Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Jobs and the Environment: Caroline Lucas on Gideon's Tragedy

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP has blasted as "economically illiterate" Chancellor George Osborne's claims that tackling global warming and environmental degradation would damage the economy. On the day that Britain slipped back into official recession after two years of Con Dem slash-n-burn austerity economics, she talked about how Green Councillors have led the way in job creation.

Nationally, the green economy contributes almost 7% of GDP with potential for much more to get the economy moving and people in jobs, sustainably and cleanly.

You can hear Caroline Lucas' full interview, originally broadcast this morning at the ungodly hour of 6.50 am on Radio 4 to allow the BBC to claim it provides balanced broadcasting, by following this link HERE. 

Caroline Lucas MP (right) with Green councillors on a recent visit to Kirkburton in Kirklees; more on  Cllr Andrew Cooper's blog, "Greening Kirklees" HERE.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Little Reminder Ahead of Elections Day

Just before the 2010 General Election, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg took part in one of the most audaciously cynical election broadcasts in history - No More Broken Policies. (Embedding has been "disabled by request", I wonder why. But you can see it by following this link HERE.)

It is a bit like some of these emails that offer to compensate you if you've been scammed by spam email - if only you'll send your bank details. Nick offers to mend politics with no more broken promises.

Well, the rest is history as we live under the most rightwing Government in modern British political history.

As for Nick's promises in the broadcast...

Tuition fees abolished? No - trebled. A promise broken!
Making votes count equally? No, sold down the river with a dreadful referendum on AV, a non-proportional system. A promise broken!
Fairstart for children? Surestart centres closing. A promise broken!
Break up the banks and make them pay for the damage they caused? No; broken up yes; but the profitable bits sold off at a loss to the taxpayer. A promise broken!
New Green infrastructure? Not with the gutting of the Green Deal. A promise broken!
Sustainable green energy? The feed-in tariff slashed, community renewable subsidies ended and nuclear power the choice for "clean" energy. Er, no... A promise broken!
Fair taxes? Nope - a marginal increase in the tax allowance for everyone (including billionaires) with priority given to cutting income tax by a tenth for people earning at the top rate. With VAT increased, the poor pay proportionately more in tax; the rich even less. Broked again!
A fairer Britain? Wealth gap widening; welfare slashed; unemployment up with only austerity as a response...

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem President, claimed on Question Time last week that of course the Lib Dems are in a Coalition so can't have got everything their own way. If they hadn't gone into coalition, he claimed, the Tories would be in untramelled control. Except that any look at the maths in the Commons shows that the Tories can't do anything without Lib Dem votes. And at the same time, the Lib Dems claims to have implemented most of their election promises...errr??

Well, it doesn't really matter that much. They have sunk to 8% in a number of polls, and that was before we were reminded of their expenditure of £2.4 million of stolen money obtained from the fugitive criminal Michael Brown, finally caught and brought home for trial (and yes he got a dinner or three with then Leader Charles Kennedy). If there was an election tomorrow, UK Polling Report reckons they would be down to just 7 MPs.

Nice music though... I think from a film about zombies...

Friday, 20 April 2012

With Respect, Vote Green

In a move that gives encouraging evidence that the most significant components of the political Left in Britain are shedding their traditional sectarianism and reaching out to build a new movement for change, the leader of the Respect Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, has called on her party supporters to vote for the Green Party in local polls in Birmingham.

Hot on the heels of George Galloway's sweeping victory in the Bradford West by-election, where he shattered the traditional politics of the city and united people from different communities, Salma Yaqoob's call  shows that the Left is poised to build for change that chimes very powerfully with ordinary people. By sharp contrast to the right wing/nationalist alternative parties like UKIP, the English Democrats and the BNP, when people are polled about actual policies - like redistributing wealth and devolving decision-making to local communities - the policies of Respect and the Greens poll far ahead of their opinion poll ratings.

In the Greens' case, when the party manifesto was "blind tested" on quarter of a million people on the Vote-for-Policies website at the 2010 general election, they polled in top place. British culture is more aligned to the principles of the left than years of "middle-England"-obsessed machine politicians realise. The current recession, the dismantling of the Welfare State and the damaging reform of the NHS, as well as the privatising of the education system, are all anathema to most British people - but all three of the main parties are signed up with little but variations on a common theme to separate them.

With opinion polls consistently showing the "Other" parties at above 15% and the Lib Dems imploding to as low as 8%, this may turn out to be a key moment in creating a real, socialist and green alternative to the main parties. Galloway's return to the Commons last week was marked by a distinctively frosty reception from many of his former Labour colleagues who are perhaps increasingly aware that their core vote is softer now than ever after years of being taken for granted by centrists like Tony Blair and Jack Straw, as well as the false dawn of Ed Miliband.

The possibilities for a significant advance by the Left are there: they echo the rise of the Left candidate Melenchon for the French Presidential election, while three parties to the Left of PASOK, the traditional socialist party in Greece, are set to win about 35% of the vote and probably form at least part of the new Government in the upcoming general election. In Britain, the first-past-the-post voting system may frustrate electoral gains by the Left but, as Caroline Lucas' success in Brighton and Galloway's victory in Bradford show, the real alternative can win through even the most stacked and unfair system - all it takes is for both Left wing parties and voters to be true to ourselves.

For Salma Yaqoob's Blog, click HERE

Monday, 16 April 2012

Fracking Awful

In one day, the "greenest Government in history" has dealt two rapid and massive blows to the environmental cause in Britain.

First, it was announced that Government Ministers are set to approve the process of "fracking" (or hydraulic fracturing) for shale gas across the entire UK mainland. This exceedingly environmentally damaging and even dangerous process (it has been linked to causing two recent earthquakes in the Blackpool area) involves pumping water underground to force the gas out. It is dirty, energy-hungry and will leave a poisoned legacy for centuries in the places it occurs - as shown in the American documentary, "Gasland". It also, obviously, does nothing to advance the development of clean-energy alternatives in the UK.

And then came the news that the Con Dem Government's flagship "green deal" policy (the title and some of the concept were stolen from the Green Party manifesto during the last general election, except the scheme as it stands is far more limited than the Green New Deal proposed by the Greens) received a blow. Heeding the calls of the climate change Flat Earthers on the Tory backbenches, as well as some Ministers like Eric Pickles, Prime Minister David Cameron has dropped the element in the scheme which required people building extensions to their homes to have to insulate their properties at the same time. This significantly reduces the effect of any improvements in energy efficiency - Britain could save almost 40% of its energy use if it insulated properties properly, as well as creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the process. But that is now gone.

The green fig leaf covering the naked hypocrisy of the Tories on climate change has finally been blown away. The Tories, we should bear in mind, were the party that to a candidate failed to support Greenpeace at the last election in its call for action on global warming and many surveys at the time showed the Tories to be massively more sceptical about climate change than any other party bar their country cousins in UKIP. Needless to say, the Lib Dems remain as about effective as a chocolate teapot, especially now that their Environment Secretary Chris Huhne has resigned to await trial for alleged perverting of the course of justice relating to a driving offence.

And so as we face massive drought across the south and east of England, with warnings of it continuing for up to 18 months, and with last year the warmest in history in spite of near record breaking cold during the winter of 2010/11, our political masters remain as complacent as ever, modern Neros fiddling while Rome burns. Their eyes fixed on the next share dividend, the Tories grunt that we can't afford green action on climate change. But as our world slowly goes to hell in a handcart, perhaps its the Tories and their allies we can't afford.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Green Party Election Broadcast - Vote Green on 3rd May

This is the Green Party of England and Wales election broadcast for the local elections and the London Mayoral election on 3rd May this year - the London election is held using the Alternative Vote system; people can vote Green with their first preference and still have their vote counted if they make a second choice in the unlikely event that the Green candidate does not win outright in the first round. :-)

Largely under-reported if not entirely unreported by the main-party obsessed media is the fact that the decision by the Mayoral candidates and subsequently signals from the Government that leading politicians and candidates should publish their tax records came after a challenge from the Green Mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones, during a debate on the BBC2 Newsnight programme. This is something of an innovation for supposedly transparent British politics and can be seen in the second video below.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Saving the Earth: the Greens and Doctor Who

A YouGov poll just published shows that most people - or at least the ones on the YouGov panel - suspect that Time Lord DOCTOR WHO may have a blue Tardis but when it comes to voting for the Gallifrey council, his cross is decidedly verdant in its hue.

23% said they are pretty sure that the Doctor votes Green! This is well ahead of the Lib Dems and Tories who both got 16% with Labour trailing on 10%. In spite of his alien origins and interplanetary outlook, 1% thought he might plump for the British National Party, a reflection perhaps on those voting rather than the good time traveller himself - though doubtless the 7% who suggested he would vote for UKIP would like a ride back in time to perhaps the mid-19th century, or even earlier.

The Tardis - low carbon emission travel, we hope..
It is little surprise really to discover that Dr Who is a Green. Let's face it, as well as regularly saving the earth and taking on monstrous mutants spawned by human pollution and excess, and with a distinctively peacenik theme in the revived series penned by Russell T Davies, Dr Who's ability to regenerate really is the ultimate in recycling. No sign of any nasty exhaust on the Tardis either...

The panel also picked up on good Green Party policy themes for a couple of other fictional characters. Reflecting their strong support for public services, Greens polled well with FIREMAN SAM - 13% reckon he would be careful about what chemicals are used to make fire retardants and plump for a party with an ecologically sane approach.

Likewise, again doubtlessly looking to the Greens' sound policies on keeping the mail service public and supporting local post offices, speculation about POSTMAN PAT'S psephological inclinations found a Green surge to 21%, eclipsing all the others bar Labour up on 29%.

But it was far from a clean sweep for the Greens. Predictably, the Tories got Hyacinth Bouquet as well as Corrie's sweatshop capitalist chancer Mike Baldwin, both on a massive 60%, while Labour got Smithy from Gavin and Stacey and Eastenders Pat Butcher - given the state of politics in some boroughs, Pat's recent death may not necessarily prevent her voting for Walford Labour...

The Lib Dems hang in there with the Vicar of Dibley. Well, everyone likes a good funeral...


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Arrogance of the Ferret Killers

Deep in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka busied himself recently on a proud piece of work. Like a scientific acquaintance who once told me that "society should f*** off and let us get on with science!" the Professor and his team decided it was in the best interests of the rest of us to create not one but FOUR hybrid strains of killer bird flu, the class of deadly virus that many in the scientific and medical communities are worried might suddenly mutate and cross over into humans and create a pandemic.

Why did the Professor do this?

Well, for a start, he wanted to give the newly created death virus to some ferrets. You know ferrets, don't you? Nasty wee furry bastards with sharp teeth. Killing them with a deadly bird virus is, according to the Professor, the best thing for them.


Because apparently if you infect ferrets, it will help protect us from bird flu if it ever mutates. Ferrets and people - like peas in a pod. Why, each time I sink my row of razor sharp teeth into a mouse, and use my hind claws to give my furry neck a good scratch, I just feel thankful for the Professor infecting these ferrets and now controversially releasing the full set of information on how to make his deadly virus so his fellow scientists can maybe have a go in their own labs at infecting their own ferrets.

Ferrets - the absolute spit of you and me. Apparently....
So, just how ludicrous have we now got to? We create viruses from elements of bird infections to kill another species of animal supposedly to protect humans and then we publish the data. At which point does it stop being wrong and just become plain stupid?

There is already plenty of evidence that the routes taken by bird flu when it has been prevalent among animals have not followed the migratory paths of wild birds, but rather the routes of live animal transportation by big food companies like Bernard Matthews. Crushed into unsanitary, unsafe and cruel conditions in factory farms, animals of many species are highly susceptible to all sorts of disease and bird flu has been no exception. With live chicks hatched in Britain flown to Japan to be reared and flown back, our global transportation system is by far the most dangerous component of spreading diseases of all sorts and especially among animals moved for thousands of miles in cramped surroundings. Very often this is done with a very high in-journey attrition rate, with animals flown or driven sometimes for days with the corpses of their brothers and sisters lying next to them, rotting slowly, collateral damage in multinational food corporations quest for profit, regardless of the welfare of both the "livestock" and the eventual human consumers.

Migratory birds have often been blamed for spreading Avian (Bird) flu, when in fact research suggests the opposite may be the case: the flight of wild birds disperses the virus, reducing the spread of infection, while the concentration of battery farmed animals provides fertile conditions for viruses to infect large numbers of creatures.

"A lot of migratory species are unfairly blamed for spreading infections to humans," Barbara Han... of the University of Georgia and a co-author of the new paper, said in a prepared statement. "But there are just as many examples suggesting the opposite—that humans are responsible for creating conditions that increase disease in migratory species."

So we have a classic case of trying to clean up our own mess by making a new mess! A bit like spending hundreds of millions on elusive carbon capture technologies rather than on reducing carbon emissions to begin with. Lets fight a virus with...a virus. 

And let's kill some ferrets on the way. After all, they are disposable. And perhaps they are not the only disposable items in the minds of some of these purists who want society to get out of their way.

Worried about bird flu? Maybe we should stop this rather than manufacturing even more...