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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Press Release from Queers Against the Cuts on Cameron's Hypocrisy

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release 24 June 2011

START

Gay Anti-Cuts Campaigners Slam Cameron’s “Hypocrisy”

London based LGBTQ anti cuts group, Queers Against The Cuts (QUAC) has panned the Prime minister speech given at the Downing Street reception for the LGBT community last Wednesday.

“David Cameron speech was incredibly complacent “said Richard Farnos, Joint Convenor of QUAC “There was no acknowledgement that LGBTQ people are going to be among the hardest hit by this government’s foolish austerity programme. Cameron seems to think that LGBTQ people live off thin air.”

According to QUAC not only do LGBTQ people work disproportionately in the public and voluntary sectors that are being cut, but as a community LGBTQ people are more dependent on public services: “Most of us don’t have kids to help out when we are older, and still our youth are more likely to be abandoned by their families.” Richard Farnos explained.

LGBTQ people are also being hit by benefit cuts “many HIV positive gay men are losing out with the introduction of Employment Support Allowance which seems to be unable to cope with fluctuating conditions.”

“To add insult to injury it is pure hypocrisy that Cameron claims to be tackling homophobic bullying in schools. The Government’s own educational reform plans, particularly the creation of so called “free schools” will allow the re-introduction of section 28 through the backdoor.”

“Free School” will be new schools set up by parents, churches or charities that will receive state funding while not have to follow the national curriculum, and with few restrictions on what the schools can or cannot teach.

Already Toby Young one of the leading advocates of “free schools” has dismissed the whole idea of LGBT History month saying "The very idea that a group of 12-year-old schoolchildren would be dragooned into ‘creating banners and other materials’ to promote LGBT week is preposterous".



“At QUAC” Richard Farnos concluded “we don’t think that the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities should pay for the greed inspired errors of bankers. And as Ireland and Greece show cutting will only make things worse. If corporations and the super rich were made to pay the tax they legally avoid we could tackle the debt and invest in all our futures.”

END

Queers Against the Cuts (QUAC) was formed in January 2011 and is a diverse group of LGBTQ people who have come together to oppose the savage cuts to public services, job losses and the welfare state being pushed by the ConDem coalition government.

We aim:

• To campaign and defend all jobs, services and benefit rights and oppose privatisation.

• To highlight the disproportionate and adverse impact of the huge reduction of public spending has on LGBTQ communities.

• To mobilise the LGBTQ communities against the cuts.

• To promote discussion of alternatives to the cuts and reconstruction of a more LGBT friendly public service

• To work in partnership and build alliances with others fighting the cuts.



FOR MORE INFORMATION

Ring: Richard Farnos on 07951 755 785

Email: queersagainstthecuts@gmail.com

Website: queersagainstthecuts.wordpress.com.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Meeting the US Greens

Last Friday, together with Rebecca Johnson, I met Justine Mc Cabe, Co-Chair of the International Committee of the US Green Party, and her husband (photo above). Rebecca and I as members of the international committee welcomed Justine to England, which she was visiting because her son was at university in Cambridge. She and her husband live in the New England state of Connecticut, not far from New York and she often spends time in the city, where she is in regular contact with the New York Greens.

We explained the way that things were conducted at international level in our two parties. Ours, with only 5 members on the international committee, whose responsibilities cover the entire globe, although in reality, mainly deals with Europe, the European Green Party and fellow European Green parties. The US Green Party on the other hand, has technically two representatives on its committee from each of the US states. This could amount to 100 members, but in reality amounts to only about 48, not all of whom are active. They divide up responsibilities on a global level amongst various sub committees - Latin America, Europe, Asia etc. Justine, as Co-Chair of the committee has overall responsibility but her main interests are the Middle East and she is a strenuous campaigner for the rights of the Palestinians, having been living on the West Bank several times. She also explained that the US Greens are also campaigning against the wars in Afghanistan and Libya. Indeed the anti-war movement is an important element of the US Green Party.

We discussed the role of Obama and she explained that many on the Left, including many Green voters and those in the anti-war movement had been initially seduced by his rhetoric but were now deeply disillusioned and ready to vote against him. Bush, she explained, had been a clearly conservative and reactionary president, but Obama was far more dangerous as he spouted liberal rhetoric, while still being the tool of Wall Street and the Pentagon. Indeed I pointed out that the recent Stop the War conference had shown that statistically there had been more drone attacks and more military actions under Obama's presidency than under Bush's.

We spoke about the relationship between the US Greens and the Canadian and Mexican Green parties. The Canadians were seen as somewhat more conservative, especially under the leadership of Elizabeth May, who was far more reluctant to deal with controversial issues around the Middle East than the US party. We also discussed the Global Greens, where Justine was a keen enthusiast and had attended the Global Greens Congress in Brazil in 2008. I explained that I had tabled a motion to our party conference to allow delegates from GPEW to attend the next one in Senegal next year, which Justine strongly approved of. Justine believes, as I do, that the Global Greens need to emerge from under the shadow of the European Greens and become much more of an independent global force, particularly in the global South.

Finally, we agreed that contacts needed to be strengthened between our two parties, especiall over issues such as the Middle East and the wars in North Africa and Central Asia. We parted with an invitation for us to visit New England and New York in the near future and for regular channels of communication to be opened between our two parties. Justine admitted that she had watched broadcasts of Caroline Lucas and was a big fan, and that Caroline was truly representing a radical Green agenda. It was a really refreshing and postive exchange of views and I reported back on it the following day to our own international committee. I am sure that it will be the first of many contacts with the US Greens.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Welfare Reform Song - M'Luds won't you help me on welfare reform?

With the current bipartisan approach on welfare reform (witness Ed Milliband's recent pitch to the Daily Mail readers that benefit claimants and those unemployed should pull themselves up by the bootstraps) many disabled people are living in a real climate of fear. Thousands are being forced through compulsory interviews at present with private companies such as ATOS Medical Services, whom even Norman Lamb MP (Clegg's adviser on health and social care) admitted recently at a book launch I attended on social care organised by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, were feared and loathed by disabled people all  over the country.

In 2013 thousands more will be forced through the grinder as those on Disability Living Allowance are forced through the same process. I have seen the blueprint for the new benefit to replace DLA, it is called 'Personal Independence Payments' and without doubt they will ensure that many disabled people are stripped of all benefits and exhorted in true Victorian Samuel Smiles manner to find themselves work or find the nearest workhouse. Truly it is disgusting that the stream of hate and intolerance against disabled people and those on benefits such as DLA, fanned by the rabid right wing press, is increasing hate crime and ensuring that for many disabled people their lives will  not be worth living.

Here is a excellent rendition of a song by a disabled activist entitled 'M'Luds won't you help me on welfare reform?' which  is an appeal to the House of Lords, where the Welfare Reform Act now sits, to come to the aid of some of the most vulnerable people in this society.




The lyrics are

M'luds won't you help me, with Welfare Reform?

The sick need protection, their facing a storm,
Worked Hard all our lifetimes,
Paid tax since we're born
M'luds won't you help me with Welfare Reform?

M'luds won't you help me, to make people see?
The wall built around us by distant MPs?
We're tryin to help them, but will they help me
M'luds won't you help me to make people see?

M'luds won't you help me to keep people safe?
To live home and free with means to escape
The four walls that bind them
May keep them in chains.
M'luds won't you help me to keep people safe?

M'luds would you see them pushed onto the streets?
No hope of redemption, No way to compete?
No more hope of working
With nothing to eat.
M'luds would you see them pushed onto the streets?

M'luds are we worthy of all you hold dear?
Free speech, human rights and a voice you can hear?
The sick and the poor Lords,
Are living in fear.
M'luds are we worthy, of all you hold dear?

Written, sung and produced by Sue Marsh, diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com

Friday, 17 June 2011

The carve up of the Arctic - a new Cold War?

I am going to a meeting tomorrow of the Green Party's international committee. Apart from issues concerning Europe, international motions going to the party conference - one of which I have proposed asking for support for the Global Greens Congress in Senegal next year - the other issue I have asked to be put on the agenda is the situation in the Arctic with drilling for oil etc and the real danger of a major resource war there.

Already we can see that NATO, the US, Russia and others are getting ready to carve out their interests in the region on the assumption that as the ice retreats a new El Dorado will open up for them in terms of minerals and fossil fuels. This is an appalling vista and made worse by the real prospect of war and conflict there. Recent report on a conference on the future of the Arctic and on some of the wikileaks on the issue are a real cause for concern.

Also today Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace is joining other brave activists to protest about oil drilling off Greenland. Kumi, already a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, makes the very salient point that apart from the damage to nature, which could be enormous, that these developments will also impact hugely on the developing world and lead to massive damage and a rise in global sea levels.

This is going to be one of the issues of this century and we betteer wake up to its real dangers before it is too late. I intend to liaise with the Danish Green movement and others about this and with our sister party in Denmark. I am also hoping to organise a fringe on it at the party's autumn conference.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Stop the War Coalition Conference on Afghanistan last Saturday

Last Saturday I attended an excellent conference organised by Stop the War Coalition with first class speakers from various backgrounds. It was noticeable that there were 300 people present and a many new young activists. I particularly found the speeches of Tariq Ali, Dave Swanson and John Hillary of War on Want, which have produced a first class booklet on the war in Afghanistan. I also met Greg Muttit, who has written a book on Iraq entitled 'Fuel on the Fire. Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq.' Tariq Ali's quote from Churchill's book on his early career as a British imperialist officer in Afghanistan was masterly. As Tariq said, at least Churchill was an honest imperialist whereas the current crew dress up their interventions in Afghanistan and Libya in the language of human rights and democracy when their aims are the same old imperialist ones. Tariq's claims about the attack on the naval base in Karachi are also startling and a real wake up call about what is happening in Pakistan. As many said at the conference we are being drip fed propaganda from the war party and not hearing a lot about the underlying facts, such as the real situation in Pakistan. Even Al Jazeera, with its ownership by Quatari interests, cannot be trusted to report fairly about what is happening in Libya.




Greg Muttit said that he would be very interested in speaking at the Green Party conference comparing the interventions in Libya and Afghanistan.

John Hillary drew the connections between the war in Afghanistan and poverty and geostrategic exploitation.



The poems by the young Yemeni poet, Sanasino, were also very powerful.


The session I chaired on Parliamentary Campaigning had Jeremy Corbyn MP and Carol Turner, Coordinator of the Afghanistan Withdrawal Group, whose Co-Chair is Caroline Lucas. Carol pointed out that sending postcards and emails to MPs is important. Other members of the Afghanistan Withdrawal Group are a Lib Dem MP who is Vice Chair and Jeremy Corbyn is the other Vice Chair. Daniel Poulter, a Tory MP is also a member as is the leader of Plaid Cymru. They hold open public meetings in parliament and the next one is due on June 28th.

Jeremy Corbyn pointed out how Orders in Council were used by the Prime Minister to bypass parliament and that he and other MPs were trying to ensure that all wars required a full vote in parliament beforehand. He said that the only reason why Blair had allowed a vote on the Iraq war was because he believed that he would imprison Labour MPs in the war by binding them to the decision. He also pointed out that there were more backbench days now and that an effective method of lobbying was to get an MP  to put down an Early Day Motion - this was indicative of the external lobby. He himself received 1000s of emails per week lobbying him on various issues. His volume of correspondence had increased substantially. In the 80s he had received on average 200 letters per day. He also, quite interestingly, said that mass email campaigns irritate MPs considerably but that they are effective. It was best if such emails emanated from constituents.

Jeremy also said that the Foreign Office Briefing on Libya was highly informative and well worth reading. He also recommended Library Briefings on the parliamentary website - google House of Commons Library and notes on various issues could be found there. Many of these were free of the propaganda element and far more informative.

There was a suggestion from the floor about organising a conference on an alternative foreign policy for the UK and Jeremy thought that this was well overdue. The anti-war movement was often too reactive whereas a new vision for a foreign policy was required. He also sent his best wishes to Brian Haw to mark a decade of his protest at Parliament Square.

I came away from the conference feeling inspired and much better informed and more convinced than ever that the anti-war movement is vital in this country.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Tactical Questioning - Scenes from the Baha Mousa Inquiry

Not much blogging last week due to a confluence of domestic turmoil and political activity. Firstly, I am having a new combination boiler installed and the kitchen is like a building site at present, the kitchen is also being completely redone so with fitters and others coming and going there is not a moment's rest. I was also quite tied up with various internal activities around the Green Party and also attended the Steering Committee of the Coalition of Resistance on Friday as well as preparing the papers for the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum meeting happening tonight at Lambeth PCT in Lower Marsh.

I spent the whole weekend on Stop the War Coalition business - attending the conference on Saturday on 'Afghanistan - Ten Years On' with an array  of really interesting speakers and I shall blog about this later. I also attended the Steering Committee meeting of Stop the War yesterday.

At the conference on Saturday, Jane Shallice, one of the STWC officers, referred to an excellent play being peformed at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, North London. The play is about the investigation into the death  of Baha Mousa at the hands of British soldiers in Iraq. The very same theatre ran a series of plays on Afghanistan last year entitled 'The Great Game' which I went to see. Peformances of the play were later seen by members of the general staff and by Hilary Clinton and senior officials at the Pentagon when  it toured New York.

I think that it raises very serious issues and is a clear link also with the way that NATO and UK forces are treating civilians in Afghanistan and other theatres of war. War is a brutalising business for both occupiers and occupied and that is why I support the petition launched by Stop the War at the weekend for all UK forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Xmas.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Day Conference on Saturday - Afghanistan and the War on Terror ten years on

I will be attending this conference on Saturday and going along to the Stop the War Coalition Steering Committee the following day. Never has there been more need to draw the links between the cost of war and military hardware and the cuts to our essential and frontline services.







June 11 Day Conference: Afghanistan and the war on terror ten years on .

National Events .. Saturday 11 June Day Conference: Afghanistan and the war on terror ten years on

Conway Hall Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL. Registration 9.30 am • Tickets £5



Ten years ago the events of 9/11 triggered a series of events which changed the world profoundly. The war in Afghanistan marked the start of a decade of war which has resulted in death, injury and displacement for millions of people across south Asia and the Middle East. The latest of these wars has now been launched on Libya, while the first one that in Afghanistan is taking a growing human and economic toll in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Stop the War is holding an important conference on Afghanistan and the war on terror which aims to analyse and explain the war and its legacies. It will bring together different elements of the broad movement including journalists, activists, former soldiers and military families. The conference is important as an exchange of information and ideas. But it is also a means of organising future campaigns. Ten years on, we still have to build a mass movement to force the US and British governments to withdraw the troops and to stop future interventions.

Speakers include: Tariq Ali • author Pankaj Mishra • US anti war Campaigner David Swanson • Yasmin Khan War on Want • Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition • Tony Benn • Jemima Khan human rights activist • George Galloway • Greg Muttit, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq • artists Peter Kennard, Cat Phillips and David Gentleman • Faithless guitarist Dave Randall • poet Sanasino • Iraqi commentator Sami Ramadani • former soldier Joe Glenton who was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan • Joan Humphries from Military Families against the War • Jeremy Corbyn MP



....

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum Joint Meeting with Sickle Cell Society



The article about my press release re Richard Barnbrook and diversity in the LAS appeared in the Irish Post last week in the column of Paul O'Donavan, I already posted the press release here two weeks ago but the column ended by stating:
"Good to see a member of one of London's largest ethnic minority communities (the Irish) standing up for diversity in London's ambulance service."
Thanks Paul. And next Monday sees a meeting of the Forum with a group who have been affected quite a lot by problems with the ambulance service - there is currently a case under investigation - people suffering from sickle cell illness. This illness is mainly found among the African and Caribbean communities and is particularly prevalent in areas such as Lambeth and Southwark. I will also be presenting my report on the LAS board meeting and I certainly hope that a good number of BME patients and users will attend.

Joint meeting with the Sickle Cell Society



Guest speaker:


Dr Fionna Moore, Medical Director, LAS


Emergency Care in a Sickle Cell Crisis


Monday June 13th 2011


5.30-7.30pm


Lambeth PCT, ROOM 407, 1 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, 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

PATIENTS’ FORUM AMBULANCE SERVICES (LONDON) LTD

Friday, 3 June 2011

The arrest of Mladic - A reminder of Srebenica

The arrest of Mladic brings back to Europe the shame of Srebenica and what happened in the former Yugoslaiva in the 1990s. It also, of course, accelerates the chances of Serbia joining the EU. Here is a first rate documentary made by the BBC about the massacre at Srebenica.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Protest at Irish Restaurant Awards by low paid migrant workers

Brilliant flashmob protest here by Irish restaurant workers in Dublin at the swanky Irish Restaurant Awards, where the employers have been lobbying to reduce the low pay they already receive. Organised by the trade union SIPTU - good on them!