Thursday, 31 March 2011

Nuclear Power means nuclear disaster! The Ecosocialist Alternative


Nuclear power means nuclear disaster!

The ecosocialist alternative

Wednesday 6th April, 7.30pm, ULU, Malet Street


Kate Hudson, CND

Romayne Phoenix, Green Left

Liam McQuade, Socialist Resistance

Once again the evidence shows that nuclear technology can never be 100% safe. The risks are so frightening that the conclusion is obvious: it is imperative to abandon nuclear energy, and as quickly as possible. This is the first lesson of Fukushima, one which raises the need for an alternative to the capitalist model of infinite growth.

We have to abandon nuclear energy as quickly as possible. This is perfectly possible but it is a political decision. We must also abandon fossil fuels, the main cause of climate change. In just two generations, renewables must become our sole energy source.

All the responses to the climate challenge presented by capitalists rely on technology, of which nuclear is the flagship. The International Energy Agency proposes to triple the number of nuclear power stations by 2050. This is madness, pure and simple.

An alternative to this vicious system is more urgent than ever. It ultimately requires the realisation of the ecosocialist project, of a society producing for the satisfaction of real human needs, democratically determined, in accordance with the rhythms and the functioning of the ecosystem.

Without such an alternative, capitalist growth will always cause more disasters without providing for social needs. That is, ultimately, the terrible lesson of Fukushima.

Meeting organised by Socialist Resistance and Green Left

The Lansley Rap

And on another health theme - the privatisation of the NHS - started under New Labour and being completed by the Coalition of the Clueless.

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust Board Meeting on Tuesday

Celebrated my birthday quietly on Sunday with my partner Julio and went out in the nice weather for a walk to Wimbledon Common which I had not visited for many years. I knew that this week would be busy with a meeting of the LAS Trust Board on Tuesday morning for 3 hours, a visit to the Human Rights Film Festival, which I managed to go to for the first time on Tuesday afternoon and evening and the Stop the War Coalition public meeting on the war in Libya last night - plus a day at work yesterday. Only managing to blog today because I have a day's leave this week and don't need to go to work today.

Well, first things first. I attend the LAS Trust Board meeting as the Chair of the LAS Patients Forum about every six weeks or so, although sometimes the meetings can be more frequent. The meetings are officially "public meetings" but invariably I am the only member of the public or service user of the London Ambulance Service present. The papers sent to me for the meeting beforehand are voluminous, taking most of Monday to get through, plus there are verbal reports on the day, so one has to be very much on the ball. I always put a number of questions and occasionally supply points of information also. The only other people sitting in the 'public' section at this meeting, and there are often none other than me, were some employees of the LAS, a UNISON official and a host of contractors who were working on the LAS's new Command Point contract.

Usually the two most important reports being presented are those of the Chief Executive and the Medical Director, and it is usally to those two reports that I put questions. The Chief Executive's report included a refeence to the scrutiny into the LAS currently being carried out by the London Assembly's Health & Public Service's committee, and a rep from the committee was present at the Board meeting. This included evidence being provided by the Patient Forum's Vice Chair, Malcolm Alexander, as I was away in France at the time. I have just seen the transcript of the session and it will be put up on the London Assembly website soon. On April 6th, the Chair and the Chief Exectuive of the LAS will also give evidence to the committee in public session at City Hall. I made the point at the meeting, as there have been moves to sideline the Patients Forum, that that the Chair of the Health & Public Service's Committee had attended the last Forum meeting and stated that he wanted the Forum to be "the eyes and ears of the London Assembly concerning the LAS."

I then put a question to the Chief Executive as to what would happen about "alternative care pathways" which are supposed to be in place after April 18th, when Category B calls (non-life threatening emergency calls) are being abolished. The theory is that these pathways are supposed be there for patients to use. I pointed out that a Forum member had recently had cardiac symptoms and had walked into the NHS Walk in Centre at Guy's Hospital seeking treatment. He was told by staff there that he should not have gone there but should have called a taxi to go to the A&E at St Thomas' Hospital. This is not how an "alternative care pathway" is supposed to operate. The CEO did not answer my question directly and later I went up to him and challenged him about this. His response was that of course the alternative care pathways would not be in place this April and that it would take about a year to have them in place - in the interim he believed that the LAS would have to be particularly careful about vulnerable patients. I am not altogether reassured by this.

We were also told that the Coroner's Report into the London bombings will be realeased on May 6th and there is certain to be a great deal there about the role of the LAS. The Patients Forum will be discussing this after May.

I put a question to the Medical Director, Dr Fiona Moore, about the disapperances of 'controlled drugs' from LAS stations, about which the Board has been informed on a regular basis over the last year or two. She stated that the LAS regarded it very seriously but to put it in context, the LAS dealt with 2000 controlled drug units every month and the investigations only covered 3 ampoules. She also informed the meeting that the Controlled Drugs Unit of the Met Police made regular unannounced visits to LAS stations.

I then asked her about the events of Saturday during the TUC march and how the LAS had been involved.  The Director of Operations replied that 104 ambulance staff had been involved and that 80 people had been injured and the LAS had received a further 80 calls for assistance. Two ambulance staff had been injured, one treating an injured police officer. LAS staff had hoped to stand down by 9.30pm but were unable to because of the continuing need for their services.

The move towards Foundation Trust status is also proving very frustrating for the LAS as more and more questions are being asked by the Strategic Health Authority about details. Originally they had hoped to given the green light by the summer but now it looks as if there will have to be a Board to Board meeting on May 24th and depending on any issues arising from that, they will seek approval from the Secretary of State on September 1st. The Board was also presented with the final blueprint for the Foundation Trust status and I pointed out that the proposed timescales for the opening of nominations, i.e. two weeks, was totally unreasonable as it would not allow genuine patients and health activists enough notice if they were on holiday or if the post was not fully functioning. The Chair backed me with this and they agreed to extend the timescale.

The Board also approved the annual budget and at this point, the trade union representative from UNISON rose to speak.He said that it was a bad day for the LAS and a bad day for staff and patients. He pointed out that 130 frontline staff were being lost. He went on to state that more and more was being expected from the remaining staff. While pointing out that partnership between management and staff in the LAS was good, he warned that there were limits to that partnership and that it was not unconditional. I took this as an ominous sign of trouble ahead. The UNISON rep did recognise that the cuts were being driven by external forces, i.e. the government. The Chair of the Trust noted his comments and assured him that there was a year to manage the budget and that the concerns of the unions would be treated seriously. Having said that, the Board then unanimously voted the budget through.

There were, of course, many other major issues discussed, many of which I will cover in my report to the Patients Forum. But it demonstrates that it is important to have an active patients body and to have active engagement in the operation of the LAS. I will be reporting back on this at the public meeting of the Patients Forum at the LAS HQ in Waterloo Road on Monday April 12th from 5.30pm to 7.30pm where there will also be a presentation on 'The Red Blanket - Infection Control in the LAS'.

The rare appearance by the UNISON rep and the internal report on staff morale which showed an increase in many not wishing to go to work, all indicate an unsteady and dangerous time ahead for the LAS and the seeking of foundation trust status could easily be affected by all of this. It is vitally necessary that London's third emergency service continues to have active public and patient engagement in its affairs.

For anyone interested LAS Trust Board papers are all available here

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Big Society marches

Just about recovered from Saturday's march. I carried the Green Party Trade Union banner for some of the way and started out at the Temple station helping distribute leaflets and placards. I saw many Green Party friends there, some of whom I had not seen for a long time. Caroline Lucas soon joined us and was with us in the early stages of the march until we inevitably got split up along the way. One of those carrying the banner with me was future Green Party councillor in Brighton (I hope) Phelim Mac Cafferty of the Trade Union Group and Green Left.

The size of the march was astounding and clearly staggered the TUC who had not expected so many. It was the largest trade union march in decades. But it was not just a trade union march, there were many disabled activists, voluntary sector workers, unwaged people, families and others. As one of the speakers said, although I arrived at Hyde Park too late to hear any of them, this was the Big Society.

Two of the best union leaders, and they have contributed to Coalition of Resistance also, are Len Mc Cluskey of UNITE and Mark Serwotka of PCS - here are their speeches on Saturday. Both call for a real resistance from the trade union movement and Mc Cluskey clearly tells the police to "keep your sleazy hands off our kids". Very relevant when one sees what happened in Fortnum and Masons and Trafalgar Square later.

I will be going to the Steering Committee of the Coalition of Resistance on Friday and we will be arguing for keeping the pressure on the government re the cuts. The next date in the diary is a  meeting organised by the People's Charter for next Saturday from 1pm at the RMT HQ, Chalton St, near the British Library to discuss possible industrial action for the unions. As others have said, the unions must now pull out all the stops.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Excellent video on why we are marching tomorrow. I will be at the Green Party Trade Union Group stall from about 9.30am and also with the Trade Union Group banner on  the march. This government must be given the message loud and clear. Hoping to see many friends and comrades there.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The war in Libya and pan European action against the cuts

Seamus Milne tells it like it is in the Guardian. The French view of the war in Libya. I have just returned from France where the television is full of generals announcing attack details and images of aircraft carriers steaming through the Med. The local elections have just been held there also and the Front Nationale has done very well. There is a great deal of speculation that Sarkozy is masquerading as a war leader to catch up on the Front Nationale. They, for their part, have been making the most of the refugees fleeing across the Med into Lampedusa and Mlle Le Pen has been to visit the island and make hay from the refugee crisis. Italy recently turned away a ferry full of refugees from Tunisia, Chad and Niger fleeing the conflict. So much for the conscience of Europe!

I am off tonight to an international meeting of SERTUC (South East Region TUC) to speak about a pan European conference against the cuts which Coalition of Resistance is organising in London on October 1st. Speakers tonight including Christine Blower (NUT general secretary), Jimmy Kelly (Unite Irish regional secretary), Didier Louvet (CGT Nord-Pas de Calais region, France), Fernando Puig-Samper (CCOO Spain), Owen Tudor (TUC head of European Union and International Relations dept) and probably someone from Wisconsin.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Patients Forum to give evidence to the London Assembly on the London Ambulance Service

Tomorrow morning the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, represented by its Vice Chair, Malcolm Alexander, will give evidence to the Health and Public Services Committee of the London Assembly. At Monday night's Forum meeting, the Chair of the committee, said that he hoped that the Forum would become "the eyes and ears of the London Assembly" regarding the LAS.The meeting begins at 10am in the Chamber at City Hall.

We expect the following topics to be discussed:


• Performance against response time targets

• Action taken to address Category B performance

• How to improve patient outcomes

Commissioning / NHS reforms

• Risks and opportunities of GP commissioning

• How to incentivise GPs to reduce 999 calls in their area

• Potential role for the Mayor in commissioning

• How to develop London-wide strategies after NHS London is abolished

• Risks and opportunities of move to Foundation Trust Status


• Why are 999 calls increasing, and how to reduce them

• Relationship between emergency services (how to reduce calls coming from the police)

• How to develop community services the relieve the burden on the LAS

Patient Transport

• The future role of the LAS in PTS

• Potential for integration with other door-to-door services

I will be celebrating St Patrick's Day in France and will be away for a few days.

Lorraine on the bus - why March 26th is so important

An example of what the real Big Society really means and not the mealy mouthed version beloved of  the Tories. Lorraine, a secretary from South London, tells fellow passengers about why we need to march against the cuts on March 26th.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

What's the difference between the UK and the Irish Republic?

Well two days before St Patrick's Day when all Irish, including the diaspora, celebrate the national day, rather startling news from Ireland, which is no surprise at all to those of us who warned about this. The Irish Times today reports that levels of unemployment in the Republic have shot up to 14.7%. This despite the fact that 150 people per day are leaving the country. Can you imagine what the level would be if they stayed? Many people remember the old joke from two years ago before Ireland really tasted the bitter medicine, compliments of the European Central Bank and a discredited government, what's the difference between Ireland and Iceland? Answer: one letter and six months. But there has been another joke doing the rounds now for the last year. What is the difference between Ireland and the UK? Answer: two years.

This is a sobering thought that the economic policies being pursued by the coalition government here - cuts, austerity, devastation of public services, are precisely what the Irish government has been pursuing for more than two years. The results we are witnessing in Ireland will be almost exactly the same here - mounting unemployment, increasing poverty and economic depression. Seamus Milne drew this conclusion in a stark article in the Guardian last week. But the 'Coalition of the Clueless' currently running UK Plc will continue on their ideological mission steering the country and its economy towards the black hole. This is why it is essential that as many of us as possible march on March 26th on the TUC march against the cuts. The alternative is waking up soon with an Irish style hangover and not just for St Patrick's Day but for years to come.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Irish political parties

A satirical video by an Irish comedian on how the Irish political parties reflect various religions and faiths. Love the comments about the Greens.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chief Executive of the London Ambulance Service to address public meeting of the Patients Forum next Monday on the future of the LAS

You are invited to a presentation by Peter Bradley, Chief Executive, LAS

‘A 21st century LAS in a fragmented health system’ – Peter Bradley, Chief Executive LAS

Monday March 14th 2011


Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy or

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander

BSL signers will be available

Nearest Tube: Waterloo British Rail: Waterloo Buses:1,4,26,77,68,168,171,172,176,188,507,243,341,381,507,521

Apart from Peter Bradley speaking, the Forum will also be addressed by James Claverley, Chair of the London Assembly's Health & Public Service Committee.

The committe is currently undertaking a scrutiny of the London Ambulance Service and has asked the Patients Forum to participate on the panel at the public meeting in City Hall on March 17th from 10am to 12pm. As I will be in France on that day, the Forum will be represented by Malcolm Alexander, Vice Chair and Chair of the National Association of LINks Members.

No to a No Fly Zone in Libya

There are many reasons not to support a no fly zone and NATO/Western military intervention in Libya. Many of the points are raised in this letter in today's Guardian from several MPs and organisations such as Stop the War Coalition. No less a person than President Karzai of Afghanistan said recently that Western intervention in Libya would be disastrous - and he should know. Here John Rees of Stop the War Coalition also puts the case against NATO intervention and the hypocrisy behind it.

The mood for intervention in Libya is growing in Washington and Whitehall (Washington's war drums beat louder, 8 March). Such action should be opposed by everyone hoping for democracy there. The record of the west in the region is of support for autocracies in cynical self-interest. Western governments have prioritised cheap oil, arms sales and support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians above the rights of the Arab peoples. David Cameron exemplified this approach by touring the region selling arms to dictators at the very moment of maximum repression. This approach has not changed. The clamour to intervene in Libya has more to do with control of that country's oil resources than with support for Libya's people.

Any western intervention in the region would be directed to furthering those interests. Interference in Libya could strengthen Gaddafi's hand and deepen the civil war. Such interference is at the root of the region's troubles. The disaster in Iraq should have taught us that military intervention cannot hasten democracy. The future of Libya and the other states in the region must be determined by the people of those countries alone.

Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition, Kate Hudson CND, Andrew Murray Stop the War, John Pilger, Sami Ramadani Iraqi Democrats against Occupation, Mohammed Sawalha British Muslim Initiative

Friday, 4 March 2011

Battle of the mavericks in London

I have been dying with a heavy cold this week and also have had to provide sickness cover at work so I have had less time for blogging this week. However, I did manage to get to the London Mayoral hustings last night for the Green Party which, unfortunately, was not filmed due to one of the candidates objecting. From what I am hearing there is a big turnout already in members voting.

I have already blogged about my support for Farid Bakht but this mayoral election as a whole is shaping up to be the battle of the mavericks. Bad enough having Boris Johnson, but now we have Lembit Opik throwing his hat in the ring.

Jenny Jones related the story last night that having met Boris Johnson in a lift in City Hall en route to the event, Boris enquired as to her destination. When she told him that she was going to the hustings, he wished her good luck and said that he would consider having her as his running mate. She replied that he would have to join the Green Party to which he answered that he was not a member of any party. And this man is the Mayor of London? The Falstaff of City Hall.

With news of Lembit Opik’s candidacy and leopard skin hats on display, this is gearing up to be a battle of the mavericks! What has London done to deserver this? At a tme when London's problems are deeping, as was said at the hustings last night, with increasing homelessness, unemployment and poverty and thousands being forced out of the centre into the new banlieus, there has never been a more crying need for a serious politiician with real practical policies to run for office. As Farid said last night, the Green Party must "move out of its comfort zone" and attempt to reach voters it does not normally appeal to with a radical and pertinent message for today's youth, students and others left behind by the neo liberal steamroller which reaches its apogee in the City of London - the Moloch on the Thames.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Irish general election and the Greens

The issue of Ireland and the Irish general election result raised its head several times at conference. Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green MSP, referred to it in his speech on Saturday – the Lib Dem activist speaking at the Political Pluralism event yesterday, when asked about the parallels with the LDs, said it was “worrying”. There was a speaker from the Northern Irish section of the Irish Greens on the platform on Sunday about devolution, which I attended, but he only spoke about Northern Ireland, although I left before the session ended, so he may have been asked about the result in the Republic.

At our Green Left fringe meeting on Saturday night in Cardiff, Lucille Ryan O’Shea, from the Irish Greens, whom I have known for some time and who was at conference as Treasurer of the Green Islands Network, spoke about the “disaster” which the Irish Greens had created for themselves and said that an attempt by their party to form a Green Left a year ago, was defeated by the conferences committee saying that there were no rooms available at their conference. She took copies of our 'Watermelon' newsletter back to Ireland and said that she would be attempting again to set something up. Lucille is based in Mayo, on the more sparsely settled West coast of Ireland, whereas most members were in Dublin.

There is currently a lot of speculation in Ireland about what will happen to the party leadership after the total wipeout – a leadership election has to be held within 6 months. I will be in Dublin in late April to escape the Royal wedding and will try to meet up with some political activists there. Their parliamentary representation is totally gone and because they got under 2% in the polls, they also lose all state funding. Lucille also told me that they recently signed a 2 year lease on an expensive party office, so they are in serious trouble on several fronts.

Some press reports here about what is happening in Ireland now, including a good piece by Fintan O’Toole the radical journalist, who was one of the first to blow the whistle about the Celtic Tiger and its inevitable outcome. The news of the Irish emigrants in Canada is fairly typical.

The following quote from the Guardian should be compulsory reading for any councillors considering voting through cuts after next May.

Finally, the Greens. The former coalition partners have been obliterated, as the previous minor coalition party, the Progressive Democrats, were in 2007. The Green tenure in government was a failure, and they also suffered from guilt by association with Fianna Fáil. It seems unlikely they will ever be a force in Irish politics again. The country, the voters have decided, is green enough as it is.

London Assembly and Mayoral selection

I have been in Cardiff at the party conference and unable to blog since Friday - more of the conference anon - but I received the ballot papers last week for the London Assembly and Mayoral selections for the Green Party  and I want to record here who I will be supporting in that election.

Firstly, for the Mayoral selection I am supporting Farid Bakht. I know Farid over several years and have found him a dedicated political activist and good public speaker and a person who tries to connect with all of London's people and particularly its ethnic minorities, where there is huge potential support for the Green Party. With an international and journalistic background, he keeps his finger on the pulse and is well able to handle journalists and interviews, unlike some other candidates. Here is a clip of him speaking at an event organised by Stop the War Coalition on Gaza recently. Farid is also hugely supportive of young people and students and marched with them in the recent demonstrations as well as being strongly supportive of their issues.

Farid's campaign website is here

Secondly, for the London Assembly elections I am backing in the following order

  1. Noel Lynch - the long time Convenor of the London Green Party. I knew Noel when he was last an Assembly member and he did a great job in City Hall. On health issues, which is one of the main areas I am involved in, he sat on the Health Committee and did a great deal of work around helping some of London's poorest and most vulnerable communities on health issues and even went so far as to allow his office to be used for the initial meetings of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum. I am the current Chair of the Forum, which will soon be giving evidence to the Assembly's Health and Public Services Committee. He also campaigned hard for the homeless, pensioners, the Irish community, animal rights and spearheaded a major Assembly report into the lack of proper public toilets in London. He has worked tirelessly for all party members across London over the years and often burns the midnight oil to make himself available to assist members, answer questions and get things done. It is instructive that the convenors of 15 local Green parties across London have endorsed Noel's candidacy. His website etc are here.
  2. Romayne Phoenix - national Campaigns Coordinator of the Green Party and Chair of the Coalition of Resistance. Romayne hardly eats or sleeps, such is the amount of time and effort she puts into campaigning. She is out in all weathers organising stalls and leaflets all around London for major protests and events. She was a councillor in Lewisham for four years until last year and impressed all who knew her with her radicalism and commitment. As a founder member of the Coalition of Resistance, she was worked tirelessly supporting the anti-cuts movement and was one of the main people behind the hugely successful conference which COR held last November. As a single mother with several children, Romayne knows and understands the real bread and butter issues facing many Londoners now, especially in the light of so many losing their jobs. I have seen her work with figures as diverse as Jesse Jackson and major trade union leaders and she is also a leading activist in the Campaign against Climate Change and the Trade Unions Against Climate Change. She is also someone who will never betray principles.
  3. Andy Hewett - from my local Green party (Lambeth) Andy is a former Campaigns Coordinator, and is now working day and night with the Lambeth Save Our Services Campaign to prevent savage cuts in services. Never one to be afraid of non-violent direct action - he was among those who recently occupied Lambeth Town Hall on the night of the cuts and took a leading role in the student demonstrations also - assisting many Young Greens and student activists with whom he was kettled on Westminster Bridge. He stood as a parliamentary candidate in Greenwich last year and increased the Green vote significantly as well as building close alliances with local pensioner and anti-academies groups and others. Andy is a 'hands on' political activist and listens to people's concerns with passion and interest. Andy is also a member of the national Steering Committee of the Coalition of Resistance.
  4. Farid Bakht - I have already written about Farid above, but a good placing on the Assembly list would be excellent.