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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Protest and occupation of Lambeth Town Hall last night

Last night a large number of local trade unionists, disabled people, voluntary sector workers and other members of the community protested outside Lambeth Town Hall about a council voting through draconian cuts. They occupied the council chamber and forced the Labour councillors to vote through the cuts in an adjoining room while a People's Assmbly was held in the council chamber with people voting unanimously against the cuts. I was outside the Town Hall and encouraging television journalists to go inside and also speaking with those coming out as well as contacting media contacts etc. There was a strong Green presence on the demo and even Shan Oakes, our National Equalities Coordinator, who lives in Yorshire and who was visiting family in London, took part in the demo giving out Green Party leaflets against the cuts. Indeed many of those to whom I gave the leaflets admitted that they had voted Green last May. Pictures below of Greens on the demo and also of the proceedings inside the Council chamber as well as a filmed report via the Guardian.



Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Protest against the cuts outside Lambeth Town Hall tonight

Tonight, together with other members of Lambeth Green Party, I will be at the protest against cuts outside Lambeth Town Hall as will many representatives of the voluntary sector and those whose sevices and jobs are being cut. We are the Big Society!


23 FEB – 6PM- COUNCIL CUTS BUDGET VOTE- DEMONSTATE, PROTEST & LOBBY!


On the 23rd February Lambeth Council meets in full to vote on its proposed budget and we, Lambeth Save Our Services, will be protesting against it, just as we did on the 7th February when hundreds protested at the last cabinet meeting.

What is getting cut?

Almost every council service, anything up to 1000 council workers, 25% of all staff, this includes:

• The entire park ranger service

• The entire school crossing patrol service which serves 24 schools

• More cuts in Children’s Services

• Libraries budget slashed – staff cut, Nettlefold hall closed, four of nine libraries under cuts consultation

• Discretionary freedom passes for adults with mental health problems

• Regeneration schemes on housing estates

• Cuts and privatisation in adult social care

• Lambeth and Lewisham Colleges to merge – massive cuts to local education

• Reduction in highway maintenance levels and potholes

• Rent rises whilst there are less staff to keep estates safe, clean and in decent state of repair

• Maintenance of the borough’s parks, cemeteries and crematoria is to be scaled back.

• Street cleaning levels reduced

• Many cultural events scrapped

• Three out of four Public toilets to close

• Noise nuisance service

• Reduction in the Faith Engagement Programme, which helps to support events such as Holocaust Memorial Day and Peace on the Streets and other community events and projects.

• Any much more. For more info see the council website (400+ pages!) or check this websites for Cutswatch updates

What is the alternative?

Most importantly Lambeth SOS believes that our local democratic representatives – councillors - should not implement government cuts they openly disagree with. Lambeth Labour, who run Lambeth Council, admit that the government cuts to the budget are ideological. We agree – these are cuts made by a Conservative (and Liberal) government made up of millionaires who believe huge public service cuts and big business are the way forward.

Not only do these cuts hit the most vulnerable hardest, they cut inner city councils more (mostly Labour run) than wealthy countryside areas. These cuts are not the fault of the people of Lambeth and we should not be made to pay for the financial crisis. Tax the rich to Save Our Services.

If Labour councils across England refused to implement the unnecessary cuts they disagree with then government would be forced to change its plan. Here in Lambeth, not only does the council refuse to protect its services with a bold anti-cuts budget, it also wastes huge amounts of money whilst cutting our services.


How to save money without cutting services in Lambeth

• Bring the failing Lambeth Living ALMO (the external housing management firm) back in-house saving millions.

• Cut all senior management pay – how can your councillor justify £270k for the chief executive? That is enough to staff an entire library!

• Use council reserves to reduce the impact of the front loading of the cuts and allow time to make improvements.

• Similarly, pay back the pension deficit over a longer period.

• Cut astronomical councillors allowances.

• Terminate over-paid and under-worked consultants.

• Stop letting cowboy contractors rip the council off.

But most of all stop hiding behind police lines, security guards and consultation companies and join the people you are supposed to serve, in fighting these cuts.

What should you do?

COME TO THE PROTEST ON THE 23 FEBRUARY

Download the leaflet for the protest and send it to everyone you know. Tell people why this budget is wrong and why we have to protest on the 23rd.

Write to your councillor and tell them to fight the cuts and ask them why are they not saving money instead (see above).

Come to our regular open planning meetings, get involved and join the email list

Come to our Benefit gig to raise money for SOS

Follow us on facebook and twitter and help us spread the word!

Affiliate you Trade Union branch or community group and give us money.

UPDATE: Facebook event now available: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152528408136789

London Green Party Mayoral Hustings tomorrow night at LSE

Message below re the Green Party's London Mayoral hustings being held tomorrow night at the London School of Economics. Ballot papers will be going out to all London members this week. I am supporting Farid Bakht of Tower Hamlets Green Party but more of that anon. I hope that the hustings will be filmed for those of us who cannot attend.

I'm just emailing out the details of the Mayoral selection hustings being held this Thursday evening, and hosted jointly by the LSE and UCL Green Party societies. The Facebook event is here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=193270777357436&index=1

And for those not on Facebook the hustings will be held between 7 and 8.15pm this coming Thursday, 24th February, at the London School of Economics, Room S421, St Clement's Building. If you aren't sure where you are going or need directions, just give me a call on my mobile (07749403351).

A general map of the area, including the St Clements Building, is here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/mapsAndDirections/findingYourWayAroundLSE.aspx

Do pass this on to any other Greens who you think might be interested!

Many thanks,

Jonathan Buckner

Youth and Student Officer

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Review of the London Ambulance Service by the London Assembly

The London Ambulance Service Patients Forum has been asked to give evidence to this review on March 17th and the views of the Forum will be very significant having worked with the LAS for the last 8 years. The evidence will be taken at City Hall before the Health and Public Services Committee from 10am to 12pm and the meeting is open to the public. As I am unavailable on that date, the Forum's Vice Chair, Malcolm Alexander, will be on the panel. The LAS is totally opposed to any attempt by the Mayor and Assembly for it to fall within the Mayor's area of responsibility and has written to the Secretary of State to this effect. The Patients Forum has no firm view as yet on the issue.






London Ambulance Service

With 999 calls up by more than a quarter in five years, how well is the London Ambulance Service performing?



Our investigation

The London Assembly’s Health and Public Services Committee is investigating how the London Ambulance Service (LAS) is meeting current and future operational, financial and organisational challenges.

The service is expected to undergo significant changes as a result of reforms proposed in the Government’s recent NHS White Paper. The Assembly has also written to the Government suggesting that the LAS could become accountable to the Mayor because, unlike London’s other emergency services, he does not currently have any role in its governance.

These proposed reforms come as the LAS is facing rising demand for its services. It has seen a 28 per cent increase in the number of 999 calls received and has attended nearly a quarter more incidents in the past five years.

The Committee’s investigation will cover the following questions:

How well is the LAS currently performing, and how can performance be further improved?

How can the increasing demand for the services of the LAS be managed?

What services should be provided by the LAS? What are the implications of the LAS becoming a Foundation Trust?

What are the implications of the move from Primary Care Trust to GP commissioning of ambulance services?

To what extent should ambulance services in London be subject to greater competition?

What should be the relationship between the Mayor and the LAS?

As part of the investigation, the Committee will hold public meetings on 17 March and 6 April 2011 and a full report will be published in the summer.

We are inviting individuals and organisations to submit written views and information to the Committee. Our call for submissions contains more about the issues we are considering and tells you how you can contribute to the review.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Ten Lords a leaping

Several weeks ago two events were taking place on a Saturday. One was an interview panel for potential applicants for the Green Party's internal ballot for nominations to the House of Lords. The second was a meeting of Green Left in Bristol to which I put a motion which was unanimously supported. The motion says it all in my opinion. It is completely illogical for the Green Party to be campaigning on the one hand for a changed electoral system and on the other for candidates to be selected in case an unrepresentative committee of government decides to grant the party places in the unreformed House of Lords. One of the leading members of the campaign for supporting AV took this on board when I raised it at a meeting of Lambeth Green Party last month and agreed that the two did not add up. I would urge any Green Party member receiving this ballot paper to spoil it and to write quite clearly on the ballot paper why. The motion is as follows:

On the basis that the unreformed and unelected House of Lords makes a mockery of any campaign for electoral reform and also that it is a discredited body, regarded by many as a retirement home for failed politicians, Green Left strongly disapproves of the Green Party’s current electoral process to select candidates to this body.


Finally, a snippet from Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Iolanthe' which sums up my views of their Lordship's house. Also rather ironic that in the Irish general election several of the major parties are now seriously discussing abolishing the Upper House (the Senate) completely.

Pax Americana and the Arab world

Fascinating discussion with some US insiders and others on how US foreign policy towards the Arab world has been caught out by recent events in the region and how a major change is required. The best line for me was: "Pax Ameicana, more like pox Americana."

Friday, 18 February 2011

Election broadcast for the Fianna Fail Party (IMF Party) in the Irish general election

Says it all really. The sooner Fianna Fail (the Soldiers of Destiny) are out of power the better.

Response to consultation on Disability Living Allowance

I have spent the last few weeks working on this response with Alan Wheatley, the Social Care Spokesperson of the Green Party and the last few days drawing it up for today's deadline. See below from the Green Party's national website.


Changes to Disability Living Allowance to affect 3 million people

18 February 2011

The Green Party's response to the government consultation on changes to Disability Living Allowance was forwarded this morning to the Department for Work and Pensions.

The consultation will affect at least 3 million people, and it is one of the most important and controversial aspects of the coalition government's proposed welfare reforms.

Alan Wheatley and Dr. Joseph Healy, Green Party spokespeople on disability, said: "The timeline given for the response to this consultation has been shockingly short.

"Decent housing, transport and access to socialisation are vital for disabled people. The lack of funds or services can severely impact on the extent to which disabled people can participate in the community and lead full lives."

In their response, Wheatley and Healy said: "DLA must not be income related. It must allow disabled people to be employed. And DLA must based on the social model of disability, not a medical one."

Their submission emphasised that:

- "Disabled people should not be made to jump through hoops in order to receive the help they need. As such, some conditions and impairments should be automatically entitled to DLA, for example, quadriplegia, being blind/deaf, some forms of bi-polar disorder, and chronic pain disorder where all avenues for a ‘cure' have failed."

- "In applying for DLA, accessible formats need to be used, and jargon avoided at all times. People should be asked how their conditions impact on their lives on a daily, or weekly, or monthly basis (or a combination of all three). GPs, consultants, nurses, physiotherapists, and carers could also supply supporting evidence."

- "One idea would be to have one benefit which could then act as the key to a range of disability benefits and services. Once the gateway benefit is secured, applicants would no longer have to trawl through interminable pages of forms in order to get, for example, a Blue Badge, or a Freedom Pass," and,

- "Finally, we have grave concerns about insufficiently qualified pseudo-medical interviewers from ATOS Medical Services being used. The Department for Work and Pensions should have learnt from the Harrington Report about the insensitive use of such companies and interviewers. Healthcare professionals, such as ATOS, are considered by many disabled people as mere agents of the DWP who are rewarded by their paymasters to strike as many people as possible off disability benefits."

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Lobby the BMA's London Regional Council meeting tomorrow night

Very busy at present finishing a response to the consultation on the 'reform' of Disability Living Allowance which has to be in with the DWP by Friday but will be at this event tomorrow night. More on the DLA consultation after Friday. In the interim have a staff meeting tomorrow where we are going to be told exactly how bad the cuts levied by Lambeth Council are going to affect our organisation, which will probably involve some members of staff either having to leave or reduce their hours.



Lobby the British Medical Association’s

London Regional Council meeting

Ask them to oppose the Coalition’s plans for mass privatisation of the NHS

THURSDAY 17 FEBRUARY 6 pm onwards

At BMA Headquarters BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP (see map http://tinyurl.com/BMA-house )

The London Regional Council of the British Medical Association (BMA) is meeting on Thursday 17 February to discuss the Coalition government’s plans for the National Health Service.

The government’s Health and Social Care Bill throws open the NHS budget wholesale to exploitation by the big commercial healthcare companies. It will finish the process started 30 years ago and carried forward by politicians of all the major parties to turn the NHS into a market.

The Bill has not yet been passed through parliament.

It is still possible to overturn it.

If doctors oppose the Bill it becomes unworkable.

Doctors (and the formation of GP consortia) are at the heart of the Coalition government’s plans to privatise the NHS. If their biggest organisation, the BMA, opposes the plans – the Coalition’s plans become unworkablle. Tory ex-Health Minister Stephen Dorrell, chair of the Coalition’s own Health Select Committee, is telling the government that they have to get GPs on board. Surveys show some 60 per cent of doctors already oppose the Bill.

By lobbying to show our support for a BMA stand against the proposed changes, we can encourage and strengthen doctors to see they are not on their own, but have the support of public and patients.

This is a real chance to make a decisive difference to the continued existence of the NHS.

Please come to the lobby, bring banners and placards, and your friends, neighbours and family.

Monday, 14 February 2011

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum put on notice by London Ambulance Service

The London Ambulance Service Patients Forum is meeting tonight with discussions on London’s homeless, carry chairs, forthcoming scrutiny of the London Ambulance Service by the London Assembly’s Health and Public Services committee, and the delay in going over to Foundation Trust status until November. The LAS has also informed us that we can no longer use their Board Room for meetings from April, on grounds of health and safety (too many members of the public attending) and that they will withdraw recognition of the Forum once Foundation Trust status is granted – thus removing Forum members from LAS committees etc.



With currently no access to public funds the most immediate problem for the Forum is to try and find a low cost meeting place in central London from April onwards. The Forum is currently one of the most successful pan London public and patient involvement bodies.



Joseph Healy

Patients Forum Chair


London Ambulance Service Patients Forum

Chair: Joseph Healy, Vice Chairs: Malcolm Alexander, Sister Josephine Udie, Lynn Strother

Secretary: Alison Buick

AGENDA – Patients’ Forum Meeting

Monday February 14th 2010, 5.30–7.30pm

Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Nearest Tube and Rail: Waterloo

Buses1,4,26,59,77,68,139,168,171,172,176,188,507,243,341,381,507,21

BSL signers will be available

1) Minutes of Meeting held January 10th 2010

2) Matters arising and action points

3) Chair’s Report – Joseph Healy

4) The Ambulance Service and London’s Homeless – Eleanor Levy, Complex Needs Manager, St Mungo’s North and East London.


5) Carry Chairs – Robin Kenworthy

6) LAS Trust Board Report – Barry Silverman andSafeguarding Committee Report – Lynn Strother

7) Target performance and turnaround times

Press Reports

Correspondence

The meeting will close at 7.30pm

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Brighton and the Irish elections

Down to Brighton yesterday to help with the local election campaign in the ward where my friend, Phelim Mac Cafferty, is standing - Brunswick and Adelaide in Hove. We had a busy day and there was a fantastic turnout of people, 21 in all, ranging from Brightonians, people from Cambridge, Berkshire, Portslade, and, of course, London. I met a great group of people and spent the morning leafleting and the afternoon helping out on the street stall, where we had a great response from passersby.

Phelim has also organised a fund raising gig for the campaign - details below.

Gig
Saturday 19th March Brunswick pub, Holland Rd 8 till late

I have also organised a gig for the evening of Saturday 19th March at the Brunswick pub on Holland Rd which will feature an all professional line-up performing jazz/blues/show tunes/cabaret/classical. My brother (alto sax) is kindly coming over from Ireland while my friends Paul (jazz pianist) and Debbie (vocals) will provide an evening to remember.

Please come along- door tax only £6 and £4 with all funds going to the campaign.

In the meantime I have had a report from my friend Bronwen in Dublin, who used to be a Green Party councillor but is now a Labour Party activist there. Bronwen reports: "Labour are looking good but FG are going to sweep the boards so it looks like a another conservative led government in Ireland.



Difficultly for us, Labour, is to retain votes now, and not make promises we cannot keep. We in Labour who worry about environment policy are really concerned about who will be the next Environment Minister - and indeed if FG keep gaining we might be looking at an FG government with support from right wing indos.


Re greens, what a disaster, message for all of us who care about democracy is as follows -


1) Build robust internal decision making structures, develop internal leadership in your political party (my dissertation is on leadership in organisations with participative decision making structures).
2) Political parties need to be just that political, not campaigning.
Gormely and Ryan got away with destroying the Irish Greens by playing on the members lack of political nous.
3) Green Party's have to have strong economic and social policies, with bottom line policies to protect against careerists in government.

Bronwen's warning about what went wrong with the Irish Greens is a timely one and applicable to all green and radical parties. In the meantime here is a satirical sketch from Irish television station RTE about Irish politicians.



Friday, 11 February 2011

Satirical video on the outgoing Irish government

A hilarious satirical video about the outgoing Fianna Fail-Green government. Figures include the Taoiseach (PM) Brian Cowen, holding the pint of Guinness, the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern - the 'Master', who laid the foundations for the current economic and social disaster. The three backing singers are three ministers in the Fianna Fail government. Other figures include the Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, John Gormley and the new leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin. Background sets include several toxic and 'corrupt' banks which the Fianna Fail party were linked to via networks of speculators, property developers and bankers.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

LGBT History Month

Last week I went to Queer Question Time at the civic offices of Southwark Council which formally opened LGBT History Month on February 1st. There was a panel of speakers and the discussion included questions on whether the word 'queer' was  now accepted by the LGBT community, if LGBT athletes and sportspeople should come out and whether Peter Tatchell should be offered a knighthood. Peter is, of course, a resident of Southwark, and was recently given a blue plaque outside his flat by the council for his services to human rights in the borough and worldwide. Sue Sanders, from Schools Out, who knows Peter well, said that Peter would never accept either a knighthood or a peerage but that people did not know the half of what he did and that he worked tirelessly for so many groups and campaigns all over the world.

Matthew Parris, former Tory MP, and now Times columnist, provoked a storm of protest when he claimed that the LGBT movement was still too negative and defensive because homophobia was a thing of the past. Several people who worked in schools stood up and said that this was most certainly not the case and that homophobic bullying continued and many teachers were still not prepared to come out. Once again the Tories demonstrate that they live in a different world to everyone else, one that is rich, cosseted and safe.

The Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association are organising a rather light hearted event on Friday which I am going to go to about Laurel and Hardy.


Friday 11th February 2011, 7:30pm at Conway Hall

That's another fine dress you've gotten me into.

Terry Sanderson argues that Laurel and Hardy were far more sexually subversive than most people realise. Illustrated with lots of hilarious clips of their bed-sharing and drag-wearing-and maybe the first same-sex wedding ever seen in the movies.

This event is free to attend and all are welcome. Light refreshments will be served before and after the talk.

Further Info here: http://www.galhameetup.com/events/15601758/?eventId=15601758&action=detail

The Big Society in action at Lambeth Town Hall last night

I took part in the protests outside Lambeth Town Hall last night against the cuts in Lambeth, where only one Labour councillor is willing to vote against the ruling group. As you can hear from the video the noise of the cars and buses hooting support was deafening. A rushing roar of support for the Big Society (which Francis Maude was doing his level best to defend last night on Newsnight but without success) and by that I mean the real Big Society, which was being destroyed last night in Lambeth. We heard the Chair of the Pan Lambeth Disability Forum saying that there would be disabled people committing suicide as a result of these cuts, children speaking out against the sale of their playgrounds and people with learning difficulties speaking about how their organisation, People First Lambeth, is being forced to close down.

We blocked the road after the protest and over 100 people went into the Town Hall. We must continue the fight both at local and national level. Next week is the Coalition of Resistance National Week of Resistance kicking off with a protests outside Downing St from 5pm to 8pm. Artists of the Resistance are already drawing up hearts motifs for the event. If only this government had one!




See this video and more at Indymedia London

Monday, 7 February 2011

Lobby and demo outside Lambeth Town Hall today

Lambeth lobby & demonstration today, Monday 7th February at 6 pm outside the Town Hall in Brixton. Organised by Lambeth SOS.


In Lambeth, up to 1000 jobs to be axed, including cuts in libraries, housing, Further Education, children's services and care for vulnerable adults. The voluntary sector has also been hammered with People First, an organisation for people with learning difficulties (which particularly helps BME people) being axed completely and many jobs lost at Age Concern Lambeth, including the befriending work for elderly, isolated people in the borough. The User Involvement Post for the worker with the Pan Disability Forum in Lambeth is also going from the end of next month and all the funding for the Stroke Support Network has also been withdrawn. All of this indicates the real human impact that these cuts are having, particulary in poorer, inner city areas such as Lambeth.

At the UNISON Voluntary Sector Branch meeting the other week I heard of massive cuts to the voluntary sector across London, with many organisations losing up to 20% of jobs and some closing completely - as People First Lambeth. As reported today, these cuts to the voluntary sector are effectively destroying 'The Big Society'. We must stand up and protest about the destruction of services for the most vulnerable in our society.

March to Egyptian Embassy last Saturday

I carried the Green Left banner along with Andy Hewett at the Stop the War Coalition march to the Egyptian embassy on Saturday. Earlier in the day I had atttended the Steering Committee of the Stop the War Coalition and we heard various political views on what was happening in the Middle East and North Africa. The protest was called at very short notice so we never expected huge numbers but a reasonable number of people turned out. Speakers included John Rees who had just returned from Cairo and Tariq Ali and a speaker from the NUJ who spoke about the arrest and murder of journalists in Egypt by the regime. I met people I knew from Jews for the Boycott and others who have been involved in the campaign to support the Palestinians and the anti-war movement in general. We met outside the US embassy where the rally was held. As one speaker said, we were marching from the house of the "puppet master" to the house of "the puppet". The struggle of the Egyptian people for democracy continues.

Friday, 4 February 2011

AV could bring long-term Tory led coalition


A good piece here from Left Futures with which I fundamentally agree. At the Coalition of Resistance Conference in November, Liz Davies former Labour NEC member and independent socialist demolished comprehensively the arguments of Billy Bragg who was arguing in favour of AV. In fact, if I was not so busy fighting the cuts I would join Liz in forming a Left Against AV group, which is something we discussed at the conference. I believe that the Green Party has made a fundamental political and philosophical error in supporting AV and I remain firmly against.


AV could bring long-term Tory-led coalition


The suggestion by Andrew Grice in the Independent this morning that David Cameron might be planning to assist the Lib-Dems over electoral reform — just as he did in the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election — changes the whole nature of the AV referendum debate. Many of those Labour MPs who have backed AV see it as an easy, costless and pretty empty gesture which can be spun as evidence that Labour is modern and its commitment to democracy paramount. They over-estimate the benefits, and overlook the massive risk of long-term Tory-led coalition. They don’t see it as real electoral reform; they don’t notice that it could actually severely undermine real democracy.

The Tories have embarked, in their first year of government, on a rolling-back of the state that easily surpasses what Thatcher managed in her whole period of office. They are undermining, in particular, the fabric of the NHS in a way in which Thatcher never dared. They have cover for this from Orange-book Liberals with whom they are ideologically at one. Cameron and Clegg may each have the irritation of constant criticism from their respective rebels but it will be ever thus. The point is that Coalition enables them not only to survive but to dominate their parties, strengthened by the dependence on continued coalition of the many MPs whose majorities would be threatened if it falls apart. AV would provide an easy route to an informal alliance which could survive election after election.

As Andrew Grice writes:

There are growing fears among Tory backbenchers that some Cameron allies would be privately relaxed about a Yes vote in the referendum, since it would give Mr Clegg a big prize and almost certainly ensure that the Coalition lasted until the next election in 2015. In contrast, a No vote could provoke demands from some Liberal Democrat activists for the party to pull out of the Coalition.

Tory traditionalists also fear a switch to AV would increase the chances of a permanent alliance between the two Coalition parties, as favoured by some Tory modernisers. Under this system, people mark the candidates in order of preference – the last-placed person drops out and second preferences are redistributed until one candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the votes.

Traditionalists believe the introduction of AV would lead to an informal anti-Labour pact, under which Mr Cameron encouraged Tory supporters to make the Liberal Democrats their second choice, with Mr Clegg urging his party’s backers to put the Tories in second place.”

If that happens, the electoral arithmetic changes drastically from most projections to date. Electoral Calculus, for example, bases projections on YouGov poll evidence on second preferences prior to the general election. Since that point, many of those whose second preference was Labour have switched their first preference from the Lib Dems anyway, and many now form part of Labour’s current poll lead — this YouGov poll showed that last year’s Lib Dem voters split 42% Labour, 30% Lib Dem, 17% Tory!

The Sunday Times YouGov poll last weekend show that Lib Dem voters now think Cameron is performing well by 3 to 1, only slightly more than the Tories who think Clegg is doing well. As to how whether the Coalition is working well, the Tories think so by nine to one, compared with three to one for the Lib Dems.

On this basis, any kind of informal pact at the next election would create a solid anti-Labour alliance. Some Lib Dems may not like it but their most rebellious MPs will also know that it will be the best way of saving their seats. Labour voters are more hostile to them than ever, and are more likely to give their second preferences to nationalists, the Greens or other minor parties. It may split the Lib Dems in the long-run but they’ve been down that road more than once before.

Labour MPs should beware. Now is not the time for token gestures! Real electoral reform, proportional representation, would be very different and encourage a real multi-party democracy (though the Lib Dems would be the greatest beneficiary). AV could just create a two-choice system, with Labour the certain loser.

The London Ambulance Service and London's Homeless - Public Meeting on February 14th

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum

‘The Ambulance Service and London’s homeless’ – Eleanor Levy, Complex Needs Manager, St Mungo’s North and East London.

Monday February 14th 2011

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

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

Demonstrate solidarity with the Egyptian people tomorrow



News here from Stop the War Coalition of a demonstration in support of the Egyptian people's struggle for democracy. I will be there and I hope many others will also.

  WORLDWIDE SOLIDARITY DAY FOR EGYPTIAN UPRISING

LONDON DEMONSTRATION

SATURDAY 5 FEBRUARY

ASSEMBLE 2.30PM UNITED STATES EMBASSY

GROSVENOR SQUARE, LONDON W1K

MARCH TO EGYPTIAN EMBASSY



Saturday 5 February has been designated a day for international

solidarity protests with the Egyptian uprising.


The London demonstration that assembles at the US Embassy in

Grosvenor Square at 2.30pm is one of hundreds in towns and cities

across the globe, from the United States to the Lebanon, from

Venezuela to the Netherlands, from Canada to Turkey, from

Australia to the West Bank and Gaza.


The Egyptian uprising is now facing its pivotal moment, with

Mubarak having unleashed his thugs to attack the pro-democracy

protesters. Mubarak is using state TV to spread the lie that the

mass demonstrations calling for him to go are the work of

"foreign elements".


The significance of international solidarity action across the

world cannot be over-stated. It sends a message to the millions

who have joined the Egyptian protests that their courage and

determination have been an inspiration to us all.


And it sends a message to our own government that it needs to

call for Hosni Mubarak to leave office immediately.


Making generalised statements deploring the violence, which has

been David Cameron's response, will not do, in particular from a

government, which like all those that preceded it, has up till

now given unqualified support to Mubarak's tyranny.


Tony Blair's statement this week that Mubarak is "immensely

courageous and a force for good" was not just more raving from

the swivel-eyed former prime minister: it was until the Egyptian

uprising the view of all British prime ministers.


The widespread support in this country for the Egyptian uprising

was reflected in yesterday's Stop the War public meeting, at

which over 400 people packed the Conway Hall to hear speeches

from, among others, George Galloway, eye-witnesses just returned

from Cairo and Lowkey. (Videos of the speeches will be available

soon on the Stop the War website).


Please join the demonstration on Saturday if you can. And

publicise it as widely as possible. A leaflet is available for

downloading to print, here: http://tinyurl.com/5tkfncw



DAY OF INTERNATIONAL ACTION


SATURDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2011


SOLIDARITY WITH THE EGYPTIAN UPRISING


ASSEMBLE 2.30PM UNITED STATES EMBASSY


GROSVENOR SQUARE, LONDON W1K


MARCH TO EGYPTIAN EMBASSY




For updates: http://stopwar.org.uk/

The Irish Tragedy - A US journalist's account



Fascinating article in Vanity Fair magazine written by a US journalist who toured Ireland recently speaking to some of the main players - economists, politicians and bankers. The story makes for fascinating reading and illustrates how a country went insane and was encouraged to do so by dishonest politicians and bankers. The scale of what happened is simply incredible and the levels of mendacity reached by politicians and others disgraceful. I am deeply ashamed and angry that a Green party participated in this corrupt and morally bankrupt government, which presided over much of this mess. Three years ago I warned about entering the coalition with Fianna Fail and wrote a number of articles over the last two years in US and Australian journals criticising the Irish Greens for continuing to vote through these measures, laid out so clearly in the Vanity Fair piece.

They will be punished electorally (they are currenly only on 1%) and they deserve to be. Those who spoke out against this madness in the party were forced to leave it, including my friend Bronwen Maher, who is now in the Irish Labour Party. But it is the Irish people who will be forced to pay for this for a generation, unless they default, which I sincerely hope they will. The Vanity Fair piece is getting a great deal of publicity in Ireland and makes gripping reading.

With the Irish general election underway, I hope that the parties of the Left do well and turn around after this election to renegotiate the debt and the bondage which this gang of gombeen men politicians and speculators have sold them into. I have nothing but sheer contempt and loathing for those who ran this government and for what they are doing now to some of the poorest people in the country.

For Osborne and Cameron, Ireland was supposed to show the way. The current joke doing the rounds is that the only difference between the UK and Ireland is two years. Time for a rethink!

The following quote from the article sums up a lot of what has happened in my country:


In any case, if the Irish wanted to save their banks, why not guarantee just the deposits? There’s a big difference between depositors and bondholders: depositors can flee. The immediate danger to the banks was that savers who had put money into them would take their money out, and the banks would be without funds. The investors who owned the roughly 80 billion euros of Irish bank bonds, on the other hand, were stuck. They couldn’t take their money out of the bank. And their 80 billion euros very nearly exactly covered the eventual losses inside the Irish banks. These private bondholders didn’t have any right to be made whole by the Irish government. The bondholders didn’t even expect to be made whole by the Irish government. Not long ago I spoke with a former senior Merrill Lynch bond trader who, on September 29, 2008, owned a pile of bonds in one of the Irish banks. He’d already tried to sell them back to the bank for 50 cents on the dollar—that is, he’d offered to take a huge loss, just to get out of them. On the morning of September 30 he awakened to find his bonds worth 100 cents on the dollar. The Irish government had guaranteed them! He couldn’t believe his luck. Across the financial markets this episode repeated itself. People who had made a private bet that went bad, and didn’t expect to be repaid in full, were handed their money back—from the Irish taxpayer.



In retrospect, now that the Irish bank losses are known to be world-historically huge, the decision to cover them appears not merely odd but suicidal. A handful of Irish bankers incurred debts they could never repay, of something like 100 billion euros. They may have had no idea what they were doing, but they did it all the same. Their debts were private—owed by them to investors around the world—and still the Irish people have undertaken to repay them as if they were obligations of the state. For two years they have labored under this impossible burden with scarcely a peep of protest. What’s more, all of the policy decisions since September 29, 2008, have set the hook more firmly inside the mouths of the Irish public. In January 2009 the Irish government nationalized Anglo Irish and its 34-billion-euro (and mounting) losses. In late 2009 they created the Irish version of the tarp program, but, unlike the U.S. government (which ended up buying stakes in the banks), they actually followed through on the plan and are in the process of buying 70 billion euros of crappy assets from the Irish banks.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Downing St Valentine's Day Twilight Rally and Week of Resistance

LONDON DOWNING STREET TWILIGHT RALLY – 14 FEBRUARY 5-8pm.


Do come along with friends to the ‘Stop the Valentine’s Day Massacre of Our Public Services’ Rally, opposite Downing Street 5 – 8 pm on Monday 14 February.

This event is organised by the Coalition of Resistance and supported by SERTUC (South East Regional TUC), UNITE (London & Eastern Region), People’s Charter, Right to Work Campaign and many other organisations.

A draft flyer, with Clegg and Cameron depicted as gangsters, is attached or can be downloaded from - http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Week-of-Resistance_A6_web_4b.pdf

There will be short speeches from key figures, including representatives of the Egyptian Uprising. If there is someone you want invited to speak contact us.

This event is part of a Week of Resistance to involve people in building a huge TUC anti-austerity demonstration on March 26th - see http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2011/01/tuc-national-demonstration-against-cuts-26-march-london/ .

The week of resistance includes the following events in London:

• Saturday 12th February Right to Work Campaign’s People’s Convention at Friends Meeting House, Euston.

• Sunday 13th February Capitalism: A love story by Michael Moore. London Socialist Film Co-op 10.30 am the Renoir with discussion led by Tony Benn

• Monday 14th February Stop the Valentine’s Day Massacre of our Public Services. Downing Street 5pm-7pm with Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Steve Hart Unite – sponsored by SERTUC and Unite [ London and Eastern Region].

• Tuesday 15th February Mass Lobby of Parliament Tell MPs: Hands off our homes, our benefits and our rights. Rally in Central Hall Westminster and mass lobby of Parliament. 12-4pm. Called by Defend Council Housing.

• Wednesday 16th February COR Public Meeting Goldsmiths College with Caroline Lucas MP, Tariq Ali and Clare Solomon

• Wednesday 16th February COR Public Meeting with Keep Our NHS Public Conway Hall WC1 with Dr Jacky Davis, Wendy Savage and John Lister. More info.

• Saturday 19th February Mass leafleting for March 26th demonstration – stalls throughout the country.

• Saturday 19th February Visit George Osborne at home – a cross between ‘a place in the sun’ and ‘location, location, location’.

For other local Week of Resistance events see www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk .


Just the way to start your Valentine’s Day evening!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Imperial Gardens - A defeat for natural justice

My friend Raymond Stevenson and his partner Lucia Hinton have lost their case in the High Court against Southwark Council. During November I sat for several days in the court and listened to the evidence from Raymond, various officers from Southwark Planning Dept and others. This case gained the support of the black and ethnic minority in Southwark where several years ago there were large demonstrations in Raymond's favour and Lord Herman Ouseley came to the conclusion that the borough and its officers were "institutionally racist". Southwark have just spent a huge amount of money fighting the case and feel justified with the judgement which they have placed on their website.

However, the following press release by Raymond and Lucia puts the other side of the story. Once again the establishment has triumphed over those who have dared to speak out against injustice. One of Raymond's biggest critics in the borough was Cllr John Friary, who was a councillor in the ward where Raymond's nightclub was based. Only this week it has been announced that he has had to stand down as Cabinet Member for Community Safety because of his arrest for paedophile activities. Other councillors who were involved in the case have left but some still remain. And former Cllr Hunt, mentioned in the press release, remains an example of a dignified and honourable politician who spoke out against corruption and paid the price within his own party. His evidence about the out of court settlement offer was not even accepted by the judge, that is, it was not heard by the court although he offered to go in the witness box under oath. I look forward to reading Raymond's book later this year.

Press Release

Contact: 0207 701 9950

Judgment: Imperial Gardens v Southwark Council

The long-delayed judgment in the case of Stevenson and others v London Borough of Southwark has found in favour of the council and against Raymond Stevenson and Lucia Hinton, owners of the former Imperial Gardens nightclub and talent factory in Camberwell.

They were suing Southwark for £9.1 million – a sum determined by a distinguished QC based on the value of similar businesses. It shows yet again that justice in England is hard to come by for poor individuals of any colour against big organisations exploiting a judicial system dominated by the old school pals club.

For Stevenson and Hinton, this case was about more than money. “In many ways the victory is ours even though the verdict was not in our favour,” they say. They are consulting lawyers and the Law Commission about mounting an appeal.

“We will regroup and appeal; but the sheer relief of the first instalment being over is some comfort. This case was always about the council having to justify unlawful behaviour by a series of lies which the judge accepted.”

But the Judge accepted that the council were grossly negligent which was obvious to all who attended the trial held in October and November last year. But Southwark ignored their moral duty to hide behind the fact that Council’s can be negligent without suffering the consequences, which leaves Southwark in a position to abuse more people.

“Sadly we live in a world where liars and cheats prosper,” says Lucia Hinton.

“The question is whether Southwark Council has learnt any lessons,” asks Stevenson. Few are convinced – especially the poor long-suffering taxpayers who will have to pay £3 million costs the council has incurred prior and during the trial. They won’t be able to recover any from the claimants, who are Legal Aid protected.

But that is not stopping the highly vindictive attempt by Southwark Council to retrieve some money by perusing the Estate of the third shareholder, Michael Taylor, who died waiting for the case to come to court.

A sacrificial black Planning Case Officer has been held to blame in the delay in determining the Imperial Gardens Application even though he was exonerated by the District Auditor, Ombudsman and the Council Overview Scrutiny Report.

The Judge stated, “Mr. Leigh in his closings submissions, submits, first, that 'someone' deliberately created a file in September 2000 to be consistent with an allegation that Mr.Allanah took over the case at the same time; and second, the only hard copy of the real file was removed from the paper file that would have shown that the Defendant would have been in, or at least might have been in, a position to determine the Imperial Gardens application by April 2000. There is no evidence as to the identity of the person who created the file in September 2000. The reason why it was done is unclear.

"I am not surprised that once again racism rears its ugly head from a Council that Lord Ouseley found deferential treatment in regards to the Imperial Gardens case. Phil Chambers the Planning Officer overseeing the Council's case, orchestrated the racism which judging by the evidence had been going on against black officers for over 10 years’, states Stevenson.

In regards to the sacked Planning Manager Mark Dennett the Judge concluded, “I consider Mr. Dennett’s evidence to have been unsatisfactory in certain respects. In particular I find it difficult to accept that he did not know of the existence of Imperial Gardens before he received the letter of complaint from Mr. Stevenson in March 2002.

Jonathan Hunt, the former Liberal Democrat councillor who first took up the case of wronged constituents, said that the judgment is flawed and inconsistent.

“The Judge accepts he was told a farrago of lies, but does not seem to believe they had any bearing on the case. For example, four of the five people present at a meeting in December 2003, including two members of the council team, said that council leader Nick Stanton offered the claimants £500,000 in compensation. Yet the council testified that not only was the offer never made, but that the meeting never took place. To restore our faith in justice this case has to go to the court of appeal. ”

The Hon Mr. Supperstone concluded, “Undoubtedly there were serious failings in the planning process, in particular in relation to the failure to consult THK on the Fairview application. The offer to pay the claimants £500,000 may have been made in recognition of these failings and their consequences”.

Stevenson and Hinton say: “The fight continues – this time without the shackles of us being gagged due to court proceedings. We thank our legal team Teresa Johnston, Michael Webster & John Palfrey (Webster Dixon), Kevin Leigh & Phil Williams (No5 Chambers), The Legal Services Commission and everyone for their support and we look forward to the next stage in this fight for justice.”

Stevenson’s book, published later this year, The Carnivorous Council’, is a pictorial tour of Southwark Council’s corrupt and murky dealings over the last 20 years. It starts with a parallel story of Stevenson’s Uncle whose community project was based on the Peckham site which now houses the Library and Swimming baths. It takes an in-depth look at The Imperial Gardens case, the lies and misnomers that were spread by vicious officers and councillors. It picks up on other sordid behaviour of Councillors and their attempts to marginalise black, poor and ethnic communities.