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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Salma Yaqoob - Friends in the Green Party

Yesterday I went to Birmingham for the Green Left meeting and we helped Salma Yaqoob's parliamentary campaign in Sparkhill, a predominantly Asian suburb of the city. We were made very welcome and afterwards Salma addressed our meeting and answered questions. She is a truly inspirational politician and I am very glad that we could assist her election campaign. She is also calling for progresive activists to assist Caroline Lucas's election campaign in Brighton. Salma wrote the following on her blog. The photo is of  Green Left and Respect activists with Salma out on the streets.


http://www.salmayaqoob.com/2010/01/friends-in-green-party.html

Friends in the Green Party


“This weekend I met with members of the Green Left – a grouping within the Green Party.

They were having one of their regular meetings in Birmingham and they had offered to help with some campaigning beforehand. I was grateful for their support - we need all the help we can get!

On a very cold but fresh Saturday morning we all set off distributing leaflets and door knocking in the Springfield ward. The issue we are campaigning around at the moment is the threat to plans to re-open Sparkhill swimming baths, the local community pool.

After a couple of hours of traipsing the streets we reconvened for discussion, chat and some food at Birmingham’s Metropolitan Community Church, which is around the corner from the charming Friends of the Earth Warehouse Café.

Inevitably our discussion focused on how national politics could be levered in a progressive direction.

Someone asked whether a new national left-green coalition could be set up. My answer was that we don’t have to belong to one party to work together. Right now the priority should be turning words of solidarity and co-operation into real localised bottom-up examples.

That is why during the recent European elections I backed the Green European candidate Felicity Norman. Felicity was campaigning openly on a very principled stance of opposition to racism and the BNP and she was the candidate best placed to advance a progressive agenda for the West Midlands. I was proud to support her.

We are developing new ways of working and I have been very encouraged by recent developments in Birmingham Green Party.

They have elected a new committee, staffed with a talented bunch of young, enthusiastic, idealistic and tactically astute members. They don’t just talk about unity, they practice it. It was their initiative to campaign among their members not to stand a candidate in Hall Green constituency in order to enhance my chances of winning. It is the kind of sensible, but very rare, co-operation between people of different parties on the left that makes me optimistic for the future.

By working together in the city, my hope is that we can illustrate in practice how collaborative working can strengthen progressive politics.

All in all it was a very encouraging day. Thanks again to my new friends in the Green Party for making it so.”

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The smiling villain - Tony Blair

 I spent several hours yesterday outside the Iraq War Inquiry where Blair was testifying with the demonstrators. One of those who read the names of the dead in Iraq was the actor, Sam West, he also quoted these lines from Hamlet, which he slightly altered for the occasion. They say it all really, as only Shakespeare can.


O most pernicious man!

O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!

My tables—meet it is I set it down

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain—

At least I am sure it may be so in Britain.





Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 105–109

Friday, 29 January 2010

Protesting at the Afghanistan conference


Councillor Romayne Phoenix of Lewisham and I demonstrating outside St James' Palace yesterday at the international conference on the war in Afghanistan. We missed Hilary Clinton's motorcade as she decided to go around the other way to avoid the demo. Today it will be Tony Blair's turn to face the music. If Iraq was Blair and Bush's war, Afghanistan is Brown's and Obama's. I also liked the agitprop of the guy with the   suitcase demonstrating where our taxes are going. I met some students from Middlesex University who interviewed me for their tv and media section and Romayne was interviewed for TV3 from New Zealand.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Below is the leader from the New Statesman magazine on the war in Afghanistan. Tomorrow morning I will be with many others demonstrating against this farce of a conference and the attendance of President Karzai, who is NATO's puppet in Kabul. Blood, taxes and weapons continue to flow towards Afghanistan, yet every serious commentator, whether military or political, accepts that the war is unwinnable. The latest strategy is to try and bribe members of the Taliban.

The propaganda machine continues to grind on, as war propaganda always does and the tragic scenes in Wooton Bassett are used to fuel this. But the fact remains that the war is a furnace ever hungry for more resources and more lives - both Afghan and British. And the generals are the stokers at the furnace gates. The conference tomorrow will make pronouncements and issue press releases but it is all just empty rhetoric in the echoing halls of Lancaster House. As Shakespeare wrote: "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."





The Afghanistan war remains unwinnable. Britain should be making plans to withdraw


On 28 January, foreign ministers from around the world will gather in London for a conference on Afghanistan. The aim is to mobilise international efforts behind a plan for how to deploy military and civilian resources on the ground. The London conference will be chaired by the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Writing exclusively in the New Statesman this week (page 25) ahead of the conference, Mr Miliband stresses the importance of a “clear political strategy”, and says: “We will be looking to President Karzai’s government to show that its intentions on security and governance will be carried through into action.”

http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/01/afghanistan-war-british-london

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Call for Green and Black people to register to vote




An important appeal here by my colleague in Lambeth and Parliamentary Candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, Shane Collins, calling on black people to register to vote in this year's general and local elections in London. Vauxhall also has a large black population and I hope that the leaders of the black community will encourge people to vote and not to allow this opportunity to pass.



Call for Green and Black people to register to vote




The Green Party's Parliamentary Candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, Shane Collins, presented Reverend Al Sharpton with a Brixton Pound at the Operation Black Vote 'Register to Vote' meeting on Thursday 21st January at Friends Meeting House in Euston.



Shane Collins said: "The Reverend Sharpton comes from Harlem, the spiritual home of Marcus Garvey. His message of keeping economic power in the community is more relevant than ever today - with the corporate takeover of much of our lives. This message has been taken up by Transition Town, as exemplified by the Brixton Pound which I was proud to present to the Reverend Sharpton."


"Voter registration among the black community is only 45% in younger age groups, similar to the black youth unemployment rate. There is a connection. Black and green people have the power to change the results in the local and general elections but only if registered and voting.


"So remember Rosa Parks, honour Nelson Mandela, take heart from President Obama and register to vote by contacting your Town Hall or www.electoralcommission.org.uk. Remember racists register and racists vote."


For elections on 6th May the deadline to register is 20th April.

Quotes from Rev Sharpton speech

"How you define yourself is how you confine yourself. You have all this technology, Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry's. And you can't get ten black Britons to go and vote?

"At a time when we can elect Presidents, there is no excuse for us to be sitting down and not doing anything, and avoid recognising that it's a new time."

Monday, 25 January 2010

A war criminal comes to town on Friday

I will be there on Friday along with all of those who object to what this most dissembling and dishonest of British politicians has done. There should be no hiding place for such as him.



DEFEND THE RIGHT TO PROTEST ON BLAIR INQUIRY DAY




The police are aiming to keep protesters out of sight this Friday when Tony Blair appears at the Iraq Inquiry.

Today's newspapers say the police are considering a ring of steel and an exclusion zone round the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster, where the Inquiry is held. (See http://bit.ly/85Ba2Z )

This contradicts a statement by Scotland Yard yesterday that they aim to "facilitate the protest as best we can".

Stop the War has demanded the right to protest on the grass immediately outside the conference centre. The police are refusing to say whether they will allow this.

To which Lindsey German, National Convenor of Stop the War, has responded: "It would be outrageous if the police were used to keep the public away from Tony Blair. Our right to peaceful protest must not be curtailed for political purposes. We are asking for the biggest possible turn out on Friday to defend the right to protest and make it clear to the world that the majority here think Tony Blair is guilty of war crimes."

Among those attending the all-day protest are writers, musicians, Iraqi exiles, the families of soldiers killed in
Iraq, well known actors, human rights lawyers and ordinary citizens from across the country. (Events timetable here: http://bit.ly/8mKM0T)

Military families who lost loved ones in Iraq will be joining the protests and 23 of them have written a letter to Blair requesting a personal meeting after he has completed his evidence:

"Our loved ones died in the Iraq war. This Friday we will be attending the Inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot. Please would you extend us the courtesy of a short private meeting after you have given your evidence to the Inquiry. If you could permit us 15 minutes out of your busy schedule we would be very grateful. This would assist the families in bringing some form of closure to the whole sorry episode of the Iraq war."

They await Blair's reply. He has refused repeatedly over the past six years all requests to meet with the bereaved families.

Please try to join Stop the War, the military families, CND and other organisations on Friday and publicise the protest as widely as you can.



TONY BLAIR'S "JUDGEMENT DAY"


DEFEND THE RIGHT TO PROTEST


Friday 29 January from 8.00am onwards


Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre


Broad Sanctuary, London, SW1P 3EE


Nearest tube: Westminster



For a timetable of the day's events, please go to:

http://bit.ly/8mKM0T

US Greens call for support for Haiti

US Greens: Make peace, political self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency part of the US aid for post-earthquake Haiti





GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES Press Release:

• Green Party leaders assert that aid to Haiti must not be delivered under the barrel of a US machine gun; Greens thank Obama for granting long overdue Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the US

• Green Party Speakers Bureau: Greens available to speak on peace, human rights, foreign policy, and other related issues:

http://www.gp.org/speakers

Green Party Black Caucus contacts: http://www.gp.org/committees/black


WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders expressed sympathy and solidarity with the people of Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake, and urged President Obama to make peace, political self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency part of US relief efforts for Haiti.

Party leaders also demanded that US forces not obstruct relief efforts, after a Doctors Without Borders cargo plane carrying medicine and other badly needed supplies was blocked from landing on Saturday (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org//press/release.cfm?id=4165&cat=press-release

/ http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7017546193). Haiti air-space has been under US control since January 15.

Greens have joined the millions of other Americans who are sending contributions to Haiti, with an emphasis on charitable groups that are most effective in getting aid to Haiti and have a solid record of human rights advocacy and grassroots community development work in Haiti.

Former Green presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney visited Haiti in May and June, 2008, and spoke at the SOPUDEP School in Pétion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince (http://www.sopudep.org). The school provides free tuition to hundreds of poor children. Greens have learned that the school is still standing and will serve as a relief center, but there is still little news on students and staff (http://www.orilliapacket.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2264272).

"We hope President Obama sees this sad occasion as a chance to initiate a new era of relations with Haiti, one based on cooperation, respect, and non-intervention. It should begin with a massive and green rebuilding effort that promotes Haiti's political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency. If President Obama's post-earthquake aid plan for Haiti puts an end to a century of exploitation for cheap labor, brutal human rights abuses by US-backed regimes, colonial corruption and graft, and political bullying by the US, he'll be remembered for having helped the Haitian people emerge from two disasters -- the earthquake itself and Haiti's status as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere," said Rosa Clemente, 2008 Green nominee for Vice President of the United States (http://www.rosaclemente.com).

"The decision on Friday, January 15, to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians residing in the US before January 12 was long overdue. We're glad the Obama Administration announced that deportations of undocumented Haitians in the US will cease and that Haitians will be allowed access to employment opportunities so they can support their families," said Betty Davis, co-chair of the Green Party Black Caucus.

Until the announcement on Friday, the Obama Administration had maintained the US policy of denying Haitians Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is available to people from federally designated countries suffering armed conflicts and natural disasters.

Green Party leaders have been alarmed about reports that US troops, including an entire Marine Expeditionary Force, FEMA, and an aircraft carrier, have been ordered to Haiti to "help restore order."

"The relief effort must not turn into a military invasion of Haiti," said Romi Elnagar, a member of the Green Party's International Committee. "The deployment of SOUTHCOM and NORTHCOM puts Haiti in danger of joining Iraq and Afghanistan as a country occupied by US troops, with similar miseries visited on the Haitian people. It'll be an opportunity to provide more desperately poor sweatshop workers for companies like Disney and land for biofuels for American consumption.

Greens and other Americans who care about the Haitian people demand a different future -- one based on peace, freedom, fair wages for Haitian workers and an economy that meets the needs of Haitians first, as well as safety from the mounting effects of global warming."

The Green Party of the United States issued a statement of support for Haitian democracy in 2005 (http://www.gp.org/press/pr_2005_02_07.html). Greens strongly criticized the US's role in former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's kidnapping and expulsion in 2004 and called for an independent investigation (http://www.gp.org/press/pr_03_02_04.html).

See also the interview with Randall Robinson, founder and former president of TransAfrica and author of "An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President," on Democracy Now!



http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/15/bush_was_responsible_for_destroying_haitian).

Mentioned in dispatches - on Harry's Place

I have been mentioned in a report on last week's meeting on Gaza, where I spoke, on the notorious pro-Zionist blog, Harry's Place. I suppose that I should consider myself lucky not to have been savaged by some who live there. There were several attacks on the blog by some of the speakers who obviously had recognised some of its regular contributors in the audience. This report (below) mentions some of the trade union speakers and others who were on the platform. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The VP convoy is the Viva Palestina convoy which, despite many attempts to block it by both Israelis and Egyptians, managed to break the blockade of Gaza and get through with much needed supplies.


Hugh Lanning (Chair PSC; Dep Gen Sec PCS trade union) said that the TUC Exec has agreed that TUC and PSC can issue jointly badge material.



Alexei Sayle compared Gaza to a windfarm that has been said by an objector to emit an imperceptible vibration which slowly poisons you.


Joseph Healy: Green Party (candidate for Vauxhall): Greens have had BDS policy for 2 years. Compared VP convoy to those who volunteered in the 1930s to go to Spain to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.


Anas Altikriti: Welcomed people from Harrys Place, Policy Exchange, the ZF and the Centre for Social Cohesion. Compared the international response to the earthquake in Haiti to the lack of response to the Gaza ‘massacre’: “no less calamitous circumstances”. Melanie Phillips and Policy Exchange should be described as supporters of War Crimes. Israel almost friendless but the few it has are ‘powerful’.


Dubbins (Unite): Unite helped pay for the South Africans to come to the UCU Conference.


Ishmail Patel: Friends of Al Aqsa: Israel becoming a Pariah state; ‘we will bring down the Zionist state, one people will live from the river to the sea, ‘sunset of occupation’.


Lowkey: Starvation of Gaza has become accepted norm. Livni a terrorist. Babies in Gaza born with birth defects because the water is poisoned. Babies with two heads will be born in Gaza.


Daud Abdulla: Praised Chavez (lots of applause); Israel a brutal, totalitarian, apartheid, racist state.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Oxford visit this weekend



I am off to Oxford tomorrow for two days of meetings as a member of the Green Party's Regional Council, where I am one of the two regional councillors for London. All the regional representatives meet up and we hear about what is happening in other regions as well as reporting back on the various posts we hold on the Regional Council. I deal with Equalities and Diversity and will be reporting on developments within the party on disability issues, the LGBTIQ Group, ethnic minorities and an update on what Green Party Women have been doing. I am also presenting a strategy paper on the party's relations with the European Green Party and developments within the EGP.

However, the main business of the meeting this time will be the general election manfesto which the Regional Council has to review, amend and approve. Once the Regional Council has done this, then it is almost the last stage in the process. It is, of course, a top secret document and will only be revealed at the general election launch. We will also be joined on Sunday by the Chair of the Executive and the joint International Coordinators to discuss what is happening on the Executive and at international level. There is also a lot of internal party business to be carried out, including reports on disciplinary issues etc.

Any Green Party members in Oxford are welcome to join us over the two days, where we will be in the Oxford Youth Hostel. I am also looking forward to meeting up with one or two friends from the Oxford party.

Joel Kovel to speak to London Green Party on Monday next


Joel Kovel will be speaking on the situation in the United States post-Copenhagen and on his book, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or The End of the World? at an open London Federation of Green Parties discussion meeting at 7.30pm on Monday 25th January at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road (three minutes walk from Kings Cross Tube Station).



Joel is an academic and leading member of the Green Party of the United States who has been active in the peace and anti nuclear movements since the Vietnam War. He was part in the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment which broke the US blockade of Cuba in 1994, was Green Party candidate for Senator from New York and ran for the Party's Presidential nomination in 2000. Although originally a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, since 1980 Joel has academic, teaching and researching in the fields of politics and communication, but last year was witch-hunted from his post of Distinguished Professor at Bard College as a result the publication of his book, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel-Palestine.

This will be a fascinating meeting and a good introduction to the width of current green politics. Bring your friends as well as your fellow members!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Peter Tatchell is Liberal Voice of the Year

I spoke last night at a packed event on 'Gaza. One Year On' in Conway Hall, which has been filmed by Press TV and will also appear soon on the website of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Other speakers included Alexei Sayle, Jeremy Corbyn MP, George Galloway MP and speakers from the trade unions UNITE and UNISON, as well as some people who had been on the recent Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza.


Yesterday we received the news that my Green Party colleague and fellow campaigner for LGBT rights, Peter Tatchell, had been awarded the Liberal Voice of the Year award by Liberal Democrat Voice readers. Nobody deserves this more for his tireless efforts for human rights both here and globally, which has cost him his health. Well done Peter and I hope that your health recovers soon.


Peter Tatchell is Liberal Voice of the Year

Left-wing Green wins vote by Liberal Democrat Voice readers


Peter Tatchell has won Liberal Democrat Voice's third annual Liberal Voice of the Year award for his "tireless and fearless international human rights campaigning."

The runner-up was author and journalist Ben Goldacre. Other contenders were Joanna Lumley, Rory Stewart, Terry Pratchett, Henry Porter, Guy Herbert and Alan Rushbridger.
The two previous years' Liberal Voice winners were Shami Chakrabati (2007) and the campaigners on behalf of Jean Charles de Menezes (Justice4Jean.org) and the Stockwell Shooting Inquest Jury (2008).

See the Liberal Democrat Voice report about the online readers poll result here:
http://www.libdemvoice.org/ldv-readers-vote-peter-tatchell-your-liberal-voice-of-the-year-17607.html

Responding to winning the vote, Peter Tatchell said:

"I am honoured, but quite surprised, to win Liberal Voice of the Year, given that I'm a left-wing Green. It shows that Liberal Democrat Voice readers are non-sectarian and inclusive, putting values and principles above narrow party interests, which is how it should be.

"There are progressive people in all parties, apart from the BNP and possibly UKIP. We should work together more, focusing on what we have in common rather than on what divides us.

"In Britain, the combined supporters of liberal, green and left values constitute the majority. If people from these three political strands cooperated more closely, and if we had had a fair voting system, Britain need never again suffer a Conservative government. We could move the country forward on a progressive agenda for social justice, democratic reform, civil liberties and environmental renewal.

"At the international level, it has been a real privilege to write and campaign in support of the freedom struggles in Iran, Russia, Balochistan, Uganda, Iraq, Somaliland, West Papua, Sudan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. The democracy activists in these countries are truly heroic and inspirational. I crawl in their shadows.

"One of the things I have learned from my 43 years of human rights campaigning is that no matter how small and weak we may feel, we can all help make a difference. I do my bit for human rights, as do millions of others. Together, cumulatively and collectively, slowly but surely, we are shaping a better world," said Mr Tatchell.

http://www.petertatchell.net/

Monday, 18 January 2010

Consultants and rents in Lambeth - More cream for fat cats



Two reports in Friday's South London Press, one of which is below, reporting that Lambeth Council are seriously considering increasing council rents in the borough by 5% after last year's massive increase which was the highest in England. This is followed by the news that the disastrous ALMO, Lambeth Living, which Labour Lambeth pushed through against the wishes of many council tenants and leaseholders, has been paying megabucks to consultants. I guarantee a lot of angry tenants at Thursday's meeting of the Tenant Council at the Town Hall - and they are right to be. Once again Labour Lambeth demonstrates that the only ones who are doing better under its control are the fat cats. No wonder even Labour's semi-detached MP, Kate Hoey, is denouncing the proposed rent increases in the South London Press.
http://www.southlondonpress.co.uk/tn/News.cfm?id=1506&headline=Lambeth tenants facing huge hikes

Lambeth Living spent £1m on consultants



THE firm that runs social housing in a borough paid more than £1million to consultants in just eight months, it has been revealed.
Lambeth Living was set up by the borough’s Labour leaders to manage its stock of more than 30,000 council-owned homes.
New figures show it doled out £1,068,675 on consultants between April and November last year.
During the same period, more than £634,000 was spent on temporary staff and a further £256,000 on senior management.
The total company payroll cost for the eight months was £10.25million, meaning more than 10 per cent of the wage bill was paid to consultants.
Opposition Tory leader Councillor John Whelan said: “The only way to improve the service is by recruiting good full-time staff and giving them the responsibility for sorting out the mess.”
Last year, the South London Press revealed some consultants employed by Lambeth Living were earning more than £3,000 a week and racking up huge travel and hotel expenses.
Lambeth Living director of resources Terry Gallagher said the number of temporary staff and consultants had been reduced.
He said it was common practice for a new organisation to employ such staff initially before moving to permanent staff.

Gaza One Year On - Tomorrow night in Conway Hall



I will be speaking tomorrow night with this stellar lineup of the Left and the trade union movement to speak about Gaza and the latest on the Viva Palestina convoy which recently managed to get through to the beleaguered people of the territory. There will be some firsthand accounts from some who were there.





GAZA ONE YEAR ON




End the Siege of Gaza - Bring Israeli War Criminals to Justice



Tuesday 19 January 2010 - 7pm



Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL, London



Organised by PSC, STWC, CND and BMI.



Reporting back from the Viva Palestina / PSC Aid convoy just back from Gaza!



Speakers include:



Dr Karma Nabulsi, Oxford University



Bruce Kent, Vice President Pax Christi



Sir Gerald Kaufman MP



Phyllis Starkey MP



Lowkey



George Galloway MP



Alison Shepherd, UNISON



Daud Abdullah, Middle East Monitor



Jeremy Corbyn MP



Kate Hudson, Chair CND



Alexei Sayle



Richard Burden MP



Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition



Hugh Lanning, Deputy General Secretary PCS



Joseph Healy, The Green Party



Simon Dubbins, UNITE



Nicci Enchmarch, PSC



Anas Altikriti, BMI



Ismael Patel, Friends of Al Aqsa





For more information: PSC 02077006192 // www.palestinecampaign.org





The event is free – Everybody Welcome





++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Friday, 15 January 2010

The zombie corpse that is New Labour


I am posting here an article on the triumph of the Blairites in New Labour by John Wight, which has appeared on Socialist Unity blog, because it is absolutely spot on about what has happened to the Labour Party in the last 12 years and the impact of the Blairite putsch over the last two weeks. We have read of 'zombie capitalism' with toxic banks and empty financial figures. Well this is zombie politics. The corpse of the Labour Party still walks but it is long dead. The last sentence should be seriously considered by all voters on May 6th.

Blairites Victory over Brown means certain defeat by John Wight
http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=5136


Harold Wilson’s sage words that a week is a long time in politics have never been truer than this past week, which in terms of the upcoming general election in a few months’ time will undoubtedly prove to be among the most significant in determining its outcome. For during it the final seeds of Labour’s almost inevitable defeat have been sown and now surely nothing short of a miracle can succeed in turning their fortunes around.




The first of those seeds was planted with the attempted leadership coup initiated by former cabinet ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt. Though a crude attempt, it succeeded in placing the Blairites within Brown’s government back in the ascendancy and reversing Brown’s orientation to the core Labour vote with a menu of Keynesian economic measures to tackle the recession, involving progressive taxation, wealth redistribution, and government investment, married to an effective attack on the privileged backgrounds of the occupants of the Tory front benches at the same time. Now, at the insistence of the chancellor, Alistair Darling, swingeing cuts are on the agenda, along with the new buzz word of aspiration at the insistence of Mandelson, a man who still harks back to 1997 and the glory days of Tony Blair and his passage into Downing Street on the back of middle England.



As if this wasn’t enough, the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the war in Iraq is starting to blow up in Gordon Brown’s face after Alastair Campbell’s appearance. By firmly reminding the nation that in the run up to the war the prime minister was in the loop when it came to key meetings and the decision making process, the war has returned to haunt the present government like the ghost of Christmas past. Indeed, with Tony Blair’s imminent appearance on the horizon, it’s a fair guess that Gordon Brown will be finding a peaceful night’s sleep hard to come by at present.



The damage that the war has done to Labour’s prospects was further illustrated on the most recent edition of Question Time, when former anti-apartheid activist Peter Hain was handed a roasting over the war by both the audience and the panel that he isn’t likely to forget in quite some time. The irony of the likes of Kelvin MacKenzie and Ken Clarke articulating the antiwar argument in no uncertain terms should not be lost on those who continue to believe in Labour as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives. The truth is that ideologically and economically, with the Blairites reasserting their dominance, there is little if anything to choose between them.



As Thatcher herself affirmed at the end of her political career, her most significant achievement in politics was the creation of New Labour, which in effect put an end to the Labour Party as the political expression of collectivist ideas within British society and brought with it the advent of Britain, following the example of the US, as a one party state with two right wings. Indeed, when Tony Blair took political centre stage, he did so as the capitalist embodiment of the aphorism: ‘Cometh the hour. Cometh the man’.



The free market fundamentalism of the Thatcher-Reagan era had succeeded in defeating and de-clawing the organised working class in both countries. It also brought into being the conscious underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere as the condition for the super profits of the northern, in line with the prerogatives of that extreme variant of capitalism, neoliberalism, which reflected the global economic, military, and political dominance of the United States in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.



Yet while Thatcher’s nakedly anti-working class and anti-trade union policies, which manifested in the unleashing of a class war, may have succeeded in leaving the organised British working class beleagured and demoralised, they also led to her eventual undoing when, imbued with the arrogance of victory, she made the mistake of implementing the Poll Tax. It was a tax so draconian and iniquitous it rejuvenated and united a class whose defeat had largely been the result of her previous policy of taking it on a section at a time. However, by the time of her eventual defeat and ousting from Downing Street in 1990, when she was replaced by a less than able successor in the shape of John Major, the ideological battle with the Labour Party had been won. Blair assumed the leadership of the party after the death of John Smith in 1994 and abandoned Clause IV in 1995. Along with it came the refusal to pledge the repeal Thatcher’s anti-union laws and a commitment to privatisation and the needs of big business and the City, reflected in the handing over of the control of interest rates to the Bank of England. For the first time in its history the Labour Party turned it face away from the trade unions, in whose interests it was originally formed, and instead focused on attracting the support of a growing middle class in line with the growth of Britain’s financial, property, and service sectors at the expense of manufacturing and industry.



In this, Blair and his coterie of New Labour acolytes were inspired by Bill Clinton and the so-called New Democrats over in the States. Young, fresh, and idealistic, at the beginning of the nineties they’d replaced a decade of government under Republican administrations which had left American society battered and bruised. The same was true of Britain at the time of Blair’s ascent to Downing Street in 1997. The common denominator behind the disintegration of both societies was the free market structural adjustment of their respective economies throughout the eighties, responsible for the biggest transfer of wealth from the poorest sectors of society to the wealthiest since the 19th century. Under the new incumbents this transfer of wealth continued. In 1997, the year New Labour came to power, Britain’s richest 1,000 citizens were worth a combined wealth of £98 billion. Ten years later those same richest 1,000 were worth a combined wealth of just over £300bn - a staggering 204 per cent increase. Measures to alleviate poverty at the other end of the scale – such as the minimum wage – have merely succeeded in institutionalising low pay.



The intellectual foundation of Labour’s transformation, promoted utilising all of the slick marketing techniques associated with the promotion of a new range of cosmetics on the High Street, was the centrist doctrine known as the Third Way. It is a doctrine which claims to transcend left and right wing politics through a synthesis of the two, combining the supposed best of free market economic principals – innovation, risk-taking, competition, wealth creation – and those of social democracy – meritocracy, social justice denoted as equality of opportunity, emphasis on tackling poverty via introduction of work-related benefits such as tax incentives, increased decentralization, emphasis on community, and the contraction of welfare sold as a moral crusade to help the poor drag themselves up.



The universal and supposed ideology-free Third Way came to prominence in the mid to late 1990s in tandem with the ‘End of History’ era of globalisation, the benign-sounding name given to that extreme variant of laissez faire capitalism which, in its modern incarnation, evolved in response to the falling rate of profit throughout the industrialised world from the late sixties onwards and the outsourcing of industry to the developing world which followed. Capital was given unfettered access to markets and investment opportunities around the world, wherever they may be, regardless of the impact on local economies, exports, and the devastating impact of poverty on local populations. As mentioned it was an economic doctrine which reflected the economic hegemony of the United States, one resulting in a mountain of cheap imports flooding the industrialised word, driven by hyperconsumerism funded by the increased availability of consumer credit. This consumer credit slowly but surely replaced real wages within both the US and Britain, with the resulting debt bubble spawning an era of unregulated and evermore complicated financial markets, before crashing in late 2007.



Tony Blair and New Labour were determined that Britain would follow America’s example in order to reap a seemingly endless seam of prosperity from that mystical phenomenon, the free market. The City of London was effectively handed control of the British economy, as it sought to match its Wall Street counterpart in risk and unfettered trading on the money markets.



In other words, Blairism was and is nothing more than Thatcherism in a modern packaging. Initially, it was able to ride along on the continued economic growth produced by a virtual economy of financial services, stock market speculation, and the booming property market of the 1990s, which continued into the new decade. Thatcher had already done the dirty work of uprooting the nation’s manufacturing base and exporting it overseas in response to the crisis in capitalism of the 1970s; the fall in the rate of profit bringing an end to the so-called ‘Keynesian consensus’, which had constituted the lynchpin of the nation’s economy since the Second World War.



But now that this 30-year cycle of free market economic growth has collapsed, New Labour’s ideological foundations are in ruins. The consequence of this has been the utter confusion and disarray within the ranks of the government, which this week reached its nadir with the volte face that took place in its orientation back to Blairite orthodoxies of aspiration and the embracement of corporate power after a brief period of a return to something approaching Old Labour class based politics.



In concrete terms the degeneration of the Labour Party is embodied in a membership which fell by half between 1997 and 2005. Married to that are voter turnouts which over the course of Labour’s time in office have fallen by 20% since 1997, when Blair came to power with an overwhelming 43.2% of the vote.



Ideologically, the likes of Mandelson, Milliband, Johnson, and the still sizeable constituency within the ranks of the PLP and that diminishing circle of corporate and big business leaders which they represent, are a clear impediment to the leftward shift that had to take place if Labour were to have had any chance of halting David Cameron’s passage into Downing Street this year. Brown and his allies in government, Ed Balls and Nick Brown, had shown signs of trying to make that shift over the past few weeks, but the coup and its aftermath has effectively put an end to it, returning Labour back to the free market terrain it has occupied for the past 13 years.



The question the left has to grapple with now is if it is really appropriate to ask a working class which has endured a continuation of Thatcher’s neoliberal assault under New Labour to cast a vote in support of this party at the next election?



Given the last 13 years, such a policy seems as perverse as asking a woman to return to live with an abusive husband as a better alternative to making a fresh start.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Same old Tories


Would you buy a second hand car from this man? No - neither would I. If you want to see what Tory policy is in microcosm have a look at either Barnet or Essex Councils. Barnet has decided to charge residents who use services extra for doing so. So if you are a nice rich Tory in Barnet and don't need to use public services then you don't need to pay almost anything to the Council. If, however, you are a poorer resident and do, then it is coughing up time. As the Meerkat ad says: "Simples".

As for Essex, they have decided to outsource the entire Council's activities to IBM. Slash and burn. So if this is the new Tory Britain at local level - better watch out for when they get to national government.

Fire Brigade? Sorry Madam, that will be a £500 call out charge!. Payment on arrival.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Vauxhall News



I was slithering around the icy pavements in Herne Hill on Saturday with other Lambeth Green Party activists helping the local election campaign there. Cllr Becca Thackray is our excellent councillor there and despite being a lone Green councillor in Lambeth has achieved a great deal in her almost four years on the council. Becca is not standing for re-election, due to family and other commitments but we are putting up some new first class candidates there. One of the sitting councillors is Labour's Jim Dixon, and considering the mess that Lambeth's finances are in - one need only read the South London Press each week for a new expose - he will have some difficult questions to answer in this campaign.

I was unable to attend the Lambeth Police Consultative Committee meeting last week due to having to be at another meeting, but my colleague Shane Collins, the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Dulwich & West Norwood, did attend as per usual and put some questions for me. Firstly, I asked how the award of the Queen's Policing Medal to Asst Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was the commander on the ground during the Stockwell shooting operation where an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot, would help relations between the community and the police in Lambeth. This during the week when a permanment memorial to Jean Charles was erected at Stockwell Underground station - and Transport for London deserve credit for allowing it to be placed there. There has long been a makeshift memorial there but it is good that there is something more permanent. It simply beggars belief that nobody has ever been found responsible for these actions.

Shane also asked on my behalf about the Lambeth Police LGBT Liaison Officer and was told that there was someone still in post. I also put a question about the figures for homophobic hate crime in Vauxhall, considering there has been a noticeable increase across London. The police said that these figures were available on the website.This is not an altogether satisfactory response for me and I will be doing further digging about this. Vauxhall is, after Soho, London's second 'gay village' and I would be surprised if it has been isolated from the homophobic violence in the rest of London.

Finally, the South London Press last Friday published my letter on the award of the medal to Asst Commr Cressida Dick which is below.

"I read with interest your account of the New Year's Honours List on January 1st but one significant award was not mentioned. As someone standing for the election in the constituency of Vauxhall, which includes Stockwell, where an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was killed by the Metropolitan Police in 2005. I wish to express my shock and revulsion at the award of the Queen's Police Medal to Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, the woman who oversaw a lot of the operation. I share the concern and anger of the de Menezes family campaigners over this - and what a slap in the face it is for them after everything else they have suffered. Once again it demonstrates that the establishment will alwyas rally round for its own and the victims will be left voiceless. The circumstances of this case were simply too murky and there are questions which have never been answered. To grant this award now is, I believe, an utter disgrace."

Palestine - Beyond the headlines next Saturday (January 16th) in London



Green Left and Socialist Resistance are co-organising a seminar studying the causes of the Palestine conflict, with an emphasis on frequently ignored issues. Speakers include Gilbert Achcar (Eastern Cauldon, The Clash of Barbarisms) and Joel Kovel (Overcoming Zionism, The Enemy of Nature).

I will be chairing one of the sessions. A year after Gaza and with Israel/Palestine still at the heart of the whole Middle East conflict, this seminar is well worth attending.

Leaflets are online at http://bit.ly/27Dcwa. The event will be held on Saturday 16 January at Friends House, opposite London Euston station, from 10.30am to 5pm. Registration will open at 10am.



Workshops planned will include:



Zionism and the ecological catastrophe in Palestine;

Gender in Palestine;


Palestinian Refugees and the Right to Return;


Palestinian trade unions;


Land and water in Palestine;


Revolutionary struggle and national liberation;


Building direct solidarity;


Does the Zionist lobby control US polcy?

Tickets are steeply discounted for early bookings:

Advance £12/£6

On the door £15/£8

Friday, 8 January 2010

Marriage tax breaks condemned by LGBT Greens - Tories reveal true colours and Daily Mail agenda



NEWS FROM THE GREEN PARTY of England and Wales LGBT GROUP




http://www.lgbtgreens.org.uk/



Conservatives reveal true colours in marriage tax

Marriage tax breaks condemned by LGBT Greens



For Immediate Release



7.1.10



Phelim Mac Cafferty, National Chair of LGBT Greens asked: “In reaction to Conservative plans yesterday to offer married couples a transferable tax allowance[1], LGBT Greens want to ask why do we have yet more planned tax breaks which favour marriage and thereby heterosexual relationships? Further- what reassurances can the Conservatives give us as to what happens to those in civil partnerships or do they face discrimination through these proposals? As civil partnerships are not actual marriage, these proposals can’t apply to same sex couples.


Phelim continued: “While the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, said the Tories might have reassessed their original proposals, they are fundamentally short-sighted and based on unequal treatment. They are unfair.

“Greens have been historically right to insist on full marriage rights for same sex couples - as currently the two system style approach bought in by Labour enables the Tories to widen the equality gulf.

“While national statistics show a growing number of citizens- straight and lgbt- are living alone, the Green Party wants to state clearly: we regard all stable relationships as equally valid. We strongly believe that the state's job should be about supporting citizens’ freedom, not attempting to push people in a particular direction in their personal life.

Phelim concluded: “Are we not being reminded- yet again- that the homophobia that we were assured had been extinguished in the Tory Party was never driven out? The sort of coded bigotry that we have seen from the Conservatives should be no surprise- it speaks volumes about the historic hate agenda of the Conservatives. We’ve also seen Labour react not to a lack of fairness but considering how the proposals would be paid for, which sums up some of their attitude. Greens will resist bigoted policies having any part to play in the upcoming general election and we will fight strongly for policies built on equality and fairness.”

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Soldier's Tale



Excellent piece in the Independent by Mark Steel, one of the most consistently political of comedians about Corporal Joe Glenton, who has spoken out against the war in Afghanistan and is now being punished for it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/mark-steel/mark-steel-heres-one-soldier-who-told-the-truth-about-this-war-1858857.html


 I particularly like the last paragraph:

Joe Glenton has recently been released on bail, and his court martial takes place in three weeks, around the time another participant in war will be giving his evidence. So the rules seem to be that if you tell a lie to start a war, you're called up seven years later for a polite inquiry. And if you tell the truth to stop a war you're likely to get banged up. To someone somewhere I presume this all makes sense.

Of course as a member of the Steering Committee of Stop the War Coalition I would say that wouldn't I? But as Mark writes, more and more people in this country are waking up to the farce that is this war. Apparently seats are already almost booked out for the appearance of the war criminal Blair at the Iraq War Inquiry. I know which one I would like next to me when things get tough.

Caroline Lucas MEP responds to attack on Viva Palestina aid convoy in Egypt








Green Party Leader responds to developments in Gaza as aid convoy attacked

Caroline Lucas said ‘I am deeply concerned by the news that the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy has come under attack from the Egyptian security forces while being held up in the port of Al-Arish. Reports have been coming through from the convoy of numerous injuries and some arrests.



‘The convoy of aid vehicles set off in December to break to current blockade of Gaza and deliver much needed humanitarian aid to its imprisoned population. Since reaching Egypt the convoy has had numerous obstacles and diversions put in its way by the Egyptian authorities.'



The Viva Palestina/ Palestine Solidarity Convoy of 210 aid vehicles is carrying medical supplies, food and educational materials. The Egyptian government has now made it impossible for all the vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah Crossing. They are instead requiring that some of the vehicles pass from Egypt to Israel, and then from Israel into Gaza via an Israeli-controlled checkpoint. There is no guarantee that Israel will let them through to the Gaza strip (1).



Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur stated last month that 'two urgent priorities must be stressed on this dismal anniversary: first, Israel 's allies must demand, with a commitment reinforced by a credible threat of economic sanctions, that Israel immediately end its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. Second, the Goldstone Report's recommendations, having confirmed the commission of war crimes possibly amounting to Crimes Against Humanity, by Israel and Hamas, must be fully and swiftly implemented.' (2).



Read more about the convoy at http://vivapalestina.org



1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/06/george-galloway-gaza-aid-convoy

2. http://www.vivapalestina.org/alerts/concern_050109.htm

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Great Nuclear Power Debate - The Trade Union View



With freezing weather outside and gas supplies running low, plus Russia having cut off gas supplies to Belarus, the subject of energy supply has never seemed more apt. Gordon Brown's government has decided to go for the nuclear option, with only minimal investment in renewables. The trade unions, who are Labour's main paymasters, have radically different views on this - the PCS union is, of course, not affiliated to Labour - and this is an opportunity to hear opposing views on nuclear energy from the workers and unions perspectives. This is a real opportunity for anyone in Lambeth or South London to attend a cracking good debate and to hear some real facts about nuclear power and its dangers.


The Great Nuclear Power Debate




Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary for the PCS union and Ben Ayliffe, senior energy and climate campaigner for Greenpeace will be arguing the case against nuclear power.



VS.



Peter Kane, the GMB convenor for Sellafield nuclear power plant and Tristan Denton from the Nuclear Industry Association will be arguing the case for nuclear power.



Monday 11th January at the Public and Commercial Services Union HQ, 160 Falcon rd, Clapham junction, from 7:30pm


The government has committed itself to the development of nuclear power stations across the UK arguing that nuclear power is the answer to the current problems of climate change and unemployment.

But is it really the case that nuclear power is the best solution to the se problems for both workers and environmentalists?

BWTUC's Red/Green Alliance will be hosting the Great Nuclear Power Debate in an attempt to find the answer to this question.

Email; nadine@bwtuc.org.uk or call 07946 172 461 for more info

Monday, 4 January 2010

First parliamentary candidate to endorse Carer Watch's campaign to restore the right to unconditional benefits to people with serious and enduring illness


I am very honoured to be named by Carer Watch as the first parliamentary candidate to endorse their campaign for the restoration of unconditional benefits to people diagnosed with serious and enduring illness. Details below and Carer Watch's website is here   http://carerwatch.com/mhealth/



Asking all prospective candidates



January 3rd, 2010


Let’s make this a Happy New Year






CarerWatch are asking all prospective candidates in the General Election if they support our campaign to restore the right to unconditional benefits to people diagnosed with serious and enduring illness, some with only months to live.






How the righteous and over zealous people who brought in this legisalation could have over looked their duty of care to very sick people and how the disability charities could have let them do this is a mystery.






Now all we can do is fight to get it changed so that seriously sick people once again get care and respect from the DWP.






CarerWatch are delighted to name the first parliamentary candidate to endorse our campaign as






Joseph Healy






Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall



I am pleased to see that some disability organisations realise that they were taken in by the government. Good also to see that govt are reconsidering draconian tasks. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, i.e. how many claimants will not have their income cut. I recently visited a disabled woman who works in a Job Centre Plus for the DWP and she told me that their office was full of claimants, some of whom had only months to live, because of the ridiculous rule that anyone with over 6 months left had to come in and sign once every few months. She said that their offices were clogged up with people clearly unable to work and desperately ill because of government red tape.



Cheers

Joseph Healy

Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A happy New Year and New Year's Honours

I have not posted since New Year's Eve and after that I met up with my good friend, Silviu Dimitru, the General Secretary of the Romanian Greens who was visiting London with his wife and daughter. Being a good host I took them around and we celebrated New Year with some friends. My blog has also now been linked to the website of Lambeth Green Party, where you can also catch up with what is happening in Lambeth, especially in this year of Council elections in London and Lambeth in May. I wish all readers of my blog a very happy New Year.


But I truly want to express my anger and disgust at one of the New Year awards handed out by Gordon Brown's government. As someone standing for election in the constituency of Vauxhall, which includes Stockwell, where an innocent man was murdered by the Met Police in 2005, I wish to express my shock and revulsion at the award of a Queen's Police Medal to Asst Commissioner Cressida Dick, the woman who oversaw a lot of that operation. I share the concern and anger of the De Menezes family over this and what a slap in the face it is for them after everything else they have suffered. Once again it demonstrates that the establishment will always rally round for its own and the victims will be left voiceless. I am quite prepared to face accusations over this but I want to put on record my contempt for this decision by a spineless government, which continues to fight wars everywhere and place the lives of more innocent citizens in danger as a result. The circumstances of this case were simply too murky and there are questions which have never been answered. To grant this award now is an utter disgrace.

As the De Menezes family rightly commented:
"Rewarding Ms Dick after her role in the biggest policing scandal of the decade displays woeful disregard for both the de Menezes family and broader public opinion.

"It is only one year since an inquest jury flatly rejected the police account that Jean was lawfully killed."

"Handing out congratulatory medals makes a mockery of real commitment to that process."