Wednesday 31 March 2010

policy bite

I hope this letter gets a place in the local rag this week.

I have found it fascinating that, no matter how carefully a letter is drafted to try to conclude a debate with the clinching argument, there is always a come-back. Like a forest fire, the flames of debate flare up from unexpected places. In the latest case it was “the carnivore’s revenge”.

To be clear: Greens do NOT say ‘that we all should be vegetarians’. However, humans are eating increasing amounts of meat and dairy products and this is having serious consequences, not only on our health but also on forest cover – particularly in the Amazon. It’s not that the cows need the grazing, but that the land is commandeered for the soya they’re fed with. Oh, and there are local people to be cleared away before the soya is planted, with injustice and human rights implications. Friends of the Earth is running a campaign on this issue called ‘Fix the Food Chain’.

So, our increasing appetite for animal products leads to accelerating climate effects from the methane and reduced tree cover, human rights violations for many poor people, with consequent civil unrest, and extraordinary profit for the few.

Green policy in a nutshell – “You can’t get owt for nowt“

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Nuclear comment - scrap Trident

I like this summary from Martin Deane:
"Green Policy #9: Scrap Trident and British nuclear weapons.

40 years ago Britain undertook to halt, reduce and eliminate our nuclear capability when we signed the NPT or Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Labour-proposed renewal of Trident, after Blair’s vote in 2007, is hardly that. Labour apologists say renewing Trident is completely within the terms of the NPT and doesn’t count as an escalation. They argue that the actual number of warheads is decreased – and this may even be true! However, the NPT commission doesn’t see it that way and regards the proposed renewal as an escalation of capability and therefore may be in breach of the Treaty.

Scrapping Trident is part of our 8 point plan on Peace and Security as per latest draft manifesto.

No replacement of Trident . We cannot conceive of any circumstances in which we could or would use these expensive and immoral weapons, and would de-commission the existing system and not renew it.

There are various figures given for costs. The most frequent is a £76 bn lifetime cost. But the the total cost could be as high as £130 bn (Guardian). And we have plenty of plans for that level of expenditure!

The reasons the LibDems give (Nick Clegg, last June) are that it’s too expensive and not fit for our security needs. They still believe in and want a nuclear deterrent just not that one.

In 2007 when Blair put Trident renewal to a vote, some 72% of people polled against it and nearly 100 Lab MPs revolted over it.

In the Green Party we do not want these weapons. We do not want a replacement. Nor do we do not want a nuclear deterrent. A significant majority of the British people agree with us (58% to 35% in last September’s poll) . Nuclear deterrence is a highly dangerous outcome of the Cold War.

It is necessary and vital to think differently in the 21st century – especially on how we use dwindling resources, and how we foster international cooperation and development.

We cannot conceive of any use these weapons have: they cannot be used, that would be the ultimate failure. Nor is Trident actually an independent but relies on American missiles, know-how and say-so – they don’t help our security, they keep us tied to US policy"

Monday 29 March 2010

Peter Levy Show

Our colleague Mike Jackson was interviewed in the Peter Levy radio show this lunchtime. He is the Green candidate for East Yorkshire, and it is pleasing that we were brought in. However, he was kept cornered by Peter into giving responses to questions purely about windfarms and the like. I sent the following email to the BBC, hoping that it may get an airing at some stage.
Hello Peter,
I enjoyed your interview with my colleague, Mike Jackson, earlier.May I reinforce the key point; the oil and gas bonanza in the last decade or so has burnt most of global supplies – we are soon to be so short that we’ll be handing out the stuff by the teaspoon, not for energy, but for medicines, fertilisers, plastics and the like. In preparation for this shortage, what are governments doing? Going to war to secure oil supplies. This is not responsible leadership appropriate for this crisis.

Greens see the link between the oil and gas addiction of our society and embarking on futile war. This shows lack of concern for the needs of our children and grandchildren. Best wishes

Friday 26 March 2010

Hustings under way

Broadening the agenda

Shan did me proud with this letter, also in last week's Beverley Guardian.

Local debate continues

We try to keep wider issues, like peace, justice and sensible economics, in the public eye. So this piece (published on 19 March in the Beverley Guardian) plays into the hands of those who think we have nothing to talk about, but the weather!

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Longcroft School hustings

This event (19 March) was organised by the East Riding Youth Assembly (as you can see), chaired by one of the Longcroft students, in front of forty or so sixth formers. The candidates are beginning to know each other quite well! L to R Bill (Green) Ian (Lab) and Graham (Con).

Again, a cracking range of issues, which gave no-one an easy time.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Hornsea bites back

Last Monday we went to a meeting of small businesses in Hornsea convened to consider ways of responding to the arrival of a new branch.

The Market Weighton Chamber of Trade sent a member to share their experience of Post Tesco Shock Syndrome, followed by a business link adviser. He gave a presentation on strategies helpful for keeping your business on its toes.

Useful chat with a parich councillor, and with some of the shopkeepers, all pretty anxious about what might happen to their business.

Tesco economics is plain barmy.

Friday 19 March 2010

Early spring in Howden (and Hornsea)

On the train on the way back to Beverley from a meeting in Leeds last tuesday, I felt impulsive - must have been the weak spring sunshine - and jumped off at Howden. Howden station is perhaps a mile from town so I had a good walk to start with - and noticed the ditch between the path and the fields. It looked lifeless - at a time when other still water is surging with frogs. Is it full of chemicals due to our current intensive agricultural methods? Can anyone tell me?

Nearing town, the first thing I noticed was the huge carpark in a field. I later discovered it's for the Press Association. As its quite a step back to the station, I decided I'd better first find out train times and was told Shire Hall was my best bet for tourist information - but - Shire Hall is closed on mondays and tuesdays. So where could I get information? This search gave me insight into the kindliness of people in Howden: the owners of the Minster View Hotel found me a train timetable, the landlord of the Wellington Hotel let me use his computer to try to check current train times (not easy!), and one of the post office staff found me an up to date timetable. I bought a meaty little magazine - Howden Matters - and chatted with the owners of various hostelries and shops. Some were angry about East Riding Council drawing yellow lines on the road and fining people for parking...but, to be fair (and I'm no admirer of ERYC), others felt it wasn't such an issue. Cars! It was nice to be free of one.

Having spent monday evening at a meeting in Hornsea of small traders trying to develop survival strategies for the arrival of Tesco, I do feel Howden is very lucky to have the ethical Co-operative and not to be dominated by the big-bully supermarkets. There are some great little shops in Howden - including butchers, deli, homecare - long may they thrive.

I spent a really pleasant afternoon in historic Howden and hope to return soon - thanks for the friendly welcome!

Thursday 18 March 2010

Hustings at Wilberforce

It's Wednesday - it must be Wilberforce. We are beginning to get into a rhythm. Yesterday's event was at one of Hull's sixth form colleges whose students come in large numbers from the Beverley and Holderness patch. So I was pleased to be able to share a platform with (L to R), Christine (Con), Stephan (the Principal), Jonathan (entrepreneur), Mike (Lib Dem), Ian (Lab).

Six scorching questions: Why bother to vote? Should we be in Afghanistan? Is global warming an issue? HE fees - should they continue? Are the BNP now 'mainstream'? and, finally, how do you eat a cream egg?

Half of the audience of 120 or so is old enough to vote. Asked at the beginning, how many intend to vote, only a minority responded. I hope we persuaded some to change their mind. One student afterwards gave Greens the victory in debate - maybe he was a voter!

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Hard times in Roos

The illustration is one of the ads by the Department for Energy and Climate Change that was criticised by the ASA. The government has pledged to continue its campaigns on climate change, despite the advertising watchdog banning two of its press ads. Last October's £6m ad campaign, by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has become a lightning rod for the politically charged debate over the issue. The campaign, including a TV ad, four press ads and two billboard posters, prompted almost 1,000 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, denouncing it as misleading, scaremongering and distressing.

The ASA has today ruled that two of the press ads, which used nursery rhymes to push the message of climate change, were in breach of the advertising code. In its ruling the ASA said that the language used to indicate how storms, flooding and heatwaves will increase "should have been phrased more tentatively". However, the ASA added that the images of the UK flooding and of a drought "were not in themselves ... exaggerated or misleading".

The above little piece in today's Guardian (the old Manchester Guardian, not the Beverley Guardian!) links with my experience last night at the Roos wind farm enquiry.

A company called RES has had its planning application turned down by the East Riding Planning Committee, and their appeal against the decision has gone to a public inquiry. The inquiry has been spread over eight days, but one of the hearings was not in County Hall, which is in Beverley, 30 odd miles from the site, but in Roos itself. I elected to give my views at this meeting. The parish hall was packed – 60-odd people at least. Objectors were heard first, and the leader of the objectors gave a careful and comprehensive case lasting about one hour and forty minutes. She was followed by seven or eight others. After two and a half hours, the three people prepared to speak in support were called. The first, Mike Jackson, a fellow Green, described the experience a Lisset, a village near to his home which has had a wind farm in place for nearly a year. I made my case as follows

* Government has failed to make clear to the nation as a whole the true extent of the energy security crisis, hence it is entirely understandable if communities bridle at the thought of a wind farm invasion whose case they don’t accept. The ad campaign shown above illustrates the hamfistedness of the current efforts by DECC
* Local authorities have been given no incentive to use their community connections to discuss a strategic approach to sustainable energy provision in their area, so the case for putting the installation has had to be made by the developer
* Local communities have had no incentives to become partners with the developers in a scheme. The only beneficiaries appear to be the landowner and the developer.
* This dogs dinner means that if the appeal is upheld, the community will be resentful, add their voice to the network of others under ‘threat’ and make subsequent applications more difficult. If the appeal is tuned down, government will come up with more draconian planning arrangements which make applications easier to succeed and breed more local unrest.

My support was therefore highly qualified – but support nevertheless. Which made me no friends at all!

Our dear government is making Greens a scapegoat for their incompetence

Sunday 14 March 2010

On the stump

At least two reasons to feel good during Market Day in Beverley yesterday. The weather is picking up, and we were comfortable standing for a few hours. Even better was the warm feeling we got from the regular positive responses from passers by.

Vulture Funds - Tory plot!

some bits of news just take your breath away. This one did.

I have sent this letter (below) to my MP, Graham Stuart, following a story in the Guardian (web version) on Saturday 13 March. There seems to be no sign of it in the Sunday version. If you have a local Tory MP, please consider sending your own version to him/her.

People have being buying third world debt (which was scheduled to be written off anyway) and successfully suing for their recovery in UK courts. This bill was supposed to extinguish the practice in our jurisdiction.

Dear Graham, As you will be aware, on last Friday evening members of your party killed a private members’ bill that would have put an end to the disgraceful practice of corporations buying up old debts of some of the world’s poorest countries the suing them for large sums.
The bill had enjoyed widespread support within parliament and from leading charities.
One would expect all Members of Parliament to have supported Mr Gwynne’s bill but Conservative MPs objected to it, knowing that this would mean it would run out of time and have no chance of becoming law.
It appears that your party, having pledged support for the bill, then objected to it and refused to admit who was responsible.
One can only conclude that this was a decision taken by your front bench in a direct breach of commitments given by David Cameron. Can you please
Make your view of this action clear in a reply to this letter, and
Pass on my concerns and seek a clarification from David Cameron
Yours sincerely
Bill Rigby
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Beverley and Holderness

Wednesday 3 March 2010

'All war is organised murder'

Brian Haw's Awesome Peace Protest

We had a chat with Brian Haw on February 21st. He’s been camping opposite the Houses of Parliament for 8 years to protest against the aggression, death and destruction perpetrated by this country on Iraq. Brian deserves all our respect and admiration for standing up for human rights and civilised behaviour.