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Friday, 30 July 2010

Joe Glenton speaks out

No posts for the last two days as I have been at work and also went on Wednesday night to the Green Party Trade Union Group meeting where we had a new activist along who is the Chair of the Muslim Police Association and a PCS member. We discussed our involvement in the anti-cuts campaign and also the Trade Union Group's fringe meeting and stall at the Green Party autumn conference in September in Birmingham.

On Monday night I went to Conway Hall for an inspirational meeting with Joe Glenton, the solidier jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, who deservedly received two standing ovations. As Mark Steel, who was also speaking at the Stop the War event commented; "If an ordinary soldier speaks out against the war he is imprisoned, yet generals appear all the time on television supporting the war." Joe spoke of his feelings and his thanks for the support of the anti-war movement. His speech to the meeting is below. He is a latter day hero and it was truly apt that he referred to the medal given to his grandfather for fighting at the Somme.

Caroline Lucas who was voting in the Education Bill in the Commons and unable to attend, sent a message of support which was read out from the platform. Joe will be touring the country speaking to various Stop the War groups etc and will be taking a prominent part in the
Afghanistan - Time to Go National Demonstration in Central London on November 20th

Many Green Party activists were present and we had a stall at the event. Thanks to National Campaigns Coordinator, Andy Hewett, for printing our Afghanistan leaflet and to others from the Campaigns Committee who were helping on the night. A truly inspirational meeting which is sometimes necessary to lift the political spirit.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

EDL - The real face

The dangers of the EDL outlined, which should not be underestimated. Their next attack will be in Bradford. I am sure that the anti-Fascist resistance will be there to meet them.

Goldies - Tuesday mornings in Brixton for older LGBT people

Last week I atttended the coffee morning for older LGBT people in Lambeth called 'Goldies'. Yes, I am now eligible to attend older people's events as I am over 50 - attendance at Goldies is open to over 50s. The group which has been set up by Age Concern Lambeth, is a new initiative and is a badly needed one.

Richard, who runs the group, used to work for Polari, the organisation for older LGBT people which no longer exists, and told us that Polari and others had carried out extensive research which indicated that there was a great deal of social isolation among older LGBT people in London, especially in sheltered housing units. This is an important section of the community whose needs are not really met.

The commercial gay scene is very youth orientated and with the demise of many local LGBT pubs and cafes, which are now concentrated in either Vauxhall or Soho it is increasingly difficult for older LGBT people to socialise. Many older gays and lesbians do not have the family networks in place which older heterosexual people have, and consequently suffer higher levels of loneliness and isolation. Many of those living in sheltered accommodation, for instance, suffer high levels of homophobic prejudice and abuse both from other residents and from staff and carers.

Naturally such homophobia should be roundly condemned and stopped but it is good that in the last few years organisations such as Age Concern have woken up to the needs of the older LGBT community. A friend of mine who is in his 70s and lives in a sheltered housing unit in North London, has almost no contact with the rest of the LGBT community and does not feel welcome in the consumerist chic bars of Soho. For him the prospect of a group such as Goldies is very welcome and it is ironic that he is someone who played a leading role in the early gay rights movement in the 70s but now feels excluded from the community for whose rights he fought.

All elderly people are marginalised to some extent in this country but LGBT people even more so. In a rapidly ageing country where the demographic is changing very fast there will be increasing numbers of older LGBT people, some of whom have lost partners, who are going to need support. Good that organisations for older people are stepping up to the plate but the LGBT community itself should also support its older members. In the interim, initiatives like Goldies are very welcome.

Goldies meets at the Vida Walsh Centre, 2B Saltoun Road, Brixton - just facing on to Windrush Square opposite Lambeth Town Hall and a stone's throw away from the Ritzy Cinema and is from 10am to 11.30am on Tuesdays.

A new unionised factory for wind turbine blades rises from the ruins of Vestas

As someone who supported the Vestas workers, along with comrades in Green Left and other members of the Green Party, I am very pleased to see that a phoenix has arisen from the ashes. The Isle of Wight is a real unemployment blackspot, even before the cuts being introduced by the ConDem government, and the creation of green jobs here is a real piece of good news. Furthermore, it shows what can be done with trade union support and encouragement and the refusal of workers to lie down. Congrats to the Sureblades workers and to the RMT for this very worthwhile initiative.

One year after the Vestas wind turbines occupation a new, unionised factory rises from the ashes

Sureblades has been driven by Sean McDonagh, an RMT member and one of the sacked Vestas workers involved in the occupation where he ran operations from outside the gates. With the assistance of RMT officials, Sean and his colleagues set up meetings with Government officials and development agencies to put together the Sureblades business plan in tandem with Keith Hounsell who already installs turbines across the south.

Sureblades aims to begin the manufacture of micro-turbine blades in Newport on the Isle of Wight by late September and the company expects to have capacity to mould blades up to 12m long. They will be using cutting edge technology which will mean that the blades are 100% recyclable unlike conventional blades which have to be burnt or dumped in landfill.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

"The former Vestas workers behind this imaginative new project have completely destroyed the argument put forward by the company at the time of closure that there was no market for UK manufactured turbine blades. Through their efforts to create jobs they have blown apart the bogus grounds put forward at the time for closure and redundancy of the workforce.

"RMT is very proud of what our former Vestas members have achieved so far and we are right behind them. They have also shown that it is far too easy for companies in the UK to soak up Government grants and then just cut and run when it suits them without any meaningful consultation, never mind a ballot of the workforce.

"We are also very pleased that the planned new operation will be RMT organised and that officials of this trade union have helped open the doors and make the contacts which have turned this project into a reality. But the real credit lies with the determination and solidarity of the workers who refused to accept that they were beaten. They are an inspiration."

Monday, 26 July 2010

The War in Afghanistan - More facts they do not want you to know

Wikileaks has done us all a service by releasing these secret US military files showing what really is happening in Afghanistan. It confirms much of what the anti-war movement has been saying. Tonight I will be at the meeting in Conway Hall organised by Stop the War where the brave former soldier, Joe Glenton, jailed for speaking out against the war, will speak about Afghanistan, along with Caroline Lucas, Mark Steel, Jerermy Corbyn and others. Futher info from Stop the War below.






SPEAKERS: Lance Corporal JOE GLENTON, just released from prison following court martial for refusing to fight in Afghanistan,
CAROLINE LUCAS MP, JEREMY CORBYN MP, MARK STEEL, comedian and columnist,LINDSEY GERMAN, Stop the War Coalition, YASMIN KHAN, War On Want.

The 90,000 US secret documents leaked today confirm everything

the anti-war movement has said for years. The biggest ever

wartime leaks show conclusively that the war in Afghanistan is

pointless and unwinnable and the warmongers have lied to us

continually. The war must end now. All foreign troops must be

withdrawn without delay.

The Guardian, giving 14 pages of coverage to the revelations,

reports, "The huge cache of secret US military files provides a

devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing

how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in

unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato

commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the

insurgency." SEE

In this context, David Cameron's timetable of at least five more

years killing is tantamount to premeditated mass murder. British

soldiers are being asked to kill and die in a war which is lost.

They must come home now.

The rally tonight (26 July) in London, AFGHANISTAN: TIME TO GO,

featuring among others, Joe Glenton, the soldier court martialled

for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, MPs Caroline Lucas and

Jeremy Corbyn, and columnist and comedian Mark Steel, could not

have been more timely. If you live in London, it has become a

must go event.


"We are all in the gutter. But some of us are looking at the stars"

Tatchell acceptance speech for Honorary Doctorate

Dedicated to the people of Iran fighting for democracy and freedom

Sussex University award for 43 years of human rights activism

23 July 2010 – Brighton

Full text of Peter Tatchell’s acceptance speech, on receipt of his Honorary Doctorate of Letters, conferred by Sussex University and presented by the university’s Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, in a ceremony at Brighton Dome on 23 July 2010.

Peter Tatchell, who is human rights spokesperson for the Green Party of England & Wales, said:

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, members of faculty, family and friends, and fellow graduands, to whom I offer my congratulations.

Congratulations on your hard work – and success.

My gratitude to Prof Morely for her most generous oration, and to the University of Sussex for conferring on me such a high award.

I was hesitant about accepting this honour. After all, my doctorate has not been earned by academic study, and my contribution to human rights is very modest. Many others are much more deserving than me.

Nevertheless, after so many years of demonisation by the tabloid press, right-wingers, homophobes and even by some people on the left and in the LGBT community, this recognition is much appreciated.

In accepting this award, I pay tribute to the heroic, inspirational activists I have worked alongside, including activists in Uganda, Somaliland, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Baluchistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and West Papua.

The greatest honour I’ve had in my life is the privilege to know and support so many amazing, courageous human rights defenders around the world. I walk in their shadow, humbled by their bravery and sacrifice.

I dedicate my acceptance of this honorary doctorate to the people of Iran who are struggling against clerical dictatorship, for democracy and freedom.

In particular, Mansour Osanloo, the jailed Iranian trade union leader, and Sakineh Ashtiani, who has been sentenced to be stoned to death, along with more than 20 other Iranians.

I express my solidarity with Iran’s persecuted Sunni Muslims and its oppressed national minorities: including the Arab, Kurdish and Baluch peoples.

I’m not special or unique. I do my bit for social justice, but so do many others. Together, through our collective efforts, we are slowly, but surely, helping make a better world – a world more just and free.

My key political inspirations are Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X and Rosa Luxemburg.
I’ve adapted many of their ideas and methods to the contemporary struggle for human rights – and invented a few of my own.

I began campaigning in my home town of Melbourne, Australia, in 1967, aged 15.
My first human rights campaign was against the death penalty, followed by campaigns in support of Aboriginal rights and in opposition to conscription and the Australian and US war against the people of Vietnam.

In 1969, on realising that I was gay, the struggle for queer freedom became an increasing focus of my activism.

After moving to London in 1971, I became an activist in the Gay Liberation Front; organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve queers, and organising protests against police harassment and the medical classification of homosexuality as an illness.
I was roughed up and forcibly ejected when I challenged the world famous psychologist, Professor Hans Eysenck, during a lecture in 1972, where he advocated electric shock aversion therapy to supposedly ‘cure’ homosexuality.

The following year, in East Berlin, I was arrested and interrogated by the secret police - the Stasi - after staging the first gay rights protest in a communist country.

I have continued in the same vein for four decades, with many controversial protests: such as taking over the pulpit and condemning the Archbishop of Canterbury on Easer Sunday 1998, two attempted citizen’s arrests of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, confronting Mike Tyson over his homophobia, and outing 10 Church of England Bishops in 1994.

The bishops were outed, not because they were gay but because they were hypocrites. They colluded with the church’s anti-gay stance in public but were gay in private. They were outed because of their homophobia and hypocrisy, not because of their homosexuality.

I was widely criticised at the time. Critics said I had no real evidence that the bishops were gay. Not true. I had the evidence. I was gratified some years later when a doctor approached me to confirm that he knew one of the bishops was definitely gay. He told me that the unnamed bishop was a patient and once came to his surgery with a rectal problem. The doctor asked the bishop to show him where the problem was. Dropping his trousers and pointing to his bottom the bishop said: “It’s here, just by the entrance.” To which the doctorreplied: “Excuse me bishop, most us call it the exit.”

Looking back on my 43 years of human rights campaigning, my advice, for what it’s worth, is this:

Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. Do not conform and don’t be ordinary.

Remember, all human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy, tradition and rich, powerful, vested interests.

Be daring, show imagination, take risks.

Fight against the greatest human rights violation of all: free market capitalism, which has created a world divided into rich and poor, where hundreds of millions of people are malnourished, homeless, without clean drinking water and dying from hunger and preventable diseases.

Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen.

In whatever field of endeavour you work, be a change-maker for the upliftment of humanity.

To quote my fellow sodomite and socialist Oscar Wilde:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”


Friday, 23 July 2010

Peter Tatchell receives honorary doctorate and confronts evil

Congratulations today to Peter Tatchell who richly deserves this honorary doctorate. And yesterday, just to show why he deserves it, Peter is seen confronting Nick Griffin - the personification of evil in British politics.

Peter Tatchell to receive Honarary Doctorate at Sussex University

In a ceremony at the Brighton Dome, today at 330pm, Peter Tatchell will receive an Hon D.Litt (Sussex), for his services to human rights, from the Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar.

Green Party Leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas commented:

"We are incredibly proud of the work which Peter continues to bring in human rights and that he is a member of the Green Party. Whether it is his advocacy on behalf of LGBT asylum seekers or his ongoing campaign for gay marriage, we are thrilled that the staff and students of the University of Sussex have decided to thank him in this way. Peter is truly one of our greatest LGBT heroes."

Councillor Amy Kennedy, Alumna of Sussex University, and a Green Party councillor in Brighton added:

"Peter brings invaluable work to often overlooked areas of human rights: the citizens of our city, our country and our world are indebted to him for his work. We celebrate with him for an award which I am proud to say has come from my alma mater."

Phelim Mac Cafferty, National Chair of LGBT Greens concluded:

"This honorary doctorate recognises Peter's ongoing, tireless work of over 4 decades. It is only apt in the same year in which we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front that Peter receives this award- whether it his staunch defence of the rights of LGBT people abroad or his ongoing investigative work to deliver fairness on our own shores- his work continues to inspire all of us to fight for a better world."

Commenting on his Honorary Doctorate, Mr Tatchell said:

"I was hesitant about accepting this honour. After all, my contribution to human rights is very modest. I am a long way from being a brave and effective campaigner. Many others are much more deserving than me. I would never agree to a royal honour but this award is different.

"My decision to accept was partly because the initiative for this honorary doctorate was a grassroots one, from the staff and students. I am honoured by their recognition of my human rights work.

"I accept this award in solidarity with the many heroic, inspirational activists who I support in countries like Uganda, Somaliland, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Baluchistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and West Papua.

"The message which I will deliver in my acceptance speech is this: Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. All human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy, tradition and powerful, vested interests. Don't accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be - then help make it happen. In whatever field of endeavour you work, be a change-maker for the upliftment of humanity.

"I do my bit for social justice, but so do many others. Together, through our collective efforts, we are helping make a better world - a world more just and free.

"I began campaigning in my home town of Melbourne, Australia , in 1967, aged 15, with my first campaign being against the death penalty, followed by campaigns in support of Aboriginal rights and in opposition to conscription and the Australian and US war against the people of Vietnam.

"My key political inspirations are Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X. I've adapted many of their ideas and methods to the contemporary struggle for human rights - and invented a few of my own.


Peter will have his Honorary Doctorate conferred on him on Friday 23rd July, at a ceremony at Brighton Dome 3:30PM

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Blood Sacrifice

Seamus Milne cuts through the flannel to demonstrate the sheer nihilistic arrogance of the UK politicians who are sending more and more young men out to die for "the blood sacrifice".

"Back" (Wilfred Gibson)

They ask me where I've been,

And what I've done and seen.

But what can I reply

Who know it wasn't I,

But someone just like me,

Who went across the sea

And with my head and hands

Killed men in foreign lands...

Though I must bear the blame,

Because he bore my name.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Crown Prosecution Service Report into Ian Tomlinson's Death Tomorrow



Tomorrow, Thursday 22 July, on the fifth anniversary of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station, we expect to hear the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report into the death of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller killed in the City of London as he tried to make his way home past the police during the G20 protests on 1 April 2009.

If a police officer is charged with manslaughter it will be the first time this has ever happened in Britain, despite over 1,000 people dying in police custody since the late 1960s. This should be seen as a step forward for those campaigning for justice.

But if it is a whitewash we don’t want them to get away with it. No matter how much they talk about a new era of policing and enshrining the right to protest, the establishment will once again have allowed police officers to kill an innocent man.

We want as many people to gather as possible to either celebrate a victory or step up our campaign for justice.

Gather at 1pm outside New Scotland Yard, 8-10 Broadway, Westminster, London SW1H 0BG.

This is short notice! Spread this message far and wide: phone, email, text, Tweet, Facebook, chalk on the pavements and bring your friends!


The Third Man

Lovely story about Mandelson and the Hay on Wye Literary Festival from London Evening Standard below. Rather apt I think.

Mandy may be a Hay fan but is the feeling mutual?

When Peter Mandelson went to sign copies of his memoir, The Third Man, in Hatchards, Piccadilly, he met Robin Saikia, leading travel writer for the upmarket Blue Guides.

Saikia exchanged books with Mandelson, presenting him with a copy of his own book, Blue Guide to Hay-on-Wye, a rollicking account of the town, its bookdealers and the Hay Festival.

“How wonderful,” said Mandelson, “I’ve always wanted to go back there.”

Perhaps he may think twice in the wake of Hay Festival organiser Peter Florence’s comments on Facebook. Florence said: “Has anyone pointed out to Peter Mandelson that The Third Man [film] is the story of a morally repugnant fraud who is prepared to sell out his lover and his oldest friend for his own personal gain, and who dies in a sewer?”

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Social engineering in London

Last night I attended the London Federation of Green Parties meeting representing Lambeth but also as a member of the party's national Regional Council and reported back on the Regional Council's meeting in Bristol several weeks ago as well as a written report on what was happening in Lambeth - including our recent stall at the Lambeth Country show where I was an hour or two on the stall on Sunday afternoon.

Our two Assmbly Members were present and I referred to the very effective questioning of Boris Johnson which I saw on the London version of the Politics Show on Sunday.

As I said last night, Johnson was 'gutted like a kipper' by the journalist and resorted to blustering and puffing a la outraged Tory squire when he could not answer some of the questions. One of the most pertinent questions was what would happen to the 10,500 households which would not be able to live in inner London because of the new cap being placed on housing benefits, and who would have to move to outer London boroughs. Johnson said that he recognised that this was a particular problem for London because of the high rents and housing costs and was negotiating with the government on this. When the journalist retorted that the government had made clear that there would be no special case made for London and what was his Plan B, Boris could only continue saying "We are negotiating with the government", to which the journalist replied: "So you have no Plan B then?" This just about sums it up.

I have no doubt that the government plan will go ahead and, as I said at last night's meeting, the biggest piece of social engineering in London since Dame Shirley Porter's attempt to remove the council flat dwellers from Westminster, will become reality. I have no doubt that this is a deliberate Tory plan to remove the poor and those considered Labour voters from the inner London boroughs, while also forcing thousands into cramped spaces in outer London.

There is also the issue of the resulting pressure on services in the outer boroughs, as the journalist mentioned to Boris, and how this will impact in areas such as Barking & Dagenham. It will be manna from heaven for the BNP. Greens in London and in the London Assembly must continue to fight against this form of 'internal exile' and force Boris to be much more critical of his own government's actions on this. A friend of mine who works with the Homeless Unit in Kensington and Chelsea and whose ex-partner is bipolar and depends on Housing Benefit has told me that the whole system will be a disaster and result in real suffering among some of the most vulnerable people in this city.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Rwandan protest and the Global Greens

Our International Coordinator has already been writing a protest about this and both the Global Greens and the European Green Party have issued press releases condemning it. Caroline Lucas has also sent a message of protest to the Commonwealth, together with Senator Bob Brown from Australia, Russell Norman , leader of the New Zealand Greens.

Yesterday we had a meeting of the international committee where we discussed the Global Greens.

One of the issues we discussed  is that for the first time an African Green Party (the Senegalese) is proposing to host the Global Greens conference in 2012. This is an important development as previous conferences have been in Europe or Australia and last time around in South America. Many African parties are very small and trying to operate in very hostile environments.

I asked that our party be more involved in the GG conference this time. Last time in Brazil, 2008, while I was International Coordinator, we only sent one delegate and I set up facilities in London to watch the live streaming of the conference, which was mainly funded by the GPEW MEPs. Unfortunately very few people availed of it, partly because it was just after the London Assembly elections. The next conference will also be just after the London elections but I am hoping that more people in the UK will take an interest in it this time and also that the live webstreaming will be set up at an earlier date as the last time around the information was a bit last minute. Unfortunately the technology was not interactive which meant that we could only watch proceedings but not participate. 

For more info on the Global Greens see their website.

The meeting yesterday was the last of the current international committee and a new one will be elected at conference. I will be standing again as one of those who has been most active in the international affairs of the party and I am hoping that the new committee will take on board the issue of how GPEW can be more involved with the Global Greens and the 2012 conference. It is imporant to recognise that we are part of a global movement and to participate more fully in that movement.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Patients Forum London Ambulance Service AGM - New Chair and Recommendations

On Monday night we had the AGM of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, the largest patient and public involvement body in the country. I was elected as the new Chair of the Forum succeeding the well known health activist, Malcolm Alexander, who became the Vice Chair.

As guest speaker we had the Chair of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Forum made a number of important recommendations in our Annual Report which was presented at the meeting. They are:

  1. Equal access and choice of services and treatment. LAS services should be fully accessible and available to all. Neither physical nor mental disability, health problems, language nor any aspect of a person's social, ethnic or cultural being, should reduce access to services.
  2. Clinical partnership with other care services. The LAS should actively work with hospital A&E departments and other healthcare organisations to jointly improve care and care pathwas for patients.
  3. Training of paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians. The LAS should ensure that all paramedics and emergency medical technicians have access to all appropriate training and ensure their development as the most effective practiitioners.
  4. Alternative ways of providing emergency and urgent health care. New ways for the LAS to provide urgent care through NHS Direct and community based services are welcome. However, these new pathways must be robust enough to give confidence to the public and LAS crew that they will be available when required, clinically appropriate, fully funded and subject to regular clinical audit and tests of reliable and continuous access.
  5. Non-emergency care. The LAS should introduce maximum waits for patients who need help, e.g. older people who have fallen but may not need an emergency or urgent care service.
  6. Mental Health Services. Significant improvements are needed to ensure that people with severe mental health problems that become ill in the street or in their homes and require emergency care, are treated by paramedics and emergency medical technicians who have specialist training in the care of people with mental health problems.
  7. Patient Transport Services. The LAS should actively support the Patients Forum Quality Standards for PTS. These promote highly effective patient transport services, which are built around dignity, the needs of users and their active involvement in the monitoring, assessment and development of the service.
The Forum will be busy over the next year especially with the new proposed changes (yet again) to the NHS in London and the prospect of the LAS becoming a Foundation Trust next spring.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Afghanistan - Time to go!

Interview with Joe Glenton after his release from prison on Monday for refusing to serve in Afghanistan and speaking out at the Stop the War coalition protest several months ago. Joe is speaking at a public event on July 26th with Caroline Lucas MP - details below.


7pm, Monday, 26th July

Conway Hall

25 Red Lion Square

London, WC1R 4RL

Joe Glenton, jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, speaks out againstthe war alongside another ex-soldier. With Caroline Lucas and other MP's.

More speakers TBA.

The war in Afghanistan is in crisis. The strategy is crumbling, with Obama's sacking of General McChrystal and an increasingly corrupt Karzai government.

The violence is intensifying with No clear goals and even fewer results. ThousandS of Afghan civilians are dying every year and very little rebuilding is being done. Despite the 77% of people being opposed to Britain's involvement in Afghanistan, this government continues to send troops to kill and die in a war that is being lost.

This war is wrong, this war has failed and it's Time To Go

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gaza protesters - Justice at last?

This morning I was present outside the Courts of Justice in the Strand, together with Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesters, as well as Green Left comrades to support the hearing seeking to overturn the draconian sentences handed out to those young (mainly Muslim) demonstrators who protested outside the Israeli embassy in January last year against the Israeli attack on Gaza. It is widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice that they have been handed jail sentences of several years as a 'deterrent to others' for taking part in a demonstration and is seen as a blatant attempt to criminalise and silence the Muslim community.

Last night Channel 4 showed a programme which demonstrated that far from attacking the police, as was claimed, many of those arrested were in fact attacked by the police.

The result of the appeal is expected tonight and hopefully many of these sentences will be overturned and the young people returned to their families. It is also expected that if these appeals succeed that the other cases planned will also collapse. Further information here

As an Irish person I recognise the similarity with the attempt to criminalise the Irish community in the 70s and 80s and regard this as a really serious miscarriage of justice.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Irish politician's holiday

“Polling numbers presage a possible complete wipe-out of the Green Party and a cull of Fianna Fáil TDs of such magnitude as has never been previously imagined possible.”

An end of term report on the state of Irish politics. Interesting that despite having one of the highest deficits in the EU and massive cuts to salaries, welfare etc, the Irish parliament still has one of the shortest sitting terms in the world. The TDs and Senators are about to head off for 3 months leaving the Executive to its role of planning further cuts. Everyone else in the country has to face lower salaries (15% cut in the state sector) and higher productivity. The coalition can maintain its contract until the general election due in two years time. In order to avoid that eventuality as long as possible, the government has refused three parliamentary by elections, leaving some constituencies with no representation for the last year.

The words of Grattan on the Irish parliament of the 18th century spring to mind when he warned of the excessive powers of the Executive: "And these walls, where once the public weal contended and the patriot strove, will resemble the ruin of some Italian temple, and abound not with senators, but with animals of prey, in the guise of senators, chattering their pert debates, and disgracing those seats which once belonged to the people." (Corruption by Government. February 1st, 1790)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Anti-war news

Two important events coming up organised by Stop the War Coalition and the anti-war movement. I will be going to the protest at the Court of Appeal but want to take this opportunity of saluting the courage of soldier Joe Glenton. Never has it been more necessary to speak out against the war in Afghanistan.


Soldier Joe Glenton, who was court martialled and imprisoned for

refusing to fight in Afghanistan, will be released from military

jail in Colchester on Monday 12 July and Stop the War supporters

will be there to welcome him.

As well as refusing to return to fight a war he regarded as

unjustified and unwinnable, Joe courageously spoke out publicly,

giving his reasons at Stop the War demonstrations and meetings.


* Joe delivers a letter to then prime minister Gordon Brown: why

I won't return to Afghanistan:

* Joe speaks out at Stop the War's Bring the Troops home

demonstration on 24 October 2010:

If you live in the London area and would like to join us when we

welcome Joe on his release, contact the Stop the War office for

transport arrangements: Tel: 020 7801 2768







Over 100 people were arrested last year after demonstrating

against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Seventy-eight were charged

with violent disorder, and many were given deterrent sentences of

up to two and a half years for as little as throwing a plastic

bottle. Almost all of those charged are very young and from

Muslim backgrounds. (SEE )

Ten protestors will appeal against their sentences on Tuesday 13

July. If successful, the appeals will impact on all current and

any future cases where the courts try to pass deterrent


A picket has been called at the appeal court at 9am, calling for

the release of all those imprisoned, the dropping of any further

charges, an end to the intimidation of the Muslim community and

in defence of the right to protest.





Tuesday, 6 July 2010

An international tribunal for environmental offences?

While the world's attention has been focused on the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico something similar has been going on in the Niger Delta in Nigeria for years without anything being done about it. US and European oil companies are destroying the landscape through oil pollution with fires burning day and night. But then this is only Africa so who cares? This report from French broadcaster France 24 gives an impression of what is happening.

The Nigerian environmental activist interviewed calls for an international tribunal for environmental offences? I think this is a really good idea and long overdue. When one saw the arrogant insouciance of the Chief Executive of BP recently in front of the powerful US Senate hearings, one wonders how he and his ilk would react to calls from African governments and environmental organisations to appear and give evidence. Probably would not even bother to reply. The oil companies need to be brought down to size and the international community needs to act firmly. This is one area where the EU could also act against the actions of its own oil companies and what they are doing in the Niger Delta.

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It's that time of year again, when Total Politics asks you to vote for your Top 10 favourite blogs. This is the fifth year of the poll. The votes will be compiled and included in the forthcoming book, the Total Politics Guide to Blogging 2010-11, which will be published in September. For the second year running, the poll is being promoted/sponsored by LabourList and LibDemVoice as well as Total Politics, and that of their publisher, Iain Dale. I hope that many of my readers will take part. Rules etc are below. Happy voting!

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2010

Friday, 2 July 2010

The War in Afghanistan - Caroline Lucas and Steve Bell

Caroline Lucas speaks out against the war in Afghanistan and Trident at the joint event organised by Stop the War Coalition and CND on Wednesday night in London.

Unfortunately as the Green Party's recently re-elected delegate to the Stop the War Coalition I was unable to attend last Saturday's Steering Committee meeting as I was in Bristol, but here is a report on the war in Afghanistan which was presented at that meeting.

The following was given as a report to Stop the War Steering Committee on Saturday 26th June 2010, by Steve Bell.

This week we registered a new stage of crisis for the NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

The dismissal of General McChrystal by President Obama is not a case of personal animosity, or of military arrogance towards civilians, although these factors undoubtedly are present. At the heart of the incident is a conflict of policy.

Last year, at the time of Obama’s review of US strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal suggested that there should be an immediate deployment of 40,000 of troops, and a further 40,000 after that. The assumption was that an extended occupation was necessary. This was in line with the views of Senator General John McCain, who had spoken of an occupation that could last a 100 years.

In response, Obama agreed a surge of 30,000 additional troops. But in a concession to domestic concerns, Obama stated that by July 2011 a process of withdrawal would commence.

In practice then, McChrystal has been carrying out a policy that he did not agree with. But the implementation of the Obama policy was by a plan jointly drawn up by McChrystal, and his replacement, General Petraeus.

In his West Point speech in December 2009, Obama outlined the 3 themes which made up the new US strategy: “…..a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that re-enforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan”.

Six months on, all three elements seem to be failing. The military effort involved a combination of counter insurgency with the “Afghanisation” of security by a massive build up of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

The counter insurgency operation had its first big test in Operation Moshtarak where the aim was to inflict a defeat on the Taliban in the area around Marjah. Despite the deployment of 15,000 NATO troops and five brigades of Afghan forces, no effective engagement was achieved with the Taliban.

A spokesman for the Taliban said: “We have withdrawn tactically from some areas. We never flee”. TheTaliban claimed minimum causalities, despite the strength of the deployment against them.

Counter insurgency theory suggests that one solider is necessary for every 50 civilans in an area of operation. The area of operations in Marjah had a population of around 30,000. This operation involved a ratio of one solider for every two civillans, and was still ineffective.

McChrystal had notoriously claimed that after a military victory in Marjah, he had a replacement local government “in the box” which could be established to counter a return of the Taliban.

Three months after victory has been declared, the Taliban remains active in the area; McChrystal has characterised Marjah as “a bleeding ulcer”; and a stable local government remains “in the box”.

Nor has the process of the “Afghanisation” of security registered any success. The ANP is known to be corrupt and demoralised. McChrystal stated that only 25% had received any basic training.

However, the army was supposedly a more effective organisation. Yet on June 14th 2010, a Time Magazine report found:

“9 out of 10 Afghan enlisted recruits can’t read a rifle instruction manual or drive a car, according to NATO trainers. The officers corps is fractured by rivalries; Soviet-era veterans vs. the former mujahedin rebels who fought them in the 1980s, Tajiks vs. Uzbeks, Hazaras and Pashtuns. Commanders routinely steal their enlisted men’s salaries. Soldiers shake down civilians at road checkpoints and sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar – sometimes to the Taliban. Afghans, not surprisingly, run when they see the army coming.

Recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in service are blitzed on hashish or heroin according to an internal survey carried out by the Afghan National Army(ANA). One NATO major from Latvia stationed in the north, complained to a Time video team that when a battalion’s combat tour was extended, three Afghan officers shot themselves in the foot to get medevacked out.”

At the time when no military progress is being made, there can be no reinforcement via a “civilian surge”. There have been no increase in NGO or NATO reconstruction on the ground. One anecdote best illustrates this. All the tabloid and broad sheet newspapers in Britain, extensively covered the operation by the British Army to deliver a turbine to the Kajaki dam which would mean, we were told, the people of Kandahar receiving hydro electric power.

In its June 26th issue, months after the operation, the Economist reports: “Alas the turbine dispatched for this purpose, in an operation involving 5,000 British troops, still lays in the Kajaki dirt, the Taliban having made it impossible to truck in cement to install it”.

And the third theme, the greater involvement of the Pakistan Government, and military, has not led to the border becoming more secure. Despite intense pressure from the US, the Pakistan military has not launched a major offensive in North Waziristan.

But there are many signs of Pakistan assuming a greater influence, independently of the US Government. A spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Major General Athar Abbas said “The American time table for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role”.

Indeed this assertiveness runs to the Pakistan Army outlining a policy which is decidedly out of line with US policy. A policy of negotiating peace with the insurgents is being actively pursued by the Pakistan Army.

In three trips to Kabul, Afghan officials have confirmed, that Pakistan Army General Kayani and General Pasha had offered to broker a peace deal involving the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani fighting force. This is not what Obama had anticipated.

Can we expect a difference approach from Petraeus? Although he drew up the current plan with McChrystal, Petraeus is a position to move away from Obama’s compromise.

Of immediate concern must be that Petraeus may set aside McChrystal’s policy of “courageous restraint”. This placed limits upon NATO utilising night raids, bombing and pursuit into populated areas and villages.

Although the number of civilian causalities reached its highest point in 2009, this is down to the general increase in fighting. If Petraeus sets the policy aside, the first change that will be registered will be a further escalation in civilian causalities.

Petraeus has not ruled out an increase in troop numbers. McCain recently suggested a further 10,000 US troops may be necessary. All surge troops will be in Afghanistan by summer, amounting to 105,000 US troops and 48,000 from NATO allies. So additional troops will be on top of these numbers.

Petraeus is probably of the view that an extended occupation is necessary. When asked this week whether he supported the July 2011 drawdown date, he offered a “qualified yes”. Obviously he could not blatantly contradict Government policy, but the qualification did so implicitly.

Obama himself is moving away from his previous policy. On June 24th, when questioned about the deadline, he said: “we didn’t say we would be switching off the lights. We said we would begin a transition phrase that would allow the Afghan Government to take more and more responsibility”.

This wriggle away from the commitment runs counter to government policy. Vice President Jo Biden gave a recent interview where he said: “….in July of 2011 you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it”.

Obama and Petraeus had indicated that there would be a “strategic assessment” of policy in December 2010. In the meantime the crisis deepens. June 2010 was the deadliest month since the war began for NATO troops, 79 killed so far, in comparison to the previous record of 77 in August 2009.

There have also been serious set backs for Obama with the Afghan political process. The clearest expression of this is the weakened connection to the Afghan Government.

In April, within the space of a week, President Karzai met twice with President Ahmadinejad- of Iran – and once with representatives of the Chinese Government. This prompted an unscheduled flight by Obama to Kabul to meet Karzai. Iran and China are the two border states to Afghanistan that the US administration believes have no role in its future.

Karzai has also publicly claimed that the US tried to fix the presidential elections in 2009; claimed that the US fired rockets at his Peace Conference; said he might end up joining the Taliban; sacked the two most pro-US Ministers, intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar. These Ministers have been vocal in their public opposition to the Iranian and Pakistani Governments influence.

Karzai also lobbied Obama to retain McChrystal, presumably because he feared the loss of the “courageous restraint” policy.

In this growing assertiveness of Karzai and the Pakistan Government, we can see, albeit in a highly mediated manner, the strengthening of anti-imperialist forces in the region.

But if we are entering a new stage of crisis, there is no automatic resolution. The current issue of the Economist is titled “Losing Afghanistan”, this does not mean Afghanistan is yet lost for the occupiers. But it does mean that the anti-war movement must considerably step up its activity in Britain and the US.

There is the sense of growing disengagement internationally. The Netherlands Government are withdrawing their troops in August. The Canadian Government is committed to withdrawing combat troops by next summer. On Thursday 24th June, the acting President, and likely victor in Poland’s Presidential Election, Bronislaw Komorowski, asked the Polish Government to prepare for a Polish withdrawal by 2012. In all cases the US administration is seeking a reversal of policy.

In Britain, the election of the Coalition Government has brought out more in the open some tension about the future of the intervention.

From the point of view of the Coalition, there is a hole of £36 billion in the defence budget in the next decade. This in itself is a prompt for examining an intervention in Afghanistan which is running at around £5 billion a year.

But the Conservatives have always had a more pragmatic and business like attitude to colonial wars. This comes from the hundreds of years of accumulated experience of colonialism which exists in the Tory party. Labour politicians are much more concerned about ridiculous issues like being seen as unpatriotic, or weak on defence.

Consequently, the last couple of months have seen the first signs of real disquiet in Government. At the end of May, The Independent on Sunday quoted “senior military sources” as saying that talks were underway with US Commanders on scaling down the British commitment to war.

On the 9th May, the Times published the conclusions of an investigation with senior military figures, politicians and civil servants on the move of British troops to the south of Afghanistan in 2006.

The report said that the MOD and Whitehall departments had grossly under-estimated the threat from the Taliban. Warnings of inadequate troop numbers had also been ignored.

The original move was to send 3,300 troops to Helmand for 3 years and at a cost of a billion pounds. John Reid famously said, from military opinion given, that they would be able to leave: “without a shot being fired”. Four years later there are 8,000 British troops in place, along side 20,000 US Marines, with hundreds of causalities.

This sense of disquiet exists amongst Tory MP’s. Last year, Adam Holloway MP, in a report, wrote of an “ill conceived mission” and that “attempts to impose a central Government…..are over ambitious and likely to fail”.

Recently, Patrick Mercer MP said that it is “unsustainable for this number of troops to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan for an indefinite period”. This is true of course, but also is an admission of British Special Forces operating inside Pakistan.

Julian Lewis MP a former Shadow Defence Secretary, has spoken of “…..pointless patrols creating target practice for the Taliban”.

It is clear this disquiet is having an impact upon the Coalition Government too. In early June, Cameron held a strategy review. He has since ruled out increasing the number of British troops – a statement of inflexibility which reeks of concern about the future.

Cameron has also indicated that withdrawal from next year may be possible, in line with Obama’s initial policy. Cameron stated that Britain “cannot be there in 5 years times”, further reinforcing the impression of disquiet about the future.

The most obvious expression of policy tension in the Government came on a trip to Kabul by Ministers. Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary said “we are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education of a broken 13th century country. We are there to see our global interests are not threatened”.

This clearly came as news to Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, who said at the same time “….providing basic education and health care facilities was crucial”.

The lack of coherence in the coalition Government is likely to become more pronounced as the crisis of the occupation becomes more apparent.

The Parliamentary Labour Party continues to lag behind the deepening crisis. Some on the right of the party, such as Eric Joyce MP and Denis MacShane MP, have realised how hopeless the intervention now is. But, of the potential leaders of the party, it is only Diane Abbott who has clearly called for withdrawal.

Yet the anti war movement must be aware of how vital it is to increase its activity. Parliament is full of new MPs, many of whom can be placed under real pressure by organised lobbying.

In the coming weeks, facing a potential offensive in Kandahar, and perhaps a more aggressive pursuit of military goals, the anti war movement is necessary now more than ever.