Archive for March, 2010

Former Labour Chairperson backs Greens in Lancaster by-election

I just saw this from UK Polling Report, I hope Gareth Webb doesn’t mind me posting it here:

“All the signs are that Ian Chamberlain will take the seat for the Green Party – I wish him good luck. As the ex Chairperson of the Labour Party Constituency of Lancastr & Fleetwood, I resigned my membership of Labour (disgusted with Iraq and the expenses scandal). I recently joined the Green Party in Lancaster and am working hard to convince floating voters to use their vote wisely on 1st April and vote GREEN. It is the only option in Lancaster, progression, transparency, accountability and above all honesty and real connection with the electorate. This IS the Green Party & Ian Chamberlain has my full support and backing and of course my VOTE on 1st April 2010. He will make a formidable city councillor. I urge anybody who is ‘unsure’ to vote GREEN on 1st April 2010.”

For those of you who might be interested, Gareth comes from a family with a proud commitment to progressive politics, his grandfather was Maurice Webb, the Food Minister in the 1945 Labour Government.

Well done, Gareth, it’s great to have you in the Greens.

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Tory red-bashing is dirty campaigning

Tory PPC for Brighton Pavilion, Charlotte Vere, has sunk to further depths by continuing to paint the Greens ‘red’.

She continually tries to compare the Greens to both the ‘Communist Party’ (there isn’t one in the UK, only the CPB and CPGB) and Respect, a moderate left-wing force focussed in a few areas and headed by firebrand MP, George Galloway, and the impressive Salma Yaqoob, the Respect candidate for Birmingham Hall Green.

Charlotte Vere’s logic is, that because the Greens have shared a platform with Respect (as well as CND, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and others), and, because Respect had the participation of ‘communist’ parties, the Greens are somehow in bed with the ‘Commies’ doing the dirty. The only dirty thing here is Charlotte’s style of campaigning, which is anything but clean.

I share The Independent’s analysis that the Greens are ‘radical social democrat’, but I’m proud to say that we’re a party with clear egalitarian principles. To paint the Greens as ‘Marxist’, or somehow part of the ‘old Left’, is deceitful and sign of a paranoid hysteria. Maybe someone needs to tell Charlotte Vere that the Cold War is over and that red-bashing fell out of favour with Joe McCarthy.

Yes, there are a few reds about and yes, we have socialists and other leftists in the Green Party (as does Labour – believe it or not – and the Church of England), but the Greens are a democratic, egalitarian and open party. The ‘Policies for a Sustainable Society‘ (PSS) is open for everyone to see and our twice-yearly conference is open to anyone wishing to attend.

Charlotte’s attempts at smearing the Greens are not only deceitful, they are also laughable. It only further damages her campaign and, if she’s not careful, she might well end up getting the nickname ‘ Charlotte-does-Smear’…alot.

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An Open Response to ‘A Guy Named Guy’

The following post is the development of some of the points I raised in response to a post by an interesting left-of-centre Brighton blogger. ‘A Guy Named Guy’ , who blogs at Cut the Crap, makes an interesting case as to why he is voting for Nancy Platts in Brighton Pavilion.

Here is my post with some added bits:

“I think we have to remember, despite Nancy Platts being as decent a candidate as she is, she is deceiving voters in Brighton Pavilion.

Despite where Nancy stands on a whole range of issues (and I agree with almost all of her policy positions), she is asking voters in Brighton to return a Labour government and a Labour manifesto that will stand in stark contrast to Nancy’s own values.

The Labour manifesto will include cuts in higher education (despite Nancy standing on a picket line opposing higher education cuts), cuts in social and public services (despite Nancy sending a message of support to the Brighton anti-cuts demo), the replacement of Trident with a new nuclear system that will exacerbate tensions in the Middle East (Nancy is in favour of ditching our nuclear arsenal completely), a continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Nancy opposes both these wars), no repeal of anti-trade union legislation (Nancy calls herself a trade unionist) and the continuation of illiberal anti-terror legislation that will undermine civil liberties.

Labour has been given 13 years in office to push through radical and far-reaching change and they have fallen short. From reforming the House of Lords into a fully democratic chamber to introducing proportional representation (PR) for general and local elections, they have failed to make even the most moderate of changes to the political constitution, let alone advancing on a programme of addressing the deep inequality that exists in society.

I for one find it an absolute betrayal of the principle of ‘fairness’ that the wealth gap has increased under 13 years of Labour and inequality is more entrenched in society than it was before 1997.

Voters in Brighton Pavilion have a unique opportunity in helping shift the “progressive consensus” to the left with the election of a Green MP.

The Green Party is arguably a ‘radical social democratic’ party whose main focus in recent years has been on developing the value of fairness. Not just fairness in opportunity, but fairness in all that an active State does.

The Greens are the only party arguing against the consensus that savage cuts are needed, instead, we have taken a similar understanding of David Blanchflower’s analogy that recession (and the fragile recovery) is a war and (despite the Green anti-war irony here) the only way to fight a war is to throw money at it, you don’t budget or make cuts on the front line.

There is a real danger of a double-dip recession and we need strong, independent voices in Parliament asking difficult questions, lobbying for cross-party support on early day motions (EDMs) that chime with Green policy (take a look at my post on a recent example http://bit.ly/aczQ7f) and shifting the goal posts of what is possible for the centre-left to achieve.

Climate change is a serious, pressing issue, one that has been forced on the back foot by an emboldened climate change denial cabal, nothing sends a stronger message to that cabal than the election of a Green MP.

Having a Green MP(s) will elevate the urgency for action on climate change in Parliament. It will send a powerful message to the next Government that it is an issue that must be addressed in its entirety.

If, and heavens forbid if it does happen, Nick Griffin wins in Barking; we can expect whatever Government to be more xenophobic, more hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers and more likely to pander to far-right voters. This will only create breathing room for the BNP. Already we have heard Gordon Brown talk about “Strengthen[ing] fairness in communities through controlled immigration… .”

Gordon Brown is right when he says that voters should take a second look at Labour, then a long, hard look at the Tories but, I would advise all voters to look back at Labour’s 13 years, look back on their successes and failures, but think more about what they haven’t done and what they’ve failed to achieve.

Despite Nancy’s credibility as a sound candidate, think about what she is asking voters in Brighton to do. They won’t be voting for Nancy’s policies, they’ll be voting for Gordon Brown and the whole Labour cabinet and a manifesto that will give Labour a mandate to inflict savage cuts, to continue with the “war on terror”, to develop costly and dangerous weapons of mass destruction and for a Government that will pander to the far-right and further legitimise the BNP and their vile politics.

The Labour vote in Brighton has collapsed. The 2007 local elections and the 2009 European Parliament elections proves that. The danger of voting Labour in Brighton Pavilion is the possibility of a Tory MP, but also more of the same from Gordon Brown and co.”

However, it is a pleasure to see a new blogger in Brighton and I want to wish Guy well on his blogging adventure in the run-up to the General Election.

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Can the Greens make it 3 in 4 weeks?

March has been a pretty good month for the Greens. We’ve taken our third town council seat in less than a year in Totnes , an amazing feat for any local party. I’m prepared to say that Totnes might even become a potential Green target seat in 2014 and might well be the party’s best chance of taking a Parliamentary seat off the Tories. Time will tell, of course.

However, last night saw Mid-Suffolk Greens take the Haughley and Wetherden council seat off the Tories with a whopping 61% of the vote, a 33.2% net swing from the Tories since the 2007 local elections. The Independent has called it a “bombshell on major parties”, whilst The Evening Standard hailed the win as a “shock” to the main parties so close to a General Election. Jim Jepps has the full breakdown of the results.

The Mid-Suffolk district council win comes off the back of the Greens getting a second Councillor Dean Walton after a Babergh district councillor resigned the Tory whip and joined the Greens. Quite the conversion and not one we’re particularly used to, but a welcomed addition to the growing ranks of Green councillors in the country.

On April 1st, less than a week away, voters in the John O’Gaunt ward in Lancaster go to the polls to elect a new city councillor following the resignation of a Labour councillor. Ian Chamberlain has been selected as the Green Party candidate and is keen to join fellow Green and current John O’Gaunt councillor, Jude Towers. If the Greens win the by-election they will become the largest party in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency with a total of 13 seats. However, Lancaster and Fleetwood is a Labour ‘must hold’ and a Tory ‘must win’ if they wish to form a majority Government.

The by-election represents the last challenge for either Labour, the Tories or the Greens, to throw down their marker at this election. A Green win will only reinforce the idea that many voters are tired of Labour and the Conservatives and are seeking a different kind of change to the one being talked-up by David Cameron. A Labour win would give the party a much-needed boost of morale before an election is called and for the Tories, a win would represent a turn around in their recent misfortunes.

In the words of Greg Wallace, “it doesn’t get much tougher than this.”

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Does Labour really have a chance in Brighton and Hove?

There is little doubt that the race in Brighton Pavilion promises to be one of the most exciting in the forthcoming General Election. All three main candidates, Caroline Lucas (Green), Charlotte Vere (Conservative) and Nancy Platts (Labour) are giving it their all.

A little while back, in some discussions with friends, I predicted that the campaign in Brighton Pavilion would be a sour and bitter one. The threat posed by the Green Party is enough to undermine the status quo of the big three and to upset their predominance in UK politics. A Green win, even in one seat, is enough to challenge all presumptions and conceptions about the party and new forces breaking through at Westminster.

Some will argue that one Green MP won’t make any difference, however, they would only be lying to themselves if they didn’t believe the kind of impact it would have. A breakthrough for the Greens at Westminster would be significant, even if not immediately recognisable. The Greens are a national party with councillors up and down the country and with a policy manifesto that envisages the long-term. What has always been lacking up to this point is a real chance of making a breakthrough at a General Election

For far too long the party held onto a vague sense that Labour would deliver PR or a democratic crisis would become so apparent that changing the electoral system was the only hope of recovery. I am glad to see that the party has since shifted in its tactical and strategic thinking and recognised the necessity of employing a genuine target seat strategy.

This has led a large amount of resources, attention and focus going into Brighton Pavilion. The Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion certainly dwarfs both Labour and the Conservative campaigns. However, we must remember, nationally at least, Pavilion is not a top Tory target seat – it’s number 135 on their list; whereas Hove is 8 and Kemptown is 29.

Brighton Politics Blogger has reported on the shortfall in Nancy Platts election funds compared to those of Simon Burgess, the Labour candidate for Kemptown. Given that Simon has a higher profile in the Labour Party than Nancy (just take a peak at Simon’s record), it is no surprise that he has managed to wrestle more money for his campaign away from Nancy’s and Celia Barlow’s (the Labour MP for Hove).

Labour has a lot more to lose from a Green win in Brighton Pavilion than the Tories. If Caroline Lucas successfully takes the seat, then Labour would struggle to come back as the leading, left-of-centre force in Brighton politics.

There is a real possibility that next year, in the Brighton and Hove city council elections, that Labour could be reduced to having a core rump of councillors from East Brighton and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The Greens could certainly take Labour’s seat in Goldsmid, their two seats in Preston Park, the Lib Dem seats in Brunswick and Adelaide, as well as picking up one in Withdean, Hollingbury and Stanmer and maybe even a third in Goldsmid from the Tories.

This does of course have the potential of seeing the Tories return with an increased majority and overall control of the council, but Labour would of course be decimated, such would be the knock on effect of a Green victory in Pavilion.

If Labour were reduced to four, five or even six councillors, it could very well be the end of them in Brighton politics. If Labour fail to hold on to Hove (which they have next to no chance of doing so), or Kemptown (in which there is an outside chance they will hold on to) or in Pavilion (maybe no chance), then Labour, as a force in Brighton, will be no more. It would not be long before they are seceded by the Greens as the main progressive force in Brighton and Hove politics.


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This and that: A week in the life of…

I have been away from the blog for a week, doing this, doing that. Now I’m back and ready to be as scathing and scrutinising as ever before.

Kent Union elections

I was absent for most of last week because my attention was on the Kent Union elections, particularly the battle for VP Welfare.

I was backing the popular and dedicated Aaron Kiely, who faced tough opposition from the incumbent VP Welfare, Samantha Kennedy. Unfortunately I was unable to be there through most of campaigns week because of my work commitments; however, I was able to do my bit on Friday for the final push.

After a long day in which the weather worsened, it hit 4pm and the polls had closed to the relief of everyone, especially Aaron. That night, we had a nervous wait in store until 11pm when the results were announced. It went to three rounds and Aaron was shy of just 200 votes. The final tally was 1400 to Sam Kennedy, 1200 to Aaron Kiely and 700 votes to the third placed candidate. Whilst the results were disappointing after a long, hard slog, all of us were immensely proud of Aaron’s effort and those of his campaigns team.

Congratulations should go to Zoe Scandrett, Damon Reid-Williams and Tom Pengelly, who were all elected to the positions of Women’s Officer, Ethnic Minorities Officer and LGBT Officer respectively. Kent students are lucky to have three excellent people leading the liberation campaigns for the year ahead.

Victory for Kent staff and students

However, despite the disappointment of Friday night, a silver lining emerged in the dispute between the University management and staff in the Biosciences department at the University of Kent. Yesterday, at 3pm, after a meeting between the University and the UCU, the following statement was released:

“The University and UCU have had further constructive discussions in relation to the future of the School of Biosciences and have agreed upon an acceptable resolution of the matters in issue between them. This successful conclusion to the discussions indicates a renewed spirit  of constructive partnership between management and UCU, and both parties are committed to entering into a Redundancy Avoidance Agreement for the future.   As a result, the threat of compulsory redundancies has now been lifted from UCU members in Biosciences, and UCU has therefore cancelled the planned ballot of its members on taking industrial action which was to commence on Friday 26th March 2010.”

You can read more about this tremendous victory for the UCU and for student-led activism from Aaron Kiely and the Kent staff themselves.

Nancy Platts blocks me from Twitter

In other news, it seems as though the Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Nancy Platts, has blocked me from following her on Twitter.

I for one am shocked and saddened by this move. As a public figure, whose Twitter profile is their candidate profile, Nancy’s move is unprecedented and surprising. Sure, I have criticised Nancy and Labour policy, but never on a personal level. In fact, I have the utmost respect for perspective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Running for Parliament is no easy thing; it requires time, effort and, perhaps above all, maintaining a cool head. If Nancy thinks my soft criticism of her policies is bad, she has no idea what it would be like if ever she was elected to Parliament. I would appreciate it if Nancy could specify as to why she has blocked me but, if I have caused her any upset, I do apologise.

Shame on David Lepper

In further Brighton Labour news, the BBC has reported that Pavilion MP, David Lepper, has broken Parliamentary rules on overseas trips. Mr. Lepper has been visiting Cyprus every year since 2004 and has tabled 29 early day motions (EDMs) relating to the country. Mr. Lepper failed to register an interest when he tabled a Parliamentary question on 13th January 2009, as well as four EDMs between 2006 and 2009.

Whilst David Lepper has apologised for not registering an interest, he has not apologised for using up valuable Parliamentary time in which he should have been focussing on the concerns of his Brighton constituents. He owes his constituents a massive apology for not working in their interests, but instead for the Municipality of Morphou, the Municipality of Famagusta and the Association of Cypriot Municipalities, who paid for his free holidays to Cyprus.

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No time for complacency

As many University of Kent students no doubt know, the university has moved forward with plans for compulsory redundancies amongst staff in the university’s Biosciences department. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) branch at the university voted to take action to stop the twelve members of staff losing their jobs and livelihoods.

 Biosciences course representatives were quick to establish a Facebook group to protest against the proposed redundancies in the department however, this group has since been taken over by the official Kent Union bureaucracy and much of the original fervour and angst has been diluted, turning the group into a talking shop and information site, rather than a group dedicated to taking robust, determined and forthright action against any job losses.

The group now looks complacent, only willing to discuss the situation, rather than lead with proposals to fight back against the university’s ill-advised and, frankly, crass decision, to force hard-working, committed members of staff, out of their jobs and onto the scrap heap.

Fortunately, a new group has been created to address the complacency of Kent Union official bureaucrats, ‘Student Activism against the Biosciences cuts’. The group will endeavour to put forward a plan of action against cuts and redundancies in any department at the University of Kent. It will look to other campuses, such as  the University of Sussex’s ‘Stop the Cuts- Defend Sussex’ campaign, which enjoys the healthy support of University of Sussex Student Union (USSU) officers, including Josh Jones, USSU’s  Education Officer, who has recently called on Sussex University management to take a 10% pay cut!

Students at the University of Kent need full-time officers like Josh Jones and the other USSU sabbs. Students need officers who will support and encourage grassroots, student-led activism, that won’t rule out any tools at the disposal of students to challenge unfair decisions from the university management. The student movement’s greatest strength is its sheer size in numbers, as well as the close proximity students have with one another, particularly on collegiate campuses such as Kent.

A vibrant and robust anti-cuts, anti-redundancies, pro-learning campaign is needed at the University of Kent. Students need officers who are familiar with grassroots campaigning, aware of the need to promote a culture of activism on campus and in the community, and ready to utilise the student body behind any action.

Mobilising students is no easy task; it takes time, effort and good organising skills to do so. However, what is needed, more than anything else, is engagement. It should not be a matter of students’ going to the union, but of the union going to students. There should be regular, weekly campaigns from union officers. Union officers need to be quick at recognising issues, and even quicker in responding to them.  

In short, students need activism, not complacency.

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