Monday, 22 May 2017

The Refugees Welcome Pledge

I pledge to respect the importance of refugee protection, including in wide-ranging debates about immigration, and, if elected, to uphold the proud tradition throughout the UK of welcoming people forced to flee war and persecution and helping them rebuild their lives.

The UK has not always been kind to refugees but it should be. Particularly since our wars in the Middle East has created so much of the refugee flow!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

How much do we want social mobility?

A local resident asked to support the TeachFirst manifesto. My reply, below, may not be what she expected.

We live in a very unequal society and this, as the Spirit Level showed, harms everyone - though it harms the poor a good deal more than the rich. We Greens believe in reducing inequality by a variety of means including paying a Universal Basic Income and increasing taxes on the rich.

The measures in the TeachFirst manifesto look sound and would help to reduce educational inequality and improve education generally. But I have a couple of reservations:
  • There's too much emphasis on university education. For many young people good vocational training would be easier to access and more valuable than a degree in one of the less useful subjects. (I write as someone educated at a Technical School.) Its also what we need as a society - look how well it works in Germany.
  • Social mobility is two-edged. Since the number of management and professional jobs is not increasing measures that give more of them to the children of poorer families will give fewer to the children of other families. Attempts to make that change will increase the competitive pressures in schools - and that's already grossly excessive. So these measures need to be linked with measures that make the less well-paid jobs more attractive and enable those who do them to live decent lives. When I was young that was possible. It's now very difficult.
Which brings me back to my start. Greens want a fairer society but we also want a different society. One in which hospital porters as well as doctors, teaching assistants as well as teachers, are paid enough to live decent lives. That needs many policies, notably on housing, pursued over many years.

That's why I'm Green.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Enfield: Appalling poverty

At least 8,719 children in Enfield have been hit by the benefit cap, according to new figures from the Department of Work and Pensions [1]. Greens will ensure that everyone in the UK – adults and children alike – has an income sufficient to fulfil basic needs.

In statistics released at the same time as local election results, the DWP revealed the human cost of the benefit cap to local people.  More than 8,719 Enfield children in over 3,000 households have been affected by the cap since its introduction. Only Birmingham, with 3 times the population, has been worse hit. Enfield has also been particularly badly hit by child poverty, with a 39% poverty rate in Edmonton [2].

The benefit cap was introduced in 2013 with support from the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour.

Benjamin Gill, Green Party candidate for Edmonton, says: “Successive governments have failed the young people of Enfield. Under-privileged children should not pay the price of bankers' greed. Every person affected by this policy represents a tragedy.”

David Flint, Green Party candidate for Enfield Southgate, adds “For seven years Tory chancellors backed by Tory MPs have preached the false gospel of austerity. This gospel demands sacrifices – but not from them. It is the young, the poor and the disabled who have made the sacrifices.”[3]

It’s a new, inclusive, politics that will not forget the most vulnerable. Greens will stand up for those abandoned by the other parties.

[Press release issued 15 May 2017 at 12:00.]

Friday, 12 May 2017

Who am I?

Electors are entitled to know something about anyone seeking their votes.

Briefly, then I am a Chemistry graduate, a retired management consultant, an author, a lifelong campaigner, a long-term local resident and a father and grandfather.

I was born in 1947 and educated at Handsworth Technical School, Birmingham, then read Chemistry at Imperial College. After reluctantly deciding that science was not for me and still needing to earn a living I joined the Post Office as a systems analyst.

I left the Post Office after seven years to join a small consultancy where I worked in computing and telecommunications. In the process I wrote two books and innumerable reports and lectured round the world.

In 1993 I was co-founder of a small consulting business which we later sold to a much larger consultancy. I am now a Visiting Fellow at the Cass Business School.

My campaigning started at 17 when I was a co-founder of the Birmingham Youth Organisation for Relief and Development. I've been a long-term supporter of Practical Action, the leading development charity founded by Fritz Schumacher, which gave me its outstanding contribution award in 2008.

I was an active campaigner for free, legal abortion for many years. I was founding chairman of Education for Choice (which produces educational resources for schools) and for nine years I was a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

At college I joined the Humanist movement and have held various positions over the years. I'm currently Vice-Chairman of the North London Humanist Group. 

After retiring from business life I became very concerned about climate change. After study I concluded that only a wholesale transformation of human society could save us, and the rest of the natural world, from its perils so I joined the Green Party. I've been an active member since 2010 and
the chairman of Enfield Green Party for 2 1/2 years. I'm currently convener of the Party's Climate Change Policy Working Group.

I've lived in Enfield for 28 years. I have two daughters and one grandson.

Monday, 8 May 2017

2017: A short manifesto

A better world is possible. We owe it to our children and our neighbours. We even owe it to ourselves.

But we must start from what’s gone wrong. The UK faces a triple crisis:

  • An environmental crisis of climate change, species loss and polluted air.
  • A social crisis of an over-stretched NHS and growing poverty and inequality.
  • A political crisis where the power of money and fake facts undermine democracy.
Only the Green Party sees that all these crises are serious and linked. So only the Green Party will address all of them.

The environmental crisis
The last 50 years have seen an extraordinary loss of wild things. The rate of species extinction is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than than in previous periods. Global temperatures are rising at an accelerating pace and the loss of much of the Arctic Ice shows that we have become the major influence on the planet's climate, flora and fauna. Planetary scientists recognise this by calling this period the Anthropocene.

In the UK the Green Party has led on climate change and air pollution. If elected I will work for the transformation of our energy and transport systems so they no longer poison our air and trash our climate.

These changes will improve our health in the short-term and our safety in the long-term - provided we can mobilise the international community to do the things it has already agreed to - like the Paris Agreement.

The social crisis
The banking crisis of 2007 ended a period of unfettered growth and public confidence in 'the system' and its leadership. We can now see that this period was not as good as we thought since most of the benefits of growth went to the top 1% of society. 

The banking crisis (due to the recklessness, still unpunished, of bankers) gave us a Coalition government that preferred blaming its predecessors to solving our problems. Pretending that national accounts are just like domestic accounts - only bigger - the chancellor set out to balance the books by cutting expenditure.

The Green Party understands that the cuts are self-serving ideology, not good housekeeping. The Green Party stands with leading economists in confronting the ideology and with campaigners in resisting the cuts. If elected I will defend the NHS and schools and protect local people from a welfare system that no longer cares about people.

Our priorities here should be to bring people out of poverty and restore our social and health services. It will not be cheap. Fortunately the Tories's obsession with cutting taxes provides a new progressive government with some headroom, ie space to raise taxes without trashing the economy. And, of course, its proper to borrow for investments in our future. 

More radical change will be needed beyond that - a Universal Basic Income and major upskilling of our people, especially with vocational skills. And I would focus on the sectors we need for the future such as electric vehicles, renewable energy and energy efficient construction.

The political crisis
Our political system is corrupt and dysfunctional. Votes in marginal seats like Enfield North have much more influence than those in 'safe' seats like Southgate so the major parties concentrate on them. We need a new, proportional, system to address this.

As their membership has fallen the main parties have become increasingly dependent on gifts from the rich. The Green Party, like you, knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune. That's one reason why all three main parties are so keen to help 'The City' and keep the people who created the 2007 crash out of jail.

If elected I will work to reform party finance and our voting system. 

Another crisis
Last year the UK voted to leave the EU in a campaign notable for floods of 'alternative facts' (which used to be known as 'lies'). The Leavers were as surprised as the Remainers and have struggled to produce a negotiating position. I would summarise the government's current position as ignorant, arrogant and short-sighted. The EU27 will NOT give us better terms than we have now. If our next government continues Mrs May's policies they may not give us any deal!

Two years is an extraordinarily short time for a negotiation of unprecedented complexity and would be even is we had a full team of experienced negotiators - which we don't. 

The decision is taken and the process has begun but no-one can foresee the result. Last year the people of the UK signed up to a contract whose terms they did not know. This is a once in a generation decision so its only right that the British people should be given a final choice once the terms are known.

If elected I will work to give you a vote on whatever BREXIT deal the next government gets. And the option to stay in the EU.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Progressive politics gains foothold in Redbridge

Just across the Lea Valley we see politics being done in a new way. Wes Streeting, the Labour candidate for Ilford North, has repeated his support for proportional representation (PR). Indeed he's promised to introduce a Private Members Bill that would introduce it. Now that's rare for a mainstream party MP; but there's more.

He's agreed to work with the local Green Party on a variety of local issues such as "the loss of sports facilities and Green Belt land at Oakfield Playing Fields, the threat to King George’s A&E, the dangerously poor air quality in Redbridge, particularly around the A406 North Circular Road, and noise pollution from London City Airport." Now there's nothing in those issues to offend the Labour Party but the key phrase here is "work with". Streeting is offering actual collaboration.

In response to this the Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party has decided not to stand a Green candidate in Ilford North.

That's one kind of progressive alliance. The Labour candidate gets a better chance of winning. The Green Party helps defeat a Tory (who would presumably support May's reactionary policies and BREXIT fixation) and get help with key local Green issues.

More important, the electors of Ilford get to vote for Green policies without letting in a Tory.

This is not fake news

The May-Juncker spat is not fake news. In fact, its hardly news at all. It was obvious in the BREXIT campaign that the BREXITEERS were either lying or deluded about the problems. Obvious that unwinding 40 years of 'ever closer union' would be a mammoth task that could not be done in two years. Obvious, too, that much of the money paid to the EU would have to be used to replace EU funding stopped when we leave.

Whatever your view on BREXIT we should all be clear that the UK has a weak negotiating position.
  • The UK government wants to keep the trade benefits but avoid the costs and obligations of the single market but the EU27 can't agree to this. They MUST, to keep the Union, give the UK a worse deal than we get now.
  • The UK hasn't negotiated a trade deal for 40 years and lacks the experienced people needed.
  • The deal has to be done in less than two years - such deals usually take 5-10 years.
  • This is more than a trade deal. The problems of the Irish border and Gibraltar and the possible secession of Scotland make it much more.
Meanwhile the uncertainty itself is damaging to UK businesses and to families from EU27 countries who have made their homes here.

Last year our country voted for this and the Tories are determined to provide it. It's a great folly and we probably can't avoid leaving the EU. We can avoid the worst of the damage and only the Greens and the LibDems are standing up for this.