contracts if the London Patient Transport Commissioners were using local communities and their views in commissioning. Indeed, Malcolm Alexander, our Forum Vice Chair, has recently made this point to the commissioners and they seem to have accepted it to some extent.

There is also a plan to have a new non-emergency number in London. LAS and NHS Direct organised a meeting with the GP out of hours providers, NHS London in July to discuss the potential afforded by the development of an urgent care three digit number in London. NHS will be hosting a further meeting in October. The official Dept of Health pilot of the 111 number was launched by the North East Ambulance Service on 23rd August. LAS will be visiting the NEAS in the autumn to understand the early impact of this new approach to managing urgent care demand. Some futher detail in this article:

Finally, the issue of 'Safeguarding' is in the news a lot over the last year or so. This is the question of alerting the relevant authorities when a child or an adult who is considered vulnerable are seen as under threat from a relative or another person. The LAS has a new Safeguarding committee which I attended for some time. The latest figures presented to the board by the Medical Director indicate the league tables for London and for some reason Croydon heads the league for the LAS for the borough where there are the most safeguarding cases being reported by ambulance crews and staff. The Medical Director said that this needed more study and I put a question about this and when that study would commence and with who (the local authority?) as to why Croydon is reporting such high figures.

Our Forum meetings are very large and lively and draw health activists and members of the public from across London and even from outside. So if you want to come and discuss some of these issues and also hear about the new groundbreaking research by the LAS you are welcome to join us on Monday 13th September at LAS Headquarters, Waterloo Road, just a five minute walk from Waterloo station and down the street from the Old Vic Theater. We start at 5.30pm and finish at 7.30pm.We even provide tea and coffee and also have British Sign Language interpreters as we have several deaf members.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Chicken to Change - Song against Mugabe

Chicken to Change, a new song calling on Mugabe to stand down in Zimbabwe by the South African group Freshlyground. Wonderful combination of satire and music aimed at one of Africa's well past his move out date dictators.

The Joy of Resistance

Videos here from last night's Coalition of Resistance meeting in London which I attended. Speakers include the Green Party's Romayne Phoenix. Romayne and I are both members of the COR Steering Committee. The meeting was well attended and for many of us the highlight of the evening was Dot Cotton of Pensioners Convention's speech, where she reminded us of the historical struggles and the role of pensioners. Other Green Left members spoke from the floor, including the party's Disability Spokesperson, Alan Wheatley.

Others have blogged about it but I would just like to point out that we still desperately need money to have the national conference on November 27th in Camden. Paul Mackney summed it up well when he referred to "the joy of resistance."

On Monday Lambeth Against the Cuts has a meeting at the Karibou Centre, 7 Gresham Road, Brixton at 7pm. Speakers include:

Kate Hoey MP
George Graham (Lambeth Green Party)
Jon Rogers (Lambeth UNISON)
Bell Ribiero-Addy (NUS Black Students)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Events in Lambeth - Urban Green Fair and Lambeth Green Party Fundraiser

I was away for the weekend in Lyme Regis and the Jurassic coast with my partner and it was a truly beautful and relaxing place, we even found one or two small fossils along the beach, but nothing to write home about. On my return to London I spent half of Tuesday attending the Board meeting of the London Ambulance Servcie NHS Trust in my capacity as newly elected Patients Forum Chair (more of that anon) followed by a meeting in the afternoon with the Patient and Public Involvement Officer of the LAS to discuss the Forum's next public meeting on September 13th and Forum activities over the next few months.

Tonight I am off to the Coalition of Resistance activists meeting at ULU which I posted about on Friday and apparently activists are coming from as far away as Bristol and Cambridge, although it is mainly a London anti-cuts activists meeting. With the real scope of the cuts only a month away now it is vital to keep building the momentum towards the national conference on November 27th and support for the local anti-cuts campaigns, as well as the European TUC Day of Action on September 29th.

Some news from Lambeth - Urban Green Fair this weekend and a fundraiser for Lambeth Green Party tomorrow night, which I have been organising. After the local elections and general election in May and a by election in July we need to balance our books again.


The fourth annual Urban Green Fair is set to go for Sunday 5th September 2010 from 11am to 7pm in Brockwell Park, Lambeth.

The Urban Green Fair showcases green issues whilst informing, entertaining and educating people on green issues and making positive, sustainable change. All zones include free workshops and information on green and social issues. We will also be hosting a film and speaker tent showcasing films and talks from top speakers throughout the day.

On average 10,000 people pass through the Urban Green Fair on the day and the green marketplace will be filled with stallholders selling good food, crafts and ethnic goods.

We expect to host 40 workshops on the day for all ages and interests,

including: Nafeez Ahmed on the Crisis of Civilisation, Michael Meacher MP on 'What next after neo-liberalism ?' Ian Henshall on '9/11 The New Evidence', Dougald Hine on the 'Dark Mountain Project', Andrew Simms on 'the Death of British Corporations', Shane Collins on 'Drugs, Crime and Peak oil' and Maryla Hart on the 'Peril of Biofuels'.

Powerful and practical talks in the Climate Change & Energy Transition Zone.

The prestigious Brockwell Bake Competition will be in the Food & Garden Zone, get your home-made bread entries in!

A huge range of alternative and holistic therapies in the Health & Healing Zone, as well an area for user-led groups to discuss issues on addiction.

Loads of exciting and creative activities in the Kids Zone with the Streatham Steiner School including free food for the first 300 children in the queue.

Innovative and practical solutions of how to green your home in the new Building & Technology Zone.

All this and workshops and information in the Social Justice and Sustainable Transport zones, FREE bike repair from Dr Bike and a workshop from Brixton Cycles, plus scores of unusual bikes and trailers for kids and adults to try out.

Brixton BMX club will also hold age-graded races on the Brockwell Park BMX track and the finals of the first Brockwell Park Open Tennis Championships will be played on the day.

Additionally, Climate Camp for Action will have a space with talks and a debrief from the RBS action the previous week and the ever-expanding Transition Town Brixton will be present with the Brixton pound and providing information on its ongoing activities and groups in the area.

Visit for more information and a stalls booking form - the full programme is on the website.

QUIZ……Fund Raiser for Lambeth Green Party.

Priory Arms Stockwell, 83 Lansdowne Way London SW8 2PB - Five minutes from Stockwell Tube Station


Friday 3rd September from 7.30pm.

Quiz and Poetry Reading plus raffle - All proceeds to Lambeth Green Party

Friends, acquaintances and family welcome. Bring a team or come along and join a group on the night.

Noel Lynch will be quiz master, so a host of original, humorous and entertaining questions can be expected.