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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

End of Year Greetings from the European Green Capital of 2012

I am leaving today to spend the Xmas and New Year period with my partner and his family in the European Green Capital of 2012, Vitoria Gasteiz in the Basque Country of northern Spain. It is a very beautiful old city with a mediaeval core and a cathedral which is gradually being restored. Vitoria is also the capital of the autonomous Basque region and the Basque parliament is based there. I intend to enjoy some peace and quiet there and sample the very pleasant cuisine of the Basque Country along with its wonderful Rioja wine and to see family and friends whom I have not seen for over a year.

I have been very tired of late with a great deal of activity in the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, Coalition of Resistance as well as my activities in the Green Party and Green Left. I really need a rest and this is the opportunity to recharge my batteries. I have a strong feeling that 2011 is going to be a year of real political challenge and conflict and the signs from the recorded interviews with the Lib Dem ministers are already there. It will also be very challenging for many, including the voluntary sector where I work, and there is the distinct possibility that many of us will lose our jobs in the coming months.

I have sent my ecards and packed my bags and now is an opportunity to draw breath. I wish all of my friends and readers a happy holiday and normal service will be resumed next year. We will all need a great deal of energy for the year ahead.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Green Left calls for united Left support for Peter Allen in the Oldham and Saddleworth by election

Green Left has issued a statement supporting the campaign of Peter Allen, Green Party parliamentary candidate in the Oldham and Saddleworth by election. Peter is standing against the odious Nick Griffin and the three neo liberal parties in a by election campaign which is likely to gain national publicity both because it will be seen as the first electoral test of the Coalition government as well as the circumstances which led to the election being called in the first place - Phil Woolas's dirty tricks campaign. I know Peter well and think that he is both an excellent campaigner for the rights of many of the most marginalised in society as well as being deeply opposed to war and racism. I wish him well.

The Irish Crisis and Wikileaks the Movie

As a native Dubliner I have been following the disastrous story of what has been happening in Ireland throughout this year. Conversations with friends and family have confirmed that the country is now in a terrible state with unemployment growing, together with emigration and profound disillusionment with the discredited and corrupt Irish government. In this piece from the New Left Project blog Dr Nat O'Connor from a major Irish think thank gives his views on what went wrong in Ireland and how it can be addressed. With a general election in the Irish Republic imminent I am sure that we will be hearing a lot more about this in the next few months. Opinion polls already indicate that the ruling Fianna Fail and Green parties will be decimated and that there will be a firm swing to the Left towards both Sinn Fein and the Irish Labour Party, although a coalition government with the conservative Fine Gael party remains the most likely outcome.

Last week I spoke outside Horseferry Magistrates Court, together with Peter Tatchell, where Julian Assange the founder of Wikileaks was applying for bail. This film from STV (Swedish state television) is a fascinating insight into Wikileaks and how it operates. The accounts which Wikileaks has released have been fascinating and have clearly upset the US and many of its allies. They have given a real insight into the operations of foreign policy and international diplomacy and what the Great Powers really think as opposed to what their controlled media tells us. The battle of Assange will really give us an indication of what is happening behind the scenes and I am convinced that the CIA and others will make a real attempt to silence him for good. Meanwhile the information being released needs to be digested and carefully considered. As far as I am concerned the more information we have about what is supposedly being done in our name the better.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The 12 days of Cripmas - A song for our times

It is important not to forget the many disabled people being attacked by the policies of this Scrooge like government. So it is rather appropriate that this brilliant version of the 12 Days of Xmas, entitled 'The 12 Days of Cripmas' has come out now in time for the festive season. What would Tiny Tim think and would not Dickens have been scathing of this government's utter disregard for the disabled? The ending of the song sums up the views of many disabled people towards this most heartless of regimes.


Letters to the Evening Standard and the Guardian

I am not altogether surprised that Ian Dale has retired from blogging as the time is not always easy to find. In the last week I have chaired a meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, attended a Board meeting of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, been speaking outside the Julian Assange bail application hearing at the magistrates court, been at a steering committee meeting of Coalition of Resistance, been interviewed for a new Left blog and done several days work along with attending a string of Xmas dinners and parties. In the meanwhile I managed to put my name to two letters, one on the NHS in the Evening Standard and the other in the Guardian on the cuts. The first was published last Wednesday and the second has gone in today.

Dear Editor, It is shameful that the British Medical Association (BMA) long regarded as a champion of the NHS has decided to cooperate with government plans to radically transform the NHS from a publicly run to a privately run health service. The catastrophic abandonment of the basic principles of the NHS may serve the interests of doctors, but does nothing for patients, the real funders of the NHS.

Most GP practices are small businesses contracted by Primary Care Trusts to provide primary healthcare to the whole population. The government's White Papers on health proposes the NHS budget (our money) is handed over to these businesses to spend on our behalf. This money will pay for nearly all NHS services. This is likely to cause chaos for many years, especially for pan-London services like the London Ambulance Service.

When the BMA say they oppose privatisation, they mean they oppose the take over of small GP businesses by multinational healthcare companies. This is a battle of business models, in which the public will have no discernible voice.

The government and the BMA are colluding to leave the “NHS” as nothing more than a logo or brand with our money disappearing into new GPs consortia and our hospitals to become Foundation Trusts and removed from NHS balance sheet.

Is this what the Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health meant by his now famous and clearly fraudulent statement: Nothing about us without us?

Joseph Healy, Chair, Patients Forum, Ambulance Services, London

Malcolm Alexander, Vice Chair



________________________________________



Dear Guardian letters


Len McCluskey calls for a "broad strike movement" to stop the coalition's "explicitly ideological" programme of cuts. (‘Unions Warn of Massive Wave of Strikes’, Guardian 19 December 2010) This will happen. Government cuts are decimating education, welfare, health, sports and the arts. We are told that they are as inevitable as the rain; that the only choice we have is between music classes for our kids or care for our elderly. We need both and do not accept that jobs, services and the quality of life have to be jettisoned for the greed of those who are asked to sacrifice nothing. Cutbacks in the arts mean that access will be limited to those who have the money to pay while many who work in the arts will lose their jobs. The closing of public libraries is the most obvious example. They are where literature, art and culture are available to everyone without charge. Some authorities are already selling them off, others are offering them to the ‘consumer’ on the principle of ‘if you want them buy them’. Massive increases in education fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance are part of the same philosophy. Everything that is not immediately of use to the corporate agenda is to be placed on a ‘pay as you go’ principle. Meanwhile funding for theatre, film, music, dance and other arts projects is to return to the Victorian notion of finding patrons, drawn from the people and corporations who have their own agendas of how to define the arts. In the face of those who choose to exercise their power to destroy, we need to create. We urge all those who work in the arts to join us at 'Artists of the Resistance' in opposing the cuts.



Iain Banks, writer

Andy de la Tour, actor

AL Kennedy, writer

Roger Lloyd Pack, actor

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Susie Meszaros, musician

Michael Rosen, author and poet

Martin Rowson, cartoonist

Janet Suzman, actor

Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright

Shaun Askew, animator

Shabina Aslam, theatre director

Anne Aylor, writer & ballet teacher

Jordan Baseman, video artist

Elizabeth Beech, artistic director,The Phoenix Project

Maria Birmingham, animator

Cecily Bomberg, writer

Sean Bonney, poet

Phil Branston

Stephen Carley, AV artist

Florence Curtis

Karl Benjamin Frankson, artist

Jill Gibbon, artist

Marilyn Halpin

Joseph Hely, disability worker

Simone Hodgson

Camilla Howalt, artist

Angela Jane Kennedy, artist

Fin Kennedy, playwright

Ol'ga Kretz, film-maker

Lucy Lepchani, writer & poet

Fiona MacDonald, opera singer

Mel McCree

Carol Mottershead, dancer

Jane Park

Romayne Phoenix, visual artist

Konstantina Ritsou-Zavolia, author & director

Dee Shaw

Patricia Shrigley, video artist

Patrick Simons, artist

Patrick Snape

Ron Stagg, Museum Association

Rebecca Thorn, musician

Geoff Tibbs

Charlotte Turton, artist

Elizia Volkmann, writer and artist

Michael Walling, artistic director, Border Crossings

Joanne Walker, CoR Tyne & Wear

Debra Watson

David Wilson, publisher

Tom Wood

Jan Woolf, writer





Artists of the Resistance

c/o Coalition of Resistance

Housmans Bookshop

5 Caledonian Road

City of London N1 9DX

T: 07951 579 064

www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk

Monday, 13 December 2010

Patient Transport Services in South East London in meltdown?

The following communication has been sent to the South London NHS Trust re Patient Transport services in the area of the Trust. We have been in touch with the GMB union regarding the transfer of PTS drivers from London Ambulance Service to Savoy. Originally 70 staff were to be transferred under TUPE from LAS to Savoy but this is now down to 28. There have been threats of legal proceedings from the GMB over the contract and the way that LAS staff were being treated by Savoy. Savoy have appeared in several articles in Private Eye magazine and are regarded as decidedly ‘dodgy’ both in terms of their finances and their industrial relations.


We are now hearing via the GMB that the contract, which commenced on Dec 1st, is leading to a ‘meltdown’ in the provision of patient transport in the South London Trust area and that Savoy have been called in for emergency talks re non-compliance. It is clear that the contract was awarded on costs issues alone and I have raised the issue at several LAS Trust Board meetings, where the LAS recognise the situation but cannot do anything as a commercial competitor for the contract. However, the Patients Forum can, and are working with the trade union to try and get a better and safe service delivered for the patients in South East London.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust is the product of the merger of three smaller hospital trusts - Queen Mary's Sidcup NHS Trust (QMS), Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust (QEH) and Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust (BHT) - to create a single hospital on several sites.

In the recent Dr Foster Report – South London NHS Trust received one of the lowest grades for performance across several areas. This will be discussed at tonight's LAS Patients Forum meeting at the LAS HQ in Waterloo Road from 5.30pm to 7.30pm which is open to the public. I will be chairing the meeting.


PATIENTS’ FORUM


AMBULANCE SERVICES (London)



Mr Chris Streather, Chief Executive,
South London Healthcare NHS Trust,
Frognal Avenue,Sidcup, Kent, DA14 6LT



December 11th 2010


Dear Mr Streather, I am writing on behalf of the Patients' Forum to express concerns about your contract with Savoy Ventures for PTS for your patients. There has been a great deal of press activity and many concerns from patients about the clinical and patient safety of service provided by Savoy and concerns about their financial viability. Could you please let me have your assurance that you are satisfied with the clinical safety of services provided by Savoy and your assurance that services are safe for patients in respect of both the vehicles and staff training. Can you also assure me that you are satisfied that the company is financially viable and that there is not risk of its collapse leading to major disruption of patients services. Can you also give me your assurance that Savoy vehicles are safe for users of wheelchairs (including electric wheelchairs) and send me a copy of the Savoy patient safety protocols for wheel chair users.



Your sincerely, Malcolm Alexander, Vice Chair, Patients Forum, 30 Portland Rise, N4 2PP

Student Press Conference on police behaviour at demos

Here is a video of a press conference held on Friday by a number of student leaders and academics about the police violence which occurred on last Thursday's demo. Following a report of the seriously injured student Alfie Meadows being refused hospital treatment at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital on Thursday, and the intervention of a London Ambulance Service driver who persuaded the hospital to treat him, I will be raising this issue tonight at the public meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, which I chair. I will be unreservedly praising the actions of the LAS member of staff and asking for an inquiry into whether treatment was being denied at the hospital.

The Met Police seem to have been given carte blanche by this government to undertake almost paramilitary action against demonstrations. This began, of course, under the last Labour government when the police were again allowed off the leash during the G20 demo in London. The Ian Tomlinson case and now these latest incidents demonstrate that something has gone seriously wrong with policing in London. It also indicates that the police seem to be untouchable in terms of legal action and complaint. The police are rapidly acquiring the characteristics of the hated Yeomanry and militia of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was only last year that I visited the site of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester to commemorate the actions of the Yeomanry there in killing many innocent people who were peacefully protesting there.

As the chair of this press conference says there is a very serious need now for a full debate on policing in this country.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Caroline Lucas on kettling and the government's response

May's response to Parliamentary Questions reveals "irresponsible attitude"



The government is "abdicating responsibility to tackle violence perpetrated by members of the police service", said the Green Party today.

After Caroline Lucas MP posed questions about the home secretary's stance on the "kettling" tactic and the alleged use of mounted police to charge a peaceful crowd, the Greens said the home secretary's replies indicated "an irresponsible attitude".

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas had asked a number of questions, including whether the home secretary had in fact seen video footage which appears to vindicate the Greens' claim that the Met had used excessive force in its handling of the tuition fees protests on 24 November, and whether the home secretary had discussed with the Met whether its tactics had perhaps been been disproportionate. The home secretary replied that she had not seen the footage in question, and that operational decisions were a matter for the police.

Caroline Lucas MP said today:

"The government's attitude is irresponsible. Of course operational matters are for the police, but only up to a point. When the police use tactics that breach human rights or that break the law, the government must step in.

"Over kettling, Theresa May is aware that the police are abusing their powers, yet will do nothing about it. In fact it's worse than that - by refusing even to look at the evidence in the video footage, Theresa May is deliberately turning a blind eye to the potential abuse of power by the police."





The War You Don't See - John Pilger Film on Monday

JOHN PILGER'S FILM: THE WAR YOU DON'T SEE




John Pilger's new film THE WAR YOU DON'T SEE, about the media and how it beats the drums for war, is showing in cinemas across Britain for one day only on Monday 13 December. I heard John Pilger being interviewed about this today on the Today programme on Radio 4. A radical and truly inspirational journalist shows us again the reality of wars being fought in our name and with our taxes.

* The War You Don't See: trailer: http://bit.ly/gwzqRE

* Interview with John Pilger about the film: http://bit.ly/fQ4roG

* Cinemas where the film is showing: http://bit.ly/goNuIc


The War You Don't See trailer from John Pilger on Vimeo.

Support Wikileaks - Stop Assange Extradition

 SUPPORT WIKILEAKS: STOP ASSANGE EXTRADITION


No wonder Wikileaks is under concerted attack -- undoubtedly orchestrated by the US government. The aim is to silence the whistle blowing website, which every day reveals the secrecy and lies used to justify war, torture and corruption.

There is nothing warmongering politicians fear more than the exposure of the real reasons for the mass slaughter and destruction that they carry out in our name.

Over the past two years Wikileaks has proved itself repeatedly to be a true servant of democracy and an enemy of liars and hypocrites.

The disgraceful refusal to grant Julian Assange bail, while he fights extradition to Sweden, is all of a piece with the attack on Wikipedia.

The suspicion must be that the Swedish government -- deeply incriminated in its support for George Bush's "war on terror" -- has hatched a plan with the US government to whisk Assange to America, where politicians and right-wing commentators are calling for him to be jailed for decades or executed.

Julian Assange next appears in court on Tuesday 14 December and Stop the War has called a protest at 1.00 pm outside the Westminster Magistrates Court. Details and a link for a flyer publicising the protest are below. Please spread the word as widely as possible and encourage everyone you can to join the
protest.

We have also initiated an open letter (LINK BELOW) of support for Wikileaks and Julian Assange, signed by among others, John Pilger, former UK ambassador Craig Murray, actors Miriam Margolyes and Roger Lloyd-Pack, Salma Yaqoob, writers Iain Banks and A L Kennedy, artists David Gentlemen and Katharine Hamnett, and comedians Alexei Sayle and Mark Thomas.

We are encouraging all local Stop the War groups around the country to organise street stalls this weekend to collect signatures for the SUPPORT WIKIPEDIA petition.

STOP THE EXTRADITION OF JULIAN ASSANGE

PROTEST IN SUPPORT OF WIKIPEDIA

TUESDAY 14 DECEMBER, 1.00PM

WESTMINSTER MAGISTRATES COURT

70 HORSEFERRY ROAD, LONDON SW1 P2

DOWNLOAD FLYER TO PUBLICISE PROTEST HERE:

http://tinyurl.com/32pqdeo



OPEN LETTER / PETITION SUPPORTING WIKIPEDIA
Signed by John Pilger, Craig Murray, Mark Thomas, Salma Yaqoob and many more.

READ LETTER & FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES HERE: http://bit.ly/hkUVKS

PETITION:

The open letter has been produced in the form of a petition to enable the collection of signatures to be added to the list. Please print it and collect as many signatures as you can, then return it to the Stop the War office.

DOWNLOAD HERE: http://tinyurl.com/39azq63

Monday, 6 December 2010

Plus ca change - The Devil is an Ass

On Saturday I went on one of my rare theatrical outings to see Ben Johnson's play 'The Devil is an Ass' being performed in one of my local pub theatres, the White Bear in Kennington. I am familiar with Johnson's songs and some of his poems but do not know his plays very well. This one was written in 1616, so it could be classified as a Jacobean drama and indeed most of Johnson's works were performed in the reign of James I. The play was a flop in its day and Johnson is better known for some of  his other works such as 'Volpone'.

The plot of the play is that a junior devil is allowed to visit earth for one day to carry out mischief and after pleading to be allowed to be sent to London, which is considered the centre of all vice, he is allowed to go. Arriving in London he is soon taken up by a neer do well who apart from being a gullible fool is also obsessed with cutting a character in society. The fool is soon tricked and cheated by a variety of con merchants based in the City of London, and this is where the play has very modern echoes. For these spivs and charlatans are clearly the ancestors of those who currently run the financial institutions and the hedge funds. They present the gullible character with a list of get rich schemes which includes a project to drain vast areas of fenland in Norfolk. If successful, the grantor will be entitled to gain the title 'Duke of Drownedland'. For the rest of the play the character is introduced to others using this title but it is clear that the intention is to defraud him of every penny he owns. A range of parasiticial characters are introduced, who are all linked to the various schemes and stratagems of the spivs and try to prey upon each others. A veritable image of early capitalism as England began to build its trading and commercial empire.

Another hilarious scene shows a number of fashionable ladies discussing the latest fashions and beauty products from the Spanish court (which at that time was the centre of the fashionable universe) with a 'Spanish lady' who is in reality a young man in pursuit of the gullible noble's wife. This produces a hilarious dialogue where he feeds them with various stories of the foibles of the court and the newest beauty products and their ingredients. Once again there are echoes with the consumerist and celebrity culture of our own day. Plus ca change plus ca meme chose.  There is indeed nothing new under the sun.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Reception organised by the TUC LGBT Network

Both as a gay man and a trade union member (UNISON) I will be going along to this event organised by South East Region TUC LGBT Network. I am very proud of the Green Party's position on fully legalising sex workers and ensuring that they have full rights, together with trade union membership. I am aware that there have been attempts by some in the party to change this but for me it is a good and progressive policy. It is important that these workers have trade union representation and are fully supported and protected by both the law and the union movement.

It is also interesting that it is the LGBT Network of SERTUC which is organising this, as the fact that there are many male sex workers in London and elsewhere is often forgotten. Opening the pages of any major gay magazine in the UK now, it is immediately obvious that there are large numbers of gay and bisexual men working as sex workers and advertising their services to the LGBT community. Also as Treasurer of the Green Party Trade Union Group I will also report back to the group about what is happening.

Of course, many of these LGBT sex workers are from Eastern Europe and elsewhere and again are subject to discrimination and harassment and need the support of trade union recognition and proper access to health facilities etc. It is important at this point to decouple the two issues of trafficking and sex work. I am totally and utterly opposed to the former but not the latter and the argument used to criminalise clients and others (the Scottish model) often unjustly conflates the two.




International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Reception hosted by

SERTUC LGBT Network


Friday 17 December, 6:30pm



Venue: TUC Congress House, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS


- Speakers -



. John McDonnell MP (Labour Party)

. Maria Exall (TUC LGBT Committee Chair and member of the TUC General

Council)

. Ana Lopez (Founder of the International Union of Sex Workers)

. Paul Hayes (GMB London Regional Secretary - invited)

. Caroline Simpson (SERTUC Women's Rights Committee - invited)

. Speaker from X:talk


organised by GMB Sex Work & Adult Entertainment Branch


supported by GMB SHOUT! and EQUITY Thames Variety Branch


FREE ADMISSION - LIMITED SPACES


Refreshments & performances - ALL WELCOME!

Registration essential:

sertucevents@tuc.org.uk / 020 7467 1220















_____

Friday, 3 December 2010

Safeguarding and the London Ambulance Service - Patients Forum public meeting on December 13th

Our next meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum will be on Monday 13th December and the major topic will be safeguarding for both adults and children. Reporting of safeguarding by LAS staff across London is on the increase and particularly in the Croydon area. The statistics for Croydon have raised a lot of concerns with health activists and others there and they have taken some of these concerns to the Local Authority and the PCT. The response from the LAS has been that there is nothing in particular to be concerned about in Croydon and it is because the staff reporting there are doing a very diligent job. The problem is, they respond, that there is underreporting of safeguarding incidents across the rest of London.

Lynne Strother, who is speaking, is also one of the Vice Chairs of the Forum and will be bringing a lot of experience about safeguarding issues and how it affects pensioners and elderly people in particular. This is a particularly important issue as it applies to care homes etc, where there have been some very serious cases discovered. Anyone working in health or social care now has to undertake a safeguarding course and I did mine last year. There are some links here and here to relevant sites.


PATIENTS’ FORUM LONDON

AMBULANCE SERVICES

‘Safeguarding issues and the LAS’ – Gary Bassett, Head of Patient Experience LAS and Lynne Strother, Director London Older People’s Forum

Monday December 13th 2010

5.30-7.30pm

Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy j-j@freezone.co.uk or PatientsForumLAS@aol.com

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie Sisterjossi@hotmail.com

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother director.glf@pop3.poptel.org.uk

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander PatientsForumLAS@aol.com

BSL signers will be available

Thursday, 2 December 2010

World Aids Day message from Caroline Lucas

Yes I know it is a day late but World Aids Day is always very significant for me as a person living with HIV. Here is a message on World Aids Day from Caroline Lucas. There are still far too many people contracting HIV, especially among young gay men in cities such as London and Brighton.