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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Older People's Pledge - Reasons for Older People to vote Green

Yesterday the media was full of reports on the Social Care Green Paper and the announcement of how the government and opposition would hope to pay for older people's care. The Green Party has issued its pledge to older people (below) and I am proud to support it. It is simply a disgrace that in a country as rich as this one pensioners are still faced with a choice of whether to heat or eat. Furthermore, UK pensioners are the worst off in the whole of Western Europe, and possibly the EU. And with more and more of us becoming older - I now qualify as an older person at age 53 - it is vital that the political parties tackle this issue with the seriousness which it deserves.




Our Older People’s Pledge:

Reasons for Older People to vote Green

31st March 2010



It is shameful that Britain's state pensioners, 2 million of whom still live in poverty, are effectively penalised for having savings or private pensions. Meanwhile, grandparents who provide childcare worth £3.9 billion a year, many spending three days a week caring for grandchildren, receive no recognition for their contribution to society. To make matters worse, over-complicated, intimidating, and humiliating means testing is so off-putting that pensioners are leaving up to £2.9 billion of council tax benefits unclaimed.


The other parties have made a few token gestures to older people, but the Green Party alone is committed to making Britain a better place to age in:

The Green Party would end the over complex pension credit system and ensure a decent basic pension for everyone of £170 a week which would be linked to national earnings. We would replace the current system with a simple standard rate pension of £170 p/w, ensuring no older person falls below the poverty line, and get rid of complex means testing. By linking pensions to real national earnings we would ensure that pensions are kept up to date and do not fall behind the rates of inflation or economic growth.

The Green Party would help fight fuel poverty with free insulation. For many older people rising fuel costs for heating are a real problem, the Green Party would help combat these costs with free insulation for everyone.

The Green Party would ensure free personal and nursing care for all older people. So many older people are burdened with huge fees to care for themselves or their loved ones. We believe this is unfair so the Green Party would ensure that the NHS and nursing care are fully equipped to deal with our ageing population.

The Green Party would ensure that older people who want or need to work can do so, easily. The Green Party supports retirement at 65, but feels that people ought to have the freedom to go on working and contributing to society if they wish to, free from discrimination on the basis of their age. We would end the default retirement age and ensure that employment and skills support to allow older workers to cope with the recession was in place.

The Green Party would make Britain a good place to age in. The Green Party would introduce measures to make every day life easier for older people at home, and fight for their rights at an international level, pursuing a bill of rights for older people. We would save our much needed local post offices, and work to make the transport system more accessible and easier to use.

The Green Party is unlikely to sweep into power at this general election, but we have an opportunity to make our presence clearly felt in over 300 constituencies. Why settle for the best of a bad bunch when you can vote Green? Let the major parties know that our innovative and sustainable policies are what this country really needs. Every vote for the Green Party not only increases our realistic chances of gaining a voice in Westminster, but it’s a vote that also puts pressure on the Government to follow our lead.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

King's College London strike against education cuts


I will be attending the rally today at the King's College campus in Waterloo in support of the strike by the lecturers union, UCU, against massive cuts in educational spending at King's. The campus is in the Vauxhall constituency and as a trade unionist and parliamentary candidate it has my full support.


https://sites.google.com/site/righttoworkconference/home/future-events-1/kingscollegelondontuesday30marchcelebrateresistancetoeducationcuts

***Rallies 30 March: 1pm KCL, 6pm LSE***



Tuesday 30 March will see the first ever local strike against our management by UCU members at King's College London. We have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action against a £27m cuts programme that has put 205 jobs at risk of redundancy, with more to follow.

Whole departments are set to close - Engineering, Dental Mictobiology, American Studies, Equality and Diversity - with other areas also under threat - Palaeography, Logic, Linguistics, the Institute of Psychiatry, Biomedical and Health Sciences.



All this in a College where 202 staff earn over £100k a year, with a combined salary bill of £29m, and where a £100k salary cap would save £9m a year.

Management have by-passed the proper channels of consultation to impose redundancies. Most staff learned that the country's oldest Engineering department was to close via the College's website, before any formal consultation had taken place.


All this helps explain why King's staff returned the highest proportion of votes in our union's history (85%) for some form of industrial action. But this fight is not about King's alone. If our management's redundancies are not stopped, it will give confidence to every management team in higher, further and adult education, who believe that the top-down management model in place at King's can impose cuts on everyone, everywhere. More seriously, it will convince any future government that education is a soft target as they try to recoup the billions spent on the banking sector.

Speaking at King's four days before the strike Tony Benn told students and staff that, 'What you're doing is educating College management in the importance of education.' At a time when Peter Mandelson is attempting to prevent young people from going to university, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is contemplating cuts that will be 'worse than Thatcher', we also need to educate the present government, and its successor, about the importance of education. So our fight is also your fight.

We are calling on everyone to join us on our picket lines (7pm to 5pm) on Tuesday 30 March. We want our strike to be a lively celebration of resistance to cuts and a demonstration of our resolve to protect our colleagues' jobs and our students' education.


Join our rallies on Tuesday, open to everyone:






Tues 30 March 1pm KCL Strand and Waterloo site entrances


http://www.kcl.ac.uk/about/campuses/strand.html


http://www.kcl.ac.uk/about/campuses/waterloo.html






Tues 30 March 6pm London School of Economics, U8, Tower One, Ground Floor http://www2.lse.ac.uk/mapsAndDirections/findingYourWayAroundLSE.aspx



Please send donations and messages of support to: ucu@kcl.ac.uk



For more information on our dispute see http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ucu

Monday, 29 March 2010

Peter Tatchell on why to vote Green

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/03/29/vote-green/



Vote Green

March 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm



Guest post by Peter Tatchell



Labour has lost its heart and soul. It has become the party of war, privatisation and the erosion of hard-won civil liberties. The Lib Dems support free market capitalism, use dirty tricks during election campaigns, and when they get into office they always drift to the right. The Conservatives are split between modernisers and the reactionary old guard. Their green-friendly image is contradicted by their anti-green policies of supporting new motorways, aviation expansion and more nuclear power stations – just like Labour.

As I see it, the Green Party is the most progressive force in British politics, with a visionary agenda for democratic reform, social justice, human rights, global equity, environmental protection, peace and internationalism.

With an empowering new political and economic paradigm, the Greens offer the best hope for radical reform, as set out in our Manifesto for a Sustainable Society.

Unlike the far left, the Greens often win. We’ve got elected representatives in local councils all over Britain, and in the London Assembly and the Scottish and European Parliaments. Opinion polls suggest that the Greens are poised to win their first MPs. Caroline Lucas is leading in Brighton Pavilion and the Greens are also polling well in Norwich South and Lewisham Deptford.

The Greens are not just an environmental party. We are also a social justice party, with commitments to industrial democracy, workers cooperatives and trade union rights. Our aim is a democratic economy, which gives all employees a real say in how their institution is run and which utilises their accumulated skill and experience to improve private enterprises and public services.

We want to make society fairer and more equal, and to redistribute wealth and power. This democratisation and socialisation of the economy is necessary, we argue, to improve productivity, prevent a repeat of the reckless decisions that led to the economic meltdown and to reorient production to meet people’s needs. This includes switching from weapons production to the manufacture of renewable energy and advanced medical technologies, which are socially useful and have huge export potential.

The Greens are not retreads of the old Left. Traditional socialism is flawed. It is based on a left-wing version of big business growth-driven economics, with the goal of producing more and consuming more. This uncritical drive to maximise economic expansion is destroying our planet, causing life-threatening pollution, climate chaos and species extinction. It is also dramatically depleting reserves of natural resources, such as oil, that are vital to the global economy and to the long-term maintenance of a decent standard of living. This old-style growth-fixated economics, which is shared by both the left and the right, is outdated and reactionary. It is time for fresh thinking.

The Greens argue that quality of life and fair shares for all are more important than the left’s simplistic agenda of spending more on public services. Greens would, of course, invest more in health and education. But we also believe that government needs to radically rethink basic premises, like shifting the focus in the NHS from curative to preventative medicine. Our aim is to ensure that many fewer people get sick in the first place, rather than merely throwing more money into treating people once they become ill.

The Greens realise that the whole economic system has to change, in order to meet people’s needs and to ensure the survival of life on this planet. We propose a synthesis of the best bits of red and green, combining social justice with sustainable economics.

A good example of how we would do this is our proposed Roosevelt-style Green New Deal. It would stimulate the economy through large-scale government investment in socially and environmentally valuable energy conservation, renewable energy and cheap, hi-tech public transport.

This would slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change, as well as creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

We’d fund the Green New Deal by axing Labour and Tory plans to waste £160 billion on Trident nuclear missiles (£76bn), super aircraft carriers (£4bn), Eurofighter aircraft (£20bn), A400 air transporter (£3bn), national identity register (£10bn), the Afghan war (£5bn), motorway building and widening (£30bn) and NHS computerisation (£20bn).

The Green Party rejects the failed neo-liberal economic policies that are backed by the three main parties – policies that recently pushed the world to the brink of a second great depression and which leave billions of people malnourished, illiterate, homeless, diseased and impoverished. But amid the gloom, we say: A different world is possible. The future is bright – bright Green.







--

Photos from demo at UCL for sacked migrant worker and trade union activist

Photos from last Friday's protest in support of sacked trade union activist and migrant worker, Juan Carlos Piedra, at University College London with me beside the UNISON banner.

Celebrating Windrush and Diversity in Lambeth

Tonight at the Lambeth Assembly Rooms I will be going to an event entitled 'Windrush. Lambeth Celebrates and Reflects' about the Windrush generation in Lambeth and the role of the Caribbean community in the borough. I will be going as a representative of the Green Party but my party colleague and council candidate for Brixton Hill Ward, Philippa Marlowe-Hunt, who is a member of the Black Caribbean community, will be speaking. There will be a short film on the history of the Windrush, which was the ship which brought many of the first Caribbean immigrants to the UK in the 1950s, when their services were very much required in rebuilding Britain after the war. This is a tiny historical detail which the BNP and others tend to overlook in their rantings about the non-contribution of migrant communities to this country.

As an Irish person myself, I was not here when the signs 'No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs' graced the windows of pubs and lodging houses in London, but when I came in the 80s there was stil considerable anti-Irish prejudice. The black and Caribbean communities faced the same prejudice but overcame it to become leading members of the community in Lambeth and across the UK.

There will also be a presentation on Black Women and some poetry, and also a very historical film from 1955 entitled 'No Colour Bar Dance' which was filmed in Lambeth Town Hall. With the regeneration of Windrush Square in Brixton there will shortly be a new Black Caribbean Archive opened, which will be a real source of information on the role of the Caribbean community in the borough over the last 60 years. At a time when diversity and multiculturalism are being threatened by those such as UKIP and the BNP it is important that all of those involved in progressive politics support an event such as this.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Time to go - Latest from Afghanistan

The Independent reveals today what the Foreign Office really thinks about the Afghan police force, who are supposed to provide the backbone of security there under current plans.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/drugs-and-desertion-how-the-uk-really-rates-afghan-police-1929508.html

As the Independent states in its editorial: "The ultimate test of our presence in Afghanistan must be whether it helps or makes worse the threat of terrorism on the streets of British cities. That is not the only test, of course, because a secondary motive in intervening there was the humanitarian one of hoping to make life better for the Afghan people. That altruistic concern was, again, entwined with self-interest, because prosperous and secure countries are less likely to sustain dictatorships or to harbour terrorists. (Although the experience of Pakistan should act as a warning against too simplistic a read-across.)



It ought to be clear, however, that we need to scale back our ambitions for our mission in Afghanistan. As Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, argued in an interview last week, al-Qa'ida is a "tiny fraction of what it used to be" – despite the fillip to its recruitment provided by the Iraq war. The threat of jihadist extremism now comes almost as much from the Pakistani Taliban and from similar organisations in Somalia and Yemen. The Afghan Taliban, on the other hand, is, in Professor Gerges's view, a primarily nationalist movement. "

The Green Party is, along with Respect, the only party in this general election calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. On April 19th I will be addressing a hustings on the wars organised by Lambeth Stop the War Coalition details to follow nearer the date.

University protest and campaigning

On Friday I joined campaigners from the UNISON branch at London University and other political activists, including my Green Left comrade and parliamentary candidate for Greenwich, Andy Hewett, and went to protest about the sacking of Juan Carlos Piedra, at UCL. Juan Carlos is a migrant Latin American cleaner and union activist who was sacked by UCL for trying to organise a union there. Supported by students from the university, we demanded to see Professor Grant, who was too cowardly to come down from his office and address the demonstration. We were stopped from entering the university doors by security staff and then found our way in another door, much to the consternationa of the security staff who were running around the campus after us. Then we discovered that an international conference on migration of all things was taking place in the college. We attempted to enter the conference and tell the delegates what was happening in UCL with migrant workers. We gave leaflets to some of the delegates we met but were unable to enter the conference itself. However, we addressed the conference by megaphone from outside. Finally, we went down to the kitchens and the refrectory and addressed both the workers and the students in both and called on them to support Juan Carlos and the other migrant workers. This was met with applause by many students. The struggle for migrant workers' rights continues. Here is footage of another protest the week before which Green Left participated in about migrant workers rights at the UBS bank.




Yesterday I was back in the relatively peaceful surroundings of Lambeth canvassing with our local election candidates there, several of whom I hope will be elected to Lambeth Council on May 6th.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Thoughts of a departing MP


Chris Mullin, a Labour MP who is not standing again for parliament in this coming election, has put his thoughts on politics and the House of Commons on paper in yesterday's Guardian.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/25/mp-parting-constituents-chris-mullin

He has always been an MP whom I have admired ever since he almost singlehandedly challenged the major miscarriage of justice over the Birmingham Six, at a time when supporting Irish causes, or those accused of acts of terrorism was not only unpopular but dangerous for his political career. I heard Chris speak at an event before Xmas organised by Dodds the parliamentary publishers for aspiring parliamentary candidates at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London, and I thought he was forthright and unassuming. I think he represents those decent hardworking MPs who are the backbone of parliamentary democracy but who have been ignored in the chorus of condemnation directed (rightly) at those who have transgressed.

He has made a number of sensible suggestions concerning parliamentary reforms and governance and I particularly liked where he wrote: 

"As to the longer term, I doubt there is a future for an economy based on shopping. This is only a very temporary period in human history. The frantic consumerism of recent decades surely contains the seeds of its own destruction. One way or another we have to devise lifestyles that are sustainable and which may require changes that most people have only dimly begun to contemplate. The future is green. It has to be if the human race is to survive many more generations."

He is also absolutely right in pointing out the growing army of contract and agency workers and how pay and conditions are heading back towards a 19th century situation. There has been a lot of union bashing in the media recently, especially with the growing threat of industrial action and Newsnight last night ran a story on declining union membership and how the private sector only has 16% union membership. Chris Mullin shows why union membership is important but also why any new government in this country must do more to protect workers' rights and conditions, which this government has abjectly failed to do. His warning about governments distancing themselves from the rich are salutary and I strongly support state funding of political paties for this reason. 

I salute Chris Mullin as a decent MP and parliamentarian, who I believe has tried to do his best for his constituents. The Commons will be diminished after his departure.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Green Party Proposals on the Budget

The Green Party put out the following proposals on the eve of yesterday's Budget, none of which were fulfilled in the version announced yesterday, although we welcomed the Green Bank creation.


http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/green-party-2010-budget-proposals.html




Green Party 2010 Budget proposals



In advance of Alistair Darling's 2010 budget, the Green Party wants to see three key provisions included:



- a non-means-tested state pension, set at £170 a week (1)



- a nationwide programme to insulate homes which would create 350 000 training placements over the next year (2)



- an end to the zero-rating of VAT on new dwellings, putting them on a level with conversions and renovations of existing dwellings, raising £5bn in 2010 and £7.5bn by 2013



The Green Party welcomes Labour's adoption of a long-standing Green policy idea, the idea of a People's Bank. The Green Party would provide initial funding of £2.5 billion over the next Parliament to assist communities in setting up such a network.



The Green Party's leader, Caroline Lucas, said, "Our manifesto, to be released just after the call of the general election, is a practical and realistic plan to move towards a more equal society, fight climate change and protect public services."



Lucas continued: "Unlike the other parties, we will argue that increases in taxation for the better-off are required. We will raise taxes fairly and explain them honestly."



"Labour's plans depend upon wishful thinking about how quickly the economy and tax revenues will recover. They are unwilling to tell you about the cuts and tax increases coming later. The Conservatives will cut public spending, but have not put forward a plan that adds up to remotely enough cuts without tax increases to cut the deficit."



"In contrast, the Green Party will be open about what we would cut, what we would defend, and about the fact that we need to raise taxation from 36% of GDP in 2009-10 to around 45% in 2013. This would halve the gap between government expenditure and revenues by 2013-14 (as the Labour government proposes) and progressively close the gap thereafter."





Notes:



1) There are roughly 12 million pensioners living in the UK and a further 1 million living abroad. Paying a single rate of £170 per week, and a couples rate of £300 per week, will cost £110bn per year.

The basic state pension costs £56bn, and when Pensions Credits paid to those of pensionable age are abolished, the total saving will be almost £70bn. For the remaining £40 billion, we would abolish tax relief on pension contributions (£20 billion), and raise a further £19 billion from abolishing employer national insurance contributions and employee national insurance rebates associated with pension schemes. The final £1 billion will come from increased income tax receipts from pensioners.



2) This proposal would involve workforce training for jobs in energy conservation and renewable energy, including grant-funded conversion courses for skilled engineers from other industries. In particular, we would spend £5 billion in the next fiscal year, creating 350 000 training places, offering opportunities to 700 000 unemployed people, in particular the young unemployed.







--

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Contamination

Two related items today, both concerning Tony Blair and the New Labour brand. Firstly, the news that three former Blairite ministers - Byers, Hoon and Hewitt - the latter two having tried to stab Gordon Brown between the ribs a short time ago - have been suspended from the Labour Party. Byers told an undercover team that he was " like a cab for hire." This follows on from last night's programme on BBC 2 about trust in politics and how it can be regained. There is no doubt that this is a serious blow to Labour's reputation and is another stain on the New Labour brand. Granted that these three were standing down at this election anyway, but the sheer venality displays everything which is wrong about so many MPs in both the major parties and illustrates the corruption which has entered the heart of British politics. No wonder so many interviewed on last night's programme said that they had no trust or belief in politicians.

The system must be radically reformed and this can only be done by those who have had no links with this appalling catalogue of shame. Many of the changes which organisations like POWER 2010 want have already been backed by the Green Party. The public are truly fed up with the antics of these arrogant and sleazy MPs and desperately want to be represented by people of integrity and conviction.

Polly Toynbee wrote this morning in the Guardian on the heels of the scandal about the former ministers all being Blairites and how Blair had contaminated everything which he had touched or been close to politically. She expressed this as an attitude of mind about being 'filthy rich' and living the gilded life. Now we discover that Blair has consultancies with oil companies who carved up the Iraqui oilfields. And hot on the heels of the events in London comes news from the European Parliament of an attempted arrest of Blair by an Irish journalist there. http://euobserver.com/9/29739

Blair must now be increasingly nervous that he could be picked up at some point and charged with war crimes. With his wars and his culture of cronyism and sycophancy to the rich, Blair has done enormous damage to the political culture of this country. But the door was first opened by Thatcher and he merely followed down the same route. Mandelson comes from the same stable as Blair and is at the heart of the Labour election project.

The Tories will carry on the same tradition, it is in their blood. The time is long overdue for a new politics, a politics of hope and conviction. Labour had it once but lost it a long time ago having failed to notice the warning that a long spoon is needed when supping with the devil. It is very reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's story 'Dorian Gray' where the shiny surface hides the decay and corruption beneath.

There are still some Labour MPs of honour and who have shouted from the rooftops and refused to be lobby fodder, but they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The brand is contaminated. The Greens and some others on the Left, such as Salma Yaqoob,  are needed as never before to breathe new life into politics in this country,

No to homophobia in Africa - Demonstration yesterday in London

Yesterday I stood outside the offices of the Commonwealth in London with Peter Tatchell, the Green Party's Human Rights Spokesperson, and a number of black gays and lesbians, including people from Malawi, Uganda, Nigeria and other African countries, as well as representatives of the UK black LGBT movement. As a gay man myself and the Parliamentary candidate for Vauxhall, I gave the Green Party's full backing to the campaign for the release of the gay couple arrested and currently on trial in Malawi for daring to enter into a marriage ceremony and for the repeal of the colonial era homophobic laws in Malawi.



Human rights are international and the Green Party has always supported the rights of LGBT people internationally and opposed homophobia, in whatever form it takes. All across Africa, LGBT communities are being used as scapegoats and criminalised. As many African speakers said yesterday, it is unbelievable that two men are facing imprisonment for the crime of loving each other. The Green Party calls upon the Commonwealth to act now and for the President and government of Malawi to intervene to release these two gay men and to repeal the homophobic laws in Malawi which date back to the colonial era. I am proud to stand beside LGBT Africans fighting for their rights.
We heard during the demonstration that the trial has been postponed until April. Further details here

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2010/mar/22/malawi-gay-couple-court-case

Monday, 22 March 2010

Trust in Politics with Hackney LINk Members on BBC 2 Tonight

Members of Hackney LINk were interviewed for the programme Trust in Politics which will be on tonight - Monday, March 22nd, 2010. One of them is likely to be my colleague and friend, Malcolm Alexander, well known health activist and Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, where I am the Vice Chair.


Trust in Politics

Monday, March 22nd, 19:00 on BBC Two

"We've lost trust in politics and only major reform of the system can restore it. Political historian and headmaster Anthony Seldon believes the 2010 election could mark a turning point in our democracy, a moment to overhaul the way politics works and put trust into the heart of the system.

Looking back at four critical British elections, Anthony seeks ideas and inspiration for his own manifesto to rebuild trust and positively reconnect politicians with a disenchanted public. He tests his ideas in other professions and suggests how politicians and politics might change. But democratic renewal is a two-way street and Anthony emphasises ways in which we can all play a part in this process. With the help of leading historians, those familiar with the corridors of power and ordinary citizens determined to see change, Anthony finds energy, ideas and enthusiasm to restore and rebuild trust in politics."

Protecting Animals in Democracy

http://www.vote4animals.org.uk/manifesto.htm

I have signed up to PAD's manifesto as a parliamentary candidate, unlike my Labour opponent, Kate Hoey MP, who is the Chair of the Countryside Alliance, whose HQ is based in Vauxhall, and who is committed to the return of fox hunting and other barbaric practices, at least that is what she wrote in an article for the Yorkshire Post over the Xmas break. Kate and I agree on a number of issues, and it is interesting that at the housing hustings last Saturday she clearly distanced herself from the Labour Party in Lambeth and denounced many of their decisions regarding housing. When asked who the electors of Lambeth should vote for on May 6th in the council elections, she replied: "for the best candidates."

The increasing number of stories in the South London Press and elsewhere of appalling cruelty meted out to animals, which has reached national headlines in the recent stories about dogs being used as weapons etc, flags up the appallling way that animals are regarded by many in this country. I have a cat myself, previously having had three, and am very attached to animals and animal rights. It goes without saying that those who practice such terrible cruelty on animals are likely to apply it to fellow humans also.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Love is no crime - demonstrate tomorrow in London at the Commonwealth HQ

Tomorrow I am going to demonstrate against homophobic laws and the persecution of a gay couple in Malawi who have had the courage to openly express their love and get married. I hope that many LGBT Londoners and others will also support them. It is unbelievable that they are facing a jail sentence for this the most basic of human rights.

Steven and Tiwonge are appealing for Londoners to support them, as they face a lengthy jail sentence.


Show that you support them. Love is no crime.


Malawi gay trial protest 22 March: Free Tiwonge and Steven



Drop the charges and repeal anti-gay laws



Commonwealth must condemn homophobic persecution in Malawi

You are urged to join the protest against the arrest, trial and imprisonment of the Malawian couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, on charges of homosexuality. They face up to 14 years jail.

Please copy this email to all your friends, and ask them to attend.



Monday 22 March

12.30pm to 2pm



Commonwealth head office, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX.



By the corner of Pall Mall and St James's Street. See this map:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&source=hp&q=commonwealth%20secretariat%20london&aql=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl



Nearest tubes: Green Park, Charing Cross and Piccadilly Circus


If you cannot attend, please this week send a message of protest to Dr. Francis Moto, High Commission of Malawi, 70 Winnington Road, London N2 0TX, Phone: 020 8455 5624, Fax: 020 3235 1066, Email: malawihighcom@btconnect.com


Monday's protest is timed to coincide with the verdict in Steven and Tiwonge's trial. The verdict is expected the same day.


The demonstration has two themes:

1) Release Tiwonge and Steven, drop the charges, repeal anti-gay laws

2) The Commonwealth must condemn homophobic persecution in Malawi



The protest is sponsored by OutRage!, Gay Activists Alliance International, Black Gay Men's Advisory Group, Red Room, Rukus! Foundation and an informal coalition of black and African LGBT activists in London.

Prominent LGBT black and African campaigners backing the protest include, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, Dennis Carney, Ted Brown, Topher Campbell, Godwyns Onwuchekwa and Skye Chirape.

"We want Steven and Tiwonge released, all charges against them dropped and the repeal of Malawi's anti-homosexuality laws. These laws violate the equality and non-discrimination provisions of Article 20 of the Malawian Constitution and Articles 2, 3 and 4 and the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold," said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who is co-organising next Monday's protest.

"This protest has been organised in response to an appeal for help from the jailed men.

From their prison cell in Malawi, Steven and Tiwonge have sent a message to me, urging more international pressure to secure their release.

"For the last two months, OutRage! has arranged prison visits and the delivery of food and spending money to Tiwonge and Steven."

Malawi is a member of the Commonwealth, the international association of mostly former British colonies.


"The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has failed to speak out loudly against the arrest and jailing of Steven and Tiwonge, even though equality and human rights are supposed to be key Commonwealth principles," added Mr Tatchell.

See here:

http://www.thecommonwealth.org/Internal/191086/191247/the_commonwealth/

and here:

http://www.thecommonwealth.org/files/36123/FileName/harare.pdf

"His silence is collusion with homophobia. As far as we can see, Mr Sharma is failing to oppose the persecution of Steven and Tiwonge. He is doing nothing to defend LGBT human rights anywhere. He appears to reject the idea that gay rights are human rights.

"Of the 53 Commonwealth member states, over 40 still criminalise same-sex relations, mostly under anti-gay laws that were originally imposed by the British government in the nineteenth century, during the period of colonial rule.

"These homophobic colonialist laws, which were retained after independence, are wrecking the lives of LGBT people throughout the Commonwealth. They criminalise otherwise law-abiding citizens and contribute to a hostile social atmosphere which demonises LGBT people as unnatural, abnormal, inferior and criminal.

"It is outrageous that nearly all Commonwealth member states persecute same-sex partners, with penalties ranging up to life imprisonment for consenting gay sex between adults in private. Even more outrageous, the Commonwealth is saying and doing nothing of substance to defend its LGBT citizens," concluded Mr Tatchell.



Further information: Peter Tatchell - 0207 403 1790



--

Friday, 19 March 2010

Lambeth Housing Hustings tomorrow in Brixton


Tomorrow at 2pm I will be taking part in the Housing Hustings for Lambeth at St Matthew's Church, commonly known as 'The Brix' in Brixton as the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall. Others on the platform will include Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall, and Chris Nicholson , the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Streatham and the Lib Dems equivalent of Lord Ashcroft, i.e. a very rich man indeed who is pouring money into his election campaign and has been the subject of reports in the national press.

I am expecting a lot of very irate council tenants and leaseholders and there is certainly enough to be angry about in Lambeth when it comes to housing. The event is being organised by Defend Council Housing who are also holding their national conference in Congress House all day tomorrow and I hope that many people will attend. I will be putting the case for the Green Party's policies on housing and addressing some of the real problems which have arisen in Lambeth. I am totally shocked, for example, of the story of a disabled man who has to live in a care home for 10 years because Lambeth Council cannot find him a flat. The story was all over the front page of the South London Press last week. He was so frustrated that he took his case directly to Downing Street

http://www.southlondonpress.co.uk/tn/News.cfm?id=9127&headline=Disabled man doorsteps Gordon Brown

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Defend the Gaza protestors

I have not been able to blog for several days as I spent Monday and Tuesday in Nottingham in court as an observer attending the trial of a friend's husband there and offering moral support to the family. It was very strange observing the majesty of the law at close hand and I will blog about that at some point in the future. I returned to work yesterday and celebrated St Patrick's Day last night, as I believe in celebrating the real day and the real event rather than some event held by the Mayor of London on the nearest weekend, although I expect that there were many people who thoroughly enjoyed the festivities in Trafalgar Square. I had calls last night from Ireland and also wished other Irish people I know here a happy day. There was a very interesting article in the Guardian yesterday by an Irishwoman living in New York about how the celebrations there have turned into a celebration for all immigrants, and I think that is why perhaps the issue of refugees and immigrants etc, is so close to my heart because of the history of emigration and the various experiences of the Irish diaspora, one of whom I am.

The Muslims are the new Irish and the experience of the young Muslims jailed for taking part in the Gaza demonstrations is truly terrible. Details of the campaign to support them are below. Please sign the petition.

DEFEND THE GAZA PROTESTORS



At last the outrageous treatment by the police and courts of

protestors at the Gaza demonstrations in January 2009 is

getting some media coverage (SEE http://bit.ly/bJeQMr ).



Virtually all of those accused of minor disturbances at the

demonstrations are young Muslims and the judge has been

handing down what he calls "deterrent" jail sentences -- some

for as long as two and a half years, which is unprecedented

for such offences.



Following a packed meeting in Parliament, a Gaza Protestors

Defence Campaign has been set up to get the charges dropped.

(SEE http://bit.ly/d1FqIA )


PETITION

The Gaza Protestors' Campaign page includes a downloadable

petition which will be delivered to the Home Office at a

protest to be called in the near future. Please circulate the

petition as widely as possible and return filled in petitions

as soon as possible. Download here: http://bit.ly/b1KAxH )



DOSSIERS ON POLICE BEHAVIOUR

What has not been reported is the violent and intimidatory

police behaviour on the Gaza demonstration, causing serious

injuries which could have resulted in fatalities, as it did in

the case of Ian Tomlinson when similar tactics were used at

the G20 protests in April 2009. Stop the War has collated eye

witness reports of the police attacks on the Gaza

demonstrations into two dossiers now available online:



* Dossier on Police Behaviour; Gaza Demonstration 03 January

2009: http://bit.ly/9MwyUw

* Dossier on Police Behaviour; Gaza Demonstration 10 January

2009: http://bit.ly/9YrFAB

Saturday, 13 March 2010

St Patrick's Day Protest at the Irish Embassy in London - Tuesday next

Out this morning canvassing in Lambeth and speaking to voters on doorsteps. Surprising how late some people get up on a Saturday morning - encountered a lot of people half asleep or in pyjamas etc. I assume a lot of people had been having a late Friday night. I met one young man who had recently turned 18 and reminded him that 56% of those aged 18 to 24 were not registered to vote and gave him a registration form. People have until April 20th to register.


Like all Irish people the world over I will be celebrating St Patrick's Day on Wednesday as it is our national day. However, it is worth remembering a David and Goliath struggle currently being fought out on the west coast of Ireland - a struggle which has been going on for several years. This is well worth supporting and I would go to the Irish Embassy on Tuesday were it not for the fact that I have to go to Nottingham to support a friend's husband who is appearing in a court case there. But I support this campaign from the bottom of my heart. More shame that the Green Energy and Communications Minister, Eamon Ryan, who used to support Shell to Sea now seems to be a mouthpiece for Shell. This is a photo of the fisherman, Pat O'Donnell, who has been jailed for standing up to a multinational oil company.



St. Patrick's Day Pat O'Donnell Support / Irish Embassy in London.

Come and celebrate St. Patrick's Day in style and show your support for Pat O'Donnell currently incarcerated at Castlerea Prison for not cooperating with Shell's cops in County Mayo

(http://www.indymedia.ie/article/95776?search_text=the+chief).


For 11 years the people of County Mayo have been resisting Shell's efforts to develop a dangerous high pressure raw gas pipeline. Pat O'Donnell, a prominent local fisherman and anti-Shell campaigner who was only defending his family and livelihood has been sentenced to 7 months in jail. This is yet another example of Shell's criminalisation of members of the Rossport community with previously unblemished records, aided and abetted by the Irish state.

Come and protest at the Irish Embassy in London against what the Irish government is doing in the name of Shell / Topaz in County Mayo. Show your support and in true St. Patrick's day spirit drive the snakes that Shell / Topaz are out of County Mayo.

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/95783

For more details please contact: londonshelltosea at hotmail.co.uk

Embassy of Ireland, 17 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7HR


Date: Tue, 16/03/2010 - 11:00

Friday, 12 March 2010

Support Corporal Joe Glenton - Jailed for speaking out against the war

Sign up here: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/freeobjectors/


The undersigned ask the Prime Minister to release and pardon Corporal Joe Glenton and any other soldiers who do not wish to serve in or return to wars they believe are wrong. Soldiers should not be asked to kill and die for causes they don't believe in. If the Afghanistan war is right (which is a matter for debate) then the government should be able to persuade soldiers that it's right. Even if you believe the war in Afghanistan is right, those soldiers who don't share this belief should not be sent there.

Soldiers sign up to defend their country against what they believe to be genuine threats, they should not be asked to sign away their beliefs, independence of mind and consciences. Sending soldiers to fight a war they believe is wrong is undemocratic and will also hurt morale

Fair, free and effective: Green Party proposals for dental care


Walking around Lambeth and Vauxhall I spot signs everywhere for dentists advertising that they accept NHS patients but the fact is that getting hold of a dentist and one who will carry out the necessary work on the NHS is very difficult as the Labour government, in common with many other services, has created what is effectively a two tier dental service. This has led to a real deterioration in dental health and especially among poorer people. The Greens launched the policy below last week and it is a genuinely radical one. It is not commonly known but attending a dentist on a regular basis is important for detecting oral cancer and other conditions which if left untreated can be very serious indeed.




Fair, free and effective: Green Party proposals for the dental health service


Last week the Green Party launched a dental health policy which the Greens believe will enjoy widespread public support and boost the party'shopes of a general election breakthrough.

The Greens are committed to the founding principles of the NHS - including free dental healthcare, which they say could be provided for an extra £1.8 billion a year.

A party spokesperson said, "£1.8 billion a year is a trifling sum for a huge improvement in Britain's dental health service. Everyone who wants one should have access to an NHS dentist, and we must end the scandal of British children in the twenty-first century suffering the pain and misery that come with poor teeth."

The Greens dismiss water fluoridation as a "cheap, tacky, sticking plaster solution with side-effects." They say that "mass medication of doubtful efficacy and potential side-effects is no substitute for a proper dental healthcare strategy. We need to be teaching new parents how to look after their toddlers' teeth, and teaching young children from nursery onwards all about how to look after their own teeth properly.

"And in addition, we need everyone to have access to the right professional support, which means guaranteeing free access to an NHS dentist for everyone who wants it."

Full copies of the briefing are now available at www.greenparty.org.uk/reports



--
Summary of Fair, free and effective: Green Party proposals for the dental health service



1. Currently, only half the UK population is provided with free dental healthcare. NHS dentistry charges are a regressive tax: they hit the poor hardest and prevent many from accessing dental care.

2. Access to dentists should not depend on where you live. But getting access to an NHS dentist is difficult and there is wide variation across the country:

Between 55% and 60% of NHS practices are not taking new NHS patients. Some Primary Care Trusts have no NHS dentists taking on new patients. Most areas have around 55 dentists per 100,000 people. But some have as few as 25, while others have over 100.

3. Less than half of the UK adult population and only around two thirds of children are visiting NHS dentists. The percentage of children who have visited NHS dentists within the previous 24 months has fallen in recent years - a worrying sign.

4. Some areas have opted for the addition of fluoridation chemicals to tap water in a bid improve dental health. The Green Party says:

· The use of fluoridated water to improve dental health is not a viable solution - it's more like "sticking plaster with side effects".

· Any (slight) benefit from fluoride in drinking water has to be weighed against the increased risk of osteosarcoma and dental fluorosis.

· Mass medication may breach the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine - it's unethical to medicate people without their consent.

· The use of fluoridation demonstrates a failure to tackle the underlying problems of dental health provision.

5. The Green Party wants:

· Free basic dental care available to all.

· Everyone to have access to an NHS dentist if they want one.

· An end to fluoridation of our tap water.

· A comprehensive dental health strategy including proper education for children and their parents.

6. Assuming that some people will wish to remain private, to provide free dental care to 75% of the population would only cost the NHS an extra £1.8 billion a year.

Nick Clegg comes out as a reactionary

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7415708/Nick-Clegg-how-Margaret-Thatcher-inspires-me.html

Yes, it has finally happened, Nick Clegg has decided to come out of the closet as a Tory ally and fan of Margaret Thatcher. In this piece in the Torygraph - clearly designed to win Tory votes in Middle England, Clegg admits to his admiration of Margaret Thatcher. No more two faces Clegg, this is a clarion call to voters to vote Yellow and get Blue. Well he has always been one of the big supporters of the Orange Book, those Lib Dems who have been driving the party in a neo-liberal as opposed to Liberal direction.

Recently I heard that the Tory-Lib Dem alliance which runs Birmingham Council and which recently announced the cutting of 2,000 jobs there, call themselves "The Progressive Alliance". Well if that is progressive, then I am an alien. The devaluation of political language and terminology began, of course, with Thatcher who called herself and her government's policies "radical". They were anything but and "19th century reactionary" would have been more apt.For they were a retun to the laissez faire economic and political ideology of 19th century Toryism.

I wonder what Clegg and the Lib Dems think of the generations of unemployed produced by Thatcher's government? Of her destruction of manufacturing industry in this country which produced the current situation of being totally reliant on the services industries and finance? She also created the notion of there being no such thing as society and the resultant social breakdown and poverty, which we see in the most unequal country in Europe. These are all the fruits of Thatcher and the half baked ideology which she spawned and which has produced our current mess also. To idealise such a destructive and pernicious politician is nothing short of criminal and shows the bankruptcy of Liberal Democrat thinking.

Clegg also refers to the destruction of the unions. It is because of having the weakest union movement in Europe, held back by Thatcher's anti trade union laws that UK workers have the longest hours in the EU, the least number of holidays and have virtually no power to call a strike or defend their working conditions from ruthless employers. It is clear now that Clegg is prepared to jump into bed with the Tories after the election and will not even be asking for a hot water bottle to protect the country against the deep economic freeze which they will preside over. As Thatcher presidede over years of unemployement and a lost generation of young people and workers, so Clegg will collaborate with Cameron's death by a thousand cuts. A vote for Lib Dems is a vote for reaction - blue in tooth and claw.

Greens will campaign for more jobs and more public spending and against another generation of young people sacrificed on the high altar of the market.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Don't mention the war!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/11/voters-elite-afghanistan-election-war

Seamus Milne sums it up well. The Greens are one of the few parties which have a realistic policy on this war - that it is a disaster. At every hustings I attend, I will be reminding them that the wars abroad and the UK's imperial adventures are costing them local hospitals, cuts in social care, education and everything else. Not to mention the thousands of lives both here and in Afghanistan blighted forever by it. The madness has to stop but the three main neo-liberal parties have joined the party at Bedlam. As I said to someone recently, you will know when British withdrawal is imminent - when the Lib Dems come out against the war.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Support the world's largest Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands

I have signed this petition and hope that others will also. I really hope that the UK government will do the right thing on this as it would be a real breakthrough for the marine environment.


Dear friends,


This Friday, the UK government could make history by creating the world’s largest Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands.

Our ocean ecosystems are literally dying under pressure from mass, uncontrolled commercial fishing and pollution. This d ecision could start to turn the tide. But commercial fishing companies are opposing the move, putting short term profits ahead of all sense. We can’t let that happen -- already, over 90% of big fish like tuna and marlin are gone.

Together, let’s send the UK government a tidal wave of global public support urging them to be bold and protect oceans from exploitation. Sign the petition below, then forward it to everyone you know. It will be delivered to Foreign Secretary David Miliband by the deadline this Friday!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_our_oceans/97.php?cl_tta_sign=e8b4f945d220206669a7c72a07662705

The reports are dire: in 38 years, our oceans could be completely fished-out, in 100 years, all coral reefs might be dead. This action alone won’t be enough to turn the tide. But it will establish a 210,000 square-mile Marine Protected Area -- bigger than the Great Barrier Reef.

To truly save the world’s oceans from collapse will require bol d political leadership and dedicated citizens taking action. In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, a UK decision to create the world's largest Marine Protected Area would secure a conservation legacy almost unrivalled in scale and significance. This would set a clear example to other governments around the world.

Let's drown out the voices of the commercial fishing companies, and lay the foundation for protecting our oceans for generations to come. Sign the petition below, and forward it to friends and family:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_our_oceans/97.php?cl_tta_sign=e8b4f945d220206669a7c72a07662705


With hope,

Alice, Iain, Paul, and the rest of the Avaaz team



More info:

Protect Chagos:

http://protectchagos.org/



Why is Overfishing a problem?:

http://overfishing.org/pages/why_is_overfishing_a_problem.php



World's coral reefs could disintegrate by 2100:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/23/worlds-coral-reefs-disintegrate-2100

Patient Transport issues at City Hall

This morning I was at a meeting of the Transport Committee of the London Assembly and was attending as the Vice Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum. I was not on the panel giving evidence to the Transport Committee, although Nic Daw, the manager of Patient Transport Services at the London Ambulance NHS Trust was. The discussion was around the possibility of joining up all of London's various forms of transport for older and disabled people (Door to Door transport) under one telephone number and one central management, so to speak, so that instead of contacting a range of operators for various services, people could call one centre. The problems of Patient Transport are well known to me, both as a former Director of Transport for All and also as a health activist.

Nic Daw stated that London Ambulance Service now only runs 15% of patient transport contracts across London. The other contracts are run by a variety of operators, including some minicab companies. I was there to raise the issue of standards for Patient Transport in London, which is a joint demand of the Patients Forum and a variety of other organisations across the capital. Also I wanted to raise the issue of who will pay for the transport of patients to and from Polyclinics. This is a big issue, as currently the NHS (in the shape of hospital trusts) pays for transport to and from hospital appointments for those considered in clinical need. But London Councils and Transport for London pays for Dial a Ride and Taxicard to bring people, who are considered eligible, to and from appointments with GPs, dentists etc. With Polyclinics gradually replacing the role of A&E departments for many patients, the hospitals are hoping not to have to pay the transport costs. This would then be shifted on to Taxicard and Dial a Ride but there are already problems with users of Taxicard not having a sufficient number of trips on their cards and Dial a Ride being an unreliable service - as we heard in some detail today with a number of shocking peronal stories.

The representative of London Councils suggested that they are looking at the possibility of one system of eligibility for all these services - meaning that those entitled to Dial a Ride or Taxicard would also automatically be entitled to Patient Transport. But a Board member of Transport for London stated that it would be years before a new integrated system of transport could be agreed. This could well be the case but it is about time that transport providers looked at the case for joined up transport and above all, joined up thinking on this issue.

In the interim, it is vital that the set of common standards for Patient Transport across London are adopted and  I will continue my campaign for that, along with the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum. The current shoddy and unsafe way in which many patients are transported to non-emergency  hospital appointments is simply not fit for purpose.
Those demands are here

http://greenmpforvauxhall.blogspot.com/2010/02/patient-transport-service-standards.html

Monday, 1 March 2010

Defend the right to protest

Public Meeting: Tuesday 2 March 6.30pm - 8.30pm

Support the Gaza protestors. Defend the right to protest.

Speakers include Jeremy Corbyn MP, George Galloway MP, Andrew Murray (Stop the War), Betty Hunter (Palestine Solidarity Campaign), speaker from British Muslim Initiative

Committee Room 19, House of Commons, London SW1, (St Stephens entrance, allow plenty of time to get through security). Organised by Stop the War, PSC, BMI and supported by CND. All welcome.

________________________________________
 I will be atttending this meeting tomorrow night where the recent heavy prison sentences handed down to many (mainly Muslim) demonstrators who protested outside the Israeli embassy last year over the attack on Gaza will be discussed.

Many in the anti-war and civil liberties movement believe that this is an attempt to stifle protests against the war and particularly to criminalise and terrify the Muslim community. As an Irish person who faced a lot of this in the 80s and early 90s, I am familiar with the pattern. At a recent conference in London on Irish reunification a member of an Irish organisation in Luton commented that the Irish experience was the template for what was happening now to Muslims. I suggested that Irish organisations be involved in the planned Islamophobia conference being planned for the summer by Stop the War Coalition and other organisations.

The costs of war

Well it was another busy weekend. On Friday evening I travelled down to Brighton to speak at the launch of the national party's LGBT Manifeso with Peter Tatchell, Caroline Lucas and LGBTIQ Group Chair, Phelim Mac Cafferty. Lots of people from Brighton present and will report more on that once I get the pictures and speeches etc. Afterwards I went to the new library in Brighton to celebrate LGBT History Month with a musical evening called the 'Lavender Lounge' which was packed and featured a well known lesbian performer from Brighton - whom I had never heard of - called Starr. I have to say her singing was wonderful and included songs based on the history of Brighton and various local artists etc. I crawled back to London on the last train.

On Saturday I attended the Steering Committee meeting of Stop the War Coalition which lasted for most of the day. There were reports and discussions on the war in Afghanistan and how this will impact on the general election, Islamophobia and Iraq, and finishing off with a report on the organisation's finances. During one of the breaks I was approached by someone from Lambeth Stop the War and asked to take part in a hustings on the wars which will be held in April, in the middle of the general election campaign.

I spoke about the costs of the wars and how important it was to get this point across to the public. This was agreed by many speakers. There was a very emotional moment when a grandmother from Liverpool, who is an anti-war activist broke down while addressing the meeting. She held up a photo of her grandson, who has just left for Afghanistan, and told us that several months ago she invited six of his friends to her house for tea. Of those six, three have had their legs blown off and another has had to have his hips removed. These are the real and human costs of the war, which continues to bleed the country dry, both literally and metaphorically.

We heard from local groups around the country that people are signing up to the petitions for withdrawal of troops and one example was Yeovilton, where there is a naval base and much of the local economy is dependant of defence. Even there, soldiers and military families have been signing petitions. Stop the War is going to have a list of candidates standing in this election and will be asking them for their views on the war.

We also heard that David Milliband's roadshow has been dogged by protestors - the latest one was in Hammersmith - and that even those attending the meetings were very supportive of the demonstrators outside. I made the point that although the issue of the war is in fifth place or so on the lists of issues in the opinion polls for this election - once the link is drawn with the economic impact of the war, people's perceptions soon change. I am attaching some info here from Stop the War on the Steering Committee meeting and on the costs of this futile and unwinnable war.


http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1764/27/


The Independent article on the cost of war, mentioned at the meeting by Paul from Coventry, has been on the Stop the War website since it was published last July:

Cost to Britain of war in Afghanistan: £12 billion and rising fasthttp://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1383/27/

Two articles also on the website, making similar comparisons for the US between the astronomical sums spent on war compared to public service budgets etc are:

What you can do with 30 billion dollars

http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1663/268/

VIDEO: How to spend 3 trillion dollars on war in under 3 minutes http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1627/195/