Saturday, 27 August 2011

Green Party Trade Union Group Fundraising Quiz this Wednesday


GPTU Group are hosting a fundraising quiz on this coming Wednesday, August 31st. 7.30pm at Development House, Leonard Street (next to Old Street Tube) Admission £5 (£3 benefits etc). Expect a great night with fascinating, unusual and amusing questions. It is also the birthday of a prominent GPTU activist, so expect several toasts:-) By-the-way, you have to bring your own drink (there is an off-license by the tube - exit 4)

Ring quizmaster, Noel Lynch, for further details 07961 44 1722.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

US hypocrisy over Libya and the role of NATO in Libya

Have not blogged for a week, having been in Dublin and busy seeing family and friends there, plus being very busy at work on my return. However, like everyone else I have been following events in Libya closely since the weekend. As the Green Party's representative on Stop the War Coalition, I stand by the statement which the Coalition released on Libya a few days ago.

I also totally agree with the excellent Seamus Milne's article in the Guardian yesterday re the significance of the NATO involvement in Libya.

And today comes some fascinating news from the ever reliable Wikileaks around the shenanigans of the warmongering Senator Mc Cain and his links with the Libyan regime. I am sure that the spooks from CIA and MI5 will be busily shredding any incriminating documents found in the Gaddafi compounds.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Off to Dublin!

I am tryng to get unfinished business completed in the middle of also working this week as I am off to Dublin tomorrow for a few days. I wrote a short article today for 'The Watermelon' the newsletter of Green Left which will be available at the Green Party conference in Sheffield next month. I also completed some fliers for the next meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum which will meet on September 12th and will be discussing how the London Ambulance Service has responded to the recommendations of the 7/7 bombing inquest.

I also met Chris Levick from the Small Parties Unit of the Westminster Fund for Democracy on Monday to discuss progressing the Moldova project which we kicked off with our visit to Moldova in late June. We are now looking for several Green Party councillors to travel to Moldova over the next few months to meet elected Green councillors there. And I also attended the London Federation of Green Parties meeting on Monday night where I was re-elected as the party's delegate to the Stop the War Coalition and thanked for my efforts there over the last two years.

I am off to Dublin for a few days to visit my brothers and see some of my good friends there. It is the city of my birth and where I spent most of the first 25 years of my life and I always enjoying returning there. I am going to go and visit a small museum in Dublin Castle which I have not yet managed to get to - the Irish Police Museum, which recounts the history of both the first police force in the world, the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) formed in 1822 as a paramilitary police force to control the restive Irish and the police force of the new independent Ireland, formed in 1922, where my grand uncle was one of the first commanders.

I am also hoping to go to a theatrical performance in the Irish Writers Centre based around the wit of Dublin writers from Shaw to Beckett. The spirit and wit of Dublin is always infectious and " the gift of the gab"as the Irish call it, is never in short supply.

For a feel of the city's spirit here are 'The Dubliners' with a classic Dublin ballad 'Finnegan's Wake'. Looking forward to sampling the Guinness and the craic!

Monday, 15 August 2011

ATOS Medical Services - A Dickensian Tale

The news that ATOS Medical Services doctors are threatened with being struck off by the General Medical Council should surprise nobody. Disabled people and disability organisations have for some time being warning about this organisation and the draconian powers, not to mention the vast amounts of money, which  it has been handed by this government over the lives of disabled people. It would be interesting to find out if it is a donor to the Conservative party.

It is already carrying out appalling tests on all those people living on Incapacity Benefit and there have been lurid headlines in the tabloids trumpeting the fact that their tests have found a large percentage of those being put throught the process ineligible. Terms such as "workshy" and "scroungers" have been bandied about with callous and wanton abandon. The next group of people to be handed over to the tender mercies of this piratical outfit are those on Disability Living Allowance - they will be handed over to ATOS in 2013, after which we can expect thousands more disabled people to be thrown into penury and more headlines screaming about "benefit cheats" etc.

Truly it is worth reflecting in this the year of the bicentenary of the birth of that great writer and humanist, Charles Dickens, that the same turgid and loathsome views which he used his pen and all his wit to protest against, are still abroad and nowhere more than in the minds of members of the current government such as Ian Duncan Smith. What would the great scribe have thought of those intellectual descendants of Mr Bumble and Uriah Heep? The poor must be made to suffer and the indigent and disabled should go to their beds at night feeling crushed and in a constant state of fear and hysteria about their future. Such is the world being planned for us by these sanctimonious politicians and their Blue Labour counterparts. Was there ever a more obnoxious and festering hypocrite as James Purnell the architect of the Welfare Reform Bill who now masquerades as a social reformer. Many of these characters have truly Victorian attributes and Dickens would have seen through them in a flash.

As Mr Bumble, the Parish Beadle says in Oliver Twist:

""Out-of-door relief, properly managed,-- properly managed, ma’am,-- is the porochial safe-guard. The great principle of out-of-door relief is to give the paupers exactly what they don’t want, and then they get tired of coming."
A quote which would fit snugly with the attitudes of Messrs Duncan Smith and Osborne regarding the poor and disabled in this country.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A profoundly moving play - 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane'

I firmly believe that those involved in politics or in any attempt to change society should always have a connection to culture. In my case I have tried my hand at poetry and gave several public poetry readings in my younger days. I also tried writing plays and had a one act play performed at a theatre in London. Being a Dubliner I also have always had a strong connection with literature and the theatre. Dublin is after all the city of Joyce, Shaw, Wilde and Beckett as well as a host of other writers.

I had wanted for some time to see the Irish writer Martin Mc Donagh's play 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' which is currently running at the Young Vic theatre in London. Last year I tried for tickets but all performances were booked out. The play has already toured Broadway, London and, of course, the main theatres in Ireland such as the Abbey (Ireland's national theatre) in Dublin. Everywhere it has received rave reviews and I was really desperate to see it. As luck would have it the charity I work for received some free tickets for carers and a trip to the Young Vic was organised. At the last minute some tickets were left free and I was able to go and see the play, which I did on Wednesday.

It was appropriate that the carers group went to see the play for the play deals essentially with the role of a carer and her mother. The daughter (who is the beauty queen) and her mother live in a remote rural area of Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. I would imagine that the play is set in the 1980s for it seems an Ireland which predates the Celtic Tiger years. The mother who claims to be ill and unable to look after herself is scheming, selfish and manipulative and is one of the most unsympathetic characters imaginable. The daughter who is already 40 sees herself trapped forever alone with her mother with no emotional life outside of this smothering relationship. Suddenly a means of escape appears in the person of neighbour's son who is working on the building sites in London but comes back to the village on holiday. The play revolves around the mother's attempt to smash the relationship and to ensure that the daughter will remain with her until her death.

But the play also deals with issues common to many Irish writers and which still impinge deeply on the consciousness and memory of Irish people. These include emigration and social isolation in the new country, images of Britain and America, the grinding loneliness and isolation in rural areas and the innate conservatism, along with expectations on daughters especially to care for elderly parents, as well as mental illness which often results from such conditions. All of these are dealt with in both a profoundly moving as well as a somtimes comical manner and there are some great one liners and ripostes in the play. Not for nothing has this been described as one of the best contemporary Irish plays. The ending is both shocking and heart rending and I would recommend anyone who can, particularly anyone with an interest in Ireland, to go and see it.

I include here a trailer for the play from a production at the Lyceum Theater in Edinburgh. The Young Vic production has a different cast and the mother is played by the fantastic actress, Rosaleen Linehan.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots, Recession, Resistance - Public Meeting on Thursday night

Riots, Recession, Resistance

Public meeting

7pm, Thursday 11 August,

University of London Union,

Malet Street, WC1E 7HY

Speakers include:

John McDonnell MP, Lee Jasper Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Symeon Brown Youth Worker in Tottenham and SOAS Black Students Officer 2009, Andrew Murray Unite the union, Clare Solomon Springtime: The New Student Rebellion, Zita Holbourne Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Viv Ahmun Black Men in the Community, Josie Fraser mother of Demetre Fraser death in custody, Merlin Emmanuel nephew of Smiley Culture, Aaron Kiely NUS BLack Students Committee

Riots spread in a matter of hours across the country for the third night in a row. This, although sparked by the death of Mark Duggan by police, has been building up for many months. Brutal austerity measures, spending cuts to every public service, rising unemployment, attacks on education, police tactics on demonstrations and the increased use of stop and search has meant that anger towards this government has heated up to boiling point.

It's no surprise events have played out like they have. The government cannot continue with their spending cuts and expect people to sit back and take it. In fact even Nick Clegg predicted riots if Cameron's planned spending cuts took place! Click here to watch video.

Coalition of Resistance along with Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts have organised a public meeting to discuss the connection between recession and the riots and what we can do about it.

Please spread the word about this important meeting. Click here for the Facebook event.

Statement on riots from London Ambulance Service Patients Forum

I have sent the following statement this morning to the London Ambulance Service on behalf of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum. There are many reasons for what is happening in London and these need to be analysed but presently the lives of people and their homes are being put at risk and the situation needs to be brought under control urgently.

Statement from London Ambulance Service Patients Forum

Please convey our support as the Patients Forum to all LAS staff who have put their lives and safety at risk last night and over the last few nights to try and serve members of the public in London. The reports of LAS staff being threatened are particularly concerning. I would be grateful if you could give them the Forum’s support and appreciation for their hard work for all of London’s communities.

Best regards

Dr Joseph Healy

Patients Forum Chair

Monday, 8 August 2011

Lambeth and Southwark Greens select campaigning Dad as London Assembly candidate

We released the following press release on Friday and I was in touch with the local press about it but a week is a long time in politics and sometimes a weekend can be almost as long. With the events of last night in Brixton this may be pushed off the pages of tomorrow's paper but the points which Jonathan raises in his selection statement now seem even more relevant. I will comment on the London riots in a separate post.

A Dad who confronted David Cameron during the last general election campaign over his plans for disabled children, has been selected as the Green candidate for Lambeth and Southwark in next years London Assembly elections.

Jonathan Bartley, who has lived in Lambeth and Southwark all his life, was also the national spokesperson for the 'Yes' campaign, in the recent referendum on changing the voting system for the House of Commons. People in Lambeth and Southwark backed the change.

A regular panellist on BBC1's The Big Questions, and Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show he writes for the Guardian newspaper and is a paper reviewer for BBC Radio London.

Jonathan Bartley said: "Next year's London elections are about the kind of London we want to live in at a time of economic hardship and cuts. We have a clear choice between a city which favours the wealthiest, or one which champions equality, inclusion, sustainability and accessibility for all.

"It is shameful that one of the richest cities in the world should also be one where the gap between the richest and poorest is one of the widest. It is important to fight cuts to housing benefit, the NHS and youth services, but it is also important to propose alternatives. The Greens who have been elected to the London Assembly over the last ten years, have done this successfully. I look forward to working with then, and others, to ensure we get more Greens elected in 2012 and make the alternative vision a reality."

Friday, 5 August 2011

Cockell and the cuts for London's disabled - the letter the Guardian did not publish

Here below is the letter from a range of London's and national disability groups on Cllr Cockell the axe wielder and the impact of his actions on the disabled community.

Dear all,

Society Guardian is the section of the Guardian which deals with public sector services. Recently, they featured a profile of Sir Merrick Cockell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, and new head of the Local Government Association,
with no mention of Elaine McDonald’s case, and presenting him as “A new champion for local government”.

We sent in a joint response from several disability groups involved in the campaign to defend Elaine McDonald and disability rights. The Guardian chose not to print it, though they had told us they would consider it when we described how we wanted to respond. We thought that people would still like to see the letter.

Cockell is quoted all the time enforcing cuts, see:

Best wishes


Response: Cockell no champion

So Merrick Cockell, leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council and new chair of the Local Government Association, “commands respect” (“A new champion for local government”, Society, 26 July)? Not from the pensioners and disabled people who demonstrated at the Town Hall last week in support of Elaine McDonald, whom the Council battled – up to the Supreme Court – to deprive her of night care, condemning her to 12 hours unattended on incontinence pads.

Cockell’s ‘difficult decisions’ are easy for him and his mates. They are not affected by care cuts: most of them pay privately, and can afford it. Many are likely to benefit from state cuts, as privatisation -- of railways to hospital trusts to back-to-work schemes, care homes, homecare agencies -- profits businesspeople. Why else would they be doing it? It seems the only purpose envisaged for those of us who are older or disabled (and increasingly for anyone who is not wealthy) is as an object of profit. Otherwise, despite the lifetime contribution we have already made, we are treated as useless eaters, a drain on society. We won’t have it!

Signed Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney, co-founders, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Jill Goble, Brighton DPAC
Kevin Caulfield, Chair, Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts
Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive, Inclusion London
Claire Glasman, WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities) ……………………………………………………

Thursday, 4 August 2011

"Fail better" - The resignation of Senator David Norris from the Irish Presidential Race

In typical, almost Wildean manner, Senator David Norris, announces his resignation from the race to be the President of Ireland with a quote from Samuel Beckett. Friends in Ireland were texting me already on Tuesday night to give me the news and to ask my opinion. David Norris would have been Ireland's first gay president, and certainly there was homophobia and prejudice displayed by some in the campaign. But in general the Irish people were supportive and he was way ahead in the opinion polls. He has been a senator representing Trinity College Dublin for many years and came to prominence as a campaigner for gay rights and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 70s and 80s. It was during this period that I knew David Norris, when I too was involved in the campaign, and was the editor of Ireland's first publicly available LGBT magazine, 'Hermes'.

I disagreed with David Norris on several things, and there were deep divisions in the early LGBT rights movement where it could be said that I placed myself firmly on the Left and David was more centre. He has since been described as "a radical liberal". He is also Ireland's foremost Joycean scholar, and indeed the house where he lives (shown in the film) lies directly across the street from the Joycean Museum which he helped to establish and which I visited for the first time this April.

Undoubtedly he made a mistake because of the letter which he sent to the Israeli authorities on behalf of his ex-lover pleading clemency after he was found guilty of underage rape (although it later emerged that it was consensual). However, it is interesting that the Irish blogger who released this information was based here in England and has a long link with the Zionist movement. And how did he access the letter? The Israeli authorities claim to know nothing about this.

Norris has a long history of speaking  out on human rights issues and has been a long time supporter of the Palestinian cause. He also has gone on record recently to attack the transfer of wealth from poor to rich both in Ireland and across Europe. Thus he would have been a radical president and he had the support of many on the Left. He has also courageously campaigned for LGBT rights for many years and criticised the Catholic Church when many others were afraid to do so. For this he deserves credit. His fall, has the character of a Greek tragedy but also has a very Irish dimension. For it was over a matter of the heart that Parnell, the great Irish 19th century political leader and orator, also fell, leaving the route to Home Rule closed and opening the doors to the struggle for Irish independence which was to overshadow Irish history for the next century.

Norris's resignation has this literary and theatrical quality and is indeed a moment of personal and political tragedy and the quote from Beckett was inspirational. Certainly his withdrawal from the presidential race will leave it much less colourful.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Secretary of State for Health insults Healthwatch Volunteers - Press Release

A press release today from my good friend Malcolm Alexander of NALM about how this government ignores health volunteers. Following on from yesterday's news about how charities are being starved of funds it is further evidence of the hollowness of the 'Big Society' project.

August 3rd 2011 - PRESS RELEASE

The National Association of LINks Members
Secretary of State forgets his "nothing about me without me" mantra

Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health will today announce the details of 75 LINks (Local Involvement Networks, the local health and social care watchdogs, awarded Pathfinder status by the Department of Health to support their development to become Healthwatch organisations. LINks are set to ‘evolve’ into Healthwatch in October 2012 with greatly expanded duties. But whilst millions are being given by the government for the organisational development of Pathfinder Clinical Commissioning Groups (£7milion in London alone), Andrew Lansley has plans to give absolutely nothing to Pathfinder LINks.

NALM finds it incomprehensible that that whilst money has been found to be used by the DH for LINk Pathfinder evaluation, networking and shared learning with LINks, that no money will be given to the LINks individually to run their leading edge Pathfinder work.

NALM’s recent report ‘Evolution or Abolition’ showed that LINks, have suffered an average 24% budget cut, and some cuts as great as 70%

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of NALM said: LINks are run by volunteers and have a major role in monitoring the quality and safety of NHS and social care services from a user’s and patient’s viewpoint. To expect them to run successful Pathfinders with no additional money is frankly insulting to the excellent and committed volunteers across the country, who strive to make LINks a success. The launch of Healthwatch Pathfinders today is a hollow event. LINks have a vital role in monitoring services, and we expect the Secretary of State to value their great contribution, by funding the development of Pathfinders. We call of Andrew Lansley to show that the government values LINks and is committed to Healthwatch by producing funding that will enable them to development into powerful community organisations.

Malcolm Alexander


August 3rd 2011

Tel: 07817505193 / 0208 809 6551

Notes for editors:

Malcolm Alexander is the Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. He can be contacted on: 0208 809 6551 or 07817505193 or

Local Involvement Networks (LINks) were set up by statute in 2008 to give citizens a stronger voice in how health and social care services are delivered.

NALM is the national organisation of Local Involvement Network members and was formed on April 1st 2009. NALM aims to stimulate more powerful approaches to public and user involvement and build a major grass roots movement of LINks and LINks’ members which can influence government policy.

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2008 established Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to promote and support the involvement of people in the commissioning, provision and scrutiny of local NHS and care services. They do this by monitoring services and obtaining the views of people about their experiences of care and making reports and recommendations about how services should be improved, to persons responsible for commissioning, providing, managing or scrutinising local care services.

Note of the development of Healthwatch

The local HealthWatch Pathfinders will take on substantial extra duties such as providing information and signposting to the public who need help with understanding how the reformed NHS and social services structures work, and potentially supplying advocacy for those who need help complaining to the NHS about poor treatment.

LINks are made up of volunteers, supported by a small professional team. They have responsibility for scrutinising all health and social care services in a local authority area. They are tasked, by statute, with providing the voice of those who use our health and social care services.

Despite the mantra of "nothing about me without me" LINks were not included in the NHS Future Forum. LINks are already struggling even before they take on this extra Local HealthWatch work. Funding assigned to Local Authorities to support LINks from central government remains unchanged, but is not ringfenced and local authorities have made massive cuts to the budgets of many LINks up to 70%.

It is intended that Local HealthWatch be the voice of the user and patient, and a guardian of patient safety. LINks and Local HealthWatch should be the first line of defence against another Mid-Staffs, they have a right to inspect services, and this role becomes even more critical with the cuts to the CQC.

The decision of the Secretary of State not to fund Pathfinders, insults the goodwill of the volunteers who will run pathfinder Local HealthWatches.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Moldova and international work in the Green Party

On Saturday I attended the last meeting of the International Committee of the Green Party this year - a new committee will be elected in early September at autumn conference. Several of us said that we were not standing again and I was one of them, and we were thanked by those standing again for our contributions. It has been a very busy year and the committee has achieved a lot. I have been a committee member for the last year and a half and previous to that I was International Coordinator on the party executive and the international rep on the Green Party Regional Council for 3 years. All together I have been involved in international affairs in the party since 2004 and up until autumn of 2008, I attended the European Green Party Council meetings twice a year, often as a delegate and once or twic as an observer.

One of the things which the committee agreed to this year was to work on a project involving Moldova with the Westminster Fund for Democracy. The Westminster Fund has a Small Parties Unit and two of us agreed to travel to Moldova, together with Silviu Dimitru from the Romanian Green Party, to develop links with the Moldovan Greens and to assist them with developing in a relavitely new democracy on the eastern fringes of the EU. I am committed to seeing through this project for the rest of the two years that it requires.

The report which we compiled on our visit to Moldova is below, together with some clips of a village band who entertained us on our visit. The newly elected Mayor of the village was a Green and was the youngest mayor in the country. Indeed he played sometimes in this village band. They played us some selections of folk music and also a piece which I recognised as 'The Hunters Chorus' from Weber's opera 'Der Freischtz'.

But I am also hoping to be re-elected as the party's representative to the Stop the War Coalition, where I will continue my involvement in the campaign against the wars in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

Moldova Report – July 2011

Travelling to Moldova with Chris Levick from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and Silviu Dimitru (General Secretary of the Romanian Green Party) we had very limited knowledge of the situation of the Green Party there. Reports suggested that it was very small and had only gained an insignificant vote share in the recent local elections, not even standing a candidate in Chisinau, the capital. Silviu was more aware of the situation and there had been some contact with the UK ambassador there about the general political situation.

We had a number of formal meetings lined up. These included a meeting with the Green Party executive, with a local political analyst, two locally elected Green mayors and the UK ambassador. As our visit was only for two days it would be necessary to view the situation on the ground and to decide what actions to take at a later stage to follow up our initial findings.

Meeting with the Moldovan Green Party Executive:

On the initial day of our visit we met with the party leader and a number of members of the executive, including the chair of the party in Chisinau. There are 32 electoral regions in the country and the party has 2 mayors and 32 councillors. There is a deadlock in the parliament between the Liberal Alliance (a collection of several pro-western, pro-EU and pro-Romanian parties) and the Communists who are more pro-Russian. Because of this it has been impossible to elect a president and the Prime Minister has been running the country with the Speaker of Parliament acting as President. The current government is drawn from the Liberal Alliance. The Green Party had just had 2 mayors elected in the recent local elections in small villages near Chisinau. The biggest problem for the party was the political situation and the need for constitutional reform. The deadlock in parliament meant that political progress was difficult.

We asked about the economic situation. About one quarter of the population have emigrated – mostly to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy, although there are some in the UK. They can do this by accessing Romanian passports. The country had 3% growth this year with 8.3% in the first quarter. The Western European market was now the most important for Moldava as the Russian market was now closed off but it was felt that the worst of the economic crisis had been overcome. Wine, canning and meat processing were the main industries. Russia had been the previous main market but had now closed its borders to many Moldovan exports. They regarded EU integration as the main priority now and they supported the current government and the Liberal Alliance as offering the better hope of this.

The political system was in a dire state and the Communists were blocking many reforms. The justice system also needed major reform. The local election had seen the Liberal Alliance mayor of Chisinau re-elected. The Chair of the Chisinau party said that the Greens were working with this mayor even though they had no councillors in the capital.

It was noticeable that all of the executive present were men and we asked a question about gender balance in the party and were told that many women were involved and that we would meet one of the newly elected mayors who was a woman.

Meeting with a political analyst from ADEPT (Association for Participatory Democracy)

We met with Igor Botan who is a political analyst with the local political association ADEPT and also has a political discussion programme on Moldovan television. This organisation is used as a sounding board and a source of local political information by many of the Western embassies in Chisinau. He told us that Moldovan politics was fatally damaged by the chasm which existed, and which was emphasised during election periods, between the Romanian speaking and Russian speaking populations. Roughly 20% of Moldovans are Russian speaking and refuse to speak or learn Romanian. This group votes for the Communist Party but the party also receives support from others who are concerned about the creation of a ‘Greater Romania’ and the resultant damage to ties with Russia. The Communist party play on this fear during elections. On the other hand, the Liberal Alliance play on the fear of Russia and the need for closer relations with Romania, and the need for the Romanian language to be dominant. One of the parties (the Liberal Party) calls for full reunification with Romania. He believes that this substantially damages political dialogue and that other issues become secondary.

The issue of political corruption was also raised. It is endemic and not confined to any one party. Each bloc supports its patrons and the various business elites which support them. A recent report from an anonymous source in the Interior Ministry claimed that police and Interior Ministry staff were engaged in protection rackets against various shops and businesses. He had spoken with another official who had verified this. This illustrates the depth of the political and judicial situation in the country. He knew nothing of the Green Party and felt that it had a very low profile. However, he felt that the emergence of such a party on the political scene, with the resultant ‘normalisation’ of political discourse could be truly ground breaking. He felt pessimistic about the entire political situation in the country.

Meeting with the UK Ambassador

The ambassador had been based in Moldova for the preceding two years and believed that very interesting times lay ahead for the country. He regarded the EU Association Agreement as the most significant political development for the country. He made the point that the Greens were playing no role in talks around this issue and indeed had not attended any of the major conferences and seminars discussing energy, environment and the future geopolitical direction of the country. Indeed, he also was unaware of the existence of the party and although he wished it well, did not believe that it had any real electoral or philosophical basis in the country. He also spoke of the problems around the absence of any concept of civil society which he regarded as the major problem confronting the development of democratic politics there. He drew the analogy of the state having provided everything in Soviet times and the citizens having retreated totally into the private sphere after its collapse. He also referred to the many Moldovan emigrants, including to the UK and said that some villages had no residents between 18 and 50 and that there was a huge problem with the lack of youth. The ambassador believed that Moldova had great potential for environmental tourism and also for organic agriculture. He agreed that the election of the new mayors was a positive signal but stated that no candidate could have stood in Chisinau as the election costs were too high in terms of publicity etc.
Green Mayors

The Moldovan Greens managed to get two mayors elected in villages of Criuleni county just outside Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova. Both areas have populations of around 3-4,000. During our visit we met up with both mayors. Our trip coincided with their first day in office so there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.

Our first visit was to Hrusova where we were treated to a traditional lunch with Parascovia Cotovici. She had won with a convincing margin over her nearest rival and seemed to have effectively used her strong personality and knowledge of the area to her advantage. We were shown some of her campaign materials and I was quite surprised how similar the tactics used were to elections in Britain. Ms Cotovici had clearly worked hard to talk to residents and to demonstrate her political platform. In addition to the mayoral victory the Moldovan Greens also managed to get 5 councillors out of 13 elected onto the local council and they appeared confident of being able to negotiate a governing coalition with at least another two councillors.

It is interesting to note that Ms Cotovici had previously been elected as an independent mayor in 1999 and is clearly a respected member of the community. She stood as a Green candidate due to her enthusiasm for the party’s values. There was also a sense of frustration from the lack of progress in improving conditions within the village during the terms of the subsequent two mayors. She hoped to be able to work on issues such as the poor state of local roads and the renovation of a vacant building to turn it into a cultural centre.

Our next visit was to Boșcana. Here we met Anatolie Vântu and were introduced to various local members of the Moldovan Greens. At 28 he is the youngest mayor in the country and was very confident and ambitious having studied law in Strasbourg. One of the primary concerns Mr Vântu saw for the village was the need to keep young people in the area. Migration is a big issue in Moldova and it is estimated that around 1 million of a total population of about 3.5 million live abroad. There was a desire to give more reasons to younger people to stay in their local communities and increase available activities and job opportunities.

Mr Vântu was joined on the local council by 3 Green councillors. Although the council was quite split politically he was confident of working with a number of other councillors to form a working majority of 7. Mr Vântu felt his training in law would enable him to start leading the local administration in a much more professional manner and that his young support team would refresh activities. In addition to keeping younger people in the area he also identified four key areas to work on during his term of office: waste management; maintenance of green areas; water drainage; renewable energy.

Both mayors were excited by the idea of working with the Green Party of England and Wales. They seemed keen about the prospect of gaining experience and knowledge. We were obviously shown the best side of the Moldovan Greens and I can’t comment on their efforts in other parts of the country but it appears that they have a good initial foundation from which they can expand as a party. I think further projects with GPEW and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy would benefit not only the Moldovan Greens but also GPEW.

Young Greens

During our visit the topic of young greens had been mentioned and it was felt that this could be a good area to focus on as part of our work with WFD. A meeting was hastily arranged on our final evening with some members from the Moldovan Greens’ fledgling youth wing.

The Young Greens we spoke to were very enthusiastic and passionate about environmental issues. They also recognised the need to maintain a distinct identity from the ‘senior’ party and to run independent campaigns and activities. It was also interesting that they raised the issue of the lack of attractiveness of the Moldovan Greens and the need to make a distinctive message known to the general public - one of the observations we made during the visit.

I got the impression that there was a lack of experience and organisation at this stage. The members we spoke to recognised themselves that they needed to develop communication skills so as to be able to educate people and attract them to their activities. Although one member had some knowledge of European Young Green activities there seemed to be a distinct lack of knowledge about opportunities in this area and it is also the case that the Moldovan Greens are not yet affiliated to either the Federation of Young European Greens or the Co-operation and Development Network.

I feel that there are two areas for further work with the Moldovan Greens’ youth wing. Firstly, the possibility of specifically involving young members in planned WFD activities and/or setting up a young greens specific workshop. Secondly, the Young Greens of England and Wales could work with the Young Moldovan Greens, FYEG and CDN to get them more involved in international events and to become members of both organisations.

Next Steps

In conjunction with Silviu Dimitru of the Romanian Greens, Chris Levick of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and members of the Moldovan Green Executive, we agreed that several initiatives needed to be taken in order to improve the capacity of the Moldovan Greens and particularly of their youth wing.

The elected mayors and councillors needed some form of mentoring and advice and had particularly asked for information and support on issues such as recycling, land tips, drainage and other problems relating to small villages and agricultural communities. We felt that a visit to Moldova by Green councillors from rural areas/small communities would be particularly helpful for them in order to exchange ideas and support. This could be organised for the autumn.

We also felt it useful for a delegation of Moldovan Greens to visit the Green Party of England and Wales spring conference, where a number of training fringes and workshops are organised and that this would assist them considerably with publicity, election strategy and other practical assistance This delegation should include a significant number of young people.

A visit from members of the International Committee or other party members to the Moldovan Greens conference was also recommended, where ideas could be exchanged and relations cemented. This could also serve the purpose of updating the European Green Party on developments there and serve to strengthen the link between the EGP and the Moldovan party.

Finally, we are of the opinion that an event held between the two youth wings of the parties, and possibly involving the Federation of Young European Greens would be very constructive. Linguistic knowledge and levels of political activity seem to be higher among the younger members of the Moldovan party.

Dr Joseph Healy and Marek Powley

International Committee of Green Party of England & Wales