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Friday, 26 February 2010

Housing in Lambeth - a national byword for waste and incompetence

Yesterday I received the request to sign the pledge below re affordable housing which I am happy to do. I also call on the government and local authorities to free up funds for the building of new council housing. I sent the following letter for publication to the South London Press in response to the recent publicity in the national press about Lambeth heading Labour's national campaign as the 'John Lewis Council' model.

At its spring conference in London last week the Green Party’s Deputy Leader made the following reference to Lambeth in his speech: “When I visited Lambeth recently I learnt about the campaign of Green Councillor Becca Thackary to improve the maintenance of local housing stock. The arms length housing organisation set up by Labour is unaccountable to residents and 1500 council homes lie empty while families wait for somewhere to live.



It's wrong that affordable housing isn't a priority. It's wrong that built houses are sitting empty while families wait. Greens believe that everybody deserves a safe, affordable home- and that's worth fighting for.”


It seems that aside from being badged as Labour’s ‘John Lewis style council’ in the national press, Lambeth is also acquiring a darker but nonetheless more accurate national reputation because of its housing policy. Not surprising when 20% of London’s empty properties lie within the borough boundary.


Joseph Healy


Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall





Never has the availability of affordable housing been so important for the people of Vauxhall. With housing waiting lists approaching five million and rising house prices forcing young people out of the buying market, this is the general election where affordable housing must take centre stage.


This is why we are calling on all parliamentary candidates to support our housing pledge. We must ensure affordable housing remains a top priority for any future government.

The National Housing Federation represents 1200 housing associations in England and is the voice of affordable housing. Together our members provide two and a half million affordable homes for five million people.

Economic recovery and more affordable housing go hand in hand and with housing associations building the vast majority of affordable homes they are the best possible partners to deliver the homes this country needs.

Please show your support for affordable housing by supporting the Federation’s housing pledge:

'I pledge to back the building of more affordable homes and to work towards all constituents having access to decent, affordable housing in safe and sustainable communities.'
To confirm your support, please email violetar@housing.org.uk

If you would like any more information on the work of housing associations in your area, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Belinda Porich

Head of London Region

National Housing Federation

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Greens launch specific LGBT General Election Manifesto


I will be speaking at this event on Friday as Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall and LGBTIQ Group International Officer

NEWS FROM LGBTGreens in the Green Party of England and Wales

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

Greens launch specific LGBT General Election Manifesto(1)

Green Party celebrates strongest UK policy on lgbt marriage

Peter Tatchell and Caroline Lucas MEP to address key areas

LGBT Greens General Election Manifesto Launch

Friday 26th February

6:30PM

The Brighton Tavern

100 Gloucester Road,

Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4AP



Phelim Mac Cafferty, National Chair of LGBTGreens stated:

“Fresh from our Spring conference where the Green Party became the first and only political party to officially support gay marriage and an end to the ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship, we are announcing our key campaigning policies for the General Election.



“There are 6 core areas which we view as key cornerstones of our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) General Election manifesto:


(1) Open up civil marriages and civil partnerships, without discrimination, to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.


(2) Require all police forces to have LGBT Liaison Officers with paid time allocated within their work schedules to tackle homophobic and transphobic hate crime.


(3) End the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors.


(4) Amend the Equality Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment to LGBT people.


(5) Refuse visas and work permits to "murder music" singers and others who incite homophobic and transphobic violence.


(6) Ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBT people fleeing persecution in violently homophobic and transphobic counties.




“Leading human rights activist, Peter Tatchell and Green Party Leader, Caroline Lucas MEP, along with local and national LGBT activists and supporters will address some of these key areas of the manifesto.

“Our launch will coincide with the Conservatives’ Spring conference which is also in Brighton- we will highlight the Tories’ continuous failure to commit to LGBT equality, whether that’s over the Shadow Cabinet’s votes against access to fertility treatment for lesbian and bi women or David Cameron’s own vote against gay adoption. 85 per cent of those eligible in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet voted for the hated homophobic Section 28 while 90% voted against an equal age of consent and today Tories continue to oppose the Equalities Bill in the House of Lords.

“While the Conservatives voted against Clause 61 of the Coroners & Justice Bill, (outlawing homophobic hate speech), Greens are using the general election period and our specific LGBT manifesto to send out a clear call that homophobic and transphobic crimes need, urgently, to be dealt with on a par with racist crimes.

“On education policy, a core part of Conservative policy is to allow any group of parents who wish to set up a school to receive state funding. This despite figures from the National Secular Society who warn that there is a large rise in religious fundamentalist schools when this happens which in turn means a large increase in homophobic bullying- 10 per cent worse in faith schools . This stands in sharp contrast to the Green Party’s position in our manifesto to remove special treatment allowing faith schools to promote homophobia on the grounds of religion.

“The Conservative Party are distinctly quiet on what happens to the subject of law and order and LGBT people- despite a large increase of attacks on lgbts in the last year. Greens are using the general election period to call for all police forces to have equality and diversity liaison officers whose remit is to tackle, and take preventive action on crimes against LGBT people.

Peter Tatchell commented on the launch:

“The Green Party will go into the General Election as the only party campaigning for marriage and partnership equality. We are calling for civil marriages and civil partnerships to be open to both same-sex and opposite sex couples, without discrimination. We reaffirm our opposition to the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. Our manifesto commitments show up the shortcomings of the other parties.”

Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party, stated:

“We are delighted to be proudly launching a specific manifesto which will put on centre stage the Green Party’s firm commitment to LGBT equality. We will use the period up to the manifesto to promote re-writing of the Mental Health Act to remove trans people from the Psychiatric Disorder Register and lobby for training for head teachers to create safe environments for lgbt staff and students.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Green Party aims to treat everyone equally and fairly. We will work to ensure respect for everyone whatever their ethnicity, gender and gender identity, age, religious belief or non-belief, sexual orientation, class, size, disability or other status.



· Amend the Equalities Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment of LGBTI people.

· Require all police forces to have equality and diversity liaison officers whose remit is to tackle, and take preventive action on crimes against LGBTI people, people from ethnic minorities including refugees and asylum seekers, disabled people and on the grounds of faith or belief.

· Legally target incitement of hatred on the grounds of gender identity and amend the Equality Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment of LGBTI people.

· Open up civil marriages and civil partnerships, without discrimination, to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

· End the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors.

· Campaign for homophobic, transphobic and crimes against disabled people, including people with learning difficulties, to be dealt with effectively and on a par with racist crimes.

· Ensure legal parity for parents and those wishing to become parents regardless of sexual orientation, and equality of provision of maternity services; lobby for widely available, affordable state-funded crèches.

· Push for the rewriting of the Mental Health Act to remove trans people from the Psychiatric Disorder Register.

· Campaign against any reduction in the AIDS/HIV budget and target health promotion work to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

· Ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBTI people fleeing persecution in line with other social groups according to the Geneva Convention.

· Ensure safe haven and refugee status from women fleeing domestic violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation where there is no adequate protection by the authorities in their own country.

· Refuse visas and work permits to "murder music" singers and others who incite homophobic and transphobic violence.

· Oppose all opt-outs from equality and anti-discrimination laws by religious organisations and remove special treatment allowing faith schools to promote homophobia on the grounds of religion.

· Comprehensive training for teachers and educational staff on all diversity and inclusion issues; schools to promote equal opportunities in their anti-bullying procedures; equalities issues to be monitored in teaching recruitment.

· Implement a UK wide strategy to tackle violence against women including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse and trafficking.

· Ensure that effective action is taken to prevent discrimination against disabled people.

· Work towards ending stigma against people with mental health problems including discrimination in employment.

· Enforce penalties against employers who continue to implement unequal pay

· Work vigorously towards ensuring that all levels of government are representative of the diversity of the populations for whom they work.

· Support human rights and democracy struggles including those of LGBTI and women's movements in oppressive states, such as Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Iran

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Peter Tatchell's Press Release - End ban on religious civil partnerships

Peter Tatchell has issued the following press release today. It is fitting that this decision by the Greens comes during LGBT History Month. I will be speaking with Peter at the launch of the national LGBT Manifesto for the Green Party in Brighton on Friday night.



End ban on religious civil partnerships, Greens urge

Current law forces churches to discriminate against gay couples

London - 23 February 2010

The Greens have become the first and and only political party to officially support an end to the ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship.

The new Green Party policy would allow gay-affirmative churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and Metropolitan Community Church, to host civil partnership ceremonies for the first time. They are currently prohibited by law from hosting religious civil partnerships.

The vote at the Green Party's Spring conference, which took place in London on the weekend, makes the Greens unique among British political parties. No other party has the same commitment to end this discrimination.

By a near unanimous vote, Green delegates voted to strike down the ban on religious civil partnerships.

The motion was proposed by human rights rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is also the Green Party's human rights spokesperson. It was seconded by Darren Johnson, the openly gay Green member of the London Assembly and the Green parliamentary candidate for Lewisham Deptford.

A copy of the motion agreed follows below.

The new policy will now be added to the Green Party's Manifesto for a Sustainable Society.

"The State is denying, by force of law, the right of religious bodies to treat same-sex couples equally. It is forcing them to discriminate, even when they don't want to," said Peter Tatchell.

"Gay-accepting churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church, want to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and should be allowed to do so.

"The ban on religious civil partnership ceremonies smacks of authoritarianism. This injustice was written into the Civil Partnership Act by the Labour government in 2004, in a bid to appease homophobic religious leaders. At the time, the government refused all requests to remove the prohibition on religious civil partnership ceremonies.

"The Greens are supporting Lord Alli's bid to amend the Civil Partnership Act to allow faith organisations to decide for themselves whether they want to offer religious civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

"If the law is amended, we expect that gay-affirmative denominations will agree to host civil partnerships. Some individual Anglican churches, and some liberal synagogues, are likely to follow suit.

"I may disagree with religion and want a separation of religion from the state, but I still object to religious same-sex couples being denied the option of having a civil partnership in their place of worship. If that is what they want, it is up to them. Exclusions based on faith or sexuality are wrong.

"The Unitarians are hosting a conference on marriage equality in London this coming weekend, where I will outline new campaigns to challenge the bans on same-sex civil marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships. The aim is full equality for homosexual and heterosexual couples," said Mr Tatchell.

Green Party conference motion RR507 (passed)

"The Green Party supports an end to the ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship, whilst recognising it is up to religious bodies to make this decision and not for the state to dictate to them prohibitions on civil partnerships."

Further information: Peter Tatchell - 0207 403 1790



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Election video at Green Party conference

Here is a video I made with Winkball for their general election video wall at the Green Party spring conference last weekend.






Click here link to Wall

Monday, 22 February 2010

Acting responsibly for sexual health

I have received the following appeal for support and statement on sexual health today, which I have enthusiastically endorsed as Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall.

It is an issue which is very important for me and I was Vice Chair of the Positive Place in Deptford for 3 years, one of London's major support centres for people living with HIV (which unfortunately closed down a few months ago due to funding problems) as well as being an active member of the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark HIV Support Group for a number of years. Recently I had the experience as part of my work with a disability organisation  of visiting several young men living with HIV who were severely ill because they had received a late diagnosis or had not acted on that diagnosis.

I intend to speak about this on Friday at the Green Party's launch of its LGBT Manifesto at 6:30-8:30PM on Friday 26th Feb at the Brighton Tavern, 100 Gloucester Road Brighton BN1 4AP. http://maps..google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&source=hp&q=brighton%20tavern&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl (marked 'A')


There is also an event on facebook- http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=442243375315




We are writing to you because the UK faces a major challenge with poor sexual health. Despite progress in recent years, the UK still has high levels of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and new HIV infections, as well as high levels of unwanted pregnancy and teenage conceptions. Without sustained action and investment, this situation will worsen. That’s why we’d like you to think about how you can play a part in improving the sexual health of your community. Below is a brief policy statement, agreed by the eight leading voluntary sector and professional associations in the sexual health field.



BASHH, BHIVA, Brook, FSRH, FPA, MedFASH, NAT, THT


ACTING RESPONSIBLY FOR SEXUAL HEALTH

The UK faces a major challenge with poor sexual health. Despite progress in recent years, the UK still has high levels of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and new HIV infections, as well as high levels of unwanted pregnancy and teenage conceptions. Without sustained action and investment, this situation will worsen. It makes good economic sense to invest in sexual health and HIV services. Every pound spent on contraception prevents more money being spent on abortion services and maternity services; money spent on preventing and promptly treating STIs prevents onward transmissions as well as preventing more serious health conditions developing. Every pound spent preventing HIV infection saves thousands of pounds later in treatment costs. Good sexual health is important for everyone in the UK and is a major part of general health and wellbeing. To achieve this requires a reduction in unwanted pregnancies, reduced levels of STI & HIV transmission, timely diagnosis and treatment of STIs and HIV, and the promotion of positive and responsible relationships. Because of this, the leading sexual health & HIV organisations in the UK call on all Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Candidates to commit to this vision by supporting the following:

• ensuring 48 hour access and confidential open access to all sexual health services

• preventing poor sexual health by ensuring high quality local and national sexual health promotion programmes

• ensuring all children and young people get high quality sex and relationships education at school by making this a statutory curriculum subject

• ensuring all women have information about and access to the full range of contraception methods, including long acting contraception

• increasing access to HIV testing especially for those who need it most ensuring that all women across the UK, including Northern Ireland, have access to NHS funded abortions

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) is a professional association for UK clinicians that aims to promote, encourage and improve the study and practice of the art and science of diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted diseases including all sexually transmitted infections, HIV and other sexual health problems.


The British HIV Association (BHIVA) supports clinicians who specialise in HIV, acts as an advisory body to those working in the field of HIV and promotes medical education within HIV care.

Brook is a voluntary sector organisation providing sexual health services and advice for all young people under 25. Brook's mission is to enable young people to enjoy their sexuality without harm.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FRSH) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists sets standards, provides educational events and expert clinical advice, and awards qualifications in recognition of specialist knowledge and skills in the field.

The sexual health charity FPA provides straightforward information, advice and support to all people across the UK on all aspects of sexual health, sex and relationships.

The Medical Foundation for AIDS & Sexual Health (MedFASH) is a charity dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the healthcare of people affected by HIV, sexually transmitted infections and related conditions.

NAT is a charity dedicated to transforming society's response to HIV – providing fresh thinking, expert advice and practical resources, and campaigning for change. Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is an HIV and sexual health charity, which provides a wide range of clinical and support services and also campaigns for greater political and public understanding of the personal, social and medical impact of HIV and sexual ill health.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Spring Conference in London


Back today from spring conference at the Arts Depot, Finchley, where I was re-elected Treasurer of the Green Party Trade Union Group and was also filmed by Winkyball for the general election to go on  their video wall. I put an emergency motion on Haiti but unfortunately conference had not time to debate it. I was also elected to the International Committee, on which I will serve for the next few months.

I did not speak in any motions after the one on marriage equality. I was very supportive of the motion supporting the BMA's and Royal Nursing College's opposition to NHS privatisation and have also mentioned the impact of the recently announced budget cuts in Guy's and St Thomas' Trust in my candidate video. Details of the motion are below.

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/18-02-10-Emergency-motion-supports-BMA-campaign-against-NHS-privatisation.html

I also attended a fringe meeting organised by the Trade Union Group on press and broadcasting freedom with a speaker from the NUJ, who warned of the impact of a media purely run for profit and with less and less real poltical reporting.

Last night I chaired the Green Left fringe on 'Mind the Gap. Combating Poverty in the UK' and heard a fascinating talk about health inequalities from my friend Malcolm Alexander, the noted health activist and Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. The conference updated our policy on health and also passed a motion on a maximum wage -something which was long overdue and which I and others in Green Left have supported for some time. Now with only two months, and possibly even less, to the general election, it is full steam ahead to get a good Green result on that day.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Green Party Conference passes marriage equality motion


 The first day of the Green Party conference in Finchley yesterday adopted a new policy supporting the availability of civil partnership and marriage to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation and I spoke in support of the motion supporting an amendment. The new policy gives full equality to heterosexual couples who could now under Green Party policy have a civil partnership instead.


I entered into a civil partnership several years ago with my partner at Southwark Town Hall and it is only fair that heterosexual couples also have the right to civil partnerships as LGBT couples have the right to marriage. As I said to someone recently, when Portugal which is a conservative minded Catholic country can legalise gay marriage, as it did this year, what is stopping the UK. The Labour government trumpets its policies on LGBT issues, yet has been unwilling to introduce this basic equal right.

As I said at the debate yesterday, I will be very proud as a gay man to go to the launch of the Green Party's LGBT manifesto next week in Brighton able to say that our party now has the most progressive policy on LGBT rights in this general election..

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Green Party Conferene

I will be at the party conference in the Arts Depot in Finchley over the next few days. Things kick off this afternoon with the Standing Orders Committee's Report. As the party's Equality and Diversity representative on the Regional Council, I will be attending a workshop on bringing more diversity to the party and looking at equalities issues. It also seems that I am going to be putting an amendment to a motion on economics as the original proposer is ill, so not for the first time I will be an understudy on stage.

And tonight I will be going to a fringe meeting on Migrant Workers and how their remittances to their home countries actually contribute more to their countries GPD than anything which the World Bank does.One of the speakers from the Latin American Workers Association is Alberto Durango, who was recently sacked from UBS Bank in the City for being a trade union organiser. Alberto's union, UNITE, have not even paid his strike pay yet, so we are having a whip around at the conference to help him. This demonstrates the real world that some people live in, unlike the Elysian fields which people like James Purnell of New Labour, author of the appalling Welfare Reform Act, and now posing as the saviour of the progressive movement, dwell in.

In the meanwhile Lambeth Council is not out of the news with its announcement that it is going to be the new model John Lewis type council and the flagship for Labour's new co-operative politics. More on that anon. But funny how it has taken them 4 years to work that out and just before the council elections too.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Poster wars

It seems that the new Tory poster campaign  is not going according to plan. The mydavidcameron.com website and others are already doing excellent spoofs of them. One of my favourites is here. It seems that we are in a new age of satire, this time associated with visual images and the political poster.

The media war in Afghanistan

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Patrick Cockburn described the aim of NATO and the UK forces in Afghanistan and how it is essentially a media exercise to soften up opposition to the war in the NATO states. This was confirmed in an interview last night on Newsnight with the former US ambassador to NATO who stated that "opposition to the war will dissipate once victories start being achieved". This is clearly Obama's and Brown's hope but things are not nearly so straightfoward as Cockburn writes below. The killing of civilians, billed as an "accident" and which has already led to protests from the Afghan government shows that the offensive has already gone wrong. The anti-war movement must continue its efforts. In the interim, there will be many more bodies passing through the streets of Wooton Bassett. The wars and the cost of them must be a major issue in this general election

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/operation-moshtarak-biggest-offensive-since-2001-under-way-1899127.html


Billed as the largest military operation by Western forces since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the offensive is partially aimed at the US and foreign media, which is present in force, to show US and Afghan forces succeeding in taking back territory from the Taliban. An aim of the Afghan "surge", with an extra 30,000 US troops, is to deny the Taliban any sanctuaries inside Afghanistan, particularly in heavily populated areas in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

The US aim is to allow the Afghan government to reassert its authority in Marjah and the well-irrigated opium poppy-growing agricultural land around it. Some 2,000 Afghan police and a team of government officials are waiting to enter the town and its surroundings in the wake of the US-led military assault in which the role of Afghan military forces is continually being emphasised.

The slogan of the new US strategy is "Clear, Hold, Build", and it has the declared intention of not withdrawing after expelling or killing the Taliban, but of winning the support of local people by protecting them and providing services such as roads, clean water and electricity. Major General Nick Carter, the Nato commander in southern Afghanistan, said: "Everybody has to understand that it's not so much the clear phase that's decisive. It's the hold phase."

The weaknesses of the new US military plan were spelled out by the US ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, in leaked cables to President Obama sent last November. In these, General Eikenberry, a former army officer, argues that the sanctuaries which matter most to the Taliban and the highly effective Haqqani network of anti-US insurgents are not in Afghanistan at all but just across the border in Pakistan. The loss of havens such as Marjah may inconvenience the Taliban, but will not cripple their fighting ability so long as they have base areas in the mountains of north-western Pakistan.

A further aim of US-led operations, starting with the capture of Marjah, is to allow the Afghan government to re-establish its authority and win the support of local people. But General Eikenberry says that the central problem is that the Afghan state has neither the will nor the ability to provide security, healthcare, education, justice and infrastructure.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Justice for migrant workers and Republicanism and Socialism

Have not blogged for a few days now. This was because of work and also campaigngin and public speaking. I was at a demonstration on Friday in the City of London about the Latin American cleaners in some of the City's largest businesses (in this case UBS) who have been sacked for joining a trade union. Jerry Hicks, who is standing for the post of General Secretary of UNITE was one of the speakers. I was there with the Green Party Trade Union Group and our banner. When the City of London Police moved people off the forecourt on to the pavement, I made the point that the forecourt was public property as we, the taxpayers, now owned many of the banks.

I attended the meeting of the Republican Socialist Convention in London at South Bank University on Saturday representing Green Left. The event was attended by about 25 people, representing Socialist Alliance, CPGB, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Commune, Labour Representation Committee, Toby Abse (who may have been representing the Alliance for Green Socialism) and several non-party individuals. Other than Peter T who left early due to other commitments, We were also a sponsoring organisation. What I also found interesting was that about 25% of those attending were Scots.

The event has been filmed so at some point it will be available and sent to lists etc. The emphasis of the Convention was on Republicanism and Socialism and it was felt that the former is an issue which the Left seldom addresses.

A problem was that many of the speakers pulled out at the last minute for various reasons including health – Bob Crow sent a message that he was involved in industrial action! The first session was on ‘The Crisis of Democracy and a Republican Programme’ and the two speakers were Peter Tatchell and Colin Fox, Co Leader of the Scottish Socialist Party. Peter Tatchell put forward a list of demands for constitutional reform. These were: A fairer voting system and said that AV as proposed by Brown was worse than the current system, a written constitution and a Bill of Rights, an elected Head of State based on the Irish system, a fully elected second chamber (possibly based on regional lists) recall of MPs, abolition of the Royal prerogative, strengthening the powers of Select Committees, all government appointments to appear before Select Committees, abolition of quangos and a federal Britain.


Colin Fox praised the heroic work of Peter and said that he was an inspiration. He then graphically related some of the things which had happened in Scotland when the SSP were elected to the Scottish Parliament. He said that the state of corruption in the UK Parliament was incredible and that the whole system was rotten even sucking in MPs who he thought of as honourable, like Harry Cohen. This illustrated the need for a workers wage. He quoted James Connolly: “You rise with your class and not out of your class.” He decried the absence of teachers, bricklayers etc in the current parliament and said that it was quite deliberate that they were all lawyers, lecturers etc. Being an MP had become a career and not a cause. He also stated that the total budget for the Scottish parliament was a fraction of that for the banks or oil companies and that effectively they held the real power. He pointed out that in recent opinion polls only 37% of Scots supported independence but a clear majority supported a republic. He predicted great political unrest in Scotland after a Tory election victory.


The second panel was on the national question and had a contribution from Steve Freeman on English nationalism and Alan Armstrong from the SSP on the Scottish and Northern Irish perspective on the national question. Steve Freeman from Socialist Alliance pointed out how the English flag had changed over recent years from Union Jack to St George and also how the terms ‘British’ and ‘English’ differed. He also made the point that the republican issue had almost no support in England whereas in Scotland it was a burning issue because of the national question. Alan Armstrong said that Northern Ireland had demonstrated the determination of the UK state not to allow any part to break away and that Peter Tatchell’s demands would be met by violent state resistance as had happened with the Civil Rights movement in NI in the 60s. He said that the SSP called for an independent socialist Scotland and the end of the British state – he pointed out how Scotland was one of the most militarised states in Europe with submarine bases, arms manufacturing etc.

I was on the final panel with Colin Fox of the SSP. We discussed the general election and I was quite forthright on the Green Party’s republican programme and that it was also now our policy to recall MPs after a local ballot. I also stressed the need to challenge the neo-Liberal programme of cuts being put forward by the three main parties. Colin Fox argued that the SSP was going through one of its best periods and that the war in Afghanistan had led to a real rise in support in Scotland. He and other SSP speakers also pointed out that the SNP were prepared to accept the monarchy, Trident etc and that they were essentially ‘the tartan Tories’. Their recent setbacks in Scotland were due to the fact that these retreats were now becoming obvious to the electorate.

Colin Fox told me later that he had a high regard for Caroline Lucas.I think it was a useful discussion of topics not often aired. There was, of course, vigorous discussion, some of it consisting of speeches from the floor but that will be on the film. I made the point during my talk about how the Queen’s role could become a very actual topic rather than one for constitutional experts and there is a report on this today

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/14/queen-power-hung-parliament

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Horrifying new anti-gay law about to be passed in Uganda

I am totally shocked about this and it seems that Uganda is going ahead with it. My statement is here

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/18-12-2009-EU-condemns-proposed-death-penalty.html

Monday, 8 February 2010

Republican Socialist Convention on Saturday at London South Bank University

I will be speaking at this event on Saturday representing Green Left on the panel dealing with the general election. Peter Tatchell is speaking at the same event on the panel covering the issue of republicanism. There is a statement by the organisers below.

Republican Socialist Convention


Saturday 13th February,London South Bank University, London Road, [Elephant and Castle tube Bakerloo line] London SE1 beginning at 11-45am.



On Saturday 13 February the International Committee of the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance and the Green Left are sponsoring the Republican Socialist Convention. The Convention has two clear aims. First it is to promote greater understanding of the struggle for radical democratic and republican practice as part of the struggle for socialism. Second is to promote greater awareness of the national dimension in the politics of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Convention does not take place in a vacuum. Politics is gearing up for a general election. In 2009 four major issues grabbed people’s attention. First was the economic crisis. The failure of the banks and the nationalisation of their bad debts has virtually bankrupted the State. Second corruption in the Westminster parliament was exposed by the MPs expenses scandal. Third the Afghan war, the mounting toll of dead and wounded and a rising tide of British militarism and patriotism seeping deeper into national psychology. Last but not least is the issue of climate change highlighted by the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.

What policies should British capital and the ruling class pursue? The general election will show something of their plans as each capitalist party fights for power. How should the ‘party’ of the working class respond? The Convention is not attempting to answer this. But it does connect to one issue - the crisis of parliamentary democracy brought to the fore by the MPs expenses scandal. The trade union movement has not demanded any parliamentary reforms. The left has failed to make any impression on the trade unions.

The crisis of democracy is nothing new. In 2003 over one million people demonstrated against the Iraq war. Yet the rotten and unrepresentative parliament provided some “legitimacy” for Blair’s lies and deceptions. Parliament became willing accomplis in every cover up Inquiry organised by the Crown since. Parliament operates in the same way on the millions of small everyday issues not just on such big events. At the last general election 40% of the electorate did not vote. The BNP is not the cause of parliamentary decrepitude but the party most likely to gain from it.

The ‘old corruption’ is not confined to MPs expenses or the corridors and bars at Westminster. It lives through the laws, taxes and spending decisions that affect the living and working conditions of the working class. If you want to see the failure of the Westminster brand of parliamentary democracy don’t queue up outside the House of Commons for a seat in the visitors’ gallery. Of course you can sit and watch the whole ridiculous pantomime in action. Better to see the results by walking around the streets and housing estates in any of our inner cities.

The Crown (i.e. the state) governs the country in the interests of capitalism. The Westminster parliament is supposed to represent the people. But in reality it serves the Crown, providing ‘democratic’ cover to the rule of capital. This is the real corruption. Money talks and parliament sanctifies. This works as long as the people believe in it. The MPs expenses scandal has shattered many illusions.

Of course this is a London or England centred view. It looks different for people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Here parliaments and assemblies raise different democratic issues about power or sovereignty. After 1997 demands for self government produced a Scottish parliament and Welsh Assembly. The republican movement in Northern Ireland came to a deal with the Crown in the Good Friday agreement. But the future of these institutional arrangements is far from settled. The present SNP government in Edinburgh for example is planning an independence referendum. The national question is far from resolved.

What should socialists say and do about the crisis of democracy, the Westminster parliament, the Scottish parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Good Friday agreement? The record is not good. There has been a tendency, especially in England, to ignore constitutional issues and hope they will go away. We are followers of the popular mood, not leaders of public (mainly working class) opinion. Lenin would surely have criticised us for “economism”, the “worship of spontaneity” and “tailism”.

The Republican Socialist Convention is not a sectarian initiative setting itself up against the rest of the left by offering the ‘correct’ view. Of course it stands for republicanism and socialism. But the aim is to promote dialogue across different strands, ‘warts and all’, that make up the working class movement. If there is criticism it is because we don’t have all strands of opinion on the platform. However it is an invitation for all to contribute and hopefully gain greater understanding from each other of the importance of democracy in the struggle for socialism.

The first Republican Socialist Convention was held in Edinburgh in 2008. The second in London reflects the problems, divisions and issues of the socialist movement here. However we have Scottish voices on the platform with invites to Welsh and Irish. With the mass struggle for a secular republic in Iran we have invited a speaker from ‘Hands of the People of Iran’. In England socialists are active in the Labour Party (LRC), the Green Party (Green Left) and in independent organisations such as Respect and the No2EU coalition with the RMT. We hope to hear from all these voices either from the platform or from the floor.

In 2010 the general election will be a major political event. The capitalist parties will fight for the right to form a pro-capitalist government. They will use the election to convince the working class there is no alternative. The prize is a working class made ready for the nasty medicine that capital and international finance demands. If the election can restore confidence in the Westminster parliament this will provide a ‘democratic’ seal of approval for the policies of the new government.

The Convention will therefore provide a platform for those who want to fight the Tories, New Labour and the Liberal Democrats. But our eyes must be firmly on using the election to prepare for the struggles that will arise afterwards. It means defending pay, jobs and public services by militant action. It is necessary to do more than this and go on the offensive. By raising republican and socialist demands the left contests the rights of the Westminster parliament and the rights property owners to rule over us.

The agenda of the Convention flows from these questions. There will be three sessions. The first is the crisis of democracy and a republican programme. Invited speakers include Tony Benn on The Commonwealth of Britain Bill, Peter Tatchell on The Republican Charter, Colin Fox (SSP) The Declaration of Calton Hill, Robert Griffiths (CPB) Republicanism and the British Road, Peter Taffe (SP) For a more generous democracy, Yassamine Mather (HOPI) on the struggle for secular republican demands in Iran.

The second session will look at republican socialism and the national question. Speakers have been invited from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to introduce this session. Finally the third session will look at the prospects for the left in the general election and the possibilities for promoting republican and socialist ideas. The invited speakers to introduce this session include John McDonnell MP, Bob Crow (RMT), Joseph Healy (Green Left), and Colin Fox (SSP). The intention is to have as many contributions from the floor as time allows.

LGBT History Month and venal politicians

I managed to get Saturday off for good behaviour and spent the day on basic shopping and domestic duties with my partner, and my cat finally got to spend some time with me also. I also managed to catch up with some friends whom I have not spoken to for some time and have now arranged to go to an event on Friday where the legendary Betty Bourne is performing as part of LGBT History Month. This is an important time of the year to commemorate the struggle of older LGBT people and also to look forward to where the community goes from here. Betty Bourne is a veteran LGBT performer and is something akin to Quentin Crisp's comment when taunted by some homophobic children - "a stately homo of England."

On Sunday I was out canvassing with our council candidates in Herne Hill ward. A fairly good reception on the doorsteps and lots of people who seem to have given up voting or as I call them 'a pox on all your houses'  non voters. Mind you, considering the revelations of the Iraq War Inquiry, MPs expenses etc, there is a very deep and jaundiced view amongs the electorate about the political class. It is not unreasonable considering the number of careerists and carpetbaggers flooding into politics but then it was ever so. One need only read the novels of Trollope or Dickens to see the venal and self serving politicians of their day exposed and dissected. Alastair Campbell's tearful performance on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday when asked about deceiving the cabinet, parliament and the country was worthy of one Mr Blackadder Esq, who I thought always had the makings of an excellent MP in either the Labour or Tory (sorry Whig or Tory) parties.

I have to say that our candidates in Lambeth are not of that ilk and are genuinely making the effort, sometimes at great personal cost, to serve the community and make things better for the residents of Lambeth. Well, there are indications in the Times that May 6th it is for the general election. So I am buckling up for the struggle. Not long now until we see the larger parties flooding the electorate with their endless glossy and environmentally unsound leaflets each with a larger and dodgier barchart than the next. No wonder the voters are confused.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Launch of Green Party LGBT Manifesto on February 26th

LGBT Greens General Election Manifesto Launch

Friday 26th February

6:30PM

The Brighton Tavern

100 Gloucester Road,

Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4AP

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile&id=541951553#!/event.php?eid=442243375315&index=1


LGBT Greens are gearing up for the General Election. Greens will announce their campaigning policies throughout the period of the General Election and leading human rights activist, Peter Tatchell and Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas MEP, will address some of the key areas of the manifesto.


Peter Tatchell commented on the launch:

“The Green Party will go into the General Election as the only party campaigning for marriage and partnership equality. We are calling for civil marriages and civil partnerships to be open to both same-sex and opposite sex couples, without discrimination. We reaffirm our opposition to the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. Our manifesto commitments show up the shortcomings of the other parties.”

Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party, stated:

“We are delighted to be proudly launching a specific manifesto which will put on centre stage the Green Party’s firm commitment to LGBT equality. We will use the period up to the manifesto to promote re-writing of the Mental Health Act to remove trans people from the Psychiatric Disorder Register and lobby for training for head teachers to create safe environments for lgbt staff and students.”

Phelim Mac Cafferty

National Chair and National (Male) Spokesperson, Lesley Hedges Female Spokesperson, LGBTGreens

As a LGBT parliamentary candidate and standing in one of the constituencies in London with a large LGBT population I look forward to the launch of the Greens radical policies for the LGBT community and plan to be there to take part.

Green Party Trade Union Group supports victimised trade union activist

GREEN PARTY TRADE UNION GROUP STATEMENT ON ALBERTO DURANGO




"Green Party Trade Union Group applauds the work undertaken by Alberto Durango as a UNITE shop steward and a leader of the Latin American Workers Association. City cleaners, mainly migrant workers undertaking vital work supporting the wealthiest and most fortunate in our society - are exploited and marginalised and Alberto's work to defend their rights is vital. To steal David C. Coates' famous quote - "an injury to one is an injury to all" - it is disgraceful that Alberto has been targeted and sacked because of his union activity and Green Left stands in solidarity in his defence, and in defence of all workers."

Details of the campaign are here http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/urgent-appeal-for-solidarity-defend-alberto-durango/ This is another example of unscrupulous employers in London and elsewhere who are more than happy to employ migrant workers at slave wages, then sacking them when they become active in the trade union movement and seek to gain the rights which every worker in this country is entitled to. As Treasure of the Green Party Trade Union Group and a UNISON member I stand fully behind this statement and the campaign for migrant workers' rights. I intend to be at the demonstration below on Friday next.


MASS DEMONSTRATION



No Victimisation of Alberto – Hands Off Our Union


Friday 12 February 1:00 PM, Outside UBS 21 Lombard Street, London EC3 9AH

Thursday, 4 February 2010

No to Vatican threats

I totally support the views of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) expressed below re the Pope's visit to Britain and his views on equality and will be participating in the demonstrations about his visit. Having grown up in the Irish Republic in the 60s and 70s, I know what a theocratic state looks like. Everywhere he has been in Europe and elsewhere this Pope has spoken out against equality and in favour of a reactionary position regarding the rights of women and LGBT people. I support a secular UK and a secular London where religion and the state are clearly kept apart.



LONDON, February 3, 2010 – The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has questioned Pope Benedict’s attack on Britain’s Equality laws – and they have said that this reinforces the importance of creating a truly secular Europe in which no religion or belief system holds a privileged position.


Earlier this week, Pope Benedict denounced British law, designed to protect people from discrimination on grounds of religion or sexual orientation as an attempt “to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs”.

He went on to allege that “in some respects it actually violates the natural law”.

The Pope also had little time for dissent and insisted that it was important “not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate”.

This comes ahead of his planned visit to Britain, and goes against the established convention that visiting foreign heads of state do not publicly criticise or attempt to interfere in the domestic politics of the host country.

GALHA has long supported campaigns for a secular society in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, guaranteeing people of all religions – and none – freedom of expression and belief, based on a framework of equality for all.

And GALHA said its members will be actively supporting the “No Vatican-London for a Secular Europe-Demonstration” on February 14, starting at the Italian Embassy at 3pm.

“It is not often that we have to thank the Pope for making the case for a more secular society, but his latest extraordinary outburst does just that,” said Adam Knowles, the GALHA chair.

“He maintains the slightly surreal stance that if religious bodies are not allowed to discriminate against others, then they are themselves being discriminated against. This logic belongs in Alice in Wonderland, not in British or European Law.
“Rather than defend this bizarre position with reasoned argument, he attempts to support it by semi mystical references to “natural law”.

“Only a secular society guarantees people of all beliefs and none equality before the law. That is why it is ultimately in the interest of Catholics as much as anyone else. Accordingly, GALHA will be giving its full and enthusiastic support to the demonstration planned for February 14 and urges everyone who favours freedom and equality to do likewise.

“We also praise the courage of those Catholics who have been prepared to stand up against the Vatican's denunciation of ‘dissenters’. For humanists, dissent is not only defensible but essential in the advance towards a better society” Mr. Knowles concluded.

GALHA is one of many groups in the UK that have hit out at the Pope’s visit next August. Report have suggested the visit will cost the British taxpayer around £20 million.

Even the London-based theological ‘think tank’ Ekklesia has taken the Pope to task for his statement.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Patient Transport Service Standards - a list of demands

Next Monday the Patient Forum for the London Ambulance Service, of which I am Vice Chair, will be debating new standards for Patient Transport services across London. At present we have a chaotic and in effect lowest common denominator system where individul hospitals commission various transport providers, including taxi companies, to provide non-emergency patient transport. This is a vital service particularly those who must travel to hospital on a regular basis, sometimes almost daily, such as kidney dialysis patients.

However, once the contract is awarded there is no body which monitors the performance of these transport providers and horror stories abound. The London Ambulance Service itself only has a handful of the contracts in London and there are many providers. I have been involved over the last few years in fighting for a better and more disabled friendly service, particularly with hospitals such as Guy's & St Thomas Trust, where, when I was working for Transport for All, we discovered that they were refusing trips to patients with taxicards which was completely against the rationale why taxicards were given out in the first place, i.e. so that older and disabled people could go on shopping trips and to have some sort of social life and not for NHS trips. I have heard many stories about patient transport vehicles making patients wait for hours outside hospitals or expecting patients to be ready for collection in the early hours of the morning for an appointment which will only be hours later.

I totally support the list of demands below on standards for Patient Transport and I will be at the meeting of the Patients Forum on Monday next, February 8th  2010, 5.30-7.30pm Conference Room LAS Headquarters 220 Waterloo Road, London SE1 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 to discuss this and to start a campaign for their implementation across London. It will also be a demand of my general election campaign.


PATIENTS’ FORUM

AMBULANCE SERVICES (LONDON)



Recommendations for changes to

PTS contracts in London



PATIENT TRANSPORT SERVICES (PTS)


Quality Standard for London’s Patient Transport Services (PTS) – Proposals for London’s commissioners and providers of PTS




1) Quality comes first – not price

• All commissioners of PTS services must put quality and safety before price.

• Service users must be involved and consulted in the drawing up of the tender specification.

• LINks, the Patients’ Forum, community groups with as special interest in PTS and services users, must be present during the process when providers make presentations to commissioners.

• There must be a minimum of two community representatives at each provider presentation to commissioners, one of whom is service user.



2) Patients Transport Vehicles

• PTS vehicles must be designed to ensure the safety and comfort of patients

• PTS vehicles must meet all safety criteria including safe mechanisms for door locking.

• PTS vehicles must be designed with surfaces that ensure and enable effective cleaning and sterilisation.

• PTS vehicles must always be clean inside and out and surfaces treated to ensure the highest standards of sterility.


3) Training of staff

• All PTS staff must be trained in infection prevention and control techniques and must be familiar with DH guidelines for the reuse of linen and cross-infection from uniforms.

• All PTS staff must be receive equality, diversity and disability inclusion Training.

• All PTS staff must receive training in lifting patients including specialised training to assist heavy patients.


4) Eligibility criteria

• Eligibility criteria must be clear and transparent.

• Service users must be involved and consulted in the drawing up of the eligibility criteria.

• Eligibility criteria must be published in a format that is accessible to patients, carers, GPs and acute sector provider staff, i.e. Easy Read, Large Print, Braille, on yellow paper, on DVD/cassette, different languages and proactively made available to them

• There must be an easily available appeals procedure which can be used by patients if the provider refuses to provide a PTS vehicle.

• Providers must not refuse patients a PTS because they have a taxi-card.

• Patients must not be refused PTS because they have their own transport, e.g. an adapted vehicle. A professional assessment must be carried out on each individual case.


5) Patients with disabilities

• All PTS vehicles must be clean and fit for purpose.

• PTS providers must ask patients or carers question about the patients impairment or special needs, i.e. wheelchair, guide dog, hearing dog or other hidden impairments.

• A wheelchair accessible ambulance must be sent when required and this provision must include powered wheelchairs.

• PTS providers must enquire whether patients have ‘patient specific protocols’ which require specific care in relation to the person’s clinical or impairment needs.

• PTS staff must be trained in dealing with vulnerable patients and provided in sufficient number to meet the needs of the patient/patients being carried.

• PTS staff must be responsive to patients’ personal hygiene needs during journeys.

• Commissioners must take account of the particular needs of patients with disabilities during any waits in hospital waiting areas.


6) Carers

• Requests by users for their carers to accompany them on PTS vehicles will not be unreasonable refused if the presence of the carer will significantly improve and support the users access to health services.

7) Access to the service

• A PTS specific telephone number for PTS control, should be available to all PTS users for booking transport, inquiring about the location of a PTS vehicle and other access enquiries.

• The PTS specific telephone number must be answered within a fixed number of rings by a person not a machine.

• The PTS specific telephone number response standard must be widely distributed with the telephone number and a text-phone number.

8) Communications

• Patients must be given a specific time for arrival for the PTS vehicle and immediately informed of any delays by the PTS crew, e.g. due to vehicle breakdown/traffic delays/incorrect form of transport allocated or other reasons.

• Information about any delay in collecting a patient must immediately be transmitted to the service provider to that clinic staff can make arrangement to see the patient on arrival.

• The practice of asking patients to be ready several hours before their appointment must stop.

• PTS crew must phone, text or email (as agreed in advance) the next patient to be collected after they have collected the previous patient, to inform the patient of the actual time of arrival.

• PTS providers must provide evidence of their ability to provide British Sign Language interpreters for access to the service whenever this is required.


9) Hospital Discharge

• PTS providers should be provided with the name and contact details of the discharge- coordinator for each discharged person they have been allocated to return to their home.

• Any delays due to poor discharge planning should be reported to the discharge coordinator.



10) Post-clinic collection/return to home address

• Patients must be collected for their return journey within one hour of the end of their clinic/investigation appointment.

• Patients must be returned to their home within two hours from the end of their clinic/investigation appointment.

• Patients must have access to staff and a telephone (at a suitable height for patients using wheelchairs) so they can confirm the time they will be collected after their appointment.

• Special account should be taken of the needs of patients with diabetes and other conditions that might be affected by delays.

• PTS providers must give an undertaking that vulnerable patients will be returned home as quickly as possible and not be subject to long, circulation journeys to reduce PTS costs.

11) Complaints procedure

• All PTS providers must ensure that there is a complaints procedure, that is well advertised and effective.

• All responses to complaints must be robust and address the actual complaint within a specified time.

• PTS providers must use data from complaints investigations to improve services. Details of improvements must be communicated to patients.

• Details of PTS complaints, recommendations from complaints and remedial action must be provided to local LINks and the Patients Forum.


12) Transfers between hospitals

• Carers must be notified immediately when a hospital transfer has been agreed.

• PTS providers must notify the patient and carer of the actual time that the patient will leave the first hospital and arrive at the second.

• PTS crew must make sure that the patient is appropriately dressed during their transfer.